Scheffler claims Masters green jacket to go with No. 1 ranking

Scheffler claims Masters green jacket to go with No. 1 ranking
Scottie Scheffler celebrates after being awarded the green jacket by 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan during the green jacket ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 April 2022

Scheffler claims Masters green jacket to go with No. 1 ranking

Scheffler claims Masters green jacket to go with No. 1 ranking
  • 'I never made it this far. It was just a dream of being here and competing'
  • Scheffler joined Ian Woosnam in 1991 as the only players to win a major — the Masters in both cases — in their debut at No. 1 in the world

AUGUSTA, US: That new No. 1 ranking for Scottie Scheffler looks even better in a Masters green jacket.

Two months after Scheffler finally broke through for his first PGA Tour victory, he capped off a most incredible 56-day stretch by making his fourth win the biggest of them all, the Masters by three shots over Rory McIlroy for his first major.

Even as a junior, he was wearing long pants in stifling Texas heat because he wanted to look the part of a tour pro he always wanted to be. Winning the Masters was beyond his hopes.

“I never made it this far. It was just a dream of being here and competing,” Scheffler said in Butler Cabin, moments before Hideki Matsuyama helped him into the green jacket. “I can't put into words what it means that I'll be able to come back here for a lifetime."

The only stumble came at the end when Scheffler needed four putts from 40 feet before he could claim his first major, and that only mattered in the record book.

He closed with a 1-under 71 for a three-shot victory over McIlroy, who holed out from the bunker on the final hole for a record-tying final round of 64. McIlroy could only hope that Sunday pressure at Augusta National might get to Scheffler.

No chance. Not on Sunday. Not the last four days. Not the last two months.

“You get on those hot streaks, and you just got to ride them out because they, unfortunately, don’t last forever,” Justin Thomas said. “But he is doing it in the biggest tournaments. ... It’s really, really impressive to see someone that young handle a moment this big so easily.”

The Sunday theater, thrilling and tragic, belonged to everyone else. Scheffler overcame a nervy moment early in the round by chipping in for birdie. He delivered key putts to keep Cameron Smith at bay and never looked rattled, even as he was swatting at short putts at the end.

McIlroy was the runner-up. It was Smith who felt as though he let one get away. The Aussie was still in the game, three shots out of the lead, when he dumped his 9-iron in Rae's Creek on the par-3 12th hole for triple bogey and ended his hopes.

“Just a really bad swing at the wrong time,” Smith said.

Smith closed with a 73 and tied for third with Shane Lowry, who birdied the 18th for a 69.

Scheffler joined Ian Woosnam in 1991 as the only players to win a major — the Masters in both cases — in their debut at No. 1 in the world.

Everyone should have seen this coming. He won the Phoenix Open in a playoff on Super Bowl Sunday. He followed that with a comeback win at Bay Hill to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He rose to No. 1 in the world by winning the Match Play two weeks ago in Texas. And now this.

Scheffler, who finished at 10-under 278, won $2.7 million from the $15 million prize fund. That brings his total to $8,872,200 over his last six starts.

Scheffler's big moment came early in the round, and it was no less significant.

Starting the final round with a three-shot lead, he watched Smith open with two straight birdies to the cut the deficit to one, and then Scheffler's approach from the pine needles left of the third fairway came up short and rolled back down the slope.

His pitch was racing toward the hole when it banged into the pin and dropped for an unlikely birdie, and a two-shot swing when Smith from the same position made bogey.

No one got closer than three the rest of the way. Only the contenders changed.

The 12th hole remains the most riveting par 3 in golf, the scene of more collapses than comebacks. Smith became the latest victim.

Coming off birdie at No. 11, his shot was still in the air when he let his club slip through his hands and he slowly closed his eyes twice as it splashed into Rae's Creek. The next shot wasn't much better, but at least dry, and Smith's hopes ended there with a triple bogey.

He was three behind standing on the 12th tee. Three holes later, he was eight back.

From there, any hope resided with McIlroy. All he needed to complete the career Grand Slam was to match the best final round in Masters history and get some help from Scheffler. He only got one of those and had to settle for his first silver medal from Augusta.

Not that he didn't create some Sunday magic. McIlroy went bunker-to-bunker on the 18th hole, leaving himself right of the green and aiming some 25 feet right of the flag. It rode the slope all the way into the hole, setting off one of the loudest roars of the week.

Morikawa followed him in from the same bunker, different angle, and McIlroy could only laugh.

“This tournament never ceases to amaze,” McIlroy said. "That’s as happy as I’ve ever been on a golf course right there. Just having a chance — and then with Collin, we both played so well all day — and for both of us to finish like this, I was just so happy for him, too.

“I've never heard roars like on the 18th green.”

The best ones were saved for Scheffler.

Scheffler still had five holes in front of him, with no evidence he was going to be anything but the smooth, smart operator who seized control on Friday in the toughest conditions to build a five-shot lead and never lost it.


Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic
Updated 11 August 2022

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic

Serena says goodbye to Canada after defeat by Bencic
  • Williams didn’t specify an actual retirement date but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before traveling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29

TORONTO: Serena Williams, who said this week she will soon call time on her storied tennis career, departed the WTA Toronto Masters for the last time Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Belinda Bencic.

The second-round defeat by Switzerland’s reigning Olympic gold medallist was hardly unexpected, with the 40-year-old Williams competing in only her third match of 2022.

Bencic fired eight aces and broke Williams twice in the first set and once in the second, advancing on her first match point after 78 minutes.

But as Bencic herself said in the post-match interview on court: “Tonight is about her.”

Williams’s farewell on-court interview was threaded with emotion.

“I love playing here, I’ve always loved playing here,” she said, choking up as fans who cheered her throughout the match called out their appreciation.

“I wish I could have played better tonight, but Belinda was playing so well.”

Williams, who turns 41 next month, had beaten Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz on Monday for her first singles victory since the 2021 French Open, 14 months ago.

But it sent shockwaves through the sport when she revealed in an essay in Vogue magazine and an Instagram post on Tuesday that “the countdown has begun” to her retirement from the sport.

Williams didn’t specify an actual retirement date but is expected to compete next week in Cincinnati before traveling to the US Open, which starts on Aug. 29.

She has lifted the US Open title six times, including her first Grand Slam triumph at the age of 17 in 1999.

“It’s been a pretty interesting 24 hours,” said Williams, who remains one shy of the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court.

“Like I said in my article, I’m terrible at goodbyes,” she said, her voice breaking.

“But, goodbye,” she said, then adding with a laugh “Toronto.”

“I’ve always had an amazing time here on and off the court,” Williams said. “I’ve had some really good matches and some really cool wins.

“It’s been a joy playing here all of those years.”

Williams’s match was preceded by a video tribute played for fans. Before she left the court she was presented with jerseys from the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs — and with a child’s version of the same for daughter Olympia.

In explaining that she was “evolving away” from tennis in the Vogue article, Williams said she wanted to focus on family life and new business ventures.

Her appearance highlighted a day that saw US teenager Coco Gauff — who says Williams was “the reason why I play tennis” — overcome 13 double-faults to battle past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and into the third round.

Gauff beat Rybakina 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/3) while world No. 1 Iga Swiatek — who beat Gauff in the French Open final this year — sailed past Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.

Gauff lost out on four chances to close out a straight-sets victory as a quartet of match points came and went.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, aided by Gauff’s service struggles, had looked as if she might pull off another marathon victory after squeezing past Marie Bouzkova in the first round only for Gauff to finally prevail.

Swiatek, in contrast, needed just 55 minutes to advance. The top-seeded Pole, with six titles this season, saved six of the nine break points she faced.

“From the first practice I played here I felt really good,” Swiatek said.

Defending champion Camila Giorgi made it to the third round with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Belgian Elize Mertens. Spanish fourth seed Paula Badosa lasted for just 13 games before retiring as she trailed 7-5, 1-0 against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.


Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted

Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted
Updated 11 August 2022

Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted

Kyrgios stuns top-ranked Medvedev at Montreal Masters, Alcaraz ousted
  • Both players were coming off weekend title wins, Kyrgios at the Washington 500 on Sunday and Medvedev at Los Cabos, Mexico, on Saturday

MONTREAL: Nick Kyrgios broke twice in the final set as he rallied to topple world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in the second round of the ATP Montreal Masters on Wednesday.

Australia’s Wimbledon finalist beat Medvedev 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-2 to produce his second career upset of a reigning No. 1 after ambushing Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014.

Kyrgios produced his usual on-court antics, complaining about a high bounce, hitting a ball into the stands to draw a warning and bickering with his player box in moments of tension.

But after gathering his formidable resources, the 27-year-old ranked 37th finished off the match in exactly two hours.

“This is our fourth meeting and we know each other well,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t go in looking at the rankings, just the guy in front of me.

“I had a clean objective today — play a lot of serve and volley and execute better.

“Hopefully I can keep this rolling and keep on winning. Medvedev is a machine — he’s No. 1 for a reason.”

Both players were coming off weekend title wins, Kyrgios at the Washington 500 on Sunday and Medvedev at Los Cabos, Mexico, on Saturday.

Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 15 matches to improve to 29-7 for 2022.

Medvedev lost for the 11th time in 2022, but by reaching the final at Los Cabos — where he lifted his first trophy of the season — he is assured of taking the No.1 ranking into his US Open title defense later this month.

He was barred from Wimbledon as the tournament excluded Russian and Belarussian players over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Second-seeded Carlos Alcaraz, who like Medvedev enjoyed a first-round bye, fared no better in his opening match.

American Tommy Paul spoiled the Spaniard’s Canadian debut with a 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 victory.

The unseeded American converted his fifth match point to seal the second-round victory in three hours and 20 minutes.

Alcaraz came into the event with two prestige Masters 1000 titles from Miami and Madrid and holding a 42-7 record this season.

But the 34th-ranked Paul claimed victory on a volley winner after holding off the Spaniard’s charge from 5-2 down in the third set. The American stayed in the match as he rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to start his comeback surge.

“It was nice to finish this match at the net,” said Paul, who fired 36 winners to Alcaraz’s 33. “I did a lot of things well today.

“I played a good level of tennis, comfortable tennis. I’m happy to get through and now have to recover for tomorrow.”

Fourth seed Casper Ruud backed up his defeat earlier this season of Alex Molcan, beating the Slovakian 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 in just under two hours.

The Norwegian with three trophies so far in 2022 had to work to win the opening set after dropping serve as he tried to close it out leading 5-4.

It eventually took a tiebreaker for Ruud to prevail. He sealed his third-round place in straight sets for his 36th win of the season.

“It’s always a tough fight against him,” Ruud said.

“He’s very fast and can give everyone problems,” he added of the player coached by Novak Djokovic’s former mentor Marian Vajda.

Elsewhere, Italian Jannik Sinner needed three sets to get past Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 while Alex de Minaur lined up an all-Aussie Thursday match against Kyrgios by defeating Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (7/4), 7-5.


Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown
Updated 11 August 2022

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown
  • Inter Milan, Juventus, Roma and Lazio have all made interesting moves, meaning that the race is likely to be as open as last year’s, which went down to the wire

MILAN: AC Milan have their Serie A rivals snapping at their heels ahead of their title defense, with the big boys bolstering their squads over an eventful summer which has left the league with no clear Scudetto favorite.

Stefano Pioli’s side kick off the new season against Udinese at the San Siro on Saturday as teams gear up for a 15-match sprint between now and the World Cup in Qatar.

Inter Milan, Juventus, Roma and Lazio have all made interesting moves, meaning that the race is likely to be as open as last year’s, which went down to the wire.

Milan have lost Franck Kessie to Barcelona but brought in free-agent striker Divock Origi and spent €35 million ($36 million) on promising but unproven forward Charles De Ketelaere.

Inter, meanwhile, started the summer with a bang by bringing back Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea but were beaten to the punch by Roma and Juve respectively for key targets Paulo Dybala and last season’s best defender, Gleison Bremer.

The loss of Bremer to their biggest rivals was a blow for Inter, the inability to strike a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for the sale of Milan Skriniar holding up the purchase of the Brazilian from Torino and allowing Juve to bring in a sound replacement for Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini.

It dented the enthusiasm among fans who had thought Simone Inzaghi’s team would strengthen to the point of being hot favorites to retake the title but are newly worried about the financial stability of the club’s Chinese owners Suning.

Juve have also brought in star names Paul Pogba — now out until September with a knee injury — and Angel Di Maria, and are going after Leandro Paredes, Filip Kostic and mercurial attacker Memphis Depay.

However, Sunday’s 4-0 friendly thrashing at the hands of Atletico Madrid was exacerbated by old boy Alvaro Morata’s hat trick and has caused murmurings about the future of coach Massimiliano Allegri, who needs a big campaign after finishing 16 points behind Milan last time out.

There has been some worry among Milan fans over the low-key nature of their team’s transfer moves, as well as the fact that the club didn’t renew the contracts of directors Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara — the architects of Milan’s recent revival — until the last minute.

Supporters are waiting for the American investment fund RedBird’s purchase of the club to go through, with the closing of the €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) deal with current owners Elliott due to be completed in late August or early September.

Meanwhile, both Milan clubs are still sweating over the fate of their new San Siro stadium development, with a public debate expected in September decisive to the project’s fate amid significant hostility from some local residents.

A source at Inter confirmed to AFP last month that should the debate go against construction and the project be blocked, the two teams would move it to a former industrial site in working-class Milan suburb Sesto San Giovanni, where the recently re-elected mayor has repeatedly said there will be no bureaucratic hurdles put in the way of a new ground.

Fixtures

Saturday

AC Milan vs Udinese, Sampdoria vs Atalanta (both 1730), Lecce vs Inter, Monza vs Torino (both 1945)

Sunday

Fiorentina vs Cremonese, Lazio vs Bologna (both 1730), Salernitana vs Roma, Spezia vs Empoli (both 1945)

Monday

Verona vs Napoli (1730), Juventus vs Sassuolo (1945)


Michael Jordan's ‘Last Dance’ jersey to be auctioned in September

Michael Jordan's ‘Last Dance’ jersey to be auctioned in September
Updated 11 August 2022

Michael Jordan's ‘Last Dance’ jersey to be auctioned in September

Michael Jordan's ‘Last Dance’ jersey to be auctioned in September
  • Though the estimate by Sotheby’s is lower than the record set in May for the most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold — $9.3 million for soccer star Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey — it would be the highest price ever for one of Jordan’s artifact

NEW YORK: A jersey worn by basketball legend Michael Jordan during Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals, his last title victory, is set to be auctioned off in September for an estimated $3-5 million, Sotheby’s announced Wednesday.

The iconic red Chicago Bulls jersey, with Jordan’s No. 23 on the back, is only the second worn by the star during his six championships to be sold at auction.

Most of Jordan’s NBA Finals jerseys remain in private hands, according to Sotheby’s, although he has donated one to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Jordan, now 59, spent the bulk of his basketball career with the Bulls, with whom he won all six of his titles, but came out of retirement in 2001 to play two seasons with the Washington Wizards.

His final season with the Bulls was detailed in the ESPN/Netflix documentary “The Last Dance” released in 2020.

“The 1997-1998 season is perhaps one of the most popular among Jordan fans, as Michael was reaching the height of his abilities while simultaneously pursuing what he understood would be his last chance at an NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls,” said Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectables at Sotheby’s, in a press release.

The jersey will first be publicly displayed in Monterey, California before being shipped to New York, where fans will also have the chance to view it during the online auction which runs from Sept. 6-14.

Though the estimate by Sotheby’s is lower than the record set in May for the most expensive sports memorabilia ever sold — $9.3 million for soccer star Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey — it would be the highest price ever for one of Jordan’s artifacts.

The New York auction house, owned since 2019 by French-Israeli telecom magnate Patrick Drahi, previously sold a pair of Jordan’s sneakers for nearly $1.5 million.

The retired basketball star currently owns the Charlotte Hornets, located in his childhood home of North Carolina, and reportedly still earns millions in royalties each year from sales of Nike’s Air Jordan brand of sneakers.


Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina

Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina
Updated 11 August 2022

Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina

Brazil soccer body rejects World Cup qualifier against Argentina
  • Brazil coach Tite does not want to play the match due to risks of injuries, suspensions and a potential boycott by the Argentinians, according to Brazilian confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues

SAO PAULO: Brazil insisted that they won’t play the suspended World Cup qualifying match against Argentina next month, arguing Wednesday that the risks are too high ahead of the tournament in Qatar.

The qualifier nearly one year ago in Sao Paulo was stopped by local health officials after six minutes due to COVID-19 protocols regarding four Argentinian players.

FIFA fined the soccer bodies of both countries and demanded the match be played. Brazil’s confederation and Argentina’s federation took the case to the Court for Arbitration of Sport, which is expected to rule later in August. The game would be in September but FIFA has not set a date.

Brazil coach Tite does not want to play the match due to risks of injuries, suspensions and a potential boycott by the Argentinians, according to Brazilian confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues.

Brazilian media has reported the Selecao would rather play two friendlies in Europe.

“We will reach out to FIFA so this match is not played. I will make every effort to answer to the request of our coaching staff,” Rodrigues said in a statement. “Our priority is to win the World Cup in Qatar. If that match is not recommended by the coaching staff of the Selecao, we will work for it not to be played.”

Brazil and Argentina qualified regardless of that suspended encounter’s result.

In Qatar, Brazil are in Group G with Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon. Argentina are in Group C with Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.