Blackhawks

Tiger gets a win ... but is he back for good?

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Tiger gets a win ... but is he back for good?

From Comcast SportsNet
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- The images of Tiger Woods, dressed in his red shirt and raising both arms on the 18th green after another victory, are no longer highlights from years gone by. When he outlasted Bo Van Pelt in a tense duel on the back-nine Sunday at Congressional, Woods won for third time in his last seven tournaments dating to the late March. He still hasn't figured out the majors this year, though he has two more remaining. And while winning the AT&T National kept him at No. 4 in the world, he is starting to be looked upon the way he once was. "I think he's the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?" Van Pelt said. "On three different courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he's playing the best golf in the world right now." Woods closed with a 2-under 69, making only one bogey in his final 44 holes on a course that was tougher than it was for the U.S. Open last year. Van Pelt had him in trouble late in the round, but only briefly, and Woods effectively pulled away on the last two holes by letting his opponents get the bad breaks and make the bogeys. He now was 74 wins on the PGA Tour, moving past Jack Nicklaus into second place, leaving him eight wins away from the record held by Sam Snead. Perhaps it's only fitting that Woods now heads to The Greenbrier Classic, where Snead was the first head professional. Woods at least moved to No. 1 in two other categories -- the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings, for the first time since September 2009. At this rate, Woods is more likely to get to Snead's record of 82 tour wins than the record that means the most to him -- the 18 majors won by Nicklaus. Woods has been stuck on 14 since 2008 when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a shattered left leg. "It feels great to get to 74 wins and obviously pass Jack," Woods said. "I did it at 36 years old, and it's something I'm very proud of." Not bad for a guy who only four months ago walked off the course at Doral with another injury to his left Achilles tendon. He returned two weeks later and won Bay Hill, and off he went. "I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again," Woods said. His latest win took a lot of effort. Brendon de Jonge, the 54-hole leader for the first time, didn't make a birdie and shot 77 to quickly fall out of contention. Adam Scott ran off four straight birdies on the front nine and was briefly part of a five-way tie for the lead until he made back-to-back bogeys on the back nine. Hunter Mahan also fell back. It came down to Woods and Van Pelt, who have known each other since junior golf and could not be any more different. Woods is high energy, who now has won an astounding 27 percent of the PGA Tour events he has played. Van Pelt is laid-back Oklahoman, whose only official tour win came three years ago in Milwaukee, a tournament that no longer exists. They didn't look much different on the golf course. Three times, Woods made birdie putts to take the lead. Three times, Van Pelt answered him. Woods holed a 20-foot birdie putt on 15th hole, extending his left arm to motion for the ball to go left, and when it did just that, he raised his arm with his index finger pointing to the sky. That put him at 9 under, a lead that lasted as long as it took Van Pelt to match him with a 10-foot birdie. The par-5 16th had the most surprising twist. Van Pelt blistered a tee shot 345 yards down the middle of the fairway, leaving only a 6-iron to the green. Woods hit a spectator with his tee shot in the left rough, had to lay up, and then was too aggressive with his wedge and went over the green and down an 8-foot slope. It was a like a pitcher in a tied baseball game who loaded the bases with no one out, only to get out of the jam. Van Pelt's approach was slightly heavy and stopped in the thick collar of a bunker, so that he had to chip with his feet in the sand and his hands gripping the steel shaft of the wedge. He didn't get out of the rough, and his third shot went to the back of the green, just over 12 feet away for par. Woods' fourth shot up the slope hit the hole and ran 15 feet away. Both hit good putts. Both missed. Both made bogey. They remained tied. "It was difficult from the standpoint I had my legs in the bunker, and if I hit that chip a little too hard it goes over the green because you can't put any spin on it," Van Pelt said. "I was just trying to get the ball up in the air and play it out to the right a little bit and just got underneath it a little bit. And the second one, I thought I hit it great. I was surprised it rolled that far. And the putt, I mean, I've probably never hit a better putt than that in my life under those kind of circumstances. "I pretty much hit every shot the way I wanted to that hole, just ended up being 6." On the next hole, Van Pelt was in the left cut of rough and caught a flier, with a good swing getting a bad result. The ball shot out of the fluffy grass over the green, leaving him no chance to get near the hole. He went through the green and had to scramble for bogey, and Woods chipped up to 6 feet and made his putt for par to take a one-shot lead to the 18th. "It's rare that we caught any fliers out here at all this week, and Bo caught one coming out of that rough," Woods said. "We had a good enough lie where we could have had one of those, but Bo caught one out of there and put it in the wrong spot and made bogey, and I got up and down." Woods with a one-shot lead on the 18th, playing in control as he had for so much of the day, is tough to beat. He hit a fade off the tee. He hit a draw with a 9-iron into the green. He won. And everyone was there to see it. The AT&T National was a strange week -- record heat on Friday, followed by a violent wind storm that night that toppled trees and littered Congressional with limbs. The course was closed to spectators on Saturday, leading to an eerily quiet afternoon with Woods in contention. The spectators returned by the thousands on Sunday, and they got want they wanted to see. "I think everyone kept it pent up for today, and it was raucous all day," Woods said. Van Pelt was disappointed at making three straight bogeys for a 71, though he took away plenty of good feelings about the way he played on such a big stage. "He's an amazing player," Van Pelt said. "We've known each other a long time, probably 20 years. He's fun to play with. That's why you travel 30 weeks a year, why you get up in the morning and make the sacrifices that you do, to have the opportunity to play the best player in the world in the final round with a chance to win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."