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.

Does Tampa's playoff run prove they don't need Stamkos?

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Does Tampa's playoff run prove they don't need Stamkos?

Has Steven Stamkos played his final game for the Tampa Bay Lightning? The superstar forward was on the final year of his contract and is now the biggest free agent on the market, or he at least will be when free agency opens on July 1. A player of Stamkos' caliber actually hitting the open market is rather rare, and where he decides to play could change the outlook of the the NHL. But first Tampa will have between now and July 1 to try to convince him to re-sign there.

As the season began and Stamkos remained unsigned, the Lightning faced a tough decision: trade him or risk losing him for nothing at the end of the season. At the trade deadline, Tampa elected to hold onto their star and make a run at the playoffs...only to see him miss almost the entire postseason with a blood clot in his right arm.

Now they have no Cup and no contract.

Stamkos said all the right things on Friday about wanting to remain in Tampa Bay.

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The problem is, he could have stopped it from getting to this point by re-signing before now. The team tried to get a deal done before the start of the season, but the two sides could not reach an agreement. Unless the Lightning were seriously lowballing him, which seems unlikely considering he was already counting $7.5 million against the cap, Stamkos could have ended the talk and the speculation by signing a deal. He would not have let it reach this point if he was not at the very least thinking about exploring his options in free agency.

But after the Lightning did so well in the playoffs, the question now is how much does the team actually need Stamkos? Tampa came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for a second consecutive season and they did it essentially without him.

According to General Fanager, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Nikita Nesterov and Mattias Ohlund are all free agents this summer. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Brian Boyle, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Andrej Sustr, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are free agents at the end of next season. Several of these players (Kucherov, Johnson, Drouin) are going to be due significant raises. General manager Steve Yzerman is going to have to make some tough decisions as to who will remain on the team and he’s going to have to find the money to pay them. He will have a lot more money to play with if Stamkos leaves.

Clearly, the Lightning are a better team with Stamkos. He has become one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL and it would be crazy to suggest that they are somehow better without him. The point is, should they pay him $8, 9 maybe even 10 million per year and lose some of their young talent, or try to keep the rest of the core together after seeing how successful they were in the postseason without him?

Of course the Lighting will still look to get a deal done before July 1, but now they don’t need to be desperate. They don’t need to break the bank with an offer around $10 million per year. Now they could justify offering him a contract around $8 million per year. If he stays, great. If he walks, well, more money for the rest of the team, a team that came within one win of making the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Nats don't believe Cardinals' Garcia was throwing at them on purpose

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Nats don't believe Cardinals' Garcia was throwing at them on purpose

It's not always easy to determine the intent when a major league pitcher throws over a batter's head and on Friday night Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia did it twice against Nationals center fielder Ben Revere. He also hit second baseman Daniel Murphy with an errant fastball that clipped him on his upper back.

The pitch to Murphy came before the other two in the fourth inning. So, when Garcia lofted one just inches over the helmet of Revere in the fifth, home plate ump Alan Porter issued a warning to both dugouts. It surprised Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who came out to chat with Porter. And it also surprised Nationals skipper Dusty Baker.

"I was surprised. I don’t know what happens on a warning any more. If you come close to a guy I guess it’s a warning," Baker said. 

"I’m sure Mike Matheny was probably just as surprised. You could tell that [Garcia] wasn’t sharp. In my mind, I know he wasn’t trying to hit those guys. There’s no reason to. I don’t know if there’s bad blood in the past, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see anything that merited him coming close to our guys or even getting a warning.”

Revere also didn't think Garcia was trying to hit him above the shoulders on purpose.

"I've faced Garcia a couple of times. I know how humid it is tonight and with the way the ball moves. He was trying to come inside and it kind of got away from him," Revere said. "His hands were sweaty. He wasn't trying to throw at my head."

Revere wasn't as surprised at the warnings and actually thought it was smart of Porter to issue them.

"That was good because you don't want retaliation where something breaks out that shouldn't. After a while, hopefully if he does go up and in and hits someone, then it's like 'okay dude, you're kinda done,'" Revere said.

If something did stem from this later in the series, it wouldn't be the first time animosity build up over the course of several days between teams. Sometimes mayhem breaks out in baseball when you least expect it. 

The Nationals gave Garcia the benefit of the doubt on Friday and don't expect anything else to come from it this weekend as they continue their four-game series. 

"He's not trying to throw at your head. If a pitcher is really trying to do that, then it's time to get serious," Revere said. "You don't want to get somebody potentially hit in the head. I've been hit in the face and it's not fun. It's definitely not fun."

Alhaji Kamara scores late in MLS debut, lifts United to 1-0 win over Sporting KC

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Alhaji Kamara scores late in MLS debut, lifts United to 1-0 win over Sporting KC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Alhaji Kamara scored late in D.C. United's rain-soaked 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Friday night.

Kamara, making his MLS debut after a congenital heart condition derailed his European career this year, put away a cross from Taylor Kemp in the 86th minute -- less than a minute after coming on for Lamar Neagle as United's final substitution.

The kickoff was delayed 2 1/2 hours because of weather concerns and there was a 60-minute rain delay at halftime.

Kansas City, which outshot United 18-6, had some early chances but couldn't convert and the weather dampened the action after the break, until Kamara's winner.

Bill Hamid, making his first start of the season after undergoing knee surgery, batted away a right-footed blast by Kevin Ellis from the center of the box in the 88th minute to preserve the win.

It was the first road win for D.C. United (4-5-4).

Sporting (5-8-2) has just one win in its last 10 matches.