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U.S. Open champ withdraws from British Open

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U.S. Open champ withdraws from British Open

From Comcast SportsNet
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) -- U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson withdrew from the British Open on Friday as he awaits the birth of his second child. It will be the second time in the last five years that the British Open is missing the U.S. Open champion. Tiger Woods did not play in 2008 because of season-ending knee surgery the day after he won the U.S. Open. Simpson has said all along it was doubtful he would travel to Royal Lytham & St. Annes because his wife, Dowd, was expecting their second child. The British Open starts next Thursday. Simpson was not immediately replaced in the field. Two spots were available this weekend, which would bring the field to 156 players. If both were not filled, Ben Crane would get in as the first alternate.

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Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan gives Kirk Cousins a tepid endorsement

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Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan gives Kirk Cousins a tepid endorsement

Former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was on a Denver radio station recently. In case you haven’t heard, many Broncos fans are very anxious for their team to bring in Kirk Cousins to be their quarterback. They likely were looking for McCloughan, who was the GM in Washington for the first two years that Cousins was the starter, to give the QB a ringing endorsement.

They didn’t get one.

“He’s a good player,” McCloughan said on 104.3 The Fan (via Mile High Huddle). “Is he special? I don’t see special.”

For the Broncos, “good” would be an improvement. They got starts from Trevor Simeon, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch last year. All three of them had passer ratings in the low 70’s and as a group, they threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

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But the issue is that Cousins is likely to command a contract that is more in the range of “special” quarterbacks. He may not get the $30 million per year free agent deal that is being talked about, but his next deal won’t be too far south of it.

McCloughan said that they were trying to help Cousins succeed.

“We were still building a roster around him to make him special,” he said.

He said that Cousins is talented, and he works hard but he needs more to make a team successful.

“You just need to have some talent around him because you don’t want him to be throwing the ball 35-40 times to win the game,” McCloughan said. “You want to have a running game and have a good defense, good teams. And then let him do what he does.”

But the question is, can you pay Cousins, say, $27 million per year, a salary that would be about 15 percent of this year’s salary cap, and still be able to afford to build that running game and defense? Will the team signing him be able to bring in free agents to bolster weak areas and re-sign its home-grown talent?

That is what John Elway, who calls the shots in Denver, will have to figure out. Cousins is not the only possible solution to the Broncos’ QB problem. They have the No. 5 pick in the draft and a prime quarterback prospect is likely to be available. That would be a lower-cost option, but even highly-drafted quarterbacks don’t always work out. Elway might prefer the relative certainty of going with a more proven commodity like Cousins.

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Of course, the Redskins face the same dilemma. Their attempts to lock up Cousins really haven’t gone anywhere in part because they seem to be reluctant to pay elite quarterback money to a player who is, according to the man who lobbied for Cousins to get the starting job, good but not special.

The chances are that when free agency starts up in mid-March some team will give him the big deal (assuming the Redskins don’t hit him with the $35 million franchise tag) and gamble that they can make the rest of it work. We will see if it’s the Broncos, Redskins or another team.

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.

 

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Pressure and confidence has taken Brett Connolly from a healthy scratch to potent scorer

Pressure and confidence has taken Brett Connolly from a healthy scratch to potent scorer

Brett Connolly is the Caps’ hottest scorer with three goals in two games, but this past week almost never happened.

With the team finally healthy, Barry Trotz has a tough decision to make every game with 13 forwards and only 12 spots in the lineup. Connolly was going to be scratched for the game on Jan. 11 against Carolina, but Andre Burakovsky came down with an illness before the game and did not play that night or travel with the team to Carolina the next. Connolly did not score on Jan. 11, but he scored a late game-tying goal in Carolina to set up Jay Beagle’s miracle buzzer-beater. In the team’s return from the bye on Thursday, Connolly scored twice including another late, game-tying goal.

This past week really is a perfect encapsulation of how Connolly’s NHL career has gone. A first-round draft pick from the 2010 draft, Connolly is brimming with talent but always seems to be on the end of two extremes. Either he is scoring like one of the Caps’ top offensive players, or he is battling just to earn a jersey every night.

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That pressure seemed to overwhelm Connolly when he first came into the league, but now it is leading him to excel.

“There's just a lot of competition through our lineup which is pushing guys to be better and it's making us a better team,” Connolly said Friday after the team’s morning skate. “We're just looking to keep going here, we're looking to keep pushing each other. We're going to make everybody better, we're going to be a better team because of it.”

Connolly came to Washington in the summer of 2016 as an unrestricted free agent on a one-year deal worth only $850,000. He became a UFA after the Boston Bruins elected not to give him a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. For a player to go from a sixth overall draft pick to fighting to playing on a one-year deal just to keep his career alive was quite the fall, but Connolly responded with 15 goals and eight assists to earn himself a new two-year contract with Washington.

“When you're drafted in this league there's a lot of expectations,” Connolly said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit longer for other guys just to find that fit on a team. It all comes within yourself, I think. You're the only person that kind of knows how much you can bring to the table every night and how much potential you have. It comes from within.”

The way Connolly responded again this season after a near scratch cannot be lost on the coaches.

But if it was desperation that was fueling him before, now it’s confidence.

“It's all about feel, getting your touches and playing with confidence,” Connolly said. “I think when you go through these stretches, I've been through these stretches before, just try to get open. It just feels like whenever you're shooting it, it doesn't matter how good of a shot you get off sometimes, it just finds a way in.”

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It’s not hard to see why he may be feeling so confident. In addition to scoring three goals in the past two games, Connolly also has 12 goals on the season. That puts him at third on the team behind only Alex Ovechkin (28) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (13).

“I feel like I’m finally kind of figuring out the game and figuring out the way I need to play,” said Connolly.

Whether he has truly turned the corner on his career or if this is just another high in a career full of extreme highs and lows remains to be seen. But so long as he keeps feeling the pressure and confidence that has fueled him thus far, he should certainly remain among the Caps' top scorers for the season.