Woods, Koepka ready for classic US Open test

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Brooks Koepka plays a shot from a bunker on the fifth hole during a practice round prior to the 2019 UUS Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 12, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Tiger Woods plays the tenth hole during a practice round of the 2019 US Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Woods, Koepka ready for classic US Open test

  • Koepka has a chance to do what only one golfer has done before him — win a third straight US Open title
  • Jack Nicklaus won the first US Open staged at Pebble Beach in 1972
PEBBLE BEACH, United States: The 119th US Open at Pebble Beach has the makings of a classic as Tiger Woods returns to the scene of a signature triumph to take on a new generation of stars led by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.
Koepka, 29, has a chance to do what only one golfer has done before him — win a third straight US Open title.
It’s been more than 100 years since Willie Anderson accomplished the feat, and Koepka says there’s no better place to chase history than Pebble Beach, where five prior editions have produced enduring major championship memories.
“It’s just such a special place,” Koepka said of the scenic course hugging the Pacific coast. “Just the history behind it. You look at the guys that have won here at Pebble, some of the greatest players that have ever played the game.”
Jack Nicklaus won the first US Open staged at Pebble Beach in 1972. Ten years later it was Tom Watson and in 1992 Tom Kite.
Woods triumphed in 2000 by a crushing 15 strokes — still a major championship record — and Graeme McDowell ended Europe’s 40-year US Open drought when he was the last man standing with a classic US Open total of even par 284 in 2010.
Koepka knows history is against his bid for a treble.
“I know the odds are stacked up probably even more against me now to go three in a row than to back it up,” Koepka said, noting that “It’s hard to win the same event three times in a row.”
The last player to win the same major three years in a row was Peter Thomson at the British Open from 1954-56.
The last player to win a PGA Tour event three straight years was Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic in 2009, ‘10 and ‘11.
Woods won the same tournament at least three straight years six times in five tournaments, so it’s perhaps no wonder he returns to Pebble 19 years after his 2000 triumph in the title mix.
Having cemented his return from the injury wilderness with his 15th major title at the Masters, Woods says he’s “trending in the right direction.”
The same can be said of three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, who struggled to 11 straight finishes outside the top 10 to start the season but has posted three straight top 10s coming into the third major of the season.
Dustin Johnson, who pushed Koepka late before settling for second behind the American at the PGA Championship last month, also features among the contenders, and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy arrives off an imperious seven-stroke victory at the Canadian Open.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who turns 49 on Sunday, reckons Pebble Beach offers one of his last legitimate chances to finally capture the US Open — the only major to elude him, while American Rickie Fowler again seeks to shed his current “best player never to win a major” label.
Koepka reckons the real threat to a historic treble boils down to “about a handful of guys.”
“That’s just how I view it, how I view going into every tournament, every major,” he said.
Of course Pebble Beach, playing at par -71 and 7,075 yards, will have something to say.
“There’s nothing like playing a US Open set up at Pebble Beach,” Woods said. “The golf course is not overly long. It’s not big in that regard, but man, it’s tricky.
“The greens are all slanted, very small targets,” he said, noting that staying below the hole would be crucial on the greens with a tendency toward bumpiness.
As the course dries out, McDowell said he expected to see something different from the benign face Pebble presented during early practice rounds.
“You just know that’s not going to be the way it’s going to be come Friday, come Saturday this week,” McDowell said. “And it looks like they have the golf course right where they want it right now — which is exciting.


Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

Updated 17 June 2019
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Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

  • Conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd 

MANCHESTER, UK: For such an intense rivalry, it is still a lopsided contest when India and Pakistan meet at the Cricket World Cup.

India extended their record to 7-0 against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run victory in a rain-interrupted encounter Sunday that likely will remain the most-watched game of the six-week tournament.

India started ominously with Rohit Sharma scoring 140 from 113 deliveries and skipper Virat Kohli contributing 77 in a total of 336-5, a record for a One-Day International at Old Trafford.

Pakistan were always behind the run-rate required.

Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) put on 104 for the second wicket but when both were dismissed by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav within nine balls, Pakistan’s hopes faded with them.

When Hardik Pandya took wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 27th over, Pakistan were 129-5. And with a result in play because both teams had batted more than 20 overs, there was no chance of sharing points if rain prevented any more play. A delay after the 35th with Pakistan at 166-6 just prolonged the inevitable.

Pakistan were  set a revised target of 302 from 40 overs and the last five overs were a non-event with Pakistan finishing 212-6. India remained unbeaten in four games to start the tournament.

The conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd that filled the 162-year-old venue to its 23,500 capacity. Seats were in excessively high demand, after all, with the International Cricket Council reporting more than 800,000 ticket applications for the game.

There is always extra significance when the nuclear-armed neighboring countries meet at ICC tournaments because India and Pakistan play cricket so infrequently in bilateral series.

This was no different, with a 1 billion-plus TV audience and an almost football-like atmosphere at the ground.

Kohli’s single to get off the mark was met by “Kohli-Kohli-Kohli” chants from the predominantly pro-India crowd.

Sharma set the tone with his second century of the tournament, sharing partnerships of 136 with KL Rahul (57) for the first wicket and 98 with Kohli for the second.

He seemed ready to really unleash when he needlessly paddled a ball from Hasan Ali to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg in the 38th over.

Kohli continued, becoming the third Indian batter to pass 11,000 ODI runs. In doing so in his 222nd innings, he became the fastest to reach the milestone.

Kohli was on 71 and India was 305-4 when rain stopped play for the first time in the 47th over. The India captain was caught behind off Mohammad Amir’s bowling not long after he returned from the 55-minute rain break and, surprisingly, walked off before umpire Marais Erasmus had a chance to signal him out.

There was some speculation Kohli did not edge the ball but it was inconsequential in the end, as India passed Sri Lanka’s 318-7 against England in 2006 to set the highest ODI total in Manchester.

After a batting onslaught at the top, Pakistan pegged back the run-rate slightly as Amir (3-47) dismissed Pandya (26) and then had MS Dhoni (1) and Kohli caught behind — both the ex-captain and captain walking.

Things started going haywire for Pakistan after skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and fielded, going against the advice sent via social media by Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

Overcast and cool overhead conditions that usually would favor swing and seam bowling didn’t greatly assist the Pakistan attack, with India racing to 52-0 in its most productive opening power play of the tournament.

The Pakistan pacemen had trouble with the umpires, with Amir and Wahab each cautioned twice for running on the protected area in the middle of the pitch. One further warning would have resulted in a suspension.

It also didn’t help that opener Imam-ul-Haq got out in rare circumstances to Vijay Shankar’s very first delivery at a World Cup — it coming on the fifth ball of Pakistan’s fifth over after Shankar was asked to finish it off for injured teammate Bhuveshwar Kumar.

Pakistan’s next game is at Lord’s against South Africa, which also has three points and only remote prospects of reaching the semifinals.