Tiger upbeat about his game, Open performance


Tiger upbeat about his game, Open performance

Len Shapiro

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.

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What should Cavs do with Kyrie Irving? Decision will have major impact on East

What should Cavs do with Kyrie Irving? Decision will have major impact on East

Entering this offseason the biggest question for the Wizards was whether they would re-sign Otto Porter to what was almost certainly going to be a max contract, which it ultimatley was, or let him go and risk acquiring someone else. The latter option, letting him walk in free agency and taking the longview or the unlikely scenario of a sign-and-trade, may have been enticing to some who wanted the Wizards to strike now for a third star, one even John Wall has publicly admitted they may someday need to win a championship.

Taking risks can be fun for fans and are sometimes completely necessary for a sports front office, but by just standing pat the Wizards appear to be in good shape moving forward into 2017-18. They kept a steady course while turmoil and change affected just about every team around them in the Eastern Conference. The conference has already been shaken up significantly and Kyrie Irving hasn't even been traded yet.

Irving right now represents a major catalyst in the East. If he goes and where he goes could indirectly determine the outlook of the Wizards and many other teams.

[RELATED: John Wall's new contract with Wizards, by the numbers]

Reports out of Cleveland have Irving almost certainly to be dealt after Irving told the organization he wanted out from LeBron James' shadow. Despite making it to three straight NBA Finals and reaping the reputational benefits of those playoff runs, Irving would like a fresh start in a city where he can be the No. 1 guy. Though one could argue he is better off both on and off the court by playing with James than without him, his mind seems to be made up.

Unfortunately for the Cavs, all of this is coming after free agency has played out and after many NBA stars were already dealt. Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Paul George, the most available stars entering this summer, have all found new homes. All three would have made at least some sense in a potential deal with Irving, though the Cavs did reportedly turn down an Irving-George deal.

The question is which stars are available, knowing the Cavs are in win-now mode and Irving is a very attractive trade piece. Not only is he a 25-year-old NBA All-Star who scores 25.2 points per game and shoots 40.1 percent from three, but he's making $39 million over the next two seasons. His $18.8 million salary for 2017-18 isn't even in the top 40 among NBA players. Even if he opts out of the third and final year of his deal, which he likely will given the money, that's a solid contract for a player of his caliber. 

[RELATED: Timeline of the Wizards' creation of a G-League team]

As for whom the Cavs could net for Irving, there are a few obvious names that come to mind: Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Both are good enough to be worthy of such a trade, have been involved in rumors and New York is in transition mode as a franchise. There are also probably a few wild card candidates people could speculate about like DeMarcus Cousins or LaMarcus Aldridge, guys who may not fit into the long-term picture in the places they are currently at.

No one truly represents a perfect option, which leaves Cleveland in an interesting spot. They remain the best team in the East given how they plowed through the playoffs, but trading Irving represents a major risk, one that could put James' run of seven straight NBA Finals in jeopardy. And if they keep Irving, who's to say they can get over the drama and discord that appears to be quite serious at this point?

There is also the longterm uncertainty with James they need to consider. Do they trade Irving for a veteran like Anthony to win now or shore up their future with a younger player just in case James leaves next summer in free agency? Title chances like they have this coming season are fleeting, but they don't want to go from James and Irving to rebuilding in a short period of time.

The Celtics made some major additions this summer with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, but lost defensive star Avery Bradley in their trade to net Marcus Morris. Like the Wizards, the Raptors and Bucks mostly stood pat, hoping to gradually improve year-over-year. Those four teams represent the second tier in the East behind the Cavs, but whatever Cleveland decides could have a major domino effect on their chances for next season.

James' run of dominating the East with consecutive NBA Finals appearances will come to an end eventually. The Irving situation represents a real threat to that continuing.

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of rare commitment]

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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

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An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 


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