Villegas leads Honda Classic with 64 after eagle on 18
With one bold swing, Camilo Villegas turned a solid round at the Honda Classic into his best start in more than a year. Villegas drilled a 3-wood from 263 yards over the water to about 8 feet and putted for an eagle on the par-5 18th hole at PGA National. That finished a 6-under 64 that gave him a one-shot lead and another jolt of confidence as he tries to regain his status on the PGA Tour.
Branden Grace was bullish when it came to the "Bear's Trap" by making birdie on all three holes of the notorious stretch late on the back nine. He made it four in a row with a birdie on the 18th hole and was at 65 with Rickie Fowler, Graham DeLaet of Canada and Robert Streb.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods each opened with 70 and walked away feeling much differently about their day.
Woods played in the cool, cloudy morning and was in danger of a big number late in his round when he decided to take off his socks and shoes, don rain pants and step into a creek to play a shot half-submerged in the water. Instead of taking a drop that could have led to double bogey, he escaped with par and rallied for a 70.
McIlroy was 1 under for his day when his wedge from 105 yards sailed over the green, he chipped to just inside 8 feet and took bogey when he missed the putt. It felt even worse coming on the easiest hole at PGA National, which played about a half-shot below par.
■ Spain's Azahara Munoz shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore. Munoz, playing in the first group of the day, made seven birdies in a blemish-free round to grab the lead in an event with 17 of the top 20 players in the world.
Stacy Lewis, Karin Sjodin, Lizette Salas, Pornanong Phatlum and Sun Young Yoo were tied for second place at 5-under 67.
Season ends for UK recruit Willis
Derek Willis, who has signed to play college basketball at the University of Kentucky, saw his high school career end on a low note as Pleasure Ridge Park, ranked seventh in the state, beat No. 4 Bullitt East 40-33 in the 6th Region Tournament semifinals on Thursday. Willis scored 13 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, but his Bullitt East team hit only 26 percent of its shots.
■ In NBA action, Chris Paul had 29 points, six rebounds and eight assists as the Clippers beat the host Pacers 99-91.
Saban headed to White House — again
Alabama's national championship football team will visit President Obama at the White House on March 6. It's the third time in the past four years Coach Nick Saban's team has been invited. Saban also made the trip after leading LSU to a championship.
■ The Dallas Cowboys have reworked the contracts of five starters, including DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Miles Austin, to save salary cap space. Dallas, which was penalized $5 million off its cap in both 2012 and 2013, needed to scramble to free up space. By restructuring the deals they wiped out the $20 million they were projected to be over the cap this year.
Chapman perfect in two-inning start
Cincinnati's project to turn hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman into a starter got off to a strong start Thursday in the split-squad Reds' 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
He started and faced the minimum six batters in his two innings. Chapman threw 19 pitches, struck out one and didn't allow the ball out of the infield. Last season, he was a reliever and had 38 saves.
■ Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was all smiles after throwing 18 pitches Thursday in his first simulated game since knee surgery last spring. "I feel good," Rivera said. "I feel real good. Getting stronger and stronger."
The 43-year old pitched one inning against Yankees' minor-leaguers. He also fielded and covered first base. "That's what I wanted to do, field some bunts, go after some balls in between first and the mound," Rivera said.
Wildcats get junor-college lineman
Junior college defensive lineman Melvin Lewis said Thursday that he has signed with Kentucky. Lewis, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound tackle, has played the last two seasons for Fullerton Community College (Calif.). In 11 games last season, he had 41 tackles, 3.5 sacks and six tackles for loss.
Kentucky now has 23 signees for the class of 2013.
■ The University of Kentucky baseball team has shortened its scheduled four-game weekend series against Akron to three games.
The eighth-ranked Wildcats (7-1) will play host to Akron on Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Wildcats are coming off a pair of home victories, both of which were delayed by rain, beating Murray State 11-5 on Tuesday and Eastern Kentucky 6-2 on Wednesday.
Akron (0-6) opened its season by suffering three-game sweeps to No. 19 Georgia Tech and No. 23 Louisville.
On Friday, Kentucky sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed will pitch against sophomore right-hander Jon Pusateri.
■ Two UK divers were honored by the Southeastern Conference. Junior Greg Ferrucci was named men's second-team All-SEC and freshman Rebecca Hamperian made the women's All-Freshman Team.
Ferrucci is UK's record holder on the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards and platform. This season he won seven individual events and was named SEC male diver of the week twice.
Hamperian had six individual victories and took eighth in 3-meter in the SEC Championships.
Boxer fined, suspended for drug use
The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined and suspended boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Thursday over a failed drug test last year. The popular, 27-year-old fighter, who's the son of a famous boxer by the same name, tested positive for marijuana in September after his first professional loss. Chavez (46-1-1) was suspended for nine months from the date of the fight and fined $900,000, which amounts to 30 percent of his $3 million purse for the bout against Sergio Martinez.
Chavez said through a translator that he was sorry for his actions and had taken the drug to curb his stress eight or nine days before the much-anticipated fight.
■ The University of Utah has suspended swim coach Greg Winslow because of an investigation of sexual-abuse allegations of under-age female swimmers. The Utah women's team is competing at the Pac-12 Championships in Washington.
■ Athletic officials at Bowling Green in Ohio say first-year assistant women's basketball coach Ali Mann resigned last week after admitting she had a relationship with a student in the program. Officials believe the relationship was consensual and that no NCAA rules were broken.
The last word
With the team struggling, Boston Red Sox season-ticket sales are down 10 percent. Phil Ferraguto, a season ticket-holder since 1986, did not renew but was surprised the team didn't try to get him back.
"I never got a call or an email or anything saying, 'Do you want to rethink this? Are you sure?' They didn't even question the fact that I was bailing. In fact, I was even hurt by it, disappointed. We're ending this marriage and you're not even going to ask why?"