An Asian star is born: Make way for Bianca Pagdanganan

LPGA rookie Bianca Pagdanganan seeks to become the first woman to average 300 yards in driving distance. (AFP)
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Updated 28 October 2020

An Asian star is born: Make way for Bianca Pagdanganan

  • Pagdanganan finished tied ninth two weeks ago in her first major, the PGA Championship

HONG KONG: There’s a new young Asian talent to follow on the LPGA Tour, and for a change she’s not South Korean, Japanese or Thai — but from the Philippines.

Rookie Bianca Pagdanganan, who turned 23 on Wednesday, has been captivating observers with her relaxed demeanour and prodigious power since making her pro debut in July.

Pagdanganan finished tied ninth two weeks ago in her first major, the PGA Championship, and was then tied for third Sunday at the Drive On Championships behind winner Ally McDonald and world No. 5 Danielle Kang to rocket to 43rd in the 2020 money list after playing only six events.

But it’s her length off the tee which has many believing she could be the future of women’s golf.

Pagdanganan, who won team gold and individual bronze for the Philippines at the 2018 Asian Games, has been regularly blasting her driver past the 300-yard mark, a distance few women can match.

“Yeah, she whacks it,” said Haley Moore, her NCAA championship-winning teammate at the University of Arizona. “We were like, ‘Oh man, don’t try to keep up with her. She bombs it’.”

Father Sam says Pagdanganan wants to be “the first woman to average 300 yards” (in driving distance). She is already well on her way, leading the tour stats at 288.8 yards, fully six yards further than the next best.

Veteran English major-winner Karen Stupples is already a fan. “She’s got the personality. But she is also the only woman in the game with that kind of power who isn’t afraid to use it,” Stupples told LPGA.com.

“Other players could hit it as far as she does, but they’re afraid to do it. They’ve been told that they need to pull back and keep it in play or hit it to a number. She doesn’t care about any of that. She picks a line and rips it.”

Pagdanganan doesn’t seem to know what all the fuss is about. “I never really noticed that I hit it far until people started telling me in college,” she says, adding that she is just happy to “live my dream.” 

“If you told me a couple years ago that I would be playing on the LPGA Tour and be in this position in my rookie year, I wouldn’t believe you.”


Vlahovic inspires Juventus to 3-0 win at Salernitana

Updated 08 February 2023

Vlahovic inspires Juventus to 3-0 win at Salernitana

  • The result also meant the match was a surprise relegation battle with Salernitana just two points further back

SALERNO, Italy: Dusan Vlahovic proved he is back on form with two goals and an assist to help Juventus win 3-0 at Salernitana in Serie A on Tuesday.

That snapped a run of three league matches without a win for Juventus. The streak had left the Bianconeri just nine points above the relegation zone coming into the match at Salerno following a 15-point penalty for false accounting.

It also meant the match was a surprise relegation battle with Salernitana just two points further back.

But Vlahovic helped Juventus push away from the bottom three.

He scored his first goal for the club since October in the 26th minute with a penalty after Fabio Miretti had been fouled by Salernitana midfielder Nicolussi Caviglia, who is on loan from Juventus.

Juventus doubled their tally on the stroke of halftime when the Salernitana defense failed to clear a cross and Vlahovic’s wayward shot came through to Filip Kostic to bundle in.

Vlahovic did double his tally two minutes after the break with a precise shot into the bottom right corner following a Nicolo Fagioli through ball.

Angel Di Maria hit the crossbar for Juventus five minutes later, while Moise Kean saw an effort come off the post late on.


FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and their Hollywood owners

Updated 08 February 2023

FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and their Hollywood owners

  • The Welsh soccer club lost their FA Cup replay with Sheffield United 3-1 on Tuesday, conceding two goals deep into stoppage time

SHEFFIELD: For Wrexham’s Hollywood owners, the sequel proved to be a heartbreaker.

The Welsh soccer club owned by celebrities Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney lost their FA Cup replay with Sheffield United 3-1 on Tuesday, conceding two goals deep into stoppage time.

A win for Wrexham, the lowest-ranked team remaining in the famous old competition, would have set up a match in the fifth round — or the last 16 — with Tottenham and star striker Harry Kane.

Instead, it was despair for the team from the fifth tier of English soccer which has hit the headlines over the last two years after it was bought by Reynolds and McElhenney for $2.5 million in November 2020 on the recommendation of one of their writers.

Sheffield United forced a replay by scoring an equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time in the first game between the teams, which ended 3-3 at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. Reynolds attended that game but wasn’t at the replay at Bramall Lane.

“So proud of these boys,” Reynolds posted to his 21.1 million followers on Twitter. “And the 4000 plus away supporters who gave it all.”


South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

Updated 08 February 2023

South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group
  • Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links

BUENOS AIRES: Members of the South American candidacy for the centennial 2030 World Cup want to host the opening match in Buenos Aires and the final in Montevideo, where Uruguay won the first edition of the tournament.
Government and soccer officials representing the joint bid of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay held their first organizing committee meeting Tuesday. Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group.
One other bid has already been formalized: Spain-Portugal-Ukraine. Morocco and another joint bid of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are moving ahead.
Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links. Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930 and won the first title by beating Argentina 4-2 in the final.
“FIFA has the obligation of honoring the memory of those who came before us and made the first World Cup,” he said. “At the end, the ones who want it more win it. And in that Argentina and all of our countries have a tradition.”
FIFA will make the decision in 2024, two years before the next edition of the tournament takes place in the United States, Mexico and Canada with 48 teams for the first time.
Chile sports minister Alexandra Benado Vergara said Argentina’s World Cup title in Qatar gives an extra push to the South American bid, which she sees as stronger since other nations joined Uruguay’s initially single-nation candidacy.
“Argentina’s victory is also the victory of our region,” Vergara said. “We can totally say we will have a bid that is sustainable, clear, austere during these times of our region and the world.”
Vergara’s Uruguayan counterpart Sebastián Bauzá said South America “feels we have the right to organize that World Cup.”
Argentina’s Fernández said on his social media channels he wanted to add Bolivia to the bid because “this is the candidacy of the entire continent. That is why I will propose that Bolivia become a part of this dream.”


Disappointment for Sharjah Warriors as team exits DP World ILT20

Updated 07 February 2023

Disappointment for Sharjah Warriors as team exits DP World ILT20

  • Gulf Giants won the toss and chose to bowl first in final match of round robin stage
  • Sharjah Warriors' batting lineup failed to maximize potential, resulting in side's exit

The final match of the round robin stage of the DP World ILT20 League involved the Gulf Giants, sitting in second place, and the Sharjah Warriors, who needed to win to clinch fourth spot and a place in the playoffs.

On paper, the favorites were the Giants, having won six of their nine games, with one loss and two rain-abandoned matches. And so the result would ultimately go with form, with home team Sharjah Warriors dropping out of the top four, to be replaced by Dubai Capitals.

Gulf Giants won the toss and chose to bowl first. The resting of Shimron Hetmyer and Chris Lynn gave the batting a diluted look.

Chris Jordan was also rested, as was Rehan Ahmad, but the bowling was still very strong. Sharjah Warriors had to pick its strongest team, relying on Marcus Stoinis, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Evin Lewis, Joe Denly and Moeen Ali to post a competitive total.

The Gulf Giants’ devotion to bowl first was unsurprising given their bowling attack on a wicket known for its low bounce. However, Dominic Drakes’ second ball flew, taking the keeper by surprise. The fifth ball was hit to mid-wicket for six by Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who perished in the second over, pulling Sanchit Sharma to be caught on the square leg boundary.

Captain Moeen Ali took the responsibility of batting at three. He watched Tom Kohler-Cadmore taking a liking to Tom Helm, striking 4, 4, 6, 4 before succumbing to a superbly judged catch in the deep by James Vince. Sometimes one wonders why batters, even in T20 when on a roll, try and hit every ball to the boundary. Why not say to oneself after striking 18 in four balls, take one and move on to the next over?

Carlos Brathwaite was introduced in the sixth over, inducing Moeen to drive to deep cover where Drakes dived forward to take the catch but injured himself in painful fashion. He took no further part in the match. Another Afghani, Qais Ahmed, took the seventh over, conceding only four runs.

At 57 for three in the eighth over, David Wiese pinned Evin Lewis in front. From a distance, it looked too high but, it was out on review. Wiese then went on to clean up Joe Denly and then Stoinis, lbw, to balls which seemed to keep low. Then, he got one to fly off Woakes’ glove to point. This was an extraordinary performance from Wiese, who went on to claim 5 for 20. The Warriors could not come back from that, closing on 107 in 18.3 overs, a disappointing effort.

Their cause was not helped by Woakes’ first delivery, which speared off down the legside for five wides. On occasions such as that, as captain and team members, you can be forgiven in thinking that this is not our day. Nevertheless, the Warriors soldiered on. At 31 for no wicket after four overs, Stoinis was brought on and he cleaned up Tom Banton.

A throw of the dice was needed. Woakes returned at the end opposite to the pavilion, with only two men on boundary — deep square and fine leg. The wily Vince and Colin Grandhomme took no risks against either Woakes or Stoinis, knowing that to bat out the latter’s four overs without loss would open up scoring opportunities against other bowlers.

Only until the fifth ball of Stoinis’ last over did Grandhomme restrain himself, smacking six, before receiving a bouncer at head height in riposte. Undeterred, he took pickings from Mohammad Nabi but, hooking Siddique at pavilion end, he was caught on the square leg boundary.

Despite the Giants’ slimmed down batting, at 82/2 all looked straightforward. Local UAE player, Aayan Khan, who did not bowl came in at number four, only to see Vince lose his off stump to Junaid Siddique. His job to hold the innings together was done. Khan and Erasmus were left to steer the Giants to their target, Khan finishing with a six to close the innings on 108 for three after 16.3 overs.

The Gulf Giants underlined their all-round strength in this performance to finish top of the table in the round robin stage. It was, however, a disappointing night for the Sharjah Warriors, who, as Moeen Ali admitted, were not good enough to qualify for the playoffs. In particular, he felt that the batting lineup had not maximized its potential.


Pakistan bans spinner Asif Afridi for two years on corruption charges 

Updated 07 February 2023

Pakistan bans spinner Asif Afridi for two years on corruption charges 

  • The 36-year-old has so far played 35 first-class, 42 List A and 65 T20 matches in his career 
  • The Pakistan Cricket Board says Afridi had ‘unintentionally’ breached its anti-corruption code 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has banned international spinner Asif Afridi for two years after he pleaded guilty as charged for two violations under its anti-corruption code, the board said on Tuesday. 

Afridi, who was provisionally suspended in September last year, failed to disclose “full details of any approaches or invitations received by the participant to engage in corrupt conduct” and was found guilty of breaching the PCB’s anti-corruption code. 

The 36-year-old has played 35 first-class, 42 List A and 65 T20 matches in his career. 

“It gives the PCB no joy to suspend an international cricketer for two years, but we have a zero-tolerance approach toward such offenses. As the game’s governing body, we need to make examples, handle such matters robustly and send out strong messages to all cricketers,” Najam Sethi, chair of the PCB management committee, said in a statement. 

“It is bitter fact that corruption poses a threat to our sport as selfish corrupters lure cricketers in different ways and methods. That’s precisely why the PCB has been investing heavily on player education so that they remain vigilant and can help the PCB eradicate this menace by reporting approaches and if, despite all our best efforts to create awareness, a player falls victim to his greed, then the PCB has no sympathy.” 

Afridi was handed a six-month ban for failing to disclose any approaches to engage in “corrupt conduct” and a two-year period of ineligibility for the breach of the code, according to the PCB. Both sentences will run concurrently and commence from the day of his provisional suspension since September 12, 2022. 

The PCB said it took into consideration the admission of guilt, expression of remorse, past track record and Afridi’s request that the PCB considered his case compassionately, claiming he had “unintentionally” breached the code.