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Torrey Pines a good gauge for Tiger

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Torrey Pines a good gauge for Tiger

SAN DIEGO (AP) Based on his record alone, there could be cause for alarm the way Tiger Woods started his season.

Woods never finished out of the top 10 in his season opener until his 13th season, when he was coming off reconstructive surgery on his left knee and was eliminated in the second round of the Match Play Championship.

He was eliminated on the second day of the Abu Dhabi Championship in memorable fashion - a late rally to seemingly make the cut with one shot to spare, only to be informed that he was not supposed to get relief from an imbedded lie in sandy soil on the fifth hole. Two shots were added to his score, and Woods was on his way back with only the 10th missed cut of his career, his first outside the PGA Tour and a bad start to the year.

The more important measure, however, is this week at Torrey Pines.

Woods has won seven times as a pro on this track along the Pacific bluffs. It's a public course, but it feels as if he owns it. Such is his dominance at Torrey Pines that after the first round of the 2008 Buick Invitational, when Woods opened with a 67 on the South Course, a caddie standing behind the 18th green said, ``He just won two tournaments with one round.'' Sure enough, Woods won that week by eight shots, and then won the U.S. Open that summer on a mangled knee in a playoff.

That was his 14th - and at the moment, his last - major championship.

That also was his last win at Torrey Pines.

He didn't play in 2009 because he was still recovering from knee surgery. He didn't play in 2010 because he was recovering from the humiliating collapse in his personal life. The last time he played Torrey Pines was in 2011, which turned out to be the worst season of his career. He was embarking on a brand new swing, his game was a wreck and it showed. Woods went 74-75 on the weekend and tied for 44th.

Where is he now?

``It's nice to be healthy, to be able to train and practice and do all of the things that I know I can do,'' Woods said Tuesday after playing the back nine on the South Course. ``It's definitely a very different feeling, so it's nice to be back. It's nice to get out there and play a course that I know.''

When it comes to horses for courses, Woods is a thoroughbred at Torrey Pines. The only course comparable to his success level at Torrey would be Firestone, where he also has won seven times and never finished out of the top 10 until 2010 and 2011, both times when his game was a mess. He has won seven times at Bay Hill, but that's different from the other two because Woods has seven finishes out of the top 10. Bay Hill always has been feast or famine.

``This has always been a pretty good benchmark, hasn't it?'' Geoff Ogilvy said.

If he doesn't win this week, it certainly wouldn't be a disaster. Woods is getting older, and the competition is getting deeper every year. Winning is not as easy as it was.

But how he plays this week could be a fair measure of his game going into a pivotal year when the balance of power has shifted to 23-year-old Rory McIlroy. Woods talks a lot about the courses where he feels most comfortable, with Torrey Pines and Firestone at the top of his list. He also includes Augusta National and St. Andrews.

Most telling was his last win at Torrey Pines.

He was runner-up at the Masters that year, and then had arthroscopic surgery to repair some cartilage damage in his left knee that caused him to miss Quail Hollow and The Players Championship. He was getting ready for the U.S. Open when doctors found two stress fractures of the left tibia and recommended six weeks off, which he ignored.

So when he showed up at Torrey Pines, the opening round was the first time he had walked 18 holes since the final at the Masters.

Of his 14 majors, this was among the most remarkable, foremost because of the injury.

``Here I am just talking about it and my hands are sweating just thinking about the feeling I had to get through each and every day,'' Woods said Tuesday. ``Just trying to get up and having to warm up again and go to the gym. I just don't want to move. Then having to get out here and warm up and trying not to show you guys and any of my competitors what I was feeling. It was a very difficult week.''

But it was at Torrey Pines.

Could he have won the U.S. Open in that kind of physical shape had it been played anywhere else?

``Yeah,'' he said.

But did it help that it was Torrey Pines?

``Yeah, definitely. Probably those three courses I just mentioned,'' he said, referring to Torrey, Firestone and Augusta.

Woods won a Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines as a teenager. He first came to the course with his father for the Andy Williams Invitational, spending most of his time watching the California players - Mark O'Meara, John Cook, Corey Pavin. He recalled seeing Andy Bean reach the par-5 18th in two shots.

It's different now. The world watches him. That much was evident when he finished the 18th hole of a practice round on a cool, quiet morning. The golf course, which had been so quiet, came to life with a few hundred rushing over to a walkway with hopes of an autograph, and the pounding of steps heard on a bridge as two dozen photographers trampled behind him.

McIlroy is taking the next month off. The field at Torrey Pines includes Dustin Johnson, Masters champion Bubba Watson, defending champion Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. But it's still Torrey Pines. This is where a healthy and happy Woods is usually at his best.

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Kevin Durant commits $10 million to Prince George's County public schools

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USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant commits $10 million to Prince George's County public schools

Kevin Durant continues to give back to the community that raised him. 

Durant, who calls Prince George's County, MD., home, recently announced a partnership with Prince George's County public schools. 

The partnership, which comes with a $10 million dollar commitment from Durant, will help fund a program called College Track. Essentially, it's a 10-year program that provides basic infrastructure — test prep, tutoring, college selection and how to get financial aid — that kids from less-advantaged families often times don’t have.

Durant's money will go towards building College Track's Maryland center. There are nine other College Tracks across California, Colorado, and Louisiana, and the program has helped over 3,000 students get to college and beyond. This Maryland center will be the first of three that are planned to go up in the DC area. 

You can read the entire article about Durant and College Track right here. 

RELATED: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR TOMAS SATORANSKY

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

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Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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