Kupcho wins Meijer LPGA Classic in playoff

Jennifer Kupcho of the US with the trophy after winning the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club on June 19, 2022 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Kupcho wins Meijer LPGA Classic in playoff

  • One off Korda's lead at the start of the day, Kupcho regrouped to card a 1-under 71 for an 18-under total of 270, where she was joined by Korda — who needed a birdie at the 72nd hole to cap an even par round and make the playoff

WASHINGTON: Jennifer Kupcho survived a roller coaster of a round to win the Meijer LPGA Classic with a birdie at the second playoff hole, denying 2021 champion Nelly Korda and Irish Solheim Cup star Leona Maguire.

After failing to clinch the playoff at the first hole — where she missed an eagle putt from inside four feet, Kupcho two-putted from the fringe at the second playoff hole, again the par-5 18th, to seal it.

Maguire had a chance to extend the playoff, but her two-foot birdie putt lipped out.

Korda was eliminated with a par at the first playoff hole as both Kupcho and Maguire came up with birdies.

“It’s been really special,” said Kupcho, who added a second LPGA victory to the major title she captured at the Chevron Championship in April.

“I mean, this leaderboard was stacked. I think that’s what I’m most proud of is the players that were up there with me — it was a very close battle to the end and I’m proud of it.”

Kupcho started the day one off Korda’s lead and was in trouble early with a double bogey at the third and a bogey at the sixth.

She regrouped to card a 1-under 71 for an 18-under total of 270, where she was joined by Korda — who needed a birdie at the 72nd hole to cap an even par round and make the playoff — and Maguire, who stormed to the top with a 7-under 65.

New Zealand’s former world No. 1 Lydia Ko was alone in fourth after a bogey-free 68 for 271.

Kupcho, who opened the week with a career-best 63 and also led after the second round, rolled in a long eagle putt to start turning things around at the eighth. She added a birdie at the ninth then saw another long birdie putt curl just enough to drop into the side of the cup at 12.

She would add another birdie to take a one-shot lead, but a bogey at 16 dropped her back into a tie.

Korda had her own troubles early with bogeys at the fourth and ninth, but she bounced back with birdies at 10 and 12 before a bogey at 13 — — where she was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

The American, who was playing her second tournament since a four-month absence to treat a blood clot in her left arm, forced her way into the playoff with a birdie at the 72nd hole, where she chipped to two feet.

But it was Maguire, who won her first LPGA title at the Drive On Championship in Miami in February, who went into the playoff with all the momentum after a superb round that featured eight birdies, the last one giving her the clubhouse lead.

Her steady rise was a marked contrast to the fortunes of US star Lexi Thompson, who had the solo lead after her fourth birdie of the day on 10 but fell back with three bogeys coming in.


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.