Woods, Koepka ready for classic US Open test

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Brooks Koepka plays a shot from a bunker on the fifth hole during a practice round prior to the 2019 UUS Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 12, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Tiger Woods plays the tenth hole during a practice round of the 2019 US Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 13 June 2019

Woods, Koepka ready for classic US Open test

  • Koepka has a chance to do what only one golfer has done before him — win a third straight US Open title
  • Jack Nicklaus won the first US Open staged at Pebble Beach in 1972

PEBBLE BEACH, United States: The 119th US Open at Pebble Beach has the makings of a classic as Tiger Woods returns to the scene of a signature triumph to take on a new generation of stars led by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.
Koepka, 29, has a chance to do what only one golfer has done before him — win a third straight US Open title.
It’s been more than 100 years since Willie Anderson accomplished the feat, and Koepka says there’s no better place to chase history than Pebble Beach, where five prior editions have produced enduring major championship memories.
“It’s just such a special place,” Koepka said of the scenic course hugging the Pacific coast. “Just the history behind it. You look at the guys that have won here at Pebble, some of the greatest players that have ever played the game.”
Jack Nicklaus won the first US Open staged at Pebble Beach in 1972. Ten years later it was Tom Watson and in 1992 Tom Kite.
Woods triumphed in 2000 by a crushing 15 strokes — still a major championship record — and Graeme McDowell ended Europe’s 40-year US Open drought when he was the last man standing with a classic US Open total of even par 284 in 2010.
Koepka knows history is against his bid for a treble.
“I know the odds are stacked up probably even more against me now to go three in a row than to back it up,” Koepka said, noting that “It’s hard to win the same event three times in a row.”
The last player to win the same major three years in a row was Peter Thomson at the British Open from 1954-56.
The last player to win a PGA Tour event three straight years was Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic in 2009, ‘10 and ‘11.
Woods won the same tournament at least three straight years six times in five tournaments, so it’s perhaps no wonder he returns to Pebble 19 years after his 2000 triumph in the title mix.
Having cemented his return from the injury wilderness with his 15th major title at the Masters, Woods says he’s “trending in the right direction.”
The same can be said of three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, who struggled to 11 straight finishes outside the top 10 to start the season but has posted three straight top 10s coming into the third major of the season.
Dustin Johnson, who pushed Koepka late before settling for second behind the American at the PGA Championship last month, also features among the contenders, and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy arrives off an imperious seven-stroke victory at the Canadian Open.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who turns 49 on Sunday, reckons Pebble Beach offers one of his last legitimate chances to finally capture the US Open — the only major to elude him, while American Rickie Fowler again seeks to shed his current “best player never to win a major” label.
Koepka reckons the real threat to a historic treble boils down to “about a handful of guys.”
“That’s just how I view it, how I view going into every tournament, every major,” he said.
Of course Pebble Beach, playing at par -71 and 7,075 yards, will have something to say.
“There’s nothing like playing a US Open set up at Pebble Beach,” Woods said. “The golf course is not overly long. It’s not big in that regard, but man, it’s tricky.
“The greens are all slanted, very small targets,” he said, noting that staying below the hole would be crucial on the greens with a tendency toward bumpiness.
As the course dries out, McDowell said he expected to see something different from the benign face Pebble presented during early practice rounds.
“You just know that’s not going to be the way it’s going to be come Friday, come Saturday this week,” McDowell said. “And it looks like they have the golf course right where they want it right now — which is exciting.


Pakistan cruises to 2nd Twenty20 win vs Bangladesh

Updated 25 January 2020

Pakistan cruises to 2nd Twenty20 win vs Bangladesh

  • Babar Azam, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan’s five-wicket win, remained not out on 66
  • Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6

LAHORE: Captain Babar Azam and recalled Mohammad Hafeez struck unbeaten half centuries as Pakistan cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the second Twenty20 on Saturday and kept alive its hopes of retaining the No. 1 ranking.
Pakistan could stay top if it completes a 3-0 clean sweep by winning the final Twenty20 of the three-match series on Monday.
Recalled 39-year-old Hafeez made an unbeaten 67 off 49 balls while No. 1-ranked Twenty20 batsman Babar remained not out on 66 as Pakistan eased to 137-1 with more than three overs to spare.
Both batsmen entertained a weekend crowd of around 20,000 at the Qaddafi Stadium with a splendid 131-run stand against a listless Bangladesh bowling attack.
Shafiul Islam was the lone successful bowler when he had Ahsan Ali caught at mid off for a duck in his first over before Babar and Hafeez took charge. Bangladesh’s disappointing performance was summed up when wicketkeeper Liton Das dropped Hafeez soon after he had reached his half century.
Hafeez, who completed his half century with two successive fours off Shafiul in the 13th over, struck nine fours and a six while Babar, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan’s five-wicket win, hit seven boundaries and a six.
In the absence of the banned Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who pulled out of the tour due to security concerns, Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6.
Earlier, opening batsman Tamim Iqbal labored for 53 balls on his way to a top score of 65 before he was run out in the 18th over as the Bangladesh innings struggled to build any momentum against the Pakistan pace attack.
The inexperienced pace trio of Mohammad Hasnain (2-20), Shaheen Afridi (1-22) and Haris Rauf (1-27) combined to bowl 12 overs, conceding only 69 runs between them and sharing four wickets.
Captain Mahmudullah, who won his second successive toss, surprisingly didn’t put himself in the top order while another experienced batsman, Soumya Sarkar, came in after the fall of Tamim’s wicket with only 14 balls left in the innings.
Bangladesh will round out the first phase of the Pakistan tour on Monday. The team didn’t want to stay in Pakistan for more than a week due to security concerns.
The tour was only finalized last week when Bangladesh agreed to split the Twenty20 series and the two ICC World Test Championship matches into three phases after the countries’ national cricket boards reached consensus in Dubai during a meeting facilitated by International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar.
Bangladesh will return for the first test in Rawalpindi from Feb. 7-11. After a break of almost two months, Bangladesh will play an ODI and the second test in Karachi on April 3-9.
Late last year, Sri Lanka also split its tour to Pakistan into two phases when it played a Twenty20 series in Lahore and then returned in December for two test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi, staying in Pakistan for 16 days.