Phil Mickelson

found dry land on the island-green 17th, then saved par from the right rough on the closing hole at TPC Sawgrass for an even-par 72 that gave him a one-shot lead over Australian

Nathan Green

at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Peter Lonard took two double bogeys on his back nine, Carl Petterson finished bogey-bogey and Sean O'Hair three-putted the 18th to lose costly shots, leaving them two shots behind and chasing Mickelson, who was happy only with his position.

Mickelson is at 5-under 139, the first time he has had the lead at The Players going into the weekend.

Tiger Woods wasn't in the clear until a two-putt birdie on the 16th hole, dry land on the 17th and another par save for a 73, leaving him at 4-over 148 to make the cut by one stroke.

In another golf tournament:

* Sarah Lee shot a bogey-free, 3-under 68 to take a two-shot lead over Becky Morgan halfway through the LPGA Tour's Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Va.

Auto Racing

* Clint Bowyer won his first Nextel Cup pole for tonight's Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway with a lap of 164.987 mph. In last night's Busch Series, Denny Hamlin won his second straight Diamond Hill Plywood 200.

Tennis

* Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 6-3, in the Rome Masters for his 75th consecutive win on clay, matching John McEnroe's streak for most victories on one surface.

* Julia Vakulenko overcame a foot injury to beat No. 2 seed Amelie Mauresmo in a rain-delayed quarterfinal of the German Open, then beat 10th-ranked Dinara Safina to reach the semifinals.

Colleges

* Charley Ane, a standout tackle for Southern California in the early 1950s and then an All-Pro lineman for the Detroit Lions, died in Honolulu of pneumonia following a long illness. He was 76.

* Seattle University trustees voted unanimously to apply to return to Division I athletics as an independent after being rejected in a bid to resume membership in the West Coast Conference.

* Rutgers associate head coach Jolette Law was introduced as the new women's coach at Illinois, replacing Theresa Grentz, who stepped down April 16 after a dozen years with the program.

Sport Stops

* The owners of a central Kentucky boarding farm were not negligent when someone injected five saddlebreds with a tissue-destroying substance in 2003, a judge ruled, saying there was nothing to link owners to the perpetrators.

* Former weightlifter Jason Kristal accepted a 2-year suspension for refusing to participate in an out-of-competition test.

* The T-Mobile cycling team suspended Ukrainian rider Serhiy Honchar for 30 days pending further analysis of a blood test. *