Minjee Lee takes 3-shot lead in LPGA Tour’s Founders Cup

Minjee Lee takes 3-shot lead in LPGA Tour’s Founders Cup
Australia's Minjee Lee during the second round of the LPGA Cognizant Founders Cup golf tournament on May 13, 2022, in Clifton, New Jersey. (AP)
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Updated 14 May 2022

Minjee Lee takes 3-shot lead in LPGA Tour’s Founders Cup

Minjee Lee takes 3-shot lead in LPGA Tour’s Founders Cup
  • Lee, who entered the week with a scoring averaging of 69.167, flirted with the best round on tour this season before settling for a 9-under 63 

CLIFTON, New Jersey: The only only thing missing from Minjee Lee’s resume this year is a victory and the best scorer on the LPGA Tour took a big step toward that in the second round of the Cognizant Founders Cup.

Lee flirted with the best round on tour this season before settling for a 9-under 63 and a three-shot lead Friday at the halfway point of the event that honors the 13 founding members of the women’s tour. The Australian had a 14-under 130 total at Upper Montclair Country Club.

“Hitting it close really helps you, just like I said before, really just frees you up,” said Lee, who has two top-five finishes in six events. “Even with the short putts, it’s just like a little more confidence boost.”

First-round leader Madelene Sagstrom, Lexi Thompson and Ally Ewing shared second after the round played under a cloudy sky with sporadic light rain less than 10 miles from New York City. Sagstrom had a 70, while Thompson and Ewing had 66s in finishing at 11 under .

Lee got to 10 under with three holes to play but bogeyed the 16th and failed to tie the tour’s low round of 62 by Yuka Saso of Japan in the Honda event in Thailand.

Lee, who entered the week with a scoring averaging of 69.167, tied for second in the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March and shared third in the Los Angeles Open last month.

“Maybe this will be the first one and it’ll kick start the rest of the year,” she said.

Sagstrom, who had a 63 on Thursday, got off to a slow start trying to go low again.

“A lot of things can happen,” Sagstrom said. “A lot of the things can happen to the golf course, the way they set it up and all that. So just giving myself a chance is all I can about myself, and my best today was 2 under, so I was really pleased.”

The 27-year-old Thompson has won 11 LPGA titles, including a major, but she has not won on tour since the ShopRite Classic in New Jersey three years ago.

She was not happy being asked about the drought.

“The talent out here is truly amazing. I mean, it’s tough to win,” she said. “All I can do is control my emotions and how much hard work I put in, and I know the amount of work that I put into it, so if it doesn’t happen, doesn’t happen. It’s not the end of my life.”

Ewing, who has missed the cut in three of seven events, said she tends to start the season slow. She had bogey and seven birdies, with four coming on her first five holes.

“It’s exciting to see that my game has been trending, and just overall I’m just looking forward to the weekend and hopefully I can keep producing the same results,” said Ewing, who has won twice on tour.

Sanna Nuutinen, a 31-year-old Finn playing her first season on the LPGA Tour, had a 68 and was alone in fifth at 135.

Carlota Ciganda, Paula Reto and Megan Khang, who was a shot behind Sagstrom after the opening round, were tied at 136.

Nasa Hataoka, who had an opening round 65, had a 73 and was in a big group at 6-under, a shot ahead of two-time defending champion and No. 1 ranked Jin Young Ko of South Korea, who had in another large group at 5-under after a second-round 70.

Anna Davis, the 16-year-old who won the recent Augusta National Women’s Amateur, made her second straight cut playing on a sponsor’s exemption. She was at 140 after two straight 70s.

Eighty players in the field of 144 made the cut at 1-under. Among those missing it were Marina Alex, the New Jersey native who won at Palos Verdes last month, Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis and Leona Maguire of Ireland, who won this year at the LPGA Drive On Championship.


UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich
Updated 29 sec ago

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich
LONDON: Roman Abramovich’s 19 years as Chelsea owner is closer to ending after the British government approved the sale of the Premier League club by the sanctioned Russian oligarch to a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.
The government had to be sure that Abramovich, who was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not profit from the enforced sale of the club that his investment turned into one of the most successful in European football.
The reigning FIFA Club World Cup winners and 2021 European champions will be sold for 2.5 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) — the highest price ever for a sports team — once Premier League approval is granted.
Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires on May 31.
“Following extensive work, we are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual,” the British government said in a statement released Wednesday. “We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.
“The steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community.”
It was a hotly-contested sale process following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine three months ago and Boehly’s group had to guarantee 1.75 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) of investment in the team to be chosen as the new owners.
Chelsea had already agreed earlier this month to a deal with the consortium that features Boehly along with Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and funding from private equity firm Clearlake Capital.
Chelsea fans have become accustomed to lavish funding in the 19 years under Abramovich’s ownership, with more than $1 billion net spending on players who have helped the men’s team win 21 trophies.
Abramovich, who has not condemned the war, has said he would write off loans of more than 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) to Chelsea but that has been complicated by the sanctions put in place by the British government.
Chelsea’s ability to sell match tickets and commit to new player spending has been curbed by the sanctions.
The certainty is that Chelsea will be playing in the Champions League next season after finishing third in the Premier League last Sunday despite the off-field turmoil. The women’s team won a league and cup double with a squad funded by Abramovich’s investment.
Chelsea had won the men’s championship only once — in 1955 — when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Helped by expensive signings, the club won the Premier League two years later and has added four more since then, most recently in 2017.
Investment is needed in Stamford Bridge. Chelsea has the smallest and most dated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans for a rebuild of the 41,000-capacity venue put on hold by Abramovich in 2018 when British-Russian diplomatic tensions deepened.
The $3.1 billion cost of Chelsea eclipses the $2.3 billion paid in 2018 for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
As well as being part owner of the MLB’s Dodgers, Boehly also has minority stakes in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting
Updated 25 May 2022

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting
  • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr in one of the most outspoken and articulate voices on social issues in American sport

LOS ANGELES: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr made an impassioned plea for gun control in the wake of the Texas school shooting that left 18 children dead on Tuesday as the US sporting world reacted with horror over the tragedy.

Kerr refused to talk about his team’s NBA playoff match with the Dallas Mavericks in a pre-game press conference, held hours after a teenage gunman opened fire at a school in the Texas town of Uvalde.

An emotional Kerr, one of the most outspoken and articulate voices on social issues in American sport, slammed his hand on a table as he accused US lawmakers who refuse to vote on tougher gun laws of “holding the American people hostage.”

“I’m not going to talk about basketball,” Kerr told reporters shortly before Tuesday’s Eastern Conference finals game four in Dallas. “Any basketball questions don’t matter.

“Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here, and a teacher. In the last 10 days, we’ve had elderly black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California, now we have children murdered at school.

“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there.

“I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, mother or father, sister, brother.

“How would you feel if this happened to you today” asked Kerr, whose father was murdered by Islamic militants in Beirut in 1984.

Kerr reserved toughest criticism for members of the US Senate who have refused to vote on legislation that would introduce stricter background checks for gun owners.

“Fifty Senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage,” Kerr said. “Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background checks, universal background checks? Ninety percent of us.

“We are being held hostage by 50 Senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want.”

Kerr’s sense of outrage was shared by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who also called for change.

“Like when is enough enough man!!!,” James wrote on Twitter. “These are kids and we keep putting them in harms way at school. Like seriously, “AT SCHOOL” where it’s suppose to be the safest!

“There simply has to be change. HAS TO BE!!“

NFL athletes also demanded change. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who grew up in Texas, wrote on Twitter: “Has to stop man...prayers to all the families in Texas.”

Dallas Cowboys defensive star DeMarcus Lawrence meanwhile tweeted directly at Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“Who is going to stand up and DEMAND we have better security at all these schools that can’t afford it????” Lawrence wrote. “How are our tax dollars not going to those who need the most protection??!! OUR CHILDREN! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!“

Former Houston Texans icon J.J. Watt added: “Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Horrifying horrifying news out of Texas.”


Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive

Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive
Updated 25 May 2022

Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive

Doncic takes charge as Mavs down Warriors to keep series alive
  • After being outplayed in the first three games by the six-time NBA champions, Dallas came out with a renewed sense of purpose at the American Airlines Center

DALLAS: Luka Doncic scored 30 points as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Golden State Warriors 119-109 to keep their NBA Western Conference finals series alive on Tuesday.

The Mavericks, needing a victory to avoid a clean sweep, delivered a revived offensive performance to ensure a Game 5 in San Francisco on Thursday.

No team in the 75-year history of the NBA has ever come back from 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

But after Tuesday’s performance, the Mavericks have at least a lifeline to cling to as the series heads back to California with the Warriors needing just one win from three remaining games to advance to the NBA Finals.

Doncic, who has carried the scoring burden for Dallas in the three previous games, finally received scoring support from his teammates on Tuesday.

Six Dallas players finished in double figures, with Dorian Finney-Smith adding 23 points and Reggie Bullock 18.

Jalen Brunson added 15 while Maxi Kleber contributing 13 and Spencer Dinwiddie 10.

Doncic however praised the defensive performance of his teammates after a display which restricted Golden State’s leading scorer — Stephen Curry — to just 20 points.

“Our defense was amazing today,” said Doncic, who finished with 14 rebounds and nine assists.”That’s how we’ve got to play, when we play like this we’re a dangerous team.”

Asked if he felt the Mavs could still salvage a series victory, Doncic replied: “You never know. We’re going to stick together. It’s going to be tough, we know that but we have to stay together.”

After being outplayed in the first three games by the six-time NBA champions, Dallas came out with a renewed sense of purpose at the American Airlines Center.

The Mavs led by 15 points at halftime after cutting loose midway through the second quarter with a 19-2 run that propelled them into a double-digit lead.

Golden State struggled to make inroads into that deficit and were successful on only three of 16 attempts from three-point range.

The Mavs by contrast drained 11-of-23 from beyond the arc in the first half, a statistic that helped them into a 62-47 halftime lead.

The start of the second half was delayed by around 20 minutes after what appeared to be a leak from the arena roof allowed puddles of water to gather at one end of the court.

But any idea that the delay would allow the Warriors to regroup quickly evaporated as the Mavericks continued to rain in buckets, outscoring Golden State 37-23.

That left Dallas 99-70 in front heading into the fourth quarter, with Dallas seemingly cruising to victory.

The Mavs were given a scare in the final minutes of the game as the Warriors bench players suddenly trimmed the lead to just eight points.

But Doncic reasserted control and a Bullock three-pointer put Dallas 13 points clear again to secure the win.

Antetokounmpo, Doncic head All-NBA First Team

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic headed the voting for the 2021-2022 All-NBA First Team, the league said Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo, Doncic and Jokic were joined in the starting lineup by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

Antetokounmpo topped the voting, receiving first team votes on all 100 ballots. It was the Greek star’s fourth consecutive selection to the first team.

Doncic and Jokic, meanwhile, each received 88 of the 100 votes.

Booker garnered 82 first team selections while Tatum completed the lineup with 49 votes.

There was no place for Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, who instead found himself heading the second team lineup.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan completed the second team lineup.


Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final

Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final
Updated 25 May 2022

Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final

Tirana gets ready for Europa Conference League final
  • Capacity at the National Arena is about 21,000
  • There are expected to be 650 stewards inside the stadium and thousands of police officers outside for the match

TIRANA, Albania: Tens of thousands of soccer fans are expected to visit the Albanian capital of Tirana for the Europa Conference League final between Dutch club Feyenoord and Italian team Roma on Wednesday.

Tirana Airport is preparing to welcome more than 300 flights in two days, the biggest number it has ever tried to manage. Other fans plan to land in neighboring Kosovo and Montenegro and drive to Tirana.

“Come in, come in,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, a former professional basketball player, said while addressing the tourists.

Many Italian, Dutch and other foreigners have been walking the streets of Tirana in recent days. Up to 100,000 soccer fans are expected in the city despite each club being allocated only 4,000 tickets for the inaugural final of the third-tier European tournament, which was designed to give smaller clubs a shot at a continental competition.

Capacity at the National Arena is about 21,000. There are expected to be 650 stewards inside the stadium and thousands of police officers outside for the match.

Albanian authorities have taken several precautionary steps for what they want to be a “festive day.” Wednesday was declared a public holiday, but police, health and other service employees will be working.

Both Feyenoord and Roma are storied clubs with big fan bases. Their supporters will be gathered in separate “fan zones” about one kilometer apart.

The partying has already begun, much to dismay of some locals. On Monday, residents of an apartment building in downtown Tirana threw water to hush Dutch fans drinking beer below late at night.

On Tuesday, Albanian police at the main Skanderbeg Square pushed away a small group of Italian fans who had been hurling water bottles to keep them away from Dutch fans.

“We won’t tolerate acts of violence and vandalism,” Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said.

Downtown Tirana will be a pedestrian-only zone on Wednesday as part of measures “to organize in the most exemplary way one of the most major events that have occurred in Albania,” Interior Minister Bledi Cuci has said.

Some main roads linking Tirana to the western city of Durres or the airport will be closed and only fans with tickets or those going to fan zones will be allowed in.

The Europa Conference League trophy was put on display at Skanderbeg Square, which will also host a “fan festival” with concerts, drinks and games.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, picked Tirana as host in December 2020, one year after the new stadium officially opened and before any team qualified to enter the debut competition.

The inaugural final is a higher-profile match than what was envisioned by many in 2018 when UEFA decided to create the Europa Conference League. Its aim was to give more opportunities to clubs in lower-ranked countries.

An even smaller stadium — the Eden Arena in Prague — is set to host the 2023 final.


Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row
Updated 25 May 2022

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row

Tsitsipas survives world No. 66 Musetti in marathon five-setter as French Open clouded by Wimbledon row
  • Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud

PARIS: Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from the brink to reach the French Open second round as Roland Garros was again overshadowed by the crisis engulfing Wimbledon.

Fourth seed and 2021 runner-up Tsitsipas defeated world No. 66 Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a match which finished early Wednesday.

Greek star Tsitsipas triumphed as 20-year-old Musetti collapsed from the brink of a famous Paris win for the second year in succession.

Twelve months ago, the Italian took the first two sets against Novak Djokovic in the last 16 before injury forced a final set retirement.

He enjoyed a flying start when the night session first round tie started Tuesday, sweeping through the first two sets, out-hitting Tsitsipas just as he had done against Djokovic.

But then came the familiar power failure and Tsitsipas comfortably pocketed the next two sets.

Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid.

He was also on a season-leading 31 wins which became 32 in the decider courtesy of two more service breaks.

“It was positive and a good effort in the end. I wasn’t feeling very good in the first two sets, something was off with my game. Lorenzo wasn’t giving me any rhythm,” said the 23-year-old.

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev eased into the second round but could not escape the shadow of Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tournament where he has been declared persona non grata.

Medvedev routed Argentina’s 103rd-ranked Facundo Bagnis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 35 winners.

“I love Roland Garros, especially since last year,” said Medvedev, who had lost in the opening round on his first four trips before reaching the quarter-finals in 2021. “I hope this year I can go further.”

One place he will not be going, however, is the All England Club next month after Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The ATP and WTA responded by stripping the sport’s most prestigious tournament of ranking points.

One day after former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka revealed she was “leaning toward not playing” Wimbledon while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play despite losing 2,000 points, the controversy showed no signs of abating.

“I will go there to get my prize money, as I would for an exhibition tournament,” said Frenchman Benoit Paire after a 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 loss to Ilya Ivashka.

Claiming that “99 percent” of players want a Wimbledon with points, he added: “I’m sorry for Russia and Russians, but they are the ones causing all the trouble.”

Denis Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021, said he objected both to the ban and the decision to strip the points.

“I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past,” said the Canadian.

The biggest loser on the women’s side will be Karolina Pliskova who will drop the 1,000 points by finishing runner-up to the now retired Ashleigh Barty in 2021.

She too wants 50 percent of the points to be retained. She intends to return to the All England Club.

“If you love the game you’re still going to go and play,” said 2017 Paris semifinalist Pliskova after making the second round by beating Tessah Andrianjafitrimo 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev, the world No. 7, described the atmosphere as “toxic” after seeing off South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in his Roland Garros opener.

Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud.

The 37-year-old Frenchman was beaten 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) by the Norwegian eighth seed.

“I hope the world can soon find as much peace I found today. Thank you Roland Garros. Thank you Mister Tennis. I love you,” said Tsonga.

Elsewhere, 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark marked his main draw debut with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) dismissal of 14th-seeded Shapovalov who committed 53 unforced errors.

Spanish third seed Paula Badosa, a quarterfinalist last year, swept into the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over French wildcard Fiona Ferro while 2018 champion.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, defeated Germany’s Nastasja Schunk, an 18-year-old lucky loser from qualifying, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.