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Great debut for Castro; Woods solid at Players

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy had their best start ever in The Players Championship.

It still wasn’t enough to catch a guy who had never played the TPC Sawgrass.

Roberto Castro hit shots to tap-in range on the famed 17th and 18th holes on his way to a 9-under 63. That tied the course record held by Greg Norman and Fred Couples, and gave him a three-shot lead over McIlroy.

Woods had a chance for his first bogey-free round until missing the 18th green and flubbing a chip. He still had a 67, the first time he has broken 70 in the first round.

Vijay Singh, playing one day after he sued the PGA Tour for its handling of his doping case, was largely ignored playing in the group behind Woods.


Romero sent back to minor leagues by Jays

TORONTO – The Blue Jays optioned left-hander Ricky Romero to Triple-A Buffalo and designated right-hander Edgar Gonzalez for assignment.

Romero lasted just one-third of an inning in Wednesday night’s 10-4 loss at Tampa Bay, the shortest start of his career and the quickest exit by a Toronto pitcher since Esteban Loaiza got only one out on July 2, 2001.

Romero, who gave up three run-scoring singles, lost his rotation spot after a poor spring training and remained in Florida to work on mechanics.


Toronto D Fraser has broken bone in face

BOSTON – Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser had surgery yesterday to repair a broken bone after being hit in the face with a puck during Boston’s 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.

Toronto Coach Randy Carlyle said Fraser was resting at home and was texting and talking to his teammates yesterday morning.

Fraser, who does not wear a visor, left the ice after being hit by Milan Lucic’s shot in the overtime loss to the Bruins on Wednesday night.


Crosby, Ovechkin, St. Louis finalists for Lindsay

TORONTO – Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis were nominated as finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award.

The award is presented annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association. Crosby, Ovechkin and St. Louis have all previously won the award.


Source: Sabres fire assistants Patrick, Adams

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A person familiar with the decisions confirmed the Buffalo Sabres fired assistant coaches James Patrick and Kevyn Adams.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity yesterday, because the Sabres have not announced the moves. The Buffalo News first reported the firings on its website earlier in the day.

The changes come two days after Ron Rolston took over as head coach. Rolston closed the season as the Sabres interim coach after Lindy Ruff was fired in February.


Russia shocked by France at world championships

HELSINKI – Defending world champion Russia was upset, 2-1, by France at hockey worlds.

A team stacked with NHL and KHL players bowed to a group of mainly French league players who ended Russia’s 13-match winning streak at the world championship in Helsinki yesterday.

France Coach Dave Henderson said it’s “so big for French hockey it’s hard to describe.”

France wasn’t good enough to play Russia or the Soviet Union until 1992. It had lost the six previous games, the last by five goals in 2009.


Ujiri named top executive for building of Nuggets

DENVER – Nuggets General Manager Masai Ujiri was named the NBA’s executive of the year yesterday, a day after George Karl was named the league’s top coach.

Ujiri, the first African-born GM in major American sports, built the Nuggets team that won an NBA franchise-record 57 games and went an NBA-best 38-3 at home before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.


Stoudemire’s limit would be 10-15 minutes

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Knicks Coach Mike Woodson said Amare Stoudemire would be limited to about 10 to 15 minutes per game if he is able to return during New York’s playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

Stoudemire worked out again yesterday as he nears his return from right knee surgery. He played in 4-on-4 scrimmages and says he felt better than he did after playing 3-on-3 Monday.

The Knicks will wait to see how the veteran forward feels today before determining whether he will be in uniform tomorrow for Game 3 in Indianapolis.


Federer loses to Nishikori at Madrid Open

MADRID – Second-ranked Roger Federer lost to Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, in the third round of the Madrid Open yesterday.

After recovering from Nishikori’s strong start, it looked as if Federer found his stride after roaring back in the second set. But Nishikori reasserted his ground game in the decider after breaking the defending champion for a 3-1 advantage and held on for the surprising victory to reach the quarterfinals.

Federer’s early exit leaves Rafael Nadal as the favorite after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost on Tuesday. Nadal beat Mikhail Youzhny, 6-2, 6-3, earlier.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova also reached the quarters in straight sets.

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