National sports briefs: Amid drama, Choi leads US. Women’s Open
BETHLEHEM, Pa. ó There’s no denying this is the biggest week in women’s golf ó full of good news and bad.
The game’s top-ranked player, a former champion and a developmental tour qualifier are one stroke behind a talented second-year LPGA player at the U.S. Women’s Open on a course that doesn’t yield birdies easily.
All the while, controversy is swirling around the women’s tour amid reports Thursday that LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens could be out of her job as early as next week after a faction of key players signed a letter calling for her resignation.
Despite the theatrics, it has the makings of a developing drama on the golf course as well, with the game’s top players off to hot starts and a 14-year-old amateur trying to make her first cut in her third Open.
Leader Na Yeon Choi birdied her first three holes, and four of her first five, making the tough Saucon Valley Country Club course look tame with an opening round 3-under 68.
No. 1-ranked Lorena Ochoa, 2007 champion Cristie Kerr and qualifier Jean Reynolds opened with 2-under 69s, and Hee Young Park was another stroke back after a 70.
Alexis Thompson is the low amateur after a first-round 71, her finest showing in the first round after missing the cut the last two years. The 14-year-old from Coral Springs, Fla., is the reigning U.S. Girls Junior champ. In 2007, she was the youngest Women’s Open qualifier in history at age 12.
Former champion Laura Davies, who received a special exemption that extended her streak of competing in championships to 24, opened with a 1-over 72, as did 14 others, including Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, Brittany Lincicome and three amateurs.
* SILVIS, Ill. ó Lee Janzen was tied with Darron Stiles for the lead after firing a 7-under 64 in the first round of the John Deere Classic.
Kenny Perry opened with a 68. U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot 69.
BARCELONA, Spain ó A split second off the lead with the mighty Pyrenees looming, Lance Armstrong now gets to see what his rivals can throw at him.
After mostly flat, wind-swept stages along the Mediterranean rim this week, the Tour de France enters mountainous terrain that has long belonged to climbers.
Armstrong remained just a fraction behind overall leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland after a treacherous, rain-soaked ride filled with crashes. Thor Hushovd of Norway led a mass sprint finish to capture the 113-mile sixth stage from Gerona to Barcelona.
The field faces a 139-mile haul from Barcelona to Andorra today with a grueling uphill finish ó the first and hardest of three days in the Pyrenees.
“Tomorrow is an important day,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know if it’s the most important day, but it’s definitely a big appointment on this Tour.”
The seven-time champion said he was happy to emerge unscathed from Thursday’s “nervous” ride. Two spills marred the last six miles ó one involving Yukiya Arashiro of Japan, another involving former world champion Tom Boonen of Belgium, one of Hushovd’s sprinting rivals.
INDIANAPOLIS ó Four months after deciding to keep swimming, Michael Phelps took ownership of a world record that had eluded him for years.
He won the 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. national championships in 50.22 seconds, lowering Ian Crocker’s mark of 50.40 set at the 2005 world championships.
Phelps’ feat came just two months after returning from a suspension that was part of the longest layoff of his career, which he considered ending when a photograph of him using a marijuana pipe surfaced.
“It really shows anything can happen if you put your mind to it,” Phelps said. “It feels good to get a best time.”
MINNEAPOLIS ó A judge blocked the NFL’s plan to suspend Minnesota Vikings linemen Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for violating the league’s anti-doping policy, a move their attorney said should let them start the season with camp beginning in three weeks.Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson granted the players’ request for a temporary restraining order that keeps the NFL from suspending them until their case is decided. The order also prohibits the league from subjecting them to extra drug testing.
* Roger Goodell reached the summit of Mount Rainier.
Mountaineering legend Ed Viesturs said the NFL commissioner had to dig deep physically and mentally to reach the 14,411-foot peak on Wednesday morning.
Viesturs said the 50-year-old Goodell was choked up after reaching the tallest summit in the rugged Cascade range, a climb he made with Seahawks coach Jim Mora.
As of Wednesday night, the climb had raised about $380,000 to provide food and housing and help getting government services, said Jered Erlandson, a spokesman for United Way of King County.
* NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Steve McNair’s family, friends, former teammates and coaches gathered Thursday night along with thousands of fans to remember the slain ex-NFL quarterback’s accomplishments on and off the field.
* MONTGOMERY, Ala. ó Shaun Alexander fills his days with a mix of the spiritual and physical.
The former NFL MVP is on a nine-city tour speaking at churches, clubs and businesses ó anywhere that will let him share his Christian faith. In the meantime, a different kind of faith carries him through a tough workout regimen: That an NFL team in need of a running back will summon him before the 2009 season is up.
“I feel before the season is over, I think somebody will go down and they’ll say, ‘We want somebody who can score some touchdowns and make some things happen,”‘ Alexander said.
* FRANKLIN, Tenn. ó Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge in Tennessee and will be on probation for three months.
* VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. ó Former NFL star Bruce Smith has been convicted of drunken driving in a Virginia court.
Virginia Beach General District Court Judge Teresa McCrimmon gave Smith a 90-day suspended jail term at a hearing and fined him $350. Smith’s license was suspended for one year for refusing to take an alcohol breath test.
* NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Tennessee state officials say they had been preparing a youth suicide prevention public service announcement featuring former NFL quarterback Steve McNair before he was shot and killed last week.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities says it’s shelving the 60-second television spot, which hasn’t yet aired.
HELENA, Mont. ó A California jury has acquitted former Montana cornerback Jimmy Wilson of homicide charges for the June 2007 shooting death of his aunt’s boyfriend.
DENVER ó Longtime Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic is officially retiring after 20 seasons and two Stanley Cup titles, and his No. 19 sweater will also be retired.
* NEW YORK ó The Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Ales Kotalik on a three-year, $9 million deal.
* SAN JOSE, Calif. ó San Jose re-signed defenseman Rob Blake to a one-year contract.
Defenseman Kent Huskins has re-signed with the Sharks, agreeing to a two-year deal.
* DETROIT ó Jiri Hudler’s days in Detroit are over ó at least for now.
Hudler’s contract with Dynamo Moscow was filed with the Continental Hockey League (KHL), according to a league spokesman, meaning he will play next season in the same league as former star Sergei Fedorov.
* PHOENIX ó The NHL is accusing Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes of trying to derail the sale of the team to a group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf by filing a flurry of requests for depositions before the July 24 deadline for formal submission of the bid.
POREC, Croatia ó James Blake will face Ivo Karlovic in the opening singles match in the Davis Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Croatia.
The draw on Thursday also pits Croatia’s Marin Cilic against Mardy Fish in the second singles match today.
* HYDERABAD, India ó Two engineering students smitten by Indian tennis star Sania Mirza have been arrested and accused of stalking her.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó Nationwide Series crew chief Randy Hood was fined $2,500 for using a non-standard transmission at Daytona.
Hood, the crew chief for the No. 01 Chevrolet driven by Danny O’Quinn Jr., was penalized because the transmission did not meet the minimum weight specifications for the July 3 race at Daytona. The infractions were discovered during post-qualifying inspection.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh says she plans to return to the pro beach tour early next month, less than three months after she gave birth to a son. Walsh’s teammate will be Rachel Wacholder, who also is a new mom.
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