The Baltimore Sun

Woods says he'll return next week at Match Play


Eight months after winning the U.S. Open on one good leg, a healthy Tiger Woods is returning to golf. Woods said on his Web site yesterday that he will defend his title next week in the Accenture Match Play Championship, believing his reconstructed left knee and his game are good enough to win. "I'm now ready to play again," Woods said. The Match Play Championship begins Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., where Woods will end his 253-day break from competition. The timing could not be better for the PGA Tour, which has seen television ratings plunge after the world's No. 1 player had to miss the second half of the season. A week after winning the U.S. Open in a playoff for his 14th major, Woods had reconstructive surgery, the third operation on his left knee in five years. Woods will be under great scrutiny when he returns. The eight-month break is his longest ever, and there are questions of rust and how much he has modified his swing. Woods will play Australia's Brendan Jones in the first round.

PGA Northern Trust Open: : Phil Mickelson shot an 8-under-par 63 to take a one-stroke lead over Scott McCarron after the first round in Los Angeles. It was the first time in 10 rounds this year Mickelson has broken 70.

Judge bars positive tests from Bonds' perjury trial


A federal judge barred prosecutors from using three positive steroid tests and other key evidence in Barry Bonds' perjury trial next month because of personal trainer Greg Anderson's refusal to testify. The judge said without his testimony, prosecutors cannot link the tests to Bonds.

Yankees:: The cousin who Alex Rodriguez said repeatedly injected him with a substance from the Dominican Republic has been found living in Miami. Yuri Sucart and his wife, Carmen, live in a south Miami home protected by bushes and a rolling gate. Carmen Sucart told ESPN late Wednesday that her husband was the cousin Rodriguez referred to during a news conference in which the New York slugger tried to explain a 2003 positive drug test. Carmen Sucart told an ESPN producer on the phone that "her husband had nothing to say." She added: "What A-Rod said at the press conference is what happened and that is all." Rodriguez wouldn't address reports identifying Sucart.

Braves:: Atlanta and left-hander Tom Glavine agreed on a one-year, $1 million deal that could be worth up to $4.5 million depending on roster time, sources told and ESPN. ... Outfielder Jeff Francoeur agreed to a one-year, $3,375,000 contract, avoiding arbitration.

Et cetera: : Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis will have exploratory surgery on his pitching shoulder Wednesday and expects to miss the 2009 season. ... Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who had surgery on his right hip Nov. 24, said he's optimistic he'll be ready for Opening Day.

Ginobili out 2-3 weeks; Magic acquires Alston


San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili will miss two to three weeks with a stress reaction in his right ankle. It's not the same ankle Ginobili had surgery on last summer after the Olympics, forcing him to miss the first 12 games of the season. Ginobili is the Spurs' third-leading scorer, averaging 16.1 points off the bench. San Antonio (36-17) is first in the Southwest Division.

Trade deadline: : The only top contender to make an upgrade was Orlando, which landed Rafer Alston from Houston in a three-team deal that included Memphis. The Rockets got Magic forward Brian Cook and Grizzlies guard Kyle Lowry. Memphis received Orlando's first-round draft pick. The Magic needed a point guard to replace Jameer Nelson, who had season-ending shoulder surgery yesterday. Alston is averaging 11.5 points and 5.4 assists. ... The Bulls traded unhappy guard Larry Hughes to the Knicks for Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson. Chicago also traded guard Thabo Sefolosha to Oklahoma City for a 2009 first-round draft pick. ... The Knicks also acquired Chris Wilcox (Maryland) from the Thunder for Malik Rose and cash considerations. ... The Timberwolves sent Rashad McCants and center Calvin Booth to the Kings for forward Shelden Williams and point guard Bobby Brown.

Et cetera: : Boston forward Kevin Garnett strained his right knee in the second quarter of the Celtics' game at Utah. ... All-Star forward Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer with 25 points, will miss up to three weeks after suffering a partial tendon tear in his right foot.

Spurs 83, Pistons 79: : Tim Duncan had 18 points and 18 rebounds, and visiting San Antonio beat Detroit. The Pistons dropped to 2-10 at home in the past six weeks.

Texas Tech signs Leach to five-year contract

et cetera

Texas Tech and Mike Leach agreed on a new contract after months of contentious negotiations, keeping the football coach with the school through 2013. Leach signed the contract shortly after he and Kent Hance, the university's chancellor, met for about two hours to reach an agreement. Weeks ago, Leach and Tech essentially settled on the financial terms of a five-year, $12.7 million deal, but Leach took issue with several clauses the school added. Leach is 76-39 in nine seasons.

Auto racing: : A crew member for Jeremy Mayfield's team was suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy. Paul Chodora is the first person punished under a policy that began this season.

Diversity:: College sports took a step backward last year in their efforts to promote diversity in hiring practices, according to a study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. College athletics, which received the lowest grade of any of the sports researched, got a C+ for race and a B for gender for a combined C+ grade. It earned a B- and B+, respectively, in 2006-07. The WNBA got an A+, the NBA an A, Major League Soccer a B+ and Major League Baseball a B.

Varsity:: McDonogh junior defender Marquez Fernandez was named the 2008-09 Gatorade Maryland Boys Soccer Player of the Year. The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence, high standards of academic achievement, and exemplary character on and off the field.

Tennis:: Serena Williams will face big sister Venus in the semifinals of the Dubai Tennis Championship in the United Arab Emirates. Top-seeded Serena beat eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-4, 6-4, in the quarterfinals, and Venus defeated Elena Dementieva, 6-3, 6-3.

NHL:: The Red Wings will open the 2009-10 regular season against the Blues with a two-game series in Stockholm, and the Blackhawks play two games against the Panthers in Helsinki. The games are scheduled for Oct. 2-3. ... Visiting Columbus defeated Toronto in a shootout, 4-3, to give coach Ken Hitchcock his 500th career victory.

Soccer: : Crystal Palace Baltimore signed defender Stephen Basso (Hammond), goalie Billy Chiles (Towson University) and forward Kevin Gnatiko (UMBC).

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