Els takes British Open crown

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Els takes British Open crown

By Doug Ferguson
AP Golf Writer
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Ernie Els kept feeling that something special could happen at the British Open, and it did. But only after a collapse by Adam Scott that no one imagined. Four shots ahead with four holes to play -- after eight straight holes with nothing worse than par -- Scott bogeyed them all and had to fight back tears on the 18th green Sunday as the magnitude of his meltdown began to sink in. Els, who started the final round six shots behind, finished off a flawless back nine with a 15-foot birdie putt for a 2-under 68 that looked as if it would do little more than lock up another runner-up finish at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Instead, he wound up with his second British Open -- the other one was 10 years ago at Muirfield -- and fourth major championship at a stage in his career when it seemed as though his best golf was behind him. The celebration was muted, unlike his other three majors. "I'm a little numb at the moment," said Els, who was on the practice green behind the clubhouse when he won. "First of all, I feel for Adam Scott. He's a great friend of mind. Obviously, we both wanted to win very badly. But you know, that's the nature of the beast. That's why we're out here. You win, you lose. "It was my time for some reason." The wind finally arrived off the Irish Sea and ushered in pure chaos -- a mental blunder by Tiger Woods that led to triple bogey on the sixth hole, a lost ball by Brandt Snedeker that took him out of contention and a topped shot that made former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell look like an amateur. Nothing was more stunning that what happened to Scott. He failed to get up-and-down from a bunker on the 15th. With a wedge in his hand in the 16th fairway, he went 30 feet long and missed a 3-foot par putt. From the fairway on the 17th, he pulled his approach into thick grass left of the green. And on the final hole, he hit 3-wood near the face of a pot bunker. Scott still had a chance to force extra holes with a strong shot into 7 feet on the 18th for par. The putt stayed left the entire way. His chin buckled, and it looked as if he might start crying on the green. He composed himself and mouthed one word: "Wow." "I had it in my hands with four to go," Scott said. "I managed to hit a poor shot on each of the closing four holes. Look, I played so beautifully for most of the week. I shouldn't let this bring me down." Even so, it added another chapter to Australian heartbreak, most of that belonging to his idol, Greg Norman.

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Best unrestricted free-agent forwards to help Wizards back up Markieff Morris

Best unrestricted free-agent forwards to help Wizards back up Markieff Morris

The Wizards are deep when it comes to forwards, with various players who have specific skill sets but missing others, and with so many moving parts, going into free agency it is difficult figuring out their needs.

So let's assume Markieff Morris remains as the starting power forward with Jason Smith remaining a backup and Otto Porter is retained as a restricted free agent with Kelly Oubre and Bojan Bogdanovic (restricted) as his backups.

Morris and Smith are capable three-point shooting bigs but neither is Kevin Love. Porter could get better and solidify his spot but needs to get stronger. Oubre is hot and cold and still hasn't developed a consistent long ball or right hand off the dribble. Bogdanovic cost the Wizards a No. 22 pick in the first round for this upcoming draft and is a solid three-point shooter with defensive liabilities.

What could the Wizards use at the three-spot? Nothing if Porter and Oubre make offseason progress. There can never been too much three-point shooting. A multi-dimensional forward who can play the power spot down low, defend and/or rebound would be good but that depends on what happens with the center position. 

The Wizards don't have a lot of cap room so whoever they bring in has to be relatively affordable and willing to accept a backup role. If they require starters' minutes or money, they're not viable option unless a major move happens via trade.  

5. Zach Randolph (Grizzlies): He made $10 million and mostly came off the bench for the first time in his career,  He still averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in less than 25 minutes per game. Randolph will be 36 this summer but can still get it done. Unable to get past the conference finals in the West, he can find a smoother path in the East. Salary will be the biggest hangup.

[RELATED: Top free agent shooting guards who could help Wizards, Beal]

4. Jonas Jerebko (Celtics): Only 3.8 points on a team loaded with role players/shooters but Jerebko has good size at 6-10 and shoots in the mid-30s from three-point range. Not great but respectable. Jerebko made $5 million so his salary range is in the wheelhouse. 

3. Donatas Motiejuans (Pelicans): Hasn't regained his footing since a botched trade from Houston to Detroit a year ago over medical concerns and has played just 71 games in the last two years. Motiejunas is 7 feet and can face up but he shoots less than 30% from three for his career. In his best NBA season 2014-15, he averaged 12 points and shot a career-high 37% from deep. He made $3.9 million and isn't going to command a big number in the open maket so he's in range. He'll be 27 next season so he's young, has size and can develop into a better shooter from three like Smith this year. But is the health worth the risk?

2. Patrick Patterson (Raptors): John Wall's teammate at Kentucky, Patterson averages 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot 37.2% from three. He's a finesse big and career role player off the bench who made $6 million. If Morris is the starter, a player with Patterson's ability is a good complement.

1. James Johnson (Heat): Had his best NBA season with 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists off the bench. Can handle the ball, run offense, defend his postion and shoot strong enough from three to play multiple spots on the floor that includes the five in a small lineup. Johnson is 30 and considered a small forward at 6-9. Was a matchup nightmare for the Wizards and made just $4 million. He might want to cash in to the highest bidder as he's unrestricted at the perfect time.

[RELATED: Top free agent point guards who could help Wizards, Wall]

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After 4 teams in 5 seasons, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

After 4 teams in 5 seasons, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

It's never been a talent issue for D.J. Swearinger. In college he made big plays and earned all conference honors playing in the SEC at South Carolina. He was drafted high by Houston, second round in 2013, and started 10 games his rookie season. 

In his first two seasons with the Texans, Swearinger started 22 games and proved to be a playmaker. He logged three interceptions and more than 100 tackles. He looked like a possible long-term answer at safety, until he was uncermoniously cut after his second year.

Reports showed Swearinger bucked at playing special teams. And over time, a reputation as a big - sometimes dirty - hitter emerged. 

None of it helped Swearinger, who was signed by Tampa in 2015. He played seven games for the Bucs but was cut mid-season. Arizona signed him late in the 2015 season, and kept him for 2016.

Last year, playing on a defense with strong leaders like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson, Swearinger excelled. He played all over the Cardinals secondary, starting 12 games and making plays like he did early in his career in Houston.

He finished the 2016 season with three interceptions, two sacks and eight passes defensed. He made more than 50 tackles. Pro Football Focus rated Swearinger with a +15.3 grade, by far the highest of his career and good for the 8th best rating of any safety in the NFL.

The Redskins haven't had solid safety play in years. In 2016, the team tried to address the position on the cheap, converting cornerbacks to safeties and signing low tier free agents. It didn't work.

So, finally, in 2017 the Redskins front office addressed the safety position by signing Swearinger to a three-year deal. And it sounds like the 25-year-old has grown up a lot after five years of bouncing around the league.

"I've been on a lot of teams. I want to make this home," Swearinger said (full video above). "I feel like I’m experienced enough to know what to do as a pro, know what to do to stay on top of things and be a pro. As long as I be a pro every day and make the plays I’m capable of, I’ll be a Redskin."

Swearinger's deal will keep him with the Redskins through the 2019 season, but already, head coach Jay Gruden seems excited about the new safety. Earlier this offseason, Gruden said watching film of Swearinger revealed a player hitting the highest levels of safety play in the NFL. In OTAs, seeing Swearinger in person, Gruden was impressed.

"Watching him the first two days really excites me. He just looks like a safety back there," Gruden said. "No offense to the previous safeties we’ve had before, but I just think D.J. is to a level in his career right now where he’s got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent."

There was some question if Swearinger can play the free safety role in Washington. More to the point, if he has the speed to play a true center field, with second-year man Su'a Cravens moving from linebacker to strong safety. Swearinger has zero concerns.

"I'm a free safety, I think that fits my body well," he said. "As a free safety you got to have the confidence in yourself that you can run with those guys and make plays on those guys."

Swearinger doesn't lack for confidence, and he shouldn't. Combined with Cravens, along with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland at cornerback, the Redskins secondary could be a strength in 2017.

"We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out, I think this group can be one of the best," Swearinger said. "We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit."

It's normal for players to be excited in May. There supposed to be. 

Coaches, however, tend to be more hesitant with praise. Not optimism, but actual praise, though when it comes to Swearinger, Gruden isn't shy about his expectations.

"We know that he’s a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he’s got a lot of confidence and I think he’s going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league," the coach said of his new free safety.

It's been a long journey for Swearinger, four teams in five season. He's hoping this one sticks. 

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