National Sports Briefs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. ó The birdie putt to win at Bay Hill was vintage Tiger Woods.
Not so typical was the reaction.
He backpedaled as the ball rolled toward the hole, and when he saw it fall, Woods turned and slammed his cap to the ground. It gave him a one-shot victory over Bart Bryant, his fifth victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I saw the highlights that night, and I didn’t know I went that crazy,” Woods said Wednesday. “But evidently, I did.”
Woods could use a few moments like that.
The Masters is three weeks away, and the status of Woods’ game remains somewhat of a mystery. He has played only six competitive rounds at two tournaments since reconstructive knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open last June.
Woods was reminded of how long he has been away when he arrived early Wednesday for his pro-am round. It was his first time playing a pro-am since Bay Hill last year. The Masters, U.S. Open and two World Golf Championships ó the only tournaments he has played since last year ó don’t have them.
He was surprised how quickly his game has returned, even if the results aren’t evident. He lost in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for ninth two weeks ago in the CA Championship at Doral.
“I think it’s taken less time to get my feel back for my game,” Woods said. “I thought it would take a little bit longer. The question mark to me was how many rounds could I play? How much golf could I play? That’s probably been the greatest positive is I’ve been able to recover from day-to-day and not feel a thing.”
SOUTH BEND, Ind. ó Luke Harangody had 30 points and 11 rebounds and Notre Dame hit 12 3-pointers to end a 10-game losing streak to Kentucky, beating the Wildcats 77-67 Wednesday night to advance to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.
Jodie Meeks scored 18 of his 21 points in the final 12:18 as the Wildcats (22-14) used a 17-5 run to cut the lead to 67-62 on a slam dunk by Perry Stevenson with 2:42 left. But the Irish were 8-of-8 from the free-throw line over the final 1:29.
Kyle McAlarney added 15 pointsfor Notre Dame (21-14).
– In the other NIT semifinal, San Diego State advanced to New York with a 70-66 win over St. Mary’s.
SARASOTA, Fla. ó Boston’s John Smoltz threw 40 pitches off the mound at the Red Sox City of Palms complex this morning. It was his first side session of the spring.
– PHOENIX ó Manny Ramirez was back in left field for the Dodgers, and quickly tested his sore left hamstring.
Ramirez said he felt good running toward the left-field line to cut off a drive by Bill Hall in the second inning of Los Angeles’ 12-9 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
Ramirez singled, walked and was called out on strikes while playing 31/2 innings.
– TAMPA, Fla. ó Johnny Blanchard, who played in five consecutive World Series for the New York Yankees in the early 1960s, died Wednesday of a heart attack in Minnesota. He was 76.
A key player off the bench when the Yankees won five AL pennants from 1960-64, Blanchard batted .345 (10-for-29) in the World Series overall and hit a pair of home runs as New York defeated Cincinnati in the 1961 Series.
– PHOENIX ó Veteran outfielder Trot Nixon was released by the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving three players competing for two outfield spots on the opening-day roster.Nixon, who will be 35 on April 11, was a non-roster invitee with four hits in 38 spring at-bats.
– VIERA, Fla. ó Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer and finished with two hits in the Atlanta Braves’ 6-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.
WASHINGTON ó NBA star Allen Iverson must pay $260,000 for standing idly by and watching his bodyguard beat up another man in a 2005 bar fight, a federal court ruled.
– SANTA ANA, Calif. ó Kobe Bryant’s former housekeeper is suing the NBA star and his wife, contending she was “harassed and humiliated,” denied health insurance and forced to quit because of “intolerable” working conditions.
In one instance, Maria Jimenez says Bryant’s wife ordered her to put her hand in a container of dog waste to retrieve the price tag of a blouse.
– LONDON ó The NBA announced Wednesday it will head to Europe on a preseason tour for the fourth straight year, with the Chicago Bulls playing the Utah Jazz on Oct. 6 in an exhibition game in London.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. ó Tim Tebow’s speech following a home loss to Mississippi last September motivated Florida the rest of the season.
Coach Urban Meyer hopes it can do the same for anyone else in Gainesville.
Meyer had Tebow’s speech engraved on a plaque and placed outside the front entrance to the new football facility at Florida Field. Although it might seem like a strange move since Tebow still has one year remaining with the Gators, Meyer said he didn’t want to wait.
“I’m not interested in 10 years from now because who knows if we’re ó I might be toes up somewhere,” Meyer said Wednesday as Florida opened spring practice. “I’m not a big fan of, ‘Hey, let’s wait down the road.’ It was a speech that everybody in Gator Nation has a right to see on the side of the building.”
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. ó Roger Federer has won the ATP World Tour’s Stefan Edberg sportsmanship award for a record fifth consecutive year, and he was chosen the favorite player for the sixth year in a row in a poll of fans.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal was chosen player of the year.