McIlroy a 'bit tentative' with 73; Points' 64 leads Houston
The march to the Masters for Rory McIlroy looks more like a crawl. McIlroy only had four birdie putts on the front nine, none closer than 20 feet. He took two chips to reach the second green. He found the water on the third-easiest hole at Redstone Golf Club and made double bogey. What he salvaged Thursday in the Houston Open was a 73, and a little optimism after three back-nine birdies..
"I think I'm still a little bit tentative on the golf course and not committing to my shots fully," McIlroy said. "But I think that just takes time and, hopefully, another three rounds this week and some good scores will give me confidence going into the Masters."
Never miss a local story.
D.A. Points, using an old putter, opened with five straight birdies on his way to an 8-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Cameron Tringale and John Rollins. Also coming to life was Angel Cabrera, the Argentine with two majors. He had a 66.
Mets' Santana reinjured, likely out year
The New York Mets say Johan Santana has injured his left shoulder again and likely will need surgery and miss the 2013 season.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner missed the 2011 season following shoulder surgery in September 2010, then returned last year and pitched the first no-hitter in the team's history. He hasn't pitched in an exhibition game this year because of arm weakness.
■ Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez hit home runs off Matt Latos in Kansas City's five-run third inning, and the Royals beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 on Thursday in Goodyear, Ariz.
■ Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed Thursday to a $97.5 million, five-year contract. The deal, the largest for a pitcher in team history, raises his guaranteed income to $109.5 million over the next six seasons. A 31-year-old right-hander, Wainwright was 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA last year after missing the Cardinals' World Series title season in 2011 because of elbow surgery.
■ Late Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller is being honored by Major League Baseball with an annual award named for him. The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award will be given each year to a major-leaguer and Hall of Famer who displays good character, assists those less fortunate, and supports U.S. servicemen and women.
■ Alex Rodriguez will make more this year than all the Houston Astros combined. And he won't even play the first half of the season, if at all. A-Rod's $29 million salary tops the major leagues for the 13th straight season, according to the AP's study of contracts.
League confirms Kobe fouled on late 3
Everyone in the Timberwolves locker room on Wednesday night believed Kobe Bryant got away with a foul that allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to hold on to a much-needed victory in Minnesota.
On Thursday, the NBA agreed with them: The league informed the Timberwolves that the referee crew should have called Bryant for a foul on Ricky Rubio's potential game-tying three-pointer.
It won't change the outcome, a 120-117 victory for the Lakers, who have beaten the Timberwolves 22 straight times and are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
■ Danny Granger's season is ending the same way it began in Indiana — with a sore left knee that will require more medical treatment. The team announced Thursday that Granger would miss the rest of the season so he could undergo surgery. The move comes just two days after Coach Frank Vogel told reporters he expected Granger to return during the Pacers' current four-game road trip.
JGR mulls ideas on Hamlin replacement
Joe Gibbs Racing is not ready to name a replacement driver for Denny Hamlin, who will miss a minimum of five races with a fractured vertebra in his lower back. Team president J.D. Gibbs said the preference is using one driver for most of the races Hamlin is sidelined. "That consistency would be helpful," Gibbs said.
Although JGR has Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers running Nationwide Series cars, neither is totally free of commitments to drive Hamlin's Cup car. Vickers is scheduled to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing at Martinsville next weekend, and Sadler has a deal with sponsorship to run a fourth JGR car at Kansas and Talladega.
It raises the possibility that Mark Martin could be in play for the ride in a deal with MWR for Vickers. Under one scenario, Martin would move to JGR to drive Hamlin's car, and Vickers would drive for MWR until Hamlin is cleared. The first obstacle is the May 5 race at Talladega, where Martin does not want to run.
Donovan returns, targets U.S. team
Landon Donovan has returned to training with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Now his goal is to work his way back into the national team picture. Donovan, who asked club coach Bruce Arena for an extended off-season after the Galaxy's MLS Cup triumph last December, said Thursday that it will take some time to regain his form.
"I realize that I have a long way to go, both on the field and off the field, to work back into the national team," Donovan said. "I miss being a part of that. I want to represent my country again."
Donovan, 31, is the all-time leading U.S. goal scorer and assists leader in international play, and has appeared in three World Cups.
Razorbacks' Young to leave for draft
Arkansas scoring leader BJ Young is entering the NBA Draft.
Young, who averaged 15.2 points as a sophomore this season, is the second Razorbacks player to declare for the draft this week — following junior forward Marshawn Powell's announcement.
■ Texas guard Sheldon McClellan, who ranked second on the team in scoring, will transfer after a season of clashes with Coach Rick Barnes. McClellan averaged 13.5 points but also was left on the bench for long stretches as Texas suffered its first losing season in 15 years. McClellan is the second Texas player to leave from a team that went 16-18. Forward Jaylon Bond also is transferring.
■ Bucknell Coach Dave Paulsen has been rewarded for taking the program to its second NCAA Tournament in three seasons with a five-year contract extension. The Bison finished 28-6 this year.
■ Drake has hired Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti as its new basketball coach. Giacoletti has worked under Coach Mark Few for the past six seasons. Gonzaga won five West Coast Conference titles during that time and reached No. 1 late this season.
■ Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg has agreed to a new 10-year, $20 million deal with the Cyclones that will run through 2023.
Pistorius allowed to leave South Africa
Oscar Pistorius can leave South Africa to compete in international track meets, a judge ruled on Thursday as he upheld the Olympic athlete's appeal against some of his bail restrictions.
Pistorius' agent said this year's world championships could be "on the radar." Pistorius is charged with murder in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
■ Dave Leggett, MVP in the 1955 Rose Bowl win over Southern California that clinched an Ohio State national championship, died Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was 79. Leggett helped Coach Woody Hayes to his first title by passing for a TD, rushing for another, recovering a USC fumble and leading a late scoring drive.
The last word
The entire Houston Astros' payroll of $25 million is only one sign expectations will be low this season. Said pitcher Lucas Harrell:
"No one expects us to do well. So when we do well, it's going to be kind of like, 'Oh, wow.'"