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McDowell ends drought by winning World Challenge

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McDowell ends drought by winning World Challenge

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Graeme McDowell kept trying to convince himself and everyone else that his game was improving, even though he had gone two years without a trophy to prove it.

That's what made Sunday at Sherwood so sweet.

With a pair of superb short-game shots on the back nine, McDowell closed with a 4-under 68 to win the World Challenge by three shots over Keegan Bradley, allowing him to head home for a 10-week break with a shot of confidence.

``It's been too long. It's been a hell of a two years since I sat here as a winner,'' McDowell said. ``We all put winning up on a pedestal as the ultimate goal. We like to say that it's all about the process and going through the motions and trying to get better. But let's be honest. We all measure ourselves by the win. I can say that now.''

The three-shot margin made it look easier than it was.

Sherwood was playing longer than ever in a light rain, giving an advantage to a big hitter like Bradley, not to mention tournament host Tiger Woods. Even when McDowell built a four-shot lead through 11 holes, a careless three-putt bogey on the 13th brought Bradley within two shots with five holes to play.

McDowell responded with a 75-foot putt that he lagged to tap-in range, a key moment for someone coming off a three-putt bogey. From a precarious spot behind the 17th green, he had to land his chip in the rough and hope it would hop onto the fringe and not run to far by the hole. He pulled it off perfectly.

``It was an inch away from sticking in the fringe, and about 1-16th of an inch away from going in the hole,'' he said.

He made one last birdie he didn't need, extending his dominance at Sherwood. It was the 10th time in 12 rounds at Sherwood that McDowell has shot in the 60s, and he now has two wins and a runner-up finish in his three trips to the World Challenge.

``This really caps off my season,'' McDowell said. ``We try not to put winning on a pedestal, but this one feels very sweet because it's been a grind all year.''

McDowell won for the first time since he beat Woods in a playoff at Sherwood to close out a dream season in 2010 that included his first major at the U.S. Open and the winning point for Europe at the Ryder Cup.

This win followed a year of frustration. He played in the final group of the U.S. Open and British Open but came up short, and he lost some enthusiasm going into tournaments late in the year. He talked all week about a 10-week break, some of it in Northern Ireland and the rest in Orlando, Fla., where he just built a new house and he's opening a tavern outside the gates of Lake Nona.

Bradley, who was within one shot after a birdie on the fifth hole, closed with a 69. Bo Van Pelt had a 70 to finish third. Woods, the tournament host and five-time champion, was never in the picture. He didn't make birdie until the 13th hole and shot 71 to tie for fourth.

``Graeme really likes this place,'' Bradley said. ``Just when I thought maybe I'd have a good chance, he'd hole a putt or hit a chip like he did on 17. He's a champion. I don't expect anything less out of him.''

McDowell finished on 17-under 271 and earned $1 million against the 18-man field.

A light rain fell for much of the round, as it has all week, making Sherwood play so long that McDowell had to hit a 5-wood into the par-4 fourth hole, and a 4-iron for his third shot in the par-5 fifth. His only bogey over the final 47 holes of the tournament came on the 13th hole.

``Certainly I will draw some confidence from this one,'' McDowell said. ``The game hasn't given me a huge amount this year.''

Woods needed a fast start and was stuck in neutral. He failed to birdie the par 5s on the front nine and dropped a shot on the seventh hole when his flop shot below the green came out heavy. He didn't make his first birdie until the par-5 13th.

``I struggled with my game a little bit this week,'' said Woods, playing for the first time in five weeks. ``I just managed myself well to get around in these conditions.''

Van Pelt opened with two birdies and tried to hang around in contention on the back nine.

But this was a duel from the start.

McDowell started with a two-shot lead and kept his distance until Bradley holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the fifth. Bradley made back-to-back bogeys at the turn to fall three shots behind, and McDowell stretched his lead to four shots by starting the back nine with two quick birdies.

The par-5 13th then set the stage for a nervous final hour.

McDowell laid up, hit a poor wedge and then three-putted for bogey, ending his streak of 41 consecutive holes at Sherwood at par or better. Bradley made a 6-foot birdie putt for a two-shot swing, and the game was on.

The most important stroke might have been a putt he didn't make. From left of the 14th fairway, he had no choice but to punch it under a tree and run it up to right side of the green. From some 75 feet away, he used his putter to lag it up to inside a foot for a safe par to keep his two-shot lead.

``That lag putt was huge,'' he said. ``If I go three-putting there, the question marks start coming. Great two-putt.''

He made a 10-footer on the 16th to match Bradley's tap-in birdie, and then he effectively closed out the former PGA champion with the deft chip from behind the 17th green.

He typically calls his home clubs - Rathmore in Northern Ireland and Lake Nona in Orlando - and open the bar for free drinks when he wins. He expects that to be case at his new tavern called Nona Blue.

``Thankfully, it's not open yet,'' McDowell said. ``So I'll save a few quid this time around.''

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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USA Today Sports

10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

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USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.

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NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.