The Baltimore Sun

Mickelson leads by four in L.A. after 9-under 62


Phil Mickelson was in contention for the first time all year and wanted to make sure he stayed there. Moments after signing his scorecard after the second round - which was nine shots worse than his opening round - he called Butch Harmon in Las Vegas and asked whether he could meet him on the range yesterday morning at Riviera Country Club. The work paid off in the PGA Northern Trust Open. Mickelson made four straight birdies in the final hour of the third round to pull away from a strong leader board with a 9-under-par 62, topping the personal best at Riviera he had set two days earlier and building a four-shot lead going into the final round. "He's pretty good at what he does," Mickelson said. "Having him be able to be right there and identify it was nice." Mickelson was at 16-under 197, four shots clear of Andres Romero. A parabola could be used to diagram his first three days - 63-72-62. Mickelson and Romero will be joined in the last group by Fred Couples (65), who is at 11-under 202.

Champions Ace Group Classic:: Gene Jones shot a 70 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round in Naples, Fla. Jones, looking for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour, made a 15-footer for birdie to get to 4-under 140 at TPC Treviso Bay.

V. Williams wins final in Dubai, speaks of Peer


Venus Williams won her 40th singles title, defeating Virginie Razzano of France, 6-4, 6-2, in the final of the WTA Dubai Tennis Championship. During the trophy presentation, Williams spoke about Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates for the tournament because of what organizers called security concerns. "I felt like I had to talk about her," Williams said. "I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen." Peer was denied entry into the country a week ago. The Women's Tennis Association fined organizers of the tournament a record $300,000 Friday, saying it will compensate Peer and ensure that other Israeli players aren't shut out of future events. Israeli player Andy Ram was granted a visa Thursday for the coming men's tournament in Dubai. Organizers said Ram would have the security needed to play.

A: TP Regions Morgan Keegan Championships: :: Andy Roddick struggled against Lleyton Hewitt before pulling out a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory in the semifinals in Memphis, Tenn. Roddick will play Radek Stepanek, who breezed past qualifier Dudi Sela, 6-3, 6-1, to reach his second consecutive ATP World Tour final. ... Victoria Azarenka won the WTA Cellular South Cup championship in Memphis for her second career title, beating Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1, 6-3.

ATP Open 13:: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga upset No. 3 Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 7-6 (1), to reach the final in Marseille, France. Tsonga, ranked 12th, will face Michael Llodra in today's final. Llodra beat Gilles Simon, 7-6 (5), 6-2, in the other semifinal.

Cotto stops Jennings in 5th round for WBO title


Miguel Cotto won the World Boxing Organization welterweight championship in New York, stopping Michael Jennings at 2:36 of the fifth round. Cotto dominated at Madison Square Garden, dropping Jennings twice in the fourth round with merciless body shots and once in the fifth before the fight was stopped. A slow starter, Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs) patiently stalked the lightly regarded and overmatched Jennings (34-2, 16 KOs) of England. It was Cotto's first fight since his now questionable loss to Antonio Margarito last summer. Margarito had his boxing license revoked this month for at least one year by the California State Athletic Commission for the illegal wraps discovered on the former welterweight champion's hands before his loss to Shane Mosley in January.

WBO-WBC:: Dominating overmatched Marco Antonio Rubio from the start, middleweight Kelly Pavlik emphatically rebounded from his first career loss - to Bernard Hopkins in October - by stopping the Mexican challenger after the ninth round before a raucous hometown crowd in Youngstown, Ohio, that saw its hero defend his WBO-World Boxing Council title.

Hello Poochi Pooh coasts to win at Laurel

et cetera

Hello Poochi Pooh galloped to an uncontested lead in the $50,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap at Laurel Park and cruised to a 2 3/4 -length victory. Sent to post as the overwhelming 3-5 favorite in the field of five fillies and mares, Hello Poochi Pooh finished in 1 minute, 51.78 seconds for the nine-furlong race. Peachy Kiss placed second, and Clara's Song was third. The winner, under jockey Erick Rodriguez, paid $3.20.

NASCAR: : Kyle Busch added a dominating Nationwide Series victory in Fontana, Calif., to an overpowering truck win earlier at Auto Club Speedway. Busch, who led 95 of 100 laps in winning the Camping World Truck Series race, was out front for 143 of 150 laps on the two-mile oval in the Stater Brothers 300 to earn his 22nd Nationwide victory. He's the first driver to win races in two NASCAR national touring series in the same day.

NFL:: Former Cowboys star running back Emmitt Smith is out as an analayst at ESPN. Spokesmen for the network told The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Smith's contract would not be renewed.

Gymnastics:: Jordyn Wieber, 13, the reigning U.S. junior champion, made quite an impression in her first major meet, winning the American Cup in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Germany's Fabian Hambuechen won the men's title.

Cycling: : Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy lunged ahead of New Zealand's Hayden Roulston at the finish line to win Stage 7 of the Tour of California. American Levi Leipheimer of Astana retained his overall lead after the 88.9-mile leg from Santa Clarita to Pasadena. Nocentini of AG2R La Mondiale won by less than a bike length, finishing in 3 hours, 24.44 seconds. Lance Armstrong remained sixth overall.

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