National sports briefs: Perry back on course
Kenny Perry never took pity on himself for losing a two-shot lead with two holes to play in the Masters. Everyone else did that for him.
Among the first to call when Perry returned home to Kentucky were Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, who know from experience what it’s like to lose a major. He also got a call from Scott Hoch, one of his best friends on tour, who 20 years ago missed a 3-foot putt that would have won the Masters.
Among the letters was one from former President George W. Bush.
“It was just incredible the outpouring of support,” Perry said. “I had so many people just proud of the way I handled the loss.”
Perry, who returns to the PGA Tour this week at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, would have been the oldest major champion at 48. It could be that his popularity soars even more by the gracious way he handled his playoff defeat to Angel Cabrera.
He answered every question with brutal honestly. He didn’t make excuses. And he didn’t beat himself up.
The amount of fan mail he received was reminiscent of when Greg Norman blew a six-shot lead in the final round of the 1996 Masters. The Shark was revered for handling the loss, and was inundated with fan mail the following week.
“I received almost 600 e-mails. I received hundreds of cards and letters. People who genuinely cared,” Perry said in a conference call Tuesday from New Orleans. “And the letters all started out, ‘I’ve never written a letter like this, but I just felt compelled to write to you.’
“It’s been tough, and it’s been hard,” he said. “But the outpouring of fan support was mind-boggling to me. It really was very uplifting.
VILLANOVA, Pa. ó Scottie Reynolds knows no matter where his basketball career takes him, he’ll always be a Villanova Wildcat. He might just be one in his heart next season, instead of in uniform.
Reynolds, the Wildcats 6-foot-2 dynamo point guard, declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday, but said he will not hire an agent and could decide to return to the Wildcats for his senior season.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. ó The Detroit Lions are avoiding even subtle hints about who they will take No. 1 overall.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, though, said Tuesday the chances were “very good” an agreement will be reached with a player to be determined before the NFL draft.
“We plan on getting something done prior to making that selection,” he said. Mayhew declined to say much else during a news conference with just under 100 hours left on the clock before the first pick is made Saturday. “I hope nobody is expecting anything earth-shattering.”
– NEW YORK ó Michael Crabtree ditched the boot about two weeks ago.
“I buried it,” he said with a sly smile.
Crabtree’s surgically repaired left foot was mostly confined to a protective boot for five weeks, but Tuesday he had black sneakers on both feet as he strolled around a Manhattan office building, no limp in sight.
“The recovery is going real good,” the All-American receiver from Texas Tech said. “My foot is doing well.”
The big day is Saturday, when he is expected to be among the first players selected in the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall.
– CHICAGO ó Former Chicago Bears defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry is in serious condition at a South Carolina hospital, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.Perry, 46, was hospitalized to deal with complications from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a chronic inflammation disorder of the peripheral nerves.
CONCORD ó Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears were penalized Tuesday for intentionally bumping cars after the race at Phoenix International Raceway.
NASCAR put both drivers on probation for the next six races, but neither was fined or lost any points.
Contact between the two caused Earnhardt to crash with 11 laps to go in Saturday night’s race, spoiling what had been a good run. He led 63 laps and was likely headed to a top-10 finish, but the accident dropped him to 31st.
After the race, Earnhardt intentionally spun Mears on the cool-down lap. Mears retaliated by passing several cars on pit road to find Earnhardt, then bumping into the back of his car.
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