Top ten women's majors

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Top ten women's majors

By Leonard Shapiro
CSNwashington.com

With Na Yeon Choi prevailing in the U.S. Womens Open by fourshots Sunday in Kohler, Wisc., it marked the fourth time in the last five years a South Korean has won Americas national championship of golf. The LPGA almost always has taken a backseat to the PGA Tour in terms of crowds, purses and television ratings. But the women definitely have produced more than their share of bright and shining stars as well as some of the more riveting moments in golf history, particularly in the major championships. Heres a list of our all-time top ten performances.

10. Rocky Mountain High. She gave herself the nickname Birdie to distinguish herself from all the other South Korean Kims on the LPGA Tour, and the 23-year-old certainly lived up to her name in the 2005 U.S. Womens Open. At Cherry Hills in the Denver suburbs, Kim holed out from a bunker 30 yards from the cup for one last birdie, just enough to hold off two teenage amateurs, 17-year-old Morgan Pressel and 19-year-old Brittany Lang, by two shots.

9. Jewel for Julie. In suffocating Mississippi summer heat and humidity, 38-year-old Julie Inkster, who had been contemplating giving up the tour, blossomed into a dominating champion of the 1999 U.S. Womens Open at Old Waverly Country Club. She ended five shots ahead of runner-up Sherri Turner, and her 16-under par total of 272 shattered the tournament record for lowest score relative to par by six shots. So much for early retirement.

8. Slam Dunk. Karrie Webb holed out from 116 yards for an improbable eagle on the 72nd hole at the 2006 Kraft-Nabisco Championship, a stroke of genius that got her into a playoff against Lorena Ochoa, who also eagled the final hole with a clutch 12-foot putt. Webb wasted no time in the playoff, draining a six-footer for birdie at the 18th to claim her seventh major title with a final round 65. Of course she took the traditional dive into the pond near the final green shortly thereafter, no doubt employing the Australian crawl.

7. Viva Lorena. Frustrated by constantly being asked when she was going to win her first major championship, Lorena Ochoa went to St. Andrews, the home of golf, to do something about it in the summer of 2007. With an opening round 67, the then No. 1 ranked player in the world took the lead after nine holes and never looked back, winning by four shots in a week of typical Scottish wind and spitting rain. This is the most special round of golf I have ever played, said the native of Mexico after her final day 74 in atrocious conditions.

6. Major Breakthrough. With three straight birdies in the middle of her final round, Annika Sorenstam opened a three-shot lead in the 1995 U.S. Womens Open and held on for the first professional victory of her Hall of Fame career. She had to hold off a couple of fast-closing Hall of FamersPat Bradley and Betsy Kingand won by a stroke over Meg Mallon, who missed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 18th. It was clearly the start of something very big for Sorenstam, who posted a final round 68 that day at the Broadmoor East course in Colorado Springs.

5. Rookie on a Roll. It was never really close at the 1978 LPGA Championship contested at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Kings Island, Ohio. Nancy Lopez, in her rookie season, won by six shots over her closest pursuer, Amy Alcott, for the first of her three LPGA major championships, and her only major victories. Lopez, only 21, won nine times that season, including five in a row and earned Player of The Year honors. Said Hall of Famer Mickey Wright that week, Never in my life have I seen such control in someone so young.

4. Korean Invasion. Playing in her first major championship in her first season on the LPGA Tour, unknown 20-year-old South Korean Se Ri Pak went wire-to-wire to capture the McDonalds LPGA Championship at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. Pak won by three shots, but far more significant, her victories there and at the U.S. Womens Open a month later helped ignite an explosion back home in womens golf that has resulted in more than 40 Korean players now competing on the LPGA Tour, and more than 40 on the Futures circuit, as well. Ask any of the young Korean players, including Choi, to name their hero growing up, and most will say Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak.

3. Little Patty. Itty-bitty Patty Berg was a giant in womens golf in the 1940s and 50s, winning a record 15 major championships, including the 1946 U.S. Womens Open conducted by the short-lived Womens Professional Golf Association. That was replaced in 1950 by the LPGA, and in 1953, the U.S. Golf Association began running the Open. That first Open in 46 at the Spokane Country Club was decided in a 36-hole match-play format after 36 holes of qualifying by stroke play. Berg won the qualifying medal with rounds of 72 and 73 and beat Betty Jamison, 5 and 4, in the 36-hole final. She collected 19,700 for her efforts.

2. The Wright Stuff. In the 1954 Womens Open, 19-year-old amateur Mickey Wright was paired with the great Babe Zaharias and made a huge splash by finishing fourth. Four years later at Forest Lake Country Club in Detroit, she prevailed over another LPGA founder, Louise Suggs, by five shots to win the first of her record four Open titles among her 13 major championships, second only to Berg. Her 82 career victories trail only the 88 posted by Kathy Whitworth. She earned 7,200 from the Scrooges at the USGA, who sliced Open purses dramatically when they took over the event in 53.

1. What a Babe. Perhaps the greatest female athlete of all time, Babe Didrikson Zaharias came to golf later in an athletic life dominated mostly by basketball and track and field. At the suggestion of famed sportswriter Grantland Rice, Zaharias decided to focus on the sport, and was a quick study. Her victory in the 1954 U.S. Womens Open at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Massachusetts was among the most inspirational triumphs in sports history. Only months after her first surgery for cancer, Zaharias won the Open by an astounding 12 shots over Betty Hicks, the second greatest margin of victory in tournament annals. Two years later, she died from cancer at the age of 45, with ten career major titles (four as an amateur) and 41 career wins. Her career winnings: 66,237.

Nationals starters are throwing more pitches per game this year

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Nationals starters are throwing more pitches per game this year

It's a question I've received numerous times this season on Twitter: are Nationals starters throwing too many pitches this season? The question has been posed so many times that it warrants a closer look. The internet makes all sorts of baseball data available these days and there is plenty out there regarding pitches, both in terms of quality and quantity.

For the Nationals (17-7), it is true that through 24 games this season they are allowing their starters to pitch longer in games than they did last season. But, though their pitch counts are up, there is no evidence to suggest what they are doing is out of the ordinary. 

First, here is a look at how Nationals starters rank by pitches per start:

Max Scherzer - 105.4
Stephen Strasburg - 102
Tanner Roark - 101.4
Joe Ross - 99*
Gio Gonzalez - 98.3

*excluding injury-shortened start on April 20

For Scherzer and Gonzalez, there is not much to see here. Scherzer is second in MLB in pitches thrown, but he's always near the top of the league in that category. He was seventh in total pitches in 2015, third in 2014 and 12th the year before that. 

Scherzer has averaged at least 100 P/GS for each of the last eight seasons. In 2014, his final year in Detroit, Scherzer posted a career-high of 110.2. That's much higher than anyone in the Nats' rotation is currently on track for.

Gonzalez has also logged high pitch counts in the past. He averaged 103.6 P/GS in 2013, his second year with the Nats, and put up a career-high of 106.5 in 2011, his final year in Oakland. Like Scherzer and many other pitchers, he has proven he can take the pounding of a high pitch count.

The rest of the Nats' rotation is up in the P/GS category from their career averages. Strasburg's career average is 92.7 and he's putting up about 10 more per start this season. But his career-high was 96.9 in 2014 and that's not far off from 100.

Roark has never averaged more than 100 before, but did post a career-high of 96.7 in 2014. And Ross has seen a significant increase from the 85.4 P/GS he held last season, but that number was kept in check to limit his workload as a rookie. 

For instance, Ross went six scoreless innings in his final start of 2015, yet was removed after just 77 pitches. His penultimate start saw him throw only 82 pitches despite going seven innings with one run allowed. What he's doing this year is more normal than what he was limited to last season.

The Nationals are letting their starters reach higher pitch counts this season, but not to an extreme degree, at least not yet. Could that change as the season goes on? Sure, teams often allow pitchers to stretch out as the season goes on. For now, though, it doesn't seem to be a real issue in Washington.

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

Virginia has added another quarterback to its roster for next season as Kurt Benkert of East Carolina announced Sunday that he will transter to UVa.

Benkert announced on April 25 that he intended to transfer. The move to Charlottesville will reunite the quarterback with former head coach Ruffin McNeill who now is the defensive line coach for Virginia.

Benkert's bio on ECU's athletcis website lists him as 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and describes him as "A talented and polished signal-caller whose arm strength perhaps already ranks among the best in the history of the Pirate program ." He was named the starter by McNeill at ECU heading into last season, but a knee injury forced Benkert to miss the entire 2015 season.

As a graduate transfer, Benkert will be immediately available for next season. He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.

Benkert will now be thrust into a quarterback competition in Charlottesville with incumbent Matt Johns and fellow transfer Connor Brewer.

RELATED: TWO HOKIES SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY AFTER ARRESTS

Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

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Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

The majority of highlights from Sean Taylor's career, whether he's walloping a helpless receiver or intercepting a pass from a quarterback foolish enough to test him, come from the days when he wore No. 21. However, some may forget that the gifted safety actually donned No. 36 as a rookie back in 2004, before transitioning to his more familiar digits in 2005. 

Nowadays, Taylor's 21 isn't officially retired, but's it's essentially untouchable. So for Redskins players who want to honor the talented defender — Ryan Clark is a recent example of one who did — they have to go about it in creative ways (Clark, for one, sported the famous number in practice).

Well, rookie Su'a Cravens, who was drafted by the franchise in the second round on Friday, is getting creative. On Sunday, the USC standout announced he was going to pay respect to the Burgundy and Gold legend in his own right by taking the field in the same No. 36 that Taylor debuted in. The news came around the time that it was revealed the versatile Cravens would be listed on the roster as a safety, another thing that he shares with the Pro-Bowler he idolizes.

Here are some tweets from the 20-year-old detailing his decision and what it means to him:

Showing love to Taylor is nothing new for the Los Angeles native, though. It was something he did in college as well:

Cravens has certainly wasted no time since getting every prospect's dream phone call in endearing himself to his new team's fans. He's already said that he's "so damn hyped to be a Redskin" and called the passion of Washington's supporters "unreal." But it's his latest choice that will really have people enthused, as understanding and acknowledging Taylor's talents are surefire ways to become a favorite in D.C.

It's clear Cravens knows his uniform selection means a lot to the city he'll be suiting up for. And it's clear he's ready for the expectations that'll come along with it. Sure, he's only been a Redskin for a few days, but Cravens is already making an impression.

MORE REDSKINS: GRADING THE 2016 DRAFT CLASS