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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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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Who is the most underrated Caps player of all-time?

Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Who is the most underrated Caps player of all-time?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 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.

Justin Cade writes: Who do you think is the most underrated/underappreciated player in Caps history?

So I have a  few candidates for this, but when I first read this question one name instantly came to mind. It is a current player so I went back and scoured through a list of all the players in franchise history to make sure this was not just a product of recency bias. In the end, I am having a hard time finding a better option. The most underrated player in Caps' history is Braden Holtby.

There, I said it.

Holtby is the best goalie in franchise history and was one of the key pieces in a Stanley Cup run and every time he lets in a questionable goal, I get inundated with people telling me that he is terrible, has always been terrible and he should be traded immediately.

Now, let's be clear. I am not talking about the people who think the team should move on from Holtby this season when his contract expires -- heck, I'm in that camp -- I am talking about the people who are unceasingly critical and disparaging not only of Holtby's recent play, but of the entire career of, let me repeat myself, the best goalie in franchise history.

Holtby became the undisputed No. 1 goalie in 2013-14. Since that time, no goalie in the NHL has played more games than Holtby and no goalie has more wins. Holtby has a whopping 20 more victories than Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask who is second in that stretch despite playing only 13 more games so don't tell me his win total is just a product of the number of games he has played. Before the Cup win, he was criticized as being a poor playoff performer which is ridiculous. Holtby has the fifth-best playoff save percentage of all-time. Of all time!

But JJ, what about Olie Kolzig?

Kolzig was great. I loved him when I was growing up. Holtby has a better career GAA and save percentage, both players have a Vezina Trophy to their name and, oh yeah, Holtby has a freakin' Cup. And yet, Kolzig is revered by the fanbase while I am left constantly having to defend Holtby.

Do I think he is past his prime? Sure, but the way in which people downplay how important a player Holtby has been to this franchise is staggering. To think he has not been a key factor in the team's success including the Cup run is just plain wrong.

Maybe this is a product of the fact that probable replacement, Ilya Samsonov, is younger, cheaper and already on the roster. Maybe 10 years from now, people will feel differently about Holtby, but for now it is stunning to me how many people undercut what he has accomplished.

There are two other names I wanted to bring up. First, Mike Ridley. Ridley has the fifth-most goals in franchise history with 218, but for some reason he has seemingly faded into history in the minds of Caps fans. If I told you to list the greatest players in franchise history, how far down the list would you have to go before you thought of Ridley? A guy who scored 218 goals and 329 assists in 588 games for Washington probably deserves more recognition.

The other name is another recent player: Alex Semin. I am not saying he is underappreciated, he did not take full advantage of his skills during his NHL career. That is not debatable. I guess this is just more of a quibble I have with the word "bust."

Sasha Pokulok was the Caps' first-round draft pick in 2005. He never played a single game in the NHL. That's a bust. Semin played 650 NHL games with 239 goals and 517 total points. That's not a bust.

Was he disappointing considering his talent level? Sure, but he still produced a heck of a lot of points while wearing a Caps sweater.

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John Schecter writes: Could you discuss and explain some of the various "systems" that teams use in hockey?

There are a lot of people who could explain this better than me, but I can give you the basics. A hockey system is basically the tactics of how a team plays. Hockey is a very fluid game and, as a result, it can look as if the players are largely winging it. You try to keep the puck out of the net and when you get it, you head down the ice as quickly as possible, pass to a teammate and shoot. Done. In reality, just about every aspect of what the players do on the ice is meticulously planned, coached and practiced.

How aggressive is the forecheck? Who's responsible for the forecheck? How do you defend the neutral zone? Do you try to trap? How do you defend the blue line? How does the defense defend in any given situation? How do you break the puck out of the defensive zone? How do you transition on offense? How aggressive are the forwards on the breakout looking for odd-man rushes? How do you break the puck in? How much does the team dump and chase? How does the team set up offensively? What type of shot is the offense looking for?

I think it is a little easier to grasp the different systems in football where it can be largely and easily defined such as a spread offense, wishbone, a 4-3 defense, etc. Hockey is more nuanced because the game is free-flowing and everyone has different responsibilities depending on where the puck is, who is on the ice and the situations. To really understand a hockey system in the NHL requires an insane level of knowledge and understanding of the game that is beyond most of us, including me. I can give you the basics, but believe me, it gets very complicated very quickly.

Austen Bundy writes: Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are obviously going to have their numbers retired together but I've always wondered why Scott Stevens, Peter Bondra and Olie Kolzig never had theirs retired. Any historical or practical insight you can provide on this, JJ?

This is something that I have argued about for years. First off, my guess with Stevens is that it is because he spent the majority of his career and had the most success in New Jersey. He had eight good seasons with Washington and what the team ultimately had to show for it was the five first-round draft picks the team received to compensate them for the offer sheet Stevens signed with St. Louis. I don't know why the Caps have not retired Bondra or Kolzig's numbers but if it were up to me, I wouldn't. I know that gets a lot of people riled up, but I have an extremely high standard for retired numbers.

There are only three numbers that should be retired by the franchise: 5, 8 and 19. That's it. That's the list.

Being a good player for a team is not a good enough reason to get your number retired. Believe me, it pains me to say this. I grew up watching Bondra and Kolzig play, I loved both of them. Bondra was my favorite player. But that's not good enough for no one else to ever wear No. 12 again.

Rod Langway, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom not only played hockey at an elite level for the team, but their impact on the franchise went well beyond good play. You have to have a greater impact on the franchise than just being good at hockey. To me, that's what it should take and those are the only three who meet that standard.

Jules A. writes: How would you rank each version of the Caps’ jerseys from start of the franchise to now?

  1. Original red
  2. Blue Stadium Series
  3. Current white
  4. Current red
  5. Black
  6. White eagle
  7. Original white
  8. Maroon Winter Classic
  9. Blue eagle

The hatred of the old red jerseys stems largely from the team's abysmal record while wearing them this season, but if you step back and actually look at them, you will recognize the undeniable beauty. That and the blue Stadium Series jerseys are far and away the two best jerseys this team has worn. It's a shame we only got to see the Stadium Series jersey twice.

Thanks for all your questions! 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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Peter King believes it's 'pretty likely' Kyle Allen starts for Redskins due to Coronavirus

Peter King believes it's 'pretty likely' Kyle Allen starts for Redskins due to Coronavirus

A few days ago, Ron Rivera identified Kyle Allen as the Redskins' contingency plan if Coronavirus really disrupts the NFL's offseason. Well, Peter King expects the team will ultimately have to use that plan.

During an interview with JP Finlay on the Redskins Talk podcast, the longtime football analyst explained that he, like most, is unsure what's going to transpire over the next handful of months. However, King thinks the pandemic will continue to change offseason programs and also have a "major" effect on training camp.

And if those consequences come to fruition, he's confident Allen will prove to be the team's best option to start.

"I believe the way that this year is moving that it's pretty likely that opening day, at quarterback for Washington, is not going to be Dwayne Haskins," King told Redskins Talk. 

While some originally accosted the Burgundy and Gold for giving up a fifth-round pick in their trade for the ex-Panthers passer, King actually praised it. The transaction, in his mind, was "very, very smart" and gives the Redskins viable insurance if Haskins isn't able to pick up a new system because of a truncated schedule. 

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"If you're Ron Rivera, you want a guy who you know can walk in Day 1," King said. "If you have to face the New York Giants on September 13, you want a guy who knows everything about Scott Turner's offense and who's well-versed in everything he's going to have to do."

To be clear, King explained that it wouldn't even really be Haskins' fault in the above scenario. In a regular year, he makes much more sense as the Redskins signal caller in 2020, and Rivera recently revealed that's the way he's leaning for now, too.

Yet at some point, if the 2019 first-round selection is only able to communicate with his new coaches through a phone and not face-to-face on a field, Allen's experience with Rivera and Turner may end up as the difference in a competition. 

Should that occur, King will monitor how Haskins handles it. His reaction could be telling.  

"Obviously, it's not an ideal situation for Dwayne Haskins," King said. "But if you can't, in this particular situation, if you can't adapt and adjust, then I would really question whether you're the guy for this job for the long haul.

"I would really question your value to this team."

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