Johnson leads PGA
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Dustin Johnson was determined to get off to a good start in the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, so for the first time, he decided against trying to drive the 10th green at Riviera and instead laid up with a 4-iron.
He made par, which never hurts. And then he took off.
Johnson birdied three of his next four holes, one of them with a 65-foot putt, and he kept bogeys off his card during a cool, gentle morning for a 7-under 64 to build a one-shot lead yesterday over Andres Romero and Kevin Stadler.
"Had good vibes going all day, and just hit the ball really good all day long," Johnson said.
Romero had eight birdies to offset a double bogey. He finished with four straight birdies for a 65. Stadler had the best score among late starters.
Phil Mickelson, going for an unprecedented third straight victory at Riviera, was 3 under midway through his round, but finished with three bogeys over his last four holes and wound up with a 1-over 72.
DEVILS GET KOVALCHUK
The defensive-minded New Jersey Devils picked up one of the NHL's marquee goal scorers in acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers in a blockbuster deal last night.
In getting the 31-goal scorer from the Thrashers, the Devils shipped defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft pick this year to the Thrashers for Kovalchuk and former Devils defenseman Anssi Samlema. The teams also swapped second-round draft picks this year.
$5 MILLION MATCH RACE
Oaklawn Park is throwing$5 million at star females Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to meet for the first time at the Apple Blossom at Hot Springs, Ark., in April.
The racetrack announced yesterday that the owners of both champion horses are receptive to the idea. No firm commitments have been made.
The 4-year-old Rachel Alexandra won 2009 Horse of the Year honors over the 6-year-old Zenyatta.
AND WHAT'S MORE ...
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland opened the defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title with a 4-under 68 yesterday to join five others tied for the lead at Dubai, United Arab Emirates. ... Right-hander Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers finalized an $80 million, five-year contract yesterday, a deal that includes a $500,000. ... Second baseman Orlando Hudson and the Minnesota Twins agreed last night to a $5 million, one-year contract.