Major breakthrough: Woodland claims US Open

Gary Woodland of the US celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 2019 US Open on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Major breakthrough: Woodland claims US Open

PEBBLE BEACH: Gary Woodland won the 119th US Open on Sunday, capturing his first major title with a 13-under par total to deny two-time defending champion Brook Koepka’s bid for history at Pebble Beach.

Woodland punctuated the victory with a birdie bomb at 18, a final flourish in a display of back-nine fortitude that saw him convert a 54-hole lead for the first time in eight career attempts.

“Once that went in, it all kind of came out of me, it was special to finish it off here at Pebble Beach,” said Woodland, who threw his arms in the air then pumped his fist.

He knew his 13-under total was one better than the 12-under posted by Tiger Woods in his US Open victory at Pebble in 2000.

But 19 years ago, Woods was the only player under par, marching to victory by a massive 15 strokes while Woodland topped a leaderboard that featured 31 players under par.

Most dangerous was Koepka, trying to become just the second player — and the first in more than a century — to win the US Open three straight times.

He started the day four strokes off Woodland’s lead and immediately applied pressure with four birdies in his first five holes.

But his 3-under 68 left him three strokes shy on 10-under 274.

England’s Justin Rose, who started the day one shot behind Woodland, struggled to a 3-over 74 to finish tied for third on 7-under with Americans Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie and Spain’s Jon Rahm. Woodland, 35, took a two-shot lead with a bold birdie at the par-5 14th, where he powered his second shot to the short rough behind the green and chipped to three feet.

“The idea was to play to win,” Woodland said. “That birdie kind of separated me a little bit.”

He was in trouble at the par-3 17th, where his tee shot found the front right of the putting surface —  on the wrong side of a ridge in the hourglass green.

Woodland opted to pitch up and the shot tracked straight toward the hole, settling two feet away.

“I was just trying to get it over that hump,” Woodland said. “Fortunately I had the same shot earlier in the week, so I already executed it once. It came off beautifully, and I thought it had a chance to go in there — it gave me a little cushion on the last.”

Woodland, who admitted he once had trouble handling the rush of adrenaline in pressure situations, displayed impressive poise on a day when plenty of players were pressing on a receptive Pebble Course.

Koepka’s charge slowed with a bogey at the eighth, and after two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, Woodland turned with a two-shot lead over Koepka and Rose.

Koepka pulled within one with a birdie at the 11th, giving the shot back at 12 when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.

Woodland also bogeyed the par-3 12th, but he salvaged a par after a poor tee shot at 13 to stay in front.

Trailing by two on the tee of the par-5 18th, Koepka found the fairway and ripped his second shot to the short rough behind the green, but his chip left him nine feet for birdie and he settled for a closing par.

“I played great,” said Koepka, who had taken his tally of major titles to four with his two US Open wins and back-to-back PGA Championship victories. “Nothing I could do.

“Gary played a great four days. Cool way to go out on 18, to make that bomb,” Koepka added. “He deserves it, he’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.”


Kane stunner earns Spurs victory over Juventus

Updated 21 July 2019
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Kane stunner earns Spurs victory over Juventus

  • Juventus struggle to adapt to their new manager’s ‘Sarri-ball’ tactic of playing out from the back with short, quick passes

SINGAPORE: Harry Kane scored a stunning 93rd minute winner from the halfway line as Tottenham Hotspur edged Juventus 3-2 in an entertaining pre-season friendly in Singapore on Sunday.

The England captain latched onto Lucas Moura's short pass and launched a first-time shot high over a scrambling substitute Wojciech Szczesny in the Juventus goal as Spurs rallied past new manager Maurizio Sarri's Italian champions in front of a delighted National Stadium crowd.

“It’s probably one of the best goals of my career. I noticed the keeper was often off of his line and thought if I get a chance to shoot I will, and it just went in,” Kane said in a post-match interview.

A youthful Spurs dominated the first half as Juventus struggled to adapt to their new manager’s “Sarri-ball” tactic of playing out from the back with short, quick passes. Instead of moving the ball forward, Juventus often found themselves defending desperately after being caught in possession as Spurs pressed high up the pitch with the Premier League side going on to take a deserved lead on the half-hour mark.

Son Heung-min started the move by holding up play and feeding Troy Parrott for a clear run at Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal, with the 17-year-old forward's low strike parried by the keeper straight into the path of an unmarked Erik Lamela for a routine tap-in.

Juventus had more success after the break when they increased their tempo and went more direct, and halftime substitute Gonzalo Higuain levelled the score in the 56th minute with a drilled strike after exchanging passes with Federico Bernardeschi.

Buoyed by the equalizer, Juventus were soon ahead when Ronaldo arrived late to drive home Mattia De Sciglio's cutback four minutes later, leaving to rapturous applause by an adoring crowd when he was substituted immediately after scoring.

Spurs were level five minutes later, however, when Champions League semifinal hero Lucas fired home record-signing Tanguy Ndombele's low cross, the French midfielder finding the Brazilian with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.

Kane and Higuain both squandered good chances to score winning goals in the final 10 minutes before the England striker prevented the contest going to a penalty shootout with the most brilliant of strikes.

Meantime, Tottenham forward  Moura insists he does not  hold a grudge against boss Mauricio Pochettino despite being dropped for the Champions League final.

“I need to respect the decision of the coach and respect my teammates, so no problem with this,” said Lucas who was left on the bench for the final in spite of scoring a dramatic hat rick in Spurs' stunning semifinal comeback at Ajax.

Pochettino preferred to use  Kane in attack against Liverpool in Madrid despite a lengthy absence following injury.

Brazil international Lucas eventually came on in the 66th minute, but was unable to prevent Tottenham slipping to a 2-0 defeat.

“Of course it was difficult because every player wants to play. But it was even more to lose the game,” Lucas was quoted as saying by several British media outlets.

“For sure he (Pochettino) has a good reason for this (decision) and I am sure that it was difficult for him as well to choose a player. He needs to choose only 11.”

“I respect, I am a professional. No problem for this. Now I look forward to the next season.”