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WAMC Sports Report 4/7/23: Koepka living large at Masters, leads with Rahm and Hovland

Brooks Koepka waves after his shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/AP
Brooks Koepka waves after his shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Brooks Koepka is in a three-way share of the lead at the Masters with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland. Koepka is trying to regain his reputation as a major player. Right now he gets attention as a surprise defector to Saudi-based LIV Golf. All he cares about his having healthy legs. He opened with a 65. Rahm was even more spectacular in his round of 65. That's because he four-putted for double bogey on the first hole. He followed with seven birdies and an eagle. Hovland played bogey-free. Tiger Woods limped his way to a 74 and was nine back. It was the worst opening round for Woods at the Masters since 2005, when he followed another 74 with 65-66-71 to capture the fourth of his five green jackets. But he's hardly the same player these days. He’s now a combined 16 over for his last four rounds at Augusta National.

Phil Mickelson is still a popular figure at Augusta National, even if the crowds that followed him during the first round of the Masters were smaller than previous years. Lefty opened with a 1-under 71 on a day when Brooks Koepka fired the biggest salvo for the upstart LIV tour. Koepka is tied for the lead after a 65. Just imagine the fallout if he claims a green jacket for the Saudi-backed tour. Eighteen players from LIV qualified for the Masters. That dropped to 17 when Kevin Na withdrew after nine holes. Koepka led six LIV players who broke par.

An independent tribunal has ruled that the European tour was within its rights to sanction members who competed on the Saudi-funded LIV Golf without permission. An appeal panel at Sport Resolutions found that players including Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood committed “serious breaches” of the European tour code of behavior by playing in LIV Golf events last year despite requests to be released having been refused. The ruling allows the European tour to impose fines of $125,000 on players competing in the rival league without a conflicting events release.


Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says re-signing Kyrie Irving is the team's top offseason priority. But he doesn't view it as a “Kyrie or bust” scenario. The billionaire business also is showing support for coach Jason Kidd with the team in danger of missing even the play-in tournament a year after going to the Western Conference finals. Cuban blames himself for a roster that never found an identity. The owner is noncommittal on terms of a new contract for Irving because of uncertainty over rules in the new labor deal.


Adam Pelech, Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri and Ryan Pulock all scored second-period goals, Ilya Sorokin made 29 saves and the New York Islanders kept pace in the Eastern Conference wild-card race with a 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Simon Holmstrom and Bo Horvat also scored for the Islanders who are in a battle with Florida and Pittsburgh for the two wild-card spots. All three teams won Thursday night. The Panthers and Islanders are tied with 89 points, with the Penguins just one point behind. Each has three games remaining. Kucherov ruined Sorokin’s shutout bid at 16:47 of the second with his 30th goal.

Kasperi Kapanen scored 1:16 into overtime to help the St. Louis Blues beat the New York Rangers 3-2. Kapanen took a pass from Brayden Schenn to score his 15th goal of the season for St. Louis, which has won two in a row. Tyler Pitlick and Alexey Toropchenko also scored, and Jordan Binnington made 21 saves. Vincent Trocheck tied it at 2 for the Rangers with 2:03 remaining in regulation on a power play and Jaroslav Halak pulled for an extra attacker. Vladimir Tarasenko scored and added an assist in his first game in St. Louis since being traded to New York on Feb. 9.

Jack Hughes scored two goals and set up two by Timo Meier as the New Jersey Devils had their biggest offensive output in more than four years with an 8-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tomas Tatar, Erik Haula, Damon Severson and Ryan Graves also scored as the Devils earned their 50th win of the season, one off tying the franchise record set in 2008-09. Vitek Vanecek made 16 saves in his 32nd win. Finnish rookie Joona Luoto scored his first NHL goal for injury-riddled Columbus.

David Pastrnak scored his 57th goal of the season at 2:30 of overtime to give the history-chasing Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. Pastrnak blasted a shot from inside the left circle as the Bruins notched their 61st victory — one off the NHL season record set by Detroit in 1995-96 and matched by Tampa Bay in 2018-19. Jeremy Swayman made 31 saves for Boston, winners of four straight, and Charlie Coyle also scored. Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves for Toronto, which led 1-0 heading into the third period on Sam Lafferty’s second-period goal.

Tage Thompson scored his 45th goal of the season, Dylan Cozens had two goals and the Buffalo Sabres outlasted the Detroit Red Wings 7-6 in a shootout. Henri Jokiharju, Zemgus Girgensons and Jordan Greenway also scored for the Sabres, and Devon Levi made 26 saves. Alex Tuch and Jack Quinn scored in the shootout. Thompson is the first Sabres player to reach 45 or more goals in a single season since Alexander Mogilny (76) and Pat LaFontaine (53) did so in 1992-93. Austin Czarnik, Dylan Larkin, Alex Chiasson, Simon Edvinsson, Jonatan Berggren and David Perron scored in regulation for the Red Wings. Lucas Raymond scored the only shootout goal for Detroit.

Jason Robertson beat the first-period buzzer while scoring twice, and the Dallas Stars kept pace in the tight Central Division playoff race with a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Joe Pavelski had a goal and two assists to get to 999 career points. The Stars reached 100 points and stayed even with defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado. The Avalanche beat San Jose 6-2. The night started with Minnesota also in a three-way logjam atop the Central. The Wild dropped two points back with a 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh. Kevin Hayes scored in the Flyers' fourth consecutive regulation loss. Robertson opened the scoring with just 1.3 seconds left in the first.

Tristan Jarry stopped 27 shots and the Pittsburgh Penguins kept pace in the race for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins bounced back from a miserable performance in a loss to New Jersey by putting together three complete periods, a rarity for most of the last three months. Kris Letang, Rickard Rakell, Jason Zucker and Jeff Carter scored for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury fell to 4-4 all-time against Pittsburgh, where he won three Stanley Cups before leaving in 2017. The Wild lost in regulation for just the third time in their last 24 games.

The Seattle Kraken clinched the first playoff berth in franchise history and set an NHL record for victories in an expansion team’s second season by beating the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, Matty Beniers and Vince Dunn scored for the Kraken, who earned their 44th win. It's the most by a second-year NHL team since the Original Six era, which ended in 1968. Seattle was 27-49-6 in its first season and finished last in the Pacific Division. Philipp Grubauer had 27 saves for Seattle, which won its third straight game. Barrett Hayton and Laurent Dauphin scored for Arizona, which has dropped nine in a row. Karel Vejmelka stopped 29 shots.


Adam Duvall hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the sixth inning and the Boston Red Sox went on to beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3. Miguel Cabrera hit a two-out RBI single in the third inning of his final home opener to put Detroit up 3-1. The Red Sox scored a run in the third and fourth before surging into the lead with a four-run sixth. Boston was swept at home earlier in the week by Pittsburgh. Chris Sale gave up three runs and four hits and three walks while striking out seven in five innings

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Mets games were both postponed yesterday due to rain. The Yankees resume their series at Baltimore this afternoon at 3:05. The Mets resume their series in New York against Miami this afternoon at 1:10.


A new rule proposed by the Biden administration would prevent schools and colleges from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes, but it would allow certain exceptions to promote fairness or reduce injuries. The proposal sends a political counterpunch toward a wave of Republican-led states that have sought to ban trans athletes from competing in school sports. If finalized, it would become enshrined as a provision of Title IX, the landmark gender equity legislation enacted in 1972. It must undergo a lengthy approval process, however, and it’s almost certain to face challenges from opponents.

The Supreme Court is allowing a 12-year-old transgender girl in West Virginia to continue competing on her middle school’s girls sports teams while a lawsuit over a state ban continues. The justices refused to disturb an appeals court order that made it possible for the girl, Becky Pepper-Jackson, to continue playing on her school’s track and cross-country teams, where she regularly finishes near the back of the pack. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would have allowed West Virginia to enforce its law against Pepper-Jackson.


The UConn men’s basketball team will be honored with a parade through Hartford on Saturday after winning the NCAA national championship this week. The Huskies notched their fifth title by beating San Diego State in the men’s basketball tournament. The parade begins at 11:30 a.m. at the state capitol and will be followed by a rally outside the XL Center. Governor Ned Lamont says all residents are invited to show how proud the state is of the team.

LSU’s national champion women’s basketball team will accept an invitation from President Joe Biden to visit the White House. University spokesman Michael Bonnette confirmed LSU’s intentions on the matter on Thursday, a day after Tigers star forward Angel Reese suggested during a podcast interview that her team should celebrate their title with former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama rather than President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden. Reese made the suggestion after saying she was not inclined to accept an apology from Jill Biden for suggesting that both LSU and runner-up Iowa be invited to the White House. President Biden did not follow through on that idea, inviting only LSU and men’s national champion Connecticut.

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A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.