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A WOUNDED TIGER PROVES PLENTY TOUGH

The limp was barely noticeable as Tiger Woods headed to the first tee Thursday. What followed was a game that's all too familiar.

One day after he got tripped up by an autograph hound and injured his knee, Woods found his stride at Spyglass Hill with birdies on the last three holes for a 6-under 66 in the first round of the Pebble Beach (Calif.) National Pro-Am.

Woods finished two strokes behind David Berganio, who had a bogey-free 64 under gorgeous conditions, a rarity for this tournament. Tommy Armour III and Mark Johnson each had a 65 at Poppy Hills, the easiest course in the rotation. Masters champion Vijay Singh, who finished two strokes back last year, also was at 66 along with Ed Fryatt and Brad Elder.

"It felt sore, yes," Woods said. "But when it's time to play, it's time to play. A friend of mine told me there's a difference between pain and injury."

Not many people saw Berganio's 64, which matched Dan Forsman's score at Spyglass in the 1993 tournament.

The galleries lined both sides of the fairway to see how Woods might respond from the bizarre accident.

"He's Tiger Woods," Berganio shrugged. "They're going to talk about him whether he has a hangnail or a hyperextended knee. I knew he would play."

Sherman to add new title
as Wolf leaves Packers

It's the job Mike Holmgren craved and the assignment Mike Sherman never expected, at least not so soon.

When Ron Wolf, the architect of the Green Bay's return to glory in the 1990s, retires as executive vice president-general manager of the Packers on June 1, Sherman will serve as coach and GM.

"We've had a great ride here," said Wolf, who guided the Packers' revival with Brett Favre and Reggie White, a renaissance that culminated in the Super Bowl title in 1997.

Wolf, 62, said Thursday that his health was fine, but that his heart is no longer in the job. So, he will share the team's personnel decisions with Sherman for the next four months and will again call the shots on draft day.

"This will be my last rodeo," Wolf said.

Wolf will serve the final three years of his contract as a consultant.

"He has visions of he and (wife) Edie walking on the beach together in Maryland," Sherman said. "He's going to be walking with me on that beach."

Former Yankee Leyritz
signs with Mets

Unable to beat the New York Yankees on the field or in the free-agent market, the Mets invited a former Yankees hero to join them, signing Jim Leyritz Thursday to a minor-league contract.

Leyritz, who hit the most memorable homer in the current Yankees dynasty in the 1996 World Series and indirectly helped them last year by being traded for Jose Vizcaino, is being considered by the Mets as a pinch hitter and utility player. If he makes the team, his salary will be $500,000.

"We'll bring him in and see if he defines his role on the team," Mets General Manager Steve Phillips said. "He's no risk to us."

Leyritz, 37, may also be of no use to the Mets. His defensive skills are poor and his bat speed appeared badly eroded last year, when he hit just .218 in 24 games with a home run and four RBI before he was traded to the Dodgers on June 20 for Vizcaino, who won Game One of the World Series with a 13th-inning single.

Meanwhile, Derek Jeter and the Yankees hope to agree by next week to a contract nine or 10 years long worth an average of $18 million to $19 million per season.

Around & About

Defending champion Norm Duke averaged 217 during the third round of qualifying to take a 16-pin lead in the PBA Tour's PBA National Championship in Toledo. Duke, a 19-time PBA Tour winner, had a 24-game pinfall total of 5,344. Brian Voss was second, followed by Tommy Delutz Jr. (5,316), Parker Bohn III (5,255) and Walter Ray Williams Jr. (5,237).

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, 90, has been named the ABA's Los Angeles Stars' team executive consultant to basketball operations.

Make it 99 straight defeats for Quixall Crossett, the world's losingest racehorse. The 16-year-old gelding failed to finish a three-mile race at the Scottish course of Kelso.

Basketball tonight

Canisius and Niagara both face Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tests. The Griffs (11-7, 4-6) host Fairfield (7-12, 3-7) at the Koessler Athletic Center at 7. Canisius comes off Monday's 78-65 win over St. Peter's. Fairfield, which has lost three straight, is led by sophomore forward Sam Spann, who averages 15.1 points per game.

Niagara (10-10, 7-4) hits the road to face Manhattan (9-11, 6-4). The Jaspers get 16.9 points per game from senior forward Durelle Brown.

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