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National Sports Briefs

Associated Press

WAILEA, Hawaii — Jack Nicklaus wasn’t in a giving mood.

Nicklaus and Tom Watson earned seven skins and $260,000 on the back nine Sunday to edge Gary Player and Hay Haas in the Champions Skins Game.

Team Nicklaus-Watson finished with nine skins and $320,000, boosting the Golden Bear to a career-record 96 skins and $2,295,000. Second last year, Nicklaus and Watson sealed the win when Player-Haas bogeyed the first playoff hole and were eliminated.

“I think we were both determined not to lose,” Nicklaus said.

Player and Haas, the Champions Tour player of the year, finished with six skins worth $290,000 in the four-team, alternate-shot event. The $30,000 margin was the second-smallest in event history, behind only Gary Player’s $10,000 victory over Watson in 2000 in individual play.

It was the first time since the 2000 tournament that everyone took home money.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK — Jeff Nelson wanted to retire as a member of the New York Yankees, so he agreed to a minor league contract and then said he wouldn’t play anymore.

The tall right-hander with the funky, sidearm delivery played for the Yankees from 1996-2000, winning four World Series titles. He returned for part of the 2003 season.

Nelson was 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in six games for the Chicago White Sox last year, missing most of the season because of an injured right elbow.

* TORONTO — First baseman Lyle Overbay and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a $24 million, four-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

* SAN DIEGO — The Padres avoided arbitration with shortstop Khalil Greene on Friday, agreeing to a $2.25 million, one-year contract.

ALABAMA

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Don’t just count wins and losses to measure the success of Nick Saban, Alabama’s latest football savior and the nation’s highest-paid college coach. Instead, add money to the equation — lots.

Experts and school officials say the decision to lure Saban away from the NFL with an eight-year contract worth as much as $32 million fits the business axiom of spending some money to make even more.

It’s just that the initial investment is huge.

Alabama football brought in more than $44 million last year and paid the way for the rest of athletics with $27.7 million in profits. If Saban wins big, the Tide earns a right to share in a bowl payout estimated to grow to $2.2 billion in the next decade.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer is on the cusp of a record for most consecutive weeks atop the men’s tennis rankings, regardless of what he does at the Australian Open.Rafael Nadal owns the record for most weeks at No. 2.

With seven of the last eight Grand Slam titles between them, it’s hardly surprising they’re heavily favored to meet in the Australian Open final on Jan. 28.

“If I didn’t play so well, he would have been No. 1 a long time ago,” Federer said Sunday in a tribute to Nadal on the eve of the year’s first Grand Slam. “He’s my No. 1 competitor. The numbers don’t lie.”

The first round began Sunday evening EST, with women’s defending champion Amelie Mauresmo playing American Shenay Perry in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena.

NBA

SALT LAKE CITY — Shaquille O’Neal won’t be making a grand return against his former team next week.

O’Neal said Saturday that he will continue practicing and rebuilding the strength in his left knee, but there was “zero” chance he would play Monday night when the Heat visit the Los Angeles Lakers.

So don’t plan on Kobe vs. Shaq.

O’Neal returned to practice Thursday. He tore cartilage in his left knee on Nov. 12 and had surgery a week later. He planned to practice again Sunday with the Heat in Los Angeles, where he played eight seasons.

The Heat wrap up a six-game road trip against the Lakers.

O’Neal, who has played in just four games this season, wouldn’t speculate on when he’ll be back in the lineup.

“I’m not sure,” he said before the Heat played at Utah. “I don’t like to give dates because it’s like giving a promise and not keeping it. So whenever I’m 100 percent.”

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