Some of the sports stories The Associated Press is covering Thursday. A full Sports Digest will be sent at about 3 p.m. EDT:
– AKRON, Ohio – Defending champion Tiger Woods leads one of the strongest fields of the year in the opening round of the Bridgestone Invitational. Woods has won eight times at Firestone.
– OAKLAND, Calif. – The Athletics acquire left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes from Boston for slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes before Thursday’s trade deadline, the AP is told.
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– OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice talks publicly for the first time since his two-game suspension by the NFL for domestic violence.
– TAMPA, Fla. – Former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend. This is the last of seven profiles leading to the induction ceremony.
– Violet Palmer, the NBA’s first female referee, will marry her partner of 20 years on Friday. She tells the AP she came out to her fellow NBA referees in 2007.
– LOS ANGELES – Clayton Kershaw starts for the NL West-leading Dodgers, who have won five straight and face an Atlanta Braves team that is 1 1/2 games out of first in the NL East. Game starts 10 p.m.
– MINNEAPOLIS – Britney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury put their 16-game winning streak on the line when they play the defending champion Minnesota Lynx. The WNBA record is 18 in a row. Game starts 8 p.m.
– NEW YORK – Two-time major champion Li Na pulls out of the U.S. Open because of a knee injury she says has been bothering her for several months.
– COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State’s fired marching band director says he was working to fix a vulgar culture ”in dire need of change.” Jonathan Waters was dismissed last week after a two-month investigation.
– COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says Jadeveon Clowney was not a distraction to the team or the coaching staff last season despite what it may have looked like at times.