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UPI NewsTrack Sports

  |   Feb. 1, 2013 at 11:00 PM
NFL commissioner promises enhanced safety

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday professional football would continue to make changes in the game where needed to protect the health of players.

Goodell responded to growing concerns among current and former players that the sport could eventually disappear if it becomes too dangerous to play.

One member of the Baltimore Ravens, who will be taking part in the Super Bowl on Sunday, has recently said he thinks football will cease to exist within the next 30 years.

A class action suit against the league filed by players seeks damages for head trauma suffered during their careers. The risk of brain damage drew attention again during the past year when former San Diego linebacker Junior Seau took his own life and left a note asking that his brain be examined.

At his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference, Goodell said the NFL would "pioneer new approaches to player health and safety and emphasize prevention as well as treatment."

He said the league's competition committee will study the possibility of "eliminating certain dangerous, low blocks, further taking the head out of the game, and expanding the standards for the quality of our playing fields."

Goodell announced neurosurgeons would be added to a list of medical personnel available at each game.

Fines and suspensions, he said, would increase for players whose disregard for the rules leads to injuries.

"I think we're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders," he said. "It's not just the defenseless player that's being protected, it's the person doing the striking.

"Suspension gets through to them."


Mickelson leads, misses chance for record

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson maintained a four-shot lead at the Phoenix Open Friday even though for the second straight day he missed out on a chance at golfing history.

Mickelson shot a 5-under 66 in the second round and finished 36 holes at the TPC-Scottsdale course with a 36-hole total of 126.

That performance was marred, however, by a tee shot into the water at the par-4 18th. The resulting double bogey cost him a chance to produce the lowest 36-hole score in the history of the PGA Tour.

The record of 125 is shared by Pat Perez, who set it in 2009 at the Bob Hope Desert Classic, and David Toms, who matched it at the 2011 Colonial.

Mickelson ended his first round on Thursday with a disappointment as well when his birdie putt lipped out, costing him a chance to shoot 59.

Nevertheless, Mickelson's opening two rounds left him in front of 2011 FedEx Cup winner Bill Haas, whose 64 put him at 129. Keegan Bradley shot a 63 Friday to tie Brandt Snedeker for third at 130. Snedeker won the FedEx Cup title last year.

Mickelson parred each of the first six holes in the second round, then made five birdies in a seven-hole stretch. He reached 7-under for his round when he hit his second shot at the par-5 15th to within four feet of the cup and made the putt for an eagle.

Mickelson has praised a new driver he has used this week, but instead of using that club for his tee shot at the closing hole he hit his 3-wood for safety in hopes of avoiding the water on the left side of the fairway. That plan backfired, however, when his tee ball on the 438-yard hole headed left and found the hazard.

It took a score of 4-under 138 to survive the 36-hole cut and among those who missed it was Rickie Fowler, who was paired with Mickelson for the first two rounds.

Russell Henley and Brian Gay, winners from earlier in the tour season, both survived to play on the weekend. So did Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion who returned to the tour this week after two weeks of illness.


Querrey, Isner give U.S. Davis Cup lead

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Sam Querrey and John Isner combined for two straight-set wins and 47 aces Friday in giving the United States to a 2-0 lead in a Davis Cup series against Brazil.

Querrey took out Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in an efficient 99 minutes and Isner followed with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 decision over Thiago Alves.

The United States sends out world No. 1 doubles team Mike and Bob Bryan with a chance to wrap up the best-of-five series Saturday. The Brazilians counter with the team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, both Top 20 doubles players.

Isner is to play Bellucci in Sunday's first singles match with the final series match scheduled to be Querrey versus Alves.

The winner of the Brazil-United States pairing draws either Serbia or Belgium in the quarterfinals. Serbia is up 2-0 in that series.

Querrey had 43 winners, including 15 aces, against 30 unforced errors while winning an amazing 83 percent of the points on serve. He had just one break in each set but that was all he needed as he didn't face a break point.

Isner had 32 aces and saved the three break points he faced. Isner has 72 winners and won 73 percent of the points on serve.

Only two of the first-round Davis Cup series were tied at 1-1 after Friday's play. The Italy-Croatia matchup and Switzerland-Czech Republic showdown were both deadlocked.

Canada, meanwhile, took a 2-0 lead over Spain, as did France over Israel, Argentina over Germany and Kazakhstan over Austria.


Gay paces Toronto to win in Raptors debut

TORONTO, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Rudy Gay scored 20 points in his Toronto debut Friday and the Raptors took advantage of a lackluster Los Angeles effort to blast the Clippers 98-73.

Los Angeles shot just 34 percent and made 3-of-19 from 3-point range in what was the second contest in an eight-game road trip. The Clippers will not play at home again until Feb. 13.

Gay was obtained as part of a three-team trade earlier in the week and came off the bench in his first game with his new club. He hit 8-of-16 shots from the field while playing 33 minutes.

Toronto allowed the Clippers just 45 points through the first three periods and had a 27-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.

Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points each for the Raptors, who ended a three-game skid.

Los Angeles was led by 17 points from Blake Griffin.

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