Other Sports

Sports briefs: Jan. 10

Golf

Stricker nearly blows big lead before winning season opener

Steve Stricker has a bad habit of losing big leads. He managed to slip back into his old habit of winning. Despite losing most of his five-shot lead in only six holes, Stricker steadied himself in time to kick off the new PGA Tour season with a three-shot victory in the Tournament of Champions on Monday in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Right when it looked as though Stricker was coming unglued, he made back-to-back birdies at the turn. That restored his lead to three shots, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

Stricker birdied his last hole for a 4-under 69 for his 12th career win, which moved him to No. 5 in the world ranking.

It was Stricker's his ninth PGA Tour win since he turned 40, and his eighth title in his last 50 tournaments.

As usual, he didn't make it easy on himself.

Martin Laird, Webb Simpson and Jonathan Byrd each got within one shot of Stricker on the front nine, but not for long. Stricker rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth, pitched to tap-in range at the par-5 ninth and was on his way.

Laird closed with a 67, and his birdie on the last hole put him alone in second place. Byrd kept most of the pressure on Stricker along the back nine of the Plantation Course, but he bogeyed the 17th. He had a 68 and tied for third with Simpson, who had a 68.

"It was tough," Stricker said. "I never let up today. It's always tough trying to win, and it's even more tough when you have a lead like I did. I'm very proud of what I did today."

Woods to start season at Pebble Beach

Tiger Woods will return to the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time in 10 years. Woods announced on his Web site Monday that he will start his PGA Tour season Feb. 9-12 at Pebble Beach. Woods played at Pebble Beach for the 2010 U.S. Open and tied for fourth, but he hasn't played the Pebble Beach event since 2002, when he tied for 12th.

College football

Georgia's Boykin wins Hornung Award

Georgia senior cornerback and return specialist Brandon Boykin won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player. The award is given out by the Louisville Sports Commission.

Boykin topped Arkansas' Joe Adams, Oregon's LaMichael James and Toledo's Eric Page for the honor in the award's second year. Boykin will receive the award on Feb. 2 in Louisville.

Boykin had 55 tackles, including 11 for loss, with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a safety for Georgia. He also had 850 kickoff return yards and 180 punt return yards.

Boykin also played on offense. He had 103 yards rushing with a touchdown and five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

He will play in the Jan. 28 Senior Bowl.

Report: Dyer picks Arkansas State

Michael Dyer is following Gus Malzahn back home, joining his former offensive coordinator at Arkansas State. A source told The Associated Press that the former Auburn tailback is transferring to Arkansas State to become a member of the Red Wolves.

Dyer was the first Auburn tailback to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, but Coach Gene Chizik suspended him indefinitely before the Chick-fil-A Bowl for violating unspecified team rules.

Dyer was the offensive MVP of the national championship game as a freshman last season and was named to the Southeastern Conference Coaches' All-Freshman Team. He set the Auburn freshman rushing record with 1,093 yards, breaking the mark of 829 yards that was set by Bo Jackson in 1982.

He ran for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

Fans at BCS game lose seats to media

There was another ticket mess at a football championship game. Dozens of fans arrived at the Superdome in New Orleans for the BCS title game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama to find their seats were taken for auxiliary press seating Monday night.

The top two rows of the upper deck were turned into an overflow area for the media, with one of the rows covered by tables.

The mix-up is similar to a situation that occurred at last year's Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, where some temporary seating had not been inspected and couldn't be used. Some angry fans had to watch the game on televisions in a lounge at Cowboys Stadium.

One of the fans affected by the BCS ticket mix-up was Timothy Rodrigue of Denham Springs, La., who'd paid face value for a seat — $300 — that was beneath the retrofitted auxiliary press table. He said he was promised by ushers that he would be moved to the lower level of the stadium, also known as the plaza. Seats in that level are more expensive, but Rodrigue, who has is familiar with the dome from attending Saints games there, was not particularly interested in moving.

"The problem is, it's 30 minutes to kickoff and I don't want to go sit in the plaza level if I'm not going to be able to see the game now," he said. "I want to be able to see what's going on."

Jason Field was among those escorted by stadium officials to the plaza with other fans.

"I bought a ticket for a certain seat and I tried to go there and it turned out to be full of press," said Field, an LSU alum who's back in school in Baton Rouge.

Asked how much he paid for the ticket, Field responded: "Way too much."

Baseball

Angels, Kendrick agree to 4-year deal

All-Star second baseman Howie Kendrick agreed to a $33.5 million, four-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels, passing up a chance to hit the free-agent market after next season.

The move was the latest in a busy off-season spending spree for Angels owner Arte Moreno and new general manager Jerry Dipoto.

The 28-year-old Kendrick batted .285 with a career-best 18 homers and 63 RBI while committing just four errors in 140 games last year, earning a spot on his first AL All-Star team.

Los Angeles' payroll will be among the majors' biggest next season, with about $130 million already committed to 15 players. The Angels added Albert Pujols with a $240 million, 10-year deal, left-hander C.J. Wilson with a $77.5 million, five-year contract and reliever LaTroy Hawkins with a $3 million, one-year agreement.

Tennis

Venus Williams out of Australian Open

Venus Williams withdrew from the Australian Open on Monday, prolonging her absence from the tennis tour because of an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain.

The seven-time Grand Slam title winner announced on Twitter and her Web site that she wouldn't play in the year's first major tournament, which starts next week. She added, though, that she plans to be back in action next month.

Williams hasn't played competitively since Aug. 29 at the U.S. Open. Two days later, she pulled out of that tournament, revealing that she'd been diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome.

The 31-year-old American is a former No. 1 who is 100th in this week's WTA rankings. She's dealt with a series of health problems, including a hip injury that forced her to withdraw from last year's Australian Open, and a left knee injury that kept her on the sideline between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010.

Since reaching the semifinals at the 2010 U.S. Open, Williams has played only 11 matches.

The last word

Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Kidd, when he met President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday:

"I told the president I heard he can only go left, then left, then left some more. He said that was true."

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