Tiger upbeat about his game, Open performance

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Tiger upbeat about his game, Open performance

Len Shapiro
CSNWashington.com

Despite shooting 75-73 in the final two rounds of the U.S. Open at Olympic two weeks ago to finish tied for 21st place, Tiger Woods, as always, preferred to look at the bright side of his week in San Francisco.

I was still in the ball game, Woods, who held a share of the 36-hole lead, told reporters after completing his final round that Sunday. A lot of positives to be taken away from this week. A lot of positives.

Ten days later, not much had changed. Woods made his first public appearance since the Open Tuesday at Congressional Country Club and remained mostly upbeat about his Open performance, despite his disappointing weekend on a brutally difficult golf course that produced a winning score of one over par from champion Webb Simpson.

The way I struck the golf ball, I was very pleased by that, said Woods, the official host of the AT&T National in town this week. I didn't particularly chip or putt well that week, something that I had done at Memorial (where he won two weeks earlier). Obviously at the Open, that's just one of the things you have to do, and I didn't do that. I didn't make anything from 15 or 20 feet. I made a bunch of putts from 8 to 10 feet and in, but I didn't make any other putts. I played very conservative. My game plan worked for the first couple days. I was playing away from a lot of flags, lag putting, but I didn't make anything. I need to hit the ball a little bit closer than I did that week.

It was one of those weekends where I just didn't quite get everything out of my rounds. I was so close on Saturday to getting a good round out of it, and I didn't. It's just one of those things where a fraction off, particularly on that U.S. Open venue, balls that land in the fairway don't stay in the fairway, and I kept hitting the edge of the fairways and going in the rough. There you've not only got to hit the ball in the middle but you've got to hit the ball in the middle with the correct shape. Being a fraction off, certainly it showed up on Saturday, and the beginning of Sunday for sure. But I got it back towards the end of it, played 3under coming in, and that was something positive.

Woods seemed particularly upbeat Wednesday returning to play Congressional for the first time since he won his own event here in 2009 with a score of 13-under par. He did not play in the 2011 U.S. Open on the clubs famous Blue Course because he was still recovering from surgery. When someone asked him if hed like the winning score to be below the Open record breaking total of 16 under posted last year by Rory McIlroy, he said as long as Im that person.

Woods did not have a chance to play Congressional when he met with the media shortly after 1 p.m. but said hes been told the course was playing firm and fast, just the way he likes it. Thats the good news. The bad? With high humidity and temperatures in the mid-90s predicted over the four days of the tournament, those conditions may not last.

Weve seen what this place can do when it gets soft and what the guys can shoot, he said. But this week, with the weather forecast as hot as its supposed to be, I dont think were going to quite see it as fast as it is right now. Theyre going to have to put some water on it to try to keep it alive.

Woods also admitted that there are still significant shortcomings with his game as he continues to attempt to equal or surpass Jack Nicklauss record 18 major championships. Woods has 14 now and 73 PGA Tour victories, but he also knows his short game had better get better in order to significantly build on both those numbers.

I would say certainly my short game has been something that has taken a hit, he said, and it did the same thing when I was working with Butch (Harmon) and the same thing when I was working with Hank (Haney). During that period, my short game went down, and it's because I was working on my full game. Eventually I get to a point where the full game becomes very natural feeling and I can repeat it day after day, and I can dedicate most of my time to my short game again.

One thing Woods said he will never do with his short game is switch to a long putter, all the rage these days on the PGA Tour.

Ive tried it and my stroke is infinitely worse, he said. Its just not good. I like the flow of my stroke. I like how I putt. Putting with anchoring or even different configurations of a standard grip, my stroke doesnt flow at all. I think Ive done all right with mine, and I think Im going to stick with it.

Hes also going to stay the course with his current swing changes being overseen by his latest instructor, Sean Foley. He equated making changes in his swing the older he gets with Michael Jordan making adjustments to his shooting style as he moved into his 30s .

He couldnt jump over everybody with the Pistons and eventually learned a different shot, and he mastered going off his right hand, left shoulder, Woods said. It didnt matter; he could fade away from either shoulder. I didnt want to play the way I did (in the past) because it hurt, and it hurt a lot.

Was I good at it. Yeah, I was good at it, but I couldnt go down that road, and theres no way I could have had that longevity in the game if I had done that. Four knee surgeries later, here we are. I finally have a swing that it doesnt hurt, and Im still generating power, but it doesnt hurt anymore.

NL East: Marlins' Stanton hit scoreboard with HR at Brewers' stadium

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NL East: Marlins' Stanton hit scoreboard with HR at Brewers' stadium

Giancarlo Stanton blasted a 462-foot homer on Saturday at Miller Park, the second-longest home run any player has hit so far this season.

This particular shot bounced off the massive scoreboard in center field in Milwaukee. Stanton knew he had it as soon as it left the bat. 

According to MLB's StatCast, the ball left Stanton's bat at a speed of 116.8 miles per hour. The only homer hit this season with an exit velocity of 117 or higher was by Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.

Check out Stanton's bomb:

Orioles' Zach Britton hopes sprained ankle won't mean trip to DL

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Orioles' Zach Britton hopes sprained ankle won't mean trip to DL

BALTIMORE — Zach Britton made his way into the Orioles clubhouse on crutches, and wearing a soft boot. He sprained his left ankle in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. 

Britton fielded Adam Eaton’s bunt and threw to first baseman Chris Davis. 

“After I flipped the ball to Chris, I just kind of felt something,” Britton said. “I didn’t know if I stepped wrong. I didn’t know if I stepped wrong. It didn’t feel like I rolled it or anything, my ankle, but just didn’t feel very good and [trainer Richie Bancells] didn’t think there was any reason to push it last night. Especially with the way the weather was, the field conditions, everything. It was just best to shut it down right there.”

Eaton scored what turned out to the winning run. 

Britton is hoping he can avoid a visit to the disabled list.  
 
“I think I’d be surprised if I had to go on the DL, but we’ll see how it feels. It feels pretty good compared to yesterday, but still some tenderness in there and obviously I’m not walking great, so I think you’ve got to walk fine before I can even start pitching again,” Britton said.

“Hopefully, it’s just a few days and maybe I can throw a bullpen or at least run on it.”

Britton had an X-Ray, and there are no plans for an MRI. He admitted to sleeping poorly, but that was because of anxiousness, not pain. 
 
“I’ve never done anything to my ankles, so I didn’t really know what I was feeling. Didn’t feel very good. Just kind of felt like I had jammed it, I guess. The best way to describe it. But Richie kind of took charge and said, ‘That’s it,’” Britton said. 

As a left-hander, the ankle he injured is the one he pushes off. 

“It’s going to be a big test, a huge test. I think it would be worse if it was actually my land leg. Yeah, it’s going to a nice test in a few days if I can push off. Once I can do that, I think I’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of, if I’ve got to tape it, wear a brace or something to help me through it. Just kind of nip it in the bud right now. We have the off day tomorrow, which I guess is good timing. You never want to say good timing on an injury, but I guess having the off day would be nice. Hopefully, I can get back in the next few days.”

It was the second time in as many nights that Britton could have injured himself. He dove to try and tag Chicago’s Avisail Garcia in Friday night’s game. 
 
“I was telling Buck [Showalter] I was trying to win the Gold Glove. I think I’m going to shut that down for now on,” Britton said. 

The Orioles lost a bizarre game when the normally reliable bullpen allowed five runs.

“It was a tough night, I think. Us down there in the bullpen, especially. We pride ourselves doing a good job after the starter, give him those wins, especially those games that we should win. We didn’t do a very good job last night, but we’ll bounce back, and the guys will do a good job today if they get into the game,” Britton said.

Open court: Any Rockets free agents in Wizards' wheelhouse?

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Open court: Any Rockets free agents in Wizards' wheelhouse?

The only difference between the Houston Rockets and Wizards is that they were in different conferences. Both were 41-41, except the West was weaker top to bottom so Houston had the No. 8 and final seed while Washington finished 10th.

The Wizards' goals are to get younger, more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the salary cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.

They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.

These are Houston’s free agents, in order of best fit (and realistically in the Wizards' wheelhouse cap-wise):

Donatas Motiejunas: He’s got the size at 7-foot tall and plays facing the basket. Injuries slowed him as he played in just 37 games for 6.2 points, after averaging 12 a year ago when he started 62 times, but Motiejunas can be a complementary player off the bench or a spot starter with three-point range. He’s also 25 and made just $1.6 million. Coming off a sub-par season with a dysfunctional roster, he can get a raise but still be very affordable.

Terrence Jones: Before the Wizards acquired Markieff Morris at the trade deadline, Jones was in the conversation but giving up a first-round pick for an unrestricted free agent this summer with no commitment long-term would’ve been silly. Plus, Jones is not better than Morris. Jones averaged 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 50 appearances. The 6-9 forward unrestricted and made $1.8 million this season. A good backup with stretch potential at 31.6% from three, he can be an fill-in starter and probably acquired for a moderate raise.

Jason Terry: The Jet, an unrestricted free agent shooting guard, will be 39 soon coming off averaging 5.9 points in 72 games. He still shot a respectable 35.6% from three-point range but Terry is a few years past his best. A player of his caliber is an ideal sixth man and he was a key reason the Mavs upset the Heat for the NBA title. But that was five years ago. If he continues to play, he’s a late rotation, end-of-the-bench guy for the veteran minimum who plays in a pinch. He played for the $1.5 million minimum.

Josh Smith: The unrestricted free agent ($1.5 million) has gone from being a double-digit scoring average from 10 seasons in a row to a bench player who has fallen out of favor because of his low-efficiency scoring. Smith is 6-10 and can be a good defender. He's also just 30, roughly the same percentage he shoots from three-point range which he does too liberally for a player with his accuracy. Smith isn't in demand. He'll be a cheap pickup. If he plays to his strengths, and Doc Rivers couldn't make him work with the L.A. Clippers, what are the chances that Wizards coach Scott Brooks would succeed?