Smith, Hughes and Lee among six tied for PGA Memorial lead

Smith, Hughes and Lee among six tied for PGA Memorial lead
Mackenzie Hughes lines up a putt on the seventh hole during the first round of the Memorial golf tournament on Thursday in Dublin, Ohio. (The Columbus Dispatch via AP)
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Updated 03 June 2022

Smith, Hughes and Lee among six tied for PGA Memorial lead

Smith, Hughes and Lee among six tied for PGA Memorial lead
  • Smith, a back-nine starter, opened with three birdies in his first six holes, highlighted by a 34-foot birdie putt at the 13th

WASHINGTON: Australian Cameron Smith, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon were among a record six players sharing the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Memorial tournament.

Americans Luke List, Davis Riley and Cameron Young were also among the co-leaders on 5-under par 67 after 18 holes at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

“This is about as easy as this place is going to get,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a lot of stressful golf and a lot of grinding over the weekend.”

Smith, a back-nine starter, opened with three birdies in his first six holes, highlighted by a 34-foot birdie putt at the 13th. Between a 28-foot birdie putt at the first and an 18-footer at the ninth, he sandwiched two birdies and two bogeys.

“A little bit of a grind,” Smith said. “It was just good to kind of hang in there, make a few birdies, see a few putts going in.”

Lee holed out for eagle from 152 yards at the ninth, then began the back nine with back-to-back bogeys. He answered with consecutive birdies at the par-5 15th and par-3 16th then made clutch pars from 10 and five feet.

“I’m very happy,” Lee said. “I tried to just keep momentum well. Great first nine, especially making eagle.”

Hughes made nine birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. He closed with three birdies in the last four holes, ending with a 20-footer at the ninth.

“I hit a few loose ones that I’d like to have back, but I did so many good things that it’s easier to forget about those,” Hughes said.

Young, a 10th tee starter, sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th, a 23-foot birdie putt at 13 and holed a 15-foot eagle putt at the par-5 15th. He also closed with a 27-foot birdie putt at the ninth.

“Hit a bunch of good shots early and made kind of the crucial little saves to kind of keep that momentum going with some pars,” Young said. “The eagle was a nice little bonus in the middle.”

List rolled in a 33-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth and closed with a 15-foot birdie putt.

“That one on the last hole was really special,” List said.

Riley reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 11th. He rolled in 17-foot eagle putt at the par-5 15th then answered a bogey at 16 with a four-foot birdie at 17.

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified for the first time in his PGA career for using a non-conforming club.

Dabs of white paint used to mark one of Matsuyama’s clubs were applied to freely, spilling from inner grooves onto the face of his club and making it improper.

“When you start applying that much material, that can take spin off a ball or can affect the flight,” PGA rules official Steve Rintoul said. “That’s when they go to nonconforming.”

Bryson DeChambeau fired a 76 in his first round since left wrist surgery after missing the cut at the Masters.

“It wasn’t too bad,” 2020 US Open winner DeChambeau said. “I felt my hand a little bit out there.

“I’m happy to be back. A little sad I didn’t play as well as I wanted. Glad I competed 18 holes without it getting worse. Everything was rusty but I know I can get back in form and climb that mountain.”


Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches
Updated 28 September 2022

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches
  • Tunisia suffer against Brazil, Qatar remain consistent, lack of Saudi goals becoming concern

RIYADH: The last international break before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Doha on Nov. 20 has just wrapped with the four Arab qualifiers of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Tunisia continuing to have mixed results in what could be their final warm-up matches.

Meanwhile, Egypt, who will miss out on the party in Qatar, are already looking ahead to the future.

Here are five things learned from the latest action.

1. If Saudi Arabia can score, they have a chance in Qatar

An obvious point, but the 0-0 draw with the US in Spain did mean a fourth straight friendly without a goal for the Green Falcons. However, the performance was an improvement on the 0-0 draw with Ecuador on Friday, and the two 1-0 losses to Colombia and Venezuela in June.

The defense prevented the US, with plenty of talented players, from creating clear chances and it was a hard-working display all around. The Saudis did not create too many clear-cut scoring opportunities, but there was an improvement in their overall attacking display.

None of the chances that did come along were taken and while there are absences such as Salem Al-Dawsari and Salman Al-Faraj that make a difference, it is a concern.

Coach Herve Renard does not have a Robert Lewandowski or a Lionel Messi to score at will, and he needs his stars fit if there is to be a chance against Argentina, Poland, and Mexico.

Taken in isolation, however, and not after three blank returns, the result and the performance against the Americans were encouraging and with more preparation games to come (unlike some other teams at the World Cup) there is still a little time to get firing in an offensive sense.

2. It could have been worse for Tunisia

Losing to Brazil is no disgrace for any team but it is never nice to be hit with a  5-1 defeat. However, Tunisia were simply blown away by the in-form five-time champions.

There was much to cheer about in the 18th minute as Montassar Talbi equalized Raphinha’s opener but within seconds, Richarlison had restored the lead and soon after Neymar scored from the spot. By 40 minutes it was 4-1 and when Dylan Bronn was red carded before the break, it looked really bleak for the Carthage Eagles.

Brazil eased off in the second half and it was a chastening experience for Tunisia who were coming off the back of some positive results of late.

They had their moments going forward and saw a goal disallowed which could have changed things but, in the end, Brazil were just too good. At least it is unlikely that the North Africans will face such a talented team in Qatar even against defending champions France, or Denmark and Australia.

3. Qatar improve against Chile but need more

After losing to Canada in a poor performance last week, Qatar improved to draw 2-2 with Chile. Their first-half performance was a continuation of the previous match, lacking energy, invention, and focus as Alexis Sanchez’s well-worked goal gave the South Americans a deserved lead at the break.

In the second half, Qatar took advantage of a defensive mistake to equalize through Akram Afif and then a thunderbolt from Hassan Al-Haydos gave them a lead that they could not hang on to.

At this stage of preparation, it was another concerning performance overall.

This is not the well-drilled and fluid Qatar team that strolled to the 2019 Asian Cup title. That is now three poor halves out of four and the goals against Chile came from mistakes and a moment of brilliance rather than sustained pressure.

It could be that the Maroons are so focused on the tournament and games against Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands that are less than two months away that it is hard to perform in friendlies, but it is time to find the old intensity.

4. Morocco and Ziyech moving forward

The second game in charge for coach Walid Regragui ended in a 0-0 draw with Paraguay but the tactician will not be too concerned as his team did enough to win but just could not quite find the goal in a high-tempo clash.

At the back, the defense was tested by the lively Miguel Almiron of Newcastle United but held firm to keep a second clean sheet in four days following their 2-0 win over Chile.

Hakim Ziyech, recalled to the side after his fall-out with the previous coach, was the standout. The Chelsea winger hit the inside of the post with a curling shot from outside the area and put a couple of chances on a plate for team-mates. He also created Ryan Mmaee’s goal that was narrowly ruled out for offside.

Overall, it was a fine performance from the Atlas Lions who are feeling much better about their national team than a couple of months ago and will be looking forward to Belgium, Croatia, and Canada.

5. Egypt looking good for 2026

It cannot be easy for Egypt as they watch their rivals prepare for the first World Cup in the region, but fans are feeling happier than before.

New coach Rui Vitoria has promised that there will be qualification for the 2026 tournament and while it is obviously very early days, the signs are good with two 3-0 wins in the first two games in charge for the Portuguese boss.

Supporters were delighted to see Mohamed Salah score twice in the first win over Niger and while the Liverpool man withdrew from the second game, the same score line was recorded against Liberia. There are tougher tests to come but it seems that a small corner has been turned.

It has been a roller-coaster year for the national team with penalty shootout defeats in the Africa Cup of Nations final and World Cup qualification under Carlos Queiroz and a new coach Ehab Galal, who was quickly fired after a 4-1 loss to South Korea in June.

Some stability and progress are needed and while this is just a start, it is a good one. Missing out on the 2022 World Cup was tough to take but the road to 2026 has already begun.


Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship
Updated 28 September 2022

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship
  • Fresh from reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals, the Tunisian world No. 2 will take on the British No. 1 this December in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: World No. 2 Ons Jabeur, the first Arab to reach a Grand Slam final, will return to Abu Dhabi this December to defend her Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown.

The tournament organizers have confirmed the Tunisian, who reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals this year, will take on British No. 1 Emma Raducanu on the first day of the championships on Dec. 16.

Last year, Jabeur became the first Arab to contest and win the annual Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Zayed Sports City. The 28-year-old faced Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic in the headline women’s match and came from a set down to claim a memorable 4-6, 6-3, (10-8) victory, to the delight of a raucous crowd inside the International Tennis Centre.

“Playing in Abu Dhabi is always exciting,” Jabeur said ahead of her appearance at the three-day championship, which runs from Dec. 16 to 18.

“I had a fantastic experience there in 2021 and I don’t want to lose the opportunity to defend my championship title this year. Aside from the match itself, I am most excited to see my fans there. I find them extremely special as they have supported me throughout every competition I have participated in this year.”

On the opposite side of the net will be Raducanu, who triumphed at the US Open last year to become the first British female to win a Grand Slam singles title since 1977. She was also the first player to win the US Open women’s singles title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.

“I am thrilled to finally be making my debut in Abu Dhabi,” said Raducanu. “I’ve heard great things about the fans and how supportive they are, and I can’t wait to play in front of them all.”

John Lickrish, CEO, Flash Entertainment, added: “We promised we would bring the top players to compete in Abu Dhabi once again, and in Ons and Emma we have secured two of the sport’s biggest names.

“Ons is a crowd favorite and has enjoyed a tremendously successful year since winning the Mubadala World Tennis Championship last December. Likewise, I know Emma is also extremely popular and tremendously excited about making her debut here in the UAE. I’m sure there will be huge interest from the tennis community both in the UAE and the wider region.”


Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore
Updated 28 September 2022

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore
  • To take the title this weekend, Verstappen must win the race with Leclerc finishing no higher than eighth or ninth

SINGAPORE: Red Bull’s dominant Max Verstappen can clinch a second world championship when the Singapore Grand Prix returns this weekend after a three-year absence because of COVID.

The flying Dutchman has a mathematical chance to seal back-to-back world titles under lights around the spectacular and demanding Marina Bay street circuit.

To do so, the 24-year-old must win the race — something he has never done in Singapore — and needs his closest rivals to falter badly.

If that does not happen, the championship fight will move on to the Japanese Grand Prix a week later. It looks a case of when, not if.

“You need a bit of luck for that as well,” Verstappen told Sky Sports of retaining his crown in Singapore.

“I don’t think about it.”

Verstappen opened up a 116-point lead in the drivers’ standings over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc following his victory at the Italian Grand Prix. He is 125 clear of third-placed Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

He needs to extend his lead to 138 points by Sunday’s chequered flag to be crowned with five races to spare — the earliest championship win since Michael Schumacher’s in 2002 with six GPs remaining.

Monza was Verstappen’s 11th victory in 16 races of a potentially record-breaking season.

He needs two more wins to equal the single-season mark of 13 jointly held by Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).

“I want to go to Singapore and try to win that race as well,” Verstappen said.

“We are having a great season, so we should really try and appreciate it and enjoy the moment.”

To take the title this weekend, he must win the race with Leclerc finishing no higher than eighth or ninth — depending on who claims the extra point for the fastest lap — and Perez outside the podium places.

Much will depend on Saturday night’s qualifying for a grand prix that has been won from pole position seven times in its last 11 runnings.

The night race around the tight street track affords precious few overtaking opportunities and the stifling heat and humidity provide a test of stamina and reliability as much as driving ability.

Singapore’s climate always carries a threat of rain-induced chaos, as happened in 2017, when Vettel and Verstappen started on the front row only to crash out before the first bend.

Red Bull also look sure to wrap up the constructors’ championship — although they won’t do so in Singapore — but the race for second is still alive with Mercedes banking on a late-season revival to overtake early front-runners Ferrari.

The consistent George Russell is still in mathematical contention for the drivers’ crown in his first Mercedes season, though a Verstappen victory would end his hopes.

But the Silver Arrows are pushing hard and are 35 points behind Ferrari, who have suffered from a combination of reliability issues and strategic blunders.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has won four times in Singapore, but Russell was cautious about the pair’s chances of ending the team’s 2022 win drought.

“Singapore could be interesting,” said Russell.

“But historically it’s a circuit where Mercedes have struggled a little bit.”

Ferrari were buoyed by Leclerc’s second place at their home race at Monza two weeks ago and can attack Singapore with more confidence.

“I think we made a step ahead,” said team principal Mattia Binotto.

Carlos Sainz cut through the field to finish fourth for Ferrari in Italy, with his charge for a podium place scuppered only by a late safety car.

“It’s clear as well if you look at the other cars behind us, we made a step ahead,” said Binotto.

This will be Singapore’s first grand prix since the pandemic and signs are that the city-state is relishing having racing back.

Authorities have not released exact numbers, but ticket sales have already exceeded 2019, they say.


Messi joins 100 club as Argentina streak continues after beating Jamaica

Messi joins 100 club as Argentina streak continues after beating Jamaica
Updated 28 September 2022

Messi joins 100 club as Argentina streak continues after beating Jamaica

Messi joins 100 club as Argentina streak continues after beating Jamaica
  • Messi’s goals capped an emphatic win for the South Americans, who have now gone 35 games unbeaten in a streak stretching back to 2019

HARRISON, NEW JERSEY: Lionel Messi marked his 100th international victory with two goals as Argentina edged closer to Italy’s world record unbeaten streak with a 3-0 defeat of Jamaica in a World Cup warmup friendly in New Jersey on Tuesday.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Messi took his international goals tally to 90 in 164 appearances after coming on as a second-half substitute at the Red Bull Arena.

Messi’s goals capped an emphatic win for the South Americans, who have now gone 35 games unbeaten in a streak stretching back to 2019 — just two shy of Italy’s world record unbeaten run of 37 set between 2018 and 2012.

Messi, who also scored twice during a friendly win over Honduras in Miami on Friday, delighted the crowd with an electrifying cameo after coming on in the 56th minute for Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez.

He bagged his first of the night in the 86th minute, darting forward before caressing a shot into the bottom corner past Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The 35-year-old seven-time Ballon D’Or winner then produced an impish second goal, craftily curling a low shot underneath the Jamaican wall into the bottom corner from a free-kick.

Messi’s presence left the crowd in a frenzy. On three different occasions spectators sprinted onto the pitch in an effort to get close to the Argentinian icon.

One shirtless fan attempted to get Messi to autograph his back before he was bundled to the floor by security staff.

Messi’s late double crowned another assured performance from Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina, who are rapidly emerging as one of the favorites for the World Cup in Qatar in November.

The Argentinians had dominated throughout a one-sided first half, and took the lead on 13 minutes when Martinez jinked past Jamaica’s Damion Lowe and cut back for Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez, who tucked away a low finish from close range.

Alvarez almost had a second soon afterwards but curled his shot just wide.

Midfielder Guido Rodriguez also went close, but was unable to direct his volley at the back post on target, instead shooting over the bar.

Giovani Lo Celso also threatened with a long-range effort that flew just wide of the top corner in the 33rd minute.


Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly

Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly
Updated 28 September 2022

Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly

Racial slur, laser pens at players mar Brazil’s 5-1 win over Tunisia in friendly
  • The Selecao produced a dominant first-half display in their final outing before traveling to Qatar, with Raphinha netting twice and Neymar moving to within two of Pele’s record
  • The scene for a bad-tempered match was set when the vast numbers of Tunisia fans jeered the Brazilian national anthem before kickoff

PARIS: Richarlison was the target of a banana thrown from the crowd as Brazil thrashed Tunisia 5-1 in a friendly in Paris on Tuesday, while Neymar edged closer to Pele’s all-time scoring record for the five-time world champions.

The game at the Parc des Princes was also briefly paused in the first half as the crowd were twice implored not to point laser pens at Brazil players.

“Unfortunately... a banana was thrown on the pitch toward Richarlison, scorer of the second Brazilian goal,” the Brazilian football confederation (CBF) said on Twitter.

“The CBF reinforces its position to combat racism and repudiates any prejudiced act.”

The Selecao produced a dominant first-half display in their final outing before traveling to Qatar for the World Cup, with Raphinha netting twice and Neymar moving to within two of Pele’s record.

Richarlison also found the net, while Pedro scored as a second-half substitute before responding to more boos and missiles from the crowd by bowing in front of them in celebration.

“It’s a shame, it’s difficult to see images like that,” said Brazil captain Thiago Silva, whose team posed for a team photo before the match with a banner bearing an anti-racism message.

“Unfortunately it seems that we can’t change people’s mentality.

“I hope they will realize that this doesn’t work, it’s the past, we have to change. Unfortunately, people continue with this mentality.”

Tite’s Brazil will head into their World Cup Group G opener against Serbia on Nov. 24 on a 15-match unbeaten run, dating back to their Copa America final loss to Argentina last year.

The scene for a bad-tempered match was set when the vast numbers of Tunisia fans jeered the Brazilian national anthem before kickoff.

“I was puzzled, I was saying ‘No, it’s a lack of respect’. Football is a sport that promotes inclusion,” said Tite.

Brazil took the lead in the 12th minute, though, as Casemiro clipped the ball over the top and Barcelona winger Raphinha directed a wonderful looping header over Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen and into the net.

Jalel Kadri’s men hit back six minutes later.

Defender Montassar Talbi met Anis Slimane’s outswinging free-kick to send a powerful header into the bottom corner past ‘keeper Alisson.

Incredibly, Brazil were back ahead just seconds after that setback, as Raphinha sent Richarlison in behind to drill a strike through the legs of Dahmen to score his third goal in two games after a double against Ghana.

The Tottenham forward celebrated in front of the Tunisian supporters, who responded by throwing a banana and plastic cups in his direction.

Fred kicked the banana off the pitch, before extra security guards took up residence on the side of the field.

Brazil almost extended their advantage as Paqueta followed a fine turn with a low shot which Dahmen tipped wide.

But from the resulting corner, Casemiro was hauled down in the box and Neymar stepped up to roll home his 75th international goal from the penalty spot, despite having lasers pointed at his face.

Brazil continued to cut through the visitors’ defense with ease and Raphinha scored again in the 40th minute by firing in off the post from the edge of the box.

Things went from bad to worse for Tunisia before halftime as Dylan Bronn brought down Neymar and was harshly sent off after a brief melee between the two teams.

Tunisia were much improved after the break but Brazil still scored again with 16 minutes remaining through Flamengo forward Pedro’s maiden goal for his country.

Earlier on Tuesday, World Cup hosts Qatar survived a late penalty miss by Alexis Sanchez to hold Chile to a 2-2 draw in Vienna.

Canada, who are preparing for their first World Cup since 1986, lost 2-0 to Uruguay in Bratislava as Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez scored his third international goal.

Sardar Azmoun scored as a substitute to earn Iran a 1-1 draw with African champions Senegal. Morocco drew 0-0 with Paraguay in Seville.