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Torrey Pines a good gauge for Tiger

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Torrey Pines a good gauge for Tiger

SAN DIEGO (AP) Based on his record alone, there could be cause for alarm the way Tiger Woods started his season.

Woods never finished out of the top 10 in his season opener until his 13th season, when he was coming off reconstructive surgery on his left knee and was eliminated in the second round of the Match Play Championship.

He was eliminated on the second day of the Abu Dhabi Championship in memorable fashion - a late rally to seemingly make the cut with one shot to spare, only to be informed that he was not supposed to get relief from an imbedded lie in sandy soil on the fifth hole. Two shots were added to his score, and Woods was on his way back with only the 10th missed cut of his career, his first outside the PGA Tour and a bad start to the year.

The more important measure, however, is this week at Torrey Pines.

Woods has won seven times as a pro on this track along the Pacific bluffs. It's a public course, but it feels as if he owns it. Such is his dominance at Torrey Pines that after the first round of the 2008 Buick Invitational, when Woods opened with a 67 on the South Course, a caddie standing behind the 18th green said, ``He just won two tournaments with one round.'' Sure enough, Woods won that week by eight shots, and then won the U.S. Open that summer on a mangled knee in a playoff.

That was his 14th - and at the moment, his last - major championship.

That also was his last win at Torrey Pines.

He didn't play in 2009 because he was still recovering from knee surgery. He didn't play in 2010 because he was recovering from the humiliating collapse in his personal life. The last time he played Torrey Pines was in 2011, which turned out to be the worst season of his career. He was embarking on a brand new swing, his game was a wreck and it showed. Woods went 74-75 on the weekend and tied for 44th.

Where is he now?

``It's nice to be healthy, to be able to train and practice and do all of the things that I know I can do,'' Woods said Tuesday after playing the back nine on the South Course. ``It's definitely a very different feeling, so it's nice to be back. It's nice to get out there and play a course that I know.''

When it comes to horses for courses, Woods is a thoroughbred at Torrey Pines. The only course comparable to his success level at Torrey would be Firestone, where he also has won seven times and never finished out of the top 10 until 2010 and 2011, both times when his game was a mess. He has won seven times at Bay Hill, but that's different from the other two because Woods has seven finishes out of the top 10. Bay Hill always has been feast or famine.

``This has always been a pretty good benchmark, hasn't it?'' Geoff Ogilvy said.

If he doesn't win this week, it certainly wouldn't be a disaster. Woods is getting older, and the competition is getting deeper every year. Winning is not as easy as it was.

But how he plays this week could be a fair measure of his game going into a pivotal year when the balance of power has shifted to 23-year-old Rory McIlroy. Woods talks a lot about the courses where he feels most comfortable, with Torrey Pines and Firestone at the top of his list. He also includes Augusta National and St. Andrews.

Most telling was his last win at Torrey Pines.

He was runner-up at the Masters that year, and then had arthroscopic surgery to repair some cartilage damage in his left knee that caused him to miss Quail Hollow and The Players Championship. He was getting ready for the U.S. Open when doctors found two stress fractures of the left tibia and recommended six weeks off, which he ignored.

So when he showed up at Torrey Pines, the opening round was the first time he had walked 18 holes since the final at the Masters.

Of his 14 majors, this was among the most remarkable, foremost because of the injury.

``Here I am just talking about it and my hands are sweating just thinking about the feeling I had to get through each and every day,'' Woods said Tuesday. ``Just trying to get up and having to warm up again and go to the gym. I just don't want to move. Then having to get out here and warm up and trying not to show you guys and any of my competitors what I was feeling. It was a very difficult week.''

But it was at Torrey Pines.

Could he have won the U.S. Open in that kind of physical shape had it been played anywhere else?

``Yeah,'' he said.

But did it help that it was Torrey Pines?

``Yeah, definitely. Probably those three courses I just mentioned,'' he said, referring to Torrey, Firestone and Augusta.

Woods won a Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines as a teenager. He first came to the course with his father for the Andy Williams Invitational, spending most of his time watching the California players - Mark O'Meara, John Cook, Corey Pavin. He recalled seeing Andy Bean reach the par-5 18th in two shots.

It's different now. The world watches him. That much was evident when he finished the 18th hole of a practice round on a cool, quiet morning. The golf course, which had been so quiet, came to life with a few hundred rushing over to a walkway with hopes of an autograph, and the pounding of steps heard on a bridge as two dozen photographers trampled behind him.

McIlroy is taking the next month off. The field at Torrey Pines includes Dustin Johnson, Masters champion Bubba Watson, defending champion Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. But it's still Torrey Pines. This is where a healthy and happy Woods is usually at his best.

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Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

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USA TODAY Sports

Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

Upsets get a lot of attention in March, due to the allure of the NCAA Tournament and the non-allure of everyone who loves to talk about how THEY CALLED that upset that YOU DIDN'T.

With that being said, upsets happen every month of the year, and they go down weekly in the NFL. So, how about we look back at some of the Redskins' particularly surprising wins from the past decade?

Here are five of the most memorable. 

5) 2014 - Redskins 27, Eagles 24

The Eagles came into FedEx Field late in 2014 with a 9-5 record needing a win to remain squarely in the playoff hunt. The Redskins, meanwhile, were just 3-11 and had changed quarterbacks a depressing five times.

Yet in this matchup, Robert Griffin III managed the offense well and DeSean Jackson had more than 120 receiving yards against his former team because DeSean Jackson is awesome.

Yes, the 'Skins were outproduced in nearly every major stat category. But Mark Sanchez — sorry, future Redskin great Mark Sanchez — had two costly turnovers and Cody Parkey missed two field goals (Philly fans have probably forgiven him by now), allowing the home team to squeak out a W.

4) 2009 - Redskins 27, Broncos 17

This is one of those random Redskins games you've probably forgotten about because it came in a lost season, but it was still a miraculous victory.

The most iconic play from this one was a Hunter Smith to Mike Sellers TD on a fake field goal — a fake, mind you, that came after a timeout by Jim Zorn because the unit's first fake punt attempt included only 10 players on the field.

Denver was 6-2 but lost Kyle Orton to injury at halftime. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, helped the Burgundy and Gold score more than 17 points for the first time all year.

"We've had a desert experience -- very arid, if you will -- for the last few weeks," Zorn said postgame. "So to be able to come out with a win, you almost don't know how to feel."

The Zorn Era was terrible, but you have to give the dude credit for working "very arid" into an NFL press conference.

3) 2012 - Redskins 40, Saints 32

There was plenty of hype surrounding RG3's debut, but there was no way he was going to lead the Redskins to a win over the Saints... in his debut... in the Superdome... right?

Wrong. Incorrect. Not right.

Griffin found Pierre Garcon early for an 88-yard score and the offense stayed hot all afternoon, outpacing a New Orleans squad that was favored by more than a touchdown. If you want a further reminder of how impressive this effort was, look back at what happened to this franchise in the Superdome this past season. 

2) 2014 - Redskins 20, Cowboys 17

Dallas' six-game winning streak stood no chance against Colt McCoy, as the Texas legend went into the Cowboys' house for a wild Monday Night triumph.

Kai Forbath's field goal sealed it in overtime and Bashaud Breeland dominated Dez Bryant, but McCoy was the star. On the way to his first successful start in close to three seasons, the signal caller went 25 for 30 in the air and found the end zone on the ground, too.

1) 2017 - Redskins 17, Seahawks 14

If someone in your life thinks they can't do something, just pull up the box score or highlights from this contest. They will then realize that nothing is impossible, because the Redskins beating the Seahawks on this Sunday should've been impossible, yet it somehow happened anyway.

Washington went into Seattle's harsh environment down six starters, including three on the O-line, but Kirk Cousins kept things together and found Brian Quick and Josh Doctson for long completions on a harrowing last drive to steal this result. It wasn't quite UMBC over Virginia, but it was absolutely a stunning final nonetheless. 

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With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

At the beginning of the week, the Washington Wizards had 12 games left on the schedule and needed to win a minimum of eight or nine of those games if they hoped to make the playoffs.

It’s Thursday night and Washington’s loss to the Jazz makes three in a row.

With nine games left on the schedule, where do they stand in the East postseason race and the draft lottery order?

Eastern Conference Standings

Losing three-straight games hasn’t actually dropped the Wizards from the 11th spot in the East, where they’ve hovered the last couple weeks. For that they can thank the tanking Atlanta Hawks.

Don’t think those L’s aren’t costing Washington, though. In the same span of time, the 8-seed Heat have won three in a row.

Now Bradley Beal and Co. are a full six games out of the final playoff spot with nine games to go. They also trail Orlando (34-38) in ninth and Charlotte (32-39) in 10th.

They’re not absolutely, certainly, 100-percent eliminated from playoff contention, but they must win every game left.

Even that might not be enough.

NBA Draft Lottery

Back-to-back-to-back losses took a major toll on whatever playoff hopes Washington had left. For a silver lining, look no further than the team’s draft lottery position.

The Wizards started the week ninth in the draft lottery order, which gave them 20.3 percent odds of scoring a top-four pick (preferably in the form of a Duke freshman or Ja Morant). That ninth spot also carries a 4.5 percent chance at the top-overall pick.

While the Wiz kids were busy dropping 3 games, the two teams immediately ahead of them in the lottery order had better luck.

The Grizzlies won their only game so far this week, while the Pelicans won one of two.

Those results dropped New Orleans to number nine, boosted Washington to number eight and left them tied with Memphis at 15.5 games out of number one in the lottery order (though Memphis’s win percentage is fractionally lower and keeps them in seventh).

If the Wizards can pass the Grizzlies and climb into seventh, that’s a big deal in terms of lottery odds. Simulating the drawing, the ninth-place team gets a top-four pick once in every five simulations. The seventh-place team gets a top-four pick once in every three simulations.

Look Ahead

Washington can’t lose another game if they want to make the playoffs. This is literally must-win territory.

Even winning out is no guarantee they’ll advance to the postseason.

Up next, Washington hosts Miami at home on Saturday, followed by a West Coast road trip the following week.

Games to Watch

Heat at Wizards, Saturday 7 PM

Timberwolves at Grizzlies, Saturday 8 PM

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