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McIlroy 9 shots behind leader Colomo in Hong Kong

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McIlroy 9 shots behind leader Colomo in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AP) Defending champion Rory McIlroy finished nine shots behind leader Javier Colomo after the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday.

McIlroy admitted to feeling lethargic after shooting a 3-over 73.

Colomo, ranked 506th, recorded a career-best 64 in overcast and windy conditions on the suburban Fanling course.

That earned him a one-stroke lead over fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australia's Andrew Dodt.

The 48-year-old Jimenez would break his own record as oldest Hong Kong champion from 2008, and oldest ever winner on the European Tour if he were to capture the title a third time this weekend.

``I am like a good bottle of rioja because I just get better and better with age,'' Jimenez said with a smile.

Countryman Jose Maria Olazabal put himself in position to end a seven-year winless drought on the tour, playing alongside Jimenez and being among five players signing for 67s.

Olazabal also won in Hong Kong, in 2002.

McIlroy bogeyed his first hole and made his only birdie at the par-5 third hole. He dropped a shot at the sixth after being forced to play his second shot left-handed from beside a bush, and bogeyed 14 and 15.

``I just lacked a bit of energy out there, I felt a bit lethargic and mentally more than physically, if I am being honest,'' he said.

``I bogeyed the first, but then just got more frustrated as the round went on. I just felt like I was hitting some decent shots and just not really converting any chances for birdies and I just let it go a little bit.''

McIlroy believes he's just going through a comedown after securing the tour money title last weekend in Singapore.

``I suppose after last week, and winning the Race to Dubai title, it was always going to be a bit of a letdown,'' he said. ``I feel as though I am playing well enough, but I just need to get my head and the golf to match up and I'll be OK.''

Colomo found everything in synch in his Hong Kong Open debut.

He began his round on the back nine and after 10 straight pars he stormed to the top of the board with six birdies over his closing eight holes.

Colomo lost his card last year on Europe's secondary Challenge Tour and this season has been competing on the Asian Tour.

``After losing my card on the Challenge Tour, I was lucky to qualify for the Asian Tour and I'm 33rd on the rankings,'' Colomo said. ``That's perfect, because I now get to play co-sanctioned tournaments like this on the European Tour.

``So it's been a good chance for me to improve, and why not try and win a tournament and get myself onto the European Tour.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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