EAST LOTHIAN, Scotland, July 18 (UPI) -- When Peter Baker, Des Smyth and James Kingston tee it up first Thursday at the British Open, they may even have a chance as they get ready to attack Muirfield Golf Links at the season's third major golf championship.
A links course on the shores of eastern Scotland that plays at just over 7,000 yards, Muirfield won't necessarily be dominated by the game's big hitters, unlike the first two majors of the season.
While no more than a half-dozen players were given a chance heading into The Masters and U.S. Open, some say as many as 75 have a chance this week.
"This will bring a bigger field into the equation much moreso than the U.S. Open or The Masters," added Davis Love III, who is grouped with Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and K.J. Choi of Korea at 8:57 a.m.
"There were guys like Nick (Faldo) who played their hearts out but just couldn't get there," Love said. "A course like this, he's one of the favorites."
Faldo has won the last two British Opens held at Muirfield, defeating Paul Azinger and Rodger Davis by a stroke in 1987 before edging John Cook by the same margin in 1992. He's back, and he's raving about the layout.
Some call Muirfield the best course in the British Open rotation. Others put it in the top three. Faldo said it's just special.
"It's still one of my favorite spots," said Faldo, a six-time major winner who will play with world No. 2 Phil Mickelson and Hal Sutton at 9:35 a.m.
Muirfield is typical in its links characteristics. The rough is thick, but the greens are quick, allowing players to be creative with their shots, often running them up to the greens.
"Because you get the chance to be creative, hit shots and run the ball on the ground," said tournament favorite Tiger Woods, who is seeking the third leg of the Grand Slam. "A lot of times, the yardages are just thrown out the door."
"The recipe to success in the Open Championship is very simple," said defending champion David Duval, who will play with Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Japan's Shingo Katayama at 4:28 a.m. "Don't hit it in the pot bunkers and don't hit in the high stuff."
Where they go will depend on the weather. The first part of the week has been damp but calm. Potentially heavy winds are possible for the weekend.
Packers safety to announce retirement
GREEN BAY, Wis., July 18 (UPI) -- LeRoy Butler, one of the longest tenured players in the history of the Green Bay Packers, will announce his retirement Thursday,
The Milwaukee Journal reported on its web site Wednesday that the strong safety was retiring because his injured left shoulder had failed to heal and he would not be ready for the start of training camp.
The Packers would not confirm the report, but the club's web site said a 2:30 p.m. EDT news conference has been scheduled for Thursday to announce that Butler is retiring.
A 12-year veteran who turns 34 on Friday, Butler broke his shoulder blade on November 18 against Atlanta and missed the final seven games last season, leaving him 15 games shy of tying Bart Starr's record of 196 games played with the Packers.
Along with Starr (16 years), only four other players in the Packers' 83-year history have spent more time with Green Bay than Butler--Ray Nitschke (15), Forrest Gregg (14), Charles "Buckets" Goldenberg and Dave Hanner (13).
Butler also leaves football just short of becoming the first player in NFL history to finish his career with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. Butler ranks fourth in club history with 38 sacks and his 20 ½ sacks are the most in team history for a defensive back.
Knicks rookie guard suffers fractured wrist
NEW YORK, July 18 (UPI) -- New York Knicks rookie guard Frank Williams suffered a fractured left wrist in a summer league game Tuesday and will need to undergo surgery.
The Knicks announced that the first-round pick suffered a non-displaced fracture in a game in Boston and will undergo surgery on Thursday. His recovery time will be determined following the surgery.
The 22-year-old Williams signed with the Knicks on July 8, allowing him to play for the summer league team. Williams originally was selected 25th overall by the Denver Nuggets and sent to the Knicks along with star forward Antonio McDyess for Brazilian forward Nene Hilario, the seventh overall pick; center Marcus Camby; and guard Mark Jackson.
The 6-3 Williams left Illinois after his junior season and is expected to compete with veterans Charlie Ward and Howard Eisley for time at point guard. Williams rebounded from a slow start to finish with a solid junior season for Illinois, leading them to the "Sweet 16" for the second straight season. He averaged 16.2 points and 4.4 assists per game.
NBA salary cap down for next season
NEW YORK, July 18 (UPI) -- The NBA announced Wednesday that the luxury tax--a 100 percent tariff on teams payrolls over the salary cap--would not be assessed.
Player salaries and benefits constituted 60.2 percent of league revenues, reported to be nearly $2.7 billion. That was less than 1 percent below the 61.1 percent threshold that would have triggered the luxury tax.
Many believe the return of Michael Jordan may have prevented the luxury tax from being implemented.
Returning to the court for the first time in three years to play for the Washington Wizards, the popular superstar generated sellouts for nearly every Wizards game this season, impacting basketball-related income (BRI) enough to withstand the tax threshold.
Most teams have been careful not to exceed the tax threshold, estimated to be at $55 million in salaries. Had the tax been assessed, teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks, may have paid as much as $30 million each in tariffs.
Unless they curtail their spending, teams may encounter the luxury tax at this time next year due to the lower salary cap, which dropped more than $2.2 million to $42.5 million per team.
The salary floor, or the minimum teams must devote to player salaries, is $30.2 million. Although the salary cap is down, the average salary is expected to rise from $4.53 million due to scheduled increases in long-term guaranteed contracts, anticipated free agent signings and the use of salary cap exceptions.
Tour de France marred by fatality
PAU, France, July 18 (UPI) -- France's Patrice Halgand gave his country its first Tour de France stage win Wednesday on a somber afternoon that saw a 7-year-old boy killed when he was struck by a car that was part of the event's publicity caravan.
The top of the overall standings remained unchanged on the eve of the first mountain stage with Igor Gonzalez Galdeano of Spain leading three-time defending champion Lance Armstrong by 26 seconds.
Wednesday's 147-kilometer ride took the competitors from Bazas to Pau, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and it was filled with tragedy and controversy.
The fatality occurred in the village of Retgons, 26 kilometers from the start of the stage. Despite attempts by tour officials to warn of the dangers of the huge parade of fast-moving cyclists and motorists that make up the traveling carnival, there has been a long history of accidents.
A 12-year-old boy was killed two years ago.
There were also a number of newspaper reports Wednesday indicating Galdeano, who has worn the leader's yellow jersey since last week's team time trial, was among those suspected of taking a banned substance. Recent tours have been beset by drug problems. Halgand was part of a break that included as many as 16 riders and lasted for most of the stage. In the final five kilometers, Halgand stormed away from others in the group. He held on to cover the distance in 15 seconds more than three hours. He was 27 seconds ahead of countryman Jerome Pineau and 33 seconds ahead of Stuart O'Grady of Australia and Ludo Dierckxsens of Belgium.
The peloton finished three minutes, 57 seconds behind Halgand, but that did not affect the overall frontrunners.
Thursday's critical stage will take the riders to the mountain town of La Mongie, by which time Armstrong is expected to be in front. Although there has been speculation that Armstrong is not up to the form he displayed in winning the last three tours, chiefly because he finished second in Monday's individual time trial, he is still the overwhelming favorite.Armstrong leads third-place Joseba Beloki of Spain by almost a full minute and he has already opened significant gaps over the better climbers in the field.
Rios falls at Croatia Open
UMAG, Croatia, July 18 (UPI) -- Third seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile fell to Romanian qualifier Victor Hanescu, 6-0, 6-4, on Wednesday at the Croatian Open.
Also, No. 7 Albert Montanes of Spain and No. 8 Jiri Vacek of the Czech Republic crashed out of the claycourt event.
Rios, who has not played on the ATP Tour since April due to a knee injury, lost his first career match at Umag. In his only previous appearance, he won the 2000 title.
Hanescu required only 14 minutes to secure the opening set and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second. Rios broke back and knotted the set at 3-3 before Hanescu reeled off three of the last four games to record his first career match-win on the tour.
In other Wednesday matches, Luis Horna of Peru eliminated Montanes, 7-5, 6-2; Nicolas Massu of Chile routed Vacek, 6-0, 6-2; and Jurgen Melzer of Austria was leading Vincent Spadea, 2-6, 6-3, 4-2, when the American was forced to retire due to flu.
Monday, Spanish qualifier David Ferrer upset top seed and Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian of Argentina.
Novak, El Aynaoui win first round matches
STUTTGART, Germany, July 18 (UPI) -- Top seed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic and fourth seed Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco advanced to the second round of the $500,000 Mercedes Cup on Wednesday, when rain once again played havoc with the draw.
Novak rallied past Spanish qualifier Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2, while El Aynaoui overcame Spain's David Sanchez, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, in their rain-delayed match.
Due to incessant rain, just four of 10 singles matches were completed on Wednesday.
A pair of first-round matches have yet to get underway. No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil will take on Stefan Koubek of Austria and Hicham Arazi of Morocco will face Mikhail Youzhny of Russia on Friday.
Swedish qualifier Johan Settergren leads Spaniard Francisco Clavet, 6-4, 2-2, and Brazil's Fernando Meligeni leads Hungary's Attila Savolt, 5-7, 6-3, 2-1.
Costa, Gaudio rally to reach quarters
AMERSFOORT, Netherlands, July 18 (UPI) -- Top seed Albert Costa of Spain and third seed Gaston Gaudio of Argentina each rallied from a set down to advance to the quarterfinals of the Energis Open claycourt tournament on Wednesday.
Costa battled back for the second straight day and advanced to the last eight with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over wild card Martin Verkerk of The Netherlands.
Gaudio overcame compatriot Jose Acasuso, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, to make the quarterfinals of his fourth claycourt event in his last six outings.
Costa also was down a set and a break in his opening-round match against Uzbekistani qualifier Oleg Ogorodov.
Costa captured the French Open in June but skipped Wimbledon and was upset in the first round at Gstaad last week by qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu of France.
The next opponent for Costa is Brazil's Andre Sa, who got past Denmark's Kristian Pless, 6-1, 6-4.
Magic sign free agent Vaughn
ORLANDO, Fla., July 18 (UPI) -- The Orlando Magic on Wednesday signed free agent point guard Jacque Vaughn.
The Magic moved quickly on the first day of the free agency signing period to add Vaughn, who averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 assists in 82 games for the Atlanta Hawks last season.
Vaughn, 27, signed as a free agent with Atlanta last July after spending the first four years of his career stuck behind John Stockton in Utah.
Vaughn, 6-1, will probably back up Darrell Armstrong at point guard and play more than 20 minutes a game. That was the role filled by Troy Hudson, who is expected to draw plenty of interest in the free agent market after averaging 11.7 points last season.
Vaughn has appeared in 200 consecutive games, the eighth-longest active streak in the NBA. Last season, he scored a career-high 20 points in a March 31 game against Sacramento. A first-round pick of Utah in 1997, he has averaged 4.9 points and 2.9 assists in 15.9 minutes in 306 career games.
Red Wings promote long-time assistant Lewis
DETROIT, Mich., July 18 (UPI) -- The defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings promoted long-time assistant Dave Lewis to coach Wednesday to replace legendary coach Scotty Bowman, who won a record nine Stanley Cup titles, including three with Detroit.
The 49-year-old Lewis started his coaching career as an assistant with the Red Wings in 1987 under Jacques Demers, followed by Bryan Murray and Bowman. He has no previous experience as a head coach, excluding a five-game stint at the start of the 1998-99 season that he co-coached with Barry Smith while Bowman recovered from surgery.
Despite waiting more than a month to name a coach, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland acknowledged that the decision on a coach was always between Lewis and Smith, a Red Wings assistant for the last nine seasons.
Smith will remain as an associate coach and former Red Wings player Joey Kocur was named as an assistant by Lewis.
With most of the key players back from last season, the Red Wings are expected to contend for another Stanley Cup title. The one major change will be in goal where free agent Curtis Joseph replaces the retired Dominik Hasek.
After a 15-year NHL career as a defenseman, Lewis primarily focused on the Red Wings' defensive corps as an assistant. His other duties included video work in scouting opponents.
Lewis played in 1,008 NHL games with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Detroit and had 36 goals, 187 assists and 953 penalty minutes.
Tkachuk accepts qualifying offer from Blues
ST. LOUIS, Mo., July 18 (UPI) -- Left wing Keith Tkachuk, one of the NHL's premier power forwards, has accepted a one-year qualifying offer worth $8.3 million from the St. Louis Blues.
The move was announced by Blues general manager Larry Pleau, who signed Tkachuk for the same amount he made last year and averted arbitration. However, the 30-year-old Tkachuk will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2002-03 season.
The Blues acquired Tkachuk from Phoenix in March 2001 for three players and a first-round pick. The 6-2, 225-pound Tkachuk led the Blues with 38 goals this past season and was second to Pavol Demitra with 75 points.
A first-round pick of Winnipeg in 1990, Tkachuk has 329 goals and 302 assists in 652 NHL games and 26 goals and 21 assists in 69 postseason contests.
Pistons ready to sign Chauncey Billups
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., July 18 (UPI) -- The Detroit Pistons apparently are ready to sign guard Chauncey Billups on the first day of the 2002 free agency signing period.
Teams have been able to negotiate with free agents since July 1. Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Pistons had reached an agreement with the well-traveled Billups, who had been with the Minnesota Timberwolves and is coming off the best season of his five-year career.
Earlier this week, Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale said that Billups would not be back with the team.
Billups, 25, averaged 11.9 points and a career-high 5.5 assists while playing all 82 games last season. Midway through the season, he replaced injured starter Terrell Brandon at point guard. He averaged 22 points in three playoff games.
Cubs place Catcher Girardi on Disabled List
PHILADELPHIA, July 18 (UPI) -- Chicago Cubs catcher Joe Girardi is on the disabled list for the first time in eight years with a strain in his rib cage.
Girardi was placed on the 15-day DL with a left posterior rib cage strain. He was replaced on the roster by catcher Mike Mahoney, who was called up from Iowa of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.
The 37-year-old Girardi is hitting just .230 with no homers and five RBI in 55 games this year. He has not been on the DL since 1994, when he was with the Colorado Rockies.
The absence of Girardi could mean more playing time for Todd Hundley, who is hitting just .199 with eight homers and 20 RBI.
The 29-year-old Mahoney hit .248 with one homer and six RBI at Iowa. He last appeared in the majors in 2000, when he was 2-for-7 in four games with the Cubs.