Hamilton fastest in rain-hit practice for Japanese GP

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton of Britain during practice in Suzuka Circuit on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Hamilton fastest in rain-hit practice for Japanese GP

SUZUKA, Japan: Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest lap in a rain-hit second practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, when only five drivers set a timed lap.
After a lengthy delay, the Mercedes driver was quickest in the afternoon practice with a lap of 1 minute, 48.719 seconds, .799 seconds ahead of Force India rival Esteban Ocon.
Despite Hamilton’s victory in the wet in Singapore and second-place finish in Sepang, Mercedes has recently struggled to match the pace of rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
“It’s been an interesting day,” Hamilton said. “The car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia. I’m glad that we had the dry session for FP1. In FP2, there was a lot of rain, but it felt really important to go out and assess the track and see how the car was feeling as the car was not good in the wet in Malaysia.”
Hamilton switched to the team’s new aerodynamic package for Friday’s practice and, after finishing second behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel in a dry first practice, he said his car felt competitive again.
“The car feels back to normal, so I’m ready to race,” Hamilton said.
Ocon’s teammate, Sergio Perez, and the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only other drivers to get in a timed lap in the abbreviated afternoon session.
With five races remaining, Hamilton leads Vettel by 34 points in the driver’s championship.
Hamilton has won twice before in Suzuka, in 2014 and 2015, and was runner-up to former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in last year’s race.


Tiger Woods warns rivals he's ready to end Major drought

Updated 18 July 2018
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Tiger Woods warns rivals he's ready to end Major drought

  • Woods is without a Major win since 2008
  • The American is without a victory on tour this season

Tiger Woods has warned his rivals that he ready to end his decade-plus Major drought as he prepares to tee it up at the Open.
The third Major of the year is taking place at Carnoustie with Woods now over six months into his comeback from back surgery. While he has recorded some impressive and unexpected results — he has finished in the top 20 six times this year — he is yet to register a victory, and this summer saw the 10th anniversary of his last Major victory, the 2008 US Open, come and go.
But the Big Beast said that the Open represents his best chance of winning another Major championship, and with some “cleaner golf” this might be the week be breaks his drought.
Speaking at Carnoustie two days before the championship’s first round, Woods said that the Open puts less emphasis on power, a good thing for a golfer entering middle age.
“You don’t have to be long to play at a links course,” said the 42-year-old, whose swing speed is still among the fastest on tour, despite his creeping age and serious back surgeries.
“As far as the long term, certainly I would say yes (it offers the best chance of winning another Major).”
But he knows the clock is ticking and that he will not always be able to keep up with the young bucks.
“The guys who have done well have been wonderful feel players and also wonderful lag putters,” he said, citing Tom Watson, who nearly won the Open at age 59 in 2009, and Greg Norman, who contended at Birkdale the year before at 53.
“It (winning in your 50s) certainly can be done.
“You get to places like Augusta National (site of the Masters) and it’s just a big ballpark and the course outgrows you, unfortunately.
“But links-style golf you can roll the ball, so distance becomes a moot point. Creativity plays such an important role.”
Woods will use a new two-iron this week to plot his way around Carnoustie, which remains rock hard and parched, despite a spot of light rain that fell yesterday morning.
Unless a deluge comes, however, even a two-iron will hardly be needed off the tee, he revealed, as the ball keeps rolling so far.
“I’m not going to hit many long clubs off the tees,” he said.
“There’s just not a lot of opportunities to hit driver, because the ball is going to be rolling 80 yards. It’s just hard to keep the ball in play, even something hitting four- and five-irons.”
The Open will be Woods’ 12th tournament of the year in his comeback from a spinal fusion 15 months ago, and his return has been a work in progress, sometimes two steps forward and one step back.
“Each tournament I keep feeling a little bit better because I’m starting to play some golf again,” he said.
“I’ve put myself up there in contention a couple of times. I just need to lay some cleaner golf, and who knows?”
Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth has revealed that he is back in the groove and thinks his game is in the shape for him to become the first golfer since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back Opens.
The American has not won since his Open success last July, but he believes his game is back in place for the rigors of Carnoustie when battle commences tomorrow, having taken some time out.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple of weeks of not really working and it was nice to kind of start from scratch,” Spieth said.
“I feel like I’m in a position now with every part of my game, I attacked the places that really needed some strong work.
“That combination with an Open Championship, the way it needs to be played, I think, is a really good spot for me to kick back into shape and regain form.”
Fellow young guns such as PGA Champion Justin Thomas, Masters champion Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka, who defended his US Open title last month, will be fancying their chances.
For Koepka the vagaries of links golf will take some getting used to, not least because the heatwave the UK has been experiencing means the fairways are very firm and fast, with the ball is expected to travel long distances.
“It is good to be back, (the course is playing) firm and fast but you have to make that adjustment, it will be interesting,” the US Open champion said.
“The greens are soft so you could land the ball five yards short of the green and go over the back, or land on the front of the green and stop short of the pin.”