National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

National Guard to pull out of NASCAR and IndyCar

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The National Guard said Wednesday it will end its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and IndyCar's Graham Rahal, but it is not clear when that goes into effect.

Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement it has a contract through 2015.

"We have not been approached by the guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement," the team said.

Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, said in a statement he learned of the guard's decision on Wednesday. He called it disappointing news "given the significant incremental brand exposure we have worked to produce for the National Guard in our first season together, including various off-track marketing and advertising programs focused on supporting the mission set forth."

The guard said in a statement posted on its web site it spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on its IndyCar sponsorship this year, and noted that "sports sponsorships have played an important role in helping the guard build strong brand awareness." But, the guard statement said its sponsorship contracts in NASCAR and IndyCar "are set to expire at the end of the current season," which contradicts the Hendrick claim.

"Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business," Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard, said in the statement.

Military funding has come under increased scrutiny in Congress as Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, has called the sponsorship "wasting a bunch of money on a very expensive sports sponsorship."

The guard said in its statement that motorsports is not the only marketing arena to suffer under reduced budgets.

"Since 2012, the Army Guard has reduced sports sponsorships from six - including professional fishing and motorcycle racing - to just the NASCAR and IndyCar sponsorships," the statement said. "In fiscal year 2015, the Army Guard's marketing budget is expected to be about half of what it was just three years ago in fiscal year 2012."

The guard has been with Earnhardt since 2008, when he joined Hendrick Motorsports. NASCAR's most popular driver has won three races this year - including Sunday at Pocono when the guard was on the No. 88 and his uniform as his primary sponsor - and is second in the Sprint Cup standings.

Rahal only landed the guard this season after a prolonged battle with Panther Racing, which had the sponsorship in IndyCar from 2008 through 2013. Although the sponsorship was originally awarded to RLL late last year, Panther owner John Barnes appealed and the review dragged on for months.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office eventually denied Panther's appeal and RLL said in February the guard would be the primary sponsor for Rahal's No. 15 Honda.

Panther Racing has since filed suit against RLL, IndyCar and Document Packaging Brokers, an Alabama-based company known as Docupak that is involved in administering the guard sponsorship agreements. Panther alleges it lost sponsorship valued at $17.2 million a year because of bid-rigging and other improprieties.

AP Source: Indians to remodel downtown ballpark

CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians plan an extensive renovation of Progressive Field over the next two years, remodeling the 20-year-old downtown ballpark to better connect with their fans.

The club intends to make interior and exterior modifications to the area stretching from center to right field, a person familiar with the plans confirmed for The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The changes will require a modest reduction in seats, which the team will offset by the addition of social areas to accommodate fans, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not made its designs public.

The first phase of the project, expected to be finished by the 2015 home opener, will be privately financed, the person said.

The Indians will provide details of the "major enhancements" at the 43,000-seat ballpark at a news conference on Thursday. Team president Mark Shapiro will lead a guided media tour to areas of the ballpark that will be modified and upgraded.

In making substantial improvements to Progressive Field, the team will join the city's two other professional teams, the Browns and Cavaliers, who are both in the process of making enhancements at FirstEnergy Stadium and Quicken Loans Arena. While the current projects are being funded privately, some in the future may be paid with public money after voters in Cuyahoga County approved a 20-year extension of a tax on cigarettes and alcohol in May.

Known as Jacobs Field when it opened in 1994 to replace crumbling Municipal Stadium, the 43,000-seat home of Cleveland's major league baseball team has undergone numerous alterations over the past two decades. The Indians have been proactive in keeping Progressive Field outfitted with the latest in scoreboards, concessions and other services to please today's fan, and the ballpark has aged gracefully and looks as good as it did when the gates opened in `94.

However, the club has seen attendance drop from a franchise-high 3.46 million in 1999 to 1.57 million last season. The Indians are drawing only 18,659 fans per game this year - second-lowest in the majors.

There are numerous reasons for the decline: a slow-to-recover economy, dwindling population and baseball's struggle to lure younger fans among them. The Indians sold out 455 straight games from 1995 to 2001, but those days are long gone, which is why the team is looking to change the look of its ballpark to attract fans.

Also, teams are more cognizant that younger fans are seeking a different game-day experience, which may include higher-end foods and beverages, social media areas, bars and restaurants.

The timing of the Indians' renovation coincides with a rebirth of downtown Cleveland, which got a recent boost when the Republican Party announced plans to hold its 2016 national convention in the city and NBA superstar LeBron James decided to come back and play for the Cavs.

K-State's Snyder: 'college athletics has sold out'

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Bill Snyder ripped the big-time nature of college athletics as Kansas State opened fall camp Wednesday, lamenting the way universities have "sold out" in search of the almighty dollar.

During a lengthy oratory in which the 74-year-old coach planned to discuss the upcoming season, Snyder argued that TV has assumed too much control of college sports; education has become a second thought; and that the entire endeavor "distorts" the values of young people.

"It's changed. I mean, college athletics, football in particular, has changed dramatically over the years," Snyder said. "I think we've sold out. We're all about dollars and cents. The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of students. Universities are selling themselves out."

Snyder voiced his thoughts one day before the NCAA board of directors is to vote on a proposal giving the five wealthiest college football conferences - among them the Big 12, which counts Kansas State among its membership - the ability to make rules and pass legislation without the approval of the rest of Division I schools.

The autonomy proposal is expected to pass.

"It's no longer about education," Snyder said. "We've sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don't fault TV. I don't fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that's what they do, but athletics - that's it. It's sold out."

While the game changed dramatically from the days when Snyder played defensive back at tiny William Jewell to when he was hired as the coach of Kansas State in 1989, only in the last two decades have the changes picked up speed. Now, schools are building football palaces, coaches are paid millions of dollars and games are broadcast nearly every night of the week.

Kansas State is no different than the rest of them, either.

The Wildcats, who open their season Aug. 30, will play a high-profile Thursday night game against Auburn three weeks later. And it will be played in a stadium that recently underwent a $90 million renovation, with another $65 million in work scheduled to begin after the season.

The school has also opened an $18 million basketball training facility and spent several million to update Bramlage Coliseum in recent years, while also building a new rowing center and tennis stadium - all told, about $125 million in facilities in less than three years.

"Everybody is building Taj Mahals," Snyder said, "and I think it sends the message - and young people today I think are more susceptible to the downside of that message, and that it's not about education. We're saying it is, but it's really about the glitz and the glitter, and I think sometimes values get distorted that way. I hate to think a young guy would make a decision about where he's going to get an education based on what a building looks like."

Yet across college sports, schools are in constant competition to do things bigger and bolder. Iowa State recently announced plans to spend $60 million renovating Jack Trice Stadium. Baylor is preparing to open a new, $250 million football stadium this season. Oklahoma has received approval for $370 million in upgrades to Memorial Stadium.

"Our professors - I have an office I could swim in. They're in a cubbyhole somewhere," Snyder said, "yet they go out and teach and promote education every day, and I value that."

Snyder, who has won 178 games in 22 seasons at Kansas State, also bemoaned the way schedules have bloated, not only in the number of games but the way they are played throughout the week.

When Snyder was a graduate assistant at Southern California in 1966, the Trojans opened the season on Sept. 17, played 10 games and were done with their regular season the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They played in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

This year, Kansas State will play its third game on Sept. 18 and wrap its regular season on Dec. 6. If the Wildcats made the national title game, they would play on Jan. 12.

"Now tell me how that stuff happens. To me, that's not what football is about," Snyder said, shaking his head. "Now, that's only my opinion. I'm not upset with the people that promote some of that stuff because they're trying to do their thing. That's what they do. But I think we've lost sight of what college athletics is all about."

Selig expects vote next week on his successor

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) Commissioner Bud Selig expects baseball owners to vote next week from a list of three candidates for his successor.

"Yes, there will be a vote in Baltimore," Selig said Wednesday, referring to the owners' meeting next week.

Selig said the seven-member panel appointed earlier this year, and headed by St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., worked independently to get to this point.

"I told them at the time that the job was theirs because, after all, they have to live with the commissioner. I'm going to be gone," said Selig, who is retiring in January.

"I've been very well-informed and briefed and so forth, but they've been independent and they've come up with this list on their own, and I'm grateful for that. They did what I asked them to do."

The reported finalists for the job are Rob Manfred, MLB's chief operating officer; Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president for business and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

When asked about those names, Selig said "the list is accurate."

The commissioner has refrained from publicly endorsing anyone as his replacement after 22 years on the job.

Selig spoke to reporters after addressing the opening luncheon for the 2014 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series, which will feature about 300 players ages 13-18 with 16 teams playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this week.

The gathering came a day after the former clinic owner accused of selling performance-enhancing drugs to Alex Rodriguez agreed to plead guilty in what prosecutors called a wide-ranging conspiracy to distribute steroids to both major league ballplayers and high school athletes.

With potentially more legal proceedings related to Biogenesis, after former owner Anthony Bosch and six others were charged, there is always the possibility of additional names being revealed.

"I'm really not concerned," Selig said. "We did what we had to do. We'll be very thorough. ... I don't really have any knowledge if there's anything else coming.

"Look, I'm proud of where we are," he said. "We have the toughest drug testing program in America, and certain American sports."

It was a year ago this week that Rodriguez was among 13 players disciplined by Major League Baseball as a result of the Biogenesis scandal, two weeks after Ryan Braun had already accepted a 65-game penalty. Most of the other penalties were for the final 50 games last season, though Rodriguez appealed his much longer suspension and is out for all of this season.

Selig planned later Wednesday to visit the Rangers' ballpark in nearby Arlington on his tour of the 30 franchises. He also planned to visit with Dr. Bobby Brown, who practiced cardiology in the Dallas-Fort Worth area before serving as vice president of the Texas Rangers and later the AL president from 1984-94.

"I've been so busy and things have been so hectic that I haven't really had a chance to focus on (pending retirement). Next November, December and January, I'm sure I'll do a lot of that," Selig said. "I try not to think about that, I really don't. Yeah, there are a few times when I've said to myself, well, this is the last time you'll do this. And this is the last time I'll do this. I think the emotion will come later."

Sharks, Kings to play game at 49ers' new stadium

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are going to take their rivalry outdoors next season.

The NHL announced Wednesday that the Pacific Division foes will meet at the 49ers' new home in Santa Clara on Feb. 21. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium beat out the San Francisco Giants' cozier confines at AT&T Park for the game, which is part of the NHL's growing Stadium Series.

This will be the second straight year the NHL has staged an outdoor game in California. The Anaheim Ducks beat the Kings 3-0 at Dodger Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 54,099 on Jan. 25.

Sharks Chief Operating Officer John Tortora expects the game at Levi's Stadium to attract a capacity crowd of 68,500 for a scintillating spectacle of ice in Silicon Valley.

"We think this will be one of the bigger sporting events the Bay Area has ever seen," Tortora said.

The NHL's first outdoor game in Northern California features a fierce and fan-pleasing matchup.

In the latest and perhaps most dramatic chapter of the playoff history between these franchises, the Kings eliminated the Sharks in the first round last season to become the league's fourth team to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. Los Angeles went on to win its second Stanley Cup in three years.

"The growing excitement around NHL hockey in California, the intensity of last season's playoff series between these teams and the state-of-the-art setting at Levi's Stadium will bring a thrilling new dimension to the Kings-Sharks rivalry," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

The NHL has been taking its game to iconic outdoor venues more and more over the last decade.

The new Yankee Stadium, Boston's Fenway Park, Chicago's Wrigley Field and Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor are just a few of the notable names to host hockey in recent years. The league previously announced that the Washington Capitals would host the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at a site to be determined.

The Sharks will be the 14th team since 2003 to host an outdoor game. The league has averaged 56,942 fans at each of those contests.

NHL Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli said the outdoor games have been popular because they allow the league to do things such as flyovers during the national anthem and create a more festive atmosphere with large crowds that smaller, enclosed arenas can't offer.

"It's all kind of wrapped up into one big event and that's what makes it pretty special," he said.

Renzulli said the Sharks have wanted to host an outdoor game for years and the league began more serious discussions with the team last summer. He said the league waited until it saw how the Kings-Ducks game at Dodger Stadium played out.

The temperature for that contest in Los Angeles was 63 degrees, but concerns about ice conditions turned out to be unfounded.

"If we can make it in L.A., we can make it in Santa Clara," Renzulli said. "And then we just have to hope that Mother Nature plays well in the sandbox with us."

The weather in Santa Clara is typically warmer and drier than in the more scenic San Francisco, which is about 45 miles north, but Renzulli and Tortora said it was more of a competition between venues than cities.

While the Giants' waterfront ballpark offered dramatic backdrops of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline for television viewers, the league chose the 49ers' digs because football stadiums typically offer better sightlines, more flexibility on the rink's configuration and the ability to host a larger crowd.

Renzulli said that AT&T Park, which holds about 42,000 fans, could still host an NHL game the next time the Sharks bid in a year or two.

Tortora said the larger Levi's Stadium will help lower the average price of a ticket, which he said will cost $150. He said 67 percent of the tickets will be at or below that price and the team is not concerned about selling out the venue.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

Benzema extends contract with Madrid through 2019

MADRID (AP) Real Madrid says France striker Karim Benzema has agreed to extend his contract with the European champions to the end of the 2018-19 season.

The 26-year-old Benzema's previous contract expired in June 2015.

Benzema joined Madrid in 2009 from French club Lyon.

He has scored 111 goals in 235 games for Madrid, helping it to win the Champions League last season along with one Spanish league and two Copa del Rey titles.

Williams savors entry into Naismith Hall of Fame

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) All the hard work and yes, sweat, was worth it for Gary Williams.

Williams will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is an achievement the coach does not take lightly.

"Winning the national championship at Maryland and getting into the Hall of Fame, those two things are the highlights of my career," Williams said in a telephone interview. "The Hall of Fame is special because it's somebody else validating what you did. It's the top honor in basketball."

To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee. Joining Williams for induction in the Class of 2014 are: Immaculata University's AIAW national championship teams of the early 1970s, Alonzo Mourning, Nolan Richardson, Mitch Richmond, Bob Leonard, Nat Clifton, Sarunas Marciulionis, Guy Rodgers and David Stern.

Now 69, Williams enjoyed success coaching at the high school level in his native New Jersey before working at American University, Boston College and Ohio State. His final move was returning to his alma mater, Maryland, in 1989.

"I had a really good job at Ohio State, but Maryland gave me my education and got me started in coaching," Williams said. "We had some problems there in the beginning, but it all worked out."

He spent 22 seasons at Maryland, uplifting the program following the cocaine-induced death of Len Bias and harsh NCAA sanctions. He guided the Terrapins to 14 NCAA tournament berths in his final 18 seasons, reached the Sweet 16 seven times, made the Final Four twice and won the school's first NCAA basketball championship in 2002.

Williams' frenzied approach on the sideline often left his white shirt, tie and suit completely soaked in sweat.

"Gary has earned the honor of being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame through his relentless pursuit of excellence," said Debbie Yow, who served as Maryland's athletic director from 1994-2010.

Upon his arrival at Maryland, the Terrapins were coming off a 9-20 season and a last-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Williams was in the first year of reviving the program when the team was banned from postseason play in 1991 and 1992 and placed on three years' probation by the NCAA for major violations that occurred during the three-year tenure of his predecessor, Bob Wade.

In spite of it all, Williams became the winningest coach in Maryland history, going 461-252. He retired as one of only five coaches make 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament (1994-2004).

"Gary had so many great qualities, but I think he was exceptional at motivating his players. He always found a way to get the most out of them," said Walt Williams, a member of Gary's first Maryland team.

Gary Williams' success at Maryland got him recognition, but he was an exceptional coach long before he arrived in College Park.

"Maryland was the most recent place I coached, so a lot of people overlook everything else," he said. "I learned a lot about coaching in high school. I won the state championship in New Jersey (in 1970 with Woodrow Wilson High). That gave me confidence."

Years later, Williams cut down the nets at the Georgia Dome after Maryland beat Indiana 64-52 to win the NCAA title.

"Coach Williams was a great coach," said Steve Blake, the point guard on that team. "His intensity and knowledge of the game helped us all become better players, and his leadership led us right to a national championship."

Williams has been retired for three years now, long enough to finally appreciate what he accomplished during his four-plus decades as a coach.

"When you coach, all you're thinking about is the next game, the next player you're going to recruit," he said. "You never get to look back. Well, now that I've had the chance to look back, I realize that I got to do what I love in life. To get into the Naismith Hall of Fame, that validates that your life's chase."

Woods arrives at Valhalla to try to play

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Tiger Woods finally arrived at Valhalla on Wednesday for the PGA Championship.

The PGA of America sent out a release that the 14-time major champion arrived. It is believed Woods will try to play a practice round to see if his injured back will allow him to complete in the final major of the year.

Woods had back surgery on March 31 and missed three months of the season, including two majors. He has played three tournaments since his return, but he withdrew in the final round at Firestone on Sunday when he jarred his back in a bunker.

He went home to Florida for treatment.

Suspect in Schumacher records probe found dead

ZURICH (AP) An air ambulance employee who was arrested in connection with the suspected theft of former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher's medical records was found dead in his cell on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

The man, whose name wasn't released, was found hanged in a Zurich police jail on Wednesday morning as officers were handing out breakfast, prosecutors said in a statement. Initial investigations indicated that no one else was involved, they said.

The air ambulance service, Rega, arranged the seven-time F1 champion's transfer in June from a hospital in France to a hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, to continue his recovery from a Dec. 29 skiing accident.

A week later, Schumacher's manager said medical documents purported to be Schumacher's were being offered for sale to some media. Swiss prosecutors opened an investigation into suspected violation of professional secrecy after Rega and Schumacher's family filed criminal complaints.

The investigation led prosecutors to the Rega employee, who was arrested on Tuesday. He denied wrongdoing in questioning by police, and prosecutors had planned to question him further.

Prosecutors said they currently have no evidence of further suspects and likely will close the case.

"This tragic event leaves us sad and speechless," Rega chief executive Ernst Kohler said, adding that the company is offering support to the man's relatives.

Rega has said it organized Schumacher's transfer to Lausanne and, as part of that, was given a medical report by the Grenoble hospital where he had been treated since his accident.

Schumacher's accident happened on a family vacation as he was skiing with his 14-year-old son at the Meribel ski resort in the French Alps. He hit the right side of his head on a rock, cracking his helmet. Doctors operated to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were left because they were too deeply embedded.

Schumacher's condition stabilized after he was placed in a drug-induced coma, from which he has since emerged.

Clinic owner tied to MLB scandal to plead guilty

MIAMI (AP) The former clinic owner accused of selling performance-enhancing drugs to Alex Rodriguez has agreed to plead guilty in what prosecutors called a wide-ranging conspiracy to distribute steroids to both major league ballplayers and high school athletes.

The charges filed Tuesday against former Biogenesis of America owner Anthony Bosch and six others marked one of the biggest salvos yet in a case that has dragged on for nearly two years. The case has sparked lawsuits, mudslinging and suspensions against numerous major leaguers, including Rodriguez.

Also charged was Yuri Sucart, 52, a cousin of Rodriguez who the New York Yankees third baseman has said provided him with steroids from 2000 to 2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers.

Sucart and the others are accused of acting as recruiters, setting up meetings between the athletes and Bosch, who introduced himself as "Dr. T," authorities said. Professional athletes paid up to $12,000 a month for the drugs provided by Biogenesis, while high schoolers paid up to $600 a month. All the clients were promised that the substances would not be found through drug testing, prosecutors said.

"He is not a doctor," Mark R. Trouville, chief of the Miami Drug Enforcement Administration office, said of Bosch. "He is a drug dealer."

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said Bosch did not have a medical license, making what happened all the more dangerous.

"As with many drug cases, these defendants were motivated by one thing - by money," Ferrer said.

Major League Baseball was not part of the criminal investigation and declined comment. No athletes were charged nor named in court documents, and it is unclear how many may have been involved. However, authorities said Bosch admitted to providing performance-enhancing drugs to 18 high schoolers.

For now, Bosch has pleaded not guilty and his bond was set at $100,000. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

"In terms of an agreement to cooperate and plead guilty, Bosch has agreed to do that," Ferrer said.

Michael McCann, director of the sports and entertainment law center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said it's unlikely that the players involved in this scandal will face criminal charges, unless there's any evidence that a player went beyond using drugs and into distributing them.

"They could lose an endorsement contract because of a morals clause in their contract, but if that were to happen I think it would have already happened," McCann said. "In terms of punishment from baseball, baseball has punished them."

The prosecution may have taken so long because investigators might have wanted to confirm the information they were getting from Bosch, even if he was cooperating, McCann said.

"He's not somebody with a great track record, there are reasons to doubt him in terms of his credibility," he said.

Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Rodriguez, said the arrests Tuesday represent a degree of closure for Rodriguez and will enable him to focus on an eventual return to baseball.

"It sort of reinforces the notion that Alex committed no crime, number one," Tacopina said. "And number two, quite frankly, this really signified the beginning of the end of the whole Biogenesis saga and allows Alex to focus on the future going forward."

Rodriguez is currently serving a season-long suspension, the longest penalty in the sport's history related to performance-enhancing drugs. He was the only one 14 players involved in the scandal to contest his penalty.

However, since the investigation is ongoing, it remains possible that more players could eventually face sanctions as a result of the Biogenesis probe.

Rodriguez denied taking steroids while playing for the Yankees, though his cousin was banned from the team's clubhouse, charter flights and other activities after Rodriguez said Sucart obtained the steroids he used while playing for the Rangers.

Bosch was charged with conspiracy to distribute testosterone, as was Sucart, Carlos Javier Acevedo, Jorge Augustine Velazquez, Christopher Benjamin Engroba, Juan Carlos Nunez and Lazaro Daniel Collazo - a well-known youth and college baseball coach who has worked at schools including Miami, Louisville, Florida State and South Florida.

Acevedo pleaded not guilty and his bond was set at $100,000. Engroba pleaded not guilty and his bond was $50,000. No other pleas were entered Tuesday.

Court documents say that from October 2008 through December 2012, Bosch willfully conspired to distribute the anabolic steroid testosterone.

Prosecutors also announced the arrest of three others in a drug ring discovered during the course of the investigation into Biogenesis. However, that case, which centered around the stimulant known as "molly," was not directly connected to Bosch.

A Miami New Times report from January 2013, which sparked MLB's investigation, said Rodriguez had bought human growth hormone and other substances from 2009 to 2012 from Bosch's clinic. The newspaper said it had obtained records detailing the purchases by Rodriguez and other ballplayers.

MLB had sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The lawsuit had accused them of conspiring with players to violate their contracts by providing them with banned substances.

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Associated Press reporters Eric Tucker in Washington and Laura Wides-Munoz in Miami contributed to this report.

Spurs hire WNBA star Becky Hammon as assistant

As a 5-foot-6 point guard, decorated WNBA veteran Becky Hammon has never had the experience of shattering a backboard with a dunk.

She's busting through the glass ceiling instead.

The San Antonio Spurs hired Hammon as an assistant coach on Tuesday, making her the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff. When Hammon retires from her 16-year WNBA career at the end of the San Antonio Stars' season, she will immediately move to the staff of the defending NBA champions, working with the revered Gregg Popovich on scouting, game-planning and the day-to-day grind of practice like no woman has ever done before.

"Nothing in my life has really ever been easy. I've always been someone who did it uphill," Hammon said. "I'm up for challenges. I'm up for being outside the box, making tough decisions and challenges. ... And I'm a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. Throw those all in there and this was the perfect challenge and opportunity."

That makes her fit right in with the Spurs, an organization with a reputation for bold decisions. Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford have long been at the forefront of the league's international influx and earlier this summer hired European coaching legend Ettore Messina as an assistant.

During the 2001-02 season, Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Lucas brought Lisa Boyer into the team's practices and some games. Boyer, now an assistant at South Carolina, was not paid by the Cavaliers and did not travel with the team, but did work with the players and coaches that season.

"I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff," Popovich said in a statement released by the team. "Having observed her working with our team this past season, I'm confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs."

But Popovich and Buford were not available in person and Hammon had the spotlight entirely to herself.

"Congratulations to Becky on today's announcement," Boyer said in a statement. "It's a great thing for her and for the NBA. I am still so thankful to John Lucas for giving me the opportunity to work with his NBA team during my time with the Cleveland Rockers. His staff and players welcomed me as a coach, and it was an incredible experience for me to spend that season with them."

Last season, Hammon attended Spurs practices, film sessions and sat behind the bench at home game after suffering a torn ACL that kept her from playing. She's been friends with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan since competing in an NBA All-Star shooting competition in 2008, a familiarity that will help as she makes her transition to coaching the two stars.

"As far as women coaching men, it's really silly. People ask me all the time, will there ever be a woman player in the NBA?" Hammon said. "To be honest, no. There are differences. The guys are too big, too strong and that's just the way it is.

"But when it comes to things of the mind, things like coaching, game-planning, coming up with offensive and defensive schemes, there's no reason why a woman couldn't be in the mix and shouldn't be in the mix."

It's been a long time coming for female basketball players and coaches who have long dreamed of getting a chance in the NBA.

"I was so excited and pleased and the one thing that people have to remember is that the San Antonio Spurs don't do anything for effect," said Nancy Lieberman, a former star player who was a head coach in the NBA Development League in 2009 and now serves as the GM of the Texas Legends. "That's not who they are. They don't do this for the record-breaking barrier. They do things out of respect.

"And the fact that coach Popovich has this much respect for Becky's basketball IQ, for how she handles herself with the guys in practice, her ability to relate to them, I'm sure he saw so much when she was working with them last fall. I'm sure he didn't hire her because she was a woman. I'm sure he hired her because she was the best person for the job."

"This will open the door for other women, even like myself," Lieberman added. "My goal is to coach in the NBA and you've got to start somewhere. So this is a great day."

Charlotte Hornets sideline reporter Stephanie Ready, who served as an assistant on the Coppin State men's team as well as in the D-League, called Popovich the perfect person to hire Hammon "because he's proven he has a tremendous track record and he does not make bad decisions."

"That's the first step, having the precedent set is very important," Ready said. "A lot of it also is now women will know these jobs are available. In the past, a lot of women probably didn't try because they didn't think it was possible. I think you may very well see an increase in seeing some females hired."

Hammon has a reputation of being a smart, hard-nosed, tough-minded player. She made six All-Star teams and averaged 13.1 points in her 16 seasons with the Stars and New York Liberty.

Hammon was receiving congratulatory messages from all over, including from Lieberman, Boyer and Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

"I love seeing people I've been involved with have an opportunity in life to have these types of experiences," said Stars coach Dan Hughes, who has coached Hammon for eight years. "This one is unique. She's ready for it, she'll do a great job."

Even tennis great Billie Jean King weighed in on the hire, congratulating the Spurs for acquiring "a key person based on their qualifications and not allowing gender to play a role in their decision."

But like it was only a matter of time before a woman got a chance to coach in the NBA, it's also only a matter of time before said coach finds herself in Popovich's crosshairs.

"I'm sure Pop will be yelling at me soon enough," Hammon said, "with the rest of them."

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AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Sports Writer Melissa Murphy in New York and AP freelance writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.

Family of Cal player files wrongful death suit

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The family of former California football player Ted Agu filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California on Tuesday, alleging "reckless and negligent behavior" by the staff toward an athlete known to have sickle cell trait.

The lawsuit filed in California Superior Court repeatedly says that the university was negligent for hiring and retaining trainer Robert Jackson, who previously worked at Central Florida, where he was the sole certified athletic trainer present when wide receiver Ereck Plancher died following conditioning drills in March 2008.

The suit says that Jackson was the most experienced trainer at the scene when Agu died after experiencing "extreme fatigue" during an offseason training run in Berkeley on Feb. 7. The family's attorneys argue that, like Plancher, Agu had sickle cell trait and should not have been put through a "lethal conditioning drill."

"The same thing happened here," said attorney Steve Yerrid, who also represented Plancher's family. "What you see here is a bona fide tragedy."

Yerrid stood on the steps outside the Alameda County Courthouse with trial lawyer Brian Panish and Agu's sobbing mother and father, Emilia and Ambrose, in front of three oversized photos of the former Cal defensive end. Agu's older brother and two of his three older sisters also attended the news conference.

The family did not speak to reporters at the request of their attorneys.

Panish said there have been no settlement talks with the university and he expects the case to go to trial in 12 to 16 months. He said a jury would decide damages, which he requested to be "substantial."

The Alameda County Coroner's office said in April that Agu died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is an excessive thickening of the heart muscle. Yerrid and Panish said Agu's death was brought on by the sickle cell trait and not a heart condition.

The NCAA requires universities to test players for sickle cell, and Yerrid and Panish said Cal had been aware of Agu's condition since he arrived in 2010.

Cal's athletic department said in a statement that its medical staff reacted promptly and followed all recommended protocols outlined by the NCAA. Cal said it could not discuss any student's specific medical history because of privacy laws, "but as the Alameda County Coroner's report states, the cause of death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which suggests there was little anyone could have done to save him."

Cal also said the university remains deeply saddened by Agu's death and recognizes this is a difficult time for his family. The statement reiterated that the school will continue to honor Agu's memory and that it is committed to the safety of all its students.

Many athletes with sickle cell can play their whole careers without complications. The NCAA notes on its website that sickle cell "can affect some athletes during periods of intense exercise, when the inherited condition causes red blood cells to warp into stiff and sticky sickle shapes that block blood vessels and deprive vital organs and muscles of oxygen."

Yerrid said that the workout was supervised by Jackson and strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington and was different from any previous one Agu had participated in. He said Agu and his teammates were tied together with a rope and were running up a hill multiple times outside the football stadium at the request of the training staff.

Yerrid said Agu experienced dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of balance and other signs of extreme fatigue. He said trainers took too long to respond and were not properly trained to care for a player in the sickling process.

Cal team physician Dr. Casey Batten said in February that the medical staff saw Agu had difficulty completing the workout and he was transferred by cart about 150 yards to the stadium.

"He was on the back of the cart, he was talking, he was hydrating, he did not exhibit any labored breathing or other signs until he got to the north tunnel," Batten said.

The university said Agu collapsed when he got to the medical facility at the Simpson Center at the stadium, emergency medical personnel were alerted and Agu was given CPR. He was taken to Alta Bates Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Batten said Agu never had any previous problems with workouts or practice at Cal.

Agu, a 21-year-old defensive end from Bakersfield, was going to be a fifth-year senior this season. He arrived on campus as a walk-on before earning a scholarship last year. He played seven games last season, recording six tackles.

Agu's family attorneys made repeated references to the Plancher case in their lawsuit. But unlike in Florida, they said there's no cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded in such cases in California.

A jury found Central Florida's athletic association was negligent in Plancher's death and awarded his parents, Enock and Gisele Plancher, $5 million apiece - plus the cost of attorneys' fees, which Yerrid said brings the total to about $15 million. UCF and its insurance company, Great American Assurance Company, appealed the verdict in May 2012.

A ruling by a Florida appeals court reduced the damage award to $200,000, citing sovereign immunity afforded to Florida state agencies in civil judgments. The case is on appeal in the Florida Supreme Court.

Yerrid said Agu's family reached out to him after learning of the Plancher case.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

MLS All-Stars prep quickly for Bayern Munich

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) By the time the MLS All-Star game rolls around on Wednesday night, coach Caleb Porter will have had two training sessions with his All-Stars.

Yes, just two practices to prepare for Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich.

Porter is hoping his side has some fast learners.

"It's a celebration of these players, their careers," said Porter, coach of the host Portland Timbers. "Hopefully, we can make it a competitive game and try to make it exciting with a lot of good attacking players."

Ultimately the game is an exhibition, and Porter said his main job - besides putting on a good show - is to return the players to their teams with no injuries.

The All-Star game is part of a summer exhibition tour for Bayern Munich, which hasn't visited the United States in a decade. The team defeated Chivas Guadalajara 1-0 last Thursday night at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.

Winner of 19 straight matches at one point last season, Bayern Munich brings six players from the German national team that won the World Cup this summer, including Mario Goetze and Thomas Mueller. But coach Pep Guardiola said not to expect them to play more than about 15 minutes apiece.

The MLS team will also include several players from the U.S. World Cup team that advanced out of the group stage in Brazil, including Seattle's Clint Dempsey and Toronto's Michael Bradley.

"We just played against these players on the biggest stage in the world. I think in the past, the All-Star teams have had only a few days to come together, but it's a little bit different this year because most of us are used to playing together on the national team," said Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who was also on the U.S. national team.

The MLS All-Stars hope to have six players from the U.S. team on the available roster. On Tuesday, midfielder Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake had to withdraw because of an unspecified injury.

Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane of the L.A. Galaxy both made the team but also had to bow out. The Galaxy did send forward Landon Donovan, who is appearing in his record 14th All-Star game.

A player to watch on Bayern Munich's side is 19-year-old Julian Green, who played for the United States in Brazil and became the youngest American player to score in the World Cup with a goal against Belgium.

Green, who was born in Florida but grew up in Germany, has dual citizenship. With Bayern Munich since 2010, Green is vying to make his debut with the club's senior side this season. He'll likely see more play than Bayern's other World Cup stars.

"He's going to play a little bit more - for the fans, for the girls," Guardiola joked.

Last year, Italian powerhouse AS Roma, led by longtime star Francesco Totti, defeated the MLS All-Stars 3-1 in Kansas City. The Galaxy's Gonzalez scored the only goal for the MLS side in second-half stoppage time.

Bradley was on Roma's side for that match.

The MLS is 7-3-1 against international opponents since the league adopted the current All-Star game format, the only losses coming to English Premier League club Manchester United and Roma.

"The best thing you can do is keep it simple." Porter said. "I want these players to go back to their clubs healthy."

McIlroy wary of all the hype entering PGA

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Golf stories about Rory McIlroy are a lot more flattering than those a year ago. And if he reads too much into them, they can be a lot more dangerous.

McIlroy went wire to wire at Hoylake to win the British Open. Then he overpowered Firestone on the weekend to win his first World Golf Championship. Now he is the overwhelming favorite at the PGA Championship. He is looked on in some corners as a sure thing, a label once reserved only for Tiger Woods.

Boy Wonder is not so sure about that.

"Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions," McIlroy said Tuesday before heading out for his first look at Valhalla. "I've had a great run of golf and I've played well over the past few months. Look, I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and sort of become one of the dominant players in the game. I felt like I had the ability to do that. And it's just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel I should be."

He is No. 1 in the world again. He has three wins in his last seven starts. And with three legs of the career Grand Slam - only Woods and Jack Nicklaus were younger than the 25-year-old McIlroy when they achieved that - there was even talk about the start of a new era.

McIlroy wasn't buying.

"I'm just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute, and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible," he said. "And people can say what they want to say. That's fine. But I can't read too much into it. ... Because if you read everything that was being written, I'd turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I'd already won the tournament."

The question lingered Tuesday whether Woods was going to make it to the first tee at all.

Woods injured his back Sunday - just four months after back surgery - and canceled his news conference Tuesday. There was no word on his prospects, presumably because he wanted to give himself as much time as possible to see if he could play.

The deadline to register was 5 p.m. Tuesday, though the PGA Championship said players who notify officials they will be registering late have until they tee off Thursday. Woods was among six such players. He is to tee off at 8:35 a.m. with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington

Even if Woods were to play, that wouldn't take the focus from McIlroy.

McIlroy appears to be in full flight, just as he was in his record victory at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open, and just as he was when he won the PGA Championship by a record eight shots in 2012, and then added three more wins the rest of the year against strong fields.

Valhalla, where Woods won 14 years ago, would appear to be suited for him. Then again, just about any course is for a guy who hits it long and straight.

McIlroy said he has added about seven pounds of muscle in recent months, and he is now the heaviest he has been. He also has shortened his swing, which would make him more accurate off the tee.

"He's such a great driver of the golf ball," Phil Mickelson said as he looked back on McIlroy's win at Firestone. "Even though the golf course was fairly tight and hitting fairways is important, he kept hitting drivers and he kept putting the ball in play and he kept playing the course aggressively and making birdies. And he plays to his strength. He's just a very good talent. We've been waiting a year, year and a half now for it to turn. And it's really turned for him. And he's tough to beat."

McIlroy was foundering at this time a year, missing the cut in three out of six tournaments, not even sniffing contention as he worked through equipment changes. The final touch was an alignment issue he solved after the Masters, and he is soaring now.

Of the 13 players to win a major and a World Golf Championship, McIlroy and Woods are the only ones to win them in consecutive starts. In the last 20 years, Woods, Padraig Harrington and Nick Price are the only players to win the final two majors of the year.

McIlroy ended Adam Scott's 11-week run at No. 1, and his intent is to stay there.

"I think the right guy is at No. 1 at the moment," Scott said. "I hope that I could go ahead and win this week and maybe go back to No. 1. But there's no doubt Rory has played the best golf over the last few months."

"It's only motivating to see Rory play so well," he said. "I've said a lot that I feel this is my time, so I've got to beat whatever Rory is throwing out there."

McIlroy considers this his best major, and the results bear that out. In five starts, he has finished out of the top 10 only one time. That was in 2011 in Atlanta, where he played the last three rounds with an arm injury after trying to hit a shot through a tree root.

Golf courses typically are softer in August because of the heat. Nicklaus courses tend to have generous fairways, not that McIlroy needs any help these days. The only change now is the perception.

"Expectations are higher. Hype is a little higher," McIlroy said. "So it's a little bit different this year."

McCutchen has broken rib, hoping to avoid DL

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Andrew McCutchen has a broken bone in his ribcage three days after being hit by a pitch, but the Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder and last year's NL MVP hopes to avoid going on the disabled list.

McCutchen left in the eighth inning of Sunday's loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Phoenix after feeling pain in his side when he swung at a pitch. He had to be helped down the dugout steps to the clubhouse and also needed help getting dressed after the game.

McCutchen said he couldn't be sure that getting hit might have caused the injury but wouldn't rule it out.

"I don't know but I've taken a million swings and have never felt anything in my side until Sunday," McCutchen said.

McCutchen was hit in the back by a pitch from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Randal Delgado on Saturday night. Though Delgado said the pitch got away from him, the Pirates suspected it was payback for Diamondbacks star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt suffering a season-ending broken left hand a night earlier when hit by a pitch from Pittsburgh reliever Ernesto Frieri.

"I'm not going to play today and I'm not going to play tomorrow but we'll see after that," McCutchen said Tuesday. "Two days ago, I couldn't even bend down to put my shoes on. Now, I can ... get dressed like normal, so I'm getting better."

While McCutchen was not in the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Miami Marlins, the Pirates are waiting before making a decision on whether he needs to on the DL.

Starling Marte, normally the Pirates' left fielder, was activated from the 7-day disabled list and started in center field. He took the roster spot of third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who was placed on the bereavement list. That left the Pirates a man short.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates' medical staff is having difficulty putting a timetable on McCutchen's return because the injury is a rarity in baseball.

"They are trying to get as much information as they can," Hurdle said. "At this point we're weighing whether Andrew might be able to come back in less than 15 days against playing a man short. For now, we're going to wait and keep him on the active roster."

Flyers D Timonen out with blood clots

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen has been hospitalized in Finland because of blood clots in his lower right leg and in both lungs.

The team made the announcement on Tuesday. Timonen's return to the ice is uncertain.

The 39-year-old Timonen signed a one-year contract this summer for $2 million. He has been Philadelphia's top defenseman for several years.

Timonen has spent the last seven seasons with the Flyers after playing his first eight with Nashville. He has 571 career points on 117 goals and 454 assists. Timonen is plus-38 for his career.

Suns' P.J. Tucker gets jail time, apologizes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker was sentenced to three days in jail and 11 days of home detention Monday after pleading guilty to "super extreme" driving under the influence.

"I am truly sorry and I take full responsibility for my actions. No excuses," Tucker said in a statement. "It is now my responsibility to examine my life and make the changes necessary to ensure this never happens again."

Police say Tucker had a blood alcohol level of .22 after he was arrested May 10 in Scottsdale, nearly three times the legal limit in Arizona.

Tucker agreed to put an interlock device on his car for 18 months, undergo substance abuse counseling and pay fines of $2,750. He was placed on probation for up to five years.

Details of the punishment and Tucker's statement were released by his attorneys following his court appearance on Monday.

"In considering this matter, we concluded that P.J. was sincere in his remorse and in his resolve to accept the consequences of his actions," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. "We are convinced that he will take the necessary steps to avoid any such conduct in the future. The Suns do not in any way condone his conduct, but we do support him as he works through this."

Tucker's Mercedes Benz was pulled over by a Scottsdale police officer, and the police report said his speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot and he nearly fell over during the sobriety test.

The Suns were aware of the arrest when Tucker signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract in early July.

Tucker wrote of how blessed he was and that he was grateful no one was hurt.

He said the process of making life changes has begun "and will continue with the support of my family, friends and, of course, the amazing Phoenix Suns."

"I will not let you down," his statement concluded.

Giants rally to beat Bills 17-13 in HOF Game

CANTON, Ohio (AP) Andre Williams ran up some big numbers at Boston College. The fourth-round draft pick is showing glimpses that can do it for the New York Giants, too.

Williams had seven carries for 48 yards and scored on a 3-yard run in a 17-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night in the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game.

"It gives me confidence. I feel like I'm supposed to be here," said Williams, who led the nation with 2,177 yards rushing last season. "I'm part of the team now."

And a more important part with David Wilson sidelined after sustaining his second neck injury in less than a year.

Filling the No. 2 spot behind newly acquired starter Rashad Jennings, the Heisman Trophy finalist helped provide the Giants' re-tooled backfield a 1-2 punch.

"I though he played well, and that was encouraging," coach Tom Coughlin said. "David Wilson's injury not-withstanding, it's very important to us no matter what, because you need a natural rotation."

Williams' score, which came after a 21-yard scamper off left tackle, put the Giants up 7-3 late in the first quarter.

Rookie receiver Corey Washington scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 73-yard pass up the right sideline from backup Ryan Nassib with 13:18 remaining. Washington reached back to catch the partly under-thrown pass, then stepped around flat-footed defender Kamaal McIlwain.

Nassib, competing for the backup spot, went 7 of 12 for 139 yards.

Starter Eli Manning played three series, and finished 6 of 7 for 43 yards, but lost a fumble.

For Buffalo, starting quarterback EJ Manuel had several lapses during two series. He completed just 2 of 7 attempts for 19 yards, and nearly had a pass intercepted by linebacker Jacquian Williams inside the New York 10. Manuel never looked off his intended target Sammy Watkins and was fortunate to have Williams bat the ball down.

"I would have liked to throw a touchdown pass or to score a touchdown while I was in, but it's our first game," said Manuel, the second-year player who has been inconsistent through the first two weeks of training camp. "We got our feet wet, and we're looking forward to moving on to playing Carolina."

Coach Doug Marrone didn't sound as positive regarding the play of any of his quarterbacks.

"Obviously, the performances were not good for a win," Marrone said. "We've got to get better, all of them."

Bills backup Jeff Tuel hit Robert Woods for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to put Buffalo ahead 10-7 early in the second quarter. Tuel finished 12 of 17 for 74 yards and an interception.

Watkins, the Bills' first-round pick, was held without a catch after being targeted three times. Two passes from Manuel directed Watkins' way were tipped. Manuel also was late in finding Watkins flying up the left sideline, and overthrew him by a few yards.

It was a disappointing debut for Watkins, who had made numerous highlight-reel catches during the first two weeks of training camp.

Dan Carpenter made two field goals, including a 51-yarder. New York's Brandon McManus hit a 47-yard field goal

The Bills are coming off a 6-10 season in which they extended their playoff drought to 14 seasons - the NFL's longest active streak.

The Giants (7-9) had a busy offseason attempting to restock a team that has missed the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.

The NFL unveiled a few new wrinkles that will run through the first two weeks of the preseason.

New York's Josh Brown hit two and Carpenter hit his extra-point attempt, all of which were snapped from the 15-yard line rather than the 2.

NOTES: Giants TE Daniel Fells left because of a sprained knee. ... Coaches and players on the sidelines also had the opportunity to view pictures of plays on tablets and in color - an improvement over the black-and-white still photos that were printed off on paper. Marrone said his tablet initially didn't work. The problem was fixed and he used the technology in the second half. ... The game was played a day after the seven-member 2014 class was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The group included former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and former Bills receiver Andre Reed.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Gardner, Drew help Yankees beat Red Sox 8-7

BOSTON (AP) Brett Gardner had a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning for one of his three hits, helping the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 8-7 on Sunday night.

Former Red Sox infielder Stephen Drew had a pair of hits and drove in four runs in his third game with the Yankees since he was sent there at the trading deadline. Esmil Rogers (1-0) earned the victory in his Yankees debut by throwing three hitless innings, striking out three and allowing one walk.

David Robertson pitched the ninth for his 29th save.

Craig Breslow (2-3) came in to relieve Clay Buchholz to start the sixth inning and gave up Gardner's leadoff homer before retiring the next three batters.

McIlroy wins and goes back to No. 1

AKRON, Ohio (AP) Rory McIlroy rallied from a three-shot deficit to win the Bridgestone Invitational and return to No. 1 in the world.

In his first start since a wire-to-wire win in the British Open, McIlroy picked up his first World Golf Championship title at Firestone. And just like Royal Liverpool, the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland made it look easy.

Sergio Garcia had a three-shot lead going into the final round. McIlroy opened with three straight birdies to take a one-shot lead. He never trailed the rest of the way, taking the lead for good with an 8-foot birdie on the 11th hole.

Tiger Woods withdrew after eight holes with back pain from jumping hard into a bunker on the second hole. It was only his third event since returning from back surgery.

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