See why Phil withdrew from The Memorial

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See why Phil withdrew from The Memorial

From Comcast SportsNet
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- Phil Mickelson hit the wall and then headed for the exit, withdrawing from the Memorial after a 79 on Thursday because of mental fatigue. Mickelson said it was more important for him to be rested for the U.S. Open in two weeks than to finish Jack Nicklaus' tournament. He attributed the fatigue to playing three straight weeks, and then going to Europe to celebrate his wife's 40th birthday. He returned home to play a corporate outing Tuesday in New York, flew to Ohio for the pro-am and found his head wasn't in the game. "The course here is in such great shape. It's a beautiful way to get ready for the U.S. Open," he said. "But I'm hitting it so poorly that ... I have to look at what's best for me to play in the U.S. Open, and I'm going to take the next few days to kind of rest up." It's not unusual for players to withdraw after a high score -- it was Mickelson's worst in the 13 trips to the Memorial -- and three other players withdrew Thursday. But it's rare when the player is of Mickelson's stature, a four-time major champion inducted this month into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Mickelson could not think of another time he withdrew without physical injury. "I feel like it's the responsibility of a player to see through your commitment and finish the tournament and so forth," Mickelson said. "And I'm kind of overruling that just a touch, because I'm trying to think big picture on what's the best way for me to get ready for the Open." The last time Mickelson withdrew was also at the Memorial in 2007, only then he had injured his wrist while practicing out of the rough at Oakmont for the U.S. Open, and he stopped after 11 holes. Mickelson wound up missing the cut at Oakmont. Mickelson played Quail Hollow, The Players Championship and the Byron Nelson Championship, and then headed to France and Italy with his wife, Amy. "We had a great time, but I think I probably just went a little bit overboard last month, and it has nothing to do with playing poorly and so forth," he said. "But I do think I need to get rested to play my best for the Open." Mickelson said he likely would see swing coach Butch Harmon to "get things straightened out," and go up to The Olympic Club in San Francisco to study the course. Mickelson has finished runner-up a record five times in his national open. Whether it was more than fatigue, Mickelson wasn't saying. His group, which included Masters champion Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, had a massive gallery with several fans taking pictures with their cellphones. Watson complained about the cellphones, though Mickelson said it was "more that mentally I wasn't able to focus as well from the last month." But it's not unlike Mickelson to deliver a message, regardless of criticism that comes his way. When he and Tiger Woods first talked about the PGA Tour season being too long in 2005, Mickelson cited personal reasons for skipping the Tour Championship. He also skipped the BMW Championship during the first year of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He was no fan of Cog Hill, though that WD was said to be more about a debate with the tour. Mickelson was even par for the tournament with a birdie on the par-5 11th, and then he played 7-over par the rest of the way, including a tee shot into the water on the par-3 16th for a double bogey. "I knew he was struggling throughout the day," Fowler said. "You could tell he was a little tired. He's been traveling a bit lately. He told us there in the trailer when we were signing the cards. Obviously, it was a little bit of a grind out there today." Fowler said players had to restart their pre-shot routines because of the pictures being taken by fans. "You could see Phil was a little fatigued and was having trouble blocking it out a bit," Fowler said. Watson said the phones have been "pretty bad ever since they made that rule" that allows fans to take phones on the course, although pictures are not allowed and there are designated areas to make calls. "When they make these marquee pairings, more people are going to follow them and more people want to take pictures, so it makes it very difficult," Watson said. "Ever since they made that rule that cellphones are allowed, it's just not fun playing. "It took Phil out of his game," Watson said. "Phil's a great player and a great champion, and it just took him out of his game. It's sad. It's sad that cellphones can make or break a championship."

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Joe Biden sits courtside at Wizards-Hawks playoff game, gets standing ovation

Joe Biden sits courtside at Wizards-Hawks playoff game, gets standing ovation

The Wizards had a special guest sitting courtside for Game 5 of their first round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, as former Vice President Joe Biden showed up to root on the home team.

Biden was shown on the big screen during a timeout in the second quarter and the crowd treated him to a standing ovation. They played Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' on the loudspeakers and Biden stood up to acknowledge the crowd.

Here are some pictures:

And here is a video of the ovation:

We'll go ahead and guess Joe took the Amtrak to get there.

[RELATED: Wall gave away his Game 4 jersey to NFL Pro Bowler]

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Why Lars Eller may be the key to beating the Penguins

Why Lars Eller may be the key to beating the Penguins

When the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins met in the second round of the playoffs last year, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held to only four combined points. That should be good enough to win, and yet it wasn’t for the Caps who had no answer for Pittsburgh’s scoring depth.

This year, Washington expects things to be different. Why? Because of Lars Eller.

The Caps will feature other new faces as well including Brett Connolly and Kevin Shattenkirk, but Connolly was a low-risk, high reward gamble and Shattenkirk was a deadline acquisition. Really the only move the Caps made to bolster their depth in direct response to last year's series loss was Eller.

Washington traded two second-round draft picks to Montreal for the Danish center in the offseason. With a career-high of 30 points, clearly the Caps were looking for versatility more so than strictly offensive production.

“He's a skilled player, but he can do the harder work, too,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “He plays PK, he plays important situations so, he's a great guy to have on the team.”

RELATED: Trotz calls Hornqvist a guy who 'conveniently will fall on your goalie'

Eller was brought to Washington with one clear role: Center the third line.

Consistency was not something Eller was able to enjoy in Montreal as head coach Michel Therrien constantly shuffled lines even electing to use Eller as a winger at times. In a stacked Washington lineup, however, it was clear just where Eller fit in. Even when Barry Trotz shuffled lines at points over the course of the season, Eller remained the constant on the third line.

“Probably the first time in my career I had that kind of stability,” Eller said. “I think it took us a good while to find the lines and get the right mix for every line. That took some time, but once we got that around late December, beginning of January, I think the whole team got on a roll and my line really got on a roll as well and a lot of pieces just kind of came together. It's been trending up in the right direction all year and now we're here.”

Eller scored 12 goals and 13 assists in 81 games with the Caps this season, helping lead Washington to the Presidents’ Trophy, but that was not why he was brought in. He was brought to this team to give the Caps the depth they learned they needed to make a deep layoff run.

“That's what we tried to address with getting Lars in that role,” Trotz said. “We'll find out. I think we addressed it, it's up to the player.”

Is it an overstatement to call Eller the key to the series? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. The key line for Pittsburgh in last season’s series was the “HBK” line of Patric Hornqvist, Nic Bonino and Phil Kessel. They were the Penguins’ third line.

Now the Caps are hoping they have found their own key third line of Andre Burakovsky, Eller and Tom Wilson.

“I can't wait for that challenge,” Eller said. “I think a lot of guys in here have pictured that this is a spot we could end up being in, facing this team sometime in the playoffs. Now is that time. We're just thrilled to have that opportunity.”

MORE CAPITALS: Key matchup: Penguins' power play vs. Caps' penalty kill

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