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Bjorn leads rain-interrupted Singapore Open

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Bjorn leads rain-interrupted Singapore Open

SINGAPORE (AP) Thomas Bjorn shot a 5-under 66 to take the lead of the Singapore Open after rain interrupted the first round Thursday.

The Dane holed six birdies to take a one-stroke lead over Simon Khan of England, Chinnarat Phadungsil of Thailand and Pablo Martin of Spain.

Top-ranked Rory McIlroy was at even par after eight holes when play was halted for the day due to rain and the threat of lightning.

Half the field -78 golfers - was still on the course when play was stopped. They'll resume Friday morning.

McIlroy, who had girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki by his side on the course, can emulate Luke Donald's 2011 feat of capturing both European and U.S. PGA Tour money titles in the same season with a strong result in Singapore.

The other big names in the field struggled. Three-time champion Adam Scott had three bogeys to go with three birdies to shoot a 71, while Phil Mickelson had a double-bogey and two bogeys on the back nine to hit a 73, one stroke better than Padraig Harrington could manage.

Bjorn said he adjusted quickly to the muggy conditions and the newly redesigned Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club, which players like Mickelson and Scott have deemed extremely challenging.

``I came here and saw the golf course and it's set up to be tricky this year,'' Bjorn said. ``It's not the longest golf course in the world, so if you can keep it in the fairway you can produce a score, and I did that very well today. That's only round one, so we'll work from here.''

The 41-year-old Dane is coming off a resurgent 2011 season in which he won three tournaments and finished fourth at the British Open at Royal St. George's - the scene of one of the biggest disappointments of his career.

At the 2003 British Open, Bjorn was leading by three strokes with four holes to play when his game completely unraveled. He needed three shots to get out of a bunker on the 16th hole and eventually ceded the Claret Jug to Ben Curtis.

So far this year, he's been unable to build on last season's strong results. His best finish is a share of second place at the Wales Open in June. Since then, he's only recorded two top-10 finishes on the European Tour.

Another player hoping for a boost in Singapore is Khan. He came out of nowhere to win the BMW PGA Championship in 2010 as the 471st-ranked player in the world, earning a playing exemption on the European Tour through 2015.

The 40-year-old Englishman has found limited success since and his previously improved ranking has slipped to No. 443. He pulled out of the second stage of the PGA Qualifying School this week to compete in Singapore.

``I would love to play out there (on the PGA Tour) one day. I just feel like my form really in Europe hasn't been as good as I would have liked it to have been,'' Khan said. ``For me, (with) a 7-year-old daughter at school, it gets a little bit more difficult. That was a consideration.''

Paul Casey of England had a share of fifth with South Korea's Y.E. Yang and Thailand's Kwanchai Tannin after rounds of 68.

Casey, currently in 83rd place in the European Tour money list, is making a late push to make the top 60 to qualify for the Dubai World Championship. He's finishing the year strongly, with a fifth-place result at the Perth International and a sixth-place finish at the BMW Masters in Shanghai last month.

Edoardo Molinari hit a hole-in-one on the 17th in shooting a 70 - two days after making a rare albatross on the par-5 fourth in a practice round.

``It was funny. It does not happen very often to hole two shots like that, but at least today it counted for something,'' the Italian said.

His brother, Francesco Molinari, was 3 over after nine holes when play was halted. Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was 2 over after eight, and John Daly was 1 over after six.

The field at the $6 million tournament has been slightly weakened this year with only four of the world's top-20 golfers playing: McIlroy (1), Scott (6), Oosthuizen (10) and Mickelson (13).

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.