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European tour alters format

The European golf tour will require its members to play in at least 12 events next year, increasing the minimum by one event as more players contemplate whether to join for the $10 million Race to Dubai.

Phil Mickelson is among those who might join in 2009 when the tour season concludes with the top 60 players eligible for the Dubai World Championship. A separate $10 million in bonus money will be awarded, similar to the FedEx Cup on the U.S. tour.

The four major championships and three World Golf Championships -- six of which are held in the United States -- count toward the minimum 12 for European tour membership. Mickelson has played the Scottish Open the past few years and is expected to play the French Open next summer. He also is scheduled to play the HSBC Champions in China in November, which starts Europe's '09 season.

Auto racing

AJ Allmendinger will not finish the season with Red Bull Racing, giving up his seat to Mike Skinner and Scott Speed for the final seven races. Allmendinger is not returning to the No. 84 Toyota next year, and the team is letting him go early to pursue another job. He finished a career-high ninth in his Red Bull finale Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Hockey

The New York Rangers beat the host Swiss club Bern, 8-1, in the Rangers' first game in Switzerland in 49 years. Today, the Rangers will face European champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk, also in Bern. It will be the first meeting of NHL and Russian teams in the past 17 years and carries a $1 million prize under the banner of the inaugural Victoria Cup, organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Lecavalier scored in a shootout yesterday to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 victory over host HC Slovan Bratislava in a preseason game, the first for an NHL team in Slovakia.

• Buffalo center Paul Gaustad will miss up to the first three weeks of the regular season after he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb yesterday. Gaustad was hurt during a fight in Buffalo's 2-1 shootout loss to Minnesota Sunday.

• The Los Angeles Kings acquired defenseman Sean O'Donnell from the Anaheim Ducks yesterday, receiving a conditional selection in the draft next year in return.

Tennis

Venus Williams made a successful return to the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, after 10 years, advancing to the second round by beating Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-1, 6-2. Williams next plays qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko, who rallied to upset 15th-ranked Flavia Pennetta, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Ksenia Palkina, a teenager from Kyrgyzstan ranked 203rd, upset second-seeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-5, in the first round of the Tashkent Open in Uzbekistan. Govortsova is ranked 44th, and this was Palkina first victory against a player in the top 50.

• Japanese teenager Kei Nishikori returned to the tournament where he made his debut last year, beating American Robert Kendrick, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-2, to reach the second round of the Japan Open in Tokyo. Nishikori, ranked 84th, will next meet Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez today. Top-seeded defending champion David Ferrer had a first-round bye as did second-seeded Andy Roddick.

Soccer

Italian soccer authorities opened an inquiry into alleged Mafia pressure on the Palermo soccer team. The Italian Football Federation will investigate possible influence on market moves by the Sicilian Serie A team and alleged allotment of free tickets to Mafia bosses.



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