Na Yeon Choi captures season-ending Titleholders


Na Yeon Choi captures season-ending Titleholders

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) Moments after Na Yeon Choi tapped in for par to complete her two-shot win at the Titleholders, Inbee Park ran onto the 18th green at The TwinEagles Club and showered her with champagne.

Both South Koreans had reason to celebrate Sunday.

Choi captured the final event of the LPGA Tour season by atoning for a double bogey with an eagle on the front nine, and then playing it smart off the tee on the short 16th hole and hitting a superb sand wedge in which she had hardly any room for error. She closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over So Yeon Ryu.

Park was never in serious contention, though she needed a solid outing in the final round to lock up the LPGA Tour money title and capture the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average of the season.

That led to a debate of which Choi wanted no part. Who's the best South Korean in women's golf?

``Except me?'' Choi said.

She laughed in a rare moment of bravado.

``I think it seems that Inbee is playing really well this year. I think she has a lot of confidence from this year and I think she can play really well next year, too,'' Choi said.

The LPGA Tour closed up shop for the year with plenty up for grabs.

Stacy Lewis won four times and was the first American to win player of the year since Beth Daniel in 1994. Park won the Vare Trophy and the money title, the only woman to surpass $2 million in earnings this year. Right behind her was Choi, the 25-year-old who plays with such control. She won twice this year, but they were big ones - $585,000 from the U.S. Women's Open and $500,000 from the Titleholders, the two biggest prizes in women's golf.

The rookie of the year was Ryu, who doesn't seem like a rookie and certainly doesn't play like one. Ryu won the U.S. Women's Open last year before she was an LPGA member. She gave Choi all she could handle until Ryu three-putted for bogey on the 14th hole, and had to scramble for par on the 16th when Choi pulled ahead.

And don't forget Yani Tseng, who remains No. 1 in the women's world ranking.

The LPGA Tour now takes three months off, and the lasting image will be Choi's solid play that turned a great season into her best one yet. She won her first major in the summer at Blackwolf Run and then closed out the year with another big win at the Titleholders, giving her just under $2 million in earnings.

``I feel really great, and I'm really satisfied how I played - not just this week, but this season,'' Choi said.

It was the first time Choi's mother watched her win outside South Korea, and Choi kept it suspenseful with a double bogey on the third hole that created a four-way tie atop the leaderboard with so much golf left to play. Two holes later, Choi drilled a 3-wood from 240 yards and bounced onto the green and settled 10 feet away for eagle.

Choi and Ryu pulled away from the field, and it felt like high noon over Seoul the rest of the way.

``I was very nervous last night,'' Choi said. ``I told people that leading the tournament, there's always extra pressure. Even on front nine, when I had the double bogey and tie for first place, I felt more comfortable than leading. Maybe that sounds a little weird. I like chasing somebody, and then I can play more aggressive.''

Choi and Ryu each made birdie on the par-3 12th that enabled Choi to keep a one-shot lead. Ryu then hit 3-wood into about 25 feet for a two-putt birdie on the 13th to tie for the lead. But on the next hole, she didn't account for the wind making her 30-foot birdie putt faster than it looked. The putt went some 6 feet by the hole, and a three-putt bogey cost her a share of the lead. She never caught up the rest of the way.

``I learn one more thing,'' Ryu said. ``I have to think about the wind strength at the green.''

Choi took it from there, and seized control on the 16th, which can be reached off the tee with a big drive. Her caddie, Jason Hamilton, didn't think it was worth the risk. Anything short leaves an awkward pitch, which is what Ryu ended up facing. Anything too close to the green and to the left leaves a blind pitch to the back of the three-tiered green, and par becomes a good score.

Choi hit 3-wood to the left side of the fairway and a 52-wedge to a tiny spot on an elevated green she couldn't see.

``Left side of the fairway is a better angle to the second shot,'' Choi said. ``I think the pin was at 79 yards, but I just landed it almost at the pin. I tried to land it almost to the pin. There's not a lot of room.''

It checked up and trickled to 3 feet, and she was on her way.

Brittany Lincicome also closed with a 70 at The TwinEagles Club for finish alone in third. Karrie Webb had a 69 to finish another shot behind.

``I'm really happy with how I played this season,'' Choi said. ``I won my first major and even this tournament is very big for me. I think I can have even bigger expectations now and think I deserve it.''

She is becoming known as ``Big Apple'' because of her initials - NYC - and she sure knows how to pick the right tournaments to win. Her wins at the U.S. Women's Open and the Titleholders provided about 55 percent of her season earnings. This win couldn't have come at a better time.

Her mother came over to help her buy a new house in Orlando on Monday.

``I talked to my mom last night and said if I win this week we can buy a bigger house,'' Choi said.

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These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

In Brandon Scherff, the Redskins have a 27-year-old guard who has delivered on his first-round status, a lineman who has become one of the best in the league at his position and should have many more years of production and defender-mauling left.

Therefore, it's in the Redskins' best interest to extend Scherff this offseason, and the veteran confirmed on Monday there have been talks about getting that done

But during a discussion on the Redskins Talk podcast, J.I. Halsell, a salary cap expert and former agent, laid out something that could force those negotiations to stall.

"There are some things you have to take into consideration because 2020 is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement, so there are some things you have to work around when structuring the deal," Halsell said.

Not only is that deadline approaching, but another one is, too. In 2021 and 2022, the NFL's TV deals with Monday Night Football, FOX, CBS and NBC expire as well.

So, there's a very real possibility the league's salary cap could look much, much different in a few seasons. And that, according to Halsell, may make Scherff much less willing to accept an extension now.

"If you're Brandon Scherff, in 2021, with a new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap might be $250 million or something crazy like that, with all the new revenue coming into the league," he explained. "And so why would I take a deal today and preclude myself of taking advantage of a very lucrative and larger revenue pie?"

Essentially, it comes down to whether Scherff wants to take a present risk that could pay off down the line (kind of like how Kirk Cousins did a few years back with the Burgundy and Gold). He could probably lock something in over the next few months — Halsell's projection was an agreement for five years, including $45 million guaranteed and a $14.5 million average per year — or step away from talks now and try to cash in later.

Haslell told Redskins Talk he'd probably advise the lineman to take the second route.

"You would say, 'Look, you're a former first-round pick. You've made a decent amount of money in your career thus far,'" he said. "You have the financial wherewithal to not take the bird in hand today that may not be as lucrative as what is out there in 2021. So, bet on yourself and play out the last year of your rookie deal, force them to tag you in 2020 and then see what this new NFL salary cap world looks like in 2021."

Now, who knows truly how much these factors will play into Scherff's back-and-forth with the 'Skins. Nevertheless, you can see why the Pro Bowler's next contract may not be as much of a no-brainer as previously thought.

"If the kid is willing to bet on himself," Haslell said, "then it could be very lucrative on the back end."


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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

School: Virginia Tech
Position: Guard
Age: 20 (turns 21 in September)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 204
Wingspan: 6-10
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 16.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.4 FG% (5.6/11.8), 37.4 3PT% (1.7/4.6), 77.8 FT%

Player comparison: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Tomas Satoransky

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, 14th, Bleacher Report 18th, Sports Illustrated 20th, Ringer 16th

5 things to know:

*Walker-Alexander is a big guard known for his offensive skillset. He can handle the ball, pass and score in a variety of ways. He can play both point guard and shooting guard and affect games with his passing at either spot. 

*He was an excellent three-point shooter in college. As a freshman, he shot 39.2 percent from long range on 4.5 attempts per game. His percentage dipped as a sophomore to 37.4 percent, but that was still impressive given he attempted 4.6 shots per game. 

*Walker-Alexander has a plus wingspan, which he uses to his advantage on defense. He averaged 1.9 steals per game this past season in Blacksburg and his highlight reels are flooded with open court dunks off turnovers. He appears to have strong instincts as a perimeter defender, but could struggle initially at the NBA level against quicker and stronger guards.

*Though he has great size and length for a guard, Walker-Alexander is not considered a premier athlete for the position. He does not have elite quickness or the ability to play consistently above the rim. Because of that, some wonder how high his ceiling will be in the NBA. He may, however, have a high floor given his well-rounded game and basketball IQ.

*Walker-Alexander is from Canada. He has played for the national team as a junior and is part of a new wave of players from the country in the NBA. Walker-Alexander was a high school teammate of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who just enjoyed a strong rookie season with the L.A. Clippers.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards need help at just about every position, so even a guard can't be ruled out. Walker-Alexander would give them more backcourt depth and that is needed long-term, even after John Wall returns from injury.

If Walker-Alexander can develop into an above average perimeter defender, he could be very useful for the Wizards. They need to improve at stopping dribble penetration and three-point shooters. They could use more players with Walker-Alexander's length and ability to force turnovers. Also, he would help spread the floor with his shooting.

All that said, the Wizards could probably find a player with more upside than Walker-Alexander with the ninth overall pick. He would be more in line with their decision to take Troy Brown Jr. last June.

Like Brown, he is smart and a safe bet to carve out a long NBA career. But could Walker-Alexander become an elite player at his position? He seems like a better option if they trade down into the teens and acquire more picks.

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