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LOS ANGELES — John Merrick never allowed himself to think about winning at Riviera. Not when he was a kid attending his local PGA Tour event. Not when he was at UCLA and could play the fabled course. And certainly not late Sunday afternoon in a playoff when he faced a daunting 3-iron shot under a row of eucalyptus trees, and his opponent was in the middle of the fairway with a wedge in his hand. No wonder Merrick was at a loss for words when he won the Northern Trust Open.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Danica Patrick has won the Daytona 500 pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race. It was the biggest achievement of her four-year NASCAR career. Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session Sunday and covered the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway in 45.817 seconds, averaging 196.434 mph. She waited about two hours as 37 fellow drivers tried to take her spot. Only four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon even came close to knocking her off.
EDEN PRAIRIE — The Minnesota Vikings have no intention of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, general manager Rick Spielman said Friday. Spielman refused to comment specifically on Harvin’s contract situation, citing his usual policy about any Vikings player or coach. Spielman said team officials, as always, will meet next week at the NFL scouting combine with the agents for every player, which of course includes Harvin’s representative, Joel Segal. Spielman declined to address the possibility of negotiating a new deal for Harvin, who will the final year of his contract in 2013.
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius held his head in his hands and wept openly in court Friday as prosecutors said they would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against the Paralympic superstar. Pistorius was formally charged at Pretoria Magistrates Court with one count of murder for the slaying of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show contestant. The 30-year-old was shot multiple times and died at Pistorius' upmarket home early Thursday morning.
MOSCOW — A meteor streaked through the sky and exploded Friday over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring more than 750 people. The spectacle deeply frightened thousands, with some elderly women declaring the world was coming to an end. The meteor — estimated to be about 10 tons — entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
BRENDAN FARRINGTON,Associated Press JAY REEVES,Associated Press MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Passengers who finally escaped the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph were on the move early Friday, some checked into the comfort of hotels, others on buses or headed to charter flights home after five numbing days at sea on a ship paralyzed by an engine-room fire. The vacation ship carrying some 4,200 people docked late Thursday in Mobile to raucous cheers from passengers weary of overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings are altering their logo. Ever so slightly. The team revealed Thursday some minor tweaks to the ancient “Norseman” warrior with the horned helmet and braided golden hair that has served as the logo for years. The logo pays some homage to Scandinavians who settled in Minnesota. The changes include an adjustment of the shape and shading of the horns, thicker lines on the face of the Norseman to show more-defined features, a brighter color of the gold and a shorter braid to reduce the overall height of the logo.
ST. PAUL (AP) — Milan Hejduk and Matt Duchene scored in the shootout and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night. Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu in the shootout to get the win. Hejduk beat Niklas Backstrom with a backhand move and Duchene beat the Minnesota goaltender with a wrist shot. Hejduk, Duchene and Aaron Palushaj scored in regulation for Colorado, which ended a three-game slide. It was the first shootout of the season for the Avalanche.
MINNEAPOLIS — Andre Hollins hit the go-ahead 3-pointer midway through overtime to finish with 21 points and lead Minnesota to a 58-53 victory over No. 20 Wisconsin on Thursday night. Wisconsin went to overtime for the third straight game. Austin Hollins added 11 points for the Gophers (18-7, 6-6 Big Ten), who held the Badgers without a basket for about 11 minutes until Jared Berggren’s putback with 10 seconds left in the extra period. Hollins went 4 for 4 from the free throw line over the final 18 seconds of overtime to seal it.
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- For an institution devoted to eternal light, the Vatican has shown itself to be a master of smokescreens since Pope Benedict XVI's shock resignation announcement. On Thursday, the Vatican spokesman acknowledged that Benedict hit his head and bled profusely while visiting Mexico in July. Two days earlier the same man acknowledged that Benedict has had a pacemaker for years, and underwent a secret operation to replace its battery three months ago.