National sports Briefs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 3, 2007

Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has reached a five-year contract extension with NASCAR to remain its exclusive tire provider through 2012.

The extension was announced Saturday night at Goodyear’s annual dealer conference.

Goodyear has supplied tires to NASCAR since the 1950s, and has been the sole provider since 1994 when Hoosier pulled out.

“Nothing says racing like NASCAR, and Goodyear has been recognized as the longest-running sponsor of the sport,” said Jon Rich, president of Goodyear’s North American Tire business. “We plan to have our Eagle tires in the winner’s circle for another 50 years.”

GOLF

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Even when he’s struggling with his putter, Tiger Woods is the guy opponents fear most.

So as Ernie Els goes into Sunday’s final round at the Dubai Desert Classic with a two-stroke lead over three players, he’s looking beyond them to the player in fifth place. That’s Woods, three shots back after a 5-under 67.

Els, seeking his fourth victory in the event, shot a 68 for a 17-under 199 total. Last year, Els lost to Woods in a playoff.

“He could get red hot at any time,” Els said. “Obviously, you’ve got to watch the No. 1 player in the world.”

* SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Tour rookie Jeff Quinney held on to a two-stroke lead in front of a raucous, near-record crowd of 162,750 in the FBR Open.

Quinney, a former Arizona State player and 2000 U.S. Amateur champion, shot a 3-under 68 to stand at 16-under 197 heading into the final round Sunday.

* SYDNEY, Australia — Karrie Webb took a big step toward her third Women’s Australian Open title, moving four shots clear of the field with a 4-under 68.

TENNIS

TOKYO — Top-ranked Maria Sharapova retired during the second set of her Pan Pacific Open semifinal against Ana Ivanovic on Saturday because of a hamstring injury.

Sharapova dropped the first set 6-1. She won the first game of the second set before retiring.

Fifth-seeded Ivanovic of Serbia will face second-seeded Martina Hingis in the final today.

BONDS

SAN FRANCISCO — Giants owner Peter Magowan sent a letter to about 27,000 season-ticket holders this week explaining why the club decided to re-sign free agent slugger Barry Bonds for another season.

Magowan and executive vice president Larry Baer have repeatedly said they have a strong understanding of the organization’s fan base, and these periodic letters are one way they communicate with that group.

The team had heard a variety of opinions from many of its fans during recent months regarding Bonds, who will begin the 2007 season 22 homers shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s career record of 755.

PAVANO READY

NEW YORK — Carl Pavano says he’s healthy and ready to pitch again in the major leagues.

Really. Honestly. Truly.

“I’ve thrown three bullpens. I just threw one this morning. I feel pretty good,” he said Friday.

The New York Yankees pitcher, starting the third season of a $39.95 million, four-year contract, hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since June 27, 2005, due to shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and rib injuries. Earlier in the week, teammate Mike Mussina said Pavano “needs to earn the trust from the players, the coaches, the manager and the organization.”

BASEBALL NOTES

MINNEAPOLIS — AL MVP Justin Morneau agreed to a $4.5 million, one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins.

* CAROLINA, Puerto Rico — Tony Batista hit two home runs — the second an inside-the-parker — to lead the Dominican Republic’s Aguilas Cibaenas to a 9-0 victory over Mexico on Saturday in the Caribbean Series.

BOXING

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Laila Ali successfully defended her WBC and WIBA world titles Saturday, knocking out Gwendolyn O’Neil in the first minute of the first round of their scheduled 10-round super middleweight fight.

Ali, the daughter of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, headlined the first women’s professional boxing match in South Africa. The 29-year-old Ali improved to 24-0 with 21 knockouts.

“I have my cell phone back in the dressing room, and I will be giving my father a call,” she said.

* KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Cory Spinks (36-3) successfully defended his IBF junior middleweight title Saturday night, unanimously outpointing Rodney Jones.

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