Cameron Smith has claret jug and now eyes No. 1 in the world

Cameron Smith of Australia plays his shot from the seventh tee during the third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on Aug. 13, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2022

Cameron Smith has claret jug and now eyes No. 1 in the world

  • Even as J.J. Spaun picked up a pair of late birdies and Will Zalatoris moved into contention for his first PGA Tour title, it was Smith who got everyone’s attention Saturday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship

MEMPHIS, Tennessee: British Open champion Cameron Smith has spent all week ignoring queries about reports he will be the latest to leave the PGA Tour for Saudi-backed LIV Golf. His only concern was try to win the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Now there’s another perk at stake: No. 1 in the world.

Even as J.J. Spaun picked up a pair of late birdies for a 2-under 68 to main a one-shot lead over Sepp Straka, and Will Zalatoris moved into contention for his first PGA Tour title, Smith is who got everyone’s attention Saturday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

He birdied his last hole for a 67, leaving him among those two shots out of the lead and fully aware that a win takes him to No. 1 in the world.

“That’s been one of my goals probably since the start of the year is to try to get to that top spot,” Smith said. “Try and chase it down.”

A week that began with a federal judge denying the request from three LIV Golf players to be part of the postseason could very well end with a new No. 1 that appears headed for the rival series.

Distractions don’t seem to be a problem for the Aussie, and there is no shortage of them.

“There’s definitely been a few more, but for me, I’m just trying to hit the best shot I can,” Smith said. That’s what I’m here to do is to hit good golf shots and make birdies.”

Spaun had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the next hole to claim the 54-hole lead a 13-under 197. Straka was right there with him until he failed to save par from the bunker on the 18th for a 68 that left him one shot behind.

Both are first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, and a victory in a FedEx Cup playoffs even carries even more weight — $2.7 million to the winner and a guaranteed spot at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale.

Zalatoris is just as hungry for a win. He has been a tough customer in the majors, losing in a playoff at the PGA Championship and finishing one back in the US Open. He is No. 14 in the world. And he has yet to win on the PGA Tour.

Zalatoris opened with a 71 that put him in such a hole that even his fiancee wanted to know their plans if he didn’t make it to the weekend.

“I told her, ‘Let’s cross that bridge when he get there,’” Zalatoris said with a smile. He decided to let his new caddie, Joel Stock, read putts in their second official round together. Zalatoris shot a 63 and followed with a 65 on Saturday.

He also was two behind, along with Trey Mullinax (66).

As for the chase to the next playoff event, consider Tyler Duncan. He is No. 118 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 70 move on to the BMW Championship next week in Delaware. Duncan had a 67 and was tied for sixth. He was three behind, and even if he doesn’t win, he can move on if he can hold his position.

Ryan Palmer had a 32 on the back nine to salvage a 69 leaving him on the cusp of the top 70 that will advance.

There are 16 players separated by four shots, a group that includes Sam Burns and Tony Finau. A winner in his last two starts, Finau ended his streak of 11 rounds at 68 or lower. He made a bogey on the last hole gave him a 69, leaving him four behind.

No one stands out like Smith, for so many reasons. Not only is it his first start since being introduced at St. Andrews as the “champion golfer of the year,” the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday that he had signed with LIV and would join the defectors outside Boston after the Tour Championship is over.

Smith has steadfastly refused to talk about it.

“I’m a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it’ll be said by me,” Smith said Tuesday. 

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Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Updated 29 September 2022

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

  • All visitors aged over six would have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament

DOHA: Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar this year, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday.

All visitors aged over six will have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts November 20, the authorities said in new health guidelines.

The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the eruption of the Covid pandemic in December 2019.

The Qatar organizers and world football’s governing body FIFA have said they want the event to be a sign that the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

But they have warned that health guidelines will change if the threat blows up again.

Fans will have to wear masks in public transport in Qatar and anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 “will be required to isolate in accordance with Ministry of Public Health guidelines,” the health ministry said.

The ministry added that it may force players, referees and officials to stay in a secure “bio-bubble” if coronavirus cases take off “to allow for the safe operation and continuation of the event.”


Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah tests positive for COVID-19

  • Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia
  • Shah played only one game in 7-match series against England at Karachi before being rested

LAHORE: Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the remaining two Twenty20s against England, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Thursday.

Shah was discharged from hospital on Thursday after being diagnosed with pneumonia and the PCB said the fast bowler was feeling “much better.”

“Shah is back in the team hotel where he will follow all COVID-19 protocols,” the PCB said in a statement.

Pakistan is due to leave for New Zealand next Monday to participate in a triangular Twenty20 series also featuring Bangladesh.

The PCB didn’t clarify whether the fast bowler will accompany the team to New Zealand.

Shah played only one game in the seven-match series against England at Karachi before being rested. He returned expensive figures of 0-41 off his four overs in the first match, which England won by six wickets.

He was admitted to hospital late Tuesday night in Lahore with a chest infection and fever.

Pakistan leads the series 3-2 with back-to-back narrow wins at Karachi and Lahore in the last two games as England couldn’t chase down below-par totals.

The remaining two matches will be played on Friday and Sunday at Lahore.


Racist abuse of Richarlison shows FIFA still has work to do

Updated 29 September 2022

Racist abuse of Richarlison shows FIFA still has work to do

  • In a statement, FIFA condemned the incident, saying: “First and foremost, FIFA strongly rejects any form of racism and violence and has a very clear zero tolerance stance against such behavior in football

MANCHESTER, England: When FIFA President Gianni Infantino dashed from Geneva to Paris to watch World Cup favorite Brazil in their final warmup game before Qatar, he cannot have expected to be confronted by such visual proof of the racism that continues to infect soccer.

Not least because the sport’s world governing body disbanded its anti-racism task force — declaring it had “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” — shortly after Infantino was elected in 2016.

FIFA has implemented a detailed strategy to combat all forms of discrimination, but the incident at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, when a banana was thrown at Richarlison as he celebrated scoring a 19th-minute goal in Brazil’s 5-1 win against Tunisia, showed just how much work is still to be done.

The Tottenham striker later tweeted: “As long as it’s ‘blah blah blah’ and they don’t punish, it will continue like this, happening every day and everywhere. No time bro!”

In a statement, FIFA condemned the incident, saying: “First and foremost, FIFA strongly rejects any form of racism and violence and has a very clear zero tolerance stance against such behavior in football.

“FIFA will investigate the incident in yesterday’s game in Paris.”

Earlier that day, Infantino had been in Geneva to discuss human rights-related matters and their relation to soccer with Federico Villegas of the United Nations.

Later on, he witnessed first-hand the latest instance of racism and discrimination, which is prompting such concern within the sport.

Leading players have called out online abuse — but there have also been high-profile episodes within stadiums, with FIFA handing Hungary a two-game stadium ban and a fine of almost $205,000 after England players were subjected to racist abuse during a World Cup qualifier in Budapest last September.

UEFA also sanctioned Hungary for discriminatory behavior during Euro 2020.

It raises the question of whether there will be similar occurrences in Qatar at FIFA’s showpiece occasion.

The FARE network, an anti-discrimination organization which works with FIFA and UEFA to investigate cases of discriminatory behavior by fans, does not believe there is particular cause for concern within stadiums at the World Cup. But executive director Piara Powar says “international football has a huge problem.”

“There will be a lot of close monitoring of far right and racist banners (in Qatar). They will be taken down within minutes,” Powar told The Associated Press. “There will be specific analysts in security boxes. There will be a lot of people watching out for these things.”

FARE has contacted FIFA regarding the Richarlison incident.

“The wilful act of taking a banana and throwing it at black player after scoring a goal is breath-taking,” Powar added. “When we’re reminded what the act means — it is dehumanizing.”

Richarlison’s tweet pointed to his own lack of faith in soccer’s authorities to deal with racism.

On Wednesday, his club, Tottenham, voiced its support for the forward.

“We are disgusted by the racist abuse of Richarlison at last night’s game between Brazil and Tunisia,” it tweeted. “This has no place in football, or anywhere. We stand with you, Richy.”

Former Chelsea player Paul Canoville was subjected to racist abuse from fans of his own club during his career — and believes today’s stars will eventually take extreme measures in protest.

“It’s hard hearing about racism,” he told AP. “The truth is it’s happening throughout the world. Racism is a large problem in football and a huge problem in society.

“When I was warming up I’d hear fans calling me a monkey and throwing bananas. It’s telling me I am an animal.

“The players will walk off the pitch. That will be a statement. I can see that. It will be a team with Black players saying, “Enough is enough. Why should I play in these conditions?’

“Some people think that’s giving in. I don’t think it’s giving in — it’s standing up.”


Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

Updated 29 September 2022

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

TORONTO: Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, going deep for the New York Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence in the seventh inning at Rogers Center, a 117 mph drive that landed 394 feet from the plate. The tiebreaking, two-run drive, which put the Yankees ahead 5-3, clanked off the front of the stands and dropped into Toronto’s bullpen.
Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and huegged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, them was congratulated by the entire Yankees team who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate
Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.
Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.
Judge had gone seven games without a home run — his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.
The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.
Judge is hitting .314 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.
Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.
McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans — perhaps many — until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.
Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.
Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.
As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.
An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.
Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.
He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.
Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”
That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.


FIFA judges detail why they rejected Chile World Cup appeal

Updated 29 September 2022

FIFA judges detail why they rejected Chile World Cup appeal

  • The 64-page appeal verdict released by FIFA is needed by the Chilean federation as the basis of another urgent legal challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport

GENEVA: FIFA judges comprehensively rejected the Chilean soccer federation’s entire case in a failed appeal this month to replace Ecuador at the World Cup, according to the detailed verdict published Wednesday.

Chile argued it had documents proving Ecuador defender Byron Castillo was actually Colombian and should have been ineligible for the eight World Cup qualifying games he played in.

However, “at no point did (Chile) provide ‘cogent evidence’ that the documents related to the individual born in Colombia indeed relate to the player,” the judges ruled.

The 64-page appeal verdict released by FIFA is needed by the Chilean federation as the basis of another urgent legal challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There are just 53 days left for that judgment to be issued before Ecuador is due to play in the World Cup opening game against host nation Qatar, on Nov. 20 in Doha.

If the FIFA appeal committee had ruled that Castillo was ineligible, Ecuador would have forfeited all eight games he played in — including two wins over Chile — as 3-0 losses and dropped out of contention in the South American qualifying group.

But the three FIFA-appointed judges wrote they were convinced both that there was no falsification of Castillo’s documents to get an Ecuadorian passport and identity document, and that he complied with the soccer body’s rules to play for the national team.

“There is no element on file that could suggest that the player would actually be Colombian, or bear another nationality,” wrote the judging panel chaired by Neil Eggleston, a former White House Counsel.

The case “revolved around three key sets of documents,” the judges said. They were: Birth certificates from Colombia and Ecuador; case files from the Ecuadorian soccer federation’s 2018 investigation into Castillo’s identity; court decisions in Ecuador plus national identification documents. Those included a passport issued on Nov. 13, 2017.

The passport and subsequent ID documents have “undoubtedly been issued by the competent state authorities and, as such, are to be considered genuine and authentic,” the verdict stated.

Castillo is eligible to play at the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament in Qatar, where Ecuador will also play the Netherlands and Senegal in Group A.

He does face a separate FIFA disciplinary case which the judges requested because he did not take part in the Sept. 16 appeal hearing held by video link. Any potential punishment would not affect his ability to play in Qatar.

The detailed verdict confirmed that a Qatari judge originally selected by FIFA for the case withdrew after Chile objected to a potential conflict of interest because the case was to decide Qatar’s opponent in the opening game. An Iranian lawyer was picked instead.