Cameron Smith rallies to beat Rory McIlroy at Open Championship for first major

Cameron Smith, of Australia, looks at the claret jug trophy during a press conference after winning the Open Championship golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Sunday July 17, 2022. (AP)
Updated 17 July 2022

Cameron Smith rallies to beat Rory McIlroy at Open Championship for first major

  • Smith stole the show by running off five straight birdies to start the back nine and delivering more clutch moments at the end
  • Smith is the first Australian to win at St. Andrews since Kel Nagle in 1960

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland: Cameron Smith charged his way into history on the Old Course, a Sunday stunner at St. Andrews that sent the Australian to his first major by overcoming Rory McIlroy to win the Open Championship.
The stage was set for McIlroy to end his eight-year drought in the majors and cap off a week of celebration at the home of golf in the 150th Open.
Instead, Smith stole the show by running off five straight birdies to start the back nine and delivering more clutch moments at the end. His 8-under 64 was the lowest final round by a champion in the 30 times golf’s oldest championship has been played at St. Andrews.
Smith won by one shot over Cameron Young, who holed a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole to ever-so-briefly tie for the lead.
It wasn’t enough, and neither was anything McIlroy could muster.
McIlroy couldn’t make a putt early. He couldn’t hit it close enough late. His last good chance was a 15-foot birdie attempt on the scary Road Hole at No. 17, and it narrowly missed to the left.
Smith, who saved par on the 17th with a 10-foot putt, was at the front of the 18th green with his tee shot. From 80 feet away, his pace up the slope and toward the cup was close to perfect, leaving him a tap-in birdie to finish at 20-under 268.
Smith matched the major championship record to par, last reached by Dustin Johnson in the 2020 Masters held in November.
McIlroy needed eagle to tie him, and his chip through the Valley of Sin had no chance. He missed the birdie and wound up with a 70 to finish third.
Even with the silver claret jug in his hands, it was hard to believe.
“All the names on there, every player that’s been at the top of their game has won this championship,” Smith said. “It’s pretty cool to be on there. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t think it will for a few weeks. Yeah, it’s just unreal.”
Smith is the first Australian to win at St. Andrews since Kel Nagle in 1960, when he topped a rising American star named Arnold Palmer, the people’s choice.
That’s what McIlroy is now, and all day there was an energy along the humps and hollows of the Old Course, all of them waiting to celebrate McIlroy as an Open champion at St. Andrews.
He gave them little to cheer — two birdies, 16 pars, more disappointment.
“The putter went cold on me,” McIlroy said. “When both Camerons — especially Smith — went on that run on the back nine, I had to dig deep to make birdies. And I just couldn’t. I got beaten by the better player this week. To go out and shoot 64 to win the Open Championship at St. Andrews is a hell of a showing. Hats off to Cam.”
Under that hat is a mullet the 28-year-old Aussie has been growing for the last few years, and now he has a far greater identity: champion golfer of the year — at St. Andrews, no less.
He won for the third time this year — most recently The Players Championship — and moves to No. 2 in the world behind Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.
Smith is the first Australian to win the Open since Greg Norman in 1993 at Royal St. George’s. Norman was asked not to return this year — there was no indication he was coming — because of his Saudi-funded LIV Golf that has offered millions to attract players like Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, major champions who finished in the top 10.
But this day belonged to Smith and that magical putter.
He started the final round four shots behind and was still three behind when he made the turn. McIlroy was playing controlled golf, his only birdie a two-putt from 18 feet on the par-5 fifth. Viktor Hovland, who started the final round tied with McIlroy, was never a factor. He didn’t make his first birdie until the 12th hole and closed with a 74.
That run by Smith on the back nine is now part of Open lore.
He hit a nifty pitch to 5 feet for birdie on the short 10th. He was bold to a back pin on the par-3 11th and holed a 15-foot birdie, and he birdied the next two holes from about that length. His fifth in a row was a putt from 90 feet on the par-5 14th, over a huge mound and down the slope to tap-in range that gave him the lead for the first time.
McIlroy couldn’t catch up. His lag putting was terrific. That wasn’t what he needed. And he got no help from Smith, whose one missed shot set up his biggest challenge.
The nefarious Road Hole bunker was between him and the flag on the 17th. He used his putter to ride over the right edge of the bunker and onto the green, 10 feet away, and he poured in another putt, this one for par to stay in front.
Young had his chances in his Open debut. He left short a 6-foot putt with about a foot of break on the 15th. He came up short with a wedge on the next hole. He drilled his drive and approach to the 17th, only to leave another birdie chance short.
He finally delivered, but all that got him was a 65 and the silver medal.
Smith made his last birdie and the engraver went to work on that silver claret jug, a prize first awarded to the 1873 champion at St. Andrews. There’s a lot of history around this gray, old town, and Smith became part of it in a big way.


IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians

Updated 11 sec ago

IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians

GENEVA: Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.
“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”
Most sports followed International Olympic Committee advice in February and banned Russian team and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.
With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.
In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.
“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”
Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.
Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.
Olympic gold medalist swimmer Evgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.
Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.
In athletics, Russians have competed since 2015 only as neutrals approved by the sport’s governing body because of the state-backed doping scandal which tainted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Bach and the IOC faced criticism in fallout from the scandal for not being strict enough with Russian athletes who competed at each Olympics since 2016 with extra vetting of their drug testing or as neutrals without their national team name, flag and anthem.
Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”
“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested.
“We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”
Bach was in Rome also for a sports forum hosted by the Vatican, where Pope Francis praised sports as “an educational and social good and it must remain so.”
“We should be committed to giving everyone the opportunity to play sports,” the pope said, “to cultivate — one could say to be ‘trained’ in — the values of sport and transform them into virtues.”
Vatican officials previously have said they would like to one day field a team recognized by the IOC in the Olympics.

Ten Hag committed to helping Maguire return to finest form

Updated 58 min 26 sec ago

Ten Hag committed to helping Maguire return to finest form

  • England international Maguire has been dropped at club level and is fighting for his place at the World Cup
  • Ten Hag is adamant protections are in place for all players and committed himself to returning Maguire to his finest form

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has revealed measures are in place to protect players’ mental health at a time when club captain Harry Maguire has been the subject of intense criticism.
England international Maguire has been dropped at club level and is fighting for his place at the World Cup following an alarming dip in form.
It has seen him suffer growing abuse on social media and raised questions about his future at United.
But Ten Hag is adamant protections are in place for all players and committed himself to returning Maguire to his finest form.
Addressing concerns over the 29-year-old defender’s mental health, the United manager said: “But it’s an aspect of top football. It’s an aspect of our work. We set conditions for that, to manage it.
“We also have experts around to help, to coach the players, the team in the right direction.
“I think he is doing quite well, but every player has room for improvement and if he believes in his skills he will quickly be back on the level and even more than he did. I am convinced of that because I see his capabilities and it’s really high.”
Maguire has endured a miserable start to the season – losing his place to Raphael Varane at United, before making high-profile mistakes in England’s 3-3 draw with Germany on Monday.
It prompted the center back to publicly apologize on Instagram, adding: “The tough times will make us stronger.”
Fellow defender Luke Shaw aired his own concerns for his club and international teammate.
“He’s taken a lot of stick — probably more than I’ve ever seen before in football,” Shaw told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Everybody knows he’s an unbelievable player. At the moment the confidence might not be there because it could feel like the whole world is against him.”
United legend Rio Ferdinand tweeted: “Feel for Harry . . . every mistake being punished and scrutinized — comes with the territory though.
“Needs to be strong mentally to get through this!”
Maguire is out of Sunday’s derby against Manchester City with a thigh injury – but is unlikely to have started even if fit after being dropped following the 4-0 defeat to Brentford last month.
Ten Hag had initially shown faith in him when retaining him as captain after taking over the club at the end of last season.
And he insists he still has belief in the player.
“First of all, of course I have to coach him,” he said. “I have to back him. But I back him because I believe in him.
“In the period I worked with him in pre-season was good. Really good, training and games. So then he fell out — but it’s also to do with the good performance of the center backs who are playing now. But I can see even after he wasn’t in the team he trained really well, but more important, the quality was there.
“You see his career, almost 50 caps for England. For Leicester and Man United he’s performing really well. What you see is he has a high potential. Then it is about him.
“The players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager, we all believe in him. Now it is about him. That’s what I told him. I’m sure he can do it. He will turn around this. I am really convinced of that.”


Everton fined for field invasions last season

Updated 30 September 2022

Everton fined for field invasions last season

  • The club were fined $334,000 for on-field invasions during and after a 3-2 win against Crystal Palace on May 19
  • The dramatic victory secured top-flight safety for Frank Lampard’s team

LIVERPOOL, England: Everton are counting the cost of the jubilant but raucous scenes sparked after they avoided relegation from the English Premier League last season.
The club were fined 300,000 pounds ($334,000) for on-field invasions during and after a 3-2 win against Crystal Palace on May 19.
The dramatic victory secured top-flight safety for Frank Lampard’s team – and prompted wild celebrations at their Goodison Park home.
Fans ran onto the field when Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck a late winner. Everton had been trailing 2-0 at halftime and was closer to relegation from the league for the first time in their history.
Supporters ran on again after the final whistle, with one involved in an ugly altercation with Palace manager Patrick Vieira.
Everton were charged with misconduct in July, and on Friday the English Football Association confirmed sanctions imposed by an independent regulatory commission.
“Everton FC admitted failing to ensure that their spectators – and all persons purporting to be their supporters or followers – conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and refrained from using threatening and violent behavior whilst encroaching onto the pitch area,” the FA said in a statement.


Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations

Updated 30 September 2022

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations

  • Famalicão said they were suspending coach Miguel Afonso “until the truth of the facts is ascertained”
  • Público said that it had contacted Afonso but he declined to comment on the accusations

LISBON, Portugal: Portuguese soccer club Famalicão suspended the coach of its women’s team on Friday after a leading newspaper in Portugal published accusations of verbal sexual harassment by him of his players at a previous club.
Famalicão said that “in view” of the report published by Público newspaper that they were suspending coach Miguel Afonso “until the truth of the facts is ascertained.”
The club said they were putting themself at the “total disposition of all parties involved and the competent authorities to assist in obtaining the truth.”
The alleged verbal harassment of players, some of which were 19 years old at the time, reportedly took place while Afonso coached fellow Portuguese club Rio Ave during the 2020-21 season.
Público said that it had contacted Afonso but he declined to comment on the accusations.
In a statement, Rio Ave acknowledged that they had been “aware of some circumstantial comments reported by athletes regarding alleged inappropriate approaches by the coach.”
But, Rio Ave said they took no action because “the coach denied such situations and, at the request of the athletes, the matter was not followed up.”
Famalicão, in a separate statement preceding the suspension of Afonso, said that when they hired Afonso they were not aware of the accusations.


Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Updated 30 September 2022

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

  • Born in Egypt, Garang Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021

LONDON: Newcastle have reached an agreement to sign teenage striker Garang Kuol from Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners in January, the Premier League club announced on Friday.
Kuol, 18, made his international debut for Australia against New Zealand last week, becoming the youngest Socceroo since Harry Kewell in 1996.
Born in Egypt, Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021.
He only made his A-League debut for the Mariners in April but made an immediate impression, scoring four goals in his first seven appearances as a substitute.
Kuol told Newcastle’s official website: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights.
“To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.
“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”
Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.
“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.”

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