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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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Wizards sit in a good spot at the All-Star break, all things considered

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards sit in a good spot at the All-Star break, all things considered

The Washington Wizards did not make any significant changes to their roster over the summer and valued continuity, knowing they had a solid group of young players on the rise. That sort of stand-pat approach could have resulted in a boring first half of the season, but the Wizards managed to ride quite the rollercoaster from October to the All-Star break. 

A lot of things happened. Some were good and some were bad, but the eventual result as we sit here today is the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference and a 33-24 record, good for a 47-win pace. That's solid, especially considering the dramatic lows this team had to navigate through.

PODCAST: BREAKING DOWN THE WIZARDS' FIRST HALF

Here is a look at the biggest storylines of the 2017-18 Wizards season before the All-Star break...

Injuries played a role

During the 2016-17 season, the Wizards' starting lineup missed a combined 17 games. That group of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat logged more minutes than any other starting five in the NBA. In terms of health, that season was one big best-case scenario and it wasn't to happen again this season.

The Wizards ran into injury troubles before training camp even began when Morris needed sports hernia surgery. By November, Wall was dealing with a left knee injury and Porter has had hip issues all season. Beal and Gortat played in all 57 games, but Wall missed 20, Morris missed nine and Porter was out for four of them. This year their depth was tested much more than it was just one season ago.

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Inconsistency was a problem

For much of the first half, the Wizards just couldn't get out of their own way. They would rise up to play and often beat the good teams, then turn around and suffer terrible losses to some of the worst teams in the NBA. Many teams go through those types of issues, but the Wizards took it to an extreme. In the first half they beat the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors, Timberwolves and Thunder, yet lost to the Nets (twice), Mavs (twice), Lakers, Hawks and Hornets (twice).

It was a maddening trend and one the players and coaches were well aware of. As it kept plaguing them through the month of January, the Wizards appeared to have no answers, but they rebounded nicely in the final weeks leading up to the All-Star break and some of their losses to teams that were sub-.500 at the time now don't look so bad. The Wizards, in fact, sit 19-9 against sub-.500 teams at the break. Only four teams in the East have more such wins. And the Clippers and Jazz, who were struggling at the time they beat the Wizards, rallied to now hold winning records and be factors in the playoff race.

Oubre and Satoransky emerged

The development of two young players in the first half of the season has vastly changed the Wizards' outlook in the short- and long-term. Kelly Oubre, Jr. took another step and gives them starter-caliber production off their bench. And Tomas Satoransky is now not just a replacement level backup point guard, but a real strength on their roster. 

Oubre continues to cut out his youthful mistakes on defense and has become one of their most consistent offensive players. He is third on the team in double-digit scoring games (38) with an average of 11.7 points, nearly double his output from last season. Satoransky is using his size and athleticism to affect games while making few costly errors. He has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team and leads the Wizards with a 46.8 three-point percentage. Both Oubre and Satoransky are providing value on both ends of the floor, have high ceilings and are on bargain contracts.

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They rallied without Wall

The Wizards were dealt some news in late January that could have crippled their season. They learned that Wall, their best player, would be out up to two months following arthroscopic left knee surgery. He would likely miss well over 20 games and the Wizards had been significantly better with him than without him in the previous months.

The Wizards, though, responded exceptionally well. They won seven of their final nine games before the break after Wall went down. The others in their starting lineup stepped up and Satoransky proved he was more than just a placeholder. They likely won't be able to keep up the 7-2 pace, but the Wizards showed they can still compete and win while Wall is out. That will be important with a tough schedule coming up out of the break.

Locker room disagreements

The Wizards entered this season with heightened expectations and as a result couldn't tolerate some of their early season woes. There was a team meeting that didn't go as planned. There were things said in the media. Then, when Wall went out and the Wizards started playing better, people got carried away and said that Wall was holding the Wizards back. Wall even thought that sentiment was suggested by his teammates and aired his grievances publicly. 

That's what happens when teams have big goals and hit adversity, they point fingers and problems ensue. The Wizards, though, don't seem to have any major, untenable issues. However, their concerns need to be communicated better, not through social media or in front of cameras. That's what makes what could be considered normal locker room strife into national news.

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS STACKED CLASS

 

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: U.S. Women back in the gold medal match

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: U.S. Women back in the gold medal match

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- The Americans played their way back into the only women's hockey game that matters: a showdown with Canada for the Olympic gold medal.

The Americans are back in the title game for a third straight Olympics after shutting out Finland 5-0 on Monday in the semifinals. They will face their arch-rival, which beat the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" 5-0 a few hours later, on Thursday. They Americans will be trying to win their first gold since 1998 when women's hockey made its debut in the Olympics.

And yes, the Americans understand the United States-Canada playing for gold is what everyone expects to see.

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"Definitely the rivalry has been there since I think I was born, so everyone's looking forward to that," said 22-year-old Dani Cameranesi.

This will be the third opportunity at gold for six Americans: captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, Kacey Bellamy and twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.

"It's honestly a dream come true," Knight said. "This is the world's biggest stage. This is the game that you want. This is the game we've been dreaming of and to have another opportunity to get back here, it's huge."

Olympic newcomer Cameranesi scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Americans over Finland. Marvin started the scoring, and Lamoureux-Davidson and Knight both scored during a 5-on-3 34 seconds apart in the second period. Maddie Rooney made 14 saves for the shutout.

Finland remains winless in eight games against the Americans at the Olympics. The Finns, ranked third in the world last year, will try to take home the bronze medal for the first time since 2010.

"We're got one thing on our mind, and that's to get a medal," said goaltender Noora Raty, who made 33 saves. "They're the best in the world (U.S. and Canada). We just need to get more girls involved so we have more to choose from."

The Americans opened these games a 2-1 loss to Canada wrapping up pool play.

"This was really a gold-medal preparation for us because they're a darn good team, and we had to be ready to play," U.S. coach Robb Stauber said of Finland.

The Americans wasted no time getting on the board. Captain Meghan Duggan found Marvin alone in the slot, and she beat Raty stick-side for the easy goal just 2:25 into the game.

Finland lost defenseman when she had to be helped off the ice and to the locker room after a knee-on-knee collision with Duggan. She was knocked off balance before crashing face-first into the boards, snapping her head back. When play resumed without a penalty, some fans booed. Savolainen returned in the second period.

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Stauber said the referee immediately came over and said it was a collision. Duggan said she was really happy Savolainen got up and that any decision about a potential suspension was out of her control.

"There's been some other plays that haven't been put into question, and so I can't imagine that there would be any disciplinary action just based on other things that have been let go," Duggan said.

Cameranesi put the United States up 2-0 with 1:22 left in the period, taking the puck away from Susanna Tapani and skating into the left circle before beating Raty's blocker with a wrist shot top shelf.

Lamoureux-Davidson's slap shot from the left circle came with 2 seconds left on the 5-on-3 at 13:21 of the second period, and Knight got her first goal of this tournament by redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin with 5 seconds left on the man advantage for the 4-0 lead. Cameranesi padded the lead as she scored from the slot over Raty's glove off a pass from Hannah Brandt.

"We're super excited to be in this position again," Lamoureux-Davidson said. "We worked four years to put ourselves in position to compete for a gold medal and we'll enjoy this for a little bit, but we know that this isn't what we came here for. We're ready to go to battle in a couple days."