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Pavin masters Sawgrass for opening-round 66

Corey Pavin tamed the TPC at Sawgrass with a near-perfect effort on the greens, one-putting 14 times, six times from 12 feet or longer Thursday for a 6-under-par 66 and the first-round lead in The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

It was a remarkable round on a day in which gusty wind and ferociously firm greens made getting the ball close to the hole devilishly difficult and pushed the average score for the day to better than 75.

"That's the best round I've had out there since the '83 tour school," Pavin said of the course.

Pavin had a one-stroke lead over Gene Sauers and was three better than Bernhard Langer of Germany, Payne Stewart, Larry Mize, Steve Stricker and Lee Janzen.

In Rancho Mirage, Calif., Penny Hammel, her game steady despite swirling wind and rain in the afternoon, shot a 3-under-par 69 to share the opening-day lead with Muffin Spencer-Devlin in the Nabisco Dinah Shore.

Browns closing deal on Rison contract

Andre Rison, one of the NFL's premier wide receivers, was set to sign with the Cleveland Browns, team owner Art Modell said today.

The announcement was expected to be made at an afternoon news conference.

Agent Charles Tucker said Thursday night there was some contract language to be worked out.

But Rison said he agreed Wednesday night to a five-year deal worth $17.078 million, making him the highest-paid receiver in NFL history. He will receive a $5 million signing bonus, the only portion of the contract that is guaranteed.

Baseball moves closer to replacement opening

The likelihood of an end to the baseball strike before opening day diminished when the National Labor Relations Board delayed possible court action until next week.

Management's negotiating committee, meeting at Rosemont, Ill., said it won't be making any major changes to its proposal when talks do resume, leaving only a remote possibility for an agreement that would avert the use of replacement players when the season starts April 2.

The NLRB's five-member board met in Washington and was expected to give Fred Feinstein, the agency's general counsel, permission to seek a preliminary injunction that would restore salary arbitration, free-agent bidding and anti-collusion rules. Players say they would end the strike if an injunction is granted.

Toros pound Herd, 11-3, with 13-hit attack

The Tucson Toros pounded 13 hits and routed the Buffalo Bisons, 11-3, in exhibition baseball in Winter Haven, Fla. .

Torey Lovullo hit a two-run homer, his second of the spring, in the sixth and Ed Smith had a solo blast in the fifth to account for the Bison runs.

Around & About

Jack Jurek of Lackawanna won six of eight matches and surged into the lead after four rounds of the PBA's Tums Classic at Windsor Locks, Conn. Jurek, 31, had a high game of 265 on his way to a total pinfall of 6,128. Jurek, after his first career win on tour, is averaging 228 for 26 games and takes a 91-pin lead into the final two rounds of match play.

Sue Nawojski has been bowling consistently all season, averaging 212 to lead the Ace Collision Doubles league at Mil-Sher Lanes. On Thursday, the Depew right-hander rolled the league's first perfect game of the season, en route to a 754 series. Last week, Nawojski and Michele Reese combined for a 1,493, the fifth highest doubles WIBC-sanctioned total.

At Thruway Lanes, Lori Mee of Jamestown rolled 279-277-245-801 and Mike Hermanski of Cheektowaga got his second career 300 in the OV/Thruway Classic League.

Martina Navratilova, who retired from singles tennis competition last year, was named to the U.S. Fed Cup team for the first round April 22-23 against Austria in Aventura, Fla. U.S. captain Billie Jean King said she had spoken to Monica Seles about joining the team, but Seles said she is not ready to return to competitive tennis.
National Basketball Association
ATLANTA--Activated G-F Craig Ehlo from injured list. Released G Morlon Wiley.

SEATTLE--Activated F Dontonio Wingfield from the injured list. Placed G-F Vincent Askew on the injured list.
National Football League
CINCINNATI--Matched an offer sheet to WR Carl Pickens from the Arizona Cardinals.

SEATTLE--Signed C Jim Sweeney.

TAMPA BAY--Signed G Joel Crisman and RB Bobby Joe Edmonds.
National Hockey League
BUFFALO--Sent G Markus Ketterer to Rochester of American League.

HARTFORD--Traded RW Pat Verbeek to New York Rangers for D Glen Featherstone, D Michael Stewart, a first-round draft choice in 1995 and a fourth-round choice in 1996. Assigned Stewart to Springfield of AHL.

MONTREAL--Recalled LW Mario Roberge, LW Yves Sarault from Fredricton of AHL.

NEW YORK--Recalled D Mattias Norstrom from Binghamton of AHL. Claimed C Daniel Lacroix off waivers from Boston.

SAN JOSE--Acquired RW Kevin Miller from the St. Louis Blues for C Todd Elik.
BASEBALL: Preseason -- Montreal Expos at New York Yankees, 7 p.m., MSG.

BOXING: Bobby Czyz vs. Tim Tomashek, heavyweights, 8:30 p.m., ESPN.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA regional semifinals -- Memphis vs. Arkansas, Midwest, 8 p.m., Ch. 4; Tulsa vs. Massachusetts, East, 10 p.m., Ch. 4.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: NCAA Tournament regional semifinals, 4:30 and 8:30 p.m., ESPN2.

GOLF: LPGA Nabisco Dinah Shore second round, 3 p.m., ESPN; The Players Championship second round, 4 p.m., USA.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls, 8:30 p.m., TNT.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres, 7:30 p.m., Empire.

TENNIS: Lipton Championships men's semifinals, 1 p.m., ESPN.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA men's regional semifinal double-header -- Oklahoma State vs. Wake Forest, East, 7:30 p.m., followed by Virginia vs. Kansas, Midwest, 930.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres, 7:30 p.m. 550, 1330.

NPSL: Buffalo Blizzard at Cleveland Crunch, 7:30 p.m., 1400.

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