He's back: Tiger birdies 17, 18 to win Chevron

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He's back: Tiger birdies 17, 18 to win Chevron

From Comcast SportsNet
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.

It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.

When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.

He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woodsnow perhaps more than ever before.

Any different? Woods asked about his win. It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know its been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasnt. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.

The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.

He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

It wasnt clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated.

It didnt really matter to him.

It just feels awesome, whatever it is, he said.

A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He thought Johnsons birdie putt was going in until it stayed just high of the hole. Woods adjusted his line ever so slightly and drained the putt to pull even going to the 18th.

From 158 yards in the middle of the fairway, Woods hit 9-iron that landed on the slope and rolled down to easy birdie range.

If this win felt different than the last one, Woods wasnt saying.

They all feel good, he said. Theyre not easy. People dont realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. Ive gone on streaks where Ive won golf tournaments in a row, but still I dont think Ive taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is.

Johnson had done just about everything right on the back ninea tough birdie putt on the 13th to tie for the lead, a spectacular pitch from the putting surface, over a ridge to 4 feet to escape with par, and a 12-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never had a chance, and stood to the side watching a familiar sightWoods making clutch shots at the end of a tournament to win.

If the man is healthy, thats paramount, Johnson said. I mean, hes the most experienced and the best player Ive ever played with. In every situation, he knows how to execute and win.

Although those situations have been rare of late, Woods looked as if he had not forgotten how to win. The only other times he has been in contention this year were the Masters and the Australian Open.

I felt normal, felt very comfortable, Woods said. Ive been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But its a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, its kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts for his foundation, for the fifth time. He finished at 10-under 278 and donated the 1.2 million to his foundation.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting next season in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

There were similar expectations last year, even though Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round at Sherwood and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Woods said that was more smoke and mirrors. He only had one shot back then, and took the lead because he made a bunch of putts.

Is there reason for expectations now?

I think theres always expectations, Woods said. So be it.

Johnson closed with a 71 and took home 650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.

Tiger can have a long career, Casey said when he finished. We might look back in another 10 years and actually forget about the last couple of years.

These last two years are starting to feel like a blur for Woods, this year in particular. He never looked as low as he did when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass, withdrawing from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine because of leg injuries that ultimately kept him out of competition for three months, including two majors.

Then he missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But his peers noticed a difference about the way his game was coming together in Australia, and it appears to be going in only one direction as Woods headed home to Florida.

Last year I played with him here the first round and I thought, Wow, this guy is back, Steve Stricker said. You could tell this time around, hes got even more confidence, more game. He feels even better about the direction hes headed.

Woods tournament has been a good stepping stone for others over the years. The most recent example was Jim Furyk, who won in 2009 and then had his first three-win season the next year and captured the FedEx Cup.

No one ever imagined Woods needing a boost, but that might be the case.

I dont think were going to see another 2011, if that makes sense, Furyk said, alluding to Woods failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward, hes going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.

It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.

When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.

He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woodsnow perhaps more than ever before.

Any different? Woods asked about his win. It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know its been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasnt. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.

The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.

He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

It wasnt clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated.

It didnt really matter to him.

It just feels awesome, whatever it is, he said.

A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He thought Johnsons birdie putt was going in until it stayed just high of the hole. Woods adjusted his line ever so slightly and drained the putt to pull even going to the 18th.

From 158 yards in the middle of the fairway, Woods hit 9-iron that landed on the slope and rolled down to easy birdie range.

If this win felt different than the last one, Woods wasnt saying.

They all feel good, he said. Theyre not easy. People dont realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. Ive gone on streaks where Ive won golf tournaments in a row, but still I dont think Ive taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is.

Johnson had done just about everything right on the back ninea tough birdie putt on the 13th to tie for the lead, a spectacular pitch from the putting surface, over a ridge to 4 feet to escape with par, and a 12-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never had a chance, and stood to the side watching a familiar sightWoods making clutch shots at the end of a tournament to win.

If the man is healthy, thats paramount, Johnson said. I mean, hes the most experienced and the best player Ive ever played with. In every situation, he knows how to execute and win.

Although those situations have been rare of late, Woods looked as if he had not forgotten how to win. The only other times he has been in contention this year were the Masters and the Australian Open.

I felt normal, felt very comfortable, Woods said. Ive been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But its a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, its kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts for his foundation, for the fifth time. He finished at 10-under 278 and donated the 1.2 million to his foundation.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting next season in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

There were similar expectations last year, even though Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round at Sherwood and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Woods said that was more smoke and mirrors. He only had one shot back then, and took the lead because he made a bunch of putts.

Is there reason for expectations now?

I think theres always expectations, Woods said. So be it.

Johnson closed with a 71 and took home 650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.

Tiger can have a long career, Casey said when he finished. We might look back in another 10 years and actually forget about the last couple of years.

These last two years are starting to feel like a blur for Woods, this year in particular. He never looked as low as he did when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass, withdrawing from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine because of leg injuries that ultimately kept him out of competition for three months, including two majors.

Then he missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But his peers noticed a difference about the way his game was coming together in Australia, and it appears to be going in only one direction as Woods headed home to Florida.

Last year I played with him here the first round and I thought, Wow, this guy is back, Steve Stricker said. You could tell this time around, hes got even more confidence, more game. He feels even better about the direction hes headed.

Woods tournament has been a good stepping stone for others over the years. The most recent example was Jim Furyk, who won in 2009 and then had his first three-win season the next year and captured the FedEx Cup.

No one ever imagined Woods needing a boost, but that might be the case.

I dont think were going to see another 2011, if that makes sense, Furyk said, alluding to Woods failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward, hes going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

It’s lonely at the top, which is where Markelle Fultz sits on almost every 2017 NBA Draft board. The Brooklyn Nets should be set for the next decade with a big time scoring point guard. Instead, it’s the Boston Celtics who have no choice but to take Fultz with the No. 1 overall selection after a savvy trade that sent veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a stack of picks and players back in 2013.

Fultz can do it all. He’s deadly from the outside, he can take you off the bounce and he has elite passing skills to boot. In a draft packed with star potential, specifically at the point guard position, the freshman from Washington stands out well above the rest.  

It would take a major shake up at the top for Fultz not to have his name called first on draft night, but there are plenty of very talented players sitting on the board behind him. Here is a deeper look at the potential top overall selection.

The Positives:
Fultz has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA point guard. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has a frame built to take on muscle. At just 19-years-old, he is already well defined physically and has plenty of room to grow and get stronger.

A crafty, high-end scorer, Fultz changes speed and direction well and has an advanced Euro-step for a young player. He averaged 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes a night for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three. He can score from all three levels, finish well above the rim and play through contact.

In his lone season in college, Fultz showed that he is not only a legitimate scoring threat, but he is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate. While Lonzo Ball is considered the true pass first point guard of the draft, Fultz had a higher assist rate (35.5 to 31.5) and lower turnover rate (13.4 to 18.2) than the star guard from UCLA.

Fultz rebounds well for his position, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game at Washington. He also has potential as a defender, posting 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, although he is a work in progress on that end of the floor.

Known as a high-character kid and tireless worker off the court, Fultz has the entire package. He can also play the lead or shooting guard spot, which will come in handy if the Celtics decide to pair him with All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

The Negatives:
9-16 is a concern. Great college players should be able to will their team to victory, even if the talent around them is suspect. Washington was certainly worse off without Fultz down the stretch, losing their last six while he sat with a knee injury.

Shot selection and sloppy ball handling was also an issue this season. In Fultz’ defense, he played with a group that lacked overall talent and those issues might eventually disappear when he’s added to a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Fultz is a quality chase down defender, but he fell asleep on plenty of plays or didn’t show a consistent fight on the defensive end. Lack of focus allowed for plenty of back cuts. He also showed an inconsistent effort fighting through screens.

He’s a work in progress on the defensive end, like most young players coming into the league. Most of these issues can easily be coached out of him at the next level.

Projection:
Fultz has an advanced feel and tons of room to expand his game. On the court, he resembles another former Husky in Brandon Roy. Fultz is much further along than Roy was at the same age, but possesses both the ability to score from anywhere on the court, as well as rebound and set up his teammates.  

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on Fultz with the top overall selection, but if they do, teams will scramble trying to move up to select him. He would fit perfectly in the Kings starting backcourt alongside sophomore Buddy Hield, but Sacramento lacks the assets to move from five to one, Fultz’ likely landing spot.

 

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.