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Woods Stretches His Lead on Blue Monster

Doral, Fla. — Tiger Woods hit a tee shot that got stuck in a palm tree. That’s about the only thing that didn’t fall his way yesterday in the Cadillac Championship.

Woods made seven more birdies on the Blue Monster at Doral, the last one from 15 feet on the 18th hole that gave him a 5-under 67 and a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell heading into the final round.

Woods has made 24 birdies and taken only 74 putts through three rounds, both personal bests in his PGA Tour career. It put him in great position to win his 17th career World Golf Championship, and his first since 2009. He has a 39-2 record when he has the outright lead going into the final round on the PGA Tour. The only time he has ever lost a lead of more than two shots was in 2010 against an 18-man field at the Chevron World Challenge, when McDowell beat him in a playoff.

McDowell was six shots out of the lead with three holes to play when he tried to keep it close. His drive on the 16th finished just over the green, and he chipped in for eagle. He picked up another shot on the 17th when Woods’ tee shot embedded high into the trunk of a palm tree. Once his ball was identified, he took a penalty drop and made bogey.

Phil Mickelson, who badly wanted to get into the final group, overcame a three-putt from 4 feet for double bogey on the third hole by making four birdies the rest of the way. He had a 69, along with Steve Stricker, and both were five shots behind.

Honda Classic winner Michael Thompson and Sergio Garcia each had a 67 and were at 11-under 205, along with Charl Schwartzel (69) and Woodstock’s Keegan Bradley (69). Masters champion Bubba Watson could only manage a 71 and was eight shots behind.

Baseball

Rivera Says
This is Final Season

Tampa, Fla. — Saying he made the decision before arriving at spring training, Mariano Rivera announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the season and hopes to cap his record-setting career by winning another World Series with the New York Yankees.

Rivera was surrounded by family and teammates when he made the announcement during a news conference at the team’s complex.

The 43-year-old has a clear vision of how he wants his career to end.

“The last game I hope will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series,” he said. “Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition.”

With the entire Yankees’ team looking on — including longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte — Rivera said he knew the time was right for his decision.

“I have just a few bullets left,” he said.

He then made his first game appearance since April 30, throwing a 1-2-3 fifth inning against Atlanta. Looking like his overpowering self of old, Rivera retired Dan Uggla on a popup to second, then threw called third strikes past Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson.

Brawl With Sox Player
Mars Canada’s WBC Win

Phoenix — A fierce brawl that saw Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves and several players throw nasty punches erupted yesterday in the ninth inning of Canada’s 10-3 romp over Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in a melee that also involved fans.

The fights broke out after Canada’s Rene Tosoni was hit by a pitch from Arnold Leon with Canada leading 9-3 at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It turned into a wild scene, as chaotic as any on a major league field in recent years.

Even when the fisticuffs ended, a full water bottle thrown from the crowd struck the face of a Canadian coach. Canada shortstop Cale Iorg angrily threw the bottle back into the crowd.

Several police officers came onto the field trying to restore order, and there were a few skirmishes in the seats. Seven players were ejected.

There had already been several hard plays on the bases when things got out of hand. Shortly before Tosoni was a hit, a bunt single by Canada seemed to heighten the tension — a tiebreaker in the WBC relies heavily on scoring runs, and the Canadians were trying to pad their margin.

Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Morneau and Joey Votto were among the big-name, high-priced stars playing in the game. The fight was exactly the kind of thing that must have made major league managers and general managers cringe at the thought of one of their players getting hurt in such a fracas.

Aceves was among four Mexican players thrown out — the angry Boston reliever was tossed to the ground by Philadelphia minor league outfielder Tyson Gillies during the height of the altercation.

Also ejected were Arnold Leon, Oliver Perez and Eduardo Arredondo of Mexico and Tosoni, Pete Orr and Jay Johnson of Canada. A statement from WBC organizers said tape of the incident would be reviewed for possible disciplinary action.

Skiing

Ligety Wins GS Title

Slovenia — Ted Ligety of the United States won his fifth giant slalom of the season yesterday to clinch the World Cup discipline title with a race to spare.

It’s his fourth GS title after winning in 2008 and 2010-11. He also successfully defended his GS title at the world championships last month.

Ligety held his first-run lead to win in 2 minutes, 35.43 seconds for his 16th career victory, all in GS.

He established an insurmountable 125-point lead over Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who was 0.45 behind in second.

NFL Football

Steelers Cut LB

Pittsburgh — The Pittsburgh Steelers released linebacker James Harrison yessterday after the team and the hard-hitting defensive star who played on two Super Bowl champions failed to agree on a new contract.

Harrison was voted AP’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 after setting a team record with 16 sacks..

Dog Racing

Iditarod Front-Runner
Looks for 5th Win

Anchorage, Alaska — Four-time champion Martin Buser held on to the lead yesterday in Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, hoping to be only the second musher to ever claim a fifth title in the race’s 40-year-history.

But plenty of competitors were hot in pursuit in the 1,000-mile race, and gaining on the 54-year-old veteran from Big Lake, Alaska. Teams have been traveling in deep snow followed by deep overflows in a trail deteriorated by above-freezing temperatures. Some stretches also were marked by glare ice.

On the seventh day of the race, Buser was first out of the checkpoint at Eagle Island, where a single cabin is the only dwelling in the otherwise uninhabited stretch of trail. Buser dropped two dogs there and left with 11 dogs at 2:41 a.m. Saturday to begin the 60-mile run to the next checkpoint at Kaltag, which is 346 miles from the race’s finishing point in Nome.