LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Rory McIlroy goes to the weekend of the PGA Championship with a one-stroke lead.
It seems bigger than that.
Such is the state of McIlroy's game.
"When I'm playing like this, it's obviously very enjoyable," he said after a 4-under 67 on Friday. "I can't wait to get back out on the course again (Saturday) and do the same thing all over again."
Jason Day and Jim Furyk are right on his heels, but the Aussie acknowledged that it will be tough for anyone to beat McIlroy.
"I'm clearly not the favorite," Day said. "This whole year he's been playing great. He looks confident. He's hitting the ball longer and straighter than pretty much everyone in the field. It's going to be tough to beat him."
Here are five things to watch for in the third round of the PGA Championship:
RORY'S QUEST: Tiger Woods was the No. 1 player in the world when he won the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla for his third straight major. McIlroy isn't that far along, though he does have a small slice of history at stake if he can win the Wanamaker Trophy. McIlroy is trying to become only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year, and the first since Padraig Harrington in 2008. Woods did it twice. It would be McIlroy's fourth major. The only other players to have won four majors before age 26 were Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Willie Anderson and Young Tom Morris.
YOUNG GUNS: Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are not yet among the best players to have never won a major. But they might be the best young players without one. And they keep giving themselves chances. Day won the Match Play Championship in February until a thumb injury derailed his year. The 26-year-old Aussie appears to be in form again after the low score of the second round, a 6-under 65 that put him in the final group. Day has been runner-up three times in a major, most recently at the U.S. Open last year. Fowler shot a 66 and was two shots behind McIlroy. He is no stranger to being in contention at the majors on the weekend. Fowler, 25, played in the final group at the last two majors and was runner-up in both. He is the first player since Woods in 2005 to finish in the top five at the first three majors of the year.
LEFTY'S SURGE: Phil Mickelson has been mired in his longest losing streak since 2003. But it looks as though he has found his game. Mickelson shot a blistering 62 in the final round at Firestone, and it has carried over to his best 36-hole start in a major since winning the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Mickelson opened with a 69 and eagled the final hole Friday for a 67. Lefty is looking for his first victory since capturing the 2013 British Open at Muirfield. Mickelson has several agendas this weekend, one of which includes locking up his spot on another Ryder Cup team. He already holds the record by qualifying nine times in a row, and he doesn't want captain Tom Watson to have to use a wild-card pick this time.
PART-TIME STRICKER: Steve Stricker will be an assistant captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But first, he has to take care of some business at the final major of the year. The 47-year-old Stricker, who became a part-time player last year to spend more time with his family, still has plenty of game. He shot 68 Friday and was four strokes off the lead heading to the weekend. He has been a top-10 finisher in the majors 11 times, most notably a runner-up finish to Vijay Singh at the 1998 PGA Championship. He would be one of the oldest major champions in golf history if he comes through at Valhalla.
TIGER'S FUTURE: Tiger Woods won't be at Valhalla this weekend - he missed the cut at a major championship for only the fourth time in his professional career - but there are plenty of questions about his future. Woods shot back-to-back rounds of 74, leaving him a whopping five shots below the cut line. Woods said his ailing back flared up again, and he conceded that he needs to get stronger. It looks like he'll have plenty of time to work on his game. Unless he plays next week at Greensboro, North Carolina - which he's never done - his season is effectively over. Woods failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and there seems little chance he will be picked for the Ryder Cup by Watson. For Woods, the focus turns to 2015.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) For Tiger Woods, there was a familiar complaint.
Yes, his back was hurting again.
His performance at the PGA Championship is becoming more the norm, as well.
Once the game's most dominant player, Woods looked old and tired at Valhalla. He was surely overmatched Friday, shooting his second straight 3-over 74 to miss the cut at one of golf's biggest events for only the fourth time in his professional career.
Not that this was a big surprise.
Woods was playing in only his fourth tournament since back surgery in late March, and he hasn't been a factor in any of them. He failed to make the cut at the Quicken Loans National. He had his worst 72-hole showing in a major at the British Open. He had to withdraw on the final day of the World Golf Championship at Firestone after taking an awkward swing and hurting his back again. He showed up Wednesday at Valhalla, proclaimed himself fit - and flopped again.
"I tried as hard as I could. That's about all I've got," Woods said. "Unfortunately, I just didn't play well. Consequently, a pair of 74s is not very good."
With the cut at 1 over, Woods wasn't even close to playing on the weekend.
He was effectively done after shooting a 4-over 39 on the front nine, including a double bogey at No. 6 - where he three-putted from 18 feet - and a really ugly bogey at the par-5 seventh. He drove into a muddy bog far left of the fairway and had to punch out. He sailed his third shot over the green, and a sloppy chip came up short.
Woods played better on the back side - a couple of birdies, a single bogey - but he was all done at that point.
He said his chances effectively ended when the same problem that left him barely able to bend over at Firestone cropped up again on the driving range at Valhalla.
"I was sore," Woods said. "There was no doubt I was sore. It went out on me on me on the range. I just had to play through it."
There were no obvious indications of pain on the course, certainly nothing like his tortured departure from last week's tournament. He appeared to reach for his back a little after the errant tee shot on No. 7, but didn't actually touch it. There were plenty of grimaces, but those usually came after he hit another poor shot.
Woods insisted he had the "same feeling, same pain, same spasms" that forced him to drop out at Firestone, though he was encouraged that it wasn't in the same spot as his back surgery.
"It was telling me on the range that it probably wasn't a good idea (to play)," he said, referring to his back. "I couldn't make a back swing. I can't get the club back. I'm coming through fine. I just can't get the club back. That throws everything off. I can't get anywhere near the positions I'm accustomed to getting to. I just can't do it. I have to rely on my timing and my hands, and hope I time it just right."
He'll not have plenty of time to work on his game and build up his strength.
If he doesn't play next week at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, - and he never has - his season is over. Woods needed to win the PGA to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
It also seems highly unlikely that Woods will be one of the wild-card picks by U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, who said over and over that he wanted to see some sign the 14-time major champion was rounding into form.
Instead, Woods can't even beat the 64-year-old captain, finishing behind him at the British Open and three shots worse at the PGA.
"I don't know," Woods said, when asked about his chances of being chosen by Watson. "He hasn't called."
Might be best if he sits out this Ryder Cup.
Woods conceded he needs to get stronger and more fit to have any chance of being close to the player he once was.
"I felt like I wasn't that far away when I came back at the Quicken Loans," Woods said. "But obviously, the more I play, I can't develop my strength while playing a lot. I need to get back in the gym and get stronger."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
AKRON, Ohio (AP) On a night packed with emotion and inspiration, LeBron James saved the biggest moment for last.
Surrounded by family, friends and fans in a city welcoming him home, James delivered a line he's been waiting to say for four years.
"I love you," he told the crowd of nearly 25,000. "I'm back."
James then dropped the microphone and left the stage as fireworks exploded about InfoCision Stadium, illuminating the Akron sky.
James is home, and he's not leaving again.
The NBA superstar, who re-signed with Cleveland last month, said Friday night he intends to play the rest of his career with the Cavaliers, the team he returned to after winning two NBA titles in Miami.
When he signed a two-year, $41 million contract that included an option after one year, there was speculation he would one day test free agency again. The contract made Cleveland fans nervous, but they can now relax.
"I don't plan on going nowhere," James said. "I don't have the energy to do it again."
James, who returned to Northeast Ohio after four seasons with the Heat, was welcomed back with a homecoming event fit for a King.
Fans waited in line for six hours for a prime seat for the event on the University of Akron campus, not far from where the 29-year-old James bounced his first basketball.
There were tributes during the two-hour ceremony, highlighted by recording artist Skylar Grey signing her hit "I'm Coming Home," a song that became the unofficial theme of his return to Cleveland.
"It's almost like she knew I was coming home before I knew I was coming home," he said.
James was back and the city that helped raise him welcomed him with open arms. The welcome-home party coincided with James' annual "I Promise" campaign for area children sponsored by his family foundation.
"It's pretty amazing," said James, joined at his news conference by several kids. "I'm not gonna sit up here and say it's not. To know you can do things for people, give them hope, give them inspiration. It means a lot to me. I understand I'm a role model. I understand to these kids I'm more than a role model. I'm a superhero to them. I'm a father to them. I'm a brother to them, whatever the case they want me to be on that particular day."
Although he was playing for the Heat, James said his heart was always home and he realized it was time to return.
"It just hit me," he said. "Sometimes you just have a feeling. You realize what's going on and what's happening. It just hit me."
During a 15-minute interview session - his first since announcing his return to Ohio - James touched on a number of subjects, including new Cleveland coach David Blatt, the possible addition of All-Star forward Kevin Love, who is expected to join the Cavs in a trade from Minnesota later this month, and winning Cleveland's first championship since 1964 .
James won an Olympic gold medal with Love at the London Games in 2012 and he's eager to be his teammate again.
"I'm going to be very excited to have him," James said. "I don't really care about the 26 (points) and 12 (rebounds). I care about the basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had an opportunity to spend 32 days with him on the 2012 Olympic team. It's funny. I always told Kevin Love, `You're very good, man.' He always thought I was blowing smoke.
"I always told him he was going to be a reason why we won the gold medal, and he played a huge role for us. So I'm looking forward to it. He's a great piece."
As for Blatt, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach hired by Cleveland in June, James did some research on his offense and likes what he's seen.
"I watched all his clips form him coaching Maccabi and I kind of broke them down to see how I fit and obviously I can fit in every position on the floor," he said.
James is looking forward to playing with Love and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, neither of whom have played in an NBA playoff game. James knows what it takes to win a title, and he's going to have to lead the way for a team lacking postseason experience.
"I'm going to have to teach, lead and inspire those guys," he said. "But my No. 1 goal is to win the championship here. I think it would be the greatest achievement in my life as far as on the court. Hopefully it will happen. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Fans arrived before 11 a.m. to get a prime seat to see James.
"I might cry when I see him," said Rodneka Price, who drove seven hours from Muncie, Indiana.
Melissa Rumner and her son, Nick, were first in a long line which wrapped around the stadium on the University of Akron's campus.
"We had to be here to welcome him back," Rumner said as 10-year-old Nick stood by wearing one of the white No. 23 jerseys James popularized during his seven seasons with the Cavs. "We're so happy to have him back."
Nick was confident James would return to Cleveland.
"I knew he was coming back," said the red-head, who was counting down the minutes before the gates opened.
Price packed up a car of six people and drove to Ohio for the first time so she could help welcome back the four-time league MVP. She said James' poignant essay that he was returning home to try and end Cleveland's 50-year championship drought touched her.
"It all makes sense," she said, wearing a "Return Of The King" T-shirt. "He made a promise and he's going to stick to it."
The U.S. national basketball team has added Rudy Gay, who helped them win a gold medal four years ago and asked to rejoin the team following a series of player withdrawals.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo received a call Thursday night, shortly after Kevin Durant pulled out, and was told that Gay was available if he and coach Mike Krzyzewski were interested.
"We both felt he would be a valuable addition because of his outstanding skills and the fact that he is so familiar with USA Basketball and our national team program," Colangelo said Friday in a statement. "Rudy has been an integral member of USA Basketball since 2005 and was a tremendous contributor to our 2010 world championship team. He has a lot of equity in the USA Basketball national team."
Gay, the Sacramento Kings forward, appeared in all nine games for the Americans in the 2010 world championship, averaging 7.0 points off the bench. He also was one of the last cuts made by the 2012 Olympic team.
The U.S. roster is back at 16 players. The Americans resume practice Thursday in Chicago, with the World Cup of Basketball set to begin on Aug. 30 in Spain. They will have to cut to 12 before then.
"I am extremely excited to once again be part of Team USA and its rich tradition," Gay said. "I can't wait to join my teammates in Chicago and work hard to make certain the USA takes home the gold in Spain."
The 6-foot-8 Gay averaged 20 points last season for Toronto and Sacramento. He is a good fit for the Americans because he can swing between both forward spots, which would have been filled by Durant and Paul George, who broke his right leg last week.
MILWAUKEE (AP) Retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre says it's unfortunate the way things ended in Green Bay six years ago, but that he's proud of his 16 years with the Packers and has no regrets.
Favre, interviewed on WTMJ-AM on Friday, talked about his departure from Green Bay and recent efforts to soothe any sour feelings. The team has announced the three-time MVP quarterback will be inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and have his number retired during the 2015 season.
Favre said he has no regrets about his football career.
"And that goes from Day 1 to the end," he said.
Fans know he played as hard as he could, Favre added.
"I laid it on the field every time," he said.
Favre retired at a tearful news conference in March 2008, only to change his mind and decide later that year that he still wanted to play, setting up an awkward showdown between him and the team he helped resurrect and lead to a Super Bowl title. He was traded to the New York Jets for what would end up being a third-round draft pick and after one year with the Jets, Favre retired a second time, only to join the rival Minnesota Vikings, for whom he played two seasons.
In 2010, the Packers beat Favre and the Vikings twice on their way to a Super Bowl title, led by Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers. Favre retired for good following the 2010 season, while Rodgers went on to win the NFL MVP award in 2011.
Favre said he has returned to Wisconsin since leaving Green Bay, coming back about two years ago to hunt with two friends in Clintonville, which is about 40 miles west of Green Bay. He said he hunted for eight days, and wasn't recognized when he visited a local laundry.
Favre said he won't coach high school football near his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, this year in order to watch his youngest daughter play volleyball at the school. And he expects to return to Green Bay with his wife, Deanna, before next season.
"I think you will see us more in Green Bay. The ice has been broken," Favre said.
Information from: WTMJ-AM, http://www.620wtmj.com
Kevin Durant withdrew Thursday from the U.S. national team, the biggest loss yet for a weakening American squad that will go to Spain without the leading scorer on its last two gold medal winners.
The NBA's MVP took part in the Americans' training camp in Las Vegas last week, but then informed team officials that he wasn't going to continue.
"Kevin reached out to Coach K and myself this afternoon and expressed that he is just physically and mentally drained from the NBA season and his attention to his many responsibilities,' USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. "He tried to give it a go at our recent Las Vegas training camp but felt coming out of camp that he was not prepared to fulfill the commitment he made to the team."
Durant was the MVP of the world championship in 2010, leading the Americans to that title for the first time since 1994. The Oklahoma City star also started on their gold medal-winning team in the 2012 Olympics and led the Americans with 19.5 points per game.
His withdrawal comes less than a week after Indiana's Paul George was lost to a broken right leg and follows previous withdrawals by All-Stars Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
"This was an extremely difficult decision as I take great pride in representing our country," Durant said. "I know that I owe it to my USA Basketball teammates to be totally invested in the experience. After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint.
"I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. I will be rooting for USAB and look forward to future opportunities with them."
The U.S. roster is down to 15 players. The Americans resume practicing next Thursday in Chicago and have to finalize a 12-man roster before the World Cup of Basketball begins in Spain on Aug. 30.
The Americans may still be the favorites, but are increasingly beatable with the losses of Durant and George, who were expected to fill the two starting forward spots.
Durant carried a young U.S. to the title four years ago in Turkey with a series of sensational performances, averaging 22.8 points and shattering a number of team offensive records. He set the American mark with 38 points in a semifinal victory over Lithuania.
At 6-foot-10, Durant is big enough to play as a power forward internationally, creating a matchup nightmare for opponents who can't defend him on the perimeter. He led the tournament in 3-pointers attempted and made in the 2010 worlds.
He has averaged 19.9 points in 31 games in a U.S. jersey, shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. But Colangelo said the Americans understood his need for time off.
"Coach K and I fully support Kevin," he said. "His well-being is the most important thing to us and we support him taking the time to get ready for next season. He's been part of the national team program for eight years and a big part of the success we have achieved, and we look forward to him being part of our success in the future as well.
"We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us and to getting back to work in Chicago on Aug. 14," Colangelo added. "All 15 players are committed to the USA Basketball standard, which is to come together to win gold medals."
Rory McIlroy tracked the flight of his drive as long as he could against the rain clouds over Valhalla on Friday, not quite sure where it landed. Such is the state of McIlroy's game at the PGA Championship. ''I can't wait to get back out on the course again tomorrow and do the same thing all over again.'' It used to be that way for Tiger Woods.
On a night packed with emotion and inspiration, LeBron James saved the biggest moment for last. Surrounded by family, friends and fans in a city welcoming him home, James delivered a line he's been waiting to say for four years. The NBA superstar, who re-signed with Cleveland last month, said Friday night he intends to play the rest of his career with the Cavaliers, the team he returned to after winning two NBA titles in Miami. The contract made Cleveland fans nervous, but they can now relax.
College football and basketball players could be in line for paydays worth thousands of dollars once they leave school after a landmark ruling Friday that may change the way the NCAA does business. A federal judge ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit them from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds. In a partial victory for the NCAA, though, Wilken said the body that governs college athletics could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 per athlete per year of competition.
The U.S. national basketball team has added Rudy Gay, who helped them win a gold medal four years ago and asked to rejoin the team following a series of player withdrawals. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo received a call Thursday night, shortly after Kevin Durant pulled out, and was told that Gay was available if he and coach Mike Krzyzewski were interested. ''We both felt he would be a valuable addition because of his outstanding skills and the fact that he is so familiar with USA Basketball and our national team program,'' Colangelo said Friday in a statement. ''Rudy has been an integral member of USA Basketball since 2005 and was a tremendous contributor to our 2010 world championship team.
Reshad Jones has become the second Miami Dolphins player this summer to run afoul of the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. Jones, a starting strong safety, was suspended Friday for the first four games of the regular season. Defensive end Dion Jordan was suspended last month for the first four games after testing positive for a prohibited stimulant. Like Jordan, Jones is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.