Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda share first-round lead at LPGA Drive On Championship

Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda share first-round lead at LPGA Drive On Championship
Lydia Ko watches her putt on the 18th green during the first round of the LPGA Drive On Championship golf tournament at Bradenton Country Club Thursday in Bradenton, Fla. (AP)
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Updated 26 January 2024
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Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda share first-round lead at LPGA Drive On Championship

Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda share first-round lead at LPGA Drive On Championship
  • Nanna Koerstz Madsen was one shot back, and second-ranked Ruoning Yin was part of a big group at 67 that included another past major champion, Sei Young Kim
  • Korda is another former No. 1 who went winless on the LPGA Tour last year

BRADENTON, Florida: Lydia Ko tried to conserve her energy after her victory last weekend in the LPGA Tour’s season opener, but she clearly did enough to keep her game sharp.

The former world No. 1 shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with Nelly Korda at the LPGA Drive on Championship.

Nanna Koerstz Madsen was one shot back, and second-ranked Ruoning Yin was part of a big group at 67 that included another past major champion, Sei Young Kim.

Ko’s victory on her home course at Lake Nona was her first since 2022. She had a 45-minute lesson with her Korea-based coach on Monday, then made the roughly 2 1/2-hour drive to Bradenton Country Club on the Gulf Coast.

“Yeah, you are obviously coming in with good momentum, and it’s nice that we’re going from Florida to Florida. It’s not like we’re in Florida and then we’re having to go to Houston or anything like that,” Ko said. “So it’s nice that we can play a couple weeks and it’s a drive for me, because I live in Orlando. Just makes the start of the season stress free.”

Ko, who started on the back nine, made the turn in 2 under — thanks in part to a chip-in birdie — and closed with consecutive birdies to match Korda, who played in the morning. She said the wind died down late in the day, making the closing stretch easier.

Korda is another former No. 1 who went winless on the LPGA Tour last year — a campaign that was interrupted by a back injury. She opened with a bogey but played her next nine holes in 6 under.

Playing in front of enthusiastic galleries in her hometown, Korda birdied the second and third holes to get into red figures, then stayed aggressive in gusty wind. Her second shot into the par-5 eighth hole was as good as it gets.

“Gosh, I think I had 257 into the pin and hit my 3-wood really good,” she said. The wind “was helping off the left. Played it nicely off the slope to a tap-in.”


Biggest prize pool in female gaming for ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational’ at Esports World Cup

Biggest prize pool in female gaming for ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational’ at Esports World Cup
Updated 24 July 2024
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Biggest prize pool in female gaming for ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational’ at Esports World Cup

Biggest prize pool in female gaming for ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational’ at Esports World Cup
  • 12 teams will battle it out for a share of $500,000 at the women’s event in Riyadh

RIYADH: The Esports World Cup’s “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational” starting in Riyadh on Wednesday will have 12 teams battling it out for a share of $500,000 — the largest-ever prize pool for female gamers.

The winner will take home a cool $180,000 at the event which includes Team Vitality, Omega Express, Gaimin Gladiators, Tidal Legends Gaming, Falcons Vega MENA, Victory Song Gamers, CFU Serendipity, Net Angels, Zino Lilies, DreamMax Girls, Cloud9, and Falcons Vega.

The contest will have 66 of the best “MLBB” women players in the world. There are 14 nationalities represented, including from the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Egypt, Malaysia, Brazil, Cambodia, Myanmar, Russia, the US, Vietnam, Paraguay, South Korea and Thailand.

Organized by Montoon and the Esports World Cup Foundation, the group stage starts on Wednesday at Boulevard Riyadh City, and continues on Thursday, with the top two sides from each of the four groups advancing to the playoffs.

The quarterfinals take place on Friday, with the semifinals and grand final on Saturday.

The “MLBB” contest is a significant addition to the Esports World Cup, which kicked off at Boulevard Riyadh City on July 3 and runs until Aug. 25. It reflects the growing presence of female players, who make up 48 percent of the gaming community in the Kingdom.

With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy driving rapid growth, investment, and interest in the gaming industry, female gamers are playing a crucial role in its evolution.

The Esports World Cup — which has a $60 million prize pool, the largest in esports history — features a unique cross-game structure pitting the world’s top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

More than 1,500 players, representing over 60 nationalities, are battling it out at the Esports World Cup. Week four includes “PUBG Mobile” and “Overwatch 2” competitions.


Twisted Minds best Saudi team during PUBG Mobile ‘survival stage’

Twisted Minds best Saudi team during PUBG Mobile ‘survival stage’
Updated 24 July 2024
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Twisted Minds best Saudi team during PUBG Mobile ‘survival stage’

Twisted Minds best Saudi team during PUBG Mobile ‘survival stage’
  • The Esports World Cup is currently taking place at Boulevard Riyadh City

RIYADH: Twisted Minds emerged as the highest ranked Saudi Arabian club on the PUBG Mobile “survival stage” at the Esports World Cup on Tuesday.

It was the only tournament taking place at Boulevard Riyadh City on Tuesday, with Turkish team RW NRX topping the survival stage after notching up 73 points.

The tournament is one of 21 leading games across 22 global competitions at the Esports World Cup. The eight-week event, which runs until Aug. 25, has a $60 million prize pool — the largest in the history of esports.

Competitions also taking place this week are Overwatch 2 and the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational. At $500,000, the latter has the highest women’s prize pool in esports history.


World champions Spain, new-look USA top Olympic women’s football billing

World champions Spain, new-look USA top Olympic women’s football billing
Updated 24 July 2024
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World champions Spain, new-look USA top Olympic women’s football billing

World champions Spain, new-look USA top Olympic women’s football billing
  • Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati, Alexia Putellas and Salma Paralluelo are the standouts in a superb Spanish side that also won the UEFA Women’s Nations League this year and are now making their Olympic debut
  • The US come to Paris under the leadership of English former Chelsea boss Hayes, probably the outstanding female coach in the sport

PARIS: A rejuvenated US team under new coach Emma Hayes are targeting a record-extending fifth women’s football gold medal at the Paris Olympics but face stiff competition, not least in the shape of World Cup holders Spain and their all-star lineup.

The USA just about remain the biggest draw in women’s soccer despite disappointing recent results and the departures of several veteran stars.

They won gold when women’s football was introduced to the Olympics in 1996, and won three in a row in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

But they exited in the quarterfinals in 2016 and settled for bronze three years ago in Tokyo after losing to eventual champions Canada in the semis.

That was followed by a shock last-16 exit at the World Cup a year ago in Australia and New Zealand, a disappointing end to the iconic Megan Rapinoe’s international career and an outcome that precipitated the exit of coach Vlatko Andonovski.

They come to Paris under the leadership of English former Chelsea boss Hayes, probably the outstanding female coach in the sport.

She made a striking decision when naming her squad for the Games by choosing to leave out Alex Morgan, one of the leading players in the sides that won the 2015 and 2019 World Cups but now in her twilight years at the age of 35.

“It was a tough decision of course...especially considering Alex’s history and record with this team, but I felt I wanted to go in another direction and selected other players,” said Hayes.

It is a younger USA squad now, although players like Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith will benefit from the experience garnered at the World Cup.

Experience is still there, too, notably in the shape of Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle, members of the side that won the World Cup in France in 2019.

The USA are in a difficult Group B with Germany, Australia and a Zambia team who are outsiders but boast exciting forward in Barbra Banda and Racheal Kundananji.

The format — with 12 teams in three groups of four — means the two best third-placed sides advance to the quarterfinals, providing a safety net in the event of slip-ups.

Germany, gold medalists in 2016, will aim to bounce back from their group-stage exit at the World Cup but have lost key midfielder Lena Oberdorf to injury.

Australia are hoping to build on their run to the semifinals in that World Cup on home soil, yet they are missing Sam Kerr, their captain, as she recovers from an ACL injury.

Spain, in Group C with Japan, Nigeria and Brazil, will take some beating as they arrive in Paris with the stars who led them to World Cup glory 11 months ago.

Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati, Alexia Putellas and Salma Paralluelo are the standouts in a superb side that also won the UEFA Women’s Nations League this year and are now making their Olympic debut.

“I’m sure lots of people and lots of teams see us as favorites, but this competition is a bit different,” Bonmati told Marca.

“We play lots of matches in a short space of time, and against good sides, so it will be very difficult. But obviously we have the maximum ambition and are going for gold.”

Spain kick off against 2012 silver medalists Japan, whose side includes Hinata Miyazawa, top scorer at the World Cup.

Nigeria are the top-ranked African nation, while Brazil are two-time silver medalists and hope to contend again in legendary forward Marta’s sixth Olympics at the age of 38.

France, meanwhile, are aiming big on home soil as they face reigning Olympic champions Canada, New Zealand and the Colombia of teenage sensation Linda Caicedo in Group A.

“The objective, like that of every French athlete, is to win a medal. It won’t be easy, but it has to be the aim,” said coach Herve Renard, who will leave after the tournament which begins on Thursday and runs until Aug. 10.

Games will be played around France, with the semifinals in Lyon and Marseille. However, the gold-medal match will be in Paris.


No flags but plenty of fire for Medvedev at Paris Olympics

No flags but plenty of fire for Medvedev at Paris Olympics
Updated 24 July 2024
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No flags but plenty of fire for Medvedev at Paris Olympics

No flags but plenty of fire for Medvedev at Paris Olympics
  • The tennis star, along with other Russian and Belarusians at the Games, has to compete as a neutral following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Despite his fiery personality the chess-playing and fluent French-speaking Medvedev has reached the peaks of the sport

PARIS: There will be no flags or fanfare for Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Olympics but Russia’s highest-profile athlete in the French capital is unlikely to be far from the headlines.

The tennis star, along with other Russian and Belarusians at the Games, has to compete as a neutral following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Having demonstrated that they have not supported the war and have no links to the military, they have been allowed to compete but cannot fly their national flags.

The two countries’ national anthems are also banned and should Medvedev win an Olympic medal for the first time, the achievement will not be recognized in the medals table.

“When I’m 40, if I can say I played in the Tokyo Olympics, Paris Olympics and Los Angeles Olympics, I had a lot of fun in my life, my career, I’m going to be happy,” said Medvedev.

The 28-year-old world No. 5 is one of the most controversial players in tennis.

The 1.98m (6ft 6ins) giant came close to being disqualified from his Wimbledon semifinal against Carlos Alcaraz this month for a foul-mouthed rant at the chair umpire, before escaping with a warning.

Medvedev explained that he had called the official “a small cat.”

His explosive temperament has seen him feud with rivals Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.

In Miami in 2018, after Tsitsipas made a foul-mouthed remark about Medvedev, the Russian dismissed the Greek as a “small kid who doesn’t know how to play.”

His rivalry with Zverev peaked at Monte Carlo last year when Medvedev saved two match points in a tense last-16 victory.

Germany’s Zverev lashed out at Medvedev for taking a bathroom break at a key moment in the tie, blasting the Russian as “one of the most unfair players in the world.”

Medvedev hit back, telling the current world No. 4 to “take a look at yourself in the mirror.”

In the Netflix series “Break Point,” Zverev accused Medvedev of playing “dirty games” and added: “He’s somebody that knows how to play with the head of the opponent.”

Crowds around the world have not escaped the wrath of Medvedev.

At the Paris Masters last year, he branded fans “stupid” for jeering during one of his matches.

Despite suggesting that he would halt his match, he agreed to continue, but warned his tormentors “shut your mouths, okay!“

Despite his fiery personality the chess-playing and fluent French-speaking Medvedev has reached the peaks of the sport.

At the 2021 US Open he claimed his only major title, easily defeating Novak Djokovic in the final and denying the Serb a rare calendar Grand Slam.

True to his unorthodox nature, Medvedev celebrated his New York victory by falling to the floor of the Arthur Ashe Stadium and imitating the “dead fish” celebration from a FIFA video game.

Medvedev has come agonizingly close to adding to his majors collection.

In this year’s Australian Open final he surrendered a two-set lead to lose to Jannik Sinner.

Two years ago in Melbourne he had opened a two-sets lead over Rafael Nadal only again to lose in five.

Nadal also got the better of him at the 2019 US Open final over another five-setter.

Away from the Slams, Medvedev is one of just six men to have captured six or more Masters titles, joining Djokovic, Roger Federer, Nadal, Andre Agassi and Andy Murray.

When he spent 16 weeks as world No. 1 in 2022, he was the first man other than Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal in 18 years to attain top spot.

At the Paris Olympics, which open on Friday, Medvedev believes his best chance of a medal will be in doubles rather than singles, on a clay-court surface which has often been alien to his game.

“I’m going to prepare a lot for doubles and mixed doubles because I do believe I have more chances there than in Roland Garros singles,” he said.


Celtic edge Manchester City 4-3 in US pre-season friendly

Celtic edge Manchester City 4-3 in US pre-season friendly
Updated 24 July 2024
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Celtic edge Manchester City 4-3 in US pre-season friendly

Celtic edge Manchester City 4-3 in US pre-season friendly

Nicolas Kuhn scored twice and Luis Palma netted the decider in the 68th minute to give Celtic a 4-3 victory over Manchester City in a pre-season friendly on Tuesday.

Norway’s Erling Haaland, wearing the City captain’s armband for the first time, nodded home an equalizer in the 57th minute only for Honduran international Palma to tap in the winning goal on a breakaway at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Memorial Stadium.

The match was a tuneup for next month’s start of the 2024-25 campaigns for Celtic, winner of the past three Scottish Premiership crowns, and four-time defending English Premier League champion Manchester City, which began a US tour.

With several top stars resting from the European Championships, City manager Pep Guardiola used the opportunity to analyze younger talent.

The match marked a Celtic debut for goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, the 37-year-old Dane who began his career with City in 2006. He played the first half for the Hoops.

German right wing Kuhn netted a first-half brace for Celtic, playing in a fourth pre-season match.

Down 3-1 at half-time, City answered seconds into the second half on just-inserted 21-year-old Argentine substitute Maximo Perrone’s goal, a left-footed shot from the right side into the far corner on his first touch of the ball.

Haaland headed in a centering pass from countryman Oscar Bobb in the 57th minute to lift City level.

But Celtic scored the winner in the 68th minute as Palma, who entered three minutes earlier, finished a three-man breakaway as City’s defenders were caught flat-footed near midfield after pressing with the backline.

City substitute Ben Knight was denied an equalizer in the 76th minute when second-half Celtic keeper Viljami Sinisalo of Finland knocked the ball over the crossbar.

Kuhn opened the scoring in the 13th minute, taking a pass on the right side and charging in on City starting goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, then firing a left-footed shot just inside the far post.

Schmeichel denied Haaland in the 23rd minute with a right-hand save on a left-footed shot off a feed from James McAtee.

In the 31st, Schmeichel again denied Haaland, from the right side on a left-footed shot that Schmeichel swatted away with his left hand.

But Man City equalized in the 33rd minute as Haaland flicked the ball left to onrushing Bobb, who blasted a shot that deflected off Schmeichel and bounced into the goal.

Kuhn answered for Celtic in the 36th minute, rushing in from the right wing then pulling back the ball to evade a defender and curling a left-footed blast high into the goal.

Celtic stretched the edge to 3-1 in the 44th minute when Kuhn delivered a perfect centering pass to Japan’s fast-rushing Kyogo Furuhashi, who split two defenders, evaded Ortega and fired in a left-footed shot from a steep angle.

Man City’s US tour continues Saturday against AC Milan at New York’s Yankee Stadium, with other matches next week against Barcelona at Orlando and Chelsea in Columbus, Ohio.

Celtic will face Chelsea on Saturday in South Bend, Indiana.