IN BRIEF

GOLF

Pernice turns mediocre round into Buick lead

Tom Pernice Jr. was having a mediocre round Saturday in the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., until surprising himself with a spectacular stretch that pushed his name atop a shuffled leaderboard.

Pernice had an eagle and four birdies during a five-hole run, and his 66 gave him the third-round lead at 13-under 203.

Jesper Parnevik (64), Scott Verplank (69) and Brian Bateman (69) were a shot back entering today’s final round.

Tiger Woods (with his wife and baby) and Vijay Singh (resting a sore elbow) are not playing the Buick Open for the first time since 2001 after combining to win four of the previous five.

Also: Lonnie Nielsen had a stretch of five birdies in seven holes on the back nine, and his 7-under 64 gave him a three-stroke lead over Tom McKnight after two rounds of the Commerce Bank Championship in East Meadow, N.Y.

Nielsen, who didn’t win in his five years on the PGA Tour or in his five seasons on the Champions Tour, had a 12-under 130 total after 36 holes on the 7,011-yard Red Course at Eisenhower Park.

Soren Hansen of Denmark shot a 5-under 66 to lead by one stroke after the third round of the French Open in Versailles.

Hansen, who had an eagle at the third hole after almost chipping in, is at 7-under 206. Simon Khan (70) was second, followed by Colin Montgomerie (71) and Martin Kaymer (69), two shots behind the leader.

UNLV’s Brett Kanda takes a five-stroke lead into today’s final round of the Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship, the nation’s second-oldest continuously contested amateur event.

Kanda, 20 of La Crescenta, Calif., shot 1-under-par 70 at Victoria Club in Riverside to stand at 9-under par 204 and hold a commanding lead over Justin Pitts of Bakersfield and Erik Jarvey of Palmdale, both at 209, in the four-round event.

BASKETBALL

Nets’ Carter opts out of final year of contract

Vince Carter opted out of the final year of a contract with the New Jersey Nets that would have paid the All-Star guard $16.3 million this season.

Nets president Rod Thorn said the team was informed Friday that Carter would test the free-agent market, but he remained optimistic the 30-year-old swingman would return next season.

“Unless he’s changed his mind, we’re hoping he’s back,” Thorn said in a telephone interview. “He said he wants to return, and we’ve always said we wanted him back.”

Also: The former New York Knicks executive who is suing coach Isiah Thomas for sexual harassment alleged in court papers that Thomas urged a cheerleader to flirt with referees and guard Stephon Marbury cursed at her, according to newspaper reports.

Anucha Browne Sanders, a former senior vice president of marketing and business operations, filed documents to answer the Knicks’ attempt to have her lawsuit dismissed.

In the papers, which were unsealed Friday, Browne Sanders alleges cheerleader Petra Pope told her Thomas encouraged Pope to flirt with officials before a game against the Nets in 2004.

“What she told me was that Isiah asked her to go into the referees’ locker room and make them happy,” Browne Sanders testified.

Sanders said Marbury directed an obscenity at her after she complained about the player’s cousin — who was also employed by the team — had made graphic sexual comments to her staff.

MISCELLANEOUS

Alinghi one win from retaining America’s Cup

Alinghi moved within one win of retaining the America’s Cup after rallying to beat Team New Zealand off the shores of Valencia, Spain.

The Swiss boat surged ahead of the Kiwis following a tacking duel up the third leg before holding off the challengers on the final downwind lap for a 28-second win and a 4-2 series lead.

Alinghi can clinch the best-of-9 series with a victory today.

Also: John Dutton threw for 253 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Colorado Crush into the second round of the Arena Football League playoffs with a 49-42 wild-card win over the home-standing Kansas City Brigade.

Also in playoff action, Matt Nagy threw for five touchdowns and ran for one with seven seconds left to give the visiting Columbus Destroyers a 56-55 wild-card win over the Tampa Bay Storm.

The Storm’s Seth Marler missed a game-winning 56-yard field-goal attempt with three seconds left.

Columbus Crew midfielder Danny Szetela scored on a 16th-minute header, and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Chris Seitz made five saves in the United States’ 1-1 draw with South Korea in the Under 20 World Cup opener for both teams in Montreal.

The St. Louis Blues signed center Keith Tkachuk to a two-year contract, one day before he would have become an unrestricted free agent.

The Canadian Press reported the deal was for $8 million.

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