ATLANTA (AP) — Workers grooming the infield dirt at the Braves' new SunTrust Park on Thursday wore hardhats that cast a misleading image.

Most of the hard work is complete.

"We are completely through with the major elements of the construction of the ballpark," Braves president of business Derek Schiller said.

That leaves about three weeks for finishing touches before the first official unveiling when the Braves play the New York Yankees in an exhibition on March 31. Only season-ticket holders are invited, and Schiller says a crowd of about 20,000 is expected.

Schiller acknowledged the new park must be accompanied by improved play from the Braves, who finished last in the NL East in 2016.

"We came out of two years in a row where we struggled as a team and conversely struggled at the gate," he said. "It's not lost on us we have to deliver two things at once. We have to make sure the baseball environment at this new ballpark has everything to offer, and I believe will satisfy even the most discerning baseball fans. Then we also have to deliver a very good baseball team."

There will be open ticket sales for a Georgia-Missouri college game on April 8. That will be the final public trial run before Atlanta's home opener on April 14 against San Diego.

The biggest attraction for the Braves' new home may be the mixed-use development being built around the park. A crane still hovers over a hotel directly behind the stadium.

Schiller said some restaurants, bars and a concert venue around will be ready for the start of the season. He said more will open during the season.

SunTrust Park is located in the suburbs, about 15 miles north of the Braves' old Turner Field.


PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods won't be at the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week and still doesn't know when he will play again.

Woods announced on his website Thursday night that ongoing rest and rehabilitation on his back will keep him away from Bay Hill and the tournament he has won a record eight times. Woods said he was particularly disappointed because of a week at Bay Hill to celebrate the life of the tournament host.

Palmer died in September at 87.

"This is the one event I didn't want to skip," Woods said.

It will be the fourth consecutive year that Woods does not play Bay Hill dating to his two-shot victory in 2013 that returned him to No. 1 in the world. That was the 77th victory of his PGA Tour career. Woods won twice more that season, but none since then.

He has plunged to No. 713 in the world due to playing only 19 times on the PGA Tour dating to the start of 2014 because of injuries.

And he didn't offer much insight into when he would play next.

"Presently, I have no timetable for my return to golf, but my treatments are continuing and going well," Woods said.


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Championship team owners Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske as well as the late Davey Allison are among five new nominees for the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

Three-time Late Model Sportsman and 1956 Modified champion Red Farmer and 2000 NASCAR champion Bobby Labonte also are new to the 20-person nomination class. They join 15 holdovers from last year.

Gibbs has nine car owner championships in NASCAR'S top two series. Penske has four car owner titles in the top two series. Allison won 19 times in NASCAR's premier series, including the 1992 Daytona 500.

The returning nominees are Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Mike Stefanik, Ken Squier, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates.

Five nominees will be elected May 24.

Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons were elected last year and inducted in January.

Jim France and Alvin Hawkins are new additions to the list of Landmark Award nominees. France worked closely with his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and is the current chairman of International Speedway Corporation. Hawkins was NASCAR's first flagman. He established NASCAR racing at Bowman Gray Stadium with France Sr.

Potential Landmark Award recipients include competitors or those working in the sport as a member of a racing organization, track facility, race team, sponsor, media partner or being a general ambassador for the sport through a professional or non-professional role.


With every race, Mikaela Shiffrin draws closer to a couple of things she just can't stop thinking about: An overall World Cup title. That much-needed vacation in Maui.

No time to imagine the beach, though. Still too much work left to do on snow.

The Olympic slalom champion has a 178-point lead over Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia with six races remaining — all on U.S. slopes. There are two events this week at Squaw Valley in California, before the season concludes next week with the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado.

For most of the season, Shiffrin refused to give her chances at an overall crown much thought.

Lately, the skier from Eagle-Vail embraces the possibility.

"I was worried people would think I am too ambitious, or the overall is too lofty of a goal for me. But obviously it is a very reasonable goal," Shiffrin wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "I'm not worried what other people think about it anymore."

This week, she and her fellow racers tackle the Red Dog course at Squaw Valley, which hosts a World Cup event for the first time since 1969. She's quite familiar with the hill, too, having won a giant slalom title at the 2014 U.S. championships. There's a GS race Friday, followed a day later by the slalom — her specialty.

Then, it's off to Aspen for the season finale.

No extra nerves, Shiffrin said, even if it's close to her hometown. She's trying to join Phil Mahre, Tamara McKinney, Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn as the only Americans to win the overall crown.

"I hope I am able to free my mind and just race, rather than feeling pressure," Shiffrin said in the email.