Make Chiangmai Mail | your Homepage | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV

 

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update January, 2020


Home
Thailand News
World News
World Sports
Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles
Book Review
Health & Wellbeing
Odds & Ends
Science & Technology
Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
WORLD SPORTS
 

Arsenal beats Leeds 1-0 to reach FA Cup fourth round

Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac, right, shoots on goal during the English FA Cup soccer match between Arsenal and Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium in London, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

London (AP) — Reiss Nelson secured Arsenal's passage to the FA Cup fourth round by sealing a 1-0 victory over Leeds after the English Premier League side was initially outplayed by the second-tier opponent on Monday.

Nelson's close-range finish from Alexandre Lacazette's cross came 10 minutes into the second half. It was the 20-year-old striker's second goal on his 29th appearance for Arsenal after being among four changes from the side that beat Manchester United last week.

Leeds out-shot Arsenal 15-3 and dominated possession in the first half and demonstrated why Marcelo Bielsa's side is well placed to end a 16-year exile from the Premier League.

"The way they play they make it very difficult, they play man-to-man around the pitch," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. "If you are not ready for that game you get exposed."

Arteta told players he has managed for only a couple of weeks that they weren't reaching the standards expected of them.

"I cannot be happy and I have to let them know," Arteta said. "We had to react and we changed some things.

"But the biggest change was how we approached the second half, the mentality, how aggressive we were, how we played in their half, won every duel, making runs forward. It was different."

The draw for the fourth round was made before the game at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal goes to Bournemouth next on the weekend of Jan. 25-26.

Arsenal is enduring a lackluster Premier League, sitting in 10th place after struggles that prompted the firing of Unai Emery as coach.

Leeds' priority is clinching one of the two automatic promotion spots in the Championship, which the northern club leads with a nine-point cushion on third place.


McDavid leads Oilers past Maple Leafs 6-4

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Associated Press

Toronto (AP) — Connor McDavid had a dazzling goal and three assists, and the Edmonton Oilers cooled off the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 6-4 victory on Monday night.

Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson and Leon Draisaitl also scored for the Oilers (22-17-5), who were making their third stop on a five-game road trip.

Jason Spezza, Frederik Gauthier, Pierre Engvall and Auston Matthews scored for the Maple Leafs (24-14-5), who were 9-0-1 in their last 10 games.

McDavid got the puck at Toronto's blue line and used his speed to cleanly beat Morgan Rielly 1-on-1 with a fake to the inside before going wide and snapping the puck into the top corner on Michael Hutchinson with 8:34 to go in regulation. The goal gave the Oilers a 6-3 lead.

Mike Smith made 31 saves in the victory.

 

Islanders 1, Avalanche 0

Uniondale, N.Y. (AP) — Semyon Varlamov stopped 32 shots against his former team, earning his second shutout of the season and leading the Islanders to the win.

Anders Lee scored for New York, which had lost two in a row and five of seven overall.

Varlamov got his 27th career shutout in his first matchup with the Avalanche since signing a four-year deal with the Islanders last summer.

Philipp Francouz, had 32 saves for Colorado, which had won two in a row.

 

Jets 3, Canadiens 2

Montreal (AP) — Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and an assist, powering Winnipeg to the victory.

Andrew Copp and Josh Morrissey also scored for Winnipeg, which had dropped five of six. Captain Blake Wheeler had two assists, and Connor Hellebuyck made 29 saves.

Ilya Kovalchuk picked up an assist in his Canadiens debut. He agreed to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday.

Defenseman Ben Chiarot scored twice for Montreal, which has lost six in a row. Carey Price stopped 24 shots.


Spurs hit 19 3-pointers to stop NBA-best Bucks, 126-104

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (10) scores against Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Antonio, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Associated Press

San Antonio (AP) — DeMar DeRozan had 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs hit a season-high 19 3-pointers to beat Milwaukee 126-104 on Monday night, snapping the Bucks' five-game winning streak.

Patty Mills added 21 points, shooting 6 of 10 on 3-pointers, for San Antonio (15-20). LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay added 18 points each.

The Spurs finished 19 for 35 on 3s and shot 51% overall.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Milwaukee. Donte DiVincenzo added 16 points.

The Bucks, whose previous loss was on Christmas at Philadelphia, maintain the NBA's best record at 32-6.

Milwaukee defeated San Antonio 127-118 on Saturday at home but could not maintain its early momentum in a rare home-and-home set of back-to-back games.

 

76ers 120, Thunder 113

Philadelphia (AP) — Joel Embiid scored 18 points while playing with a dislocated left ring finger, Ben Simmons had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Philadelphia ended a four-game losing streak by beating Oklahoma City.

The 76ers lost all four games on a trip that knocked them down the Eastern Conference standings and raised questions about how far this team can go in the playoffs.

They usually last in the postseason as long as a healthy Embiid can take them. The All-Star center dislocated his left ring finger in the first quarter, an injury so gnarly that the bent finger stretched across his pinkie and the sight did a number on gag reflexes for those watching at home. Embiid made a brief stop in the locker room, got the finger taped and returned to start the second period.

The Thunder, who had won five straight, closed within two with three minutes left before the Sixers scored nine straight points to put the game away.

Steven Adams had 24 points and 15 rebounds for Oklahoma City, and Chris Paul scored 18.

Josh Richardson scored 23 points for the Sixers, and Simmons fell two assists shy of a triple-double.

 

Jazz 128, Pelicans 126

New Orleans (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 35 points, Joe Ingles added 22 and Utah extended its winning streak to six games by holding off New Orleans.

Brandon Ingram had 35 points for the Pelicans but could not convert a driving layup attempt at the horn while being defended by Rudy Gobert. The Utah center was chasing Ingram down the right side of the lane and appeared to make body-to-body contact that forced Ingram over the baseline as he attempted to take the final shot.

As the horn sounded, Pelicans players leaped off the bench pleading for a foul call while Utah players celebrated Gobert's defensive play and quickly disappeared down the tunnel. Officials briefly went to the scorer's table to check if there should be any time left and then ruled the game over, eliciting a cascade of boos from the crowd.

Gobert had 19 rebounds and Donovan Mitchell capped a 19-point night with a driving floater in the lane that broke a 126-all tie with 1:12 left and wound up being the winning basket in a game that had 18 lead changes and 11 ties.

 

Wizards 99, Celtics 94

Washington (AP) — Missing star guard Kemba Walker, the Boston Celtics became the latest NBA contender to surprisingly come up short against one of the league's worst teams, losing to the Washington Wizards as Ish Smith scored 27 points to lead a depleted lineup.

Walker sat out his third game in a row with the flu, and while the Celtics won the previous two -- against also-rans Atlanta and Chicago -- they couldn't overcome poor shooting, a slow start and a whole lot of Smith.

One game after pouring in a career-high 32 points as a reserve, Smith again came off the bench to pace the Wizards. The 31-year-old guard even heard "M-V-P!" chants in the fourth quarter, when he scored 14 points, including 10 straight for the Wizards during one 5-for-5 shooting stretch.

That allowed Washington to regain an edge after an 11-point halftime lead had dwindled to zero when Jaylen Brown's 3-pointer made it 80-all with eight minutes left.

Brown scored 23 points but shot 7 for 22. Marcus Smart was 3 for 14, Jayson Tatum went 8 for 20 and Gordon Hayward was 4 for 11, including an air ball on a wide-open 3 attempt with under 90 seconds remaining.

 

Mavericks 118, Bulls 110

Dallas (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter and had his NBA-leading 11th triple-double of the season to lead Dallas past Chicago.

Doncic scored 17 of the Mavericks' 19 points in the final 5:35 of the third to break open what had been a tie game. His 3-pointer gave Dallas a 72-69 lead it did not relinquish.

The 20-year-old added 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Mavs, who played without Kristaps Porzingis for the fourth straight game because of right knee soreness.

Dwight Powell added 16 points for Dallas on 6-for-6 shooting from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line.

The Bulls lost forward Wendell Carter Jr. to an apparent right ankle injury with 8:25 left in the third quarter. He was taken off the court in a wheelchair.

Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 26 points, starting the game despite spraining his left ankle Saturday night against Boston.

 

Nuggets 123, Hawks 115

Atlanta (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored a career-high 47 points, Will Barton added a season-best 28 and Denver held on to beat Atlanta.

The Nuggets, coming off a surprising loss at Washington two nights earlier, have won four of six to improve to 25-11, second-best in the Western Conference. Atlanta, worst in the NBA at 8-29, has dropped 11 of 13.

Trae Young finished with 29 points and Kevin Huerter had 22 for the Hawks.

Jokic surpassed his previous career high of 41 points with a putback that gave Denver a 114-109 lead with 3:14 remaining.

 

Magic 101, Nets 89

Orlando, Fla. (AP) — Markelle Fultz scored a career-high 25 points, including seven straight during a 15-1 run in the fourth quarter that sent Orlando past slumping Brooklyn.

Nikola Vucevic had 24 rebounds and 11 points for his 300th career double-double, and the Magic pulled away in the final seven minutes after going 9:20 without a field goal.

Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie scored 16 apiece for the Nets, who lost their sixth straight game after charging back from a 16-point deficit to take a lead in the fourth quarter.

Seven players scored in double figures for the Magic. D.J. Augustin came off the bench to contribute 16 points and five assists.

Fultz, the top pick in the 2017 NBA draft, shot 11 for 20 with four assists and two steals.

 

Pacers 115, Hornets 104

Charlotte, N.C. (AP) — T.J. Warren scored 30 of his season-high 36 points in the second half and Indiana topped Charlotte to halt a two-game skid.

Domantas Sabonis added 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Miles Turner had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers, who had lost four of five. The Pacers, who are 15-4 at home, improved to 8-10 on the road.

Indiana outscored Charlotte 37-21 in the third quarter behind 13 points from Warren to open a 14-point lead. Warren finished 15 of 24 from the field.

Terry Rozier had 28 points for the Hornets, whose two-game win streak ended. Devonte Graham added 22 points and six assists.

 

Kings 111, Warriors 98

Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — De'Aaron Fox had 21 points and seven assists, Buddy Hield also scored 21 and Sacramento thumped Golden State.

Trevor Ariza added a season-high 18 points for the Kings, and Harrison Barnes scored 18 as well. Sacramento led by 31 on the way to winning for only the second time in 11 games, allowing coach Luke Walton to rest most of his starters in the fourth quarter.

It was the Kings' second lopsided win over the Warriors this season, having beaten Golden State 100-79 on the road Dec. 15.

Glenn Robinson III had 16 points for Golden State. The Warriors, who played without Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell, have lost five straight after a season-high four-game winning streak.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was ejected late in the second quarter after getting hit with consecutive technical fouls by referee Jason Goldenberg.


Australia win 3rd test; claim series sweep over New Zealand

Australia's David Warner bats on day four of the third cricket test match between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP)

Sydney (AP) — Australia closed out its home test season in emphatic fashion by crushing New Zealand by 279 runs in the third test and completing a 3-0 series sweep over the International Cricket Council's No. 2-ranked team.

Australia quickly wrapped up victory on the fourth day at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday, first dominating with the bat and then simply sweeping away the visiting batsmen in a devastating bowling spell in the afternoon.

David Warner scored 111 not out and shared century partnerships with Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne as Australia built a 416-run lead before declaring at 217-2.

New Zealand's Todd Astle bows on day four of the third cricket test match between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP)

Nathan Lyon then claimed his second five-wicket haul in as many days and Mitchell Starc took three wickets as New Zealand was dismissed for 136, its lowest innings score of the series.

"It's been an amazing summer," said player-of-the-series Labuschagne, who scored an Australian record 896 runs, with four hundreds in five tests this southern summer at an average of 112. "Us as a team have been playing really well and it's good to see everything come together.

"The way the bowlers and the whole batting group have performed together is tremendous."

Warner was at his counter-punching best in bringing up his 24th test hundred and fifth at the SCG shortly after lunch and celebrated with his customary leap, before kissing the badge on his helmet and raising both arms to his home crowd.

Labuschagne (59) continued to accumulate quickly and reached his half century off 64 balls with four boundaries before holing out in the deep off Matt Henry, prompting the innings declaration by Paine.

New Zealand received a rare bonus this series with Australia incurring a five-run penalty for running on the pitch late in its innings. The decision by umpire Aleem Dar that Warner and Labuschagne were not veering off the pitch quickly enough while running between wickets seemed harsh on the hosts. The five runs were subtracted from the victory target for New Zealand which had stood at 421.

Not that Australia needed that many runs, with the bowling attack ending New Zealand's resistance inside 48 overs.

Starc (3-25) had opener Tom Blundell (2) caught by a diving Lyon at point, before trapping captain Tom Latham (1) LBW in his next over to have the tourists at 4-2.

Lyon (5-50) was bought into the attack and had Jeet Raval and test rookie Wayne Phillips caught behind by Tim Paine in consecutive wicket maidens to have the tourists at 27-4 at tea.

Pat Cummins produced the best ball of the match, a delivery which straightened off the pitch and hit Ross Taylor's (22) off stump, but not before the 99-test veteran became the highest run-scorer in the history of New Zealand test cricket when he surpassed former captain Stephen Fleming's 7,172 runs.

Colin de Grandhomme and B.J. Watling then combined for a 69-run partnership for 23.3 overs to delay Australia's push for victory.

Allrounder de Grandhomme showed good attacking intent and reached his eighth test half century with a six off Lyon, before he lofted his next delivery to Burns in the deep and was out for 52.

The end then came quickly with Todd Astle spectacularly caught by a diving James Pattinson at deep mid-wicket off Lyon for 17, before Starc bowled Greg Somerville (7).

Lyon sealed the win with his 10 wicket of the game, ending Watling's 2 1/2-hour rearguard of 19 off 108 balls when Cummins took a catch on the legside. He'd never taken a five-wicket haul at the SCG until this test — now he's done it twice.

Henry didn't go out to bat because of a thumb injury sustained in the field on the first morning of the test.

Australia resumed Monday at 40 without loss, with Warner and Joe Burns adding 67 runs in 13 overs before legspinner Astle made the breakthrough trapping Burns LBW for 40.

After three scores in the 40s this series, Warner was in a typical upbeat mood as he completed his 31st test half-century off 82 balls with four boundaries.

The hosts set up its dominant position on the back of its first innings of 454, led by Labuschagne's maiden double century, before bowling New Zealand out for 251.

Australia won the first test at Perth by 296 runs and second test at Melbourne by 247 runs, and the series win will see Paine's team replace New Zealand as the ICC's No.2-ranked team.

"Credit to Tim (Paine) and the Australian team, they were outstanding throughout the series and so clinical in all areas," said captain Kane Williamson, who missed the third test through illness. "They put us under pressure test after test, and we were never able to reverse it."


Justin Thomas grabs a win he thought he had lost

Justin Thomas holds the champions trophy after winning the Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. Thomas won after a three-hole playoff. (AP Photo/Matt York31

 Justin Thomas plays his shot from the 13th tee during final round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Doug Ferguson

Kapalua, Hawaii (AP) — Justin Thomas began the new year mildly disappointed by not having won more than he already has on the PGA Tour.

That's not to suggest he ever thought it was easy.

Sunday at Kapalua was proof of that.

Thomas won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in a three-man playoff over Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele for his third victory in his last six starts on the PGA Tour, and the 12th of his career. Thomas, 26, now has more victories than any active players younger than 30.

That took time to digest, mainly because of how he got to No. 12.

He birdied six out of eight holes to turn a two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead with three holes to play.

"Through 15 holes, it was one of the best rounds I had played," he said.

He fell into a playoff by hitting at toe-hook off the tee at the par-5 18th, followed by a 3-wood that landed in knee-high vegetation so thick that a nine-member search party couldn't find it. He made bogey.

"I botched it up pretty badly," he said.

Schauffele became only the fourth player in the final round to reach the 18th green, a 3-wood that left him a 35-foot eagle attempt. He three-putted for par, missing a 7-foot putt for the win.

Thomas, who had stood off the green with his cap removed and his head bowed anticipating defeat, suddenly had another chance. It also gave life to Reed, who nearly an hour earlier had made a 20-foot birdie putt for a 66 — matching the best score of the tournament — that he figured would fall short at 14-under 278.

It was the first three-man playoff since the tournament moved to Kapalua in 1999.

"I got very lucky to even have that opportunity," Thomas said.

Schauffele was eliminated with a three-putt par from 100 feet on the 18th in the playoff. Thomas had to watch Reed have two putts at the win, a 30-foot eagle putt on the first extra hole, a 12-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. Reed missed them both, and Thomas finished him off on the final hole before darkness.

"That's what happens when you win," Thomas said. "Obviously, you have to play well and make some putts and hit some shots. But at the end of the day, you need stuff to go your way. And it definitely did today. And it feels great."

It was more crushing for Schauffele than for Reed, even though Reed had the last chance to win.

Schauffele had a one-shot lead going into the final round and was two shots ahead through seven holes when Thomas went on his big run with golf so pure that Schauffele said, "I'd like to see anyone else try it."

But it was right there for him at the end when Thomas chopped up the 18th hole.

The wind on the Plantation Course is most treacherous on the greens, with players having to guess if a 30 mph gust will knock putts offline or give them too much speed. That's what cost him on the 18th in regulation, and it cost Reed on the last two playoff holes.

"I should have won the tournament," Schauffele said, pausing to consider how wild the final hour really way. "JT was right there. But with the circumstances, I should have closed it out. I did everything I was supposed to until the last moment."

Reed also spoke to the gusts on his 12-foot birdie to win and 8-foot birdie to stay alive. What bothered him equally — at least based on the glare he shot to the gallery — was the fan who screamed, "CHEATER!" after he hit his putt on the third playoff hole. Thomas says he didn't hear it, presumably because he was locked into his own moment.

The reference was to Reed scooping away sand to improve his lie in the Bahamas, which was caught on video and shown to him after the round, leading to a two-shot penalty. Reed heard plenty more — and plenty worse — a week later from the Australian crowd at the Presidents Cup.

Thomas was more exhausted than elated, mainly because of the sharp swing in emotions at the end.

He carries momentum to the Sony Open in Honolulu, and perhaps the rest of the year and beyond. Thomas remains No. 4 in the world, but his record since June bears noting. He has not finished worse than a tie for 17th in his last 11 tournaments worldwide.

"It's not an accomplishment getting to 12," Thomas said. "It's an accomplishment winning today. But I'll have fun with my family and celebrate it tonight. And next week, we try to get 13."


Eller's goal completes Capitals' stunning OT win over Sharks

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74), goaltender Braden Holtby (70), left wing Carl Hagelin (62), left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, and others celebrate after an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Associated Press

Washington (AP) — Lars Eller scored with 2:59 remaining in overtime after the Washington Capitals rallied from two goals down in the final minute of regulation, completing a stunning 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

T.J. Oshie tied it with 14.2 seconds left, and Eller also assisted Jakub Vrana's second goal of the game inside the final minute.

Evander Kane had his third career hat trick for San Jose, which never trailed before Eller's winner. Logan Couture also scored for the Sharks.

Nic Dowd had a second-period goal for Washington. Braden Holtby made 25 saves to snap a three-game losing streak in net and picked up an assist on Eller's decisive goal, pushing the puck up ice to John Carlson.

 

Lightning 3, Hurricanes 1 

Raleigh, N.C. (AP) — Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, Nikita Kucherov had two assists and Tampa Bay got its seventh straight victory.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots and Mitchell Stephens and Brayden Point also scored for the Lightning.

Andrei Svechnikov scored for Carolina, which lost its second straight and fell to 2-2 on its seven-game homestand.

 

Flames 5, Wild 4, SO

St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Dillon Dube scored in the seventh round of the shootout to give Calgary a win over Minnesota. David Rittich stopped six of seven Wild shooters, and Derek Ryan also scored in the shootout for the Flames, who are 4-0 in tiebreakers this season.

Milan Lucic, Travis Hamonic, Michael Stone and Mark Giordano scored for Calgary. Rittich finished with 30 saves.

Marcus Foligno scored twice, and Kevin Fiala and Jordan Greenway also had goals for Minnesota, which finished 1-2-1 on a four-game homestand.

 

Panthers 4, Penguins 1

Pittsburgh (AP) — Mike Hoffman had a goal and an assist, rookie Chris Driedger stopped 31 shots and Florida ended an eight-game losing streak on Pittsburgh ice.

Brett Connolly scored his 16th of the season for the Panthers, Frank Vatrano had his ninth and Evgenii Dadonov added an empty-netter for his 18th. Florida bounced back from a loss to Buffalo on Saturday by winning in Pittsburgh for the first time since Jan. 20, 2014.

Jared McCann scored his 11th for Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry finished with 31 saves, but the Penguins looked out of gas at times while playing for the third time in four nights.

 

Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 2

Chicago (AP) — Adam Boqvist snapped a third-period tie, Dylan Sikura scored his first NHL goal and Chicago rallied past lowly Detroit.

Dylan Strome also scored for Chicago, which won for the fourth time in five games. Corey Crawford made 19 saves in his first start since he was pulled in the second period of an ugly 7-1 loss to New Jersey on Dec. 23.

Detroit dropped to 3-18-2 in its last 23 games. Filip Zadina and Luke Glendening scored for the NHL-worst Red Wings, and Jimmy Howard made 23 stops.

 

Ducks 5, Predators 4, SO

Anaheim, Calif. (AP) — Adam Henrique had two goals and an assist, Ryan Getzlaf got the deciding goal in the fifth round of the shootout and also had three assists, and Anaheim beat Nashville.

Daniel Sprong had a goal and an assist, and Cam Fowler also scored to help the Ducks end a three-game losing streak. John Gibson made 22 saves.

Craig Smith scored twice, and Rocco Grimaldi and Austin Watson each had a goal for the Predators, who have lost four of five. Juuse Saros made 43 saves.

Roman Josi had an assist to extend his point streak to 10 games, the longest ever by a Nashville defenseman.


Canada rallies to beat Russia 4-3, wins world juniors gold

Team Canada celebrates after defeating Russia in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Ostrava, Czech Republic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

 Canada's Akil Thomas, 2nd left, celebrates with Canada's Raphael Lavoie, right, after scoring his sides winning goal past Russia's goaltender Amir Miftakhov, 2nd right, and Russia's Danil Zhuravlyov, left, during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds gold medal match between Canada and Russia in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Ostrava, Czech Republic (AP) — Akil Thomas scored the winning goal in the final period and Canada rallied from two goals down to beat Russia 4-3 in the final of the world junior hockey championship on Sunday.

It was the 18th title for Canada, the most successful team in the tournament.

Thomas backhanded the puck past goaltender Amir Miftakhov with 3:58 left for his only goal at the tournament to avenge a 6-0 loss to Russia at their group stage game, the worst loss for Canada in the history of the tournament.

"I saw my defenseman get the puck and I saw he was going to put it up the wall and (Connor) McMichael kind of chipped it, and it found an opening," Thomas said. "The puck was almost going to the goalie. I kind of panicked and brought it to my backhand and put it in."

Dylan Cozens, McMichael and captain Barrett Hayton also scored for Canada. Goaltender Joel Hofer made 35 saves.

Nikita Alexandrov, Grigori Denisenko and Maxim Sorkin netted Russia's goals.

The Canadians were looking to bounce back from a disappointing sixth-place finish last year when it hosted the event. They won the previous title in 2018 while Russia was seeking its first title since 2011.

It was the ninth final between the two rivals since the playoff system was introduced in 1996. Both teams had won four of them before their encounter on Sunday.

The Canadians were 3-1 down after Sorkin's goal 8:46 into the final period. McMichael deflected a shot into the net with his leg and Hayton tied it at 3-3 on a power play with a wrist shot from the right circle, with the two goals coming in a span of 2:01.

McMichael added an assist and Calen Addison had three assists. Alexis Lafreniere, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, contributed two assists to finish the tournament with four goals and six assists from the five games he played. He was named the tournament's MVP.

Alexandrov broke the goalless deadlock 9:37 into the middle period, deflecting a shot by Yegor Zamula from the point on Russia's power play.

Canada answered on a 5-3 advantage 1:24 later with Cozens netting on a rebound.

Denisenko restored Russia's one-goal lead, pushing the puck under the pad of Hofer still in the frame.

Canada killed four power plays in the opening period and its PK proved effective again when Russia pulled Miftakhov for an extra attacker on another power play for a 6-4 advantage with 2:41 left in the third period.

Earlier, Samuel Fagemo scored his eighth goal to become the top scorer of the tournament and help Sweden beat defending champion Finland 3-2 and take bronze.


Texans roar past Bills for 22-19 win in OT

Houston Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn (7) kicks a game-winning 28-yard field goal as Buffalo Bills cornerback Kevin Johnson (29) tries to block the kick during overtime of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Kristie Rieken

Houston (AP) — Deshaun Watson's teammates talked all week about how they never feel as if they're out of any game when No. 4 is on the field.

On Saturday Watson showed why the Houston Texans have so much trust in him, when the quarterback's dazzling performance late after a tough start led them to a playoff victory.

Watson spun out of a would-be sack and coolly completed a pass that set up the winning field goal in overtime as the Texans rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit for a 22-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.

DeAndre Hopkins was asked to describe Watson's play on Saturday to somebody who might have missed the game.

"I hope everyone watched this today, but he's amazing," Hopkins said. "You can't put too many words on it."

Both teams punted on their first possessions of overtime — the first extra period in an AFC wild-card game since January 2012. On Houston's next drive, Watson evaded a sack by wriggling away from one defender and bouncing off another before rolling out to find Taiwan Jones for a 34-yard reception to set up first-and-goal.

Watson flexed both arms as the crowd at NRG Stadium went wild — knowing their team was in position to pull off another comeback win to Houston's playoff history.

"I told myself to stay up. I mean, it's do-or-die now. I just had to make the play," Watson said.

Ka'imi Fairbairn then kicked a 28-yard field goal to lift Houston to the victory.

The Texans (11-6) advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs next weekend where they'll face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

The Texans got a boost from the return of J.J. Watt, who had a sack that helped spark his team. Houston scored 19 straight points to take the lead before Stephen Hauschka's 47-yard field goal tied it with 5 seconds left to force overtime.

"We never quit, regardless," Watson said. "Whatever it takes to get the win. I mean, we're going to keep fighting."

Watt was wowed by the play of Watson.

"The play he made at the end of the game — nobody makes that play," he said. "The guy's unbelievable. I'm very thankful and lucky to have him as my quarterback. That's why you play the whole game."

It was Watt's first game after sitting out since October with a torn pectoral muscle.

"This is why you come back," Watt said. "I don't know if I meant to come back for these many plays or this much extra time, but these feelings, these emotions, these fans, these players, Deshaun Watson and all the guys on this team, this is why you come back."

The win gives the Texans their first playoff victory since the 2016 season and extends Buffalo's postseason losing streak to six games, with their most recent playoff win coming in 1995. It's the first wild-card overtime game since the Broncos beat the Steelers 29-23 in the 2011 season.

The game conjured memories of another huge comeback in a wild-card game. The last time teams from Houston and Buffalo met in the playoffs it was in a game that is known as "The Comeback." The Bills set an NFL record for the largest comeback in NFL history by rallying from a 32-point deficit for a 41-38 overtime win against the Houston Oilers in a wild-card game in 1993.

This time Josh Allen and the Bills (10-7) used a dominant first half to build a 13-point lead and were up 16-0 in the third quarter, before Allen began to struggle.

"He was just trying to do too much and getting a little bit extreme with what he felt like we needed at the time," coach Sean McDermott said. "But overall, we just didn't make enough plays."

Watson had 247 yards passing and ran for 55 yards and Hopkins had 90 yards receiving. Watson led the Texans to the victory despite being sacked seven times, led by three from Jerry Hughes, and hit 12 other times.

Allen threw for 264 yards, ran for 92 and caught a touchdown pass on a trick play in the first quarter, but often looked rattled late in his playoff debut.

Houston couldn't get anything going on offense before halftime and had 81 yards in a first half where Hopkins didn't catch a pass for the first time since Week 16 of the 2017 season.

They were finally able to sustain a drive on their second possession of the third quarter when Hopkins had receptions of 14 and 10 yards to help move the ball. The Texans cut the lead to 10 when Watson dragged two defenders into the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown run.

Watson then dived into the end zone for a 2-point conversion that got Houston within 16-8 with about two minutes left in the third.

The Bills were driving early in the fourth quarter when Allen was sacked by Whitney Mercilus and fumbled, and it was recovered by Jacob Martin at the Buffalo 47. Houston cashed in on the miscue with a 41-yard field goal that cut the lead to 16-11 with about 11 minutes to go.

Watson connected with Carlos Hyde on a 5-yard touchdown pass and Hopkins on a 2-point conversion with about five minutes left to put the Texans on top 19-16. Hopkins had a 41-yard reception earlier in that drive.

The Bills were in field-goal range on their next drive when Allen got a 14-yard penalty for intentional grounding and Buffalo lost a down to bring up fourth down. They went for it and Allen was sacked by Jacob Martin for a 19-yard loss to give Houston the ball back with 1:41 left.

"We didn't execute how we should have, and we didn't make as many plays as we should have," Allen said. "That's what it really comes down to. They made one more play than us."

The Texans trailed 13-0 at halftime and Hopkins fumbled on their opening drive of the third quarter to give Buffalo the ball at the Houston 32. Watt sacked Allen for a loss of 8 yards on third down and the Bills settled for a 38-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-0.

Allen scrambled 42 yards for a first down on Buffalo's first possession for its longest rush of the season. Two plays later, the Bills used some trickery to take the lead when John Brown threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Allen to make it 7-0. Brown's pass was wobbly, but Allen was wide open despite having to slow down to grab it.

It was early in the second quarter when Allen appeared to fumble, and it was recovered by Houston. But the play was reviewed and overturned, giving Buffalo the ball at the Houston 32. The Bills were unable to move the ball after that and made a 40-yard field goal to make it 10-0.

The Bills added another 40-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter to push the lead to 13-0 at halftime.

 

Not so fast

Houston's DeAndre Carter looked to have made a major mistake when caught the opening kickoff of the second half in the end zone and tossed the ball toward a referee without taking a knee. The Bills scooped it up and thought they had scored a touchdown on the play. But the play was reviewed, and it was determined that Carter "gave himself up" so it was called a touchback and Houston kept the ball.

 

Watt's health

Watt was pleasantly surprised with how good he felt on Saturday in his return from injury. But there was one moment where he was a bit worried that his surgically repaired pectoral muscle wouldn't hold up.

As he was about to dive to try and grab Allen, he wondered if that could be the moment where he was re-injured.

"But I dove and landed right on it, popped up, checked it out and looked over at the doctor who was standing like 10 feet away," he said. "And I was like: 'It's all right.'"

Up Next:

Bills: Season over.

Texans: Advance to divisional round.


Titans pleased, but not satisfied after win over Patriots

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, left, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speak at midfield after an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Kyle Hightower

Foxborough, Mass. (AP) — Titans coach Mike Vrabel posted himself outside the locker room following Tennessee's 20-13 wild-card playoff win over the New England Patriots and waited.

He wanted to personally shake the hand of every member of his team as they came off the field. Between the flood of high-fives and hugs, Vrabel mostly said, "Thank you" as his smiling players streamed by.

The last player to come down the corridor was running back Derrick Henry. When he locked eyes with his coach, he beamed as well and began shouting, "We want more! We want more!" before the pair eventually shared their own embrace.

Tennessee's methodical effort against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots and the league's top-ranked defense was one of the biggest surprises of Saturday's opening day of the playoffs. But the Titans made one thing clear afterward: They feel like their best football is still ahead of them. They advanced to face AFC top seed Baltimore in the divisional round.

"That's the way we like it. We don't want nothing easy. We want it gritty, we want it dirty," said Henry, who carried 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown.

Henry, whose 444 scrimmage yards rank second in the Super Bowl era for a player in their first three career playoff games, said they weren't fazed playing against a Patriots team that had motivation after losing to the Titans during the regular season last year. It was a game that also could have potentially been quarterback Tom Brady's final game with the Patriots. The six-time champion's current contract expires following the season.

"We knew what type of game this was going to be. We knew this was a hostile environment," Henry said. "We knew this was a different type of team in the playoffs. But we just had to play our game. Not worry about the outside noise. Just do what we needed to do."

The Titans also did it the same way they did it in winning seven of their 10 games to qualify for the playoffs: grinding out points through Henry and riding the resurgent play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is 8-3 since taking over the starting role from 2015 first-round pick Marcus Mariota.

Tannehill led the NFL during the regular season with a career-best 117.5 passer rating, and also led the league averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt. He was just 8 of 15 for 72 yards and an interception Saturday night, but stayed poised and kept the ball moving — which limited the number of possessions for the Patriots.

Tennessee's 72 passing yards are the fewest by any team in a playoff win since the 2009 Ravens (34) against the Patriots in the 2009 wild-card round.

Combined with his time as Miami's starter, Tannehill now has five victories over New England. Including the playoffs, those are the second-most wins of any quarterback during the Belichick and Brady era, behind only Peyton Manning's six.

"I'm so proud of this team," Tannehill said. "It was ugly at times offensively. But we kept fighting and found a way to make a couple of plays at the end."

The biggest of the night came on the Patriots' final possession of the night — after All-Pro Brett Kern's 58-yard punt put the ball at the 1 — when cornerback and former Patriot Logan Ryan intercepted Brady and ran it in for a 9-yard touchdown.

The defense also had a goal-line stand in the second quarter that limited New England to a field goal just before the half.

"This is amazing. But it's not over," tackle Taylor Lewan said. "The last two decades, they've been the greatest team in football. We played good football. We took care of the ball and our defense stepped up when they needed to. Offense stepped up. And now we play the Ravens."


City wins, United draws in FA Cup; Brighton, Villa out

Manchester City's Taylor Harwood-Bellis, right, celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game with teammate John Stones during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Manchester City and Port Vale at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

(AP) — Watching John Stones make defensive mistakes while playing for England in the Nations League finals in June, Port Vale striker Tom Pope took to Twitter to say he'd "love to play … every week" against the Manchester City center back.

"I'd get 40 a season!" wrote Pope, who described Stones as "soft" and "weak."

Well, he got his chance when fourth-tier Port Vale was drawn to play City in the third round and both players were selected to start.

And Pope did go on to score, although he wasn't being marked by Stones when heading in a shock equalizer at Etihad Stadium to cancel out Oleksandr Zinchenko's deflected opener.

"I never dreamed I would score," Pope said. "I would have been happy to have a few touches."

City reacted by scoring through Sergio Aguero, youngster Taylor Harwood-Bellis - who deflected in a shot from Stones - and Phil Foden as the holders made a successful start to their title defense with a 4-1 win.

"Before the game, I was worried that teams have come here and been annihilated but I'm sure the fans are proud of the team," said Port Vale manager John Askey, whose players were invited into City's locker room after the game and took selfies.

"We rode our luck a little bit at times. When that goal (from Pope) went in, you start to dream a little bit."

It was a gentle warmup for City ahead of a derby match against Manchester United in the first leg of the English League Cup next week. United had a much more grueling test, against Wolverhampton away, and fought to a 0-0 draw that necessitates a replay on either Jan. 14 or 15.

 

Manchester United's goalkeeper Sergio Romero, left, speaks with Manchester United's Victor Lindelof during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira) 

It adds to the fixture congestion at the start of 2020 for United, which has to play five league games, a two-legged League Cup semifinal and potentially three FA Cup matches from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1.

Marcus Rashford struck a shot against the crossbar soon after coming on as a substitute, while Wolves later had a goal by Matt Doherty ruled out for handball.

"I'm happier to be in the replay than going out," United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. "It's a tough place to come.

 

Top-Flight upsets

Whether Villa and Brighton will be too disappointed with their FA Cup exits is open to question.

Survival in the lucrative Premier League is their first priority and that is far from guaranteed, with both teams within four points of the relegation zone.

A semifinalist last year, Brighton didn't even win one game in this season's competition after losing 1-0 at home to second-tier Sheffield Wednesday because of Adam Reach's 65th-minute winner.

Villa is now four years without a victory in the FA Cup after losing 2-1 at another second-tier opponent in Fulham, which scored long-range goals through Anthony Knockaert and Harry Arter. Arter's stunning 74th-minute winner came two minutes after he came on as a substitute.

 

Replays required

 

Rochdale's Aaron Wilbraham celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Rochdale and Newcastle United at The Crown Oil Arena, Rochdale, England, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. Newcastle has been taken to a replay by third-tier Rochdale in the third round of the FA Cup to continue its poor recent record in the world’s oldest club knockout competition. (Richard Sellers/PA via AP) 

Watford's resurgence under new manager Nigel Pearson in the Premier League - with three wins in the last four games to ignite its survival hopes - looked like being transferred to the FA Cup when the team took a 3-0 lead after 34 minutes against third-tier struggler Tranmere.

Then the early-season version of Watford returned. After conceding goals in the 65th, 78th and 87th minutes, the hosts had Argentina midfielder Roberto Pereyra sent off in the 89th and ended up scraping a draw.

Another team taken to a replay by third-tier opposition was Newcastle, which also squandered a halftime lead and drew 1-1 at Rochdale.

Aaron Wilbraham, a 40-year-old striker whose first career goal came in 1998, scored Rochdale's equalizer against Newcastle, which has not gone beyond the fourth round since 2006.

A replay was the last thing Newcastle or Watford needed after playing four games in 11 days over Christmas and the new year. Newcastle, in particular, was hit hard by injuries during the festive period and picked up two more at Spotland, with scorer Miguel Almiron (groin) and Yoshinori Muto (hip) forced off in the second half.

 

Easy for Leicester

Leicester, in second place in the Premier League, was among the top-flight teams to make wholesale changes for the cup but it didn't stop Brendan Rodgers' side beating second-tier Wigan 2-0 thanks to an own-goal and a strike by Harvey Barnes.

Burnley, Southampton, Norwich and Bournemouth also avoided upsets with some ease to book their places in the fourth round.

Burnley beat third-tier Peterborough 4-2, with striker Jay Rodriguez scoring twice, Southampton beat second-tier Huddersfield 2-0 and Norwich won 4-2 at Preston, with Irish striker Adam Idah scoring a hat trick.

Bournemouth beat second-tier Luton 4-0.

Premier League teams entered the FA Cup at the third-round stage and there was another top-flight matchup set to take place on Sunday: the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield.

A one-minute delay preceded all third-round games to raise awareness of a mental-health campaign, "Heads Up," which is spearheaded by English Football Association president Prince William.


Australia beats Canada to move atop Group F at ATP Cup

Firefighters drag their water hose after putting out a spot fire near Moruya, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Alex de Minaur of Australia reacts after he won his match against Denis Shapovalov of Canada at the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

John Pye

Brisbane, Australia (AP) — John Millman got a late call to fill in for Nick Kyrgios and got Australia off to a winning start on his home court against Canada.

Alex de Minaur secured the match when he rallied from a set and a break down to beat Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2 later Sunday at Pat Rafter Arena.

And with that, Australia moved atop Group F at 2-0 in the new ATP Cup, a 24-team tournament that is kicking off the southern summer for the first time. Canada, which beat Australia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Madrid last November after Kyrgios withdrew injured, was 1-1 after opening with victory over Greece.

The six group winners and the two best second-place teams advance to the playoffs in Sydney next week, and Australia is a good shot of making it.

That would be a boost for sports lovers in a country experiencing its worst wildfire season in recorded history, which has already left 24 dead, 2,000 homes destroyed and burned through large swathes of Australia.

Two days after launching his cash for aces plan to raise funds for the national wildfire recovery effort, Kyrgios pulled out of his scheduled match against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Brisbane because of a sore back. No. 48-ranked Millman stepped in to win 6-4, 6-2.

Kyrgios pledged to donate 200 Australian dollars ($140) for every ace he serves this month. He hit 20 in his opening win and promising more.

Other athletes and celebrities have also pledged to donate to the cause. Organizers of the ATP Cup are also pledging donations per ace in the competition, and Australian Open organizers are planning a major fundraising event in Melbourne on Jan. 15, five days before the season's first Grand Slam tournament begins.

In Sydney on Sunday, Bulgaria made it two wins from two in Group C, following up its opening 2-1 win over Britain with a more comfortable result against Moldova.

Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-2, 6-3 win over Radu Albot to secure an unbeatable 2-0 lead after Dimitar Kuzmanov beat Alexander Cozbinov 6-1, 7-5. Albot led Moldova to a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win in the doubles to make the final margin 2-1.

Italy and Norway were meeting in the day session in Perth. The night session was set to feature the United States against Russia in Perth, Greece against Germany in Brisbane and Belgium against Britain in Sydney.


Chelsea denied by overhead kick; Arsenal beats Man United

Brighton's Alireza Jahanbakhsh, centre, scores his side's first goal of the game, during the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton and Chelsea at the AMEX Stadium, Brighton, England, Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Rob Harris

London (AP) — Having finally ended a goal drought, Alireza Jahanbakhsh is now celebrating the greatest strike of his career.

With an acrobatic overhead kick, the Brighton forward stunned not just Chelsea but his own team, too.

The south-coast club's record signing had endured 18 months without a goal until scoring in Saturday's victory over Bournemouth.

Now the Iranian has two goals in two games, coming off the bench to deny Chelsea a victory by sealing the 1-1 Premier League draw.

"When (Lewis Dunk) gave me that ball, I tried to hit it as hard as possible," Jahanbakhsh said. "The only way to connect with it was just to bicycle kick it, and it went in the right direction. It's a great feeling to be involved in such important games and I've been working hard to get my chance.

"It's been a very tough time for me, but I'm very glad to turn it around in a great game."

The 84th-minute bicycle kick lifted Brighton four points clear of the relegation zone. It was a setback for an erratic Chelsea side, with Christian Pulisic wasting chances to extend the lead secured by captain Cesar Azpilicueta in the 10th minute.

Chelsea still strengthened its grip on fourth place to five points thanks to Manchester United losing 2-0 at Arsenal but it could have been a greater cushion.

Tottenham's top-four chase also had a setback with a 1-0 loss at Southampton.

Runaway leader Liverpool is not in action until Thursday against Sheffield United. Leicester is 10 points behind, having played two games more, after Ayoze Perez, James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury scored in a 3-0 win at Newcastle.

Manchester City is a point further adrift after beating Everton 2-1 through Garbriel Jesus' two goals.

Completing the nine games on New Year's Day, West Ham beat Bournemouth 4-0, Aston Villa won 2-1 at Burnley, Watford overcame Wolverhampton by the same score and Norwich held Crystal Palace 1-1.

 

Arteta celebrates

 

 Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos, left, celebrates with teammate Lucas Torreira after scoring their side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Papastathopoulos scored once in Arsenal's 2-0 victory. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Mikel Arteta earned his first win as Arsenal manager at his third attempt through first-half goals from Nicolas Pépé and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

After collecting one point from his first two games since replacing Unai Emery, Arteta secured Arsenal's first win at home in the league in three months to guide the north London club up to 10th place.

 

Moyes' winning return

David Moyes received a lukewarm reception from West Ham fans as he returned to the dugout he vacated in May 2018.

They were soon celebrating as Mark Noble scored twice, and Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson also netted as the east London club cruised to a victory over Bournemouth in the first game since Manuel Pellegrini's firing.

West Ham is two points and two places above the relegation zone.

 

Mourinho moans

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho grumbled about a Southampton coach and VAR after Danny Ings' goal handed Spurs a 1-0 loss.

There was also the blow of losing striker Harry Kane to a hamstring injury after he had a possible equalizer ruled out for an offside that riled Mourinho.

The Portuguese was booked by referee Mike Dean for going over to the Southampton bench after arguing with goalkeeping coach Andrew Sparkes over apparent time-wasting.

"I think the yellow card is fair because I was rude but I was rude to an idiot and for some reason, for some reason I was rude," Mourinho said. "But I was and because I was rude I deserve the yellow card."

 

Var frustration 

Villa midfielder Jack Grealish's early header was ruled out at Burnley after a lengthy VAR review determined that striker Wesley's heel was offside in the buildup.

But the goal did count when Grealish set up Wesley in the 27th minute before striking powerfully in the top corner himself before halftime.

Burnley pulled one back through Chris Wood's header in the 80th but Villa held on to move a point above the relegation zone.


Brady, Patriots don't get usual R&R heading into playoffs

Arnie Stapleton

(AP) —Tom Brady and the defending champion New England Patriots aren't getting their usual bye week to rest, relax and recharge.

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens earned the AFC's top seed for the first time since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs earned the No. 2 seed, a holiday gift from the Patriots, whose stunning 27-24 loss to Miami at home last weekend sent New England into the wild-card round for the first time in a decade.

"Just too many bad mistakes," Brady lamented.

And too many bad breaks for the Patriots, a team that features a terrific defense but a sputtering offense behind an aging Brady, who has averaged just 197 yards on 59 percent passing in his last four games and who posted his lowest passer rating since 2006.

The Brady-led Patriots have never reached the Super Bowl while playing in the wild-card round.

"We talk about it each year, each team has their own journey and this is our journey," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said.

The Patriots host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday and the Buffalo Bills visit the Houston Texans to kick off wild-card weekend.

 

1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 1. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 47, 34-31 over San Francisco on Feb. 1, 2013. Last year: No. 4 seed, lost wild-card game at home to Los Angeles Chargers 23-17. Second consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.

 

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looks to throw against the Cleveland Browns during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Yea: Since their last loss, way back in late September, the Ravens have been virtually unstoppable on offense and exceedingly stingy on defense. That combination has produced 12 straight victories, and during that span no team came close to putting the breaks on Jackson and the league's highest-scoring team. Not only did Jackson set an NFL single-season record for yards rushing by a QB, but he also threw 36 TD passes. Baltimore is 19-3 with Jackson as a starter during the regular season, including 13-2 this year.

Nay: Baltimore prefers any opponent other than the Chiefs, who have beaten Jackson and the Ravens twice in the past two seasons. KC prevailed in OT last year when Mahomes threw for 377 yards, and 28-20 on Sept. 22. Baltimore should also be wary of Buffalo, which limited Jackson to 40 yards rushing and 145 yards through the air in a 24-17 Ravens triumph on Dec. 8. Any defense facing the Ravens can make things tough for Jackson by taking away the edges and covering the tight ends, easier said than done.

Say: "It's not easy to win in this league. It's a tough league, and we just have a lot of guys who believe in each other, care about each other and understand the value of hard work." — Ravens RB Mark Ingram.

 

2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 4. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 4, 23-7 over Minnesota on Jan. 11, 1970. Last year: No. 1 seed, beat Indianapolis Colts 31-13 at home in divisional round, lost to New England 37-31 (OT) in AFC championship at home. Fifth consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.

 

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates following an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Kansas City Chiefs won 31-21. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga) 

Yea: The Chiefs' biggest strength the past couple of years has been their offense, led by reigning league MVP Mahomes and with a group of high-powered playmakers including TE Travis Kelce, WRs Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins and RB Damien Williams. But their emerging defense may be even more crucial to postseason success. It held back-to-back opponents without a TD before holding the Chargers in check in KC's regular-season finale.

Nay: The Chiefs' biggest weakness is their secondary, where the loss of safety Juan Thornhill to a season-ending ACL tear against the Chargers leaves a big void in the back end.

Say: "We've got a lot of confidence, man. Defense is balling and our offense is getting things rolling. We're the hottest team. We have the most swag in the AFC." — Hill.

 

3. New England Patriots (12-4). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 7. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 53, 13-3 over Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019. Last year: No. 2 seed, beat Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 at home in divisional round, beat Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 (OT) on road in AFC championship, beat Rams at Super Bowl 53 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Eleventh consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.

 

 New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) points to Benjamin Watson (84) after a play during the first half of an NFL football game. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Yea: One of the surprises of the 2019 season was how inconsistent the Patriots were on offense as Brady relied heavily on veteran Julian Edelman while trying to work with a group of young receivers. But New England still has a shot to make it back to its fourth consecutive Super Bowl thanks to a defense that allowed a league-low 14.1 points per game. CB Stephon Gilmore leads a defense that had 38 takeaways and makes New England a very tough out.

Nay: Brady topped 4,000 yards passing for the 11th time, but the six-time champion showed signs of slowing down at age 42. Brady and the rest of the offense declined over the last half of the season when the schedule got tougher and the injury-riddled O-line struggled to find chemistry. The Patriots scored on just half of their red zone opportunities, which was 26th in the NFL, and Brady's 60.8% completion rate was his lowest since 2013. Unlike in years past, New England isn't equipped for a shootout in the playoffs.

Say: "No one feels sorry for the Patriots not getting a first-round bye in the playoffs. — safety Devin McCourty.

 

4. Houston Texans (10-6). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 10. No Lombardis. Last year: No. 3 seed, lost to Indianapolis Colts 21-7 at home in wild card. Second consecutive trip to AFC playoffs.

Yea: The Texans are only as good as QB Deshaun Watson. He's shown a penchant for coming up huge in big games but wasn't great in his playoff debut last year. The Texans rested him last week and he should be fresh to take on the Bills. Watson threw 26 TD passes and Houston's offense can be dangerous if he can figure out a way to rediscover the consistency he had early in the season when he had three 300-yard passing performances in five games.

Nay: Houston's secondary has struggled all season and the Texans rank 29th in the NFL by allowing 267.2 yards passing a game. The Texans added several players during the season to improve the group, but the defense continues to allow QBs to pile up big numbers. Houston has failed to develop a consistent pass rush, which has added to the woes in the secondary. However, this could improve in the postseason with the anticipated return of star J.J. Watt from a torn chest muscle.

Say: "To be here with this staff and a lot of these players, to be here for six years and to win four division titles, I think that's pretty good. So, I think ultimately when you get in the playoffs we all understand what the ultimate goal is." — coach Bill O'Brien.

 

5. Buffalo Bills (10-6). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 9. No Lombardis. Last year: 6-10. First trip to AFC playoffs since 2017.

 

 Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y. In making his NFL playoff debut against the Texans this weekend, second-year Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen gets an opportunity to show how far he's come since his last trip to Houston 14 months ago. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Yea: The Bills are at their best when second-year QB Josh Allen doesn't force throws. Allen is 10-1 overall when attempting 29 or fewer passes and 8-2 when not committing a turnover in a game he starts and finishes. The Bills' offense relies on a balanced attack, and playing complementary football with a defense that's held opponents to under 300 yards eight times this season.

Nay: Allen complained of experiencing early jitters in several high-profile games in December, most notably a 17-10 prime-time playoff-clinching win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 15, followed by a 24-17 loss at New England. Although Allen has five wins this season with the Bills tied or trailing in the fourth quarter, he's also struggled in crunch time. Buffalo's losses to the Ravens and Patriots were decided in the final two minutes, with Allen misfiring passes on fourth down in the red zone.

Say: "We have the confidence we could play with anybody, because we've played against the Patriots, played them head to head, toe to toe. ... Same thing with the Ravens. So we're not scared to compete or see anybody in the playoffs." — LB Lorenzo Alexander.

 

6. Tennessee Titans (9-7). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 12. No Lombardis. Last year: 9-7. First trip to AFC playoffs since 2017.

 

 Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Yea: The Titans are dangerous if Pro Bowl RB Derrick Henry keeps running like the NFL rushing leader with 1,540 yards in 15 games. Henry ran for 211 yards in the regular-season finale after taking a game off to rest his sore left hamstring. Henry is why Tennessee's play-action threat is so effective, and QB Ryan Tannehill has shown pinpoint accuracy, leading the NFL in both passer rating at 117.5 and 9.59 yards per pass attempt. That's how Tennessee has averaged 30.4 points in Tannehill's 10 starts.

Nay: The Titans started out holding opponents to 20 or fewer points in each of their first seven games and ended up doing that in 10 games overall. But the secondary lost CB Malcolm Butler to a broken wrist on Nov. 3, and CB Adoree' Jackson has missed a month with an injured foot. If a game comes down to a field goal, the Titans are on their fourth different kicker, Greg Joseph, who's perfect on extra points but hasn't attempted a field goal in two games.

Hey: "I'm not going to be out there trying to pass rush Tom (Brady). ... This isn't about my career, my eight years in New England. This is about the Titans and our preparation to go up there and face a team that's won three Super Bowls in the last five years. They're 8-0 at home in that span. They've got the No. 1 defense, they've got the best coach, they've got the best quarterback, so it's quite a challenge." — Titans coach Mike Vrabel.


San Francisco roars back into playoffs as NFC's top seed

Arnie Stapleton

(AP) —For the first time since 1997, the San Francisco 49ers are the top seed in the NFC playoffs, a stunning turnaround for a team that owned the second overall pick in the NFL draft just nine months ago.

After four straight losing campaigns, including only 10 wins in coach Kyle Shanahan's first two seasons, the 49ers went from 4-12 to 13-3 this season.

They emerged as the top team in the NFC thanks to a big-play offense and a vastly improved defense sparked by Nick Bosa, whom they chose with that No. 2 draft pick.

They earned the top seed with a thrilling finale at Seattle when rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw made a stop inches from the goal line, earning his team a week off and up to two home games in the 49ers' quest to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in seven years.

"It feels good to get where we're at," Shanahan said. "Our goal was to get in the playoffs, it feels much better with being the one seed. By now everyone knows there is only one team that is happy at the end of year."

The Green Bay Packers secured the other first-round bye.

The Seahawks visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and the Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints in the other NFC wild-card game.

 

1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 3. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 29, 49-26 over San Diego Chargers on Jan. 29, 1995. Last year: 4-12. First trip to NFC playoffs since 2013.

 

 San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo smiles after his team beat the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Yea: The 49ers have won different ways with the defense dominating early and the offense playing better late. The returns of edge rusher Dee Ford and S Jaquiski Tartt should help the defense return to its early season form. If QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense can maintain its play from the second half when the team ranked second in plays of at least 20 yards, the Niners should be tough to beat.

Nay: The Niners will still be missing at least one key defensive piece at the start of the playoffs in LB Kwon Alexander and several depth pass rushers also are out for the year. That could limit the improvement on defense and there is little playoff experience on offense with WR Emmanuel Sanders the only key skill position player who has been in the postseason. Garoppolo has improved the past few weeks but still has a propensity for turnovers, which could prove costly.

Say: "We knew going into the year we had a chance to be pretty good with what we had on paper and watching the guys throughout training camp. We knew that pretty well after the first five games, we could feel it. Then you go through a number of injuries and stuff and you never know how you're going to be able to fully handle that. That's what I have been impressed the most with the guys, no one has wavered." — Shanahan.

 

2. Green Bay Packers (13-3). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 5. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 45, 31-25 over Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6, 2011. Last year: 6-9-1. First trip to NFC playoffs since 2016.

 Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Yea: RB Aaron Jones is the team MVP. The third-year pro is Green Bay's first 1,000-yard rusher since Eddie Lacy in 2014 and his 19 total touchdowns (16 rushing, three receiving) tied Carolina's Christian McCaffrey for the league high. In the Packers' three losses this season, Jones averaged fewer than 42 scrimmage yards. If first-year coach Matt LaFleur gets Jones the ball early and often and QB Aaron Rodgers can add in a splash of his old magic, Green Bay could find itself in Miami in February.

Nay: Though Rodgers has had flashes of his old greatness, the 36-year-old two-time MVP has played far below his soaring standards. Rodgers had a passer rating of less than 80.0 in each of his last three starts and had a career-high 16 overthrows against Detroit in the regular-season finale. If the Packers are going to win another Super Bowl, they're going to need the Rodgers of old, not the old Rodgers.

Say: "We haven't always made it easy and we haven't always made it pretty, but for the most part, we've found a way to win every game. You have to say a lot about the resiliency of this team, because we've gotten ourselves into a lot of different scenarios, but we always believe we can go out there and put up a bunch of points in a hurry." -- WR Davante Adams

 

3. New Orleans Saints (13-3). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 2. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 44, beat Indianapolis 31-17 on Feb. 7, 2010. Last year: No. 1 seed, beat Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 at home in divisional round, lost to Los Angeles Rams 26-23 (OT) in NFC championship at home. Third consecutive trip to NFC playoffs.

 New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Yea: QB Drew Brees, who'll turn 41 on Jan. 15, has been in vintage form lately with a big assist from the NFL's top WR Michael Thomas. Brees has passed for 1,188 yards and 15 TDs in the past four games, evidence of his strong comeback from a thumb surgery that sidelined him five games. Thomas racked up a single-season record 149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine TDs. The Saints' eight turnovers are an NFL record low for a season. New Orleans had 51 sacks, third most in the NFL and ranked fourth against the run.

Nay: While the Saints don't have many weaknesses, they can be their own worst enemy. Their 120 penalties for 1,036 yards ranked sixth worst in the NFL in both categories and their minus-323 net penalty yards ranked second worst. New Orleans' secondary has been beset with late-season injuries. Both starting safeties and a starting cornerback did not play in Week 17.

Say: "Down the stretch here I think we've been an ascending team. We've been playing a little bit better each and every week, despite the fact that we have had some guys go down." — Brees

 

4. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 11. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 52, 41-33 over New England Patriots, Feb. 4, 2018. Last year: No. 6 seed, beat Chicago Bears 16-15 in wild-card game on road, lost to New Orleans Saints 20-14 in divisional round on road. Third consecutive trip to NFC playoffs.

 Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Yea: The Eagles are hungry and Carson Wentz is determined to do what Nick Foles did in his absence two years ago — win a Super Bowl. If Wentz continues playing at the MVP level he displayed in December, the Eagles are dangerous. They have a strong rushing attack that can control the clock and an experienced defense that shuts down the run and forces teams to be one-dimensional.

Nay: Seattle beat the Eagles in Philadelphia 17-9 on Nov. 24. Russell Wilson is 4-0 against Philly. The Eagles have been riddled by injuries and finished the regular season without seven starters on offense. Three of those players could return to face the Seahawks but it's likely two will be game-time decisions.

Say: "In the last couple games, (Wentz) has really put this team on his back and said, 'Hey, follow me.' And I think that's a sign of growth, a sign of maturity. I spent eight years in Green Bay with Brett Favre, and that's what Brett did. Brett just put the team on his back when the chips were against us and just said, 'Follow me.' And that's what Carson can do." — Coach Doug Pederson.

 

5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 6. Last Lombardi: Super Bowl 48, 43-8 over Denver Broncos on Feb. 2, 2014. Last year: No. 5 seed, lost to Dallas Cowboys 24-22 in wild-card game on road. Second consecutive trip to NFC playoffs.

 

 Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is chased by San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa on a carry during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Yea: Unlike years past, if the Seahawks are going to make a deep playoff run, it's going to be because of QB Russell Wilson. He's coming off the second-best season in terms of passing yards, completion percentage and a career-low five interceptions. Wilson's never been asked to carry Seattle in the playoffs but if he can rediscover the success from when he was in the MVP conversation with Lamar Jackson, Seattle has enough other parts to make some noise.

Nay: Injuries have stacked up for Seattle. The Seahawks lost their top three running backs, a starting edge rusher, tight end and center to season-ending injuries. Jadeveon Clowney is playing through a painful core muscle injury. Bobby Wagner has a bad ankle as does safety Quandre Diggs. Left tackle Duane Brown underwent knee surgery after Week 16. Eventually the lack of some key stars is likely to catch up with Seattle.

Say: "We have everything we want in the locker room. We have everything that we could need. We have everything that it takes. So it's been a tremendous season. It's been a battle so far. It's been a long one, but it's been a great one so far. The good thing is it's a refresh button, you get to hit the refresh button, start over, 0-0, see how far we can go." — Wilson.

 

6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6). AP Pro32 Ranking: No. 8. No Lombardis. Last year: 8-7-1. First trip to NFC playoffs since 2017.

 

 Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass in front of Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Yea: The Vikings have an experienced, accomplished defense that can pose problems for elite QBs and clever play-callers on the other side. The Vikings were sixth in the NFL with an average of 18.9 points allowed and fourth with 31 takeaways. Their play-action passing attack with Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook poses a dual threat and QB Kirk Cousins throwing deep to WR Stefon Diggs can be awfully dangerous, too.

Nay: The downside on defense is the erosion of the pass coverage. After ranking in the top three in passing yards allowed in the league in each of the past three years, the Vikings dropped to 15th in 2019. They also fell to 19th in the NFL in third down conversions allowed after leading the league in 2017 and 18. The offense carries its own reasons to doubt a playoff run, with Cousins never having won a postseason game in the NFL and a recent dud at home against division rival Green Bay.

Say: "I know it's been done before. Why not us?" — coach Mike Zimmer on the prospect of winning three road games to reach the Super Bowl.


Outdoor hockey in Texas? Sure thang, and was a hoot to boot

Dallas Stars left wing Blake Comeau (15) falls to the ice after being checked by Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) in the first period of the NHL Winter Classic hockey game at the Cotton Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Dallas Stars fans get hyped in the midway outside the Cotton Bowl before the NHL Winter Classic hockey game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Schuyler Dixon

Dallas (AP) — Ryan Clare chewed on a turkey leg as he milled about the Texas state fairgrounds hours before another major sporting event inside historic Cotton Bowl Stadium.

No, this wasn't the Texas-Oklahoma football game, always held in October during the fair. Clare has never been to the annual Red River rivalry, but the Dallas resident has been a fan of hockey and the Stars for more than 20 years.

Getting tickets to the NHL's Winter Classic for Dallas' 4-2 win over Nashville was a no-brainer for Clare, and probably many others among the 85,630 who filled a venue that used to be famous for college football on New Year's Day.

"This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event and everything," said Clare, the bottom of the Dallas resident's green No. 4 Miro Heiskanen jersey covering the top of his black kilt. "When are you going to something like this in Texas ever again?"

Yes, outdoor hockey in Texas was as much the spectacle as that phrase sounds, with racing pigs just outside the rink on the stadium floor, and horses spooked by fireworks during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

At one end of the stadium, line dancers stepped to the beat of live country music in front of a stage that wasn't far from a mechanical bull.

"I understand Twitter is going nuts in a good way about the pig races," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We tried to blend Texas and hockey. Each year we try and learn something and do it a little bit better."

The midway on the fairgrounds was filled with thousands of fans several hours before the game, some riding the giant Ferris wheel just southwest of the stadium and others on the swinging pirate ship or the haunted house ride.

Some waited in line at least an hour for the other headliner alongside a turkey leg at the State Fair of Texas every fall: a corn dog. "It was worth it," one said. There were so many lines, some didn't know where one started and the other ended.

Others almost ended up on the sky tram that crisscrosses the fairgrounds, when all they wanted to do was get in the stadium.

"We didn't know," said Samantha Williams, a Nashville season ticket-holder visiting Dallas for the first time.

There was some impatience in a huge cluster of fans outside the main entrance to the Cotton Bowl about an hour and a half before the start, a standstill bad enough for some to think it was the only way into the stadium when there were actually plenty of other entrances.

"It's been sensational," Bettman said. "The only complaints that we've been getting is that it's been too crowded. And in this business, you'll take that."

Bettman said the weather was perfect in every way: a temperature in the mid-50s with overcast skies that blocked the sun to prevent glare without bringing rain, which would have been an even bigger problem for the ice.

The Predators took a 2-0 lead early in the first period before the Stars thrilled the huge crowd with four goals in less than eight minutes in the second and third periods.

"We're very fortunate to be a part of it, hockey down in Texas and a couple of Southern teams, and fill the building the way we did," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was an incredible day. You want the score to go in a different direction if you're part of the game. But the game overall, the ice, the atmosphere, it was excellent."

The biggest difference from the Texas-OU spectacle was the fairgrounds emptying out once the game started. When the Longhorns and Sooners play, there are still thousands of regular fair-goers to see in the aerial television shots.

Inside, there was a bunch of Dallas green rather than the 50-yard line split of burnt orange and crimson, and a strong contingent of yellow-clad Predators fans.

Among them was Sonya Baird, a lifelong resident of southeast Texas who can't really explain how she became a Nashville fan. Baird did say she liked the style and energy of Shea Weber, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Predators.

And Baird's never been to the state fair, so ...

"I didn't know where this place was," she said. "It's pretty cool. I don't like crowds for some reason. It wasn't going to keep me away."

Same with Bryan Granstaff, who came from outside Nashville because his daughter wanted to attend. He wasn't much of a football fan, and couldn't say he'd seen a football game from the Cotton Bowl on TV.

"The only thing I keep up with is hockey," said Granstaff, a Predators fan for about five years. "Hockey and huntin'."

Well, at least half of that is quintessential Texas. As for the hockey half, it took quite a step to start 2020.


A refined Kapalua presents different test to start new year

In this Jan. 7, 2017, file photo, Dustin Johnson hits for the fourth fairway during the third round of the Tournament of Champions golf event at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. The course has gone through a refinement to prepare for the winners-only event on the PGA Tour that starts Thursday, Jan. 2. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Doug Ferguson

Kapalua, Hawaii (AP) — Lush green grass, Pacific blue horizon.

That much about the Plantation Course at Kapalua hasn't changed for the 34 winners on the PGA Tour last year who have assembled for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Fifteen players are competing for the first time and won't notice the $12.5 million refinement project by designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Dustin Johnson did.

"It's definitely a little harder," said Johnson, who has been playing every morning as the sun climbs over the horizon and is done with 18 holes before the breakfast buffet has been cleared. "The greens are firmer because they're new. The greens are firm and the fairways are soft. I think it will play more difficult."

What really got his attention was the third hole, which for 10 years has been a driver and a wedge. With a new tee some 30 yards farther back, and facing a stiff trade win, Johnson blasted driver and reached for a 6-iron.

"I knew it was longer and that I'd have longer in," Johnson said. "I didn't think I'd have that far. It's a difficult green with wedge to get it close. With a 6-iron, it's not that much fun."

This refinement was not all about length.

The Plantation Course had grown old enough that it lost its speed from so much thatch in the grass. The idea was for this course to play fast. That would make it more difficult for elite players to control their shots, and make it easier for resort guests who found the course too long because the ball wasn't rolling as far as it once did.

The entire course was grassed with a new strain called "Celebration Bermuda." The greens were redone with TifEagle Bermuda, with some ridges and plateaus added to create more hole locations and restore some shot-making value. Missing on the wrong spot of certain greens becomes more penal.

"Instead of having one gradual slope, now it's kind of turned into shelf," Justin Thomas said. "And you have to maybe focus a little bit more on being on the correct side of the shelf, or the correct side of the hole."

The course re-opened two months ago. The first big test is the Tournament of Champions.

Because the grass is new, and with ample rain over the last month, the fairways remain relatively soft. That should change over time, but there have been enough examples during practice to let players know what to expect.

Defending champion Xander Schauffele hammered a drive on the downhill, 667-yard closing hole and was surprised to see it hop out of pitch mark instead of bouncing forward. The pitch mark was 8 feet behind where his ball finished.

"If it firms up, it's going to be awesome," said Kevin Kisner, who needs some roll to play a 7,596-yard course at par 73.

All the bunkers were rebuilt with drainage. Some were moved to tighten the landing area, such as on the 16th and most noticeably on the par-5 fifth. It appears to be in the middle of the fairway, but it narrows the landing area. For now, that might not be an issue because the fairway is soft enough it's hard for anyone to reach it.

The biggest change, at least for the players who have previously played this winners-only event, are the sharpened slopes on some of the greens and the length, mainly on No. 3, 4, 9 and 10.

"Another one they renovated they didn't make shorter. I've yet to see that," Kisner said with a grin.

Kisner hit 3-iron into a strong wind on the 409-yard third hole. On the ninth, playing the new tee, he hit driver and a 3-wood that barely reached the second portion of the fairway. That wasn't just because he doesn't hit it a country mile. J.B. Holmes, one of the longest hitters, said he barely cleared the steep slope to get back to the fairway.

Holmes wouldn't expect that tee to be used dead into the wind.

"They can set it up and make all the changes look terrible, or they can set it up and make it look good," he said. "Overall, I think they did a good job."

Holmes had a few complaints, such as the severity of the 13th green and the length on No. 3, saying the green wasn't designed for the club required into the wind.

Then again, no one is ever happy with change, especially on the PGA Tour.

"I've seen a redo on some golf courses and was like, 'What the hell were they thinking?' It's not like that here," Holmes said. "I think they made the shots more challenging."

Either way, it's the hardest event on the PGA Tour to play — winning is the only criteria. It's on the west end of Maui with endless views of the Pacific and the occasional splash of a humpback whale. There's no cut. Last place gets $64,000.

"You never complain about being in Kapalua," Kisner said.


Killorn, Johnson lead Lightning in 6-4 win over Sabres

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (9) scores past Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Associated Press

Buffalo, N.Y. (AP) — Alex Killorn scored two goals, Tyler Johnson had a goal and two assists, and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-4 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.

Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli each added a goal and an assist, Kevin Shattenkirk also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 18 shots as the Lightning opened a four-game road trip with their 12th consecutive win against an Atlantic Division opponent.

Conor Sheary had a goal and two assists, and Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist for Buffalo.

The Sabres also got goals from Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey in losing their fourth in a row. Linus Ullmark made 16 saves.

 

 Hurricanes 3, Canadiens 1

Raleigh, N.C. (AP) — Erik Haula had a goal and an assist, leading Carolina over Montreal.

Sebastian Aho also scored and Teuvo Teravainen had two assists for the Hurricanes (24-14-2), who won their second straight game after a three-game losing streak. Ryan Dzingel scored into an empty net.

Max Domi scored for the seventh straight game for the Canadiens (18-16-6), who dropped their third straight and closed out a seven-game trip with a record of 3-4.

Petr Mrazek stopped 28 of 29 shots for the Hurricanes. Charlie Lindgren made 33 saves in his first start of the season for the Canadiens.

 

 Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 1

Columbus, Ohio (AP) — Zach Werenski got his first career hat trick, Elvis Merlikins stopped 36 shots in his first NHL start and battered Columbus beat Florida.

Werenski and the Blue Jackets served up a rude homecoming for Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was making his first appearance in Columbus since leaving as a free agent last summer. Bobrovsky, who played in Columbus for seven seasons and won two Vezina Trophies, had 24 saves.

Boone Jenner also scored for the Blue Jackets, who are missing 10 players to injuries and may have lost another, forward Alexander Texier, on Tuesday. Texier left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period and didn't return.

Columbus won for the first time in three games, but extended its points streak to 11 games (7-0-4).

Colton Scevior had the lone goal for Florida, which had a two-game win streak snapped.

 

 Red Wings 2, Sharks 0

Detroit (AP) — Jonathan Bernier made 34 saves, Tyler Bertuzzi scored his 15th goal and Detroit snapped a six-game losing streak with a victory over San Jose.

It was Bernier's first shutout of the season and 18th of his career. Filip Hronek also scored for Detroit, which had dropped all six games during its skid in regulation.

Martin Jones stopped 21 shots for San Jose, which has lost 11 of its last 13 (2-9-2).

 

 Maple Leafs 4, Wild 1

St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Auston Matthews and William Nylander each had a goal and an assist and Toronto beat Minnesota.

Alexander Kerfoot also scored and John Tavares added an empty-net goal for Toronto, which improved to 7-0-1 in its last eight games. Toronto has won 13 of 18 games since Sheldon Keefe took over as coach. Frederik Andersen stopped 26 shots.

Ryan Suter had a goal and Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves for Minnesota. The Wild, 10-4-3 at home, lost the first two games of a stretch in which they play 16 of 19 games at Xcel Energy Center.

 

 Golden Knights 5, Ducks 2 

Las Vegas (AP) — Jonathan Marchessault scored twice, and Vegas beat Anaheim.

Vegas closed out December with a 9-4-2 mark, and on a 13-6-3 run since Nov. 17, and remained in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and Reilly Smith also scored for the Golden Knights, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves and improved to 15-4-0 against Anaheim. Fleury earned his 455th win to take over sole possession of sixth place all time, passing Curtis Joseph.

Korbinian Holzer and Jakob Silfverberg scored for the Ducks and John Gibson made 38 saves while dropping to 2-8-1 against Vegas.

 

 Islanders 4, Capitals 3 

Washington (AP) — Casey Cizikas scored twice for the first time this season and Tom Kuhnhackl scored the go-ahead goal as the Islanders topped Washington.

Former Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 36 shots in the victory. Brock Nelson also scored in the first period for the Islanders, who won their second straight to close a three-game trip.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 14th and 15th goals for Washington, which lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season.

Tom Wilson also scored for the Capitals, and Braden Holtby made 18 saves.

 

 Devils 3, Bruins 2, SO

Newark, N.J. (AP) — Damon Severson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to give New Jersey a victory over Boston.

Severson beat Jaroslav Halak with a backhand and Mackenzie Blackwood clinched the win by stopping Patrice Bergeron.

Blake Coleman and Jesper Bratt scored for the Devils in regulation and Blackwood stopped 28 shots as New Jersey earned its second straight win.

Brad Marchand and Joakim Nordstrom scored for Boston and Jaroslav Halak stopped 42 shots. The loss snapped the Bruins' winning streak at three but they did extend their points streak to eight games (4-0-4).

 

 Jets 7, Avalanche 4

Denver (AP) — Kyle Connor had three goals for his first regular-season hat trick, leading Winnipeg over Colorado.

Blake Wheeler scored twice and Mark Sheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers had empty-net goals for Winnipeg. Scheifele had three assists and Ehlers had two. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 39 shots.

Connor's only other hat trick came in the playoffs last spring.

Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri scored for the Avalanche. Colorado is 1-4-1 in its last six games despite outshooting the Jets 43-26. Philipp Grubauer stopped 19 shots.

 

 Kings 5, Flyers 3 

Los Angeles (AP) — Adrian Kempe had a goal and an assist, Anze Kopitar added two assists and Los Angeles used a four-goal first period to beat Philadelphia.

Kyle Clifford, Alex Iafallo, Tyler Toffoli and Martin Frk also scored for the Kings, who are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. Jonathan Quick made 32 saves to snap a three-game losing streak.

Justin Braun, Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton scored for Philadelphia. Brian Elliott allowed four goals on 15 shots in the first period before being replaced by Carter Hart at the first intermission. Hart made 13 saves.

 

 Coyotes 3, Blues 1

Glendale, Ariz. (AP) — Phil Kessel scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Arizona beat St. Louis, halting the Blues' eight-game winning streak.

Conor Garland also scored, Jakob Chychrun assisted on both goals and Antti Raanta stopped 38 shots as the Coyotes ended a three-game losing streak. Nick Schmaltz added an empty-net power-play goal.

Tyler Bozak scored the Blues' only goal. The Blues ended up 0 for 4 on power plays and lost despite outshooting the Coyotes 38-27. St. Louis failed to score on a power play for the first time in five games.

 

 Blackhawks 5, Flames 3

Calgary, Alberta (AP) — Patrick Kane had two goals and two assists, and Chicago raced out to a four-goal lead and held on to beat Calgary.

Kane set up goals by Olli Maatta at 4:14 and Alex Debrincat at 5:35 and then made it 3-0 at 12:44 of the first period when he cut across the slot and beat David Rittich with a wrist shot from 30 feet out.

Kane's 21st goal of the season was the 377th of his career, tying him with Denis Savard for fourth on the Blackhawks' all-time list. The top three are Bobby Hull (604), Stan Makita (541) and Steve Larmer (406).

Kane's second of the game was an empty-netter at 19:59 of the third.

Dylan Strome also scored for Chicago (18-17-6), which has won three straight and five of six. Robin Lehner finished with 41 saves.

Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik and Sean Monahan scored for Calgary (20-17-5). The Flames are winless in their last five at home. (0-4-1).

 

 Oilers 7, Rangers 5

Edmonton, Alberta (AP) — James Neal had three goals and an assist and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and three assists as Edmonton built a six-goal lead and held on to beat New York.

Leon Draisaitl, Josh Archibald and Kailer Yamamoto also scored for the Oilers (21-17-4) who snapped a two-game losing skid and won for just the third time in 11 games.

Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome, Marc Staal, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad scored for the Rangers (19-16-4) who saw a two-game winning streak come to an end.


Harden returns to lead Rockets over Nuggets, 130-104

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots as Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Associated Press

Houston (AP) — James Harden scored 35 points after missing the last game with an injury to lead the Houston Rockets to a 130-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

The Rockets were back to full strength after Harden missed his first game of the season because of a sprained right toe in a loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Clint Capela (bruised heel) and Russell Westbrook (load management) also returned after sitting out on Sunday in the 127-112 defeat.

Nikola Jokic scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Westbrook had 28 points for his 11th straight games with 20 or more points, which is the longest streak by a Rockets player besides Harden since Yao Ming did it in 14 games in a row in 2006.

 

 Pacers 115, 76ers 97

Indianapolis (AP) — Domantas Sabonis had 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead Indiana over Philadelphia.

T.J. Warren had 21 points and Myles Turner added 14 for the Pacers, who ended a three-game losing streak in the series and improved to 22-12 overall.

Josh Richardson had 20 points and Ben Simmons had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, who have lost three straight with a game remaining in a four-game road trip. Philadelphia dropped to 23-13.

Philadelphia was without center Joel Embiid. The two-time All-Star, who leads the team 23.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, was out with a sore left knee.

 

 Celtics 109, Hornets 92

Charlotte, N.C. (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, Kemba Walker had 22 and Gordon Hayward added 21 as Boston beat Charlotte.

Boston has won six of seven and improved to 23-8.

PJ Washington led Charlotte with 15 points, and Miles Bridges had 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Hornets have lost six straight.

 

 Clippers 105, Kings 87

Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — Paul George had 21 points with season highs of 11 rebounds and nine assists to shake off a slow start, and short-handed Los Angeles thumped Sacramento.

Kawhi Leonard scored 14 of his 24 points in the third quarter to help the Clippers to their 14th consecutive win in Sacramento dating to 2013. Ivica Zubac added eight points and 13 rebounds, and Maurice Harkless scored 12 points.

The Clippers played without Patrick Beverley and sixth man Lou Williams. Beverely is nursing a sprained right wrist he injured during Saturday night's loss in Utah, while Williams missed the game because of personal reasons.

Richaun Holmes had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento. The Kings have lost eight straight.

 

 Raptors 117, Cavaliers 97

Toronto (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 24 points, Terence Davis matched his career high with 19 and Toronto finished 2019 on a winning note by beating Cleveland.

Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 14 points in his first start with Toronto as the Raptors recorded their fifth straight home win over the Cavaliers.

OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet each scored 12 points in the Raptors' second 20-point win over Cleveland this season. The Cavaliers lost 133-113 at Toronto on Dec. 16.

Toronto had lost three of four, but won for the 14th time in 19 home games. The Raptors went 9-7 in December, their busiest month of the season.

Collin Sexton scored 22 points and Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had won four of five.

 

 Spurs 117, Warriors 113, OT

San Antonio (AP) — DeMar DeRozan had 24 points and San Antonio escaped with a victory over short-handed Golden State.

Dejounte Murray scored seven of his 15 points in overtime, and San Antonio won its eighth in 13 games. LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Patty Mills had 18 points.

Alec Burks had 28 points and Glenn Robinson III added 25, including 15 in the first quarter, for Golden State.

The Warriors — already without stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson long-term — were without starters D'Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein. Draymond Green had 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in 36 minutes.

 

 Thunder 106, Mavericks 101

Oklahoma City (AP) — Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder each scored 20 points, Chris Paul hit the go-ahead basket with 40.9 seconds left and Oklahoma City rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes to beat Dallas.

Paul scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and added eight rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who have won seven of their last eight games to move into seventh place in the NBA's Western Conference standings.

The Thunder (18-15) are three games above .500 for the first time this season.

Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 35 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, but he and Maxi Kleber each missed a potential tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds.


Last yacht finishes Sydney-Hobart race, 4 days after winner

Competitors begin their journey south after the start of the 75th Sydney Hobart yacht race in Sydney Harbour, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (Rolex/Kurt Arrigo via AP)

Hobart, Australia (AP) — The final yacht has finished the annual Sydney to Hobart race — more than four days after the line honors winner.

After six nights at sea and with rations low, Tasmanian 30-foot yacht Take Five crossed the finish line Wednesday in 5 days, 23 hours, 41 minutes for the 628-nautical-mile course in the 75th edition of the race.

Comanche, one of five 100-foot super maxis among the 157 starters, finished Saturday morning in a time of 1 day, 18 hours, 30 minutes and 24 seconds to take line honors for the third time. Ichi Ban took handicap honors on Monday for the second time in three years.

"It took a few days longer than I was hoping but it's bloody awesome," Take Five owner and skipper Ian Gannon said of the six-night trip. "We did plan for a seven-day voyage, with emergency rations as well. Another day out there would have finished up everything that we had."

Gannon and his six-person crew were forced to spend four hours on Monday tucked into Tasmania's east coast when thunderstorms struck. They were not able to see the New Years’ Eve fireworks in Hobart because they were blocked by Tasman Island off the southeast coast of Tasmania.

Only three yachts — Faster Forward, Hollywood Boulevard and Minerva — failed to finish. There were no reported serious injuries.
 


DAILY UPDATE

|

Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story] : 

Arsenal beats Leeds 1-0 to reach FA Cup fourth round

McDavid leads Oilers past Maple Leafs 6-4

Spurs hit 19 3-pointers to stop NBA-best Bucks, 126-104


Australia win 3rd test; claim series sweep over New Zealand

Justin Thomas grabs a win he thought he had lost

Eller's goal completes Capitals' stunning OT win over Sharks

Canada rallies to beat Russia 4-3, wins world juniors gold


Texans roar past Bills for 22-19 win in OT

Titans pleased, but not satisfied after win over Patriots

City wins, United draws in FA Cup; Brighton, Villa out

Australia beats Canada to move atop Group F at ATP Cup


Chelsea denied by overhead kick; Arsenal beats Man United

Brady, Patriots don't get usual R&R heading into playoffs

San Francisco roars back into playoffs as NFC's top seed

Outdoor hockey in Texas? Sure thang, and was a hoot to boot


A refined Kapalua presents different test to start new year

Killorn, Johnson lead Lightning in 6-4 win over Sabres

Harden returns to lead Rockets over Nuggets, 130-104

Last yacht finishes Sydney-Hobart race, 4 days after winner