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Cink, Haas Tied for Lead; Bradley 2 Back

Humble, Texas — Even as the clouds rolled in at the Houston Open, Stewart Cink started to see some light in his game.

Cink saved par from the bunker on the 18th hole yesterday at Redstone Golf Club for a 4-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with Bill Haas going into the final round. Cink is winless in 81 starts since the 2009 British Open. This is his first time with at least a share of the third-round lead in nearly five years.

And it doesn’t figure to be easy. One week after he shared the 36-hole lead at Bay Hill, Haas made seven birdies over his last 13 holes for a 67 and was tied with Cink at 11-under 205.

Sunday suddenly became loaded with possibilities that might even feature Phil Mickelson.

Twenty players were within four shots. Only three of them — Dustin Johnson, Woodstock, Vt., native Keegan Bradley and John Merrick — have won on the PGA Tour in the last year. And 12 of them can earn a trip to the Masters by winning.

Steve Wheatcroft, the journeyman who only got into this tournament through a Monday qualifier, got off to a good start and fell back with an embarrassing finish. Wheatcroft was tied for the lead when he shanked a shot from the greenside bunker on the 18th, the ball coming out at a 45-degree angle, over the green and almost into the gallery. He made a 15-foot putt to salvage bogey for a 72. Wheatcroft still was only one shot out of the lead, along with Ben Crane (67), D.A. Points (71) and Jason Kokrak (71).

Nine players were only two shots behind, a group that included former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (65), former world No. 1 Lee Westwood (67), former PGA champion Bradley (67) two-time major champion Angel Cabrera (69) and Henrik Stenson (68), who is one round away from playing his way into the Masters through being top 50 in the world.

Tennis

S. Williams Wins Title

Key Biscayne, Fla. — Serena Williams broke the Key Biscayne women’s record for most titles, and Maria Sharapova set a new standard for futility in finals.

Williams swept the final 10 games and earned her sixth championship in the event yesterday by rallying past Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 at the Sony Open.

Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open last year, but she’s now 0-5 in Key Biscayne finals. After playing nearly flawless tennis for an hour, she began to miss with her serve, and Williams dominated rallies down the stretch.

At 31, the No. 1-ranked Williams became the oldest female champion at Key Biscayne. She won the tournament for the first time since 2008 and surpassed Steffi Graf, a five-time champion.

Today, 2009 champion Andy Murray will play first-time Key Biscayne finalist David Ferrer for the men’s title.

College Hoop

UCLA Hires Coach

Los Angeles — UCLA hired Steve Alford as men’s basketball coach yesterday, luring him from New Mexico days after he signed a new 10-year deal with the Lobos.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero said Alford is “the perfect fit for UCLA” because he connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented style of play to Westwood.

Alford agreed to a seven-year deal worth $18.2 million, with a yearly salary of $2.6 million, according to Guerrero. He will receive a $200,000 signing bonus.

Alford’s deal with New Mexico was worth more than $20 million over 10 years. Guerrero said Alford is responsible for a buyout of his contract in Albuquerque, but that UCLA would work out the details.

MLS Soccer

FC Dallas 1, Revolution 0

Foxbororough, Mass. — Blas Perez headed in a shot off of the left goal post in the 87th minute to lift FC Dallas past New England.

Perez scored his first goal of the season, slipping between defenders after taking a pass from David Ferreira, to help FC Dallas improve to 4-1-0. New England (1-2-1) was held scoreless for the third straight game, extending its goal drought to 298 minutes.