Schwartzel on Masters trail Berto withdraws Henderson in fifth Ellis braves break

GOLF: South African Charl Schwartzel bids to become the first player in 24 years to win three successive European Tour events when he competes in this week's Abu Dhabi Championship, starting on Thursday.

Schwartzel's title double has lifted him to a career-high 35th in the world rankings and pushed him close to securing his US Masters debut in April. A place in the world's top-50 the week before the season's first major will book his ticket for Augusta. "I'm very excited," said Schwartzel of the Masters. "If I keep playing like this there could be some big things from me."

Flower: Cook right choice to deputise

Cricket: Andy Flower has no doubts that "natural leader" Alastair Cook is the right choice to deputise as England captain -for Andrew Strauss.

Flower said: "You can see some of the qualities like resilience, toughness, determination and also his love of the game that shine through when he bats. He will use those qualities in his captaincy."

Berto withdraws

Boxing: Andre Berto has withdrawn from his January 30 fight with Shane Mosley, saying the strain of dealing with the earthquake that struck Haiti left him unable to fight.

Berto, who represented Haiti in the Athens Olympics, said: "As a result of this disaster, I am mentally and physically exhausted and have no choice but to withdraw from my bout."

The move could open up a fight matching Mosley against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Henderson in fifth

Cycling: Team Sky rider Greg Henderson opened his Tour Down Under account with a provisional fifth place today.

HTC-Columbia rider Andre Greipel came out on top after the 141km stage from Clare to Tanunda, followed by Team RadioShack man Gert Steegmans and Omega Pharma Lotto's Jurgen Roelandts.

Ellis braves break

NFL: New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis has a broken left hand but will still play in the AFC Championship game against Indianapolis. Ellis suffered the injury on the Jets' first defensive play of their 17-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

NBA: NY Knicks 99 Detroit 91, Washington 97 Portland 92, Atlanta 91 Oklahoma City 94, Charlotte 105 Sacramento 103, Houston 101 Milwaukee 98 (OT), LA Clippers 106 New Jersey 95, Minnesota 108 Philadelphia 103 (OT), New Orleans 90 San Antonio 97, Golden State 114 Chicago 97, Memphis 125 Phoenix 118, Dallas 99 Boston 90, LA Lakers 98 Orlando 92.