Nationals

Snedeker keeps on rolling at Torrey

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Snedeker keeps on rolling at Torrey

SAN DIEGO (AP) Brandt Snedeker says the records set by Tiger Woods should have an asterisk because they're not easily matched by normal players.

That presumably would include his record at Torrey Pines.

``I think he's won here more times than I've won on tour,'' Snedeker said.

Nearly twice as much, to be exact.

Snedeker has four wins on the PGA Tour, including the Farmers Insurance Open last year. Woods has seven wins at Torrey Pines, five of those in a four-year stretch that included the U.S. Open.

But the fast talker from Tennessee is slowly making inroads. Snedeker still owns a share of the North Course record with a 61 his rookie season. He won the tournament last year by coming from seven shots behind on the final day and beating Kyle Stanley in a playoff. And he resumed his love affair on Thursday with a flawless round of 7-under 65 on the North Course for a share of the first-round lead with K.J. Choi.

The early edge goes to Choi, who ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch at the turn, and then finished with three birdies on the last four holes. That gave him a 65 on the South Course, which plays 614 yards longer, hosted the U.S. Open and was more than 1 1/2 shots more difficult than the North in the opening round.

Woods has played like he owns this public course. Snedeker is still paying rent.

``I never really panic around here,'' Snedeker said. ``I always know I'm one round away from playing really well. So it kind of all blends into a being a great fit for me.''

Woods, meanwhile, looked like he would join the leaders when he two-putted for birdie on the 13th hole on the South. That put him one shot out of the lead, and he had a good look for birdie on the 14th. He missed that, and then made two bogeys on the next three holes and had to scramble for par on the par-5 18th for his 68.

It could have been better. Then again, Woods probably would have taken it after a three-putt double bogey early in his round put him at 1 over. He answered by playing the next five holes in 5-under par, one of those for eagle when he holed out from a greenside bunker on the par-5 sixth.

The birdie after the double bogey was the biggest.

``It was more important to get that birdie right out of the way, and get back to even par with the par 5 to play,'' Woods said. ``I knew I had two par 5s on the front side, so I could get it down to par, and then maybe get two or three on the back. I thought that would be a good score. And lo and behold, I get it rolling - get to 6 (under) and a chance to go to 7, so it can change quickly. But we had the perfect conditions for it. We couldn't ask for better conditions to score than we had today.''

That much was clear by the leaderboard.

More than one-third of the field - 56 players - shot in the 60s. The eight players at 66 included Charles Howell, who tied for third in the Sony Open and lost in a playoff last week in the Humana Challenge, and Mike Weir of Canada, who took a big step toward showing his form is returning. Weir has not made a cut since 2011.

Tag Ridings made a hole-in-one on the third hole on the South Course and was in the group at 67 that also included Bo Van Pelt.

The biggest mystery was Choi. He is not a regular at Torrey Pines, skipped last year and was planning to miss it again. That was until he heard from his host family in San Diego that the South Korean community wanted to see him play. Choi put on quite a show. He finally got some height and spin into shots while warming up on the range, and he converted that into the best round on the South.

He ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine - he started on No. 10 - and no shot was more pleasing than a wedge into a light crosswind on the 15th hole that settled inches from the cup.

``Best shot ever on the South Course - ever,'' he said, grinning.

This tournament is murky in any weather until the weekend. Of those 56 players who broke 70, only 19 of them played the South Course. Of the PGA Tour events on multiple courses, few of them have a greater contrast, although the score differential has been much greater than 1 1/2 strokes in recent years.

``The real one is tomorrow,'' Howell said after his 66 on the North.

Howell lost in a playoff last week in the Humana Challenge, and he started his season with a tie for third at the Sony Open. Whatever disappointment he felt in the California desert, he was able to shake off quickly. And he wasn't alone.

Scott Stallings lost a five-shot lead in the Humana Challenge and bogeyed the par-5 closing hole to miss the playoff. He bounced back with a 66.

Phil Mickelson had quite the taxing day. His 72 felt even higher considering he was playing with Snedeker, who was firing at flags and holing his putts. A three-time winner at Torrey Pines, Mickelson's week began with comments about the amount of taxes he is paying in California, followed by two rounds of apologies for not keeping his opinions to himself.

That wasn't a problem for him Thursday.

``I've been playing better than this, and there's no excuses,'' Mickelson said. ``I've got to get my head a little bit more focused on the shots, and I haven't been as focused starting out. Hopefully, I'll be able to turn that around tomorrow and start a little bit more effectively in the future.''

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This is how the Nationals and Sean Doolittle got here, and this is where they go

This is how the Nationals and Sean Doolittle got here, and this is where they go

WASHINGTON -- The first taste of all this came in late April of last year. Sean Doolittle threw three games in a row for the first time in years, only two of which were save opportunities. 

“Guess the training wheels are off,” Doolittle joked then.

His blistering usage this season followed with another heavy April and May combination born of the team’s other faults. The club was sliding or injury-filled or both, playing tight games and acting desperate in the season’s early months in order to make the later ones matter. A turnaround was even more critical this season following last year’s stumble. Davey Martinez was brought to Washington with a mandate to reach the World Series. They didn’t even make the playoffs in year one.

Look at Doolittle’s year-over-year pattern: April and May of last year, 25 total appearances. April and May of this year, 23 total appearances. By the start of July in 2018, Doolittle was on the injured list. He made it until mid-August this season, leading the league in games finished, being used relentlessly by a manager who had no one to trust at the start, then didn’t turn to those he could once they arrived. Doolittle appeared in eight of the Nationals’ 14 games since the trade deadline passed, all while enduring a home run surge and talking publicly about fatigue.

So, why was he used so often?

“Doolittle's the closer,” Martinez said Sunday. “He's the closer of this team. We've said that before and this is based on conversations with Doo. If he's available, as we talked about, then he's going to pitch the ninth inning. He's always been in the game when he said he was available to pitch.” 

The conversation Sunday morning between Martinez and Doolittle was meant to figure out what’s next for the closer and team following Saturday’s harrowing appearance. Doolittle was pummeled that evening. His failing cost the team continuance of a win streak and a pertinent victory. He knew it. It stung.

So, the decision was to put him on the 10-day injured list because of right knee tendinitis. Martinez backed the news with a declaration: “Talked to him, talked to the medical staff. It came to a head when I talked to him that his right knee's bothering him. So, we want to get it right. So we put him on the IL. Hopefully, it won't take as long, he's back in 10 days and when he does come back, he's our closer. And I reiterated that to him. He's our closer, but we got to get him right.”

Doolittle found a mechanical tweak earlier in the season which made him his most potent. His body position was higher, his release point hidden longer and his drive down the mound maximized. Of late, his fatigue has undermined those priorities. Doolittle is rolling through the load period in his windup. His arm is trying to generate power his body typically would. The ball is exposed earlier. Simply, hitters can see a slower-moving ball sooner. 

While Doolittle rests and retools, Martinez will hunt for how to operate without him. Daniel Hudson (1.08 ERA, heavy usage since arriving) and Hunter Strickland (1.29 ERA) are the logical choices. Why they weren’t being used as such to save Doolittle appearances before is moot now. They’re in. He’s out.

Roenis Elias and Greg Holland are also part of the equation. Elias (hamstring) is heading toward a mound session, perhaps in the next few days. If he didn’t absent-mindedly swing Aug. 2, much could be different. He could handle the seventh, aligning Hudson and Strickland for later outs and saving Doolittle. Instead, he’s thrown ⅔ of an inning since being acquired July 31. 

Holland has thrown two scoreless innings for Harrisburg since being signed and stashed after his release by Arizona. The Nationals are confident they can again retool Holland the way they did last year in a striking turnaround which led to a 0.84 ERA in 24 appearances. If he’s league average at the end of the bullpen, it’s a boost.

Washington has a minimum of eight more games to decipher how the new alignment will be deployed. Max Scherzer’s “probable” return Thursday will force a move in the rotation. Erick Fedde or Joe Ross (most likely Fedde) could end up back in the bullpen or in the minors.

The Nationals are 5 ½ games out of first place in the National League East. They hold a 3 ½-game lead in the wild-card race. Only the juggernaut Dodgers have a better run differential following Sunday’s homer-laden win against Milwaukee. 

Which means there is room for a breath, a reset, a rebuild of their closer. The season is going to boil down to September. Without a top-tier Doolittle, it has a limited chance of finishing where they payroll and demands expect it to.

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Washington Mystics set WNBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game without Kristi Toliver

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Washington Mystics set WNBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game without Kristi Toliver

WASHINGTON – Shey Peddy rarely gets to see the floor as a part of the WNBA-leading Washington Mystics. Sunday was only the 10th game of her WNBA career, playing in garbage time of what was going to be another dominant Mystics victory. 

She only managed three points on one made basket, but it was perhaps the biggest basket of the night. As Peddy, 30, caught a pass at the wing in her right hand, she quickly squared up and delivered a 3-point basket for Washington. It was the Mystics’ 18 such basket from range on the day, a new WNBA record. 

This is just the latest in the plethora of record-breaking performances for the Mystics in 2019. A massive 107-68 victory over the Indiana Fever is starting to feel habitual for those in the Entertainment and Sports Arena. More records falling on a daily basis.

Which, by the way, winning by 39 points also gave the Mystics their 11th win of 20 points or more to build on their current WNBA record. There are seven games still left on the schedule.

“When you shoot 39 threes and make 18 of them and you have 30 assists for the game, coach has to be pretty happy,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “The world looks really good when you’re making shots.”

Even more impressive is that the Mystics accomplished such a feat without one of their star players Kristi Toliver. Entering the contest she had made the second most 3-point baskets on the team and did so at a 36% clip. But had the Mystics had Toliver, Peddy would not have been in the lineup. She recently signed a seven-day player contract with the team to fill Toliver’s roster spot. 

Production was from all corners of the roster to set the 3-point mark. Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers both had four each from long range as the bench added six.  Emma Meesseman, who came off the bench, led the unit as they combined for 36 points. 

In total, nine of the 11 eligible players on the gameday roster made a 3-pointer, with all 11 scoring a point. The only one who didn’t get one long ball attempt was center LaToya Sanders.

While the team was unaware of the record, they consciously knew that Sanders was the only one who didn’t shoot a 3-point shot.

“We’re going to get [LaToya] to shoot one. I’m going to give it to her real late in the shot clock, watch,” Natasha Cloud said postgame. 

The center has attempted two threes in her entire seven-year career. 

Like all games throughout the season at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C., there was a match lit underneath the Mystics (20-7) in the opening moments of the contest. They jumped out to a 24-4 lead over Indiana and held the Fever without a basket from the floor for the first seven minutes. 

An admirable 13-0 run by the Fever (9-17) momentarily made it a game in the second quarter. However, right after the spark the Fever’s top player Candice Dupree exited the game with a finger injury. She spent the rest of the game courtside sporting a splint. 

Elena Delle Donne contributed to three of the team’s recording-breaking 3-point baskets. She also recorded her 11th game with 20-plus points as she led all scorers with 25. 

In addition to the setting the WNBA’s 3-point record, having nine separate players hit one also set another record. Recording 30 assists put them two shy of another single-game high. 

It all came as the Mystics closed their toughest stretch of 2019: three games in five days. Their next goal? Rest, and they’ve earned it on their six-game winning streak.

“We can’t take our foot off the gas no matter what. Once we clinched a playoff spot, we didn’t come into this game thinking ‘alright let’s relax.’ We came into this game, ‘okay let’s continue to separate ourselves.'” 

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