Formidable US Open layout to test field of 156, Rahm and McIlroy among top favorites

Formidable US Open layout to test field of 156, Rahm and McIlroy among top favorites
Phil Mickelson of the US congratulates Jon Rahm of Spain after Rahm holed a shot for eagle on the fourth hole during a practice round prior to the US Open on June 14, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2022

Formidable US Open layout to test field of 156, Rahm and McIlroy among top favorites

Formidable US Open layout to test field of 156, Rahm and McIlroy among top favorites
  • In addition to creating dense rough and lightning-fast greens, the US Golf Association ensured drama by allowing players from the upstart LIV Golf Series to compete rather than ban them as the PGA Tour did

BROOKLINE, US: A hotly anticipated US Open starts Thursday that will test the world’s top golfers over a formidable layout at a historic setting with a splash of controversy as well.

Defending champion Jon Rahm, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and two-time major winners Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa lead fan and oddsmakers favorites at The Country Club.

“You’ve got to have all aspects of your game ready to play some good golf,” reigning British Open champion Morikawa said.

In addition to creating dense rough and lightning-fast greens, the US Golf Association ensured drama by allowing players from the upstart LIV Golf Series to compete rather than ban them as the PGA Tour did.

As a result, US stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau are among the LIV Golf standouts teeing off in a unique sub-plot to the quest for a major title — the first LIV-PGA showdown.

“Who knew we loved all this drama?” Morikawa said. “It becomes a distraction and you don’t want to be focused on this or that. We’re here to win the US Open.”

Mickelson, who turns 52 on Thursday, would complete a career Grand Slam with a victory after a record six runner-up efforts, and break his own mark as the oldest major winner.

“I’m excited to be back in this incredible championship that has eluded me,” Mickelson said.

Boston fans famously heckled Europe in a 1999 US Ryder Cup fightback victory and could offer more barbs.

“Whether it’s positive or negative toward me directly, I think it’s going to provide an incredible atmosphere,” Mickelson said.

Tiger Woods, making a comeback after severe leg injuries suffered in a car crash 16 months ago, skipped the US Open to better prepare for next month’s British Open at St. Andrews.

A field of 156 will compete at the same club where 20-year-old hometown hero Francis Ouimet became the first amateur to win the US Open back in 1913.

“What’s so good about golf is the history and tradition and these stories,” McIlroy said. “The fact he grew up just off the 17th hole and we’re still talking about it to this day over 100 years on, that’s so cool.”

Third-ranked McIlroy won his 21st PGA Tour title on Sunday at the Canadian Open

“It certainly puts a pep in your step,” McIlroy said. “It gives you a lot of confidence.

“Everything is certainly trending in the right direction and I’m happy with where the game is at.”

McIlroy, 33, is the most recent player to win a tour event and a major title in back-to-back weeks, taking a WGC title at Akron before his 2014 PGA Championship victory at Valhalla, his most recent major triumph.

“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with my game and at the biggest and toughest tests in the world,” said McIlroy. “I feel confident going to these golf courses that are set up more difficult knowing I have the game and mentality to succeed on them.”

Second-ranked Rahm will try to repeat as Brooks Koepka did in 2017-2018. The 27-year-old Spaniard won his first major title last year at Torrey Pines.

“A lot of the pressure I used to put on myself is not really there,” Rahm said. “I can enjoy it a little bit more and know you don’t need to do anything special to get it done.”

Rahm won his first title since last year’s US Open last month at the US PGA Mexico Open and practiced Tuesday with Mickelson.

“Second shots into the green are going to be important,” Rahm said. “Rough around the greens is about as healthy as I’ve seen in a while.”

Scheffler, assured of topping next week’s rankings, will try to match Woods — the only reigning world No. 1 to win a US Open.

“I like the challenge,” Scheffler said. “This style of golf really suits how I play.”

Thomas, who won May’s PGA Championship, likes the difficult test on offer.

“US Open is a grind. That’s why I love it,” Thomas said. “Driving the ball is going to be very important. Scrambling and salvaging and making those putts for par can be the momentum builders.”


Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown

Rivals jostle for AC Milan’s Serie A crown
Updated 7 sec ago

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 7 min 5 sec ago

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.


Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US
Updated 11 August 2022

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US

Trial on Kobe Bryant death crash photos begins in US
  • Vanessa Bryant alleges she suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and firefighters snapped pictures of the scene, which they later shared with friends and first responders

LOS ANGELES: A court case brought by Kobe Bryant’s widow over graphic photographs taken by first responders at the site of the helicopter crash that killed him got under way in the US on Wednesday.

The basketball superstar and his teenage daughter were among nine people who died when their chopper smashed into a hillside near Los Angeles in January 2020.

Vanessa Bryant alleges she suffered emotional distress because personnel from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and firefighters snapped pictures of the scene, which they later shared with friends and first responders.

“At least 11 (sheriff’s) personnel and a dozen firefighters shared the photos within 24 hours of the crash,” Bryant’s attorneys wrote in court papers.

“In the following weeks, one (sheriff’s) deputy flaunted photos of remains at a bar, another texted photos to a group of video game buddies, and (county fire) personnel displayed photos at an awards gala.”

Lawyers for Los Angeles County do not dispute that the photos were taken, but insist they have never been made public and have now been deleted.

Mira Hashmall, representing the county in the civil litigation, said the case hinged on this issue of public dissemination.

“From the time of the crash to now, the county has worked tirelessly to prevent its crash site photos from getting into the public domain,” she said.

“Over two and a half years later, no county photos have appeared in the media, none can be found online, and the plaintiffs admit they’ve never seen them.”

Vanessa Bryant’s case has been combined with a similar case brought by Chris Chester, whose wife and 13-year-old daughter also died in the crash.

A jury of six women and four men were selected Wednesday, CNN reported.

Relatives of several other victims were last year granted $2.5 million in compensation over the photo-taking.

An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.

Bryant is widely recognized as one of the greatest basketball players ever, a figure who became the face of his sport during a glittering two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016, after which he began building a lucrative business portfolio.

He was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup
Updated 11 August 2022

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.