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Mickelson opens season at Humana Challenge

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Mickelson opens season at Humana Challenge

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) Phil Mickelson was a bit lost in the middle of the fairway - and at his best in some rough spots in his season debut.

Lefty made birdie after driving into a fairway bunker on a short par 5, saved par twice with sensational flops after bad swings on par 3s, and set up an eagle chance - that turned into a three-putt par - with a high slice from an adjacent hole.

From the fairway Thursday in the Humana Challenge, he struggled with distance control on short irons, leaving many long putts and few quality birdie chances. All understandable for a player coming off a long layoff and a lengthy bout with flu-like symptoms.

``I felt a lot better,'' Mickelson said. ``I took it easy on Monday and Tuesday. It was like Day 10, but I'm fine now. I'm 95 percent better.''

His game was still a little queasy.

``My timing and rhythm was off a little bit,'' Mickelson said. ``My putter was atrocious and I've been putting great, too. So, that was disappointing.''

He settled for an even-par 72, leaving him nine strokes behind first-round leaders Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro and James Hahn.

The 42-year-old Hall of Famer had three birdies, a bogey and a double bogey at La Quinta Country Club - one of three courses used in the pro-am event he won in 2002 and 2004. He was making his first start since tying for second in early November in the HSBC Champions in China, the only event he played after the Ryder Cup.

``When I'm not playing for a while, I really get excited to get back out and I was really amped up,'' Mickelson said. ``I was nervous today and excited to play and maybe a little over-amped because again everything was quick - my rhythm, timing, everything.''

That was apparent on the par-3 12th when he hit his tee shot short and left, leaving a 25-yard shot with a tall tree blocking his path.

Undaunted, he flashed a boyish grin, reached for his lob wedge, and hit a full-swing flop shot that climbed nearly straight up and over the tree and stopped 2 feet from the hole.

``That was one of my better wedges,'' Mickelson said. ``But, as I was telling my partner, `You hit it there as much as I do, eventually you're going to learn how to hit those shots.'''

He yelled ``Fore left!'' a second after hitting the tee shot on the 202-yard hole.

``It was just very bad timing,'' Mickelson said. ``Quick from the top, lower body fast. Just a bad swing. I did the same thing on the next par 3 with the same club. Only it went the other way. I made par both times, though.''

After the par save on 12, he hooked his drive so far right on the par-5 13th that he ended up in the rough on the adjacent 14th hole. And he pulled off another brilliant recovery shot, slicing a fairway wood high over trees and onto the green. However, his eagle try ran 12 feet past the cup and he three-putted for par.

``Gosh, I hit such a great 5-wood to 35 feet for eagle,'' Mickelson said. ``To three-putt that is just, it was just a lot of rough stuff today.''

Mickelson bogeyed the par-3 third, three-putting from the back fringe, and birdied the par-5 fifth after driving left into a fairway bunker and being forced to lay up. He made a double bogey on the par-4 10th after an aggressive drive over the trees went out of bounds.

``That hole has my number,'' Mickelson said. ``This time, it hit a tree, hit the cart path, went out of bounds by a foot. So, that hole is just my nemesis.''

He got one of the strokes back with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 11th, and got back to even par with a birdie on the par-4 18th, hitting an 8-iron from 168 yards to 3 feet.

``I hit a lot of fairways and was able to shake out an even-par round,'' Mickelson said. ``As bad as that is, I've got a low round in me tomorrow, I think. It doesn't feel like it's far off.''

Kokrak, Castro and Hahn shot 63.

Kokrak had two eagles and five birdies at La Quinta.

``I just tried to put it in the right spots, put it in the fairways,'' Kokrak said. ``Out there, that's key.''

Castro had nine birdies at PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course, and Hahn had nine birdies on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course.

``Chipped two in,'' Hahn said. ``Hadn't done that since I was 9.''

Russell Henley, the Sony Open winner Sunday in Hawaii in his first start as a PGA Tour member, had a 64 on the Nicklaus course. He's 32 under in his first five rounds this year.

``It was a perfect day,'' Henley said. ``The weather is perfect. The greens were true. So, it's just trying to stay patient and let the birdies come to me.''

Aaron Baddeley, Greg Chalmers and Doug LaBelle II matched Henley at 64. Baddeley played the Palmer course, and Chalmers and LaBelle opened on the Nicklaus course.

Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, had a 67 at La Quinta. The Canadian left-hander has missed 16 consecutive cuts and finished only one tournament - a tie for 70th in the AT&T National in July 2011 - in his last 28 events.

``I drove it well and putted well and everything was pretty good,'' Weir said.

FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker also had a 67 at La Quinta. He's the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 8.

DIVOTS: Mickelson is opening a stretch of five or six straight events, a run that will end at Riviera or the Match Play Championship. ... The tournament is the first of seven events this year with an expanded field because of the short season. There are 156 players this year instead of 144. ... Defending champion Mark Wilson shot a 77 at La Quinta.

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Capitals vs. Wild: Time, TV Channel, Livestream, how to watch

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Capitals vs. Wild: Time, TV Channel, Livestream, how to watch

Despite the loss to the Lightning, the Capitals are coming off of arguably their best game of the season. Still, they look to bounce back against the Minnesota Wild Friday night at Capital One Arena.

The Wild have lost two straight games and are ranked fifth in the Central Division while the Caps are sitting atop the Metropolitan Division. 

Here's how to tune in to Capitals-Wilds on Friday. Coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. WILD: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild, Game 75 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Wild game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Link)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Wild on NBC Sports Washington’s live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. WILD TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Wild Live
9:30 PM: Capitals Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Capitals Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. WILD INJURY REPORT

Capitals: Michal Kempny, D., Lower-body, Day-to-day.
Wild: Matt Dumba, D., Upper-body, Day-to-day. Mikko Koivu, C., Knee, Indefinitely. Luke Konin, C., Lower-body, Day-to-day.

CAPITALS vs. WILD SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time meetings: 23 games

All-time series record: Caps lead the all-time series 14-9-0

Last Meeting: November 13, 2018: Caps beat Wild 5-2

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: 

NCAA Tournament 2019: Virginia Tech vs. Saint Louis First Round, time, TV channel, how to watch

NCAA Tournament 2019: Virginia Tech vs. Saint Louis First Round, time, TV channel, how to watch

Riding with one of the most potent offense's in the country, the No. 4 Virginia Tech Hokies will play the No. 13 Saint Louis Billikens in the NCAA Tournament. 

That offense (10th in offensive efficiency in KenPom), gave Virginia Tech their best season in quite a while. Tech's 24 wins marked their second-highest win total in program history. However, they've been without guard Justin Robinson for the last half of conference play. He is back for the Hokies which adds another element for a team looking to win their first tournament game since 2007.

Saint Louis (22-12, 10-8 Atlantic 10) is only here because the Billikens won the A-10's automatic bid. With a solid mixup of zone defenses, they are a difficult draw for anyone, and especially a hot and cold shooting Hokies squad. 

Here is the NCAA Tournament information:

Virginia Tech vs. Saint Louis How to Watch

What: 2019 NCAA Tournament First Round, East Region

Who: No. 4 Virginia Tech (24-8, 12-6 ACC) vs. No. 13 Saint Louis (22-12, 10-8 Atlantic 10)

When: 9:57 p.m. ET on Friday, March 22

Where: SAP Center, San Jose, Calif. 

TV Channel: truTV

Online Stream: March Madness Live on NCAA.com

TV Announcers: Spero Dedes / Len Elmore / Steve Smith // Ros Gold-Onwude

Twitter: @HokiesMBB@SaintLouisMBB

Virginia Tech vs. Saint Louis Bracket Analysis

How They Got Here: Virginia Tech (at-large), Saint Louis (auto- bid, Atlantic 10 champions)

Previous Meeting: 77-71 Saint Louis win on Nov. 16, 2017 (Virginia Tech leads all-time series 7-1)

Next Round: Winner of No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Liberty

East Region Bracket:

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 North Dakota State
No. 8 VCU vs. No. 9 Central Florida

No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Liberty
No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Saint Louis

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Belmont
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Yale

No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Minnesota
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Bradley

Virginia Tech vs. Saint Louis Betting Spread, Lines & Odds

Favorites: Virginia Tech -10
Over/Under: 126
Money Line: Virginia Tech -565, Saint Louis +460
Against The Spread: Virginia Tech (17-14-1), Saint Louis (17-18)

Betting lines found on BetOnline.ag

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