Masters first round postponed
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 10 (UPI) -- A waterlogged course and the threat of more rain forced officials Thursday to postpone the opening round of the Masters until Friday.
It was the first time since 1939 that the first round of the tournament had to be pushed back a day.
Masters Competition Committee Chairman Wil Nicholson said an attempt would be made to do something that has never been done in the 67-year history of the event -- play the first two rounds of the tournament in one day.
With forecasts calling for improving weather on Friday and through the weekend, Nicholson said he hoped to be able to complete the Masters on schedule Sunday afternoon. Whatever happens, the tournament will be played to a conclusion.
"We will complete 72 holes, sometime," he said.
Rain began falling in the area Sunday and periodic showers and thunderstorms have hit the Augusta National Golf Club course ever since. Almost four inches have rain have fallen since the slow-moving system arrived and a downpour swept through Augusta in the early morning hours Thursday.
Nicholson, a member of the Augusta National for 30 years, toured the course at dawn Thursday along with officials from the PGA Tour and the European Tour. They all agreed the course, with some work, could be made playable.
It was decided at that time that the 93-man field would be allowed to start play at 11 a.m. EDT and that both the first and tenth tees would be used. The thousands of spectators who were lined up when the gates opened at 8 a.m. were allowed to enter the grounds and preparations were made to start the first major golf championship of the year.
As the morning progressed, however, more rain began appearing on the radar and it seemed clear that the course was going to take on more water. So about 15 minutes before the first ball was to have been struck, Nicholson made the final decision to postpone the first round.
Red Wings open Stanley Cup bid
DETROIT, April 10 (UPI) -- Defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit and the Colorado Avalanche will host NHL playoff openers Thursday night.
The second-seeded Red Wings face the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who are in the playoffs for only the second time in their 10-year history, and the third-seeded Avalanche meet the upstart Minnesota Wild, a playoff newcomer under veteran coach Jacques Lemaire, in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
The other Western Conference series Thursday has the fourth-seeded Vancouver Canucks hosting the St. Louis Blues.
The lone Eastern Conference series Thursday features the Southeast Division champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.
Last season, en route to their third Stanley Cup in six years, the Red Wings lost the first two games at home against Vancouver in the quarterfinals before winning four straight.
This season, the Central Division-champion Red Wings earned 110 points, one shy of the Dallas Stars for the best record and home-ice advantage through the Western Conference finals.
Dave Lewis will be making his playoff coaching debut for Detroit, which will play its first postseason game without Scotty Bowman since 1993. But the Red Wings have 11 players who have at least 125 playoff games of experience and four more with at least 70 postseason appearances.
Sale of Sabres approved
BUFFALO, N.Y., April 10 (UPI) -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Thursday the sale of the Buffalo Sabres had been approved.
Both the NHL Board of Governors and U.S. Bankruptcy Court had to sign off on the sale before the team could be handed over to billionaire Tom Golisano.
Golisano reportedly paid more than $80 million, plus future operating losses, for the Sabres.
The 61-year-old Golisano is the founder of Rochester, N.Y.-based Paychex, the nation's second-largest payroll-processing company. He failed last fall in his third bid to become governor of New York.
Former Sabres president Larry Quinn has served as Golisano's point man in the negotiations and said the final step in the sale is a closing, which is expected to take place in the next few days.
Williams talks ongoing at North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C., April 10 (UPI) -- Job talks between North Carolina AD Dick Baddour and Kansas Coach Roy Williams will apparently continue through Sunday.
Baddour insisted, however, that Williams had yet to be offered the job.
"I have had several very good conversations with Roy Williams over the last two days," Baddour said in a statement released by the athletic department. "Those talks will continue through the weekend. I have not offered the job to coach Williams, but we have had good conversations that will continue over the next few days.
"He understands we will continue to proceed with other candidates as well.
"Typically, I do not comment on job searches. However, this is obviously not a typical situation. Coach Williams and I both felt there was so much misinformation out there that an update to confirm our talks was both responsible and necessary."
Williams' name immediately surfaced as a candidate at North Carolina, his alma mater, after Matt Doherty resigned as coach last week. In 2000, Williams turned down the North Carolina job before it went to Doherty.
Kansas fired Al Bohl as athletic director on Wednesday in what was viewed as an attempt to get Williams to stay at the school.
It has been widely rumored that Williams has been at odds with Bohl and would remain at the school only if Bohl left.
Rockies sign Greg Vaughn
DENVER, April 10 (UPI) -- The Colorado Rockies on Thursday signed veteran slugger Greg Vaughn to a minor league contract with Class AAA Colorado Springs.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays waived Vaughn on March 22, but he was not claimed due to a $9.25 million salary in 2003 that Tampa Bay is obligated to pay.
The 37-year-old Vaughn has 352 career homers and 1,067 RBI in 13 full major league seasons. He had 95 homers and 237 RBI in 1998 and 1999 for the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.
Colorado already has a productive outfield with starters Larry Walker, Preston Wilson and Jay Payton.
Vaughn was beset by shoulder and leg injuries over the past three seasons in Tampa Bay, totaling 60 homers and 185 RBI. Last year, he played in just 69 games and batted .163 with eight homers and 29 RBI.
Giants add kicker Mike Hollis
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 10 (UPI) -- The New York Giants Thursday signed veteran kicker Mike Hollis, completing an offseason overhaul of their special teams.
Hollis has converted 200 of 250 field goal attempts in an eight-year career for an 80 percent rate that is ninth best in NFL history.
New York Coach Jim Fassel made it a priority to address the kicking game after the Giants were plagued by mistakes and breakdowns on special teams during the 2002 season. They previously signed punter Jeff Feagles, long snapper Ryan Kuehl and kick returner Brian Mitchell.
Hollis spent his first seven years with the Jacksonville Jaguars and earned Pro Bowl honors in 1997 after leading the league with 134 points. In eight postseason games, he converted 16 of 18 field goals with a long of 46.
Islanders Eric Godard suspended one game
NEW YORK, April 10 (UPI) -- New York Islanders rookie right wing Eric Godard has received the first suspension of this postseason.
Godard was handed a one-game suspension on Thursday for a high-sticking double-minor on Ottawa Senators right wing Chris Neil with 32 seconds remaining in New York's 3-0 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The 6-4, 227-pound Godard appeared in 19 games in the regular season and collected 48 penalty minutes without a point. Acquired from the Florida Panthers last June, Godard led the Western Hockey League with 310 penalty minutes in 1999-2000.
Godard will miss Game 2 of the best-of-seven series Saturday at Ottawa.