Watney takes 2-shot lead at Sherwood


Watney takes 2-shot lead at Sherwood

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Sure enough, putting was all the rage Thursday in the World Challenge.

One day after golf's governing bodies proposed a new rule that will ban the anchored stroke used for long putters, Keegan Bradley talked about someone on Twitter telling the PGA champion to send in his resume to Burger King in 2016, when the rule goes into effect. Bradley got so fed up with the teasing over his belly putter this week that he grabbed Tiger Woods' putter and made three out of four from 10 feet.

The rule doesn't affect Nick Watney, though he couldn't say enough about his putting. He made five birdies on his last 10 holes - including his first birdie ever on the 14th hole at Sherwood - for a 5-under 67 that gave him a two-shot lead.

Woods' putting saved his round, even though most of them were for par. That included a 12-foot putt on the 15th and an 8-footer to avoid bogey on the par-5 16th. It added up to a 70, which left him very much in the hunt at an 18-man event where he is more than just a tournament host. Without a title sponsor, Woods is underwriting most of the cost.

And yes, even Steve Stricker made news Thursday with his putter. He tried a new one.

``Mid-life crisis,'' he said.

The World Challenge is not a hit-and-giggle at the end of the year, even with a short field, no cut and lots of holiday cash for all involved. The field is stronger than ever, with 13 players from the Ryder Cup, and it showed in the scores. On a cool, overcast day in the Conejo Valley, only eight shots separated the top (Watney) from Brandt Snedeker, bringing up the rear with a 75.

Snedeker drilled a fairway metal into 8 feet and made eagle on the 11th hole, only for his round to fall apart. He hit two provisional tee shots on the par-3 12th, didn't have to use them but still made bogey, and then he snap-hooked his next tee shot and made double bogey.

Bradley and a pair of past champions at this tournament - Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell - were two shots out of the lead at 69. Woods was in the group at 70 that included Bo Van Pelt, whom Woods beat this year at Congressional, and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

But the buzz remained over the belly.

Bradley was the first player to win a major using the belly putter at the 2011 PGA Championship, and then Simpson and Ernie Els followed this year. Bradley is not happy about the rule, though he has been respectful toward the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient in their right to set the rules.

But this is a guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder, and this chip could be a big one.

He described his round as awesome, aside from a bad break on the 18th that led to bogey, the only green he missed all day.

``If I could have made a few more putts, I probably could have been a lot lower,'' he said, pausing before he added, ``I know people probably don't want to hear that.''

He then revealed how much abuse he was taking on Twitter, though he knows better not to take seriously a comment from people he either doesn't know or who don't use their real names in social media. That would include one tweet telling him to send in an application to Burger King for 2016.

``I've been doing a better job lately of not reading them, but I'm going to make a switch when I feel it's best for me,'' Bradley said. ``And whether that's tomorrow or in three years, we'll see.''

The switch earlier this week to Woods' putter was only temporary, and it was a joke.

``I give him grief every day,'' Woods said.

Too bad Bradley didn't make Woods try a few putts with the belly.

``You don't want to see Tiger with that putter,'' Bradley said. `If it was up to me, I'd film him and send that to Mike Davis. I think he would take the ban off.''

Bradley did a little more experimenting after his round Thursday. He gripped his putter a little lower so that the end wasn't anchored to his belly. He ran the putter up his left arm for a few putts, the style used by Matt Kuchar that would remain legal. But as he tinkered around, he noticed a TV camera filming him and stopped.

It's still a sensitive subject for Bradley, and he wants everyone to know he's a pretty good golfer with any putter in his bag.

``I feel like the USGA has really put an `X' on our back and really shined a light on us, and I don't know if that's exactly fair,'' Bradley said. ``I just hope that people look at us for the type of players that we are and the accomplishments that we've had, and not because we use a belly putter, and now the USGA says it's going to be illegal. When we started putting with it, they were legal. And they still are.

``It's a sticky situation, and I hope they can see through that.''

As for Stricker?

He says he got his new putter at a golf store in Madison, Wis., which begged another question: What was he doing in a golf store?

``Looking for a putter,'' he said.

Stricker figured it was time to mix things up, so during his long break from golf, he went looking for a putter similar to what Luke Donald and Ian Poulter use. He bought a Sabertooth made by Odyssey, the same company that made the putter he has used so long even the metal tape on the bottom looks old.

``I like the way it feels, and I putted good today, especially on the short ones,'' Stricker said.

Not to worry. He brought his old putter with him to Sherwood. ``Just in case,'' he said with a smile.

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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