Thai sisters fire second 59 to capture LPGA pairs event

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand (R) looks over a birdie attempt with her sister and teammate Moriya Jutanugarn during the final round of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on July 17, 2021 in Midland, Michigan. (Getty Images/AFP)
Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand (R) looks over a birdie attempt with her sister and teammate Moriya Jutanugarn during the final round of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on July 17, 2021 in Midland, Michigan. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 18 July 2021

Thai sisters fire second 59 to capture LPGA pairs event

Thai sisters fire second 59 to capture LPGA pairs event

LOS ANGELES: Thai sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn shot their second 11-under par 59 in best-ball play to capture the LPGA Great Lakes Bay Invitational, taking a three-stroke victory on Saturday over defending champions Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura.
Ariya, 25, and Moriya, 26, finished at 24-under 256 at windy Midland Country Club golf course in Michigan.
In the first round, they shot a 67 in the alternate shot format, then fired a 59 on Thursday in best ball and carded a 71 in alternate shot Friday to enter the final round two shots behind American Clanton and Thailand’s Suwannapura, who closed Saturday with a 64.
Clanton and Suwannapura won the inaugural event in 2019 by a whopping by six strokes. The tournament was canceled last year because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
South Korean Kim A-lim and American Yealimi Noh (64) and Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn and India’s Aditi Ashok (66) tied for third at 261.
Reigning US Women’s Open champ Yuka Saso of the Philippines and Australian Minjee Lee were fifth on 262 after a closing 62.
Nelly and Jessica Korda shot a 67 to finish in a tie for 17th at 13 under. World number one Nelly Korda is making her first start since winning the Meijer Classic and the Women’s PGA in consecutive weeks. The sisters will compete in the Olympics for the Team USA.


'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich

'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich
Updated 5 sec ago

'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich

'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich
BERLIN: Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich has been told to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by Germany's acting interior minister.
This happened after the footballer sparked a lively debate by revealing he had opted out of receiving jabs against the coronavirus.
"Think again and get vaccinated," Horst Seehofer, a senior figure in Angela Merkel's outgoing government, told Bild in a message aimed directly at Kimmich.
"You are a personality with exemplary character. And if you get vaccinated, other people will say, 'then I'll do it too.'"
Kimmich, who captained Germany in a recent World cup qualifier, sparked a fierce debate in Germany at the weekend when he revealed he opted not to get vaccinated, because of "personal concerns".
Medical experts have criticised his stance, accusing Kimmich of neglecting his duty as a role model in football-mad Germany.
"Joshua Kimmich is an expert in football matters, not of vaccination and vaccines," fumed Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany's Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko).
In a video interview for German daily Bild on Wednesday, Seehofer urged Kimmich to rethink his position as "vaccination is the main weapon in the fight against the pandemic".
Germany has seen a sharp rise in numbers of those testing positive for the coronavirus with 23,212 new cases reported Wednesday.
Of Germany's population of 83 million, around 66 percent are fully vaccinated.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority as more than 90 percent of footballers and backroom staff in Germany's top two leagues are vaccinated, according to figures released Tuesday by the German Football League (DFL).
Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann is currently isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
Bayern Munich team-mates Thomas Mueller and Manuel Neuer have made it clear they feel Kimmich should get vaccinated and the midfielder has not ruled out doing so in the future.
"There is a very good chance that I will still get vaccinated," Kimmich said Saturday, "It's simply that I still have concerns."
Bayern president Herbert Hainer has said he would be happy if Kimmich gets vaccinated, but pointed out there is no compulsory vaccination in Germany.

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup
Updated 27 October 2021

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup
  • Fast bowler Rauf anchored Pakistan’s five-wicket win against New Zealand in Sharjah
  • Pakistan romped home in the 18.4 overs after early hiccups

SHARJAH, UAE: Vice captain Shadab Khan and fast bowler Haris Rauf said Pakistan’s two wins in as many matches as “much needed” at the start of the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Fast bowler Rauf anchored Pakistan’s five-wicket win against New Zealand in Sharjah on Tuesday, as the 2009 champions followed Sunday’s impressive victory over arch-rivals India.
Rauf, who took 4-22, said he bowled to a plan.
“I was given a plan and I am happy that I executed that well and got four wickets,” said Rauf whose effort restricted New Zealand to 134-8 in 20 overs.
Pakistan romped home in the 18.4 overs after early hiccups with veteran Shoaib Malik (26) and Asif Ali (26) saw them off during an unbroken 48 run stand in 3.5 overs.
Rauf said he has been learning the trade of taking wickets, having featured in the 2019 Big Bash in Australia.
“It is a learning process for me,” said Rauf who took 20 wickets for Melbourne Stars. “Big Bash and Pakistan Super League were the first platforms from where I have learnt a lot.”
Pakistan, who now have four points in Group 2 of the Super 12 Stages, next play Afghanistan in Dubai on Friday.
Shadab termed the win as “clinical.”
“We needed these two wins for a head start in the Twenty20 World Cup and through some good bowling and fielding we have achieved that,” said Shadab.
Shadab said Malik’s experience was “invaluable.”
“Malik took the game to the final overs and that shows how much experience he has and with him anchoring the innings we were sure that we will cross the target.
“The confidence is very high and we want to take this momentum in our next matches as the first target is to reach the semifinals.”


State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players

State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players
Updated 27 October 2021

State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players

State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players
  • Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is one of many players who have refused to share their vaccination status

MELBOURNE: Unvaccinated players will not get special dispensation for the Australian Open, the top official in the state holding the Grand Slam said Wednesday, potentially ruling out reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic.
A leaked email earlier this week suggested that players who were not inoculated against the coronavirus would be able to take part as long as they completed 14 days’ quarantine.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison then said that unvaccinated players would be permitted to enter the country if they received an exemption, which the host state Victoria would need to apply for on behalf of players.
But Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews quickly ruled that out.
“We are locking people who are unvaccinated out of pubs, cafes, restaurants and the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and all sorts of other events,” he said.
“We’re not going to be applying for an exemption. Therefore, the issue is basically resolved.”
Australia’s federal government controls the country’s border and issues visas.
But during the pandemic state governments have run quarantine facilities and imposed vaccine mandates, making it unclear who will get the final say on the Australian Open rules.
Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is one of many players who have refused to share their vaccination status, casting doubt over whether he will defend his title at Melbourne Park in January.
This year’s Australian Open was hit hard by the pandemic with all players going through two weeks of quarantine, while crowds were restricted and a five-day snap lockdown called mid-event.
A leaked WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) email on Monday had suggested unvaccinated players will be allowed to compete at the 2022 event if they complete hotel quarantine and submit to regular coronavirus testing.
Fully vaccinated players are expected to be able to enter Australia without quarantining or being confined to bio-secure bubbles, the email added.
Tennis Australia said earlier this week it was working with both the Victorian and federal governments on conditions for players, saying it was “optimistic that we can hold the Australian Open as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible.”


Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan

Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan

Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan
  • Young Falcons open 2022 Asian championship campaign on Wednesday with their eyes firmly set on 2024 Paris Games

For Saudi Arabian football, the road to the 2024 Paris Olympics starts on Wednesday. The journey to France will be a long one, but should be successful in the end.

To qualify for France, Saudi Arabia will have to finish in the top three of the 2022 Asian U23 Championships. However, the young Falcons first have to qualify for that continental tournament which will be held next year.

That campaign to reach the Asian championships starts on Wednesday when Saudi Arabia meet Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

Usually, taking on the host nation is no easy task, especially in the opening game, but this time it should not be a huge deal. This is because the Central Asian nation are also hosts of the Asian Championships next year. Their presence is already guaranteed, which means their results will not be counted.

That, in turn, means there are only two games of note in Group D. If Saudi Arabia finish above Kuwait, whom they face on Saturday, and then Bangladesh, a team they take on three days later, then the deal is sealed.

Even if the top spot is not seized, then all is not lost. There is still a place in Uzbekistan for four of the best 11 teams that finish in second.

In truth, it should not be a problem to get there. Saudi Arabia has a promising U23 team, as was seen last summer at the Olympics. In fact, it is more than promising, and the team is one of the best in Asia.

That was apparent in Japan. Tokyo 2020 may have ended with no points from three matches from a team that promised much, but there was plenty to be happy about.

Saudi Arabia were in the toughest of groups, which included Brazil, Ivory Coast and Germany, and lost all three games. However, that was not the full story. In all of the clashes, the Saudis were in with a chance of points until late in the game. What cost the team was a lack of ruthlessness in attack and, at times, inconsistent defending.

On the face of it, to finish pointless was a disappointment, but the team’s performance in the face of quality opposition was more than encouraging.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri kept his position as head coach and now has the job of taking the team to the AFC U23 Championships next June in Uzbekistan.

There is plenty of talent in the team, though Al-Shehri has had to battle with the clubs to get the players he wants, such as Firas Al-Buraikan and Abdullah Al-Hamdan. It is understandable that the head coach would like more time with the talented forward. He also understands that his club counterparts feel the same way.

“The clubs in the Saudi Professional League naturally want to keep their players as long as possible,” Al-Shehri said. “It is not easy for anyone as the games are not part of FIFA’s official matchdays. We would have liked to have spent more time with the players we had with us last week, but we have only two days to prepare. We will do our best, however.”

He added: “We know what we have to do and we will not be underestimating any of the teams that we have to face here. Every team is difficult to beat and every game is difficult. If we are not at our best then we will pay the price.”

While Saudi Arabia should be confident of qualifying for the U23 Championship, there have been, so far, mixed results from Arab teams.

In Group A Qatar defeated Yemen 3-0, while Syria thrashed Sri Lanka 5-0. In Group C, Iraq beat Maldives to go top, while Jordan defeated Turkmenistan 1-0. The setbacks so far have come with Lebanon losing 1-0 to Tajikistan, UAE suffering a 2-1 loss against Kyrgyzstan and Oman losing 2-1 to India.

Saudi Arabia should be able to add some wins to the Arab column, however. The young Falcons have what it takes to go all the way to Uzbekistan next year and then France two years later.

 “We are looking to get off to a winning start,” said the Saudi coach. “But we know that there is much work to be done.”


Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi
Updated 27 October 2021

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi
  • UFC returns to Abu Dhabi with a title double-header in front of an expected capacity crowd at Etihad Arena on Yas Island 
  • Blachowicz is coming off an upset victory over the formerly undefeated Israel Adesanya, while Teixeira is after a huge win over Thiago Santos having been hurt early on

LOS ANGELES: UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and this time it’s with a double-header of title fights in front of a capacity crowd at Etihad Arena for the very first time.

The newly launched venue hosted UFC 257 in January, with Dustin Poirier win over Conor McGregor in the second part of their trilogy of fights topping the bill.

Only 2,000 people were in the audience that night. On Saturday night, 18,000 people are expected to see Jan Blachowicz of Poland defend his Light Heavyweight title defense against Glover Texiera of Brazil at UFC 267.

Blachowicz is coming off an upset victory over the formerly undefeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 in March, and the big-punching Pole had been in sensational form before that with knockouts in three of his previous four fights.

Adesanya, however, presented a unique striking challenge for the 38-year-old Blachowicz, who seemed hesitant to throw and was biting on Adesanya's faints. Although his striking prowess was not on full display that night, he exhibited an ability to adapt and find a path to victory.

Meanwhile, Teixeira is coming off a huge win over Thiago Santos having been hurt early on, which is becoming something of a habit for the Brazilian. Although the 41-year-old Texiera often gets hurt early and comes on later, Blachowiz is not someone you want to hit you clean. Texiera's grappling is amongst the best in the division, with his vicious ground and pound opening his opponents up for submissions.

Prior to that, the first of the night’s two title bouts pits Cory Sandhagen of the US against Petr Yan of Russia for the interim Bantamweight title, a fight that was put together at short notice after Aljamain Sterling was not medically cleared due to a neck injury sustained in his fight against the latter.

Both Yan and Sandhagen will be looking to make up for controversial losses in their last fights.

Yan was picking Sterling apart and looked to be breezing to a dominant decision victory until an illegal knee saw him disqualified in round four. He has looked phenomenal in his last three fights against Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo and Sterling, with none having an answer for his Muay Thai style.

While Yan has looked impressive, the argument can be made that Sandhagen has looked even better. Excluding a slip-up against Sterling  at UFC 250 last year, and a contentious split decision against TJ Dillashaw in July, Sandhagen has looked like a world-beater.

His spin kick in the TKO win over Marlon Moraes in Abu Dhabi last October was spectacular, only to be topped months later by his flying knee against Frankie Edgar.

The 29-year-old American lives and dies by his unorthodox and loose style of fighting. In his last fight against Dillashaw, Sandhagen showed susceptibility to opening his back up to his opponents when throwing his spinning attacks. Dillashaw was able to exploit this and control clinch positions for minutes on end.

Yan displayed a similar ability to gain control of the back against Sterling when he threw spinning strikes. Both fighters will face challenges they have not faced before, and the winner would, in the eyes of many, be the best Bantamweight in the world. Sandhagen is the one with most to lose, as a defeat against Yan would put him at 0-3 against the three highest-ranked Bantamweight fighters, while Yan would likely be placed into another number 1 contender fight due to the way he lost the belt.

In the biggest of the non-title fights, the Kiwi Dan Hooker, after his decision victory of the German Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 in September, is stepping in on one month's notice to face Islam Makhachev - the most avoided fighter in the promotion and the heir to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In his last bout, Hooker exhibited wrestling and control on the ground, skills that will be tested to the limit against Makhachev in their Lightweight matchup. The 31-year-old’s knees are another tool that will be employed to prevent the eventual takedown.

Since his loss in his UFC debut, Makhachev has looked almost unbeatable, with his wrestling exuding strength, speed, and tenacity.

His grappling was put to test in his first main event against Thiago Moises, who presented a submission threat Makhachev hadn't faced up until that point. He passed the test with flying colors, dominating the Brazilians from start to finish to win with a fourth round submission.

This bout has major title implications for the winner, while the loser will likely have to take a high-risk, low-reward fight with Rafael Fiziev or Gregor Gillespie.

Alexander Volkov takes on Marcin Tybura in Heavyweight bout that was added late to the main card, and before that is one of the most anticipated fights of the night which sees the return of Khamzat Chimaev against the "Leech" Li Jingliang in the Welterweight division.

The Russian-born Swede is coming off a year’s layoff due to lingering effects of COVID-19 that ruled him out of multiple bouts with Leon Edwards.

Chimaev burst onto the scene last year, winning two fights within 10 days at Fight Island 1 in Abu Dhabi. In those bouts, the 27-year-old displayed powerful wrestling and smooth grappling that rendered his opponents powerless to his never-ending barrage of ground strikes and submission attempts.

In his most recent appearance in the Octagon, he flattened Gerald Meerschaert in only 10 seconds with a single right hand. Although Chimaev seemed open to fighting at both Welterweight and middleweight, declining main event bouts with Luke Rockhold show he is more interested in fighting at welterweight.

Up against him will be Jingliang, who knocked Santiago Ponzinibbio out in the first round last January. The Leech utilizes a unique striking style, employing an abundance of hooks from unorthodox angles, although  the 33-year-old from China showed a susceptibility to be controlled in his bout against Neil Magny in 2020.

This fight will come down to who controls where it takes place, with Chimaev being more comfortable on the ground while Jingliang preferring a striking affair. The winner of the bout is sure to see a steep challenge in their next fight, with fighters like Wonderboy, Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal, without signed fights, waiting for their chance.

The main card opens with an intriguing matchup between ranked Light Heavyweights Magomed Ankalaev of Russia and Volkan Oezdemir of Switzerland.

The 22 -year-old Oezdemir’s defeat to Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi has aged well, with  Czech fighter solidifying himself as the next man in line for a title shot.

Short bouts have become synonymous with Oezdemir fights, with the Swiss fighter's kill or be killed style leading to swift finishes. But in Ankaleav, he will up against man many believe to be the future champion of the division. Ankaleav has been perfect in his career outside of a last-second submission defeat to Paul Craig back in 2018.

Ankaleav possesses masterful striking and employs a variety of techniques. While his power and striking are impressive, Ankalaev has also displayed sound wrestling in his last victory against Nikita Krylov in February.

This bout has significant implications for the trajectory of both fighters' careers, as a win for Ankalaev puts him in the title picture, while a win for Oezdemir keeps him relevant at the peak of the division. A loss for either fighter increases their distance to the title substantially in the shark-infested waters of the light heavyweight division.