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McDowell opens up 3-shot lead at Sherwood

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McDowell opens up 3-shot lead at Sherwood

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Graeme McDowell has done a lot right this year, except for win. He now has one last chance to fix that.

Back on the course that has provided two key moments in his career, McDowell opened with three straight birdies Friday and finished strong for a 6-under 66, giving him a three-shot lead going into the weekend at the World Challenge.

``A good day's work,'' said McDowell, whose day was not over until he was escorted away for a drug test.

Bo Van Pelt got up-and-down from the drop zone for bogey on the final hole that gave him a 68, leaving him tied for second with Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk, who each had a 69. Tournament host and defending champion Tiger Woods was tied for the lead on the back nine until he stalled and settled for a 69. He was four shots behind.

This is the final destination of a whirlwind trip for McDowell, who spent two weeks in China, a short holiday in Dubai, a tournament in Australia, back to Dubai and then across eight time zones to California.

It's also been somewhat of a whirlwind year, filled with opportunity, but no trophies.

He played in the final group in back-to-back majors, the U.S. Open and British Open, without winning. He was on the winning Ryder Cup team again, only he concedes his game wasn't there and he earned only one point.

McDowell always feels relaxed at Sherwood Country Club, with an 18-man field and no cut and the finish line clearly in his sights. Suddenly, though, he has something at stake. The World Challenge doesn't belong to any tour. It offers world ranking points, though he isn't in dire need of them. But there's a trophy, and McDowell hasn't hoisted one of those since that birdie-birdie finish to beat Woods in a playoff at Sherwood in 2010.

``I would love to compete and play well this weekend, really to kind of put a little icing on what's been a mediocre year,'' McDowell said. ``Despite the fact that I feel like I've played some decent golf this year, I really don't have a lot to show for myself, and this would be a nice way to finish.''

McDowell was at 9-under 135.

Even though McDowell's win at Sherwood in 2010 capped a dream season - his U.S. Open title, the clinching point at the Ryder Cup - it was a runner-up finish in 2009 that set up all those spoils. He was a last-minute replacement for Woods, who didn't play as his personal life unraveled, and McDowell finished second. It was the first year the tournament received ranking points, and McDowell earned enough to get into the Masters and eventually the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which he won.

That U.S. Open title assured him being in the Ryder Cup, where he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole that carried Europe to a big win.

``Sometimes the stars align,'' he said.

His 66 gave him a cushion going into the weekend, but light rain overnight and for much of the day made the course soft and vulnerable. McDowell said the greens could only be rolled, not cut, making them substantially slower. That attributed to so many good scores, with half of the field in the 60s.

McDowell believes there's a 63 or 64 out there for someone, especially in these conditions, so his three-shot lead doesn't seem like much only halfway through the event.

Woods fired at flag around the turn, picking up easy birdie putts on the ninth and 10th, handling the par 5s without difficulty and getting to the top of the leaderboard. His momentum slowed with a bogey on the par-3 15th, and a poor chip from the rough to the left of the par-5 16th green that led to a par.

``I had a decent warm-up session, but the work I did last night was some of the best I've hit the golf ball all year,'' Woods said. ``I just had to come out here and trust it, and when I did, I got into a nice little run there. I just need to do that all 36 holes on the weekend.''

Nick Watney, who had a 67 on Thursday, fell apart late. His sand wedge from the middle of the fairway on the 16th landed over the green and kept right on going, leading to a bogey that felt like losing two shots to the field. He bogeyed the 18th for a 73, putting him five shots out of the lead. He was tied with Rickie Fowler, who had a 67.

``Just a terrible way to finish, but we're only halfway through,'' Watney said. ``So we'll see if we can make a charge at those guys in the morning.''

McDowell is mainly charging to the end of the season.

He plans to go home to Northern Ireland for three days, and then head to Orlando, Fla., where he just finished building a new home. McDowell slept in his new house for the first time Monday, flying to California the next day.

What will he do with more than two months off?

``Try and stay out of the bar as much as possible,'' he said with a laugh. ``December will be very much recharging and relaxing and moving into my new house in Orlando and spending some time with friends and family. And January will be detoxing and practicing and getting ready to do it all again.''

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.