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An Englishman gets his card in the last Q-school

An Englishman gets his card in the last Q-school

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) D.H. Lee of South Korea wiped away a single tear when he realized he had earned a job on the PGA Tour. Moments later, Edward Loar stood tall as he spoke about two shots into the water on the last two holes at Q-school that sent him back to the minor leagues.

Amid this familiar contrast of emotions, a sense of nostalgia swept across the California desert late Monday afternoon.

``To get this one is extra special, knowing that next year guys won't have this opportunity,'' said Scott Langley, one of 25 players who earned cards in the final edition of this six-round tournament that offers a ticket to the richest tour in golf.

The PGA Tour next year will end a half-century of tradition when Q-school will only provide cards to the secondary Web.com Tour.

The PGA Tour is changing its structure to make it more competitive than ever. The players who failed to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs will meet in a series of four tournaments called ``The Finals,'' and the 25 players who earn the most money from those events will get their cards

That was on the mind of so many players who sweated out six days over two golf courses at PGA West.

Lee birdied his last three holes for a 5-under 67 on the Stadium Course to win Q-school, which gives him the highest priority of the 25 players who earned cards, along with a $50,000 first-place check. Ross Fisher of England, who won two matches at the Ryder Cup two years ago in Wales, was among those who finished one shot behind.

Fisher has played plenty in America, mostly the majors and World Golf Championships because of his world ranking. But when he heard about the PGA Tour's change, he skipped the season-ending European Tour event in Dubai to get ready for Q-school.

``This game can go high and it can go low,'' Fisher said. ``Last year for me was not great. This year has been a work in progress. But it was the last year of Q-school, and it was nice to create a bit of history to be one of the guys at the last one.''

Camilo Villegas, who won back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff events in 2008, had to return to Q-school and missed his card by two shots. Villegas said he would hope for sponsor exemptions to try to get back his full status.

Heath Slocum, only three years removed from a FedEx Cup playoff win in which he beat Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington with a birdie on the last hole, also failed to get through. Slocum needed a birdie on his last hole, but a bad swing came at the wrong time. He pulled his tee shot into the water and made bogey. A day earlier, Slocum's ball moved a fraction of an inch before a putt and he called a one-shot penalty on himself.

``They say crazy stuff happens in Q-school, and it does,'' Slocum said. ``That's never happened before. That's one shot. You never know when one shot can help.''

Among those earning their cards was Erik Compton, who only four years ago nearly died of a heart attack while driving himself to the hospital. He made it in time to survive and get a second heart transplant.

``This is hell week,'' said Compton, who said he slept only two hours each of the last two nights. ``There was a sense of urgency for me. I don't know if my health is going to hold up. If I could only go to the Web.com Tour, I probably would beat myself up.''

Robert Karlsson, another former Ryder Cup player whose game was in such disrepair that he withdrew from the British Open this year because he didn't know where the ball was going, made it with three strokes to spare.

The list also includes Donald Constable of Minnesota, who had to go through a pre-qualifier and then three more stages of Q-school to reach the PGA Tour. Constable sweated it out to the very end. Needing a par on the 18th hole of the Stadium Course, he hit his tee shot into an area of thin sand in a bunker, found the far end of the green and lagged a 45-foot to within 5 feet of the cup. Facing the most meaningful putt of his life, he poured it right in the middle.

How would he have felt next year if that putt only meant a spot on the Web.com Tour?

``It's hard to say,'' Constable said. ``Obviously, this is something you're working toward your whole life. It makes it tougher, knowing it's right there and you're so close and one shot can make a difference. It would probably be easier if you were only playing for the Web.com Tour.''

Constable is a throwback in other ways. He finished his college eligibility at Minnesota a year ago, but stayed an amateur an additional year so he could complete his degree. He graduated in the spring with a degree in sociology.

The status was more confusing for Si Woo Kim, the 17-year-old South Korean with a flawless swing who already is known by PGA Tour players who have competed against him, a list that includes Rickie Fowler. ``This guy can play,'' said Fowler, who faced him in the Korea Open last year.

Yes, but he might not be playing that much.

Kim, even though he earned his card, cannot become a PGA Tour member until he turns 18 on June 28. The only way he can get into PGA Tour events until he turns 18 is through sponsor exemptions (no more than seven) or through Monday qualifying. Whatever FedEx Cup points he earns until his birthday will not show up on the list until he officially becomes a PGA Tour member.

But he's in, and as most players believe, talent comes through under any circumstances.

Loar can only hope that's the case.

It took the former Oklahoma State star 13 years just to reach the PGA Tour, and he was in good shape to return going into the final day of Q-school, just three shots out of the lead. But he showed some nerves early, began dropping shots and found himself only one shot inside the cutoff when he stood on the tee at the par-3 17th, an island green. His 9-iron came up short and went into the water, leading to double bogey. Needing a birdie on the last hole to get his card, his approach drifted left and into the water.

He missed by two.

``It's obviously a hard day for everyone. What else can I say?'' Loar said. ``I tried hard. We all know how cruel the game is. I can learn from it. I persevered for 13 years, so hopefully, this won't set me back too much.''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.