A Monday finish turned into a Monday start


A Monday finish turned into a Monday start

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) As expected, Monday at the PGA Tour's season opener figures to be filled with anticipation at the Tournament of Champions.

Not because of who might win, but whether they might actually start this tournament.

Already, a few historical notes are worthy of research. This is believed to be the first PGA Tour event to start on a Monday. Rickie Fowler is certainly the first player given the honors of hitting the first tee shot of a new season - three times.

``Sweet,'' Fowler said before leaving Kapalua for the day.

The opening round was wiped from the books for the second time on Sunday when gusts that reached 48 mph came roaring down the Plantation Course and turned this winners-only tournament into goofy ball. Ben Curtis had birdie putts on his first two holes. He made a double bogey and a triple bogey. Matt Kuchar's ball was blown off the tee before he could hit his opening tee shot.

``You hope for the best, and it just didn't happen,'' said Slugger White, the tour's vice president of rules and competition, when he delivered the grim news to players who have spent more time waiting than actually playing at Kapalua this week.

The plan was to play 36 holes on Monday, and then return Tuesday for 18 holes to make it an official event.

By now, it's officially a weird tournament.

``I think everyone wants to play,'' Bill Haas said. ``But I think everybody wants it to be the person that plays the best who wins. On the 10th hole, somebody might hit a putt ... a foot from the hole, and that same, exact putt 10 minutes later might blow off the green 30 yards and make triple (bogey). And I just don't know if that's identifying the best player.''

Here's how the 2013 season has unfolded to this point.

-Fowler smashed a driver 360 yards on Friday to start the season. He made it through eight holes before play was stopped because of 40 mph gusts, not long after Carl Pettersson hit a good lag that rolled another 30 feet by the pin and off the green. Webb Simpson was 3 under through seven holes when his score was wiped clean. Scott Stallings was 7 over through four holes and thrilled with the decision.

-The idea of a 36-hole Saturday never materialized. There were three one-hour delays before officials realized the wind was getting worse, and the round was postponed without anyone hitting a shot, except on the practice range.

-The plan for a 36-hole Sunday turned into an 18-hole Sunday when the wind did not relent, and when players teed off, trouble was brewing. Kuchar's ball wouldn't stay on the tee. It took him seven minutes before he made contact, which was about how long - slight exaggeration - it took Ian Poulter to take a stab at his 10-foot birdie on the 11th. Fowler hit a thin 3-wood that never got more than shoulder-high and barely reached the first fairway. The round was wiped clean after about an hour.

Where does that leave the Tournament of Champions? Right where it started, even though it hasn't started.

Jason Dufner was 1 under through five holes, though he was on the front nine, which is far easier in this wind. Curtis was 5 over through two holes, and no one was happier than him to see the round scrapped. As for the Tuesday finish? Curtis is the last PGA Tour player to win on a Tuesday, at the Booz Allen Classic in 2006.

His golf ball already had moved once on the 11th green. As he got ready to hit his putt, it moved again, this time off the green and down the slope. He chipped up and took four putts from 15 feet, giving him eight putts in two holes.

``It's crazy. That's the only way to describe it,'' Curtis said. ``I've never hit two greens in regulation at the start and walked away at 5 over. But hey. At least we had to try.''

And they will try again.

For those wondering why this tournament keeps getting postponed, an hour of television Sunday was all the evidence they needed.

Poulter posed over his 4-iron shot to the 13th green and was so stunned to see it come up short that he looked at his small gallery for the longest time, repeating loud enough for them to hear that he was only 138 yards from the front of the green. Off to his right, Charlie Beljan had a search party stomping through high grass to the right of the 10th fairway looking for both his tee shots. He had a 15-foot putt for triple bogey when play was stopped.

Moments later, a call came over the radio for a ruling on the 12th green. Stallings was trying to tap in a 2-foot putt when a gust blew his ball 8 feet away.

``We need to try to put the show on,'' Poulter said. ``Hyundai spent a lot of money. We want to play. Fans want to see us play. TV wants to see us play. We're backed into a corner. I don't think they understand how windy it really is. Now they've seen it.''

It was comical from the start, with Kuchar having to tee it up three times before he could hit, and removing his cap the rest of the way. Jonas Blixt had a 1-foot par putt on the 10th hole and took about two minutes. He had to wait as a cup and someone's hat blew across the green.

Blixt has played 10 holes over two days in these conditions in 1-under par. None of it counts, but the Swede learned one thing.

``There's no instruction book for this,'' Blixt said. ``You just go by instincts.''

The tour insists on a 54-hole tournament, no matter how complicated that will be with the next tournament, the Sony Open, starting on Thursday in Honolulu. Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations, said television and operational equipment can only be transported to Oahu on a barge that takes 16 hours on a good day. The plan was to televise the final round at Kapalua, and go with a limited TV production for the opening round of the Sony Open.

Defending champion Steve Stricker lounged on a sofa in the dining room watching the NFL playoffs with Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker. Along with Bubba Watson, they have yet to tee off all week.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 projection: Still too close to call in the Metropolitan Division


Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 projection: Still too close to call in the Metropolitan Division

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are right around the corner and there is still a lot to be decided.

The Metropolitan Division is going to come right down to the wire as each team seemingly continues to win and put the pressure on the first place Capitals.

With just over two weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff matchups for the first round of the NHL playoffs are still up in the air with only five points separating the top four teams in the Metro. Washington is in good position with a four-point cushion between themselves and the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. With both teams meeting on April 1, however, the Caps are still a long way off from clinching the division and earning home ice in the first round.


Metropolitan Division
1. Washington (93 points, 74 GP, 40 ROW)
W1. Philadelphia (88 points, 75 GP, 36 ROW)

2. Pittsburgh (89 points, 74 GP, 40 ROW)
3. Columbus (89 points, 75 GP, 36 ROW)

Atlantic Division
1. Tampa Bay (106 points, 74 GP, 45 ROW)
W2. New Jersey (82 points, 73 GP, 32 ROW)

2. Boston (100 points, 72 GP, 42 ROW)
3. Toronto (95 points, 74 GP, 37 ROW)

Still in the hunt:
Florida (81points, 72 GP, 34 ROW)


Washington has won only one out of four games against the Philadelphia Flyers this season. That's not an ideal first-round matchup for Washington, but there is still time for the Flyers to climb and overtake Columbus or Pittsburgh in the standings..

What seems unlikely to happen is for New Jersey or Florida to pass Philadelphia. While things remain close near the top of the standings, there seems to be a growing divide between the top-four teams in the Metropolitan Division and the two teams battling for the final remaining spot in the playoffs.

The Flyers may be in fourth place in the division, but they still boast a healthy six-point lead over the Devils who sit in the second wild card.

If we assume New Jersey and Florida will not be able to climb to any postseason position, but the second wild card, that makes the three most likely candidates to face Washington in the first round Pittsburgh, Columbus and Philadelphia.

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Need to Know: Redskins likely to return at least 16 of their 22 starters from last year

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Need to Know: Redskins likely to return at least 16 of their 22 starters from last year

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 23, 34 days before the NFL draft.  

Stability at the top of the depth chart

A Redskins defense that ranked 27th in total defense and was dead last against the run is likely to return nine or 10 of the players who were the primary starters in 2017. The Washington defense, which was 16th overall and 27th running the ball, will certainly return seven starters and could have eight the same as last year.

I’m sure that this will alarm many Redskins fans, but it shouldn’t. Before getting into that, let’s look at the changes.

On defense, the nine starters who are assured of returning are DE Stacy McGee, DL Jonathan Allen, OLB Preston Smith, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB Zach Brown, ILB Mason Foster, CB Josh Norman, S Montae Nicholson, and S D.J. Swearinger.

As of right now, a tenth returning starter has to be penciled in at nose tackle. Yes, if the season started today it would be Ziggy Hood at nose tackle again. More on that in a minute.

The only starting spot that is certain to turn over is the cornerback opposite Norman. Even though Bashaud Breeland’s contract agreement with the Panthers fell through due to a failed physical, he is much more likely to land on another NFL team than he is to return to the Redskins.

It is impossible to think that the Redskins will not do something to address the nose tackle position, whether it’s in the draft or in free agency. Then again, it’s impossible to believe they have run the 3-4 defense since 2010 without coming up with a long-term solution at the nose.

On offense, the seven starters certain to return are WR Josh Doctson, WR Jamison Crowder, OT Trent Williams, C Chase Roullier, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses, and TE Jordan Reed. RB Samaje Perine could be an eighth returning starter depending on if the Redskins take a running back early in the draft.

The new starters will be QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, and someone at left guard.

Having between 16 and 18 returning starters from a team that went 7-9 in 2017 may not be enough turnover for some fans. That’s not a completely unreasonable point of view. However, there is such thing as having too much churn in your starting lineup and some stability for the Redskins may be a good thing this year.

They had five new starters on defense last year and a new defensive coordinator. They also had a new coordinator on offense along with two new wide receivers and, by midseason, changes in the starters at running back and center. This is not counting all of the on-the-fly changes that had to be made due to injuries.

Continuing to make changes in the starting lineup is not always a recipe for success. Sometimes you just need to pick a group of players and, to the extent that you can in the free agency-salary cap world of the NFL, stick with them. Sure, you have to address weakness like nose tackle and possibly running back and fill holes created by free agency departures. However, it is often better to give a player time to acclimate to a system and, especially with a rookie, time to learn the fine points of the game.

Tearing things down and starting over again after a mediocre season is a recipe for, well, more mediocre seasons.

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

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In response to a tweet about this article that said that the Redskins led the league in losing important players in injuries:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 25
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 127
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 171

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