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Van Pelt leads AT&T National Round 1

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Van Pelt leads AT&T National Round 1

Len Shapiro
CSNwashington.com

With a shot holed out from the fairway for an eagle and another chip into the cup to save a precious par, Bo Van Pelt opened a one-shot lead after the first round of the AT&T National Thursday at steamy Congressional Country Club, where the heat is definitely on.

Temperatures are expected to keep rising into the high 90s over the remaining three days of the tournament, a year after the golf course also hosted the rain-soaked 2011 U.S. Open. Van Pelt opened that tournament with a round of 76 but rallied to get back to a tie for 14th, and said after his first round this week the course is surely playing more difficult now than it did a year ago.

Thats all you want out there right now for sure, said Van Pelt on a day when Congressional only yielded 22 sub-par rounds from the invitational field of 120 players. Jimmy Walker, who bogeyed his final hole when he missed a five-foot par-saving putt, was tied for second with veteran Vijay Singh and Virginia Tech graduate Brenden De Jonge, all at three-under 68.

The surprise name on a leader board that definitely did not include Tiger Woods (one-over 72), the tournaments host, was Billy Hurley III. The Leesburg native and Naval Academy graduate posted a two-under 69, leaving him tied for fifth at two-under 69.

Hurley had played his opening 17 holes without a bogey, but could not avoid one at his final hole, the 636-yard No. 9, when his wayward drive hit a tree and bounced over to the rough on the nearby fourth. He managed to loft a wedge over several tall trees to get back to the proper hole but laid up on his third shot. His fourth left him an 18-foot putt to save his par, but he was unable to convert.

Still, the 30-year-old who makes his home in Annapolis had few complaints about his day, not with so many friends and family pulling for him in the gallery.

Any time you play well, its fun, he said. But this is a heck of a golf course. You have to hit a lot of quality shots that end up with not a good look at birdie sometimes. I was patient out there, made a couple of putts early and then muddled it around and didnt make anything.

Hurley was paired in a group that included 17-year-old Beau Hossler, the high school senior-to-be from Mission Viejo, Cal., who became the darling of the U.S. Open galleries two weeks ago at Olympic in San Francisco when he trailed the lead by only four shots after 54 holes. He posted 76 in the final round that week and tied for 29th place, but his performance earned him a sponsors exemption here this week on the recommendation of Woods himself.

Hossler more than held his own Thursday. He was one-under going into his final hole, the ninth, but his three-foot putt to save par just caught the edge of the lip and spun out, leaving him with a three-putt bogey and an even-par total of 71, despite making four birdies.

I hit a lot of good shots (but) the ball seemed to be going a little bit longer than normal, so I was air-mailing some pins, he said. I had some great up-and-downs, but youve got to go out there and keep the ball below the hole, especially on this golf course, when the greens are this fast and.

As for the teenagers comfort level, not a problem.

Im starting to feel pretty comfortable out here, said Hossler, who played in the Open at Congressional a year ago at age 16 but missed the cut. Obviously my game needs to get better before Im out here all the time, but (it) feels like I can make the adjustment from junior to amateur to professional golf. Obviously I need to get more comfortable as the tournaments go on, but I feel like Ive made some progress.

Woods mostly felt frustrated with his round of one-over 72, leaving him tied for 30th place.

He was fortunate to post that score because he got a huge break on the difficult 11th hole when his tee shot hit a rock in a stream bank and caromed off into the rough instead of the water. He still made bogey there, made an 18-footer for birdie at the 14th and was fortunate to escape with one last bogey at the 15th.

From the middle of the fairway, he hit his second shot in the bunker at the 490-yard par 4, hit a weak sand shot that landed on the fringe, followed by a poor chip that left him with a tough eight-foot putt to save his bogey. He made the putt to avoid further disaster and parred in to stay within five shots of the lead.

I didnt hit it that bad today, Woods said. I just didnt get a lot out of my roundIts a pretty good grind out there. Not a lot of low scores on this golf course, especially this afternoon. It was baked out, the ball was springy and its hard to believe that four-under is leading.

A year ago, Rory McIlroy scorched the course with a record 16-under total to win his first Open title.

I think (Thursday) is a little retribution for last year, Woods said. Dont be mad at me. I didnt play.

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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USA TODAY Sports

Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLYERS

But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

The Capitals never gained possession of the puck in overtime on Sunday before Travis Konecny scored the game-winner. Despite playing better than they had in their previous two games, Washington still walked away with a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and only one point to show for their effort. Here are four reasons why.

A blown 2-on-1

Alex Ovechkin made a great defensive play in the first period with a steal high in the defensive zone to launch himself and Evgeny Kuznetsov on a 2-on-1. Ovechkin took the first shot which was saved by Brian Elliott. The rebound went right to Kuznetsov who was in position to tap it into the empty net, but instead, he sent the puck right back to Elliott. To be fair, it was a bit of a difficult angle for Kuznetsov, but that's a play that has to result in a goal, especially in a game as close as this one.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-FLYERS

Brian Elliott

Elliott had a fantastic game as he denied the Caps on 27 of their 28 shots, many of which were very quality scoring opportunities. Two saves in particular stood out starting with a save on Ovechkin in the first period. The Great 8 was all alone in the slot, but Elliott managed to get in front of the puck and send up and over the net. In the second period, he made another dynamic save as he denied Nicklas Backstrom with the pad when the Caps' center managed to get his stick on the puck in the slot.

A lost faceoff in overtime

Many people wondered why Alex Ovechkin was not on the ice to start overtime, but it was another player's absence that really cost them: Jay Beagle. Beagle's faceoff win percentage of 57.5-percent puts him among the top faceoff men in the league, but Kuznetsov was the first center for the extra session. Sean Couturier beat Kuznetsov on the faceoff to start overtime and the Caps never gained possession at any point before Travis Konecny fired the game-winner past Holtby. Beagle is not the type of player you would typically want out on overtime, but when one possession can cost you the game as it did on Sunday, perhaps the Caps need to get him out there just for the opening faceoff to give themselves a better shot at gaining the first possession and thus a better chance of winning the game.

A neutral zone misplay by John Carlson

If you are going to try to hit a player with the puck in the neutral zone, you better make sure he doesn't get past you or you have put your team in a tough position. That is exactly what happened in overtime when Carlson attempted to pin Konecny along the boards. Konecny squeezed his way through the hip check immediately creating a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Flyers which he would turn into the game-winning goal.