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Tiger upbeat about his game, Open performance

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Tiger upbeat about his game, Open performance

Len Shapiro
CSNWashington.com

Despite shooting 75-73 in the final two rounds of the U.S. Open at Olympic two weeks ago to finish tied for 21st place, Tiger Woods, as always, preferred to look at the bright side of his week in San Francisco.

I was still in the ball game, Woods, who held a share of the 36-hole lead, told reporters after completing his final round that Sunday. A lot of positives to be taken away from this week. A lot of positives.

Ten days later, not much had changed. Woods made his first public appearance since the Open Tuesday at Congressional Country Club and remained mostly upbeat about his Open performance, despite his disappointing weekend on a brutally difficult golf course that produced a winning score of one over par from champion Webb Simpson.

The way I struck the golf ball, I was very pleased by that, said Woods, the official host of the AT&T National in town this week. I didn't particularly chip or putt well that week, something that I had done at Memorial (where he won two weeks earlier). Obviously at the Open, that's just one of the things you have to do, and I didn't do that. I didn't make anything from 15 or 20 feet. I made a bunch of putts from 8 to 10 feet and in, but I didn't make any other putts. I played very conservative. My game plan worked for the first couple days. I was playing away from a lot of flags, lag putting, but I didn't make anything. I need to hit the ball a little bit closer than I did that week.

It was one of those weekends where I just didn't quite get everything out of my rounds. I was so close on Saturday to getting a good round out of it, and I didn't. It's just one of those things where a fraction off, particularly on that U.S. Open venue, balls that land in the fairway don't stay in the fairway, and I kept hitting the edge of the fairways and going in the rough. There you've not only got to hit the ball in the middle but you've got to hit the ball in the middle with the correct shape. Being a fraction off, certainly it showed up on Saturday, and the beginning of Sunday for sure. But I got it back towards the end of it, played 3under coming in, and that was something positive.

Woods seemed particularly upbeat Wednesday returning to play Congressional for the first time since he won his own event here in 2009 with a score of 13-under par. He did not play in the 2011 U.S. Open on the clubs famous Blue Course because he was still recovering from surgery. When someone asked him if hed like the winning score to be below the Open record breaking total of 16 under posted last year by Rory McIlroy, he said as long as Im that person.

Woods did not have a chance to play Congressional when he met with the media shortly after 1 p.m. but said hes been told the course was playing firm and fast, just the way he likes it. Thats the good news. The bad? With high humidity and temperatures in the mid-90s predicted over the four days of the tournament, those conditions may not last.

Weve seen what this place can do when it gets soft and what the guys can shoot, he said. But this week, with the weather forecast as hot as its supposed to be, I dont think were going to quite see it as fast as it is right now. Theyre going to have to put some water on it to try to keep it alive.

Woods also admitted that there are still significant shortcomings with his game as he continues to attempt to equal or surpass Jack Nicklauss record 18 major championships. Woods has 14 now and 73 PGA Tour victories, but he also knows his short game had better get better in order to significantly build on both those numbers.

I would say certainly my short game has been something that has taken a hit, he said, and it did the same thing when I was working with Butch (Harmon) and the same thing when I was working with Hank (Haney). During that period, my short game went down, and it's because I was working on my full game. Eventually I get to a point where the full game becomes very natural feeling and I can repeat it day after day, and I can dedicate most of my time to my short game again.

One thing Woods said he will never do with his short game is switch to a long putter, all the rage these days on the PGA Tour.

Ive tried it and my stroke is infinitely worse, he said. Its just not good. I like the flow of my stroke. I like how I putt. Putting with anchoring or even different configurations of a standard grip, my stroke doesnt flow at all. I think Ive done all right with mine, and I think Im going to stick with it.

Hes also going to stay the course with his current swing changes being overseen by his latest instructor, Sean Foley. He equated making changes in his swing the older he gets with Michael Jordan making adjustments to his shooting style as he moved into his 30s .

He couldnt jump over everybody with the Pistons and eventually learned a different shot, and he mastered going off his right hand, left shoulder, Woods said. It didnt matter; he could fade away from either shoulder. I didnt want to play the way I did (in the past) because it hurt, and it hurt a lot.

Was I good at it. Yeah, I was good at it, but I couldnt go down that road, and theres no way I could have had that longevity in the game if I had done that. Four knee surgeries later, here we are. I finally have a swing that it doesnt hurt, and Im still generating power, but it doesnt hurt anymore.

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3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.

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Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.

Rust

It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

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Wizards ride huge second half to break through, beat Pistons

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards ride huge second half to break through, beat Pistons

The Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 122-112 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Changes were subtle: Many were surprised when head coach Scott Brooks decided to trot out the usual starting lineup after all the talk about making changes following their blowout loss to the Hornets on Wednesday, but that didn't mean Brooks was going to keep everything the same. He did adjust his rotation, it just took him a few minutes.

Center Marcin Gortat played four minutes in the first quarter before sitting the rest of the first half. After Markieff Morris began the game cold and missed his first three threes, Scott pulled him and got creative with his lineups.

Early in the second quarter we saw Tomas Satoransky, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter and Mike Scott in a super small-ball set... and it worked. After the Wizards went down by 15 points, that group exploded back by causing turnovers left and right and took the lead. Even Meeks, who has struggled all season, popped off for six points in his first five minutes.

Whether it was those moves or not, the Wizards came out in the third quarter a different team. They outscored the Pistons 45-28 in the frame and shot 16-for-21.

After going scoreless in the first half, John Wall exploded for 10 points in the third quarter and finished with 16 points and 11 assists for the game. Bradley Beal had 13 points in the third and Gortat had eight. Beal had 26 points for the game and Gortat had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The big third quarter propelled the Wizards to the win. They snapped a two-game slump and improved to 26-20 on the season.

PODCAST: SHOULD THE WIZARDS MAKE A TRADE OR BENCH A STARTER?

Otto came to play: Brooks ripped into the Wizards following their loss on Wednesday and early on it seemed like most of the players didn't get the message. Porter was a major exception because he came out on fire.

Porter had 11 points, six rebounds and three steals by halftime. He was 3-of-4 from three and was all over the place on both ends of the court.

Porter ended up with 16 points. It was a great sign for the five-year pro, who hadn't reached double figures in six of his previous eight games. If Porter gets going offensively, the Wizards should be in good shape moving forward.

Oubre, too: Oubre gets criticism from time to time about his mistakes on the court, when he gambles on defense or doesn't make the extra pass on offense. But what is never questioned is his effort, so it's no surprise he showed up when Brooks was looking for more energy from his team.

Oubre lit a spark with 11 points in the first half on 4-for-7 from the field in just under 16 minutes. He ended up with a career-high 26 points for the game. He shot 9-for-14 from the field and 5-for-9 from three. He also added five rebounds.

Oubre has been one of the Wizards' most consistent players recently. He has reached double figures in seven straight games and is averaging 16.3 points per game during that stretch.

Oubre has 15 points or more in four straight games, a career-high. This season he has 13 such games compared to seven in his previous two seasons combined. 

If the Wizards continue to struggle in the big picture, Oubre will be knocking on the door to be inserted into the starting lineup. His improvement is also giving the Wizards a lot of options as they approach the trade deadline because if they want to move a starter, he could step right in.

Stocking up: The Wizards beat the Pistons for the third time this season, meaning they took the season series. That could come in handy if the Wizards need a playoff tiebreaker over the Pistons at the end of the season.

Up next: The Wizards are off through the weekend. Their next game is on Monday night at the Dallas Mavericks. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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