Tiger Woods opens with 69 at Riviera, trails Homa, Mitchell by 5

Tiger Woods plays his shot onto the 18th hole green during the first round of The Genesis Invitational golf tournament on Thursday. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 17 February 2023

Tiger Woods opens with 69 at Riviera, trails Homa, Mitchell by 5

  • Woods put on a show in his first competition in seven months, closing with three straight birdies and one big smile 

LOS ANGELES: The scene was similar to the last time Tiger Woods played against the world’s best. Fans packed onto every balcony on every level of the Riviera clubhouse Thursday, all of them straining for a rare sight of golf’s biggest star.

Woods had them cheering even louder at the end.

He put on a show in his first competition in seven months, closing with three straight birdies and one big smile for a 2-under 69 in the Genesis Invitational, leaving him five shots behind Max Homa and Keith Mitchell.

Woods went bunker-to-fairway-to-bunker on the 10th hole and had to make an 8-footer to save bogey. He was wild off the tee for another bogey on the 12th, leaving him over par on a mild, breezy afternoon.

And then he looked like the Woods of old at the end — a tee shot to 5 feet on the par-3 16th, another birdie from 25 feet on the par-5 17th and then a big drive — a few yards longer than Rory McIlroy — on the 18th that set up 9-iron to 7 feet.

“I was able to fight back and get it going,” Woods said. “It was a nice finish.”

His legs held up fine, though still sore. The final task was making it up those 52 steps toward the clubhouse to sign his card. The next step is a quick turnaround. Woods finished about 5 p.m. local time, and faced a 7:24 a.m. start to the second round.

Homa played in the morning and also finished with three straight birdies for a 64. Mitchell played in the afternoon and birdied the last two holes to join him.

Jon Rahm opened with a 65 as he bids to return to No. 1 in the world. Matt Kuchar opened with a 30 on the front nine and settled for a 66, along with two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and Harris English.

Hardly anyone was watching them. That was to be expected with Woods playing. He has commanded all the attention for the last 25 years, and now Tiger sightings are rare because of legs that have been battered by knee surgeries (left) and a car crash (right).

There also was that matter of rust, which went beyond his golf. He hasn’t heard this kind of noise since last summer at St. Andrews.

“I haven’t played in a tournament in long time,” Woods said. “I didn’t look up as much. I was trying to calm myself down all day, figure out what the hell I’m doing out here. ... I probably should have appreciated the fans more than I did, but there was so much going on in my head.”

The group certainly helped. For the third time in his last four appearances at Riviera, Woods played alongside Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, two of his closest friends in golf. They all birdied the 18th, McIlroy for a 67, Thomas for a 68.

It was a treat for the thousands that followed them along.

The space behind the first tee at Riviera was so crammed that Seamus Power had to squeeze his way through fans to get to the putting green. Fans began chanting Woods’ name when he arrived. The applause when he was announced wasn’t quite as loud, mainly because so many people were holding phones high above their heads to get a picture.

And it stayed that way throughout the afternoon. There was a large rush of fans going down the eighth fairway as Woods was approaching the seventh green. No, this wasn’t the seventh inning of a Dodgers game in a bid to beat traffic. They were moving ahead trying to find a spot to see.

Woods opened with a good pitch to 4 feet for birdie on the par-5 first, the easiest hole at Riviera, and he followed with two more pars before missing the green and then a par putt from 10 feet on the long par-3 fourth.

As for his legs, there was a noticeable limp as he descended a steep cart path from the first tee.

It looked as though his round might fall apart on the 10th — a drive into the bunker some 50 yards short of the green, blasting out weakly short of the green, and then a pitch that ran past the flag and trickled into the back bunker.

He did well to make bogey, and that set up the big surge at the end.

Homa won at Riviera two years ago and called it the coolest thing he had ever done in golf, and for good reason. He grew up about 30 miles away and used to attend this tournament as a fan. He also won when his beloved Dodgers and Lakers were world champions. Oh, and Woods is the tournament host and presented him the trophy.

Victories are not routine for Homa, but he is getting used to them. He already has won twice this season, most recently three weeks ago down the coast at Torrey Pines.

He began his round on the 10th, regarded as the best short par 4 in the US, and went long off the green, hit a flop shot into the back bunker and then holed out for birdie.

The finish was even better, a prelude to what Woods delivered at the end of the day.

Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win

Updated 22 May 2024

Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win

  • The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Djokovic as a cake with candles was brought out onto the court

GENEVA: Novak Djokovic celebrated his 37th birthday on Wednesday with a much-needed win as he gears up for his French Open title defense, progressing to the Geneva quarter-finals.
The world number one downed Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 in the second round at the Parc des Eaux-Vives grounds.
Djokovic took a wild card to play in Geneva in a bid to rescue an alarming dip in form ahead of next week’s French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year.
The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Djokovic as a cake with candles was brought out onto the court following his win.
He lifted the cake and showed it off to the crowd, having a nibble before offering some to the ball boys and girls.

Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener

Updated 22 May 2024

Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener

  • Match was supposed to be launchpad for England’s defense next month of T20 World Cup title
  • Both teams will now meet each other on Saturday at Edgbaston in second of four-match series 

Leeds, United Kingdom: Persistent rain saw the first Twenty20 international between England and Pakistan at Headingley on Wednesday abandoned without a ball being bowled.

The match was meant to be the launchpad for reigning champions England’s defense next month of their T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean and the United States.

But a heavy and lengthy downpour in Leeds led the umpires to call the game off approximately an hour before the scheduled 17:30 GMT start.

The four-match series against Pakistan, the team England beat to win the 2022 T20 World Cup final in Melbourne, will now continue at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground on Saturday before games next week in Cardiff and at the Oval.

England were also the defending champions heading into last year’s 50-over World Cup in India but Jos Buttler’s men suffered a tame exit, losing six of their nine matches.

The Pakistan T20 series could see the return to international duty of England fast bowler Jofra Archer. Injuries have blighted the quick’s career, with elbow and back problems sidelining the 29-year-old from top-level cricket for 14 months.

2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas

Updated 22 May 2024

2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas

  • Fans throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will welcome LIV Golf’s star-studded teams for the season finale
  • LIV Golf CEO: ‘Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition’

LONDON, NEW YORK, WEST PALM BEACH: LIV Golf announced on Wednesday the details for the league’s 2024 Team Championship, scheduled to take place Sep. 20-22, 2024, at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas.
Fans throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will welcome LIV Golf’s star-studded teams for the season finale, with the excitement of head-to-head competition featuring both match play and stroke play that will determine the 2024 LIV Golf League Team Champions.
“Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition,” LIV Golf Commissioner and CEO Greg Norman said in a media statement.
“Texas is legendary for producing and hosting great golfers who set a high bar while competing for championships. Our LIV Golf Team Championship at Maridoe Golf Club will be a great experience for our players and all the fans in attendance,” added Norman.
“This year’s Team Championship at Maridoe Golf Club holds special significance for me as we make our Dallas debut and our team strives to defend our title in front of a home crowd,” said Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC captain.
“I’m excited to play this course and compete in front of Texas fans for our closing event and can’t wait to bring LIV Golf’s electrifying energy and fierce competition to Dallas,” DeChambeau added.
Meanwhile, Maridoe Golf Club founder Albert Huddleston, said: “Maridoe has been honored to previously host the Southern Amateur, Trans-Mississippi Amateur, East West Cup Matches, USGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship as well as two 2020 COVID tournaments won by Scottie Scheffler and Brandon Wu.”
Maridoe is designed to be an enjoyable but demanding member’s club, according to Huddleston, while always ready to provide a great test for elite golfers to entertain golf enthusiasts.
Maridoe Golf Club, located just 20 miles from downtown Dallas, was ranked by Golf Digest among the top three new private courses in 2018. Built on the site of the old Columbian Club and designed by Steve Smyers, the course is considered among the most difficult in the Metroplex, tipping out at 7,817 yards, and will be the host for LIV Golf’s 2024 finale — a three-day, survive-and-advance tournament featuring team match play and stroke play.
For the LIV Golf Team Championship, teams will be seeded 1-13 based on the final regular season team standings following the 13th event, LIV Golf Chicago, taking place Sep. 13-15 at Bolingbrook Golf Club. Adjustments to the Team Championship format have been implemented to enhance the competition across the three days at Maridoe.
In addition to hosting world-class competition, the LIV Golf Team Championship will feature live music entertainment and family-friendly fun for all ages. Fans can secure the ultimate tournament experience with LIV Golf’s renowned hospitality packages, each delivering an array of amenities.
Tickets for the Team Championship are on sale now at LIVGolf.com

UEFA picks Budapest to host 2026 Champions League final, delays 2027 decision on San Siro

Updated 22 May 2024

UEFA picks Budapest to host 2026 Champions League final, delays 2027 decision on San Siro

  • The Puskás Arena and San Siro were the only two candidates for the two finals scheduled to be awarded
  • The next final on June 1 is at Wembley Stadium in London and Bayern Munich’s home will host next year

DUBLIN: UEFA picked Budapest on Wednesday to host the men’s Champions League final in 2026 and delayed giving the 2027 game to Milan amid uncertainty over the future of San Siro.
The Puskás Arena and San Siro were the only two candidates for the two finals scheduled to be awarded. The next final on June 1 is at Wembley Stadium in London and Bayern Munich’s home will host next year.
The iconic San Siro, formally known as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and owned by the city of Milan, has been under long-term threat of demolition. Its shared tenants AC Milan and Inter Milan have looked for new homes they can own.
UEFA put off a decision until a September meeting of its executive committee subject to the Italian soccer federation “submitting information on refurbishment plans” for San Siro.
Earlier Wednesday, uncertainly increased in Milan as ownership of Inter switched from Chinese corporation Suning to United States investors Oaktree because of failure to repay debts.
The 75,000-seat San Siro still could host the European Cup or Champions League final for the fifth time, one year after staging the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The 70,000-seat Puskás Arena opened five years ago and has been a go-to venue for UEFA, hosting a Europa League final last year and replacement games during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is a big fan of soccer and billionaire banker Sándor Csányi is a FIFA vice president representing UEFA.
UEFA’s executive committee also sent the Women’s Champions League final in 2026 to Oslo, Norway.
Istanbul will host the 2026 Europa League final in the downtown stadium of Besiktas and the 2027 game is going to Eintracht Frankfurt’s home. The 2025 Europa final is in Athletic Bilbao’s stadium, which also hosts the Women’s Champions League final next week.
The third-tier Conference League final in 2026 will also go to Germany, in Leipzig, and in 2027 to Istanbul, potentially also at the Besiktas stadium though that could change.
The Turkish soccer federation said it hopes the 2027 final can move to the new stadium being built in the capital Ankara ahead of the country co-hosting the men’s European Championship with Italy in 2032.
Turkiye gets to host European finals in back-to-back years while the Romanian national stadium in Bucharest, which last hosted a Europa League final in 2012, lost in votes to bring that title match back.
The Israeli soccer federation had originally entered the Conference League bidding contest last year proposing Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
In other UEFA executive committee business ahead of the Europa League final, trials of safe standing areas for fans at European club competition games was extended next season to Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal and Scotland.
The UEFA-recognized Football Supporters Europe group has run a “Europe Wants to Stand” campaign and welcomed the new additions to consent for trials over the last two seasons in England, France and Germany. Also on the permitted list are Italy and Spain.
“Standing at matches positively contributes to the atmosphere of games enormously, is a significant element of fan culture across the continent, and helps to lower the pricing for these games generally,” FSE executive director Ronan Evain said in a statement.

‘September or October’: Al-Hilal coach reveals timeline for Neymar’s return to action

Neymar could be back in action in 'September or October' according to Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus. (File/Getty Images)
Updated 22 May 2024

‘September or October’: Al-Hilal coach reveals timeline for Neymar’s return to action

  • No. 10 is at ‘a crucial phase’ in his injury recovery, says the Roshn Saudi League champions’ manager Jorge Jesus
  • Al-Hilal teammate Kalidou Koulibaly is eagerly awaiting the return of Neymar: ‘I call him the magician because he has so much magic in his feet’

RIYADH: Neymar is working to make his comeback from injury in the first few months of next season, Al-Hilal manager Jorge Jesus has revealed.
The Brazilian superstar playmaker, a record signing for Al-Hilal last summer, suffered a season-ending cruciate ligament injury while on international duty in October.
Neymar, however, was a big part of Al-Hilal’s recent Roshn Saudi League title celebrations in Riyadh and declared himself as “feeling good” and “impatient to be back on the pitch.”
With the No. 10’s rehabilitation in full swing, Jesus is eagerly anticipating having the world-class attacker back in his plans for the upcoming campaign.
“He’s currently in a crucial phase of treatment, and we’re hopeful he might be ready to rejoin the team and start practicing by September or October,” Jesus said. “He’s a star player, he possesses exceptional talent. Unfortunately, I can’t provide a definitive answer at this point. Injuries like Neymar’s typically require 10 to 12 months for recovery.”
As someone who knows exactly what it is like to both play with and against Neymar, his Al-Hilal teammate Kalidou Koulibaly will be delighted to have the 32-year-old back in action. The Senegalese defender, a key part of the club’s world record-winning run earlier in the campaign, believes the re-addition of Neymar will only make Al-Hilal even better next season — as well as himself.
“It will be really important. Neymar is a really important player for us. I call him the ‘Magia’ — magician — because he has so much magic in his feet,” Koulibaly said. “When he touches the ball, he is incredible. We are waiting for him to be fit and to play with us and to make us happy and to make the supporters happy. Also to play with him — to play with someone of that level — you can only increase your own level and become better. Neymar is really important for us, and I hope that next year he will play all season and that we can win some trophies with him.”
Speaking at the recent title celebrations following Al-Hilal’s 4-1 victory over Al-Hazem, which clinched the Riyadh club’s 19th Saudi Arabian league crown, Neymar said: “I am very happy obviously. Winning titles is always good. The best thing would have been being on the pitch, but I am so happy for my teammates.
“I am fine. I am feeling good. I am impatient to be back on the pitch. The fans are unbelievable. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to give them the happiness they deserve, but you can be sure that next season we are going to have a lot of fun.”
Unbeaten domestically this season, Al-Hilal clinched the Roshn Saudi League title with three matches to spare and have won 29 of their 32 games thus far. Nearest challengers Al-Nassr, who are captained by Cristiano Ronaldo, are 12 points behind. Al-Hilal’s next match is at home to Al-Tai on Thursday in the Roshn Saudi League.
Al-Hilal created top-flight world football history this season by winning 34 matches in succession between September and April across all competitions. The incredible run saw them overtake Welsh club The New Saints’ winning streak of 27 games in season 2016-17. Prior to that, the record stood for 44 years following Dutch giants Ajax’s 26-game winning stretch between 1971 and 1972.