Jamieson shoots 63 at Yas to lead Hovland by one in Abu Dhabi

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Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy tees off on the 10th during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship at Yas Links, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Shane Lowry of Ireland tees off on the 10th during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship at Yas Links, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his approach to the 18th during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship at Yas Links, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo)
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British players Lee Westwood, left, and Tyrrell Hatton on the 16th during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship at Yas Links, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Jamieson shoots 63 at Yas to lead Hovland by one in Abu Dhabi

  • Jamieson, a Scot ranked No. 336, hadn’t played competitively in eight weeks but quickly settled into the 2022 season with a bogey-free 63
  • Hovland was in the marquee group with Collin Morikawa, and outplayed his playing partner by rolling in nine birdies on the undulating greens at Yas Links

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Seeking a third win in his last four events, Viktor Hovland started the Abu Dhabi Championship by shooting 8-under 64 and was one stroke off the first-round lead held by Scott Jamieson on Thursday.
Hovland was in the marquee group with Collin Morikawa, and outplayed his playing partner by rolling in nine birdies on the undulating greens at Yas Links, a first-time host of the Rolex Series event on the European tour.
The Norwegian might be the world’s form player, having won back-to-back tournaments in Mexico and the Bahamas at the end of last year to climb to No.7.
Jamieson, a Scot ranked No. 336, hadn’t played competitively in eight weeks but quickly settled into the 2022 season with a bogey-free 63. He also had nine birdies — four of them coming in a five-hole span at the start of his back nine and the final one coming from 12 feet at the par-5 18th.
Thomas Pieters was alone in third place after a 65, while defending champion Tyrrell Hatton was in a tie for fourth place after 66. The English player won the prestigious event last year when it was held at nearby Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Morikawa, the British Open champion who won the Race to Dubai title last year, almost holed an approach from the fairway at his first hole before making birdie but that was one of the few highlights in his round of 1-over 73.
Rory McIlroy also got off to a poor start to his first event of 2022, bogeying his final two holes for a 72.


Xander Schauffele shoots 63 to take 5-shot lead at Travelers Championship

Updated 25 June 2022

Xander Schauffele shoots 63 to take 5-shot lead at Travelers Championship

  • Schauffele, played one group ahead of McIlroy, who was still leading by a stroke at 13 under before getting into trouble on the 12th hole

CROMWELL, Connecticut: Xander Schauffele shot his second straight 7-under 63 on Friday to take a five-stroke lead in the Travelers Championship.

The Olympic champion shot a 31 on the front nine at TPC River Highlands with four birdies, then had a 32 on the back, making birdies on 11, 14 and 17.

He has hit 33 of 36 greens in regulation and is the only player in the tournament without a bogey. His closest call came close at the par-3 16th, where he hit his tee shot found the rough behind a greenside bunker.

“It plays really interesting with the wind swirling through there,” Schauffele said. “It was my least committed swing of the week and just really happy to get up and down there and save par.”

Kevin Kisner (64), Nick Hardy (64), defending champion Harris English (65), Cam Davis (66) and Patrick Cantlay (67) were tied for second at 9 under. First-round leaders Rory McIlroy and J.T. Poston followed opening 62s with 70s to drop six strokes back.

Cantlay, who shot a 60 at TPC River Highlands as an amateur in 2011, played in the same morning group as English.

“(I’m) still right here in this tournament, and looking forward to the weekend,” Cantlay said. “I enjoy the challenge, and that’s all you can do in golf, is give yourself as many chances as you possibly can.”

English, who won on the eighth hole of a playoff last year, is playing in his third tournament since returning in May from Valentine’s Day surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.

“The toughest thing is walking and playing,” English said. “I mean, I feel like back home I can go hit a bunch of balls on the range, but up and down these hills and being on your feet for five or six hours is the toughest part. It’s getting better and better, and I feel like the more I play competitive rounds out here, it’s just going to get stronger.”

Hardy, starting on the back nine had four consecutive birdies on 16, 17, 18 and 1. He also is coming back from injury after damaging the tendon is his left wrist in April.

“I just was in great rhythm,” Hardy said. “That’s kind of been the name of the game for me since I came back. Just being in good rhythm. I think I’m swinging the club well and my mind is in a good spot.”

Kisner had some good luck on 15 when his tee shot went left and rolled toward the course’s signature lake before getting hung up on a microphone cable, inches from the water. He ended up saving par.

“Five shots is not insurmountable but I’m a going to need (Schauffele) to slow down a little bit,” Kisner said.

Schauffele, played one group ahead of McIlroy, who was still leading by a stroke at 13 under before getting into trouble on the 12th hole.

McIlory hit his tee shot left and out of bounds into the woods, then found the deep rough to the right on his next shot. He put the ball into a green-side bunker from there, then chipped out short of the green and into the rough again, before finishing with a quadruple bogey.

He left the hole trailing by three strokes and then found more trouble on the 15th. He went right on his tee shot, finding the high grass, then ran his third shot over the green, down the hill and into the water. He finished that hole with a 6.

But he made birdie on 16, finishing with an even-par 70 when his birdie putt lipped out on 18.

“I should be closer to the lead,” he said. “Feel like I let a lot of guys into the golf tournament because of it.”

The last player to make a quadruple bogey and go on to win a PGA Tour event was Adam Scott at the 2016 Honda Classic. Scott put two shots in the water on the par-3 15th hole.

The cut was at 2 under, with 2017 winner Jordan Spieth ( 1 over) dropping out with Sam Burns (even par), Zach Johnson (4 over) and Jason Day (6 over).


Kvitova advances at Eastbourne, sets up final against Ostapenko 

Updated 25 June 2022

Kvitova advances at Eastbourne, sets up final against Ostapenko 

  • In a tussle between big-hitting left-handers, Kvitova avenged last week’s defeat to Haddad Maia at Birmingham

EASTBOURNE, England: Petra Kvitova will play fellow former Grand Slam champion Jelena Ostapenko in the final of the Wimbledon warmup event at Eastbourne.

Kvitova is a two-time Wimbledon winner looking to emulate her All England Club triumphs in 2011 and 2014.

The 32-year-old Czech may not be at her peak these days, but she remains a force on grass, as she showed by battling to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over the obdurate Beatriz Haddad Maia in Friday’s semifinals.

World No. 31 Kvitova ended the lengthy winning streak of Brazilian Haddad Maia to return to the final at Devonshire Park for the first time since finishing runner-up 11 years ago.

In a tussle between big-hitting left-handers, Kvitova avenged last week’s defeat to Haddad Maia at Birmingham.

Haddad Maia, whose memorable grass-court season included titles at Nottingham and Birmingham, was beaten for the first time in 13 matches.

Kvitova, who lost to Marion Bartoli in the 2011 Eastbourne final, takes on former French Open champion Ostapenko in Saturday’s final.

The Latvian is the defending Eastbourne champion and she remains on course for another title on the south-coast lawns after crushing Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 earlier on Friday.

Eighth seed Ostapenko, the 2017 winner at Roland Garros, is also through to the Eastbourne doubles final with her Ukrainian partner Lyudmyla Kichenok.

They will face Aleksandra Krunic and Magda Linette as Ostapenko chases two titles in one week.

In the men’s singles final, 2019 Eastbourne winner Taylor Fritz faces France-born American Maxime Cressy.

American world No. 14 Fritz defeated reigning champion Alex De Minaur 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.

Cressy, the world No. 60, beat Jack Draper 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (2/7), 6-3 to make it three wins over British players in this year’s tournament.


It’s personal: Canelo predicts KO in 3rd bout with Golovkin

Updated 25 June 2022

It’s personal: Canelo predicts KO in 3rd bout with Golovkin

  • The Mexican superstar declared his third fight with Golovkin to be a grudge match Friday as they began promoting their showdown with a news conference in Hollywood

ANGELES: Canelo Álvarez is hurting after his first loss in nearly a decade, and he’s still angry about everything that’s happened during five years of fighting and arguing with Gennady Golovkin.

Álvarez says he is determined to channel all of those bad feelings into a spectacular knockout win over Golovkin when they complete their rivalry trilogy on Sept. 17 in Las Vegas.

The Mexican superstar declared his third fight with Golovkin to be a grudge match Friday as they began promoting their showdown with a news conference in Hollywood. Álvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) was beaten in stunning fashion by light heavyweight Dmitry Bivol seven weeks ago, but he guaranteed he will “definitely” punch the 40-year-old Golovkin into retirement by stopping him for the first time in his career.

“(It will be) so sweet,” Álvarez said. “For me, it’s going to be very satisfying because of everything that’s come around this fight.”

Álvarez’s personal dislike of Golovkin seemed awfully genuine, even while Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) downplayed any personal animus. The fighters stood nose-to-nose and motionless on stage in Hollywood for nearly two full minutes before a fairly terse news conference.

Neither fighter can deny their rivalry has included years of trash talk, particularly after Canelo’s failed drug test in 2018, preceding the only loss of Golovkin’s career.

“He always pretends to be a nice guy in front of people, but he’s a (jerk),” Álvarez said. “That’s what he is. I don’t pretend to be nice. This is who I am. I don’t pretend to be another person, and he’s always pretending in front of you, ‘Oh, I’m a nice guy.’ He’s not.”

They’ve also met in two incredibly close fights that stand among the best moments of both fighters’ careers. The first bout in 2017 was ruled a split draw, while Álvarez won the rematch by a narrow majority decision.

Golovkin sought a third fight much earlier than Álvarez. The coronavirus pandemic played a role in Álvarez’s decision to wait four years for the rubber match, but he also admits he waited partly because he simply doesn’t like Golovkin.

Golovkin dismisses Álvarez’s bold statements about a knockout as fight posturing.

“If it’s so personal for him, my question is why was he putting off the (third fight) for so long?” Golovkin asked through his interpreter. “If it’s personal, you should ask him why.”

Álvarez says it’s because he was busy rounding up all four super middleweight title belts in 2021 — but it’s also because of Golovkin’s trash talk, particularly in languages other than English. Álvarez wasn’t specific about what comments set him off.

Golovkin reacted to his 2018 loss to Canelo with characteristic cool, yet he has fought only four times in the ensuing four years while he sought the chance for redemption and the massive payday offered by a third fight with Álvarez. Golovkin took 2021 off before returning to the ring last April with a ninth-round stoppage of Ryota Murata.

“From an emotional standpoint, I’ve completely cooled down,” Golovkin claimed. “I believe it’s just another fight. But I was still fighting, and he was participating in golf tournaments. That’s something he should do, but jumping around in weight classes, I don’t know.”

Golovkin’s comment was veiled shade at Álvarez, whose near-daily golf habit became a popular thing to blame for his surprising loss to Bivol last month. Álvarez said he absolutely won’t stop playing golf, but he intends to improve the conditioning that left him visibly wearier as the fight with Bivol went on.

“He always talks about I’m scared, I’m running away,” Álvarez said. “(He says) I’m not fighting the best guys out there, (while) he’s fighting those Class D fighters. He’s talking a lot of things about me, so that’s why it’s special to me.”

Golovkin will move up to super middleweight for the first time in his career for the third bout with Álvarez, who holds all four major championship belts at 168 pounds. Golovkin was the long-reigning kingpin of the middleweight division before his loss to Álvarez, but he has since reclaimed two of the belts.

Both fighters live in Southern California. They’ll meet again on Monday in New York.

 


UEFA blocks Sheriff hosting European games in Transnistria

Updated 24 June 2022

UEFA blocks Sheriff hosting European games in Transnistria

  • No UEFA competition match shall be played in the region of Transnistria, in Moldova, until further notice
  • “The decision is based on considerations and the conclusions consistently drawn by agencies specialized in international political and strategic analysis,” UEFA said

NYON, Switzerland: The fallout for soccer from Russia’s war on Ukraine saw UEFA block Sheriff Tiraspol on Friday from hosting European competition games in their breakaway home region in Moldova.
Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk went to play Champions League games last season at the tiny Sheriff Stadium in Transnistria that borders Ukraine.
But the club which have strong business and political ties to Russia cannot host Bosnian champion Zrinjski at their home on July 13 for a second-leg game in the first qualifying round of the next Champions League.
“In light of the large-scale military escalation resulting in the invasion of the Ukrainian territory by the Russian army, the UEFA executive committee has today decided that no UEFA competition match shall be played in the region of Transnistria, in Moldova, until further notice,” the European soccer body said.
Tiraspol is also about 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the Ukrainian city of Odesa, which is a regular target of Russian missiles.
“The decision is based on considerations and the conclusions consistently drawn by agencies specialized in international political and strategic analysis,” UEFA said.
Sheriff, which have won the Moldovan league in 20 of the past 22 seasons, could choose to play games in the nation’s capital city Chisinau.
If Sheriff eliminates Zrinjski, the next opponent in July will be Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus or Slovenian champion Maribor.
Shakhtyor are playing their home games in neutral Turkey because of a separate UEFA ruling in March that national and club teams from Russia’s military ally Belarus cannot host games in European competitions.
The loser between Sheriff and Zrinjski continues playing in the qualifying rounds of the third-tier Europa Conference League.


Al-Khelaïfi acquitted again, Valcke guilty in FIFA retrial

Updated 24 June 2022

Al-Khelaïfi acquitted again, Valcke guilty in FIFA retrial

  • Al-Khelaïfi was cleared again of a charge of incitement to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement
  • The Swiss federal criminal court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery and passive corruption

GENEVA: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi was acquitted in Switzerland on Friday for a second time in a retrial of alleged wrongdoing linked to former FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke.
Al-Khelaïfi was cleared again of a charge of incitement to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement for allowing Valcke to use a vacation home in Sardinia rent free. Prosecutors tried to link the home, bought by a Qatari company in 2013, to Al-Khelaïfi-led broadcaster beIN Media Group getting a renewed World Cup rights deal from FIFA.
Valcke, who was FIFA’s top administrator for eight years until being removed in 2015, was acquitted again of criminal mismanagement and convicted on separate charges not involving Al-Khelaïfi. They relate to taking kickbacks in negotiations for World Cup broadcast rights in Italy and Greece.
The Swiss federal criminal court found Valcke guilty of repeated forgery and passive corruption. He was given a longer suspended sentence — 11 months instead of three — than he received after the original trial in September 2020.
Lawyers for Valcke said in a statement he would appeal and “the guilty verdict is therefore in no way final.”
A third defendant, Greek marketing executive Dinos Deris, was convicted of active corruption and given a 10-month suspended sentence after first being acquitted in 2020. He was again cleared of inciting Valcke to mismanagement against FIFA’s interests.
The sentences for Valcke and Deris were both suspended for probationary periods of two years.
The retrial was held in March at the Swiss federal criminal court after prosecutors appealed against the original verdicts.
Al-Khelaïfi’s second acquittal was hailed by his legal team as “total vindication.”
“The years of baseless allegations, fictitious charges and constant smears have been proven to be completely and wholly unsubstantiated — twice,” lawyer Marc Bonnant said in a statement.
During a five-year investigation, Al-Khelaïfi, who is also a member of the World Cup host nation’s government, rose in power and status in European soccer.
Despite being a suspect in Swiss criminal proceedings, Al-Khelaïfi was elected in 2019 to join the UEFA executive committee and now leads the influential European Club Association after PSG refused to join the failed Super League project last year.
The prosecution case against Al-Khelaïfi focused on beIN’s renewal of World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa with FIFA around the time the Italian villa was bought.
Lawyers for Al-Khelaïfi argued beIN’s deal for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, said in court to be worth $480 million in total, was good for FIFA.
While often using the vacation home from 2013 to 2015, Valcke also oversaw FIFA-led talks to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from June and July to the cooler months of November and December. FIFA was also awaiting, then dealing with the fallout from, its ethics committee’s investigation into the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.
The charges proven against Valcke related to filing three payments totaling 1.25 million euros ($1.32 million) to his personal company’s accounts as loans.
However, the three appeal court judges withdrew an order made in 2020 for Valcke to pay FIFA 1.75 million euros ($1.84 million) in restitution.
“Mr. Valcke did not harm FIFA and his full acquittal on the counts of mismanagement has therefore logically been confirmed,” his legal firm, Geneva-based RVMH Attorneys, said in a statement. “Just as logically, the criminal justice system has now rejected FIFA’s civil claims.”
FIFA declined comment until studying the judges’ written verdict which the court has said will likely not be published before September.
Valcke’s convictions were announced in the same week that former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was on trial in the same Bellinzona courthouse in a separate case. Blatter and former UEFA president Michel Platini faced fraud, forgery and financial misconduct charges.
Verdicts are due on July 8 in that case, which relates to a Blatter-approved FIFA payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) to Platini in 2011.
Blatter and Valcke are still suspects in a separate Swiss criminal proceeding that also involves former FIFA finance director Markus Kattner. That case is about a $1 million FIFA payment to the Trinidad and Tobago soccer federation in 2010.
Al-Khelaïfi has also been under investigation by financial prosecutors in Paris for payments linked to Qatari bids to host the track and field world championships, which were staged in Doha in 2019.