Yanks’ opening 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup could’ve been bigger

Michael Jordan watches at the 11th hole during a four-ball match the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP)
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Updated 25 September 2021

Yanks’ opening 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup could’ve been bigger

  • Tony Finau, who was paired with Harris English, made six birdies on his own ball in his fourball match

SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin: Americans hit three unforgettable shots on the opening day of the Ryder Cup and two went for naught. Turns out they didn’t need them.
Captain Steve Stricker’s young squad patiently built the biggest US opening-day lead since 1975, pummeling defending champion Europe in both the foursomes and fourball matches Friday for a 6-2 cushion. While the fast start wasn’t new — the US team has gone seven straight Ryder Cups without losing the opening session — the solid finish was.
“My message to the guys before I left,” Stricker said, “is, ‘tomorrow is a new day. Let’s just go out tomorrow and try to win that first session again ... Pretend today never happened.”
That would have been a lot harder for his team had things not worked out as well as they did.
The one swing from that trio of spectacular shots that actually paid a dividend was a towering 417-yard drive by Bryson DeChambeau at the par-5 5th. Rather than play the 581-yard hole as a dogleg right, the way it was designed, the game’s longest hitter chose the straightest route. In three previous PGA Championships at Whistling Straits, no one had dared to try and cross the large pond and the grassy ridge pockmarked with pot bunkers that guard the right side.
DeChambeau was counting on a 20-plus-mph wind to help boost his tee shot past all that trouble, and his calculations were spot on.
“I knew if it was a little downwind, I could take a unique line ... and I said to myself, ‘all right, I have to aim at the green,” DeChambeau said. “So I did.”
With just 72 yards to the flag, he dialed down the power and turned up the finesse, lobbing a wedge to 4 feet and making the eagle putt in an afternoon fourball match that he and partner Scottie Scheffler halved with the European pair of Jon Rahm and Tyrell Hatton.
The less said about DeChambeau’s second moonshot the better. He tried driving the green at the 394-yard, par-4 13th and landed just five yards from the flag, but in a bunker on the left. A flubbed sand shot later, he settled for par and a tie on the hole.
More maddening still was playing partner Justin Thomas wasting this beauty from Jordan Spieth. Two down with two holes to play in the morning foursomes, Thomas’ tee shot at the par-3 17th skidded across the green and down a nearly vertical slope toward Lake Michigan. It wound up lodged in deep rough.
Spieth studied the shot for a long time, pulled out a wedge and swung wildly, his momentum carrying him down the hill and almost to the shoreline trying to find a foothold. The ball, meanwhile, somehow settled just six feet from the flag. But Thomas missed the putt in a match the Spanish duo Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia won 3-and-1.
“It was kind of one of those shots you practice as a kid for fun,” Spieth said, adding. “You could roll a thousand balls off the green and you’re not going to end up there.”
Rahm turned out to be Europe’s brightest light, going unbeaten in both of his matches. His partnership with Garcia enabled his countryman to notch a 23rd win, tying Nick Faldo for the Ryder Cup record. But the world’s top-ranked player had a much harder slog pairing with Hatton to wrest the half-point from DeChambeau and Scheffler.
The Americans were poised for a 1-up victory until Hatton stepped up and hit 5-iron into a hard left-to-right wind that settled 7 feet away. The Englishman coolly dropped the birdie putt, salvaging something from an otherwise tough day for Europe.
“Things like this can turn the tide,” Rahm said.
It was one of the few moments when a wildly pro-American crowd didn’t get its way. Travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic kept nearly all of Europe’s fans from entering the United States, and chants of “USA! USA!” echoed across the bumpy terrain every time an American drained a big putt.
Tony Finau, who was paired with Harris English, made six birdies on his own ball in his fourball match, and described the experience like riding a wave he didn’t want to end.
“It’s funny how momentum works. You know it can change at any given moment, and we knew we had to keep the pedal to the metal. These things start to stretch out when you have the momentum,” he said, “and it’s easy to lose.”
As if the great play and solid backing from the gallery wasn’t fuel enough, Michael Jordan and Steph Curry turned up to cheer the Americans on. Tiger Woods even sent a group text through Stricker to the American players saying, “I’m right there with you and go fight and make us proud.”
“We were able to do that,” Finau said finally, “and if TW’s watching, thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot.”

Former athletics world medalist Quinonez shot dead

Updated 11 sec ago

Former athletics world medalist Quinonez shot dead

QUITO: Ecuador’s 2019 200 meters world bronze medallist Alex Quinonez who allowed his countrymen to “dream” has been shot dead in the port city of Guayaquil according to the Sports Ministry.
Quinonez, 32, and another person were found dead close to midnight local time, according to local police.
“With great sadness, we confirm the murder of our sportsman Alex Quinonez,” the Sports Ministry announced on Twitter.
“We have lost a great sportsman, someone who allowed us to dream, who moved us....he was the greatest sprinter this country produced.”
Quinonez — who was suspended prior to the Tokyo Olympics due to “breach of his whereabouts obligations” — was also hailed by Ecuador’s president Guillermo Lasso.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to his family,” he tweeted.
“May he rest in peace. Those who take the lives of Ecuadoreans will not remain unpunished.
“We will act with force.”

India’s Kohli says Pakistan ‘very strong’ ahead of T20 blockbuster in Dubai

Updated 23 October 2021

India’s Kohli says Pakistan ‘very strong’ ahead of T20 blockbuster in Dubai

  • India have beaten Pakistan in all 12 T20, 50-over World Cup matches
  • Babar Azam’s Pakistan are now looking to break their World Cup jinx

DUBAI: India skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday said they will take on a “very strong” Pakistan team in their Twenty20 World Cup opener and downplayed their unbeaten record against their opponents. 
India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups. 
“We never discussed these things, about our record and past performance,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the much-anticipated clash in Dubai on Sunday. 
“These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on that particular day, regardless of the opposition.” 
Kohli said regardless of their past dominance Pakistan is and always has been packed with talented players. 
“Pakistan, according to me is a very strong team and always has been a strong side,” he said. 
“You have to play your best cricket against them, because they have lots of talent and players who can change the game.” 
Babar Azam’s Pakistan will look to break their World Cup jinx against India, who have won all five clashes in T20’s showpiece event. 
Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman hold the team’s batting key while quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali lead a potent bowling attack. 
Kohli backed his team’s match winners including Hardik Pandya to come good in the tournament despite the all-rounder struggling with his bowling. 
“He is getting better in terms of getting prepared to bowl two overs for us,” said Kohli. 
“What he brings at that number six spot is something that you cannot create overnight and hence I was always in favor of backing him in Australia as a batter purely. 
“He can take the game away from the opposition when he is in full flow.” 
Pandya emerged as India’s top all-rounder after his white-ball debut in 2016 but a spate of back injuries affected his career and he underwent back surgery two years ago. 
The pace bowler did not bowl in the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates for his side Mumbai Indians. 
But Kohli says the attacking batsman is an asset to the team in the shortest format. 
“We understand the value he brings to the team as a number six batter,“said Kohli. 
“In world cricket if you look around there are specialists who do that job and it is very important to have that guy specially in T20 cricket. 
“He is motivated and keen to start giving us a couple of overs and when that happens obviously the balance becomes even better. 
“But we are pretty confident how we are heading into the start of this tournament.” 
The tournament is Kohli’s last as captain of the national T20 side, but he refused to speak more on the issue. 
“Our focus is to play well in this World Cup and do what we need to do as a team,” he said. 
“I have explained myself very honestly (on Twitter). If people feel there is more to it, then I feel sorry for them.” 

Forget the past in India match, Babar tells Pakistan team before faceoff in Dubai

Updated 23 October 2021

Forget the past in India match, Babar tells Pakistan team before faceoff in Dubai

  • Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup clashes against India as well as five T20 World Cup games 
  • South Asian giants will play against each other in Sunday's T20 World Cup opener in Dubai

DUBAI: Skipper Babar Azam vowed his team will not think about Pakistan’s poor record against arch-rivals India when they meet in a high-octane Twenty20 World Cup match in Dubai on Sunday. 

Pakistan have lost all seven World Cup (50 over) clashes against India as well as five games in the Twenty20 World Cup and start as ‘underdogs’. 

Exuding confidence, Babar stressed that the past is irrelevant to his players. 

“To be honest, what has passed is beyond us,” Babar told a virtual media conference on Saturday, as both nations buzzed in anticipation of a thrilling match. 

“We want to use our ability and confidence on the day of the match so that we can get a better result. 

“Records are meant to be broken.” 

The tickets for the match were sold out within hours of going on sale after the United Arab Emirate government allowed a 70 percent crowd for the Twenty20 World Cup matches in a relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions. 

The South Asian nuclear rivals have only played in multi-national events like the World Cups and the Champions Trophy as strained relations have stalled bilateral cricket since 2007. 

Pakistan did tour India in 2012 for five limited over matches but ties were not fully resumed as the two nations continued to be at loggerheads over multiple issues, with the disputed region of Kashmir and terrorism heading the list. 

Babar admitted it will be a match full of intensity. 

“The matches between Pakistan and India are always full of intensity so we need to perform well in all three departments of the game,” said Babar. 

The second-round matches — Super 12 Stage — start on Saturday with Australia taking on South Africa in Abu Dhabi while defending champions the West Indies face England in Dubai in the evening match in Group 1. 

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are the other two teams in the Group. 

Former champions India and Pakistan are placed in Group 2 along with New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland and Namibia, who both came through the qualifying stage. 

Babar announced 12 for the match with hard-hitters Haider Ali and Asif Ali competing to make the final eleven. 

“The boys are excited to play the World Cup and we have a crucial match on Sunday,” said Babar, who will be leading Pakistan for the first time in a senior World Cup match. 

“A winning impact is necessary and then we will go match by match.” 

Babar said Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan — who led the country to victory in the 1992 World Cup — had shared his experiences with the team. 

“The Prime Minister met us before our departure and shared his experiences of the 1992 win and told us to play aggressive and fearless cricket against India.” 

Earlier this week, India won both their warm-up matches, beating England and Australia while Pakistan beat the West Indies but lost to South Africa. 

Zhang Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds

Updated 22 October 2021

Zhang Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds

  • Zhang became the first Chinese men’s all-around world champion since Xiao Ruoteng in 2017

KITAKYUSHU, Japan: Zhang Boheng of China edged out Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto on Friday to win the gold medal in the men’s all-around at the Gymnastics World Championships.

Zhang, who did not qualify for China’s team for this summer’s Olympics, held a slim lead over local favorite Hashimoto heading into the final apparatus, the horizontal bar — an event Hashimoto won at the Tokyo Games.

Zhang scored 14.800 points while Hashimoto received 15.133 but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit and the 21-year-old Zhang finished with 87.981 overall points to 87.964 for Hashimoto.

“This is my first time to take part in the world championships and the first time to win the all-around title for my country,” Zhang said. “I was nervous waiting for the scores to appear because it was so close, such a high-level competition.”

Zhang became the first Chinese men’s all-around world champion since Xiao Ruoteng in 2017.

Illia Kovtun of Ukraine was third with 84.899 points, followed by Yul Moldauer of the US with 84.365.

Hashimoto was aiming to become Japan’s fifth men’s world champion and its first since Kohei Uchimura won the last of his six straight titles in 2015.

Hashimoto’s performance on the horizontal bar was solid but he stepped to his left on the landing which likely cost him the gold medal.

“(Zhang) was great tonight,” Hashimoto said. “There is no question he is world No. 1. I knew I had to put in a perfect performance on the horizontal bar and that was difficult to do.”

Zhang had the top score on the floor exercise, the vault and the parallel bars, while finishing second-best on the rings and horizontal bar, the only apparatus where Hashimoto led the field. Both Hashimoto and Zhang suffered falls on the pommel horse.

At 19, Hashimoto became the youngest man ever to win the Olympic all-around title, at the Tokyo Games.

Defending champion Nikita Nagornyy of Russia did not travel to Japan for the worlds.

The world championships wrap up with individual event finals on Saturday and Sunday. There is no team competition in the world championships immediately after an Olympic Games.

Hashimoto will compete in the floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars, and horizontal bar this weekend. Zhang will compete in the finals on still rings and parallel bars.

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Updated 22 October 2021

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

  • The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm kick off
  • Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.

SAINT-ETIENNE, France: The kick off in the Ligue 1 match between Saint Etienne and visiting Angers was delayed for an hour by protests from home fans angry at their team’s dire form.
The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm (1900 GMT) kick off.
Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.
Fans unfurled banners attacking coach Claude Puel, club leadership and the players.
“We’ve had enough talk, you’re making us crack” said one visible through the smoke.
“Puel resign,” “management resign” and “we want a team worthy of its fans” chanted the fans.
The players left the field and kick off was put back as municipal workers repaired the nets at the city-owned Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
Saint-Etienne are last in Ligue 1, winless after 11 matches.
On Thursday, fans hung a banner on the gates of the training center which said: “Puel, you have 24 hours to resign.”
The latest incidents come just two days after the league disciplinary committee imposed a two-match suspended closure of the stadium’s south stand after incidents during the derby against Lyon on October 3.
A season of angry fans in France opened with a match between Nice and Marseille abandoned on August 22.
That was followed by a string of incidents in September.
The northern derby between Lens and Lille was overshadowed by a pitch invasion that delayed the start of the second half.
The next weekend, supporters invaded the pitch at the game between Angers and Marseille, while stones were thrown at a bus taking Bordeaux fans to their match in Montpellier, with 16 suffering minor injuries.
Nice were deducted a point. Lens were ordered to play home matches behind closed doors.