Bears

Tiger Woods performance at the Presidents Cup

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Tiger Woods performance at the Presidents Cup

From Comcast SportsNet
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Tiger Woods made the first move, reaching out to shake hands with his ex-caddie, that went a long way toward dousing the endless chatter over their acrimonious breakup. Twelve holes later, as short a Presidents Cup match that has ever been played, Steve Williams had the last laugh. In the 112 matches of various formats that Woods has played in his professional career, he never had a loss like this one. Playing again with Steve Stricker, an American tandem that was unbeatable two years ago, they didn't win a hole and didn't make a birdie in tying the Presidents Cup record for the worst loss ever, 7 and 6. Adam Scott -- with Williams on his bag, kept his distance from Woods until they shook hands on the 12th green -- and K.J. Choi rarely missed a shot in piling up pars and more than enough birdies. The foursomes match ended with Scott rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 11th, and stuffing his approach into 10 feet for Choi's birdie on their final hole. "We were just slightly off," Woods said. "On a golf course like this, it doesn't take much." That match was the biggest surprise on an opening day that featured a few unlikely twists at the end, with the Americans making two late rallies to halve matches and leaving Royal Melbourne with a 4-2 lead over the International team. It was the third straight time the Americans have won the opening session. The Woods-Williams pairing was the last to tee off, and the second match to finish. That's how big this blowout was. "K.J. and I didn't get it out of position today, which is a good thing on this golf course," Scott said. "We both played very well. They got out of position a couple of times, and they didn't play their best. Yeah, a good win. Because they were a tough team last time, took a lot of points off us. So it was pleasing to get one up there." The caddie squabble meant nothing to Scott, who has tried to stay out of the fray, even after Williams disparaged Woods with a racial comment while getting roasted at a caddies award dinner two weeks ago in Shanghai. Woods didn't make too much of it, either. "I put my hand out there to shake it, and life goes forward," he said. "There's some great things that Steve and I did, and that's how I look at it. I know he probably looks at it differently than I do, but hey -- life goes forward, and I'm very happy with what we've done in our career together." Stricker was playing for the first time since Sept. 25 at the Tour Championship because of a neck injury that weakened his left arm. He hooked a tee shot on the par-5 second that kept them from a birdie, though neither of them played well. It was Woods who put them in a bunker on the fifth, and whose tee shot went through the fairway and into an unplayable lie in a bush, both leading to bogeys during a key stretch early in the round when fell 4 down. The only other match in Presidents Cup history that lasted 12 holes was in Sunday singles in 1996, when David Frost beat Kenny Perry. Woods and Stricker started their partnership by winning six straight matches, though the last two were big losses -- 6 and 5 against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald at the Ryder Cup last year in Wales, and the 7-and-6 loss to Scott and Choi. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that while the Americans staked themselves to the lead, their only loss -- and their weakest team -- was Woods and Stricker. Couples split them up for Friday's fourballs -- Woods with Johnson, Stricker with Kuchar, although that was the plan earlier in the week. It will be the first time since the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal that Woods has another partner besides Stricker.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?