Wizards

Na Yeon Choi excels on the course and in English

Na Yeon Choi excels on the course and in English

Na Yeon Choi won her first major at the U.S. Women's Open, and she closed the season by winning the LPGA Titleholders.

But her most remarkable performance came when the season was over.

Players for whom English is their second (or third) language can get by in an interview with print reporters. They tend be a lot more uncomfortable when cameras are involved. Choi showed how much progress she has made the day after winning the Titleholders. She went into the studio for a live segment on Golf Channel's ``Morning Drive.''

The LPGA staff helped her prepare for questions that might be asked, and when it didn't go according to script, Choi still handled it beautifully.

That wasn't an accident.

As hard as Choi has worked on her game, she might have worked even harder on her English. Last year, she hired a personal tutor - Greg Morrison, a Canadian based in South Korea - and brought him with her on the road. She had a one-hour lesson every day, and practiced her English with him in casual conversation.

Se Ri Pak would have been proud. The pioneer for South Koreans on the LPGA Tour, Pak preached years ago about the importance of learning English. Along with fitting in, Pak said it would make them feel more comfortable in public and ultimately improve their golf.

``First year when I was here, I couldn't speak English well and then very hard to tell my feelings to people, even media or fans or even swing coach,'' Choi said. ``When I learned English and when I tell my feelings to people, I feel way more comfortable than before. I think that made it good golfer, too. And on the golf course, I can relax and I can talk with the other players.''

Morrison couldn't travel with her this year, though they still practiced through Skype. She had another one-hour lesson during the Titleholders and planned to meet with him again while she was home during the offseason.

``We talk about not only golf, we talk about anything,'' Choi said. ``Like, I said I'm going to look for a new house and he tried to help me with which house is better for me. He's more like, not just English tutor, he's more like manager or assistant to me.''

Do they ever talk baseball?

``Not really,'' she said. ``I think he's a hockey fan.''

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RANKING TOURS: Most of the world's best players are going to the Middle East in the winter and the Far East in the fall, both part of the European Tour.

But over the course of the year, the PGA Tour is where biggest offering of world ranking points can be found.

Throw out the four majors and the four World Golf Championships, and the PGA Tour averaged 46.7 points for the winner of its tournaments, compared with 34.9 points for the winner of regular European Tour events.

Add the majors and the WGCs, and the winner received an average of 54.3 points on the PGA Tour and 44.6 points on the European Tour.

The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is guaranteed 64 points as the flagship even on the European Tour. After that, the strongest fields on the European Tour (based on points awarded the winner) were Abu Dhabi and the season-ending event in Dubai (58 points), and the BMW Masters in Shanghai (56).

The Players Championship gets 80 points as the PGA Tour's flagship event. That was followed by The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship (74), the BMW Championship (70), Memorial (68), and the Northern Trust Open and Tour Championship (62).

Along with attracting the best from all over the world - the top 28 players in the world are PGA Tour members - it is helped immensely in the ranking by the FedEx Cup playoffs. Those events are nearly as strong as WGCs.

An argument could be made that The Barclays features the strongest field of any PGA Tour event, including The Players Championship. It might not have as many players from the top 50 or top 100 in the world ranking, but it has the top 125 players based on current form.

Take a bow, Nick Watney.

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TIME TO RECHARGE: Before winning his final event of the year at Sherwood, Graeme McDowell talked all week about how badly he was in need of a 10-week break.

He feels he made a mistake by playing the first FedEx Cup playoff event, and that he was out of gas even in the high-charged atmosphere of the Ryder Cup. And that concerned him. He says he played so much this year that he lost an estimated 10 percent of what he calls his ``buzziness.''

``I love the sport. I love to play,'' he said. ``But too much a good thing ... you start going through the motions. I don't want to be like that. I want to get my excitement level up for the game.''

McDowell wants to cut back on his schedule, aiming for about 26 tournaments a year on two tours. But where to cut back is going to difficult, for there are too many good tournaments, especially at the end of the year.

``The end of the year has become a joke,'' he said. ``It's almost too much golf.''

Being among the top 50 in the world and having Europe as his home tour (meaning he doesn't need releases from the PGA Tour), McDowell said he gets to cherry-pick the tournaments he plays. But there are so many important events to him that he can't get to some places he would like to play.

That includes the Memorial at Muirfield Village.

``I'm dying to go there,'' McDowell said. ``But I looked at the schedule and, nope, I can't go.''

To play Muirfield Village would mean four straight weeks in three countries, and no doubt would cost him plenty of ``buzziness.''

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BIGGEST TROPHY: The iGATE CEO Cup thinks so much of its new tournament - executives of Global 2000 companies in North America on Jan. 12-13 on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass - that it wanted a trophy to mark the occasion.

So it commissioned the largest gold sports trophy in the world, even bigger than the FIFA World Cup trophy.

Designed by India-based sculptor Amit Pabuwal, the iGATE CEO Cup trophy will be 21 inches tall, weigh 18 pounds of gold and be adorned with diamonds and rubies. The World Cup trophy is more than 14 inches tall and weighs 11 pounds.

``The iGATE CEO Cup is a premier event and we should have a trophy that a CEO will be proud to life,'' iGATE chief executive Phaneesh Murthy said.

Gary Player is the co-host of the $100,000 event, with the CEOs donating all the prize money to their chosen charities.

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DIVOTS: Tom Lehman was voted Champions Tour player of the year, even though Roger Chapman won two majors this year - the Senior PGA Championship and the Senior U.S. Open, the two most prestigious events in senior golf. ... The fledgling OneAsia Tour is holding one of its two Q-schools in the United States. The tour cites ``unprecedented demand'' for staging two Q-schools, one of them at Industry Hills east of Los Angeles on Jan. 29, the other a week later in Malaysia. OneAsia chairman Sang Y. Chun said more Asia-Pacific players were based in California, and the additional Q-school would create more awareness of the tour in the U.S. ... Kia Motors America has signed a multiyear contract extension with the LPGA Tour to sponsor the Kia Classic, which will move next year from La Costa to Aviara Golf Club. It will be played March 21-24.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Robert Karlsson started the year at No. 24 in the world. He ended it by going to Q-school to earn back his PGA Tour card.

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FINAL WORD: ``It's a game of mistakes, it's a game of misses. And if you dwell on all those misses and mistakes, you're not going anywhere.'' - Steve Stricker.

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Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Though the maturation of the G-League has brought the NBA closer in line with MLB and its minor league farm system, there has been one noticeable element missing for those of us who follow the two sports closely. In baseball, multiple media outlets publish top prospect lists both league-wide and team-specific, yet the equivalents are nowhere to be found in basketball.

Prospect rankings are a great window into the future and they are fun to revisit years later to see who was right and who was wrong. But, so far, they haven’t become widespread in basketball.

The reason why may be rooted in semantics. Generally, basketball players are considered prospects before they are drafted. After they join teams, they just become regular players.

Part of that perception is simply because NBA players can impact their teams at a much younger age. While it is very rare to see a 19-year-old in the majors, it is commonplace in the NBA.

The Wizards, though, may be the perfect team to get this started with. They have a collection of players that are now out of college but have yet to establish themselves in the professional ranks. They are essentially prospects by baseball's definition.

So, in the interest of doing something new here, let's rank them...

1. Rui Hachimura, F

Age: 21
Strengths: midrange shooting, offensive versatility
Areas to improve: three-point shooting, passing

The ninth overall pick this past June, Hachimura is the highest draft pick the Wizards have selected since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013. He is 21, but young in basketball years because he didn't pick up the sport until Age 13. Yet, with three years of college under his belt, he comes in with the experience to likely make a difference right away. And with the Wizards' current roster state, he should have a big opportunity for minutes and shot attempts as a rookie.

Hachimura appears to have several NBA-ready skills, particularly on offense. He makes smart decisions with the ball in his hand and can score at all three levels. His outside shooting needs to be more consistent, but he can knock it down enough to be a threat. Defensively is where he will need to grow the most, but the potential seems to be there for him to develop until a versatile player on that end of the floor. 

Passing is another area he can improve. He didn't record many assists at all in college or in the Summer League. 

2. Troy Brown Jr., G/F

Age: 19
Strengths: rebounding, passing
Areas to improve: outside shooting, turnovers

Though Brown was drafted one year before Hachimura, he is still a year-and-a-half younger. He also didn't crack the Wizards' rotation until late in his rookie season. That makes him still very much a prospect as he enters his Age 20 campaign looking to make a much bigger impact in his second season than he did in his first.

The good news for Brown is that the minutes should be there. At this point he looks like at-worst the second small forward behind C.J. Miles and he should have a chance to battle for the starting job in training camp. With Isaiah Thomas' checkered injury history (he only played 12 games last year), there is a good chance Brown sees time at point guard as well, maybe even some starts there. We'll see.

Brown's passing and rebounding are up-to-speed for his size and position, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers and improve his three-point shot. Though he dominated in his brief time in the Summer League, he still only shot 40.6 percent from the field. Also, the Wizards could really use a leap from him on defense because he has a relatively high ceiling on that end of the floor and most of their players do not.

3. Moe Wagner, C

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, free throw shooting
Areas to improve: defense, rebounding

The path to minutes isn't quite as clear for Wagner, who is probably going to be stuck behind Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant in the frontcourt. But the way he can crack the rotation is by hitting his threes, something he was not able to do as a rookie for the Lakers last season or in the 2019 Summer League for the Wizards.

Wagner presents intriguing long-term upside because of his shooting and his knack for getting to the rim off pump-fakes. But he needs to learn how to affect more shots around the rim, even if he can't block shots. And his rebounding could use some improvement, as his 9.8 rebounding percentage last season wouldn't even stand out for a wing player, much less a seven-footer.

4. Admiral Schofield, F

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, team defense
Areas to improve: defense against taller players, ball-handling

The expectations should be low for Schofield in his rookie season, despite the fact he played four years in college and has an NBA-ready frame. Most second round picks don't make much of an impact early on and he is slotted to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Schofield's fastest way to NBA playing time is through his defense and three-point shooting, the two biggest reasons the Wizards drafted him. If he can provide toughness and an edge in the midrange, it will give the Wizards something they have lacked in recent years. And he shot at both a high percentage and for volume from three at Tennessee, and you can't have enough perimeter shooting these days.

5. Justin Robinson, G

Age: 23
Strengths: outside shooting, passing
Areas to improve: finishing around rim, turnovers

Like Schofield, Robinson is probably going to spend a good deal of his time with the Capital City Go-Go this season. But working in his favor is the team's lack of depth at point guard. They have Thomas, who again has some injury concerns. And they have Ish Smith, but there appears to be an opening at the third point guard spot.

Brown could fill the void and so could Jordan McRae. The Wizards could even give Bradley Beal more of an extended look running the offense. But the door seems to be open for Robinson to make an impact and early. He needs to focus on taking care of the ball, playing physical defense and making his open threes. The Wizards don't need Robinson to be a big-time scorer, but he can add spacing if he shoots from three as he did in college.

Honorable mention: Garrison Mathews, Isaac Bonga

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Orioles Roundup: O's fall to Nationals in opening game of Beltway Series

Orioles Roundup: O's fall to Nationals in opening game of Beltway Series

Another night, another loss for the Baltimore Orioles. Tuesday night featured a one-sided affair, as the Nationals beat the O's 8-1 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles fell to 28-66 on this season, while the Natoinals continued their climb to 50-43.

Here are the latest news and notes:

Player Updates:

SP Asher Wojciechowski gave up three earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in Tuesday night's loss. The righty gave up two home runs, with Matt Adams and Juan Soto hitting one deep ball each, while managing to strikeout seven batter and issue no walks on the night. He has now whiffed 21 batters in 15 2/3 innings since joining the Orioles, but also holds a 5.74 ERA.

2B Hanser Alberto was the only offense to speak of for the Orioles on Tuesday night. The utility player had two of the team's four hits and scored their only run after blasting a home run off Austin Voth in the second inning. Alberto has been a breath of fresh air for a struggling O's team, sporting a .306/.325/.402 batting line.

Before first pitch on Tuesday, the Orioles released INF/OF Jace Peterson. The versatile player had a July 15 opt-out in his minor league contract that he decided to exercise in order to find a better opportunity. Through 86 games this season in Triple-A Norfolk, Peterson boasted a .309/.394/.505 battling line with nine home runs, 44  RBI, 12 stolen bases and 55 runs scored.

Also before first pitch on Tuesday, it was announced that DH Mark Trumbo (knee) has resumed baseball activities. Though there is no timetable for his return to the team, the Orioles are optimistic that he will be able to contribute before the end of the season. He has missed the whole season so far due to complications following right knee surgery.

Injuries:

SP Dylan Bundy: Knee, 10-day Injured List

RP Josh Rogers: Elbow, 10-day Injured List

OF DJ Stewart: Ankle, 10-day Injured List

SP Alex Cobb: Back, 60-day Injured List

SP Nate Karns: Arm, 60-day Injured List

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, 60-day Injured List

Coming Up:

Wednesday 7/17: Orioles vs. Nationals, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Friday 7/19: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Saturday 7/20: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Source: Rotoworld

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