IN BRIEF | NATION & WORLD | 2-2-14


Watson leads Phoenix Open

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A desert critter saved leader Bubba Watson at least a stroke Saturday in the Phoenix Open. Some pigskin play cost Phil Mickelson to the chagrin of the rowdiest fans in the largest crowd in golf history.

The estimated 189,722 in attendance had a lot to see on a sunny, cool day at TPC Scottsdale.

Watson’s drive on the par-5 13th went into a desert bush and settled next to a burrowing animal hole that would have interfered with his swing, giving him a free drop.

“Right next to my ball was a burrowing animal hole and my club was going to hit it at impact,” Watson said. “It was big hole and the club would get caught on it. So, I got a free drop and could easily wedge it out.”

He hit a 150-yard shot to the fairway, followed with a wedge to the fringe and two-putted for par on the way to a 3-under 68 and a two-stroke lead.

Without the free drop, he thought he could have played a shorter shot. “I was looking at a 20- or 30-yard shot,” Watson said.

Mickelson made a double bogey on the par-3 No. 16, the 20,000-seat stadium hole where he “lost focus” thinking about throwing footballs into the crowd.

The defending champion half-shanked his tee shot left on the 128-yard hole. He followed with a weak flop shot into the bunker, blasted to 8 feet and two-putted.

“It was a gap wedge. It was pathetic,” Mickelson said. “I don’t even know what to say. I don’t remember ever hitting a shot like that even in practice.”

Gallacher up 2 on McIlroy in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Defending champion Stephen Gallacher had seven birdies and an eagle on the back nine Saturday to surge past Rory McIlroy and take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Gallacher equaled the European Tour record for the lowest nine-hole score with an inward 28 for a 9-under 63. That gave him a 16-under total of 200, with McIlroy in second after 69. Tiger Woods was 11 shots back after a 70.

“This is the best back nine I’ve had in my career by far,” said Gallacher, who started the day four shots behind McIlroy. “So to get myself back into contention when I needed to, and given the stature of this tournament, it feels good.”

Bryans keep Americans alive in Davis Cup

SAN DIEGO — Identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan beat Dominic Inglot and Colin Fleming 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 Saturday to pull the United States to 2-1 against Britain in the first round of the Davis Cup.

The match will be decided today in reverse singles, when Wimbledon winner Andy Murray of Britain faces Sam Querrey and James Ward of Britain faces Donald Young. Murray won the opening singles match in straight sets against Donald Young on Friday while Ward rallied to beat Querrey in five sets.

The match is being played on a red clay court in a temporary stadium built against the left-field bleachers at Petco Park, the downtown home of baseball’s San Diego Padres.

Wondolowski double leads US past S. Korea

CARSON, California — Chris Wondolowski scored both goals in the United States’ 2-0 victory over South Korea in an international friendly Saturday.

The San Jose Earthquakes striker strengthened his case for inclusion on the U.S. World Cup squad for Brazil with his sixth and seventh goals in his last eight appearances for the U.S. team, which was missing several top players.

The Americans won their 13th straight home match, thrilling a flag-waving sellout crowd at StubHub Center.

Former Spain coach Aragones dies at 75

MADRID — Luis Aragones, the former Spain coach who shaped the team’s rise from perennial underachiever to global powerhouse with a long-awaited title at the 2008 European Championship, has died. He was 75.

The Spanish soccer federation announced the death early Saturday, saying Aragones died at a Madrid hospital. He had been battling leukemia.

Aragones had a successful playing career as a sharpshooting international forward who earned 11 caps for Spain, and then spent the rest of his life as a much-traveled coach.

However, he will mostly be remembered for what happened on June 29, 2008, when his team beat Germany 1-0 in Vienna to claim its first major title in 44 years.

The Euro 2008 triumph was the culmination of Aragones’ four-year reign as Spain coach, having taken over a team that for the last 20 years had earned a underachiever reputation.

But Aragones instilled a new sense of belief in his players, even after losing to France in the second round of the 2006 World Cup. He also made the team adopt the quick-passing “tiki-taka” style of football made famous by Barcelona, and which his players came close to perfecting at Euro 2008.

While Aragones stepped down after the tournament, the team went on to win its first World Cup two years later and then added an unprecedented third straight major title at Euro 2012 under his successor Vicente del Bosque.

By wire sources