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Matteson leads by 1 in Malaysia; Woods 3 back

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Matteson leads by 1 in Malaysia; Woods 3 back

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) It was hot, humid and his putts were lipping out. Tiger Woods felt like he'd been run over halfway through his first round in Malaysia since winning the 1999 World Cup on the same course.

Only one way to fix that: The 14-time major winner rolled in five birdies on the back nine on Thursday and finished with a 5-under 66 to trail first-round leader Troy Matteson by three shots.

Matteson had eight birdies in his 63 to take a one-stroke lead over fellow Americans Jeff Overton, Brian Harman and Robert Garrigus.

Woods, in the last pairing with Australia's Marcus Fraser, knew the numbers to target early in his round. After birdies at the third and fifth holes, Woods missed two short putts for par at the eighth and ninth and seemed frustrated, frequently wiping his face and neck with a white towel and glaring after the balls that didn't drop in the cup.

Knowing it was going to take a total of something like 20 under to win the tournament on the 6,966-yard Mines Resort and Golf Club course, Woods decided the only way back into contention was to be aggressive.

``It's a different type of mindset,'' he said. ``Going out there and shooting even par on that front nine, I just felt like I got run over.''

He said midway through the round he wasn't bothered by the stifling humidity and 91 degree, or narrowly missing two birdie attempts before the two putts for par that lipped out.

``What is frustrating is turning at even par and I'm eight back,'' he said.

``Three- or four-under par was my number on the back nine - if I could shoot that, I'm still right in the ballgame. I happened to get one more, which was a bonus.''

Woods knew he could have shot a score that would have put him higher than tied for seventh - he even missed a birdie putt from about 10 feet on the 18th - but he was happy with how he hit his driver and was generally pleased with his game.

``I really started hitting the ball quite well at the end of the front nine. I happened to miss two short putts ... but also the two putts I hit were good putts at 8 and 9.'' he said. ``Realistically it could have been seven or eight (under). But even at the turn, and to still post five (under), it was a nice little comeback.

``It's going to take 20-plus this week to win the tournament, so I've got to be aggressive and we've got to go get it.''

A lightning and thunderstorm started dumping rain on the course less than an hour after play ended and, with the forecast for more rain on Friday, organizers decided to move tee times ahead by 40 minutes in the second round.

Americans held five of the top six spots, with Tom Gilles behind the leading four after a 65. He was level at 6 under with India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, who made an eagle on the par-5 17th and had the lowest score among the Asian Tour players.

``These are the only few weeks where we get to play with these (PGA Tour) guys,'' Bhullar said. ``It really motivates us, and I think it is very important for Asian Tour players that somebody should go up and make it interesting. You never know, it could be an Asian Tour player's week.''

The group tied with Woods at 5 under included Malaysian qualifier Danny Chia, Australia's Greg Chalmers, South African Jbe' Kruger and Americans J.B Holmes and Ricky Barnes.

Matteson had missed the cut in his last two PGA Tour starts and had failed to break par in any of his last four competitive rounds. But he posted his lowest score since a 61 at the John Deere Classic in July, when he finished second after a playoff in his best result of the season.

He had birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 11 and finished with four straight, closing his round by holing his third shot from the greenside bunker on the par-4 18th.

``The pin is really tricky on 18. I knew I'd be doing good if I could leave myself seven or eight feet for par, and it bounced and slam-dunked in the hole,'' Matteson said. ``That's the first time all year the ball has managed to hit the pin and stay in the hole.''

Overton, who last year set the tournament record low round with a 62 and finished runner-up here, had a bogey-free 64 that included an eagle on the drivable 292-yard 15th, the shortest par 4 on the course.

``All of a sudden I made about a 20-footer for eagle, basically drove the green, and when that went in it was really exciting,'' he said. ``It was just an all-around fun day.''

The co-sanctioned $6.1 million CIMB Classic doesn't count as an official U.S. PGA tournament this year, but will be added to the schedule in 2013.

Defending champion Bo Van Pelt, with a 70, was coming off a win last week at the Perth International in Australia. Jason Dufner, who was second to Van Pelt last week, was 3 under and in a share of 16th with 2010 CIMB champion Ben Crane.

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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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