Golf

* Tiger Woods has targeted the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool for his return, GolfChannel.com reported yesterday.

Woods has not played since undergoing back surgery to relieve pain from a pinched nerve on March 31, and he missed the Masters for the first time since 1994.

"While Tiger Woods has not yet set a timetable for his return to competition, Golf Channel sources indicate that fans could see the world No. 1 back in action in July," the GolfChannel.com story read.

"Sources tell Golf Channel that Woods is targeting a return at the Open Championship, which will be held July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool."

Woods won the Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006.

* Ben Martin shot a 5-under-par 67 to take a three-stroke lead over

Andrew Svoboda at the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic in New Orleans.

Robert Streb and Seung-Yul Noh were four shots behind the leader.

* Alexander Levy, of France, shot a career-best 10-under 62 to open a four-shot lead after the second round of the China Open in ShenZhen. Henrik Stenson tried to keep alive his chances of taking over the No. 1 world ranking with a 70 to sit at 3-under overall, 11 shots behind Levy. The Swede can nudge Tiger Woods out of the top spot with a win here. U.S. PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner barely made after shooting a 71.

Colleges

* Northwestern football players cast secret ballots yesterday on whether to unionize, an unprecedented event in collegiate athletics. It may take several weeks, months or even years before the results are known. The ballot boxes will be sealed as the university legally appeals the team's unionization effort. The National Labor Relations Board agreed Thursday to allow Northwestern's appeal of a regional director's March ruling that players are employees and can form a union. The ballots will be sealed until the appeal process is finalized. A long court battled could ensue after that.

* Virginia tight end Jake McGee is transferring, dealing a huge blow to the Cavaliers long before they break preseason camp. He will graduate in May and is allowed to play immediately at another school that offers a graduate program for him.

* Former Duke quarterback Brandon Connette is transferring to Fresno State and will be eligible to play this upcoming season. Connette graduated with a degree in economics from Duke last December, making him eligible to transfer without having to sit out a season.

* Sacramento State football coach Marshall Sperbeck announced his resignation after seven seasons, during which he went 35-44.

* Authorities say Indiana basketball players Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, 20, and Stanford Robinson, 18, were arrested on preliminary charges of underage drinking and using a false identification.

* Michigan sophomore forward Mitch McGary is entering the NBA draft, saying he had little choice after he tested positive for marijuana and was facing a 1-year ban.

* Kentucky twin freshman guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison will return for a second season, and will not declare for the NBA draft.

* The national champion Connecticut Huskies said that junior forward DeAndre Daniels will forgo his senior season of eligibility and enter the NBA draft, but guard Ryan Boatright will return next season.

Swimming

* Michael Phelps' comeback meet was cut short when the 18-time Olympic gold medalist failed to advance to the 50-meter freestyle final of the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Ariz. Phelps, 28, finished 42nd overall and did not even made any of the consolation finals.

Baseball

* Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says the sport will wait until after the season to study whether the rule preventing pitchers from using pine tar should be changed. Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended for 10 games Thursday, a day after umpires found pine tar on his neck during a game against Boston. Pineda said he was trying to get a better grip on balls on a cool night, and pitchers say they suspect pine tar use may be routine - although usually discreet, because it is forbidden.

- Daily News wire services