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He's back: Tiger birdies 17, 18 to win Chevron

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He's back: Tiger birdies 17, 18 to win Chevron

From Comcast SportsNet
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.

It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.

When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.

He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woodsnow perhaps more than ever before.

Any different? Woods asked about his win. It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know its been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasnt. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.

The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.

He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

It wasnt clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated.

It didnt really matter to him.

It just feels awesome, whatever it is, he said.

A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He thought Johnsons birdie putt was going in until it stayed just high of the hole. Woods adjusted his line ever so slightly and drained the putt to pull even going to the 18th.

From 158 yards in the middle of the fairway, Woods hit 9-iron that landed on the slope and rolled down to easy birdie range.

If this win felt different than the last one, Woods wasnt saying.

They all feel good, he said. Theyre not easy. People dont realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. Ive gone on streaks where Ive won golf tournaments in a row, but still I dont think Ive taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is.

Johnson had done just about everything right on the back ninea tough birdie putt on the 13th to tie for the lead, a spectacular pitch from the putting surface, over a ridge to 4 feet to escape with par, and a 12-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never had a chance, and stood to the side watching a familiar sightWoods making clutch shots at the end of a tournament to win.

If the man is healthy, thats paramount, Johnson said. I mean, hes the most experienced and the best player Ive ever played with. In every situation, he knows how to execute and win.

Although those situations have been rare of late, Woods looked as if he had not forgotten how to win. The only other times he has been in contention this year were the Masters and the Australian Open.

I felt normal, felt very comfortable, Woods said. Ive been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But its a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, its kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts for his foundation, for the fifth time. He finished at 10-under 278 and donated the 1.2 million to his foundation.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting next season in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

There were similar expectations last year, even though Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round at Sherwood and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Woods said that was more smoke and mirrors. He only had one shot back then, and took the lead because he made a bunch of putts.

Is there reason for expectations now?

I think theres always expectations, Woods said. So be it.

Johnson closed with a 71 and took home 650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.

Tiger can have a long career, Casey said when he finished. We might look back in another 10 years and actually forget about the last couple of years.

These last two years are starting to feel like a blur for Woods, this year in particular. He never looked as low as he did when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass, withdrawing from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine because of leg injuries that ultimately kept him out of competition for three months, including two majors.

Then he missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But his peers noticed a difference about the way his game was coming together in Australia, and it appears to be going in only one direction as Woods headed home to Florida.

Last year I played with him here the first round and I thought, Wow, this guy is back, Steve Stricker said. You could tell this time around, hes got even more confidence, more game. He feels even better about the direction hes headed.

Woods tournament has been a good stepping stone for others over the years. The most recent example was Jim Furyk, who won in 2009 and then had his first three-win season the next year and captured the FedEx Cup.

No one ever imagined Woods needing a boost, but that might be the case.

I dont think were going to see another 2011, if that makes sense, Furyk said, alluding to Woods failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward, hes going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.

It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.

When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.

He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woodsnow perhaps more than ever before.

Any different? Woods asked about his win. It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know its been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasnt. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.

The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.

He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

It wasnt clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated.

It didnt really matter to him.

It just feels awesome, whatever it is, he said.

A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He thought Johnsons birdie putt was going in until it stayed just high of the hole. Woods adjusted his line ever so slightly and drained the putt to pull even going to the 18th.

From 158 yards in the middle of the fairway, Woods hit 9-iron that landed on the slope and rolled down to easy birdie range.

If this win felt different than the last one, Woods wasnt saying.

They all feel good, he said. Theyre not easy. People dont realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. Ive gone on streaks where Ive won golf tournaments in a row, but still I dont think Ive taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is.

Johnson had done just about everything right on the back ninea tough birdie putt on the 13th to tie for the lead, a spectacular pitch from the putting surface, over a ridge to 4 feet to escape with par, and a 12-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never had a chance, and stood to the side watching a familiar sightWoods making clutch shots at the end of a tournament to win.

If the man is healthy, thats paramount, Johnson said. I mean, hes the most experienced and the best player Ive ever played with. In every situation, he knows how to execute and win.

Although those situations have been rare of late, Woods looked as if he had not forgotten how to win. The only other times he has been in contention this year were the Masters and the Australian Open.

I felt normal, felt very comfortable, Woods said. Ive been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But its a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, its kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts for his foundation, for the fifth time. He finished at 10-under 278 and donated the 1.2 million to his foundation.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting next season in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

There were similar expectations last year, even though Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round at Sherwood and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Woods said that was more smoke and mirrors. He only had one shot back then, and took the lead because he made a bunch of putts.

Is there reason for expectations now?

I think theres always expectations, Woods said. So be it.

Johnson closed with a 71 and took home 650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.

Tiger can have a long career, Casey said when he finished. We might look back in another 10 years and actually forget about the last couple of years.

These last two years are starting to feel like a blur for Woods, this year in particular. He never looked as low as he did when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass, withdrawing from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine because of leg injuries that ultimately kept him out of competition for three months, including two majors.

Then he missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But his peers noticed a difference about the way his game was coming together in Australia, and it appears to be going in only one direction as Woods headed home to Florida.

Last year I played with him here the first round and I thought, Wow, this guy is back, Steve Stricker said. You could tell this time around, hes got even more confidence, more game. He feels even better about the direction hes headed.

Woods tournament has been a good stepping stone for others over the years. The most recent example was Jim Furyk, who won in 2009 and then had his first three-win season the next year and captured the FedEx Cup.

No one ever imagined Woods needing a boost, but that might be the case.

I dont think were going to see another 2011, if that makes sense, Furyk said, alluding to Woods failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward, hes going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.

Raiders expect Lynch ruling soon; 'it would be the fairest thing'

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USATSI

Raiders expect Lynch ruling soon; 'it would be the fairest thing'

Running back Marshawn Lynch formally appealed his one-game suspension on Monday afternoon.

The Raiders hope to hear a ruling by Tuesday.

“I think we expect to hear something early in the week, hopefully by tomorrow,” head coach Jack Del Rio said in a Monday press conference. “(It) would be the fairest thing so that the team can prepare.”

That’s the expectation, according to an ESPN report. The Raiders should know by Tuesday whether Lynch’s suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct will stand.

The suspension stems from a Thursday night incident where he left the sidelines to join an on-field fracas involving Raiders offensive linemen and Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters. The third-year pro was penalized for a late hit on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr his linemen didn’t take kindly.

Peters and Lynch are extremely close friends and Oakland natives, and Lynch instinctively went out to protect someone he views as family. He inadvertently grabbed an official by the jersey and let go shortly after. He was flagged and ejected by rule.

He missed most of Thursday’s 31-30 victory over the Chiefs, and the NFL suspended him one game without pay on Friday. That could cost Lynch a $79,411 game check and a $31,250 per-game roster bonus.

ESPN reports that Peters by phone spoke at Lynch’s appeal hearing, where the running back’s team also cited precedent of others contacting an official without getting suspended. Leaving the sideline, however, may not help his appeal.

Del Rio said he hadn’t spoken with Lynch since the ejection.

“I said the other night I was disappointed that we had a player leave the bench,” Del Rio said. “It’s something we talk about – don’t leave the bench area.”

The Raiders ran with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington after Lynch’s ejection, and combined for 67 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The pair with shoulder a rushing load Sunday at Buffalo if Lynch is unavailable.

“They don’t have the size and the power but they have a little more quickness, they catch the ball a little easier, better route-runners, things like so,” Del Rio said. “So, if you’re playing a little more wide open, in some respects they give you a little more juice. Marshawn give you the power back when you want to finish people and in tough situations. Those guys give you more than a change of pace.”

 

Why Steph Curry can never, ever chuck his mouthpiece again

Why Steph Curry can never, ever chuck his mouthpiece again

Stephen Curry knows he asked for this one. Begged for it. Wanted it so bad he not only ripped his mouthpiece out of his face but also wound up and fired it in the direction of a game official.

He has to be, and likely is, pleased that the NBA wanted nothing more than a $50,000 bite out of his newly fortified paycheck.

“It was a dumb thing to do. Stupid,” he said after shootaround Monday morning. “Learn from it and try to move on and be better.”

It was not nearly enough for the league that Curry apologized immediately after the mouthpiece-tossing incident that got him tossed in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ 111-101 loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday. Apologies don’t carry much weight in these matters and they are entirely weightless when it’s a second offense.

And that’s what this was, as you may recall Curry flinging his mouthpiece late in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. He was tossed from that game, too.

Of more importance, and what Curry has to take away from this is that he can’t afford another offense. Ever. Though he surely can afford it monetarily, it would rob the Warriors of their offensive catalyst.

Throwing a mouthpiece once is a forgivable mistake. Doing it twice is a relapse that some may forgive while others definitely will not. Doing it three or more times falls into the selfish category, even if selfishness is not a characteristic fairly applied to the two-time MVP.

It’s conceivable that no one in the NBA gets pushed and grabbed and knocked around as much, without a whistle, as does Curry. Part of this is on him, for not being better at selling calls. Part of it is on officials who typically use a different standard for him than those usually set for MVP-caliber players.

Through it all, and it has gone on for years, Curry rarely says a peep. He plays on, simmering, but staying on task.

“I think people on the outside automatically think that these guys can control everything and be robots and score 35 and be perfectly composed,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday morning. “But they’re all human beings, just like the rest of us. There’s going to be times where you lose your mind. There’s going to be times where you get angry and times where you’re in perfect mental and you’re playing at a high level and everything is under control.

But nobody can keep that level 100 percent of the time.”

Curry’s actions Saturday in Memphis were only partly the result of the officiating. The Warriors were losing, again. Curry was committing silly fouls, again. It was a buildup of unfavorable events and he lost it.

“We were playing terrible,” Curry said Monday morning. “I was frustrated because I was fouling. I thought I got fouled on the last play. The reaction was definitely a little over the top.

“Stuff happens. I’m going to try to continue to be myself and show some fire, but do it in a way that doesn’t take away from the team and misrepresent who I am.”

Curry said Monday that he didn’t bother to review his actions because he knew how unbecoming they were. He also expressed regret about lashing out. There was no need to brace for the fine he knew was coming.

Next time, though it won’t be a fine that will take a fraction of his check. Next time, it’ll be a suspension that will take away a piece of the Warriors.