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Golf Capsules

Golf Capsules

SHENZHEN, China (AP) Ian Poulter won the HSBC Champions on Sunday for his first victory of the season, overcoming a four-stroke deficit with a 7-under 65.

The English Ryder Cup star finished at 21-under 267 on Mission Hills' Olazabal Course for a two-stroke victory. The victory was his second in World Golf Championship play, following the 2010 Accenture Match Play Championship.

``I've only been one season without a victory and I certainly didn't want to go another one,'' the 36-year-old said. ``As well as I've played this year, it would have been a disappointment personally to have gone that year without winning.''

Phil Mickelson (68), Jason Dufner (64), Scott Piercy (65) and Ernie Els (67) tied for second. Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen, tied for the third-round lead, shot 72 to drop into a tie for sixth at 18 under.

CHARLES SCHWAB CUP CHAMPIONSHIP

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Tom Lehman won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship to become the first Champions Tour player to win the season points title two straight years.

After shooting 68-63-62 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round, Lehman birdied four of the last five holes for a 5-under 65 and a six-stroke victory.

Lehman finished at 22-under 258 on Desert Mountain's par-70 Cochise Course to break the Champions Tour record for the lowest numerical score in a 72-hole event. Jack Nicklaus set the previous record of 261 at par-72 Dearborn Country Club in Michigan in the 1990 Mazda Senior TPC. Lehman also tied the tournament record for relation to par set by John Cook in 2009 at the par-72 Sonoma Golf Club in California.

Lehman received a $1 million annuity in the Charles Schwab Cup points competition and earned $440,000 for the tournament victory.

Jay Haas shot a 69 to finish second.

MIZUNO CLASSIC

SHIMA, Japan (AP) - Stacy Lewis rallied to win the Mizuno Classic for her LPGA Tour-leading fourth title of the year, birdieing the final three holes for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke victory.

The Texan, seven strokes behind South Korea's Lee Bo-mee entering the round, had 10 birdies and two bogeys to finish at 11-under 205 at Kintetsu Kashikojima.

Trying to become the first American to win the player of the year award since Beth Daniel in 1994, Lewis moved 58 points ahead of South Korea's Inbee Park in the player of the year standings with two events left. Each victory is worth 30 points.

Lewis made a 25-foot birdie putt on 16, then moved into a tie for the lead with a 12-footer on the 17th. She took sole possession of the lead with another 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole, then claimed the $180,000 winner's prize when Lee's long birdie putt on 18 went long. Lee shot a 72 to finish second.

Lewis also won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in April, the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June and the Navistar LPGA Classic in September. She has five career victories, winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year.

ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR

BANGKOK (AP) - Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Championship, making the 14-year-old Chinese star the youngest player to qualify for the Masters.

Guan closed with a 1-under 71 at Amata Spring Country Club, needing a par on the 18th hole to beat Taiwan's Pan Cheng-tsung. Guan, an eighth-grader who weighs 125 pounds, couldn't reach the par 4 in two shots. He chipped to 5 feet and made the putt.

Guan will be the youngest player at Augusta National in April. He easily surpasses the mark set by Italy's Matteo Manassero, who was about to turn 17 when he played in 2010. It's the second straight year a 14-year-old from China will play in a major. Andy Zhang qualified for the U.S. Open last summer.

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do. 

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.