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Westwood targets season-opening win in Dubai

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Westwood targets season-opening win in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) He's got a new caddie and a new home in the United States.

Lee Westwood hopes those changes translate into victories this year, starting with the Dubai Desert Classic that begins Thursday.

The eighth-ranked Englishman has been a runner-up at Dubai three times, including last year when he led after three rounds but lost to Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Westwood missed a seven-footer on 17 that could have tied, and one on 18 to force a playoff.

After missing the cut at the PGA Championship last year, Westwood split from coach Pete Cowen and temporary caddie Mike Waite. Mike Kerr, normally on the bag for Alvaro Quiros, took over. Westwood also moved to Florida with his family in December after rejoining the PGA Tour in 2012.

The move to Florida, Westwood said, has allowed him to play much more golf in the offseason - he was out last week with Luke Donald - than he's done in the past when England has been frigid.

``I feel like I'm coming out running,'' Westwood said, adding that his short game and putting have shown the most improvement.

``Hopefully, I will come out and be competitive,'' he said. ``We've seen recently some of the best players struggling to find their competitive edge. I feel like I'm playing well and I have a chance.''

Westwood, though, has yet to replace Cowen and isn't looking to overhaul his swing like Tiger Woods has in the past. The Englishman has been practicing more and ``doesn't feel rusty at the moment.''

``I haven't really changed coaches but done away with a few,'' he said with a smile. ``That is a big difference. I'm not going to another coach and trying a new method. I'm not making any big changes as such.''

Westwood, who turns 40 this year, said it seemed ``like the right time'' to move to the United States. He said his two children, who were 8 and 11, were young enough to make the adjustment to a new school, and the new location allows him to play more on the U.S. tour without being away from his family for long periods.

``I played the PGA Tour last year and really enjoyed it and fancied a new challenge with the family,'' Westwood said. ``Fancied making a move and being somewhere warm.''

And with every new season, Westwood has to contend with questions of whether this might be the year he finally wins a major. He finished tied for third at last year's Masters, but fared poorly in the other three. Time was of the essence, he admitted, but he wasn't about to let his age influence his play.

``That would be putting a bit of pressure on myself,'' he said. ``No, I try hard year every year to win a major, so just need to find a little spark that takes me from finishing second or third to winning one.''

Westwood won twice in 2012, once on the European Tour and once on the OneAsia Tour. But for a man who has 22 victories on the European Tour, it was a less than stellar season. He struggled at times with his putter and saw his ranking slip from third to seventh. He ended the year tied for a disappointing 48th in the season-ending Dubai World Championship.

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Redskins free agent targets: Nine wide receivers that they may want

Redskins free agent targets: Nine wide receivers that they may want

NBC Sports Washington is taking a long look at potential free agents that could help the Redskins in 2020. To conclude, here's a widespread evaluation of wide receivers they may be interested in.

The fun of pre-free agency in the NFL is imagining all the guys your team may bring in.

So, instead of zooming in on one wideout for a specific profile, here's a rapid-fire analysis on nine players Ron Rivera and the Redskins could consider adding to their offense.

Amari Cooper: He's a 25-year-old route-running maestro coming off of his best season as a pro, making him the top option in the sport. However, it's hard to imagine Jerry Jones letting him out of Dallas.

Emmanuel Sanders: He'll be 33 years old this March, but he'd be a perfect complement to a young and rising star like Terry McLaurin. Problem is, would someone who has played in multiple Super Bowls want to join a rebuilding franchise this late in his career? Probably not.

AJ Green: Green's last catch came in December... of 2018. The perennial Pro Bowler didn't play at all last year thanks to an ankle injury he sustained in training camp. Whatever team nabs him will be taking quite a risk.

Robby Anderson: Anderson has never had a full-on breakout campaign, but he's also never played fewer than 14 games in four years with the Jets and was usually good for about 50 catches for 750 yards and around five scores for New York. Now, how much can those numbers go up in a more functional offense with better pieces around him? That's the question.

Randall Cobb: Cobb showed he could survive without Aaron Rodgers by putting together a solid stat line with the Cowboys; but he's mostly a slot receiver, and Steven Sims already occupies that spot for Washington. Ron Rivera isn't tied to any of his new players, of course, but Sims feels like someone Rivera will want to feature in 2020 and beyond. 

Phillip Dorsett: He's a 2015 first-rounder who has not lived up to that draft status at all, and for a guy with as much speed as he has, he doesn't average the yards per catch you'd expect. If the Redskins were to pursue him, it'd be for a very specific role.

Devin Funchess: Funchess has ties to Rivera, which is something to track at every position this offseason. The tall pass-catcher spent the first four years of his career with the coach in Carolina before joining the Chargers in 2019. Unfortunately, a broken collarbone limited him to one contest with L.A., so he may be looking for a one-year deal so he can prove himself again.

Chris Hogan: Another ex-Panther, yet Hogan only got to play there for a couple of games in 2019 before ending up on injured reserve. Before that, he registered 50-plus grabs in five consecutive seasons, though, so he can be a useful supplemental target. He also used to play lacrosse, by the way.

Demarcus Robinson - Robinson is an intriguing guy. He's been buried behind the likes of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce on the Chiefs' food chain, so now he has a chance to establish himself elsewhere and get more looks. Even as a role player in Kansas City, Robinson totaled 32 catches for 449 yards and four TDs for the champs, including a 6-catch, 172-yard outing in Week 2 in place of Hill.

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Rui Hachimura flattered by praise from LeBron James, is focused on playoffs

Rui Hachimura flattered by praise from LeBron James, is focused on playoffs

WASHINGTON -- LeBron James may not be the best player in the NBA anymore, but no one in today's game can match his legacy. He's probably a top-five player in league history and he's still one of the faces of the league.

So, his opinion carries a little bit of weight and last weekend James had some really nice things to say about Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura. James called him "really talented" and said "I think he's going to be a really, really good player in our league."

That, understandably, made an impact on Hachimura, who is only 22 years old with 30 NBA games under his belt.

"I'm happy to see a guy like that [say that]. He's a legend," Hachimura said. "But I want to improve more on a lot of things. I'm not done yet. I'm a rookie and I'm still learning a lot of things. This is my first year. I want to work hard more and win for this team."

That's a solid answer. Hachimura knows he has a long way to go to accomplish what he hopes to achieve in the NBA.

One of his goals, though, he feels the Wizards can reach quite soon. They are ninth in the East and three games back in the playoff race, but Hachimura thinks they can get there.

"I think we can make it. March is a hard schedule, but if we improve our defense we will have a good chance to make the playoffs," he said.

Hachimura has already shown a knack for doing things before they are expected. He's taken to the NBA very quickly and already has James singing his praise. The playoffs would be just another example.

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