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Tiger Woods surges up leaderboard at WGC-Mexico Championship

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Tiger Woods surges up leaderboard at WGC-Mexico Championship

MEXICO CITY — Early in the second round of the WGC-Mexico Championship, when Tiger Woods struggled to make pars on his opening two holes, he found himself 10 shots out of the lead — but unwilling to panic.

As has often been one of his best attributes, Woods stayed patient, unwilling to go chasing after Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and the others ahead of him on the leaderboard.

Woods shot 5-under-par 66 to move from a tie for 25th to a tie for eighth, six shots back of Johnson at Club de Golf Chapulepec. McIlroy and Matt Kuchar are tied for second, two shots back of the lead.

While he still has considerable ground to make up, Woods’ strategy was sound Friday, even though he ranks just 69th out of 72 players in strokes gained off the tee. He has made up for it with his approach game and work around the greens.

“I had that one three-wiggle (putt) on 17, but overall it was a pretty good day,” said Woods, who trails Johnson by six shots. “I felt like I got a lot out of the round and I plodded my way around the golf course and I kept it in front of me nicely and never really got out of position.”

Woods hit 11 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, often choosing to lay back rather than bomb tee shots in the thin air of Mexico City. While it left him some lengthy approach shots, it also allowed him to avoid trouble. He had just 26 putts, and ranks fourth in the field in strokes gained putting.

A couple of breaks — tee shots at the 10th and first holes bounced off trees and into fairways — were nice, and Woods capitalized on his best chances for birdies, making six against the lone bogey that came at the 17th, where he three-putted from 70 feet.

His best shot of the day didn’t result in a birdie but was pretty spectacular nonetheless after he missed the fairway at the par-4 ninth, his last hole. Sitting in a bad lie in a fairway bunker, Woods had a tree to go around to a pin cut on the right side. Trying to decide between clubs, Woods eventually chose a 9-iron for the 135-yard shot, then curved it around the tree, onto the green, then saw it spin directly toward the pin and stop 11 feet away. His birdie putt lipped out to end the day.

“I opened it (the club) up and gave it as much of a cut motion as I possible could,” Woods said. “And it worked out.”

Woods is making his first start in this event since 2014, when it was played in Miami. He has won it seven times at six different locations and this is his first competitive tournament in Mexico. Playing in his third event of the year, Woods is coming off a tie for 15th on Sunday at the Genesis Open.

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

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Reports: Bears to cut K Parkey in March

After a difficult season culminated by a crucial missed field goal on a potential game-winning field goal in the NFC playoffs, kicker Cody Parkey will be released by the Chicago Bears when the new league year begins in March.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 17, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey (1) watches his field goal during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple reports on Friday, the team intends to cut ties with Parkey once the NFL free agency period begins on March 13.

Parkey, who turned 27 on Tuesday, endured an inconsistent season in Chicago after inking a four-year, $15 million contract last winter following the team’s release of Robbie Gould, the Bears’ all-time leading scorer who moved on to the San Francisco 49ers.

Parkey, a five-year veteran, not only missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts and three extra points during the regular season, but his 43-yard attempt in the final seconds of the NFC wild-card round against the Philadelphia Eagles first hit the upright then the crossbar before bouncing back on the field.

Despite the NFL later ruling that the kick was partially blocked, Parkey took much of the public blame for the Bears’ season ending.

Parkey began his career with the Eagles in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, scoring a franchise-record 150 points while making 32 of 36 field-goal tries. In two seasons with the Eagles, Parkey never missed an extra point.

Parkey later kicked for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and Miami Dolphins in 2017.

In January, the Bears signed Tulsa product Redford Jones after conducting a workout that reportedly included multiple hopefuls. Jones made 50 of his 67 field-goal attempts at Tulsa from 2015-17, and he does have a kick on his resume where he hit both uprights. Unlike Parkey’s double-doink, though, that 2016 attempt against Cincinnati ended up going over the crossbar for three points.

“We need more production out of that position,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said last month after signing Jones. “We know we need to get better there, and it will be an area of focus.”

—Field Level Media

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

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WTA roundup: Bencic upsets Svitolina to reach Dubai final

Belinda Bencic secured a spot in the final by stunning two-time champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Tennis – WTA Premier 5 – Dubai Tennis Championships – Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – February 22, 2019 Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in action during the Semi Final against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Satish Kumar

Bencic trailed 5-3 in the final set before recovering to defeat the sixth-seeded Svitolina. She will face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in the championship match after the Czech Republic star defeated Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“I think I’m always the most proud of how I fight,” Bencic said after posting the victory. “Even when I lose, I learned myself to just look in the mirror and be proud of myself when I’m fighting, when I’m giving my all, when I’m trying to do what I have to do.”

Bencic won eight consecutive points after Svitolina was in position to close out the match. Then the Switzerland native carried the momentum into the tiebreaker to notch one of the biggest victories of her career by outdueling the Ukrainian.

“Basically, I stayed in the zone, even in (the) tiebreak,” Bencic said. “I was barely breathing, just playing automatic. You are not thinking any more. It’s where the instincts just guide you through it.”

Bencic will be seeking her third career title when she squares off with Kvitova, who will be shooting for her 27th.

Kvitova dropped the first set on Friday before recovering to win the last two.

“It was a tough one today, for sure,” Kvitova said. “She really didn’t give me anything for free. It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. I didn’t play great at the end of the first.

“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set. I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow. I don’t know. It was something weird.”

Kvitova overcame eight double faults to claim the victory.

Hungarian Ladies Open

Top-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck defeated Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals in Budapest.

Van Uytvanck, of Belgium, will face fifth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semis. The Russian dispatched third-seeded Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-2.

Eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic will face Russian Anastasia Potapova in the other semi. Vondrousova outlasted Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 while the 17-year-old Potapova fought past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 2 hours, 50 minutes.

—Field Level Media

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft facing charges of solicitation of prostitution

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing charges of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday.

The 77-year-old Kraft was one of 25 people involved in the alleged solicitation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.

Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach County, told ESPN that the nature of any charges that the 25 people face will not be released until next week.

Kraft has denied wrongdoing.

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