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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has re-signed forward Chris STewart to a two-year contract.
“We’re excited to have Chris signed for the next two seasons,” said Armstrong. “He led our team in scoring last season and is entering the prime of his career. We are expecting big things from him as he continues to grow with our club.”
Stewart, 25, dressed in all 48 games this season leading the Blues with 36 points, 18 goals and six power play goals while tying for the team lead with three game-winning goals and tying for fourth with 18 assists. In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stewart posted one assist and tied for second on the club with 17 shots in six appearances.
Stewart appeared in his first game with the Blues on Feb. 19, 2010 vs. Anaheim and became just the 5th player in franchise history to score two goals in his debut. In addition, he posted six goals in his first five games with the Blues marking the best start to a career in franchise history. Since entering the National Hockey League (NHL) in 2008, Stewart is one of 12 players with at least 200 points and 300 penalty minutes.
Overall, the 6’2, 231-pound forward has appeared in five NHL seasons accumulating 202 points including 100 goals and 102 assists to go along with 329 penalty minutes in 319 career regular season games while tallying six points (five goals, one assist) in 19 career postseason games.
The Toronto, Ontario native was originally acquired by the Blues along with Kevin Shattenkirk from Colorado on Feb. 19, 2011. He was drafted by Colorado in the first round, 18th overall, of the 2006 Entry Draft.
The major championships are usually grinds, but for anyone playing in the afternoon Thursday the first round of the British Open proved more of a test than ever. The wind was blowing harder than expected, the golf course was drying up by the minute, and anything around par was a score to be respected.
And there was Woods, feeling awfully good about a 2-under 69 that had to give him hope his five-year drought in the major championships might come to an end this week on a golf course playing like it is in the middle of a drought.
"It was tough," Woods said. "The golf course progressively got more dried out and more difficult as we played. I'm very pleased to shoot anything even par or better."
A day that began with a near catastrophe off the first tee ended with a six-footer that found the center of the cup on the 18th green. Hardly surprising since Woods had 10 one-putts as he scrambled his way around the links course for one of the better scores of the afternoon.
He was three shots off the lead set by Zach Johnson, who was part of a morning surge of players who took advantage of easier conditions to set the pace. More importantly, perhaps, Woods has a morning tee time of his own Friday on a course that at least for the first day was set up to favor the early players.
"The guys that played early had a huge, huge break," Phil Mickelson said after shooting a 69 himself in the morning. "Because even without any wind, it's beyond difficult."
That Woods managed to break 70 in the afternoon was impressive enough. That he did it after nearly snap hooking a 3-wood out of bounds on his opening tee shot and having to take an unplayable when the ball nestled in a deep clump of unruly grass was doubly so.
"When I got over that tee shot I was (thinking), if I hammer it, this 3-wood is in that bunker," Woods said. "So maybe I should take something off it. Maybe I should hit 5-wood. Hence I hit a flip hook left and there she goes."
Woods somehow managed to make a bogey five on the first hole even with a penalty shot by hitting his third into a greenside bunker and getting up-and-down. It set the pattern for a day of one-putts that not only prevented the round from getting away from him, but put him in prime position going into the second round.
"We're supposed to get a different wind tomorrow," Woods said. "It will be interesting to see what the course setup is."
Just how tough was Muirfield in the afternoon? So tough that the threesome Woods was playing in became a twosome when former champion Louis Oosthuizen withdrew on the ninth hole with an apparent injury after going 4-over-par through eight holes.
So tough that his other playing partner, Graeme McDowell made two double bogeys and shot a 75 despite feeling he played well.
So tough that Woods was 1-over at the turn before one-putting the next four holes to spark a 3-under 32 on the back nine.
"Tiger played phenomenally well for his 2-under par," McDowell said. "Really ground it out well, did what he did best."
Playing well early in majors hasn't been the issue for Woods in recent times, though. Closing it out on the weekend has been, the main reason why he's still stuck at 14 major championships and hasn't won one since beating Rocco Mediate on one leg in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Last year he opened the British with a pair of 67s only to fade to a tie for third place behind Ernie Els. This year he was in the mix at the U.S. Open before shooting 76-74 on the weekend.
He came here well rested and healed up from a strained elbow that was acting up at the U.S. Open, his last competitive event. He also came with the knowledge gained from years of playing links style golf on this side of the pond, including his two wins at St. Andrews and his other win at Hoylake near Liverpool.
"They're so different, so different," Woods said. "I mean, this is almost - it's about as fast as Hoylake was. But there's knee-high rough here. And plus this golf course changes directions a lot. This is a totally different setup."
Not so different, though, that Woods doesn't like his chances of winning a fourth claret jug.
Not that it was bothering Lee Westwood.
The 40-year-old Englishman surged up the leaderboard at the British Open on Friday, putting up a blistering 5-under 31 on the front side to climb within one shot of first-round leader Zach Johnson.
Westwood, who opened with a 1-over 72, started the second round with two straight birdies to get into the red numbers. He also birdied the eighth, and took advantage of both par-5s to push his overall score to 4 under.
The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.
Tiger Woods was trying to break a drought of his own. The most recent of his 14 major titles came at the 2008 U.S. Open, but he's 0-for-20 since then. Despite taking a bogey at the fourth, where he lipped out a 2 1/2-foot putt, he approached the turn still even on the day, 2 under for the tournament and solidly in the hunt to get his name on the claret jug for the fourth time.
The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, the fearsome wind not much more than a gentle breeze, and it was expected to stay that way through the weekend. Even so, there weren't many chances for going low, not on a course that is more brown than green, with pin conditions that some players complained were downright unfair.
Even though he opened with a 2-under 69, Phil Mickelson was concerned about some hole locations being too close to the edge of slopes. He pleaded with the Royal & Ancient to let go of its ego and "just set the course up the way the best players can win."
Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Open champion, countered that he's played in much tougher conditions, perhaps emboldened by a surprising 67 that left him just one stroke behind Johnson. But the course bit back on Friday, sending the 56-year-old tumbling out of contention. He lost his ball at No. 6, leading to a double-bogey, and staggered to the finish with a 78.
Jordan Spieth also felt Muirfield's bite. The 19-year-old, who last weekend became the PGA Tour's youngest winner since 1931, made only two bogeys through his first 32 holes and was 3 under. Then, a double-bogey at the 15th, followed by a bogey at No. 16.
Just like that, the youngster was back to even par.
Then there was Darren Clarke, the surprise Open champion in 2011 but mostly an afterthought since then. The Northern Irishman made four birdies on the front side. Unfortunately for him, all that good work was wiped out by one bad hole - a quadruple-bogey 8 at the sixth.
Johnson, who had an afternoon tee time, had not been atop the leaderboard at any major since he rallied to win the Masters six years ago. He took advantage of kinder conditions Thursday morning to shoot a 66, helped along by a 45-foot eagle putt. He made only one bogey despite trouble lurking around every pot bunker.
"Anytime you shoot under par in an Open - or a major, for that matter - you have to be putting at least somewhat decent," said Johnson, who lost to Spieth in a playoff at the John Deere Classic after making bogey on the 72nd hole. "And I putted great. I made some nice birdie putts and obviously that one for eagle. But I struck some really nice, solid par putts. That's what you've got to do to stay in it."
It was an eclectic group setting the early pace, from major champions to players making their British Open debut. What they all had in common was finding a way to get through a firm, fast and frightening setup that figures to get even harder if the R&A doesn't put some water on the course.
"I haven't seen anything like this," said Brandt Snedeker, among those who opened with a 68. "This is completely new to me - foreign to see a 2-iron going 300 yards. You have got to be wary of how you're shaping your golf ball, and what shot selections you're using on the greens."
Snedeker could find things even tougher on Friday, when he was set to tee off in the afternoon. Rafael Cabrera-Bello (67), Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Dustin Johnson (68) also had later start times.
As for Rory McIlroy, it doesn't seem to matter when he plays. He struggled to a 79 in the opening round, his highest score at the Open since that 80 in the vicious wind of St. Andrews in 2010. The former world No. 1 has been in a baffling slump since his runaway victory at last year's PGA Championship, and it looked as though he'll be spending another weekend at home.
At least he had some company.
Luke Donald, another former No. 1 player in the world, shot 80. Faldo celebrated his 56th birthday with a 79 on the links where he won two of his three claret jugs.
Ninety-eight players in the 156-man field had at least a double-bogey on their scorecards after Day 1. Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover might have summed it up best when he took to Twitter after opening with an 80.
"Muirfield 1, Me 0." ---