A rough, emotional day for top seeds at Match Play

Mar 22, 2017 10

Defending champion Jason Day lasted only six holes at the Dell Technologies Match Play until a heavy heart forced an early departure.

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth might not be far behind.

The opening round at the most unpredictable golf tournament took a stunning turn Wednesday when Day abruptly conceded his match to Pat Perez, and then revealed his mother has lung cancer, and he wanted to be home with her Friday when she has surgery.

Dustin Johnson had no trouble in his debut as the No. 1 seed in a 5-and-3 victory over Webb Simpson. McIlroy, the No. 2 seed, wasn’t so fortunate. He lost when Soren Kjeldsen finished with four straight birdies.

Hideto Tanihara never trailed in a 4-and-2 victory over Spieth.

Mickelson says he won't be called as witness in trial

Mar 22, 2017 13

Golfer Phil Mickelson says he won’t be called as a witness in a federal insider trading criminal trial.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys have both described Mickelson as pivotal figure in the case against gambler William “Billy” Walters. Mickelson does not face criminal charges, but agreed to repay nearly $1 million he made on a 2012 stock trade.

The case is on trial in New York. Mickelson is playing this week at the Dell Technologies Match Play where he won his first-round match Wednesday. Mickelson said he’s not thinking about the trial and said he’s not a part of the case.

Mickelson said “I won’t be called” as a witness, but didn’t say how he knows that.

Although prosecutors and defense attorneys haven’t said Mickelson would be called to testify, the judge has hinted it could be possible.

Dallas Green, who managed Phillies to 1st title, dies at 82

Mar 22, 2017 13

Dallas Green, the tough-talking manager who guided the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series championship, died Wednesday. He was 82.

The Phillies said Green died at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. He had been in poor health for a while.

Green spent 62 years in baseball as a player, manager, general manager, team president and other roles.

“He was a big man with a big heart and a bigger-than-life personality,” Phillies Chairman David Montgomery said in a statement.

As a major league pitcher, Green went just 20-22 in the 1960s. His most notable distinction on the mound might have been giving up the only grand slam launched by all-time hits leader Pete Rose.

Instead, it was in the dugout where the gruff, 6-foot-5 Green really found his voice — and a booming one, it was.

In 1980, with Rose playing first base on a team that included future Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, Green guided the Phillies to the World Series championship, ending a drought that stretched back nearly a century.

Midway through that season, he really let the Phils hear it after a loss in Pittsburgh left them around .500. His clubhouse tirade was so loud that writers outside the locker room at Three Rivers Stadium said they could hear every word.

Green later managed the New York Yankees — where bombastic owner George Steinbrenner liked the idea of someone being able to stand up to him — and the Mets.

Green also was the GM and president of the Chicago Cubs and made a shrewd trade to get a young infielder from the Phillies, future great Ryne Sandberg. The deal helped turn a long-dormant franchise into a club that came within one win of reaching the 1984 World Series.

“Dallas was pure and simple a ‘true baseball man,'” the Mets said in a statement.

Green was known for his rugged reputation and embraced it. Yet he was left in tears in 2011 when his granddaughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was shot and killed outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, as she went to see U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed in the mass shooting as Giffords met with constituents.

“I’m supposed to be a tough sucker, but I’m not very tough when it comes to this,” Green said at the time.

Green is survived by his wife of 59 years, Sylvia; four children; and five grandchildren.

At 0-2, Americans understand stakes in World Cup qualifying

Mar 22, 2017 15

Michael Bradley sees no reason to keep harping on that 4-0 loss at Costa Rica four months ago.

Yes, it’s still fresh in the Americans’ minds, a night every mistake snowballed into another.

“There is zero point in continuing to look back on that at the moment,” Bradley said. “We are where we are. Now it’s about on Friday night beginning this process of moving ourselves back up the table and stepping on the field from the first minute and playing a really aggressive way that ultimately leaves no doubt as to who’s stepping off the field, win or lose.”

Bruce Arena’s U.S. squad gets a fresh start in World Cup qualifying Friday against Honduras, and the pressure is on following the home country’s first 0-2 start in North and Central American and Caribbean region’s final round.

“We understand the position we’re in,” Bradley said. “There’s no need for anybody on the outside to put any more pressure on us than we’ve already put on ourselves, because we didn’t start the hex in the right way. We put ourselves behind the eight ball. We’re honest and real enough with ourselves to understand that. Friday night is the beginning of our chance to put things right and get ourselves back in a good position. … We need guys to step on the field and understand the moment, not be fazed by it, go for it in a fearless way and have a big group of guys play really well/”

Forward Jordan Morris’ status for Friday appears in question after he missed a third straight day of practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury sustained Sunday with the Seattle Sounders. Morris rehabbed in the gym, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.

“Have you followed our team at all the last month? You think that’s going to be something that’s going to bother me?” Arena said at the start of the week when asked about health. “We’re fine. We’re going to have 11 good players on the field on Friday.”

For those who do play, Bradley said it is paramount every man brings his best game. Same goes for the Americans’ next match in Panama on Tuesday.

While the man in charge has changed — Arena replaced the fired Jurgen Klinsmann in November for a second stint as U.S. coach — and more Major League Soccer players called upon this time than in November, Bradley insists the approach remains simple: Find a way to win.

“We stepped on the field in Costa Rica wanting to win. That desire to win is obviously still there, so in terms of the basic idea of stepping on the field and trying to play well and go for it in the right way and come away with a positive result, that part’s still the same obviously,” the longtime captain said. “There’s no two ways about it, we let ourselves down in Costa Rica. We didn’t play well enough. Mistakes turned into bigger mistakes, which turned into bigger mistakes, and so it all comes together in a way that you can lose a game in a bad way.”

And, there are many faces who have been on the big stage — Bradley, included.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard started the past two World Cups. Howard, four-time World Cup participant defender DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey played for Arena leading into the coach’s last World Cup qualifying, in 2005. Jozy Altidore brings experience up front.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Howard said. “It’s helpful that we have guys who have been through the hex before, who understand what that takes and the pressures that are on us. Yeah, it’s a big game.”

Bradley isn’t getting fancy when it comes to what the U.S. group must do.

“Winning. Three points,” Bradley said. “That’s it.”

“For us the reality is simple: We let ourselves down in the first two games,” he said. “It means that our margin for error is very, very small, but nothing’s changed in that we still feel good about the team that we have, the group that we are. I think that Bruce has come in and done an excellent job in terms of re-establishing certain things, getting at a few things. The mentality, the spirit in training and around the group both in January and now this week has been excellent, so we’re getting a little excited about the chance to step on the field in a big-time qualifier.”

Day leaves Match Play as mother battles lung cancer

Mar 22, 2017 14

Defending champion Jason Day tearfully withdrew from the Dell Technologies Match Play on Wednesday after six holes to be with his mother when she has lung cancer surgery.

Day says his mother, Dening, was diagnosed in Australia at the start of the year and was told she had 12 months to live. He brought her to Ohio, where he lives with his wife and two children, for more tests.

Day says the surgery will be Friday and he could not keep his mind off it. He was 3 down to Pat Perez when he conceded the match and withdrew from the tournament.

His father, Alvin, died of stomach cancer when Day was 12.

Day’s agent, Bud Martin, says doctors in Ohio have offered a more positive prognosis and will know more after surgery.

Alberta Clipper: Train ride saves Flames, Oilers on a roll

Mar 22, 2017 16

When four consecutive losses had the Calgary Flames floundering back in January, coach Glen Gulutzan saw a train ride as the perfect opportunity for a happy hour in motion that was anything but celebratory.

“I gave the guys some beer,” he said. “We told the guys to take the headphones off and sit together and figure this thing out.”

Riding the rails for two hours from Montreal to Ottawa gave the Flames a chance to essentially save their season. They have won 17 of 22 games since and went from on the bubble of making the playoffs to a team that will give opponents fits when the playoffs begin in three weeks.

Alberta is actually home to two of the hottest teams in the NHL: A three-hour drive to the north in Edmonton, the rival Oilers are rolling, too. The province will almost certainly have two playoff teams for the first time since 2006 with the Oilers poised to end their 10-year postseason drought and the Flames set to make it for the second time in eight seasons.

Because Calgary has mighty-mite scorer Johnny Gaudreau and Edmonton MVP front-runner Connor McDavid, it’s no longer crazy to dream about a “Battle of Alberta” playoff series, which hasn’t happened since 1991.

“The rivalry is there (and) obviously it’s gotten better this season because our teams are finally starting to win some hockey games,” Oilers forward Matt Hendricks said. “Hearing the stories of the past and how great it was, the excitement level in Edmonton right now with hopefully playoffs right around the corner for our club, it would be very, very exciting.”

When the Flames lost 5-1 to the Canadiens on Jan. 24, they were 24-24-3 and clinging to the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. That was the week that turned Calgary’s season around, and it started with some beer and conversation on that train.

“Guys were hanging out, having a good time, chatting with each other, joking around, having fun where normally guys would be headphones on watching their movies or playing cards,” right winger Troy Brouwer said. “I think just the camaraderie that we had on that train ride really showed a lot to the guys of how close a group that we are.”

As Calgary tries to return to the playoffs under their first-year coach, the Oilers are in the process of erasing a decade’s worth of demons. They finally have their franchise goaltender in Cam Talbot, McDavid leads the league in scoring and second-year forward Leon Draisaitl has 65 points in 72 games. The debut season of the Oilers’ new $480 million Rogers Place arena happens to feature one of their best teams in years.

“It obviously helps when our horses are carrying us night and night out,” Hendricks said. “Cam’s been outstanding, Connor’s been outstanding. But I think the difference is those young core guys are really carrying the mail right now.”

Draisaitl has nine points, McDavid has seven and Talbot has allowed just five total goals with a .961 save percentage during Edmonton’s four-game streak. Coach Todd McLellan wondered late month if his young team would develop more consistency in a playoff race, which Talbot called “uncharted territory” for much of the team.

It’s not for the Flames, who reached the second round two years ago led by Gaudreau and fellow star Sean Monahan.

Captain Mark Giordano missed that run because of a torn biceps tendon and hasn’t appeared in a playoff game in 10 years, but many of his younger teammates know what to expect because of 2015.

“A lot of the younger guys have a little bit of playoff experience, which is nice,” said Gaudreau, who has a team-leading 24 points in the past 22 games. “Us younger guys, we’ve been there before so it’s a little bit of an experience that we kind of got that first season.”

Since that appearance, the Flames fired coach of the year Bob Hartley and replaced him with Gulutzan, who guided his team out of “the pit” of despair and losing. He said he believes that time has made Calgary better prepared for the playoffs.

“You can’t have true growth without adversity and we did struggle,” Gulutzan said. “We were trying to figure out who we were, what we needed to do to win and we came out of there. But when we came out of there, we kind of sling-shotted out of there. We all know our roles and responsibilities and what we need to do to win, so that adversity did help us grow as a group.”

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

The Latest: Early loss for Rory McIlroy at Match Play

Mar 22, 2017 16

The Latest on the Dell Technologies Match Play (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

Rory McIlroy faces a tough road if he wants to advance out of his group in the Dell Technologies Match Play.

Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark birdied his last four holes to beat McIlroy in a wild opening match at Austin Country Club. They halved only five of the 17 holes they played. Kjeldsen finished off the No. 2 player in the world with a tee shot into 2 feet on the par-3 17th.

It was the first time since 2013 that McIlroy lost in the opening round. The good news? It’s not single elimination like it was in 2013, and McIlroy still has two more matches to try to win his group.

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10:10 a.m.

Rory McIlroy was no different from the other 63 players at the Dell Technologies Match Play. He wasn’t sure how long he would be staying.

Match Play began Wednesday at Austin Country Club with 32 matches a day for the opening three rounds of group play. McIlroy drove right into the tree and wound up losing the opening hole of his match against Soren Kjeldsen.

Jason Day is the defending champion, though McIlroy has been tough in this format. His record is 11-2-1 over the last two years, with one of those losses in a meaningless consolation match a year ago.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 seed, plays in the afternoon.

The top player from each of the 16 four-man groups advances to the weekend of single-elimination matches.

Match Play begins with unlimited possibilities

Mar 22, 2017 19

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, watches his tee shot on the on the 15th hole during a practice round for the Dell Match Play Championship golf tournament at Austin County Club, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)  (The Associated Press)

Rory McIlroy was no different from the other 63 players at the Dell Technologies Match Play. He wasn’t sure how long he would be staying.

Match Play began Wednesday at Austin Country Club with 32 matches a day for the opening three rounds of group play. McIlroy drove right into the tree and wound up losing the opening hole of his match against Soren Kjeldsen.

Jason Day is the defending champion, though McIlroy has been tough in this format. His record is 11-2-1 over the last two years, with one of those losses in a meaningless consolation match a year ago.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 seed, plays in the afternoon.

The top player from each of the 16 four-man groups advances to the weekend of single-elimination matches.

Colin Kaepernick donates $50,000 to Meals on Wheels

Mar 22, 2017 17

In this photo take Oct. 23, 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Santa Clara, Calif. In recent months, Kaepernick has become comfortable with people knowing him as more than a laser-focused football player as he always previously preferred it. Perhaps, through the anthem protest and his emergence as an outspoken activist for minorities, he has improved his image in the process. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Meals on Wheels has confirmed a $50,000 donation from former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The group that provides food for seniors in need thanked Kaepernick for his donation on Tuesday.

It came a day after President Donald Trump took a swipe Kaepernick during a campaign-style rally in Kentucky by taking credit for the lack of suitors for the free agent. Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of 49ers games last season as a protest of police treatment of minorities became a topic of national debate.

Meals on Wheels faces a sharp funding cut under Trump’s proposed budget.

Kaepernick is also promoting a campaign to raise millions of dollars for drought relief in Somalia.

Ovechkin shines as Caps snap Elliott's streak, beat Flames

Mar 22, 2017 27

T.J. Oshie is leading the Washington Capitals in goals, but Alex Ovechkin is again leading them into the playoffs.

Ovechkin had a goal and two assists as the NHL-leading Capitals beat the surging Calgary Flames 4-2 Tuesday night and snapped goaltender Brian Elliott’s franchise-record winning streak at 11 games.

While Oshie reaching 30 goals in a season for the first time in a contract year led Ovechkin to proclaim, “Ka-ching,” the Russian superstar was the best player on the ice with 11 shots in one of his most dominant performances in recent months.

“If he’s got 11 shots every game, at least one is going to go in,” said linemate Nicklas Backstrom, whose three assists tied him with Connor McDavid for the league lead with 57. “When he’s forechecking like he is right now and he’s hitting guys, it makes a big difference for the whole team.”

In addition to a season-high 11 shots and a perfect setup on Oshie’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty and was feeling the puck all night. It took the top line skating circles around the Flames and generating quality scoring chances to beat Elliott, who kept his team in the game by stopping 36 shots.

“That’s how you have to wear him down is with shots. It’s with net presence,” said former St. Louis Blues teammate Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored his first goal with the Capitals on the power play with 2.9 seconds left in the second period. “We had many moments there where we could’ve just put our heads down and felt sorry for ourselves, but we just kept coming at him.”

Playing his 300th career game, counterpart Braden Holtby celebrated his bobblehead night by making 29 saves for Washington, which reached 102 points and remained one ahead of the Metropolitan Division-rival Pittsburgh Penguins, who clinched a playoff spot by winning in Buffalo.

Sean Monahan and Troy Brouwer — whom the Capitals traded to the Blues for Oshie two summers ago — scored for the Flames in just their fifth loss in 22 games. The defeat certainly doesn’t hang on Elliott, who tied Mike Vernon for the longest winning streak in franchise history before Washington was too much to handle.

“Moose kept us in and we had a chance right at the end to get points out of that game,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “That’s what’s most disappointing, I think.”

While the Flames continue their three-game road trip trying to move into one of the top three spots in the Pacific Division, the Capitals are trying to fend off the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets for home-ice advantage and first place in the Metropolitan. More performances like this one from the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie will help that cause.

“We try to do our best to be on the same page, our line, and you can see Backy feeling it, Osh feeling it,” said Ovechkin, who scored his 29th of the season and is on the verge of becoming the third player in NHL history with 30 or more goals in each of his first 12 seasons. “I just have fun to play there.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 39-7-5 when scoring first — and also scored last thanks to Ovechkin’s power-play goal with 2:51 remaining. Ovechkin has led Washington in goals every season of his career.

“This guy can score a lot of goals,” Oshie said. “Not really my focus to lead the team in goals. My goal is to play good hockey and get wins. I wouldn’t doubt him scoring every game for the rest of the season. “

NOTES: Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk served the first half of his two-game suspension for elbowing Kings D Drew Doughty in the face Sunday. … Only Hall of Famer Ken Dryden has more wins (193) in his first 300 games than Holtby (186). … Brouwer’s goal was his first point in six games against the Capitals.

UP NEXT

Flames: Look to get back on track when they visit the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

Capitals: Host the Blue Jackets on Thursday in a matchup between two of the top three teams in the NHL.

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Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno.