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STENSON CLAIMS ONE-STROKE LEAD IN SOUTH AFRICA

GOLF

Henrik Stenson shot 5-under 67 on Thursday for a one-stroke lead over defending champion Jim Furyk after the first round of the Nedbank Challenge.

David Howell and Padraig Harrington tied for third at 3 under.

Stenson led despite fighting the flu and using new clubs, balls and a new caddie.

"It will be tough, but if I can keep playing this way, there is no reason I shouldn't win," Stenson said.

Harrington started with five birdies on the front nine but bogeyed the 14th and 15th.

"I thought I was invincible for a while out there," Harrington said. "But I gave myself lots of chances, and that's the way to be in contention on this course."

Ernie Els, who shot an even 72, was at 4 under heading to the par-3 16th, but he double bogeyed the short hole and followed up with two bogeys on the last two.

Chris DiMarco (74) and Colin Montgomerie (75) shot 40 on the back nine to finish over par.

Retief Goosen (70), Charl Schwartzel (70), Jose-Maria Olazabal (71), Trevor Immelman (71) and Sergio Garcia (72) round out the 12-man field.

Elsewhere

PGA QUALIFYING: Rich Barcelo shot 8-under 64 for 9-under 135 to take a three-stroke lead over Paul Gow after the second round of the 108-hole final qualifying tournament in La Quinta, Calif.

The top 30 and ties after six rounds receive tour cards.

Bob Heintz of Palm Harbor was tied for seventh at 4-under 140. Michael Bradley of Brandon was tied for 44th at 1 over, and Kyle McCarthy of Gulfport was tied for 153rd at 11 over.

LPGA QUALIFYING: Angela Park shot 5-under 67 at LPGA International for a share of the second-round lead with South Korea's Hye Jung Choi at 7-under 137 in the tour's 90-hole final qualifying tournament in Daytona Beach.

The top 15 after five rounds receive exempt tour cards and the next 35 get conditional cards.

Kelly Lagedrost of Brooksville was tied for fourth at 5-under 139. Jenny Gleason of Clearwater was tied for 20th at 1-under 143, and Beth Bauer of Tampa was tied for 101st with a 7-over 151.

NEW ZEALAND OPEN: Scott Strange overcame fierce winds and lashing rain to shoot 4-under 67 for the lead in Auckland. Strange had five birdies to earn a one-stroke edge over Greg Chalmers, Jarrod Moseley and Kim Felton.

TENNIS

Russia, Argentina set for final of Davis Cup

Nikolay Davydenko, the highest-ranked player in the Davis Cup final, faces the lowest-ranked player today in the opening singles match when Russia plays Argentina in Moscow.

But Juan Ignacio Chela won't be too concerned with the rankings. The 33rd-ranked Argentine has beaten the third-ranked Davydenko all five times they have met. "I'm very confident and ready to fight tomorrow and win," Chela said.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin faces David Nalbandian in the second singles match, and Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny play Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri in Saturday's doubles.

The reverse singles of the best-of-five series are Sunday.

AUTOS

Former champ Hakkinen takes (slow) F1 spin

Mika Hakkinen, a two-time Formula One champion, was the slowest of 18 drivers as he reacquainted himself with an F1 car for the first time since quitting five years ago.

The 38-year-old Finn posted a best lap three seconds slower than Ferrari test-driver Luca Badoer, who was fastest in a testing session near Barcelona, a time sheet from the racetrack showed.

Renault rookie Heikki Kovalainen posted the second-quickest time, with BMW's Robert Kubica in third and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

Hamilton is Formula One's first black driver after being chosen last week to be the partner of champion Fernando Alonso next season.

GYMNASTICS

Americans take pass on World Cup final

There won't be any American medalists at this month's World Cup final. No American gymnasts, either.

The United States declined its invitations to the Dec. 16-17 meet in Sao Paolo, Brazil, saying its athletes are recovering from injuries and aren't in competition shape.

The Romanian women aren't competing, according to a list from the International Gymnastics Federation, and some of the Chinese men are passing, too.

The World Cup final is one of the sport's most prestigious international competitions, ranking behind the Olympics and world championships.

But the final comes two months after the world championships in October.

HORSES

Jockey Baze ties record for victories at 9,530

Russell Baze inched closer to surpassing Laffit Pincay Jr.'s record of 9,530 victories, riding one winner in six mounts at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif., to tie the nearly 7-year-old mark.

"Honest, Laffit, I'm not dragging this out," a smiling Baze told Pincay, who will return today for his fifth day of watching and waiting.

Baze has ridden four winners in his past three days of racing. He will try to break the record today, with scheduled mounts in seven races.

"Surely one of them will jump up and win," he said.

Baze lost his first three races before guiding Christie's Fame to a 4-1/2-length victory in the sixth.

Pincay has owned the record since Dec. 10, 1999, when he overtook Bill Shoemaker's mark of 8,833.

RACES: The longest shot in the field at 16-1, Homerette pulled off an upset in the feature at New York's Aqueduct. ... Silk Kerchief won the feature race at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.

ET CETERA

BIATHLON: Ole Einar Bjorndalen won the season opener in Ostersund, Sweden, for his record 64th World Cup victory, beating Andreas Birnbacher by 14.3 seconds in a 20-kilometer race. Bjorndalen's winning time was 51 minutes, 38.6 seconds.

BOXING: WBC light flyweight champion Omar Nino tested positive for traces of methamphetamine after winning the title last month, Nevada boxing regulators said. The Nevada Athletic Commission is scheduled to formally announce Nino's temporary suspension at its meeting Tuesday.

TRACK AND FIELD: The directors of Europe's top meets will consider whether to shun athletes connected with coach Trevor Graham, who has been indicted by a U.S. grand jury investigating steroids in pro sports, when they meet March 2-4. Several of Graham's athletes have tested positive for steroids and other banned substances, including Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin. Other athletes who have been coached by Graham include Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones.

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