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All eyes are on Rory McIlroy

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All eyes are on Rory McIlroy

HONOLULU (AP) This much could always be said about Tiger Woods. The richest man in golf played like he didn't have two nickels to rub together.

Rory McIlroy appears to be cut from the same cloth.

Even a cloth that now has a swoosh.

McIlroy's big year got under way Monday in Abu Dhabi with the kind of glitzy production that would make even Ryder Cup organizers envious, with music blaring and lasers lighting up the room. There were video messages from Phil Knight, Wayne Rooney and Woods, for so long the most prominent face of Nike Golf.

Adding to the buildup was a commercial that debuts Wednesday and shows McIlroy and Woods trying to one-up each other on the range with shots that find the ``cup'' in faraway places. It's reminiscent of that McDonald's commercial from a generation ago, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird matching shots (nothing but net) that go through windows and bounce off scoreboards.

There was a time when Woods never shared the stage with any Nike athlete in a commercial.

What must follow now for McIlroy is the most important part of any marketing campaign - performance.

Nike endorsement contracts are among the best-guarded secrets in golf. Two industry leaders independently estimated the value at $20 million a year, including one who was aware of a bidding war for McIlroy that didn't last very long.

At some point, this becomes like Monopoly money, anyway.

Will it change McIlroy? Don't bet on it.

``I don't play golf for the money. I'm well past that,'' McIlroy said. ``I'm a major champion, which I've always dreamed of being. I'm world No. 1, which I've always dreamed of being. I think this is a company that can help me sustain that and win ever more majors.''

McIlroy's talent is such that he probably could win with anything, much like Woods and Phil Mickelson winning majors with two brands of clubs, and Ernie Els winning majors under three equipment contracts.

From Nike's standpoint, the upside might not be easy to measure.

McIlroy already has shown to be less predictable than Woods. Even during such a remarkable season when he won five times, a major and money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland missed five cuts. It took Woods 13 years before he missed his fifth cut.

If the kid goes through another bad patch this year, the cynics will be quick to blame the equipment. If he wins early and often, and maybe even slips on a green jacket the second weekend in April, then all credit to the immense talent that is Rory McIlroy.

Nike is all about the athlete, however, and it has Nos. 1 and 2 in the world at the moment, the two biggest names in golf regardless of their ranking.

Predictions are a dangerous business in any sport, particularly when the cup - on the golf course, not the new Nike commercial - is only 4 1/4 inches around, the game is played outdoors and the talent pool is getting so deep that it looks like it's about to drop off a shelf in the ocean.

For years, the standard was Woods, and that hasn't changed.

McIlroy, however, might have a tough time living up to his own standard. More than just five wins around the world was the quality of competition McIlroy beat last year - a major, two FedEx Cup playoff events, Europe's version of the Tour Championship. The weakest field McIlroy beat all year was the Honda Classic, where the top five included Woods, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel.

``I want to win golf tournaments. I made that clear from the get go,'' McIlroy said. ``I am very focused on trying to win as many majors as I can. Obviously, winning two majors the last two seasons, I want to try and keep that going and play them well again this year.

``I guess if I go this year and I don't, then it will be a bad year,'' he added. ``If I'm sitting end of 2013 and haven't won a major, I would be disappointed.''

Not since Woods won the last three majors and 10 times around the world in 2000 has there been so much curiosity about an encore. Just as intriguing is how his relationship with Woods will unfold. McIlroy was taught by his father, Gerry, at an early age that it costs nothing to be nice to people. His Ulster roots keep from getting too full of himself. He is hard not to like. Woods rarely spoke about McIlroy last year without mentioning at some point that ``he's a great kid.''

A dozen years ago, Woods became friends with another player that Nike eventually signed - David Duval, who in 2001 became the first major champion with the swoosh stamped on his golf clubs at the British Open. They flew home together from St. Andrews, the claret jug in Woods' possession. They were partners in two World Cups. They flew to Maui together on Woods' jet for the season opener.

About a year later, they no longer were that close. Duval is a more complicated personality than McIlroy, and it was about that time when Duval went into a deep slump through a combination of injuries, confidence and life changes.

Woods moved on to levels not seen in his generation. The longer he was around, the more approachable he was to the other players. And while he has had his share of rivals over the years, McIlroy is the first real threat from the next generation. He is the first player that makes you wonder if Woods getting back to No. 1 depends solely on him.

Are they rivals?

McIlroy doesn't think so because they haven't gone head-to-head in the final hour of a major, or any tournament for that matter.

``Hopefully, at some point, that can happen this year and it would be great to be part of that,'' McIlroy said.

What makes them rivals, however the term is defined, is that they're the two players everyone talks about. They have the same expectations. They wear the same logo. And now they're in the same commercial.

Still to be determined this year is who plays the supporting role.

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198