National Sports Briefs

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 29, 2007

Associated Press

THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. — Charley Hoffman rammed in a 4-foot birdie putt to beat John Rollins on the first hole of a playoff in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on Sunday. Winning his first PGA Tour title, the

30-year-old Hoffman birdied No. 17, eagled the 18th in regulation, then birdied the 18th in the playoff.

Salisbury native Tripp Isenhour was 8-under after two rounds and slowly sank to 1-under for the tournament after a final round 79. He won $9,850.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia — Three-time champion Martina Hingis advanced to the quarterfinals in the Australian Open, weathering an early challenge from Li Na on Monday before pulling away for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory.

Coming off three two-set victories, Hingis came under heavy pressure from Li’s strong ground strokes in the first set.

The 25-year-old Swiss star, who won three straight Australian titles from 1997-99 and reached the finals in 2000-02, could meet Clijsters again in the quarters.

On the other side of the draw, Serena Williams became a big threat for the women’s title after defending champion Amelie Mauresmo and No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova were toppled in the fourth round Sunday.

Ranked No. 81 and seemingly out of condition, Williams came into the season’s first major with only two matches in a low-key warmup. And that followed an injury-plagued season when she played only four events.

She had to save match points against No. 5 Nadia Petrova to make the fourth round — her first win over a top 10 player since she won the Australian title in 2005 — then beat No. 11 Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-2.

BASEBALL

PHILADELPHIA — One day after getting married, Utley agreed Sunday to an $85 million, seven-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Utley hit .309 last season with 40 doubles, 32 homers, 102 RBIs and 131 runs. He also had a 35-game hitting streak that tied for the

10th-longest in major league history and longest by a second baseman.

* SAN DIEGO — At 43, David Wells is all but penciled in as the No. 5 starter for his hometown San Diego Padres. The Padres and Wells’ agent agreed in principle Friday to a $3 million, one-year deal with a chance to make $4 million in incentives.

* CINCINNATI — Vern Ruhle, a former major league pitcher and coach for several teams, died after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 55.

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