Tiger gets a win ... but is he back for good?

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Tiger gets a win ... but is he back for good?

From Comcast SportsNet
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- The images of Tiger Woods, dressed in his red shirt and raising both arms on the 18th green after another victory, are no longer highlights from years gone by. When he outlasted Bo Van Pelt in a tense duel on the back-nine Sunday at Congressional, Woods won for third time in his last seven tournaments dating to the late March. He still hasn't figured out the majors this year, though he has two more remaining. And while winning the AT&T National kept him at No. 4 in the world, he is starting to be looked upon the way he once was. "I think he's the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?" Van Pelt said. "On three different courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he's playing the best golf in the world right now." Woods closed with a 2-under 69, making only one bogey in his final 44 holes on a course that was tougher than it was for the U.S. Open last year. Van Pelt had him in trouble late in the round, but only briefly, and Woods effectively pulled away on the last two holes by letting his opponents get the bad breaks and make the bogeys. He now was 74 wins on the PGA Tour, moving past Jack Nicklaus into second place, leaving him eight wins away from the record held by Sam Snead. Perhaps it's only fitting that Woods now heads to The Greenbrier Classic, where Snead was the first head professional. Woods at least moved to No. 1 in two other categories -- the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings, for the first time since September 2009. At this rate, Woods is more likely to get to Snead's record of 82 tour wins than the record that means the most to him -- the 18 majors won by Nicklaus. Woods has been stuck on 14 since 2008 when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a shattered left leg. "It feels great to get to 74 wins and obviously pass Jack," Woods said. "I did it at 36 years old, and it's something I'm very proud of." Not bad for a guy who only four months ago walked off the course at Doral with another injury to his left Achilles tendon. He returned two weeks later and won Bay Hill, and off he went. "I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again," Woods said. His latest win took a lot of effort. Brendon de Jonge, the 54-hole leader for the first time, didn't make a birdie and shot 77 to quickly fall out of contention. Adam Scott ran off four straight birdies on the front nine and was briefly part of a five-way tie for the lead until he made back-to-back bogeys on the back nine. Hunter Mahan also fell back. It came down to Woods and Van Pelt, who have known each other since junior golf and could not be any more different. Woods is high energy, who now has won an astounding 27 percent of the PGA Tour events he has played. Van Pelt is laid-back Oklahoman, whose only official tour win came three years ago in Milwaukee, a tournament that no longer exists. They didn't look much different on the golf course. Three times, Woods made birdie putts to take the lead. Three times, Van Pelt answered him. Woods holed a 20-foot birdie putt on 15th hole, extending his left arm to motion for the ball to go left, and when it did just that, he raised his arm with his index finger pointing to the sky. That put him at 9 under, a lead that lasted as long as it took Van Pelt to match him with a 10-foot birdie. The par-5 16th had the most surprising twist. Van Pelt blistered a tee shot 345 yards down the middle of the fairway, leaving only a 6-iron to the green. Woods hit a spectator with his tee shot in the left rough, had to lay up, and then was too aggressive with his wedge and went over the green and down an 8-foot slope. It was a like a pitcher in a tied baseball game who loaded the bases with no one out, only to get out of the jam. Van Pelt's approach was slightly heavy and stopped in the thick collar of a bunker, so that he had to chip with his feet in the sand and his hands gripping the steel shaft of the wedge. He didn't get out of the rough, and his third shot went to the back of the green, just over 12 feet away for par. Woods' fourth shot up the slope hit the hole and ran 15 feet away. Both hit good putts. Both missed. Both made bogey. They remained tied. "It was difficult from the standpoint I had my legs in the bunker, and if I hit that chip a little too hard it goes over the green because you can't put any spin on it," Van Pelt said. "I was just trying to get the ball up in the air and play it out to the right a little bit and just got underneath it a little bit. And the second one, I thought I hit it great. I was surprised it rolled that far. And the putt, I mean, I've probably never hit a better putt than that in my life under those kind of circumstances. "I pretty much hit every shot the way I wanted to that hole, just ended up being 6." On the next hole, Van Pelt was in the left cut of rough and caught a flier, with a good swing getting a bad result. The ball shot out of the fluffy grass over the green, leaving him no chance to get near the hole. He went through the green and had to scramble for bogey, and Woods chipped up to 6 feet and made his putt for par to take a one-shot lead to the 18th. "It's rare that we caught any fliers out here at all this week, and Bo caught one coming out of that rough," Woods said. "We had a good enough lie where we could have had one of those, but Bo caught one out of there and put it in the wrong spot and made bogey, and I got up and down." Woods with a one-shot lead on the 18th, playing in control as he had for so much of the day, is tough to beat. He hit a fade off the tee. He hit a draw with a 9-iron into the green. He won. And everyone was there to see it. The AT&T National was a strange week -- record heat on Friday, followed by a violent wind storm that night that toppled trees and littered Congressional with limbs. The course was closed to spectators on Saturday, leading to an eerily quiet afternoon with Woods in contention. The spectators returned by the thousands on Sunday, and they got want they wanted to see. "I think everyone kept it pent up for today, and it was raucous all day," Woods said. Van Pelt was disappointed at making three straight bogeys for a 71, though he took away plenty of good feelings about the way he played on such a big stage. "He's an amazing player," Van Pelt said. "We've known each other a long time, probably 20 years. He's fun to play with. That's why you travel 30 weeks a year, why you get up in the morning and make the sacrifices that you do, to have the opportunity to play the best player in the world in the final round with a chance to win."

Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

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Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

While the Bruins fourth round pick might sound eerily like Finnish fourth line center Joonas Kemppainen, the Black and Gold are hoping for much more from fifth round pick (135th overall) Joona Koppanen. The 6-foot-5, 194-pound Finnish center is obviously a big body in the middle of the ice, and already plays a responsible, smart game on the defensive side of the ice.

In keeping with the parallels to Kemppainen, Koppanen is a bit less developed on the offensive side of the game at this point in his young career as an 18-year-old.  

“I think that the draft was awesome and I’m really excited for the draft to Boston,” said Koppanen, who added “Tuukka Rask plays there” when asked what he knows about the Bruins. “My strength is to skating and I’m a good two-way forward.”

The Big Finn had nine goals and 26 points in 40 games for the junior team in Finland last season, and was shut out in seven games for Team Finland at the World Junior U-18 Championships. So he’s got some work to do developing his offensive game and getting both bigger and stronger, but the Bruins see size, strength and the work ethic to improve in Koppanen.

“He’s a big guy, and for a big guy he can really move around. He’s very good defensively and smart with his positioning. He plays hard,” said Bruins head scout Keith Gretzky. “The skill is the one area that needs to develop, and we think it’s going to do that. He was a guy that we targeted because he’s a big guy that can skate, and is good in his own end.”

One thing the Bruins focused on heading into the draft was acquiring some size at the center position, and they’ve clearly done that with 6-foot-2, 200-pound Trent Frederic and the 6-foot-5, 198-pound Koppanen.

It just remains to be seen what kind of offensive upside these gritty, tough competitors will have once they reach the pro ranks a few years from now, and that will go a long way to determining how good these picks end up being.

One thing is for sure: they must be projecting that Koppanen is better than Kemppainen, who was an absolute bust in the offensive zone. 

OFFSEASON

Tanguay: Celtics should steer clear of Al Horford

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Tanguay: Celtics should steer clear of Al Horford

The Celtics reportedly are taking a look at free agent Al Horford.

Ah, why?

Wait. Make that WHY?

If you're going with someone like Jaylen Brown, you don't pursue a Grade B free agent like Horford. Or even think about making a deal for Kevin Love. When the Celtics decided not to deal the third pick for an Okafor, Noel or Butler, and instead went for a player who'll need several years to fully develop, the course for this offseason was set.

Now, if the Celtics wow the daylights out of Kevin Durant and land him, Horford would be a nice addition for a less-than-max deal. But, despite my fanboy optimism in regard to a Durant signing, the chances are slim that KD will land in Boston.

I really liked Al Horford. Notice the use of the past tense. He's 30 years old and will get a max deal from somebody stupid enough to give him one. The guy averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season and went MIA for Games 3, 4 and 5 in the playoffs against Boston. He's on the downside of his career, and I'd rather the Celtics enter next season with the roster they have now than add Horford.

I feel the same way about Love. If your top draft pick has one year of college experience and needs to greatly improve his basketball skills -- hello there, Jaylen Brown -- why bother with Love?

Horford and Love would be pieces to add if Durant comes here. Period. And please don't tell me that adding both, or either, would make the Celtics more attractive to KD. Nope.

I feel the Celtics have made their bed. It's Kevin Durant or nothing at all.

Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

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Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

Tom Brady has never been one to hide his emotions when he's on the field, and it sounds like he's not much different at the ping pong table.

When asked about Brady during an interview on ESPN's NFL Insiders show, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola recalled one story from his first few days at Gillette Stadium back in 2013.

"He's the best teammate," Amendola said. "He's so competitive . . . I remember one story, it was my first week in the building and he wanted to play some ping pong. I didn't know how to go about it. I knew I was better than him, [but] I didn't want to beat him too bad because I wanted him to throw me the ball.

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It's the reason we love him, and the reason why he's the best quarterback."

That first encounter at the ping pong table didn't seem to hinder Amendola's relationship with Brady in the least. In their first game together, Amendola fought a groin injury and still ended up with 10 catches for 104 yards in a win over the Bills. Since then, when healthy -- and particularly since New England's most recent run to a Super Bowl title -- Amendola has established himself as one of Brady's most trusted targets.

Amendola and the rest of the Patriots are facing a start to the regular season without their No. 1 quarterback as Brady awaits a decision from the Second Circuit on whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Should backup Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins in Brady's place, however, Amendola said he'll be confident. 

"He's a great player," Amendola explained. "He's been in the system a couple of years now and he's learned a lot. He's picked up everything that Tom has taught him and then also what coach [Bill] Belichick has to offer him. So we're all excited to see where he goes and see what the future holds for him."