Update on the latest in sports:
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – The 83rd Masters is underway.
Justin Harding, Emiliano Grillo and Kevin Tway were at 2-under par atop the early leaderboard in the first round of the Masters.
Takumi Kanaya, an amateur from Japan, was also off to a good start at 1-under. He was tied with Branden Grace, Eddie Pepperell and Henrik Stenson.
Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods is scheduled to tee off at 11:04 a.m. Eastern time. Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are right behind him in the 11:15 a.m. group.
The tournament began with honorary tee shots, a tradition that dates to 1963 at Augusta National. Gary Player, with a new endorsement deal at age 83, drilled his tee shot halfway up the hill on the left side of the fairway. Jack Nicklaus, 79, was next and hit some 30 yards shorter.
It’s been 14 years since Woods won a green jacket, but he is among the favorites again. Woods won his fourth Masters in 2005 when he was 29, and he was certain more would follow.
McIlroy is the betting favorite, and a victory would give him the career grand slam. The Masters is all that’s keeping Rory McIlroy from joining the most elite club in golf – only five other players dating to the creation of the Masters in 1934 have won all four majors. McIlroy played in the final group last year, three shots behind winner Patrick Reed, and faded. He had a four-shot lead in 2011 and imploded.
History suggests he might not want to wait too long. The last three players to complete the Slam – Woods, Nicklaus and Player – never waited more than three years to get the last leg.
Masters works to catch every shot on camera
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Staid and tradition-driven Augusta National is on the cutting edge of technology. Look no further than the Masters website.
For the first time, the goal of the club is to capture each of the 20,000-plus shots during the tournament on camera. If all goes well, golf fans will be able to watch shots on the Masters’ website just a few minutes after they happen.
The tournament’s online trailblazing is mildly surprising because the in-person mystique of the Masters has always been a huge part of its charm.
In an era where many major professional franchises and college teams struggle to attract a live audience – at least partly because of numerous online and television viewing options – the decision-makers at Augusta National have no such worries.
The throngs that walk the course in Augusta have often paid a small fortune to watch even the practice rounds. Yet, in a strange twist, they’ll be pretty much the only golf fans who can’t enjoy the new technology: Cell phones aren’t allowed on the course.
Defending champs host Carolina
WASHINGTON (AP) – The first round of the NHL playoffs continues Thursday with a Game 1 matchup in Washington between the defending champion Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes and Capitals are contrasts in almost every possible way. Carolina is a young, fast, aggressive team that ended a decade-long playoff drought, while Washington is a seasoned group largely unchanged from winning it all in June that has its sights set on trying to do it again.
When the Hurricanes take the ice their blue line will have less playoff experience than top Washington defenseman John Carlson. Of their 342 games of NHL postseason experience, captain Justin Williams and second-line center Jordan Staal make up 213 of that; half of the Hurricanes’ lineup will be making their playoff debuts. Washington has two such newcomers and 1,282 games of experience, thanks to its Cup run a year ago and many previous playoff trips.
In Thursday night’s other first-round openers:
– With the core of the team from their 2011 title aging, the Bruins are hoping to make another run at the Stanley Cup. They’ll open against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night in Boston. Forty-two-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara (zuh-DAY’-noh CHAH’-rah) says he isn’t thinking about whether this is his last, best chance to get his hands on the Cup again. The Bruins eliminated the Leafs in seven games in last year’s first round.
– Colorado and Calgary have never met in the playoffs despite both franchises’ Stanley Cup pedigree. The first time figures to be an action-packed contest given that both teams can fly up and down the ice. The Flames outscored the Avalanche by a 14-10 margin in winning all three games this season. The first-round series begins Thursday night in Calgary.
Cincinnati’s Puig eligible to return
CINCINNATI (AP) – Cincinnati outfielder Yasiel Puig (yah-SEEL’ pweeg) is eligible to return to the lineup as the Reds try for a three-game sweep of Miami. The right fielder was suspended two games for his role in a bench-clearing fracas Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Puig decided to accept the penalty rather than appeal, saying he doubted it would make much difference.
Cincinnati had lost eight straight before the struggling Marlins arrived.
Puig was suspended last Tuesday for two games along with Pittsburgh pitcher Chris Archer who was suspended for five games, and Reds manager David Bell suspended for one game for their parts in a bench-clearing fracas last weekend at PNC Park.
Eovaldi, Red Sox in funk, Cards try to sweep LA
UNDATED (AP) – Nathan Eovaldi (ee-VAHL’-dee) tries to snap Boston out of its early-season funk when the Red Sox host the Blue Jays Thursday night. The Red Sox are 3-9 in defense of their World Series championship, and the rotation has an 8.78 ERA. Eovaldi has struggled during starts against Seattle and Oakland. The Blue Jays averaged 2.66 runs over their first 11 games before beating Chris Sale and the Red Sox 7-5 at the Fenway Park home opener Tuesday.
Elsewhere in the majors:
– Yadier Molina (YAH’-dee-eer moh-LEE’-nah) and the Cardinals go for a four-game sweep of the Dodgers in St. Louis. The longtime National League rivals have played each other 2,074 times since 1892 and the series is dead even in wins with 16 ties. Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler (BYOO’-lur) faces Michael Wacha (WAH’-kuh) in the series finale. Buehler has struck out 18 and allowed only five hits in 15 scoreless innings over two career starts against the Cardinals. Wacha walked a career-high eight in a 6-4 loss to San Diego on Saturday.
– The Mets and Braves square off for the first time this season when they open a four-game series in Atlanta. Atlanta, the defending NL East champion, has hit its stride after dropping its first three games of the year. The Braves have won seven of their last eight and scored 48 runs in those eight games.
Smart out 4-6 weeks partially torn oblique muscle
BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Celtics say guard Marcus Smart will be sidelined 4 to 6 weeks after being diagnosed with a partial tear to his left oblique abdominal muscle.
The injury was revealed in an MRI scan.
He sustained the injury during the third quarter of Boston’s home loss to Orlando.
The timetable for Smart’s return means he will be sidelined for Boston’s first-round series and the second round, as well, should the Celtics advance.
Last season, Smart returned from a thumb surgery late in the first round of the playoffs despite initially being given a recovery window of 6 to 8 weeks.
NBA sets record with 760 sellouts during 2018-19 season
NEW YORK (AP) – The NBA sold out a record 760 games in 2018-19, including a Nets crowd that included LeBron James on the final night of the season.
The league says its final attendance of 21,964,447 was its fourth highest. That was down from last season’s record of 22.1 million in 2017-18, after new or renovated arenas resulted in more than 141,000 fewer available seats this season.
The sellout total surpassed the previous record of 741 sellouts last season.
James sat courtside along with Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday in Brooklyn to watch Dwyane Wade’s final game. It was the Nets’ ninth sellout of the season.
The league says Thursday that arena capacity reached 95 percent for the second consecutive year and second time in league history.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL-MICHIGAN STATE-RAPE LAWSUIT
Woman who alleged rape by ex-MSU players speaks publicly
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A Michigan State University student is speaking publicly a year after suing the school, alleging that three former men’s basketball players raped her in 2015 and that she was discouraged by counseling center staff from reporting what happened.
Twenty-two-year-old Bailey Kowalski came forward in a story published by The New York Times on Wednesday, saying she hopes other victims tell their stories. She’ll hold a news conference Thursday, the fourth anniversary of the alleged incident.
The woman and players aren’t named in the lawsuit. She says met the players at an East Lansing bar and was taken to an off-campus apartment where she was raped.
A university spokeswoman declined to comment on the case but said the school takes sexual assault and Title IX situations “very seriously.”
The news conference comes amid the fallout from its response to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
MEN’S FIGURE SKAING-WORLD TEAM TROPHY
US takes lead at figure skating’s World Team Trophy
FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) – World champion Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou combined for a 1-2 finish in the men’s short program to give the United States the lead on the opening day of figure skating’s World Team Trophy.
Chen was skating to “Caravan” by Duke Ellington. He landed a triple axel, a quadruple toeloop and a triple lutz-triple toeloop combination.
The U.S. leads with 50 points, two ahead of Japan and 12 ahead of third-place Russia.
Six countries are competing in the sixth edition of the World Team Trophy.
The United States has won the event three times, in 2009, 2013 and 2015, while Japan took top honors in 2012 and in 2017.