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The man who never quit

The man who never quit

HONOLULU (AP) Doctors warned Bart Bryant that he might never play golf again. Once the bones in his left wrist were fused, the outlook improved slightly. He should be able to play golf, but probably no more than once every two weeks. That's good news for recreational players, not so much for a tour player.

Bryant is near the end of his PGA Tour career, and he's leaving on his terms.

After going nearly three years without playing a tournament, he returned last summer and made the cut at the St. Jude Classic. Bryant is on a major medical extension and has only three tournaments this year to try to regain full status, but that was never the intention. He turned 50 last November and after playing next week in the Humana Challenge, he's going off to the Champions Tour.

But he's still playing, a minor miracle in itself.

To look only at the numbers, Bryant was nothing more than a journeyman. He didn't get out on tour until he was 28. He didn't win until he was 41. He won three times and finished in the top 50 on the money list only twice. He's not the kind of player who moves the needle. But his character is of the highest quality, and his perseverance was remarkable in the face of so many injuries.

Bryant had rotator cuff surgery in 1992, which led to five trips to Q-school and more time on the mini-tours than he cares to remember. He had surgery on both elbows, and the son of a preacher must have wondered at some point if God were telling him to find another line of work.

He finally won at the Texas Open, which Bryant considers his biggest win because it was the first. The other two wins, both in 2005, were memorable for who he beat. Bryant won the Memorial by one shot over Fred Couples, with Tiger Woods in third. And at the Tour Championship, he beat Woods by six shots and broke the tournament scoring record that had been held by Phil Mickelson.

To this day, Woods has never finished farther behind as a runner-up.

Bryant was tied for 22nd going into the weekend at the Sony Open, not bad for his first tournament of the year without being able to practice much. He still has to be careful with the wrist. Last year, he could only play 18 holes of practice without hitting any balls after his round before a tournament. Now, he's up to nine holes a day and a bucket of balls on the range.

``I think what's a blessing in disguise is I'm so wimpy that I don't hit it hard enough to hurt it,'' he said with a laugh.

Sure, he effectively lost the last three years of his PGA Tour career, though maybe it was for the best. Golf is getting more athletic, and it takes someone like Bryant to recognize that after stepping away for three years. When he played the John Deere Classic last summer, he had a practice round with a kid at Illinois named Luke Guthrie.

``I thought, `Man, this dude is good.' And then he went on to finish fifth in the tournament,'' Bryant said. ``But other than that, I haven't had the opportunity to spend time with the young guys and I probably won't. I'll say this, though. It's amazing walking around and seeing the physical status of these young guys. Eighty percent of them are big dudes, man. I was telling this guy on the tee, `Who started recruiting athletes to play on our tour?' Man, this sucks.''

And then he chuckled, knowing that for all he went through, Bryant got the last laugh.

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Russell Henley said he got chills when he was asked a question about the time he once helped Scott Langley with his swing, perhaps because it was a reminder how different golf is to other sports. This is nothing new, of course. Players often help guys who are struggling, even as they're trying to beat them.

The topic came up because Henley and Langley played together in their rookie debut on the PGA Tour. Walking up the 16th fairway, with the Pacific Ocean behind them and a television tower off to the side, they began chatting about where they were at time last year.

They were at a Hooters Tour event in Florida. Henley had missed the cut, and Langley was a second set of eyes as he tried to figure out what was wrong with his swing. Langley, meanwhile, was telling stories about going through a slump in 2010, and how Henley always came over and offered help.

``I don't know everybody out here on the PGA Tour, but you don't come across a lot of guys who really get it and play the game the way I think it should be played,'' Henley said. ``I think when you get guys who are selfless, that's a really cool thing. I try to be that way. I'm probably not always like that. ... It's really cool, that side of the game, because that would never happen in any other sport. You'd never see Federer help Nadal with his backhand - or I don't think you would.

``That's why I love the game so much,'' Henley said. ``I love the competition, but also love how you can be the guy's best friend.''

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The PGA Tour asks rookies to fill out a questionnaire with some offbeat questions so fans can know a little more about them than where they went to college and how they reached the tour.

Here's a sampling:

- Derek Ernst says he would be a rock star if he didn't play golf for a living. And as a reminder that we're in the next generation, his dream foursome would include Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy and Tim Tebow.

- Paul Haley II played baseball in the sixth grade on the same team as former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

- Robert Streb has on his bucket list going to an Oklahoma-Texas game. He went to Kansas State. Then again, he grew up in Oklahoma and used to play hockey with St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

- Henrik Norlander is from Sweden and played for Augusta State. His dream foursome would include Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Johnny Cash.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

As the first-round starts to head into the final games, each matchup is getting more and more critical, as was evident Thursday. Not only did the Carolina Hurricanes have the chance to even up the series with the Washington Capitals in Game 4, but the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets were playing for the 3-2 series lead and the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a must-win situation in order to avoid elimination against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thursday's slate of games proved to be crucial and ultimately, played out well for the Hurricanes, Blues and Sharks. Here's how each series stacked up Thursday.

Hurricanes tie series against Caps with narrow 2-1 win

It was a close matchup between Washington and Carolina Thursday, but thanks to a couple of key goals and a big night for Petr Mrazek between the pipes, the Hurricanes were able to take Game 4 with a 2-1 victory.

Warren Foegele opened the scoring for Carolina just 17 seconds in, crashing the net and scoring on a lay-up that beat Braden Holtby. It was his third goal of the playoffs and the fastest playoff goal for Carolina in franchise history.

Alex Ovechkin was able to even the score in the second period with a one-timer on the man advantage, putting an end to 11 straight penalty kills for the Canes. The goal was Ovechkin's second of the playoffs, with both tallies coming on the power play. However, just before the second period came to a close, Teuvo Teravainen returned the lead for Carolina to make it 2-1.

Petr Mrazek made 30 saves on the night, including eight in the third period to guarantee the victory for the Hurricanes, while Holtby made 22 saves on 24 shots. Washington also lost T.J. Oshie to injury late in the game after he was hit from behind by Warren Foegele. The series is now tied 2-2.

Blues edge Jets with comeback victory, take series lead

Although the Jets were up 2-0 over the Blues heading into the third period, Winnipeg surrendered three unanswered goals as St. Louis took a 3-2 victory.

Adam Lowry scored just 12 seconds into the opening frame for the Jets' fastest playoff goal in franchise history to make it 1-0, and Kevin Hayes added a goal a little over halfway through the first to make it 2-0.

The lead would carry over until the final 20 minutes of regulation, where the Blues kicked it into full gear. Ryan O'Reilly beat Connor Hellebuyck on the power play a little over a minute into the third to pull the Blues within one. With about seven minutes to go, Brayden Schenn would tie the game at 2 with his first goal of the playoffs.

With the final minute winding down, it appeared that the game would be headed to overtime; however, Tyler Bozak was able to knock the puck loose and find a wide-open Jaden Schwartz in front, who fired the puck past Hellebuyck with just 15 seconds remaining to make it 3-2.

With the victory, the Blues now hold a 3-2 series lead and can eliminate Winnipeg in Game 6 Saturday.

Sharks stay alive with statement 5-2 win over Golden Knights

Thursday's game was a must-win for the Sharks, and thanks mainly to the effort of Tomas Hertl, they were able to dominate on home ice with an impressive win over Vegas.

A little over a minute in, Tomas Hertl jumped on a pass from Erik Karlsson and scored his third of the playoffs to make it 1-0 early. Later in the period, Logan Couture would beat Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Sharks up by two, but with 30 seconds to go in the opening frame, Reilly Smith was able to pull Vegas within one with his first of the postseason.

While it looked like Vegas would be able to shift the momentum with their end to the first, Barclay Goodrow redirected a Justin Braun shot past Fleury and the Sharks regained their two-goal lead.

Jonathan Marchessault would strike for the Golden Knights on the power play over halfway into the third to cut the lead to one, but Hertl soon after scored his second of the night on the rebound of a Joe Pavelski shot to make it 4-2. With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Pavelski scored on the empty net for his second point of the game, which ultimately sealed the deal for the Sharks.

Martin Jones, who had been struggling but was given the start regardless, proved his worth with 30 saves on 32 shots, and Erik Karlsson also put up a multi-point performance for San Jose in the win.

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Why Daron Payne switched to No. 94 as soon as it was available

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Why Daron Payne switched to No. 94 as soon as it was available

Redskins' defensive lineman Daron Payne will be sporting a new number in his second season, reverting back to No. 94 after playing his rookie season in the Burgundy and Gold at No. 95.

Payne, who had preferred No. 94 through his days in high school as well as while down in Tuscaloosa as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, didn't have the option to choose it after being selected 13th by the Redskins in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft, as the number was already claimed by then-Redskin Preston Smith, who had chosen it three years earlier.

With Smith off to Green Bay, Payne pounced on the opportunity to shift back to the jersey number that he'd gone with for so long before coming to the nation's capital. 

Payne performed admirably in his inaugural season with Washington, recording 35 solo tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble, while suiting up in all 16 games and receiving praise for his outstanding play from the Pro Football Writers Association as one of the premier up-and-coming interior linemen in the NFL.

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