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Mahan builds two-shot lead at Congressional

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Mahan builds two-shot lead at Congressional

By Len Shapiro
CSNwashington.com

Ridiculous was how Australian Rod Pampling described the blast furnace conditions during the stifling second round at the AT&T National at Congressional Friday. And he actually tied for the days second lowest score, a four-under 67 that left him only three shots out of the lead.

Under searing sun, in temperatures that reached 100 degrees at 4 p.m., on a fast and firm course set up as challenging as any U.S. Open, it was late-finishing Hunter Mahan who cooly carved out an afternoon round of six-under 65 and 36-hole total of seven-under 135. He took a two-shot lead over three playersRobert Garrigus, also with a 67, Brenden De Jong (69) and Jimmy Walker (69), all at five-under 137.

Mahan, a two-time winner this season ranked No. 10 in the world, is no stranger to going low at Congressional. In the final round of the 2009 AT&T, he posted a 62 but eventually lost by a shot that year to champion Tiger Woods.

I hit a lot of good shots out there, made it easy on myself, Mahan said after his Friday round. Its a pretty punishing golf coursebut I put myself in great spots to make putts. I was able to bear down and stay focusedThis is a tough place to play.

On this suffocating afternoon, Mahan had five birdies and a bogey on his front nine, then took the outright lead when he drained an eight-foot putt at the 579-yard 16th hole. At the courses signature 500-yard 18th, he finished with a flourish, bombing out a 350-yard drive, dropping his second shot sand wedge to within 12 feet of the cup and making the birdie putt.

It can be dangerous out there, Mahan said of the heat. If you dont take care of yourself its going to catch up to you and hit you hard. When the conditions and the weather come into play, its a whole other factor. Once the mind goes, the body goes next. Its important to be mentally strong. It was tough out there. It beats up your body and your mind.

Woods also may be playing on his mind over the weekend. Woods is now lurking only five shots behind after three-under 68 on Friday. That left him at two-under 140 for the tournament and in prime position to challenge for his second AT&T title and 74th career victory overall.

Woods, now ranked No. 4 in the world and also a two-time winner this season, ignited a round that began with six straight pars when he hit a 340-yard drive at the 579-yard 16th hole, then followed it with a 240-yard blast to within 48 feet of the flag. He drained that putt, accompanied by a huge roar from his sweat-soaked gallery to get to one-under for the tournament and begin his ascent up the leader board into a tie for tenth place.

Im right there, Woods said of his position. Its playing like a U.S. Open, it really is. Its quick, its dry. At least the Tour moved up a couple of the tees if the pins were in the corners or they were out in front. They did a good job of getting it so we could be aggressive. It was score-able, but definitely not easy.

The eagle putt he described as tricky because it was a double breaking putt up the hill. Its hard left and then you just want to feed back a couple of balls to the right. I was waiting for it to feed back because it was hanging, hanging, hanging and it just fell right in.

The key to Woods round may well have occurred on the previous two holes when he saved precious pars after driving his ball on both holes into deep rough. At the 467-yard 14th he hit a lovely chip to within four feet and made that putt, and at the 490-yard 15th, another chip landed six feet from the hole, and he sank that pressure putt as well.

Woods, who started his round on the tenth hole, gave back a shot at the first hole (his tenth of the day), when he missed a six-foot par putt that left him at even par for the tournament. But at the 413-yard No. 5, he sank a seven-foot birdie putt after a wedge approach, then added one more at the 354-yard No. 8 when his 136-yard wedge left him a three-footer he converted for another.

Woods said his game plan was to stay patient all the way around, particularly with the heat becoming a factor the longer he was out there.

Thats why I train, thats why I run all those miles, he said. This is when fitness does help, and I figured thats one of the reasons why Ive had the success Ive had. You have to hit the golf ball well, but then also theres the mental test. Youre going to be out there for probably six, seven hours, and its going to be tough.

Garrigus birdied two of his final four holes to push up the board and get into a tie for the lead. Hes recently dropped 25 pounds and said that was definitely a factor in allowing him to thrive despite the heat and humidity.

Im a lot more physically fit than I used to be, he said. If you can just mentally put it out of your head. You play well in the heat because you just dont think about it. If you can just get past the fact that youre dripping sweat all over your golf ball, you can block it out. It makes a big, big difference.

Pampling, on the other hand, wasnt at all happy in the heat.

I dont know how much worse it can get out there, he said. Its ridiculous. Its so hot youre looking for wind anywhere, shade. Its just a hot, hot, hot day. Ill be heading back to air-conditioned comfort the rest of the afternoon.

He definitely was not alone.

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Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

Those who doubted the wisdom of the Redskins drafting a guard with the fifth overall pick in 2015 (yes, I was one of them) should be preparing to eat their words.

On draft day and during the two and a half years since then, there has been plenty of talk that the Redskins would regret taking Brandon Scherff, who played tackle in college but seemed destined to play guard in the NFL, so early. Not that anyone thought that Scherff would be a bad NFL player but given that they left DL Leonard Williams and edge rusher Vic Beasley on the board, he needed to develop into an All-Pro caliber guard to justify such a high pick.

Well, don’t look now but Scherff is making his way towards becoming one of the best guards in the game. Not just Pro Bowl good; he checked that box last year. Scherff could become the first Redskins position player to be named a first-team All-Pro since Darrell Green and Jim Lachey earned the honors in 1991.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

Asked about Scherff’s play this year, Jay Gruden was effusive in his praise.

He’s reacting. He’s anticipating. He’s pulling. He’s pass-blocking. He’s run-blocking. He’s double teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him.

You can listen to Gruden’s full comments on Scherff in the video above.

Gruden is not exactly an unbiased observer. But other, more neutral analysts also have been heaping praise on Scherff.

An article on Pro Football Focus said that Scherff had an “elite” game against the 49ers, not allowing any pass rush pressures and dominating as a run blocker.

RELATED: IN A MUDDLED NFC WHY NOT THE REDSKINS?

Two other analysts clipped some plays from the 49ers game to illustrate just how well he was playing.

This one from Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network shows one play, the 49-yard screen pass to Chris Thompson on which Scherff threw a key block.

I’m not sure what the scouting credentials Brandon Thorn has but he did put together a nice collection of clips of Scherff making quality blocks both in space and in the interior vs. the 49ers.

Will Scherff earn All-Pro honors? That could depend on how well the team does. While the All-Pro teams are supposed to be individual honors, it’s tough for an offensive lineman to get many votes if he’s not on a winning team, especially on like Scherff who would be trying to break into the club for the first time.

But the Redskins are not really worried about All-Pro votes. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing and he gets no such consideration it will be fine with them.

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.

 

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

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USA TODAY Sports

In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

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Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”