Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again

US Team members are pictured with the Presidents Cup on Sept. 25, 2022 after defeating the International Team in Charlotte, North Carolina. (AFP)
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Updated 26 September 2022

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again

  • The International team lost at least four players who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf and were deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour

CHARLOTTE, US: The Americans won the Presidents Cup again, no asterisk needed.
Sure, the International team lost at least four players — maybe more — who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf and were deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour.
It had eight rookies asked to play a new format before 40,000 flag-waving fans chanting for the home team. And the Internationals have never won on American soil since these lopsided matches began in 1994.
No matter.
The Americans are tough to beat right now in any cup, under any circumstances. 
Jordan Spieth made putts from all over Quail Hollow and capped off a 5-0 week, Xander Schauffele delivering the cup-clinching point and lit up his big cigar, and the Americans won the Presidents Cup for the ninth straight time.
Anyone surprised?
“I think that the biggest challenge for us this week was staying within ourselves and not letting the outside noise get to us,” Spieth said. “We saw notes ... put up all over the place that we were supposed to win and we’re favorites and all that.
“What was so cool — which has been very consistent in the previous few Cups that I’ve been involved in — is everyone’s really, really good at what they do.”
The plucky International team still made them work for it.
Spieth and Patrick Cantlay were in control of their matches and set the tone. Even so, the Internationals kept it interesting, a resilient effort considering they were down 8-2 going into the weekend.
But then Tony Finau flipped his match, Collin Morikawa played like a two-time major champion, Schauffele delivered the winner and another celebration was on.
International captain Trevor Immelman referred to the LIV disruption as one of many hurdles facing his team. And he reacted strongly to any notion his 12 players — only three of them among the top 25 in the world — never had a chance.
“When you consider that we were 8-2 down on Friday evening, this team is no joke, and I’m sick and tired of it being spoken of as a joke,” Immelman said. “We love this event, and we love our team. And we cannot wait to run this back and have another shot.”
The Internationals showed plenty of fight. They just don’t have a cup to show for it.
That stays squarely in the hands of an American team that was coming off a record romp over Europe in the Ryder Cup last year before another one-sided crowd.
Even the American newcomers produced, starting with Max Homa. He rallied from 3 down by winning four straight holes and then holding off Tom Kim for a 1-up victory that gave Homa a 4-0 week in his Presidents Cup debut.
The final score was 17 1/2-12 1/2, not quite the rout it was at Liberty National in 2017 when this US team started to take shape.
US Captain Davis Love III paid tribute to Immelman for having to fill out his team three weeks ago after British Open champion Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann were among the latest batch to join the rival LIV Golf series.
This was a mismatch. The Internationals still made a game of it, and at one point the matches were tight enough that a shocker at Quail Hollow was still possible. But they needed everything to go right, and it didn’t.
“Trevor and his team did an incredible job of rising to the occasion,” Love said.
Love had all 12 players ranked among the top 25 in the world ranking, and just like last year at Whistling Straits in the Presidents Cup, most of them played like it.
“We really don’t have to do much,” Love said. “All we have to do is not mess it up.”
Spieth was in the second match out and made putts from 25 feet, 20 feet and 30 feet for par after driving into the water and 45 feet that made Cameron Davis feel hopeless. He closed out the Australian on the 15th hole.
Spieth became only the sixth player to win all five matches in the Presidents Cup, winning all four of his team matches with Justin Thomas.
Spieth, a three-time major champion and former No. 1 player in the world, first qualified for US teams when he was 20. But he had never won a singles match — 0-3 in the Presidents Cup, 0-3-1 in the Ryder Cup.
And then he fell 2 down after two holes before turning it around in a big way.
“I was more nervous than I should have been because I wanted to get that monkey off my back,” Spieth said. “When you get off early on a Sunday, they’re looking for red on the board. And it feels good to provide it.”
Thomas was trying to join him, but he lost to Si Woo Kim in a match that came down to 10-foot birdie putts on the last hole.
Cantlay put red American numbers on the board quickly for a 3-up lead over Adam Scott and had lost only two holes in a 3-and-2 victory.
For Scott, it was another dose of disappointment. His first Presidents Cup was in 2003 in South Africa that ended in a tie. He has played on every team since then, all losses.
Still, he saw enough out of a scrappy team and the shield on their shirts with which they are starting to identify to not lose all hope.
“It still hurts not to win,” he said. “I think the big difference I felt the last couple years is what’s going on in our team room, what’s going on between the captains and the players, the caddies, everybody involved on our team. I think good things are really starting to happen in that environment.
“A cup is coming our way soon.”


Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup

Updated 16 sec ago

Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup

DOHA: Brazil forward Vinícius Júnior praised Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti for his success at the World Cup.
Vinícius Júnior arrived in Qatar without knowing if he was going to get a chance to start for Brazil, but heading into Friday’s quarterfinal match against Croatia, no one questions his spot in the lineup or his importance for the team.
He said Ancelotti was one of the people who gave him guidance ahead of soccer’s biggest tournament.
“I talked with Ancelotti and he gave me a lot of advice to help me become a starter with Brazil. He gave me a lot of confidence,” the 22-year-old Vinícius Júnior said Wednesday. “He was always was tough with me when he needed to be. He is like a father to me.”
Vinícius Júnior was often questioned at Madrid while Zinedine Zidane was the coach, but quickly established himself as a starter with Ancelotti in command. The Brazil forward said the Italian coach is always sending him messages.
“He is good not only with the technical aspects of the game, but also with how he deals with his players,” Vinícius Júnior said. “I have been improving a lot and Ancelotti has helped me with that. He and (Brazil coach) Tite are very similar and they talk to each other a lot.”
Vinícius Júnior, who has a goal and two assists in the three World Cup games, said he also learned from Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, who will be one of his opponents on Friday at Education City Stadium.
Vinícius Júnior said the pass he gave for Lucas Paquetá’s goal in the round of 16 against South Korea, using the outside of his foot, was something he learned from Modric at Madrid.
“He is always teaching me things, on and off the field,” Vinícius Júnior said. “He helps me every day, making sure I’m always improving. He is a reference to me, playing at a high level at 37 years old, that is something rare. I’m happy that I’ll be playing against him, and let the best team win.”
Within Brazil’s national team, Vinícius Júnior said he also gets advice from Neymar.
“He told me how the World Cup is different than anything else,” Vinícius Júnior said. “He told me that, and I always remember it. And when the national anthem played, I realized what it all meant.”
Vinícius Júnior was among the Brazilian players criticized for their dance celebrations at the World Cup. He had already been targeted because of that while with Madrid. But he promised even more dancing if Brazil keeps succeeding in Qatar.
“The goal is the most important moment in soccer, not only for those who score them but for the entire country,” he said. “We still have many celebrations left, and hopefully we can keep scoring and dancing like this until the final.”

Hansi Flick staying as Germany coach despite World Cup flop

Updated 13 min 44 sec ago

Hansi Flick staying as Germany coach despite World Cup flop

  • Flick was under pressure going into Wednesday’s meeting with Neuendorf and federation vice president Hans-Joachim Watzke
  • “We as a team can achieve much more than we showed in Qatar,” Flick said in the statement

BERLIN: The German soccer federation maintained its trust in Hansi Flick as national team coach on Wednesday despite the disappointing World Cup performance.
Federation president Bernd Neuendorf said the body has “full confidence” in Flick to lead the team through the 2024 European Championship, which Germany is scheduled to host and which Neuendorf described as a “great opportunity” for the future of soccer in the country.
Flick was under pressure going into Wednesday’s meeting with Neuendorf and federation vice president Hans-Joachim Watzke following Germany’s early World Cup exit, their third straight disappointing performance at a major tournament.
Flick left the meeting without a word, but was quoted in a statement from the federation.
“We as a team can achieve much more than we showed in Qatar,” Flick said in the statement. “We missed a big opportunity there. We’ll learn our lessons from it.”
Flick said he was optimistic about Euro 2024 and that he has confidence in the path Neuendorf and Watzke agreed to.
“We want all of Germany to rally behind the national team again at the 2024 European Championship at home,” said Flick, who faced criticism for his team selection and tactics against group rivals Japan, Spain and Costa Rica in Qatar.
Mistakes in defense, where Flick was unable to settle on his preferred back four, and an inability to put away chances cost Germany a place in the knockout round.
Germany’s record under Flick was also poor before the tournament. The former Bayern Munich coach took over from Joachim Löw last year after Germany’s second-round exit from the European Championship and has a contract through Euro 2024.
The federation still needs a replacement for Oliver Bierhoff, who ended an 18-year stint Monday when he agreed to resign as managing director of Germany’s national soccer teams and academy.
Bierhoff is the only casualty so far from Germany’s group-stage exit from the World Cup in Qatar, the team’s second straight embarrassing failure in soccer’s biggest tournament. Germany also was eliminated from the same stage at the 2018 World Cup as defending champion.
Hertha Berlin general manager Fredi Bobic is a reported candidate to take over from Bierhoff, though he said Wednesday he was “very comfortable at Hertha.” Bobic, who has a contract through 2024 with the Berlin club, did not rule himself out, however.
Flick appeared to criticize the federation for Bierhoff’s exit on Tuesday, when he said both he and his coaching staff “are having a hard time imagining how the gap left by Oliver’s departure can be closed.”
The German soccer league was to meet separately later Wednesday when the future of chief executive Donata Hopfen was to be discussed.
Confirmation of Hopfen’s departure after less than a year in charge was expected amid simmering issues of discontent among Bundesliga clubs and teams from the second division.
Hopfen took over from Christian Seifert in January as the first female chief executive of Germany’s top two soccer divisions but has struggled to impose her vision or resolve long-standing questions on issues such as the league’s 50+1 rule limiting the role of outside investors, marketing at home and abroad, and the sale of media rights.
Hopfen’s contract runs through 2024. Asked in October how much support she was getting from league members, she told Kicker magazine, “there’s always room for more.”


British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban

Updated 07 December 2022

British tennis chiefs slam ATP over $1m fine for Russia player ban

  • The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban
  • The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year's edition of tennis' oldest Slam

LONDON: British tennis chiefs said Wednesday they were “disappointed” at being fined $1 million by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for banning Russian and Belarusian players from its events.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
The LTA stages five events — Queen’s Club in London, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley — in the calendar of the ATP, which runs the men’s professional tennis tour outside of the four Grand Slams.
Russian and Belarusian players were barred from all five tournaments.
The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year’s edition of tennis’ oldest Slam.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in protest at a ban labelled “crazy” by Novak Djokovic.
The Women’s Tennis Association had also previously issued a fine of $1 million to British tennis authorities, split between $750,000 to the LTA and $250,000 to the All England Club.
It is also understood the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the ATP Tour if it repeats the ban.
The LTA, responding Wednesday to the latest sanction, accused the ATP of a “lack of empathy” over the situation in Ukraine, saying in a statement: “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome.
“The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government’s response to that invasion.
“The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules — with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced.”
The statement said the fines would have a financial impact on the LTA’s ability to “develop and host” tennis in Britain.
It added: “We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”
Michelle Donelan, the British government’s Culture Secretary, also urged the ATP and WTA to reconsider their punishments.
“We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimize this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries,” she said.
“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result.
“This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”
Speaking after an executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, IOC president Thomas Bach also took aim at the British government for politicizing participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Despite ice hockey players from the two countries playing in the NHL, Bach said, “on the other hand we had Wimbledon, the British Government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players.”
“Governments should not decide on political grounds who is participating in which sports events.
“The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference.”
Bach accused the British government, and others, of going against the Olympic Charter — guarantor of the IOC’s political neutrality.
“To take a decision, a political decision, on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and with these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sports,” he said.


Bangladesh edge past India to clinch ODI series 2-0

Updated 07 December 2022

Bangladesh edge past India to clinch ODI series 2-0

  • Mehidy Hasan Miraz scores maiden century, takes two wickets
  • Bangladesh beat India by 5 runs to take unassailable lead in ODI series

DHAKA: Mehidy Hasan Miraz hit his maiden one-day international century and took two key wickets as Bangladesh prevailed in a five-run win over India that clinched the series on Wednesday.

The all-rounder made an unbeaten 100 and put on 148 runs for the seventh wicket alongside Mahmudullah Riyad to pull Bangladesh out from a precarious 69-6 and post 271-7 in Dhaka.

India skipper Rohit Sharma batted at number nine with an injured thumb and hit an unbeaten 51 off 28 balls to give Bangladesh a scare as India ended on 266-9 in 50 overs.

Bangladesh, who took an unassailable 2-0 lead with the final match on Saturday, won their second successive series against India after they got past them in their previous meeting at home in 2015.

Rohit, who hit five sixes in his blitz and needed a six to win on the final ball when Mustafizur Rahman held his nerve, had gone for scans after he took a hit while attempting a catch at slip in Bangladesh's innings.

Mehidy, who opened the bowling with his off spin, returned figures of 2-46 as he struck with the wickets of KL Rahul, out lbw for 14, and Shreyas Iyer, who top-scored with 82.

Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain stood out with three wickets including Virat Kohli bowled for five and later cut short the left-handed Axar Patel's knock on 56.

But Mehidy and former captain Mahmudullah set up victory with the highest seventh-wicket stand against India by any team in 50-over matches as thwarted an inspired bowling attack.

India's Mohammed Siraj led the attack after he removed the openers and fellow quick Umran Malik, who also took two, soon joined forces to push Bangladesh onto the backfoot.

Mystery spinner Washington Sundar struck three times in seven deliveries including the key wickets of Shakib Al Hasan (eight) and Mushfiqur Rahim (12).

Mehidy, who starred in his team's opening win by one wicket, hit back and reached his third ODI fifty and soon after Mahmudullah got his 27th half-century. The duo then shifted gears with regular boundaries.

Umran, a tearaway quick, finally got Mahmudullah caught behind but Mehidy kept up the charge to reach his hundred on the final ball of the innings in an unbeaten stand of 54 with Nasum Ahmed, who made 18.


Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Updated 07 December 2022

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

  • Judy Murray, Barbara Schett-Eagle and Mats Wilander hold tennis try-outs for women on sidelines of Diriyah Tennis Cup
  • Judy Murray: ‘To be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on around it, is very, very important’

Female students from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) Riyadh participated in tennis coaching sessions with leading international coaches and former players as part of the Diriyah Tennis Cup program.

The students were coached by Judy Murray, mother of leading players Jamie and Andy Murray, former World Number 1 Mats Wilander from Sweden and Austrian Barbara Schett-Eagle.

Some of the women students held a racquet in their hands for the first time and were introduced to the sport by the tennis legends.

“At the sessions we had a real mix of complete beginners who want to learn the game, some people who have been playing for years and wish to improve and also teachers and coaches,” said Judy Murray.

“I have worked in tennis for over 30 years and the last twelve years I have really focused on encouraging women and girls. Not just to play tennis but to get involved in delivering tennis. We don’t have enough female coaches in tennis worldwide, so actually to be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on in the community around it, is very, very important.”

“As a — hopefully — role model and female coach I like to go out and share all the content I have created over many years. I am so passionate about getting more women and girls involved, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to come to Riyadh to do that.”

Former leading player Mats Wilander said: “People are very much into sport here. To play tennis with the female students was wonderful. Judy Murray has a wonderful program. It’s important, to bring tennis to the women of Saudi Arabia, women in general and people in general. Everybody should have a chance to experience and try out the sport.”

Former Austrian player Barbara Schett-Eagle added: “I had an unbelievable day playing tennis with the female students, some playing for the first time. I love tennis. It’s my love and my passion. At the end, they were all able to hit a tennis ball. Some never held a racket before. It was great, there were lots of smiles.”

The President of the Saudi Tennis Federation Arij Almutabagani said that she sees a bright future for tennis in the kingdom.

“There is a strong possibility of finding some young talent. We are really starting at the grassroots, at the beginning, but we have to start somewhere. I think Judy Murray is a great inspiration and I think this program with her is a good start and I hope we can work with her in the future,” said Almutabagani.

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