Aaron Baddeley is making the big jump from Australia to Augusta. The 18-year-old Aussie was invited yesterday to play in The Masters, a month after fighting off Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman to become the first amateur champion of the Australian Open in 39 years.

"Aaron demonstrated his ability winning the Australian Open, and we look forward to his joining our other outstanding amateurs in this year's field," Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said.

It was the first time an amateur not otherwise eligible was invited to the Masters since Priscilo Gonzalez Diniz of Brazil in 1976.

"According to Gary Player, it suits my game, Augusta, because of my length," Baddeley said. "I give myself a decent chance if I play as good or better than I did at the Australian Open."

Augusta National also decided yesterday that Gabriel Hjertstedt will be counted among those in the top 40 on the 1999 PGA Tour money list, which makes him eligible for the Masters. Hjertstedt finished No. 41, but moved up because the late Payne Stewart was seventh on the money list. . . .

Tiger Woods shot a 5-under-par 65 to share the first-round lead with David Duval in the $3.5 million Williams World Challenge in Scottsdale, Ariz. Tom Lehman was three shots back and Justin Leonard opened with a 69.


Mutiny in Hauraki Gulf

The Japanese yacht Nippon broke an unwritten rule among America's Cup challengers and went sailing with the enemy--Team New Zealand.

Nippon spent four hours sailing side-by-side with one of the Black Magic boats, NZL57, on the Hauraki Gulf, sparking a reaction of incredulity from other challengers.

Before the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series began, the 11 foreign syndicates agreed that they would not help the defender, Team New Zealand, before the America's Cup in February 2000.

But Nippon chairman Tatsumitsu Yamasaki made the decision to accept the Kiwis' invitation to spend a day together on the gulf.

Nippon's skipper, Australian Peter Gilmour, said the Japanese crew wanted to tune up against "the world's best match-racers" in Russell Coutts and his team, knowing they would be criticized by their fellow competitors.


Carruth Is Father

Sources confirmed that former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth is the father of Cherica Adams's 6-week-old son, the Charlotte Observer reported today.

DNA tests conducted this week show that Carruth, charged with murdering Cherica Adams, is the father of Chancellor Lee Adams, the sources said. Mecklenburg District (N.C.) Court Judge Yvonne Mims Evans last week ordered the paternity test during a custody hearing on Adams's son. Establishing Carruth's paternity paves the way for Adams's family to press for child support. Attorneys for the family are investigating Carruth's assets.


U.S. Juniors Lose

Team USA, featuring 10 NHL draftees, was upset, 3-1, by Finland in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Stockholm.

Power-play goals came from Tomek Valtonen in the first period and Arto Tukio in the second, and Ville Hamalainen made it 3-0 midway through the third period.

Just one minute later, Adam Hall of Michigan State scored for the United States with two Finns in the penalty box. Barrett Heisten of Maine and Jordan Leopold of Minnesota assisted on Hall's goal.


Egger On

Sabine Egger won the women's slalom in her home town of Lienz, Austria, moving up from 11th place after the first heat.

The 22-year-old slalom specialist clocked an aggregate time of 1 minute 31.84 seconds to reach her second career World Cup victory.

Slovenia's Natasa Bokal finished second in 1:31.96, edging Austria's Karin Koellerer by .1 seconds. . . .

Morten Broers won the men's race and Bente Martinsen the women's as Norwegians swept the podium in both sprints of a World Cup cross-country event in Kitzbuehel, Austria.


Budge Improving

Tennis great Don Budge, injured in a car accident in the Poconos, remains on a ventilator but is improving daily. His condition was upgraded from critical to serious and he "seems increasingly alert," hospital spokesman Jon Wojciechowski said.

Budge, 84, drove off the road on Dec. 14 near Milford, Pa. He was airlifted to St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, where he was treated in the coronary care unit.


Broken Rocker

Cleveland Rockers point guard Suzie McConnell-Serio underwent surgery to correct a broken foot that she re-injured last week, the team said. The team expects her to be available when training camp opens in May.