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McIlroy, Woods among top-class field in Abu Dhabi

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McIlroy, Woods among top-class field in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Rory McIlroy is looking forward to actually playing golf again after the buzz of his multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal and the selection of European Ryder Cup captain.

The world's top-ranked golfer and PGA Championship winner leads a star-studded field at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship that includes Tiger Woods, No. 5 Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer.

McIlroy signed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike this week and led the charge for Paul McGinley in his successful campaign to become Europe's 2014 Ryder Cup captain.

Now he's looking forward to getting his year off to a strong start at the National Course, where he has repeatedly come up short against Kramer, a three-time winner here.

``It's a place I have done well. I think one problem for me the last few years has been Martin Kaymer. He's played really well around here and won it a couple of times, three times I think, and I always came up second best,'' said McIlroy, who is coming off a season-ending victory at the Dubai World Championship as well as the European and PGA tour money titles.

``It would be nice to go one better this week and obviously that's what I'm aiming for, but it's a great field and looks like the golf course is in great shape as well.''

Most of the questions to McIlroy this week has been about his new sponsorship deal - estimated to be worth up to $20 million a year - but he insisted his emergence as a mega-rich athlete would have no bearing on how he approaches 2013.

``I'm just concentrating on playing golf. You know, all the financial side and everything like that will take care of itself,'' the 23-year-old Northern Irishman said. ``I'm in it to try and win trophies and they are worth more to me than any contract.''

The spotlight on McIlroy will be even bigger this week as he's paired with Woods for the first two days, in a group that also includes Kaymer, giving fans another chance to see golf's two biggest names go at it.

``I just want to get off to a good start,'' said Woods, who had a share of the lead after three round last year in Abu Dhabi but finished third after shooting a 72. ``I'm playing two weeks in a row, and I had a nice break and have geared up for these two weeks and have tried to get mentally and physically ready for these two tournaments.''

Woods said he was happy with his ball striking and short game toward the end of last season, so he hasn't made any major changes to his swing.

Is he ready to challenge McIlroy for the No. 1 ranking? Woods said for now, he's just concerned with winning.

``The rankings take care of themselves by winning golf tournaments,'' Woods said. ``I was at one point, what was I, outside the top 50 or whatever it was. But I won three times last year and lo and behold, look where I'm at. It's about winning golf tournaments and being consistent.''

Among those closing the gap on the top two is Rose, who starred in Europe's Ryder Cup victory over the United States and almost stole a victory from McIlroy in the Dubai World Championship. The Englishman shot a course-record 62 that included an eagle and eight birdies but fell two shots short.

Rose, who is making his first appearance in Abu Dhabi, said he was glad to be flying ``under the radar'' in the tournament where Woods and McIlroy are taking top billing.

``Well, I think status is something I'm a long way from, but I believe my game is not far at all,'' Rose said in comparing himself to Woods an McIlroy. ``I'm very happy that I can close the gap or hopefully make the gap disappear with some hard work and some just continue what I'm doing.''

Kaymer, a former No. 1 whose struggles last year resulted in him falling to 28th, said he was hopeful his Ryder Cup performance - sinking the putt that allowed Europe to retain the trophy - could inspire better results in 2013.

``Something career-changing happened,'' he said. ``And, obviously, that gives you so much motivation and belief.''

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two guys have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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