Lytham Holds Great Memories For Woods


Lytham Holds Great Memories For Woods

By Leonard Shapiro

There was a time, before the 14 major championships, before the 74 PGA Tour wins, before the knee and Achilles injuries, before the changes in swing coaches, before the scandal and the divorce, when Tiger Woods needed a boost in confidence.

This was 1996, and Woods was in the process of deciding whether and when to turn professional. Then along came the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annesthe same venue for the 2012 Openand Woods got his answer.

It came first in the second round, when he fired a superb 66 on his way to a tie for 22nd in the tournament, tying the low score ever posted in the event by an amateur golfer.
That gave me so much confidence, Woods told reporters last week. At the time, it gave me the confidence I could do it at a high level. The fact that I shot that low I had seven birdies in a 12-hole stretchI thought for an amateur in a major championship, that was a big step.

Woods would go on to turn pro later that summer, and of course, the rest is truly golf history as he set off on a journey that now leads him back to England and the same brutally difficult Lytham links off the Irish Sea.

Woods seems to be moving in all the right directions these days, despite several missed cuts this season, the latest at the Greenbrier when he insisted he wasnt playing all that badly. Hes now the leading money-winner on the PGA Tour with 4.2 million in earnings. He leads the FedEx Cup standings and is a shoo-in to make the 2012 American Ryder Cup team on points in a season when his three victories are also the most wins on the tour.

But once again, Royal Lytham could very well be shaping up as the venue that provides that one more added boost of confidence that gets Woods back to winning major championships. He hasnt done that since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. And over those four years, 15 different players have won the 16 majors contested over that time span.

There is no question that Woods is no longer the player who once dominated the game like few if any others in the long and storied history of the sport. But he is certainly showing signs that the latest set of swing changes designed to take the pressure off his aching knee are starting to kick in and become just as natural as the old swings.

If hes playing well, hes better than anyone else in the field, Curtis Strange, now an ESPN commentator, said in a conference call last week. If hes not, hes average. It depends on which Tiger shows up. When Tiger is near on his game, he has more strengths than anybody else.

In addition to the possibility of getting closer to Jack Nicklauss record 18 major titles, Woods has another delectable incentive this week. If he prevails at Lytham, he almost certainly will be the player of the year and perhaps even more significant, he will return to the No. 1 position in the world rankings, a spot hes became so accustomed to occupying for so long.

Hes now No. 4, behind No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Rory McIlory and No. 3 Lee Westwood. All three of those players will be among the rooting favorites of the English crowds, particularly 44-year-old Westwood who now holds the dubious distinction of being the best player in the world never to win a major.

Westwood has been bothered in recent weeks by a nagging groin injury. McIlroy keeps missing cuts, and Donald didnt sound like a man who fancies his chances last week when he spoke to reporters at the Scottish Open.

Ive realized that I do get a bit more anxious, a bit more uptight (at major championships) and Ive got to try and control that, he said. Thats going to be the prioritygo out there and try to play with a bit more fun and hopefully thats the key to getting off to a better start. And once I get off to a better start, I feel like Im going to be there and have a better chance.

Donald and everyone else will have to do it on a difficult course protected by 205 nasty bunkers, the most of any venue on the Open rotation. A wet summer has also made the rough brutally difficult, so much so that Woods said last week that bottom six inches, in some places its almost unplayable. Ive never seen the rough this thick and dense.

Defending Open champion Darren Clarke, also offered an ominous warning about all those bunkers.

Its just a nightmare, he said. They are very penal. Theres going to be occasions here this week when I think youre going to see guys taking penalty drops out of them because they wont be able to move their ball anywhere. Accuracy is going to be key this week. Its not really length off the tee. Its keeping it on the fairways and keeping out of those bunkers.
Woods says he likes the layout.

Its fair, he said recently. They dont have to trick it up. They dont have to do anything with it. They can play it as the members play it and it would still be difficult.

How much pressure Woods puts on himself will also be a major factor, according to Paul Azinger.

Its gotten to the point where he was so good, you didnt even look at Tiger as human anymore, he said. But he still feels the pressure like everyone else. He got more comfortable with it because hes in contention more often, but its real pressure, and he feels it. Hes human. He feels it like everybody else; he just dealt with it better.

Stay tuned.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency


In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."


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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.


But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.