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Schwartzel takes share of lead at Leopard Creek

Schwartzel takes share of lead at Leopard Creek

MALELANE, South Africa (AP) South Africa's Charl Schwartzel shot a second-round 64 to surge into a share of the lead on day two at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Friday.

The former Masters champion, who ended a long title drought by winning in Thailand last weekend, had six birdies and an eagle in his 8-under round to go 13 under par and level with overnight leader Gregory Bourdy at the halfway stage.

Frenchman Bourdy had a seven-under 65 for a two-round total of 131 at the second event of the new European Tour season.

The pair leads by four shots over South African Darren Fichardt (68) heading to the weekend at Leopard Creek Country Club.

Another South African, Louis de Jager, and Englishman Steve Webster were another stroke back on 8 under in a tie for fourth.

Schwartzel's dominant 11-shot victory in Thailand was his first title since the 2011 Masters. He continued his impressive form with the lowest round so far at the Alfred Dunhill to be in contention for a second tournament win in a week after going nearly two years without a victory and struggling through most of 2012 with a chest injury.

``With the (Thailand) win, you do build up a bit of confidence, but I don't want to expect anything,'' Schwartzel said. ``It was a nice win last week, just to break the ice after winning the Masters. It's such a big thing and everyone always talks about `when are you going to win again?'''

Starting on No. 10, Schwartzel had three birdies and an eagle three on the par-5 No. 18. He carded another three birdies on his back nine and went a second straight round without a bogey to join Bourdy at the top of the leaderboard.

Bourdy also had an eagle, but dropped his first shot of the tournament at No. 3 - his 12th. Fichardt was alone in third after four birdies in his 4-under 68.

Scotland's Scott Jamieson, who won his maiden Tour title at the European Tour's season-opening Nelson Mandela Championship - also in South Africa - last weekend, shot a 68 to move 6 under and a tie for eighth with South African Tyrone van Aswegen and Englishman Richard Finch.

Ahead of them, Germany's Maximilian Kieffer and England's Robert Rock share sixth on 7 under par.

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Alex Smith spotted at Wizards game wearing big apparatus on injured right leg

Alex Smith spotted at Wizards game wearing big apparatus on injured right leg

Alex Smith was at the Wizards-Pistons game on Monday, having scored some good seats in the owner's suite. The Redskins quarterback was spotted at Capital One Arena wearing a large apparatus on his right leg as he continues his long recovery from his mid-November injury.

In previous updates about his recovery, Smith's legs were covered and he was in a wheelchair. 

In this glimpse of Smith, he appeared to no longer require a wheelchair, or one wasn't seen in the box. Instead, he was sitting in a seat and two crutches were behind him:

The Redskins and Smith's family had previously asked for privacy during his rehab. Major questions remain about whether he'll play in 2019 for the Redskins, or ever again in fact, but at the very least it's good to see him out in public.

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NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

Things have not been going well for the Capitals as of late. They have lost eight of their last 11 and five straight games for the first time since October-November 2014. They can’t score and are porous defensively. That’s not a good combination.

As a result, people are despairing. The team has no talent, the coaches have no idea what they’re doing and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

In this day and age, we all tend to be prisoners of the moment. Will the Capitals come close to winning the Stanley Cup the way they are playing right now? No, of course not. They look terrible.

B ut let’s not forget, it’s not like last season was without its challenges.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

On Nov. 14 and 16 in 2017, Washington suffered consecutive blowouts at the hands of Nashville and Colorado to drop their record down to 10-9-1. There was talk of whether Barry Trotz would even survive the season. But the Caps rallied.

F rom Feb. 2 on, Braden Holtby suddenly couldn’t stop a beach ball. He wasn’t even the Caps’ starter the first two games of the playoffs. He got back in net in Game 3 and was brilliant the rest of the playoffs.

D id anyone think Washington would win the Stanley Cup after getting blown out against the Predators and Avalanche? Did anyone think they would win when Holtby was struggling to stop anything in February?

No.

Heck, if you’re mad about how the Caps lost Sunday’s game in Chicago, they lost even worse to the Blackhawks last year 7-1 in February. I sure didn’t think I was watching a Cup winner at that point.

Washington is hardly the only team to suffer such a low point in their season. Look at some of the other contenders across the league. The Caps are only one point behind Toronto which has lost four of its last five, Pittsburgh went through a stretch in which it lost nine out of ten in October/November, Nashville lost six straight from Dec. 17 through Dec. 29, San Jose lost five out of six from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 and Vegas started the season 9-12-1 before they finally turned things around. No one thinks those teams are done. So why should we write off the Caps?

Looking at the playoff race, Washington is only one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the last wild-card spot…but five points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. The season is not lost…yet.
Every team has low points during the season, but it’s January.

There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The return of Barry Trotz came at a bad time for Washington. Because of how he has turned around the Islanders and how the Caps have struggled, that has led many to simply dismiss Todd Reirden as a head coach. Here’s what Reirden has had to deal with to start the season: A 20-game suspension (later reduced) to Tom Wilson, a lineup that has not been 100-percent available at any point this season, simultaneous injuries to Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby, a second injury to Holtby and prolonged injuries to Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. Plus, he’s had to navigate his team coming into a season as the defending champions for the first time in franchise history. The book on Reirden as a head coach is not going to be written based on a January slump. It’s going to be written based on what he does this season as a whole and, even more importantly, on what he does in the playoffs.
     
  • I have seen a few people wonder if the Caps should recall anyone from Hershey, but the simple fact of the matter is that the solution to Washington’s problems is not in the AHL. There are just no difference makers with the Bears right now and adding anyone would be a headache. The Caps have no cap room and two extra forwards already on the roster. To add anyone would mean sending someone back down and exposing them to waivers. Adding Nathan Walker or Shane Gersich to the bottom six is not going to make any difference if Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie can’t score.
     
  • Dmitrij Jaskin needs to stay in the lineup. He can’t finish, but no one can right now. Specifically, among bottom six players, Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly have only one goal in 12 games, Andre Burakovsky has not scored in his last 13, Nic Dowd in his last 16 and Devante Smith-Pelly in his last 23. So really, what offense are you losing by dressing Jaskin? Jaskin, Dowd and Boyd was a very solid line earlier in the season. While Reirden has the line blender out, why not try this one again?


It may be too early to give up on the Caps’ season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sinking the rankings.

Find out where they land here in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. 

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