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Sterne leads at halfway point in Dubai

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Sterne leads at halfway point in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Richard Sterne sank a birdie on 18 to take a one-shot lead over Danish youngster Thorbjorn Olesen and two others after the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia pulled to within three of Sterne despite struggling with shoulder problems that required treatment midway through his round.

Sterne, a South African who has struggled with his own injuries in recent years, finished the day with a 12-under total of 132. Olesen (66), Tommy Fleetwood (68) and Stephen Gallacher (70) were a shot back.

Sterne had a topsy-turvy round in which he grabbed the lead with a birdie on 13 only to fall back into a tie when his drive went into sandy rough and he bogeyed 14. He recovered, though, with a 3-wood that traveled 250 yards and landed on the fringe for a long eagle putt. He rolled it to four feet and sank it for the birdie and outright lead at the halfway point.

``I'm pretty happy with the performance today. It was not as easy as yesterday,'' said Sterne, who was a shot from matching the course record on Thursday with a 10-under 62. ``I held it together and I made a couple of good putts at the right time and a couple of good shots."

The 165th-ranked Sterne barely played in 2010 and 2011 because of a bad back, and was forced to spend his time watching countrymen win majors while he recuperated. He has won five times on the European Tour - the last time in 2009 - but admitted this was a rare occasion when he was leading coming into the weekend.

``I always kind of won coming from behind. I've been close to the lead on Sunday so I know what it's about,'' Sterne said. ``There's a long way to go in this tournament. The guys are bunched up and there are some good players and I think anyone five or six back has still got a good chance of winning.''

Olesen, a Dane who won his first tour event last year, started off with four birdies and sank a 15-footer on his 10th to move into a share of the lead. He briefly took the lead alone when he sank a 20-footer for one of his six birdies. He also didn't drop a shot for the second day in a row.

``I played more solidly, definitely. I rolled the putts really nicely the first two days, and that's why I'm 11 under,'' Olesen said. ``I struck the irons a lot better today. I was still struggling a little bit from the tee and I got a few good breaks out there, especially on 8. It could have been a double but I saved par there.''

Olesen is considered one of the rising stars of European golf. He signed alongside Rory McIlroy with Nike last month and broke into the top 50 with a second-place finish in Abu Dhabi, ensuring he will play all four majors this year.

``I want to win twice this season,'' he said. ``That's my main goal. So the quicker I can get the first one, the better.''

Six more players were within three shots of Sterne including Garcia, whose 67 put him at 9 under.

Early on, it appeared it would be a disappointing day for Garcia. The tightness in his left shoulder during the first round continued on Friday. He contemplated withdrawing four holes into the round but reconsidered when he got hot, carding two of his five birdies and an eagle on the final three holes.

``On the 14th green, I told my caddie, if it doesn't get better after 18, we'll probably walk. Because what I don't want is to keep building up and not really recover it,'' Garcia said. ``Then, unfortunately, we started making birdies and eagles, and I thought, well, what do we do now? So I got the physio out and, he worked on it a little bit, put some ball on it. It did feel a little bit better.''

Lee Westwood didn't fare so well. On track to finish the day at 8 under, he double-bogeyed the 17th after drove into sandy rough, botched a chip, and missed a short bogey putt. On 18, he reached the greenside rough in two but missed an eight-foot birdie putt to finish at 6 under.

Two-time major winner Mark O'Meara, who was in contention after the first round at 5 under, shot 2-over 74 on Friday to just make the cut at 3 under. Colin Montgomerie, shot 75 to sit level par. He missed the cut that was projected to be at 2 under.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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