Melbourne, Australia Steve Stricker needed a lot of help to win the Match Play Championship, but not from anyone he played.
Three days before Christmas, Stricker was No. 90 in the world rankings and preparing to start his season next week in Tucson, Ariz., at a second-tier PGA Tour event. He wound up in Australia at a $5 million World Golf Championship event when Tiger Woods, David Duval and two dozen other top players decided against a trip halfway around the world.
"I was lucky to get in," he said.
Skill took over when the tournament started. After six matches over five days at Metropolitan Golf Club and a 72-hole weekend , Stricker had a headstart on the new season and a jumpstart to his career. Stricker never trailed in his 36-hole final against Pierre Fulke and held on for a 2-and-1 victory. He earned $1 million.
"They all had the opportunity to commit and come over, and they didn't," Stricker said. "That's all I care about it."
Stricker was the 55th seed, the highest to win the Accenture Match Play Championship in the three years it has been played.
Majerus out of hospital
Salt Lake City Utah coach Rick Majerus was released from LDS Hospital on Sunday, almost one week after being admitted to treat two blocked arteries. No timetable was set for his return to the Utes (8-6).
Baze wins Murphy Award
Frankfort, Ky. Jockey Russell Baze won his sixth straight Issac Murphy Award, given to the rider with the highest winning percentage during the year. Baze won 27.2 percent of his mounts.
Grahame stops Ellwood
Canberra, Australia Australian Amanda Grahame beat countrywoman Annabel Ellwood 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3) Sunday in the first round of the Canberra International.
Smashnova stops Obata
Hobart, Australia Seventh-seeded Anna Smashnova of Israel beat Saori Obata of Japan 7-6 (13), 6-2 Sunday in the first round at the Tasmanian International women's tennis tournament. In the only other match, Switzerland's Miroslava Vavrinec beat Russia's Alina Jidkova 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Tabara tames Stoliarov
Madras, India Michal Tabara of the Czech Republic won his first ATP title Sunday, defeating Andrei Stoliarov of Russia 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the final of the $400,000 Gold Flake Open. Tabara did not drop a set during the tournament.
Rios rattles Ulihrach
Doha, Qatar Marcelo Rios beat Czech qualifier Bohdan Ulihrach 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 Sunday to win the $1 million Qatar Open. The Chilean earned $137,000 and assumed the No. 1 world ranking. Rios last held the top spot in March 1998.
Serena Williams rolls
Sydney, Australia Serena Williams returned to the court where she won an Olympic gold medal, beating Lilia Osterloh 6-3, 7-6 (6) Sunday in the first round of the Sydney International.
Williams is seeded fifth in this tuneup for the Australian Open, the season's opening Grand Slam event that begins Jan. 15.
In other first-round matches, Nicole Pratt, flying across the country from the Hopman Cup in Perth, defeated Australian compatriot Evie Dominikovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-1; and Corina Morariu of the United States beat Tathiana Garbin of Italy 6-2, 6-2.
Czech Srejber arrested
Prague, Czech Republic Milan Srejber, once a top Czech tennis player, was arrested on suspicion of illegally using insider information to benefit his investment company, the CTK news agency reported Sunday.
Cuba's Savon retires
Havana Felix Savon, one of the greatest boxers in Olympic history, retired and will become coach of Cuba's national boxing team. The retirement of the three-time heavyweight Olympic champ was announced Sunday by the Cuban Boxing Federation and the official Prensa Latina news agency.
No reason was given for the decision by the 33-year-old fighter. However, international boxing rules stipulate that a fighter cannot compete in the Olympics or world championships after 34.
Cubs to meet with slugger
Chicago Chicago Cubs officials plan to meet with Sammy Sosa on Friday to discuss a possible contract extension for the right fielder. Cubs president and GM Andy MacPhail said Saturday that he and possibly Dennis FitzSimons, executive vice president of the Tribune Co. the Cubs owner will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to hear out Sosa's argument for a pricey extension.
Taxpayers pay Carruth's bill
Charlotte, N.C. North Carolina taxpayers have been paying for Rae Carruth's defense in his murder trial because the former NFL player has been declared indigent.
Carruth's lawyers so far have been paid more than $104,500, according to records kept by the state's Administrative Office of the Courts.
Taxpayers also have paid $10,000 to Carruth's jury consultant and $7,100 for investigative work.
The final cost of Carruth's defense is expected to be much higher. In 1999, Carruth earned $38,382 a game as a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers.
Knights lose at Memphis
Memphis, Tenn Former Kansas University player Ryan Robertson scored nine points on 2-of-11 shooting in the Kansas City Knights' 97-92 loss at Memphis on Sunday.
Darrin Hancock scored six points for the Knights, who fell to 5-2. Jason Sasser was leading scorer with 20 points for KC's professional team.