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McDowell heads for finish line at World Challenge

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McDowell heads for finish line at World Challenge

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Perhaps it was no coincidence that Graeme McDowell finally had a good night of sleep and then put together the best round at Sherwood Country Club, giving him a three-shot lead going into the weekend.

Two weeks in China. A five-day holiday in Dubai. A tournament in Australia. Back to Dubai. One night at his new house in Florida. Then on to California.

One reason McDowell feels so relaxed against an 18-man field at the World Challenge is that he can see the finish line.

``Looking forward to hanging the clubs up for a few weeks for sure,'' he said.

Suddenly, there is a little bit of work left for him. He birdied the opening three holes Friday and finished strong for a 6-under 66, giving him a three-shot lead over Bo Van Pelt (68), Keegan Bradley (69) and Jim Furyk (69). Tournament host and defending champion Tiger Woods had a 69 and was four shots behind.

McDowell has done a lot right this year, except for win. He now has one last chance to fix that.

He played in the final group in back-to-back majors, the U.S. Open and British Open, without winning. He was on the winning Ryder Cup team again, only he concedes his game wasn't there and he earned only one point.

``I would love to compete and play well this weekend, really to kind of put a little icing on what's been a mediocre year,'' McDowell said. ``Despite the fact that I feel like I've played some decent golf this year, I really don't have a lot to show for myself, and this would be a nice way to finish.''

McDowell was at 9-under 135.

Even though McDowell's win at Sherwood in 2010 capped a dream season - his U.S. Open title, the clinching point at the Ryder Cup - it was a runner-up finish in 2009 that set up all those spoils. He was a last-minute replacement for Woods, who didn't play as his personal life unraveled, and McDowell finished second. It was the first year the tournament received ranking points, and McDowell earned enough to get into the Masters and eventually the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which he won.

That U.S. Open title assured him of being in the Ryder Cup, where he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole that carried Europe to a big win.

``Sometimes the stars align,'' he said.

His 66 gave him a cushion going into the weekend, but light rain overnight and for much of the day made the course soft and vulnerable. McDowell said the greens could only be rolled, not cut, making them substantially slower. That attributed to so many good scores, with half of the field in the 60s.

McDowell believes there's a 63 or 64 out there for someone, especially in these conditions, so his three-shot lead doesn't seem like much only halfway through the event.

Woods picked up easy birdie putts on the ninth and 10th, handling the par 5s without difficulty and getting to the top of the leaderboard. His momentum slowed with a bogey on the par-3 15th, and a poor chip from the rough to the left of the par-5 16th green that led to a par.

``I had a decent warm-up session, but the work I did last night was some of the best I've hit the golf ball all year,'' Woods said. ``I just had to come out here and trust it, and when I did, I got into a nice little run there. I just need to do that all 36 holes on the weekend.''

Nick Watney, who had a 67 on Thursday, fell apart late. His sand wedge from the middle of the fairway on the 16th landed over the green and kept right on going, leading to a bogey that felt like losing two shots to the field. He bogeyed the 18th for a 73, putting him five shots out of the lead. He was tied with Rickie Fowler, who had a 67.

``Just a terrible way to finish, but we're only halfway through,'' Watney said. ``So we'll see if we can make a charge at those guys in the morning.''

McDowell is mainly charging to the end of the season.

He plans to go home to Northern Ireland for three days, and then head to Orlando, Fla., where he just finished building a new home. McDowell slept in his new house for the first time Monday, flying to California the next day.

What will he do with more than two months off?

``Try and stay out of the bar as much as possible,'' he said with a laugh. ``December will be very much recharging and relaxing and moving into my new house in Orlando and spending some time with friends and family. And January will be detoxing and practicing and getting ready to do it all again.''

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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