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Golf Capsules

Golf Capsules

COOLUM, Australia (AP) Australia's Daniel Popovic shot an 8-under 64 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian PGA on Thursday, then revealed that his father is battling incurable cancer.

Popovic said his father, Radi, who gave him his start in the game, is battling a form of bone cancer.

Popovic, on his first year on the Australasian PGA Tour, birdied his first four holes at the Palmer Coolum Resort, and later had a string of five straight birdies.

Australia's Scott Strange opened with a 66, and 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia and OneAsia Tour regulars Zhang Xinjun of China and Choo Tze-huang of Singapore shot 67s.

Peter Senior, the Australian Open winner last week at age 53, had a 68.

Greg Norman pulled out after two holes - both bogeys - because of food poisoning.

ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP

MALELANE, South Africa (AP) - France's Gregory Bourdy shot a 6-under 66 at Leopard Creek to take the first-round lead in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

South African star Schwartzel, coming off an 11-stroke victory Sunday in Thailand, was a stroke back along with countrymen Louis de Jager, Oliver Bekker and Darren Fichardt and Englishmen Steve Webster and Richard Bland. South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen had a 73.

The tournament is sanctioned by the European and Sunshine tours.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Now is the time to be patient with the 3rd line

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Now is the time to be patient with the 3rd line

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Lisa McKay writes: Would you like to see the 4th line of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathway get a bit more ice time at even strength and the 3rd line of Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik get a bit less? I know the 3rd line has not had a lot of time to gel, and both lines have had players in and out. But the 4th line's been playing great while the 3rd line hasn't yet shone.

There's no doubt that the fourth line has been playing great, but I would rather have a great fourth line than promote it just so they could become a mediocre third line especially if it comes at the expense of playing time for Hagelin, Eller and Panik.

I don't think people realize just how little time the third line has had to play together this season. Monday's game was the first time we saw that trio together in a very long time.  Heading into that game, the Caps had played in 31 games this season. You know how much time those three players had played together at 5-on-5 through those 31 games? Just 23:13. That's crazy.

Washington has the most points of any team in the league. What's the harm in giving that third line time to gel at this point? Meanwhile, you can keep letting the fourth line be great.

Alex G. writes: Do you think Evander Kane should have been suspended for the hit on Radko Gudas in Tuesday night's game? I don't think the $5000 fine is really sufficient, considering what the league has suspended other players for.

I would have given him a game. I wouldn't have thrown the book at him, but I don't buy his explanation.

To be fair, it wasn't an elbow to the head or the butt-end, just a glove to the head.

Kane's explanation was that Gudas had taken a run at him earlier and he thought he was doing it again, so he put his hand up to protect himself and caught Gudas in the head because Gudas was coming in low. My problem with that explanation is that, if you watch the replay from behind both players, Kane has his head up and is watching the entire play. He sees Gudas coming and gives him what is, in my opinion, a deliberate shot to the head. It was not as if he saw him at the last second and threw his hand up and it just so happened to catch him in the head like he seems to claim. He knew Gudas was coming in low and I think he knew where he was aiming.

Michael Fleetwood writes: John Carlson has put himself squarely in the Norris Trophy conversation this season playing well overall and I was thinking about how he compares to Mike Green. Why did Green finish high in Norris voting in the years he was runner-up with a stronger offensive game to his defense, but Carlson hasn't come as close the last few seasons and is arguably better defensively?

Because of the complicated way we judge defensemen.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, the Norris Trophy Award is voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers' Association, of which I am a member. I had a vote last year and voted Carlson second.

Racking up the points seems to be more and more important for Norris Trophy consideration, but being an offensive defenseman who is a liability is a problem. How can you consider someone as the top defenseman if they aren't very good at defense?  You can't unless they do something so special it can't be ignored. Scoring 30 goals definitely qualifies.

Green scored 31 goals in the 2008-09 season. He was the first defenseman to crack the 30-goal mark since Kevin Hatcher did it in the 1992-93 season. No one has done it since. That was the first of two straight seasons Green was named the Norris runner-up. Scoring 30 goals was/is such an amazing accomplishment for a defenseman that Green received a lot of Norris votes as a result.

In my opinion, people cling to this belief that Carlson is nothing more than an offensive defenseman who is a liability in his own zone, which is just not the case. He was very good last year, but did not lead defensemen in either goals or points. There was no way he was going to gain much traction in the Norris race with voters who have a perception of him as an offensive defenseman when he wasn't even the top offensive defenseman last season.

This year I think he will finally get the recognition he deserves and ironically it is because of the incredible offensive run he is on. Hopefully, those numbers will make more analysts evaluate Carlson on both ends of the ice and realize that he is a great two-way defenseman and so much more than just Alex Ovechkin's power play set-up man.

David Dusseau writes: How much of John Carlson's recent success is due to changes that the Caps have made in how they are using their defensemen for offense?

I think that certainly is a big part of it. Todd Reirden implemented a new system this season in which the defense is expected to jump into the play when it is open in the offensive zone. This new system benefits Carlson more than anyone as he has the top offensive ceiling of all of the team's blue liners.

This is not the only reason for Carlson's success this season. His passes look more accurate and he has added a touch of deception to his game as he is able to look off defenders to help open passing and shooting lanes which he takes advantage of. He seems to be more confident with his shots as well. But I do think the new system has certainly had an effect.

Joseph Signorelli writes: Will the Caps have enough money to keep John Carlson if he keeps up this level of play all year?

I’ve got good news for you. The Caps absolutely will have enough money to keep Carlson because he is already signed through the 2025-26 season. That $8 million cap hit isn't going to change.

David Pittman writes: Is there a chance the Caps trade Holtby because of his age and the high cost he costs?

There is no chance the Caps trade Holtby this season. None. Zero. Washington's goal is to win the Stanley Cup and they right now hold the most points in the league. They are not going to turn around and trade away their top goalie just to avoid losing him for nothing.

Holtby is tied for the league-lead in wins and since Nov. 1 has a .925 save percentage and 2.34 GAA. I don't know how you trade a goalie like that and convince the team you're all in for a Cup run this year.

And, by the way, even if Ilya Samsonov is lights out and supplants Holtby as the starter at some point this season, Brian MacLellan still isn't going to trade Holtby because he saw the exact same thing happen in 2018. What happened when Philipp Grubauer entered the playoffs as the team's starter? Holtby retook the starting job after two games and led the team to the Cup. This roster is better with Holtby on it.

Will the Caps be able to re-sign Holtby in the offseason? I doubt it. Does it stink to lose a starting goalie for nothing? Yep, sure does. But the team is trying to make another run at the Cup and is not going to jeopardize that by trading away its starting goalie.

Michael Fleetwood: Does the Capitals' hot start put Todd Reirden into a still too-early Jack Adams discussion?

Reirden has done a fine job with this team through the first 32 games, but I seriously doubt that anyone has given much thought to him for the Jack Adams. 

Barry Trotz is turning what looks like a weak roster on paper into contenders on Long Island, Ralph Krueger has the Buffalo Sabres in playoff contention as does Joel Quenneville with the Panthers in Florida despite getting no goaltending, Mike Sullivan may get Pittsburgh into the playoffs despite its entire team being injured, Paul Maurice is doing the best coaching job of his career by keeping Winnipeg in playoff contention considering all the issues plaguing that team, Dave Tippett has an Edmonton Oilers team left for dead as one of the top teams in the conference and Arizona may actually make the playoffs this year with Rick Tocchet.

I have a hard time believing enough voters will vote for Reirden over those guys.

Mark Miller writes: How long does it take to change Capital One Arena from basketball setup to hockey?

A few hours. Fast enough that Georgetown can play a basketball game at 12 p.m. and the Caps can play at 7 p.m. on the same day. The next time this will happen is on Dec. 21. Media for the Georgetown game will still be in the media room writing when the Caps media start to arrive.

Yet somehow, the arena is ready for a hockey game that night and that includes the pregame warmups. It's incredible.

Lisa McKay writes: Could you find out if indeed the Capitals play more OT games than any other team in the NHL, or if it just feels that way? Say, in the regular season in the past 3 years?

Washington has played 12 games this season that have required overtime. That is indeed the most in the NHL. Going back to the 2017-18 season, the Caps have gone to overtime 47 times. That is not the most, but rather is tied for the eighth-most. Philadelphia actually has the most with 52.

Micah Reed writes: With all the OT the Caps have played and the current state of player tracking technology in both practice and games, do you think the coaching and training staff has any sort of "pitch count" type of thing tracking players overall ice time? Not that they will scratch guys or anything. But maybe practices change or guys miss some shifts in a blowout game.

Interesting thought, but I doubt it. I think coaches are always cognizant of how much playing time their star players are getting and are always looking to cut back when they can. They don't need added technology for that. Could this one day be how it is used? Perhaps. If the added technology does show there is reason to be concerned about overworking players, I think we will see morning skates go away long before we see coaches do anything approaching the "load management" we see in the NBA.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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DeAngelo Hall wants to rejoin the Redskins, but this time, in the front office

DeAngelo Hall wants to rejoin the Redskins, but this time, in the front office

Plenty of signs point to the Redskins making significant changes in the front office and coaching staff this offseason and former Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall wants to help rebuild the organization. 

"I've always wanted to be a part of this front office and help make the Redskins a dominant team again," Hall said via text message to NBC Sports Washington. 

Hall's comments come amid speculation that Redskins' team president Bruce Allen could be on his way out. Allen has run the Redskins for a decade, and in that time the team has no playoff wins and a record of nearly 30 games under .500. 

Since his playing career ended in 2017, Hall has kept plenty busy working with NFL Network (and for one season at NBC Sports Washington). He was also connected to potential coaching jobs with the Redskins and at the University of Maryland. As a player, Hall lined up at cornerback and safety for the Redskins during 10 seasons in the Burgundy and Gold. He made 23 career interceptions in Washington and made the Pro Bowl in 2010. Injuries marred his last four seasons as a Redskins, but from 2009 to 2013 Hall was a serious playmaker.

As an analyst Hall seems highly capable of breaking down defenses as well as grading personnel. And while he doesn't have personnel experience, multiple young players in the Redskins organization credited Hall for helping their careers develop, including Bashaud Breeland and Quinton Dunbar. Hall made such an impact on Dunbar that he changed his number to 23 after Hall retired. 

Hall made clear he's not trying to replace Allen and that he could work with the current team president should he stay in position. Hall also doesn't expect to be named general manager; he just wants a role that can help the organization.

One big spot Hall could help? The Trent Williams' situation.

It might be impossible to fix the relationship between Williams and the Redskins, but if anybody could, Hall would be the guy. Throughout Williams' contract holdout this fall, Hall had the best pulse of the situation. In fact, for a while, it seemed like Hall was the only person with ties to ties to the Redskins organization speaking with Williams. 

Now, obviously Williams won't come back to Washington as long as Allen is in charge. His recent comments have made that abundantly clear. Should Allen get fired, however, Williams does have one year remaining on his contract in Washington. Maybe Hall, in a front-office role, could convince Williams to come back to Ashburn and rescind his trade demand. Stranger things have happened. 

The Redskins have a number of young players in the secondary with Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Jimmy Moreland leading the way. Hall in the building every day could help those players. 

Hall played for 14 seasons in the NFL, many of them at a high level. He's open about some of his missteps from when he was a young player and has a natural charisma that is hard to replicate. Ask Breeland or Dunbar how Hall helped their career. Ask Williams what Hall means to him on a personal level. 

For a team that has burned many bridges with players, current and former, a guy like Hall could be a big asset. 

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