GOLF

Defending champ Spieth faltering at Australian Open

Defending champion Jordan Spieth failed to take advantage of ideal scoring conditions at the Australian Open on Friday, shooting an even-par 71 to fall further behind the leaders.

After an opening 70, he was at 1-under 141 and eight strokes behind clubhouse leader Lucas Herbert, who shot 66 on Friday and was at 9-under 133.

First-round leader Cameron Davis, who led by two strokes after a 63, had an afternoon start, as did Jason Day, who trailed Davis by three shots.

Spieth, who hasn’t played since the Presidents Cup in late September, has won the Australian Open two out of the last three years and finished second the other time.

At least his morning start Saturday means he will avoid the windy conditions that the leading groups will have to contend with at The Australian in the afternoon.

EUROPEAN TOUR: S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead Thursday at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

SOCCER

FIFA RANKINGS: Ten of the top 32 teams in the latest FIFA rankings will not be in the World Cup draw next week.

No. 10 Chile, No. 14 Italy, and No. 24 the United States are among those who will be missing on Dec. 1 at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

All five of the Asian Football Confederation’s World Cup entries are outside the top 32.

Defending champion Germany leads an unchanged top five ahead of Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Belgium. Spain is up two places to No. 6.

European teams that won World Cup playoffs this month rose. Switzerland moved up three spots to No. 8, while Denmark and Sweden each climbed seven to Nos. 12 and 18, respectively.

FIFA used October rankings to decide the draw seedings, and avoided giving playoff teams an advantage.

TENNIS

DAVIS CUP: France captain Yannick Noah surprisingly cut Nicolas Mahut from his squad to face Belgium in the Davis Cup final this weekend.

Noah, who has captained France to victory twice, instead included Richard Gasquet in his four-man team at the draw on Thursday.

Mahut was expected to play in doubles after training with Julien Benneteau, who was not selected either.

AUTO RACING

FORMULA ONE: After nearly losing his right hand, Robert Kubica could be steering a Formula One car with it next year.

If he returns it will complete a remarkable comeback for the 32-year-old Polish driver, rated as one of the quickest in F1 before a gruesome rally accident left him needing seven hours of surgery on a partially severed right hand, and numerous subsequent operations.

Kubica did F1 testing for Renault earlier this season and recently with the Williams team, and is in consideration for an F1 seat in 2018.

No announcement is planned during this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Williams says. But in what appears to be a boost for his ambitions, Williams announced Wednesday that Kubica will take part in Pirelli tire testing after the race.

– Staff and news service report