Rory McIlroy again put himself in contention to win an event where he has had so many near misses, shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship.

In 10 appearances in Abu Dhabi, McIlroy has finished second on four occasions and third three times. Apart from one missed cut, he has only one finish outside the top 10 – tied for 11th place in 2008 in his first appearance. McIlroy had a one-shot lead over Tyrrell Hatton (65), with later starters unable to finish their first round. Hatton made a spectacular start with an eagle on the 10th, his opening hole, and also eagled the par-five 18th.

Defending champion Lee Westwood (69) was five shots off the lead.

PGA: Brandon Hagy took the first-round lead in The American Express with an 8-under 64 on the Nicklaus course, staying one shot ahead of South Korea’s Byeong Hun An in La Quinta, California.

Max Homa, Martin Laird and Si Woo Kim shot 66.



WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Evina Westbrook, who transferred from Tennessee two years ago, connected on back-to-back fourth-quarter 3-pointers to spark third-ranked Connecticut (9-0) to a 67-61 victory over the No. 25 Volunteers (9-3) in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Christyn Williams led UConn with 20 points. Freshman Paige Bueckers added nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and hit a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to make it 66-61.

• Aliyah Boston had her second career triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks to lead No. 4 South Carolina (11-1, 6-0 SEC) to its 25th straight conference win, 62-50 victory over No. 22 Georgia (12-2, 4-2) in Columbia, South Carolina.

• Jacy Sheldon scored 20 points, including a 3-pointer and two free throws in the final 48 seconds, and No. 17 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) earned an 81-77 win over No. 11 Michigan (10-1, 5-1) in Columbus, Ohio, spoiling Naz Hillmon’s 50-point, 16-rebound performance.

• Lexi Held scored 17 points, Deja Church had a double-double and No. 18 DePaul (9-3, 6-1 Big East) used strong finishes each quarter to roll to an 80-66 win over Butler (1-10, 1-9) in Indianapolis.


• Lindsey Pulliam scored 19 of her season-high 28 points in the third quarter and grabbed six rebounds to lead No. 21 Northwestern (8-2, 6-2 Big Ten) to a 73-54 win at home against Illinois (2-7, 0-6).

FOOTBALL: National champion Alabama has hired former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien is replacing Steve Sarkisian, who left to become head coach of the Texas Longhorns after the national championship game.


BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Boothbay ended the game with a 29-4 run as it rallied for a 56-41 win against visiting Winthrop.

The hosts got 17 points from Sullivan Rice, 16 from Ben Pearce and 14 from Kaleb Ames.


Gavin Perkins scored 23 points for Winthrop.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Maddie Perkins scored 18 points for Winthrop (1-1) in a 55-37 victory at home against Boothbay.

Glory Blethen led Boothbay (1-1) with 15 points.


MLB: Catcher Jason Castro agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with the Houston Astros, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

This will be Castro’s second stint with the team. He was selected in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft by the Astros and spent his first six MLB seasons with the team.


Utilityman Daniel Robertson agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers that allows him to earn an additional $400,000 in performance bonuses.


ENGLAND: Liverpool’s 68-match home unbeaten streak in the Premier League ended with a 1-0 loss to Burnley in the latest setback of a fading title defense.

Ashley Barnes scored from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute as Burnley became the first team to win in the league at Anfield since April 2017.

FIFA-UEFA WARNING: As UEFA prepares a final proposal to change the Champions League format in 2024, the governing body of European soccer joined FIFA in warning clubs against breaking away to run their own competition.

Players who take part in a Super League-type competition – likely limited to storied clubs – would be banned from representing their countries at the World Cup, FIFA and its six continental confederations said in a joint statement.


Real Madrid and Barcelona were linked last year with planning a breakaway Super League inviting famous clubs to enter and increase their own wealth.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin denounced it as a “selfish and egotistical scheme” after Madrid president Florentino Pérez was reportedly seeking financiers to back the project.

The reports were seen as trying to put pressure on UEFA during talks to make changes to the Champions League that would favor elite clubs.

“Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation,” the joint statement said.


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Lithuania offered to replace ousted Belarus as co-host of this year’s world championships.

The event is scheduled to run from May 21 to June 6.

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