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Disney the last chance to keep a job

Disney the last chance to keep a job

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) One player dug his feet into the sand and hit one bunker shot after another, his focus unbroken. A few hundred yards away, another player cast his line into a pond filled with bass next to the 15th tee on the Magnolia Course.

Disney is a vacation for some, a grind for so many others. It's easy to see who falls into which category.

This is the final PGA Tour event of the year, and the stakes have never been higher. The top 125 on the money list keep full tour cards, meaning they can play whenever and wherever they want next year except for the majors, World Golf Championships and a few other invitational events that have smaller fields.

That much hasn't changed.

What makes a tour card so valuable now is that 2013 is a transition year on the PGA Tour, which translates into a shorter season with fewer opportunities. The regular season will last only about seven months leading into the FedEx Cup playoffs. After that, a new season (2013-14) will start in October.

For the last six years, players who either didn't get into a lot of tournaments or got off to a slow start could always count on the Fall Series - four tournaments at the back end of the season - to make up ground and get into the top 125. But that opportunity is going away. The Fall Series events, along with two tournaments in Asia, will be the start of the new wraparound season.

Players who finish out of the top 125 can still play, as long as there was room for them at tournaments. They had to get in line behind the fully exempt players, along with 50 others who earned cards through Q-school and the Web.com Tour.

But with more players expected to sign up for more tournaments in the shorter season, playing opportunities for the others could be limited.

That's putting it nicely.

``Those guys are in deep, deep trouble,'' William McGirt said after a few attempts trying to find the right words for a family newspaper.

McGirt was in that position last year, needing a big finish at Disney to keep his card. He didn't come particularly close, wound up at No. 141 and earned his card at Q-school. Knowing that status out of Q-school would be lower this year, imagine his relief when McGirt was runner-up at the Canadian Open to secure his card. He is at No. 70 with just over $1.2 million. The only roller coaster he will be on this week can be found across the street at the Magic Kingdom.

``Compared with last year, this is as relaxed as you can be,'' McGirt said Tuesday. ``I've talked to a couple of guys about that situation. I told them the last thing you can do is think about it. From the U.S. Open last year, it was getting into FedEx Cup, and I went from that to keeping my job. I spent the better part of last year thinking about what would happen. I was mentally fried.''

McGirt wound up playing every tournament for which he was eligible from June to early November, 14 events in 17 weeks.

Disney has been the final official event on the PGA Tour schedule for the last six years, and it's always been fascinating to watch the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Those who were safe inside the top 125 on the money list were mainly concerned about the lines at Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Those on the outside were concerned about keeping their jobs. There is tension over every shot, broken up by the long, low whistle from the train at Thunder Mountain.

Jeff Maggert, who turns 49 in February, has been on the PGA Tour for 22 years. His first tour victory was at Disney in 1993, when the tournament had to set up floodlights on the final hole to beat darkness. He had to go to Q-school last year, made it with a few shots to spare, and is on the bubble at No. 122 on the money list. He feels reasonably good about his chances because he has a $51,533 lead over Billy Mayfair at No. 125.

``It's probably going to be difficult for tour school players to get in events early in the year,'' Maggert said, looking ahead to 2013. ``Guys will play a lot of tournaments because of the shorter season. It's good to be fully exempt. The top 125 on the money list is probably a bigger deal than in the past.''

The top 150 used to be significant. Even if a player wasn't fully exempt, he could count on playing about 15 to 18 tournaments a year.

Not anymore.

``It's not like 125 is really good status and 126 to 150 is pretty good,'' David Mathis said after wrapping up his tour card a few weeks ago. ``Now it's like 125 is awesome and 126 to 150 is terrible. That's kind of how the players view it.''

Kevin Chappell began the Fall Series by getting engaged. It's going to be easier to plan a wedding knowing that he's fully exempt next year, but the Californian has work left. Chappell is at No. 123, and only $7,318 separates him from Gary Christian at No. 127. Even finishing last at Disney pays more than that, so it starts with making the cut.

``If you finish 126th and don't go to tour school, you're 50 people behind the guy that's 125th on the money list,'' Maggert said. ``You've put 50 guys ahead of you fighting for spots to get into a tournament. And if you don't get any starts until two or three months into the season, with a short season you're pretty far behind.''

A year ago, Roland Thatcher missed the cut at Disney and lost his card by $1,695. Thatcher played out of the No. 126-150 category this year and got into 20 events, a number that figures to shrink next year. D.J. Trahan finished 125th on the money list and played 26 times.

Disney bills itself as the ``happiest place on earth.'' There were plenty of long faces on the practice green, which was quiet even for a Tuesday.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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