Nationals

Duval willing to go back to minors

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Duval willing to go back to minors

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) David Duval spent his first full season of professional golf in the minor leagues, finishing No. 8 on what was then the Nike Tour money list to earn his PGA Tour card. Nearly 20 years later, after a career in which he has won a major, a PGA Tour money title and was No. 1 in the world, Duval is willing to go back.

Duval still doesn't know where he will start his 2013 season, but he figures it will be a year like no other. Duval's only status is as a past champion. His only mission is to start his season next year in Hawaii, whether that's the Tournament of Champions or the Sony Open with full status.

``My wife is excited, I'm excited,'' Duval said over the weekend. ``It's going to be a different year with me the way things have changed for exemptions. I've made it clear that this year is about getting healthy and getting status.''

Duval has endured a number of injuries, the latest a broken toe that kept him from going back to Q-school. He did not return until the Father-Son Challenge last month.

Most tournaments have had their unrestricted sponsor exemptions cut in half to two because the tour is trying to create space for players in a short season.

Duval was disappointed to learn Monday he had been turned down for an exemption to the Humana Challenge, where he delivered one of the most famous moments in tournament history when he shot 59 on the final day to win what was then the Bob Hope Classic. He remains hopeful to get an exemption for Torrey Pines, though he is not standing on the street corner holding out his hat.

His plan is to play - anywhere.

``If I have to go play somewhere, I'll go to the Web.com Tour, too,'' Duval said. ``I'd like to get in that four-week series at the end of the year.''

There are two ways to get into the ``Finals'' to earn back his card - finish from No. 126 to No. 200 in the FedEx Cup points, or be in the top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list. Then, it's a money list built on four $1 million purses with 25 cards available.

``You don't want to count on charity from other people to play,'' Duval said, referring to PGA Tour exemptions. ``You have to a little, but I'm going to play where I need to play to be in Hawaii next year.''

Meanwhile, Duval is returning to Nike, but he left vague specifics of any deal. He was the first player to win a major using Nike Golf clubs in 2001 at the British Open. ``I will be playing all Nike this year. New covert driver, ball, wedges, etc.'' he said on Twitter.

``I'm going to be with them again,'' Duval said when asked about a deal. ``I haven't signed anything. We've agreed to move forward, is the best way to put it.''

Duval then headed out to practice at home in Denver. He said he has been working all winter, even if that means hitting balls in his garage when it's cold. He even jokingly inquired about the three-sided trailer Steve Stricker uses in Wisconsin.

``It's up to me to be ready to play,'' he said.

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WORKING VACATION: Most players head to Augusta National in the weeks before the Masters. Brandt Snedeker is planning ahead. He's going to Merion.

Snedeker said he has a friend who is a member at Merion and has been trying to line up a golf trip for some time, so this seemed like a good year with Merion hosting the U.S. Open for the first time since 1981.

``I've just got a trip with some guys, going up there and play, just a way to get up and see the golf course so I'm not shocked when I get to the U.S. Open,'' Snedeker said. ``Merion is not a bomber's paradise. I think they are set up for guys like me who dink it around and keep it in play and don't do anything stupid.''

The plan is to go at the end of March, but it's possible Snedeker might wait until after the Masters. He'll also get in a round at Pine Valley while in the neighborhood.

``We set it up as a way to go up there and have some fun, and also a way for me to get some work done,'' he said. ``So it worked out great. It's a rough trip, but somebody has got to do it.''

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PLAYERS AND THEIR PUTTERS: Steve Stricker tried a new putter at the World Challenge last month and said he liked it. But when he arrived at Kapalua, he had the same Odyssey putter he's been using for years. Even the metal tape on the bottom looks old.

The same can't be said of so many other players, some of whom switch putters once a month. Hunter Mahan might not fit into that category, but his story from last year shows how long of a shelf life a winning putter gets.

He switched to a different putter at the Accenture Match Play Championship, beating Rory McIlroy in the final match. And that putter stayed in the bag the rest of the year, right?

``No,'' Mahan said. ``I went to a shorter putter for Houston ... and then won in Houston. So it's kind of funny. I switched putters twice last year - before Match Play and won, and then switched putters before Houston and won.''

The lesson here?

``I guess it's not the putter,'' he said. ``I guess that's what that tells you.''

Maybe he should consider changing putters every week, particularly at the majors.

``Believe me,'' Mahan said, ``that's crossed my mind.''

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GWAA AWARDS: Former USGA executive director David Fay has been selected to receive the William D. Richardson Award from the Golf Writers Association of America, which goes to individuals who have consistently made contributions to golf.

Fay spent 32 years at the USGA, the last 21 as the executive director. He is one of the foremost authorities on the Rules of Golf and was in the broadcast booth during the U.S. Open with his wit and bow tie. Fay also was a proponent of making golf more accessible to the public. He was behind the U.S. Open going to public courses (Bethpage Black, Torrey Pines), and years ago he resigned his membership at all-male Pine Valley when the single-gender courses became a flashpoint for criticism.

The GWAA also voted LPGA star Laura Davies of England for its Jim Murray Award, given to tour players for their relationship and cooperation with the media.

The Ben Hogan Award, given to those who remain active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness, went to blind golfer David Meador, who is a three-time National Blind Golf Championship winner. Meador was a freshman at Southern Illinois in 1966 when he lost his eyesight. He is the third blind golfer to win the Hogan Award.

They will join the GWAA players of the year - Rory McIlroy, Stacy Lewis and Roger Chapman - in being honored at the GWAA Awards Dinner April 10 in Augusta, Ga.

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DIVOTS: International Sports Management is backing a new tournament for The Big Easy Tour, a feeder program for the Sunshine Tour in South Africa. Chubby Chandler is the head of ISM, whose stable includes South African stars like Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace ... The Tournament of Champions had eight of the top 20 players in the world ranking. But only two of those players - Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley - signed up for the Sony Open next week in Honolulu. ... Jimmy Roberts, a 13-time Emmy winner with NBC Sports, is starting a monthly series of stories to be called, ``In Play With Jimmy Roberts.''

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STAT OF THE WEEK: The previous three winners of the season-opening Tournament of Champions - Steve Stricker, Jonathan Byrd and Geoff Ogilvy - did not win another PGA Tour event the rest of the year.

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FINAL WORD: ``Johnny Miller might think I've well overachieved. But in my eyes I've underachieved. I don't think I've done enough.'' - Ian Poulter.

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

MORE NATS COVERAGE: 

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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