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Johnson gets PGA Tour season off to wild start

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Johnson gets PGA Tour season off to wild start

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) The power of Dustin Johnson is undeniable, especially the way his ball pierced through the wind at Kapalua. His touch with the short game doesn't get much attention, even though two such shots were pivotal to his win in the Tournament of Champions. His lack of fear is becoming his trademark.

Johnson believes there are no limits to what he can achieve in golf, as long as he keeps mistakes to a minimum and makes better decisions.

And even that doesn't always stop him.

With a pair of wild tee shots mixed in with a chip-in for eagle, Johnson won the PGA Tour's season opener on Tuesday by closing with a 5-under 68 for a four-shot victory over Steve Stricker, extending his streak of winning every season in the six years since he left college.

Don't be fooled by the score or the margin. This was a lot closer than it needed to be.

``It was nowhere near ho-hum,'' Johnson said.

He made sure of that by staying aggressive even when he had a five-shot lead with 11 holes to play in the final round Tuesday.

Johnson took a big swing with the driver on the par-5 ninth and the ball vanished into high grass, costing him two shots. He still managed only a bogey, however, because he walked back to the tee with the same club and hammered that one down the left side, far enough that he could reach the green in two.

On the 13th hole, coming off a birdie to rebuild his lead to three shots, Johnson blasted driver to the left into bushes and tall grass, leading to another double bogey. That cut the lead to one shot, and when Johnson reached the 14th tee, he didn't hesitate.

Out came the driver.

``I was like, `Dude, what are you doing?' He took out driver on a couple holes and he let me back in the game,'' Stricker said. ``We're walking up 15 and I was like, `Why don't you take iron out, make me have to make birdies instead of you hitting it in the trees and opening it up for me?' And he's like, `Yeah, yeah, I know.'

``But he's got a lot of talent,'' Stricker said. ``It looks like very little fear in him, because he'll hit one a little crooked but he'll pull out that driver again and try it again. And he pulled it off, especially at 14. That was the deciding shot and chip for the tournament.''

That it was.

Stricker was safely in the fairway on the 14th, which plays dead into the wind with bunkers down the right side and big trouble even farther to the right, the kind of grass where golf balls are never found. The prudent shot would be a 3-iron to leave a short pitch to the green. Johnson smashed his tee shot, a tight draw, that rolled up to the green and fell back. No problem. He chipped in for eagle, Stricker smiled and slapped hands with him, and Johnson was on his way.

Johnson hit another delicate pitch-and-run up a dangerous slope on the 15th to match Stricker's birdie and stay three ahead.

It was only fitting that this weird, windy week ended with such a wild ride.

The tournament was supposed to end Monday. That's when it started after gusts topping 40 mph forced officials to scrap the first round on Friday and Sunday, with no golf played on Saturday. The tournament was reduced to 54 holes.

Once it started, it ended about 29 hours later.

Johnson also added a peculiar footnote to his record. He now has won the last three PGA Tour events reduced to 54 holes because of weather - rain at Pebble Beach in 2009, a hurricane at The Barclays in 2011 and gusts that topped 40 mph in Hawaii from a freak weather pattern that led to a bizarre season opener.

``I've got a long way to go but I will be ready for the Champions Tour,'' Johnson said, referring to 54-hole event on the 50-and-old circuit.

It was only appropriate that a tournament delayed by a powerful wind was won by a guy who overpowered the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

``It definitely got close out there today,'' Johnson said. ``Sometimes I hit a couple of bad drives, but I was always able to bounce back and do what I needed to do to stay out front.''

He never felt truly in command until the final two holes, which are downhill. Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, was spotted with Johnson all week and watched from the gallery as he finished without drama at 16-under 203.

Johnson won for the sixth straight season since leaving college at Coastal Carolina, the longest streak since Tiger Woods won in 14 straight years. Only Phil Mickelson (nine) has a longer active streak of most consecutive years with a PGA Tour win.

Johnson has all the tools for greatness, though his decision-making remains open to criticism. Instead of hitting an iron off the 13th tee - it's tough to get it close to the pin even with a short iron - he went with driver and invited all sorts of trouble. Remember, this is the guy who lost a three-shot lead in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by rushing through wild shots in a round of 82. He lost a shot at another major by not realizing he was in a bunker on the last hole at Whistling Straits.

``I've done it enough times that it doesn't really bother me anymore,'' Johnson said. ``I've been in this situation enough now and I've made enough double bogeys in my life. You know, it's just another hole, and you've got a lot more holes to go where you can make it up. Fortunately, today I made a double and then the next hole I made eagle. That definitely was the turning point of the day, because walking off 13, I was like, `Oh, no, here it goes again.'

``But I came right back, focused and hit two great shots.''

Stricker put up a good fight on one good leg. He has been feeling a shooting pain down his left side on every shot and limped his way around the hilliest course on the tour for 54 holes in two days. He closed with a 69.

``I knew it was going to be tough, but I gave it a run for a little while,'' Stricker said.

Brandt Snedeker went 5 under during a four-hole stretch on the front nine to get within one shot of the lead until he closed out the front nine with three straight bogeys. Snedeker had a 69 and finished alone in third, six shots behind. He moved to No. 8 in the world ranking, second only to Woods among Americans.

Masters champion Bubba Watson (71) and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley (70) were another shot back.

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Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

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USA TODAY Sports

Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

Upsets get a lot of attention in March, due to the allure of the NCAA Tournament and the non-allure of everyone who loves to talk about how THEY CALLED that upset that YOU DIDN'T.

With that being said, upsets happen every month of the year, and they go down weekly in the NFL. So, how about we look back at some of the Redskins' particularly surprising wins from the past decade?

Here are five of the most memorable. 

5) 2014 - Redskins 27, Eagles 24

The Eagles came into FedEx Field late in 2014 with a 9-5 record needing a win to remain squarely in the playoff hunt. The Redskins, meanwhile, were just 3-11 and had changed quarterbacks a depressing five times.

Yet in this matchup, Robert Griffin III managed the offense well and DeSean Jackson had more than 120 receiving yards against his former team because DeSean Jackson is awesome.

Yes, the 'Skins were outproduced in nearly every major stat category. But Mark Sanchez — sorry, future Redskin great Mark Sanchez — had two costly turnovers and Cody Parkey missed two field goals (Philly fans have probably forgiven him by now), allowing the home team to squeak out a W.

4) 2009 - Redskins 27, Broncos 17

This is one of those random Redskins games you've probably forgotten about because it came in a lost season, but it was still a miraculous victory.

The most iconic play from this one was a Hunter Smith to Mike Sellers TD on a fake field goal — a fake, mind you, that came after a timeout by Jim Zorn because the unit's first fake punt attempt included only 10 players on the field.

Denver was 6-2 but lost Kyle Orton to injury at halftime. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, helped the Burgundy and Gold score more than 17 points for the first time all year.

"We've had a desert experience -- very arid, if you will -- for the last few weeks," Zorn said postgame. "So to be able to come out with a win, you almost don't know how to feel."

The Zorn Era was terrible, but you have to give the dude credit for working "very arid" into an NFL press conference.

3) 2012 - Redskins 40, Saints 32

There was plenty of hype surrounding RG3's debut, but there was no way he was going to lead the Redskins to a win over the Saints... in his debut... in the Superdome... right?

Wrong. Incorrect. Not right.

Griffin found Pierre Garcon early for an 88-yard score and the offense stayed hot all afternoon, outpacing a New Orleans squad that was favored by more than a touchdown. If you want a further reminder of how impressive this effort was, look back at what happened to this franchise in the Superdome this past season. 

2) 2014 - Redskins 20, Cowboys 17

Dallas' six-game winning streak stood no chance against Colt McCoy, as the Texas legend went into the Cowboys' house for a wild Monday Night triumph.

Kai Forbath's field goal sealed it in overtime and Bashaud Breeland dominated Dez Bryant, but McCoy was the star. On the way to his first successful start in close to three seasons, the signal caller went 25 for 30 in the air and found the end zone on the ground, too.

1) 2017 - Redskins 17, Seahawks 14

If someone in your life thinks they can't do something, just pull up the box score or highlights from this contest. They will then realize that nothing is impossible, because the Redskins beating the Seahawks on this Sunday should've been impossible, yet it somehow happened anyway.

Washington went into Seattle's harsh environment down six starters, including three on the O-line, but Kirk Cousins kept things together and found Brian Quick and Josh Doctson for long completions on a harrowing last drive to steal this result. It wasn't quite UMBC over Virginia, but it was absolutely a stunning final nonetheless. 

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With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

At the beginning of the week, the Washington Wizards had 12 games left on the schedule and needed to win a minimum of eight or nine of those games if they hoped to make the playoffs.

It’s Thursday night and Washington’s loss to the Jazz makes three in a row.

With nine games left on the schedule, where do they stand in the East postseason race and the draft lottery order?

Eastern Conference Standings

Losing three-straight games hasn’t actually dropped the Wizards from the 11th spot in the East, where they’ve hovered the last couple weeks. For that they can thank the tanking Atlanta Hawks.

Don’t think those L’s aren’t costing Washington, though. In the same span of time, the 8-seed Heat have won three in a row.

Now Bradley Beal and Co. are a full six games out of the final playoff spot with nine games to go. They also trail Orlando (34-38) in ninth and Charlotte (32-39) in 10th.

They’re not absolutely, certainly, 100-percent eliminated from playoff contention, but they must win every game left.

Even that might not be enough.

NBA Draft Lottery

Back-to-back-to-back losses took a major toll on whatever playoff hopes Washington had left. For a silver lining, look no further than the team’s draft lottery position.

The Wizards started the week ninth in the draft lottery order, which gave them 20.3 percent odds of scoring a top-four pick (preferably in the form of a Duke freshman or Ja Morant). That ninth spot also carries a 4.5 percent chance at the top-overall pick.

While the Wiz kids were busy dropping 3 games, the two teams immediately ahead of them in the lottery order had better luck.

The Grizzlies won their only game so far this week, while the Pelicans won one of two.

Those results dropped New Orleans to number nine, boosted Washington to number eight and left them tied with Memphis at 15.5 games out of number one in the lottery order (though Memphis’s win percentage is fractionally lower and keeps them in seventh).

If the Wizards can pass the Grizzlies and climb into seventh, that’s a big deal in terms of lottery odds. Simulating the drawing, the ninth-place team gets a top-four pick once in every five simulations. The seventh-place team gets a top-four pick once in every three simulations.

Look Ahead

Washington can’t lose another game if they want to make the playoffs. This is literally must-win territory.

Even winning out is no guarantee they’ll advance to the postseason.

Up next, Washington hosts Miami at home on Saturday, followed by a West Coast road trip the following week.

Games to Watch

Heat at Wizards, Saturday 7 PM

Timberwolves at Grizzlies, Saturday 8 PM

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