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Rose, Donaldson lead by 1; McIlroy, Woods struggle

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Rose, Donaldson lead by 1; McIlroy, Woods struggle

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) With Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods struggling, fifth-ranked Justin Rose and unheralded Jamie Donaldson had 5-under 67s Thursday for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

McIlroy, playing with new clubs following his multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Nike, finished with a 75 and risks missing the cut. Woods shot an even-par 72.

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain finished one stroke behind the leaders.

McIllroy repeatedly missed fairways, including a shot on his 12th that hit a tree and ended up in a parking lot, leading to one of his two double bogeys. His other came when he muffed a chip in thick rough on his par-3 6th. He also putted poorly, missing a par putt on his 17th and a birdie putt on the 18th.

The top-ranked McIlroy insisted his difficulties had more to do with rusty strokes than the new equipment that he hyped only a few days ago. While he repeatedly slumped after a bad shot or frowned following a missed putt, the 2012 European Tour and U.S. PGA Tour money winner seemed resigned to adjusting to the new Nike clubs.

``When you go out and you've got new stuff, you are going to be a little anxious and hopefully you play well,'' McIlroy said. ``But I guess I can learn from it and move on and go into tomorrow and try and play a bit better. It's about playing yourself into the weekend.''

Woods, who was paired with McIlroy, finished a rollercoaster round at par after ``grinding it out.'' The 14-time major winner had four birdies and four bogeys and ended his round by three-putting his 18th for a bogey when he hit the second putt too hard.

``I'm still right there,'' said the second-ranked Woods, who was five shots behind the leaders. ``You know, if I two-putt that last hole I'm in I think 12th or 13th or something like that. There's not a lot of guys going low out there. These fairways are tiny to begin with, but there are a lot of crosswinds.''

McIlroy had two double bogeys in a round for the first time since missing the cut last year at the Memorial in May. The 75 is the highest score the two-time major champion had shot at the National course in Abu Dhabi.

Woods can thank his short game and putter for salvaging the round, saving par on several occasions and sinking several long birdie putts. He had three birdies on the last four holes of his front nine. But he lost that momentum on the back nine, when he mishit a tee shot that led to a bogey on 10, and couldn't hole a short par putt on his 11th.

``I put something up there and lost it,'' Woods said of his bogeys on the back. ``I had another chance at 3 to make another bogey in row and made a good save there. That kind of got it going a little bit. But it was tough out there. I didn't hit it that well. On top of that, this wind just magnifies it. You really have to control your ball today.''

Rose came into the tournament saying he felt he was closing the gap on world's top two players and he showed it in the first round. He had five of his six birdies on the front nine, sinking a 50-foot birdie putt on 5 and holing a bunker shot on 9 for birdie. He cooled down considerably after that as conditions worsened, saving par on 17 and then just missing a birdie putt on 18 that would have given him the lead.

``That was definitely a great start, shooting 5-under,'' Rose said. ``I knew it was going to be a tough afternoon, and certainly the wind picked up even more on the back nine. And I guess it was a good scoring day for me and obviously I could see that no one else in the afternoon had made any sort of run, so I felt very good about that score.''

Rose said it was too early to make much of his lead, even if he did outplay the biggest names in golf.

``I'd be reticent to say I've looked at what they have done and what they have scored and take it and put any value to it really,'' Rose said. ``It's the first round of the year. There's a lot of factors involved, certainly a lot of factors for Rory involved this week.

``That's not his normal preparation with what he's had to obviously encounter the last couple of weeks, I'm sure. What did Tiger shoot, 1 under? Level? That's well within the golf tournament. So for me there's really no surprises there, and from my point of view, just very, very happy with a good start.''

The 47th-ranked Donaldson also showed how to master the course's narrow fairways and overcome the windy conditions. He had six birdies - including holing a bunker shot on his 12th - to go along with a bogey.

``Solid start, played some pretty good golf out there,'' said Donaldson, who was looking for his second European Tour victory. ``Obviously 5 under is a great start. I played pretty good in most of the round but there were times when it wasn't quite on, we made some good up and downs. It was a matter of scoring well and keeping the momentum going.''

The conditions were less kind to last year's winner Robert Rock, who finished with a 76. He was joined by Europe's new Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (76), who also is in danger of missing the cut.

West Virginia, Penn State drop in new AP top 25 poll

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USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia, Penn State drop in new AP top 25 poll

After four of the top eight teams lost, The Associated Press college football poll had a new look behind No. 1 Alabama, with Ohio State reaching No. 2, LSU jumping back to No. 5 and Michigan moving into the top 10 for the first time this season.

The Crimson Tide received all but one of the 61 first-place votes from the media panel Sunday, with Ohio State receiving the other. No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Notre Dame also moved up a spot. LSU jumped eight after handing Georgia its first loss of the season. The Bulldogs slipped from No. 2 to No. 8.

No. 6 Michigan has its best ranking of the season after blowing out Wisconsin and Texas is up two spots to No. 7.

No. 9 Oklahoma moved back into the top 10 while it was idle and Central Florida remained No. 10.

COMPLETE AP TOP 25 POLL

1. Alabama 7-0 (60 first-place votes, no change from last week)

2. Ohio State 7-0 (1 first-place vote, No. 3 last week)

3. Clemson 6-0 (No. 4 last week)

4. Notre Dame 7-0 (No. 5 last week)

5. LSU 6-1 (No. 13 last week)

6. Michigan 6-1 (No. 12 last week)

7. Texas 6-1 (No. 9 last week)

8. Georgia 6-1 (No. 2 last week)

9. Oklahoma 5-1 (No. 11 last week)

10. UCF 6-0 (No change from last week)

11. Florida 6-1 (No. 14 last week)

12. Oregon 5-1 (No. 17 last week)

13. West Virginia 5-1 (No. 6 last week)

14. Kentucky 5-1 (No. 18 last week)

15. Washington 5-2 (No. 7 last week)

16. NC State 5-0 (No. 20 last week)

17. Texas A&M 5-2 (No. 22 last week)

18. Penn State 4-2 (No. 8 last week)

19. Iowa 5-1 (Not ranked last week)

20. Cincinnati 6-0 (No. 25 last week)

21. South Florida 6-0 (No. 23 last week)

22. Mississippi State 4-2 (No. 24 last week)

23. Wisconsin 4-2 (No. 15 last week)

24. Michigan State 4-2 (Not ranked last week)

25. Washington State 5-1 (Not ranked last week)

Virginia and Maryland are among those that received votes, with each team getting two apiece.

POLL POINTS

Eight ranked teams overall lost Saturday, including three previously unbeaten teams. Joining Georgia among the previously undefeated on Saturday were West Virginia and Colorado.

UP

All the losses up and down the rankings meant plenty of movement. Joining LSU and Michigan as teams that gained at least four spots were:

-- No. 12 Oregon jumped five after beating Washington in overtime. The Ducks have their best ranking since September 2015.

-- No. 17 Texas A&M moved up five after edging South Carolina on the road.

-- It was a good week to be idle and watch teams plummet. No. 14 Kentucky and No. 16 North Carolina State each gained four spots in an idle week, and No. 20 Cincinnati moved up five.

DOWN

-- No. 13 West Virginia lost at Iowa State and fell seven spots after reaching a season high last week.

-- No. 15 Washington dropped eight spots after losing at Oregon.

-- No. 18 Penn State's second straight close home loss, this time to Michigan State, dropped the Nittany Lions 10 spots.

-- No. 23 Wisconsin, which started the season ranked fourth, dropped eight spots after its second loss.

OUT

-- Colorado reached No. 19, racking up wins against a weak schedule, but USC manhandled the Buffaloes in Los Angeles and now they are unranked.

-- Miami, which started the season at No. 8, is out altogether after losing at Virginia.

-- Auburn, which started the season ninth, is out and no longer receiving votes after getting beat at home by Tennessee and falling to 4-3.

IN

-- Iowa surged into the rankings for the first time this season at No. 19.

-- No. 24 Michigan State is back in after a week out.

-- No. 25 Washington State moved in just in time to host ESPN's "College GameDay" for the first time ever with Oregon coming to town. Getting to Pullman, Washington, is notable for the show because for years it has been followed around by Wazzu fans waving the `Ol Crimson school flag.

CONFERENCE CALL

A week after the Southeastern Conference placed a season-high eight teams in the poll, the SEC lost one and the Big Ten gained two. The ACC has only two ranked team for the first time since Oct. 4, 2015, when Clemson was No. 6 and Florida State was No. 12. The Tigers played for in the national championship game that season.

SEC -- 7 teams (1, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 23).

Big Ten -- 6 (2, 6, 18, 19, 22, 24).

American -- 3 (10, 20, 21).

Big 12 -- 3 (7, 9, 13).

Pac-12 -- 3 (12, 15, 25).

ACC -- 2 (3, 16).

Independent -- 1 (4).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 16 North Carolina State at No. 3 Clemson. The ACC's only ranked and unbeaten teams meet in a game that will likely go a long way toward settling the Atlantic Division.

No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU. This will be the fourth ranked team the Tigers have faced -- though two (Miami and Auburn) are no longer.

No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State. Another chance for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines to flipped the narrative.

No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington State. The Ducks look to make it an Evergreen State sweep.

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Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

If you want to, you can find plenty of things wrong with the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers. The home team was up 17-0 in the second quarter and yet had to hang on as the Panthers reached the red zone with a chance to win in the last minute. The game got tight because the Redskins continued their second-half scoring problems, putting up just six points. Alex Smith passed for just 153 yards. 

But you can’t poke holes in the fact that the Redskins are 3-2 and in first place in the NFC East. Sure, there is a long way to go. But consider this—a Redskins schedule that looked rough at the beginning of the season doesn’t look quite as tough. In fact, right now the Redskins have a better winning percentage than any team they will play in their remaining 11 games. 

Yes, that’s right. They have six games to play in the division, two each against the Cowboys and Eagles, both now 3-3, and the 1-5 Giants. Their two remaining games against the NFC South are against the 2-3 Bucs and the 2-4 Falcons. The schedule is rounded out with games against three AFC South teams, the Titans, Texans, and Jaguars. All three of those teams are tied atop the division at 3-3. 

Of course, you can’t expect all of these teams to still be wallowing around .500 when they face the Redskins. It looks like the Eagles and Falcons are on the upswing and in today’s NFL any team can get hot at any time. 

And, as the Redskins demonstrated in their Week 2 loss to the Colts, they are capable of losing to a weak team. They still have plenty of issues they have to correct if they plan on maintaining their winning record and staying in contention for the division title. They won’t survive if they continue to have difficulty scoring in the second half (their only second-half TD this season came in garbage time against the Saints). They need to get more sacks from Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, who have one combined. Plenty of details need to be ironed out. 

But the fact that they are a flawed team doesn’t take away from the fact that they got a quality win over the Panthers. Carolina was 3-1, coming off of an 11-5 playoff season. On top of that, the Redskins had not beaten the Panthers since 2006, a stretch that included an 0-4 record against Cam Newton. They didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this year and they got a season-high three takeaways. Christian McCaffrey came into the game averaging 83 yards per game and left it averaging 70 after picking up 20 yards on eight carries. 

With all of that said, the Redskins still have to overcome their inconsistency. They have won two games in a row just twice since the beginning of the 2017 season. Nobody is going to believe that anything is different about the Redskins until they can string together three or four wins in a row. Until then, skepticism will abound. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler is locked into the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler