Off the wire


Astros to promote Espada

Joe Espada will be introduced as manager of the Houston Astros today, a person familiar with the hiring told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Sunday because the team hadn't announced the decision. The Astros have a news conference schedule for this morning. Espada will take over for Dusty Baker, who retired last month. This will be the first managerial position for the 48-year-old Espada, who has been Houston's bench coach since 2018. Espada began his coaching career in the Marlins organization, working in the minors until moving to the big-league club as the third base coach in 2010. He remained with the Marlins through the 2013 season before taking a job as a special assistant to New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman.


Villegas ends 9-year drought

Camilo Villegas ended a long and emotional drought when he came up with key birdies down the stretch Sunday for a 6-under 65 to win the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, his first victory since losing his 22-month-old daughter to cancer in 2020. Villegas went shot for shot with Alex Noren for five hours until all he had left was a tap-in for par for his first PGA Tour title since 2014. More than going nine years without winning, Villegas and his wife coped with the death of Mia, who died of brain cancer in the summer of 2020. Villegas was lost on the course and finished last year at No. 654 in the world. Now he has a two-year exemption and returns to the Masters and PGA Championship for the first time since 2015. Villegas finished at 24-under 260 to win by two shots over Noren, who never recovered from two mistakes around the turn and closed with a 68. Austin Cook (Jonesboro, Arkansas Razorbacks) posted a 66 and finished at 16-under 268. Cook tied for 13th place.

Vu gains 4th win of 2023

Lilia Vu seized momentum early with three birdies and closed with a 4-under 66 to win The Annika for her fourth victory of the year, which allowed the American to regain the No. 1 world ranking and close in on LPGA player of the year. Vu started the final round at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Fla., three shots behind Emily Kristine Pedersen, opened with three birdies in six holes and then pulled away with crisp approach shots that set up back-to-back birdies to pull away. Vu is now 27 points ahead of Celine Boutier for LPGA player of the year going into the season finale next week. Boutier's only chance is to win next week and have Vu finish eighth or worse. It was a devastating end for Pedersen, the Dane who went from trying to capture her first LPGA Tour title to seeing her season finish abruptly. She didn't make a birdie in her round of 74 and made double bogey on the last hole that knocked her out of the top 60 to advance to the CME Group Tour Championship. Gaby Lopez (Razorbacks) shot a 71 in her final round to finish at 12-under 268, which was good enough for a tie for 12th place.

Homa first in Sun City

Max Homa shot a 6-under 66 to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa, for his first victory abroad. Homa finished at 19 under for the tournament, four shots ahead of Nicolai Hojgaard to add to his six PGA Tour career titles. Homa secured the win with a final round that included six birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. He pulled away at the top after consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th holes. Hojgaard -- who played against Homa at the Ryder Cup -- had four birdies in a bogey-free final round 68. Fellow Danish player Thorbjorn Olesen finished third after a 3-under 69.

Alker survives in Phoenix

Steven Alker had to get up-and-down for par on the last three holes for a 1-under 70 that allowed him to hang on and win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix and a payoff of just over $1 million. Steve Stricker clinched the season points list before the postseason began. By winning at Phoenix Country Club, Alker finished second in the Schwab Cup for a $500,000 bonus. The 52-year-old from New Zealand won $528,000 for the tournament, his seventh title on the PGA Tour Champions. Ken Duke (Arkadelphia, Henderson State) turned in a 72 on Sunday to finish at 1-under 283 overall.


Boise State fires Avalos

Boise State fired Coach Andy Avalos on Sunday, 10 games into his third season leading the Broncos and with a 22-14 overall record. Avalos was a former Boise State player and assistant coach who was Oregon's defensive coordinator when his alma mater hired him to replace Bryan Harsin as head coach after the 2020 season. Harsin had left to become Auburn's coach. The Broncos beat New Mexico 42-14 on Saturday night to improve to 5-5 and remain in contention for a Mountain West championship. But at a program with high standards, accustomed to competing on a national level, a third consecutive season with at least four losses was not good enough. Defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson was named interim head coach. The Broncos finish the regular season with games at Utah State and home against Air Force.


Sixers' Oubre struck by car

Philadelphia guard Kelly Oubre Jr. broke a rib when he was struck by a vehicle that fled the scene Saturday night in Philadelphia's Center City, authorities said. The 27-year-old Oubre was taken to a hospital in stable condition after being hit and was released a few hours later. The team said in a statement he would be re-evaluated in about one week. Oubre is expected to return to the team's practice facility as an observer on Tuesday before being re-examined to determine a timeline for an eventual return, Coach Nick Nurse said. The injury is not considered season-ending. Oubre was walking near his home at about 7:20 p.m. Saturday and was heading west on a street when a vehicle travelling in the same direction "at a high rate of speed" tried to turn south onto the street he was crossing. The vehicle hit him "in the upper chest area with the driver-side mirror," police said Sunday.


Djokovic finishes on top

Novak Djokovic has secured the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record-extending eighth time. Djokovic needed only one match win at the ATP Finals to be sure of keeping the top spot and the 24-time Grand Slam champion did it in his opener, beating Holger Rune 7-6 (4), 6-7 (1), 6-3 over more than three hours on Sunday and into Monday morning. The 36-year-old Djokovic had already moved ahead of previous record holder Pete Sampras (six years at No. 1) two years ago. Carlos Alcaraz took the honors last year.

Canada wins King Cup

Canada gave another display of its depth in world tennis by winning the Billie Jean King Cup in Seville, Spain, on Sunday, a year after its men's team won the Davis Cup. Leylah Fernandez and Marina Stakusic won their singles matches as Canada beat Italy 2-0 to claim its first-ever Billie Jean King Cup. Canada men's team will try to defend its first Davis Cup title later this month in Malaga, Spain. Stakusic, ranked 258th in the world, put Canada ahead by defeating No. 43 Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-3 for the biggest win of her career, then Fernandez sealed the victory by beating Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-3 at La Cartuja Stadium.