Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent

Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent
LIV player Spain's David Puig with the trophy after winning the Malaysian Open at the Mines Resort and Golf Club in Seri Kembangan on Feb. 18, 2024. Puig is in Oman this week, meaning four straight weeks of playing. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent

Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent
  • The series is funded by LIV Golf and features a $2 million purse, and this one comes a week before LIV goes to Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong
  • Some LIV players are under contract to play in occasional International Series events

LOS ANGELES: Joaquin Niemann, Matthew Wolff and Louis Oosthuizen will give the Asian Tour field in Oman a familiar look. Missing will be the uniforms and team scores.

They are among 21 players from Saudi-funded LIV Golf who are playing the first International Series events on the Asian Tour. The series is funded by LIV Golf and features a $2 million purse, and this one comes a week before LIV goes to Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.

Some LIV players are under contract to play in occasional International Series events. For others, it’s a rare chance to earn world ranking points. The Official World Golf Ranking doesn’t award points to the league that has the same 53 players for the entire season (13 four-man teams and Hudson Swafford as a singles player).

It’s still not enough to get any of them — particularly Lucas Herbert (No. 80) or Niemann (No. 81) — into the top 50 for the Masters. But the PGA Championship has a history of trying to get as many from the top 100 in the world ranking.

As for the other majors, David Puig earned a spot in the British Open last week when he won the Malaysian Open, part of the International Final Qualifying series. He is the third player to qualify for Royal Troon this summer through the series, following Niemann (Australian Open) and Dean Burmester (Joburg Open).

Puig and Sam Horsfield were the only players in Malaysia. Puig also is in Oman this week, meaning four straight weeks of playing. That’s not unusual for players on any circuit, so it raises questions about why more LIV golfers did not seize on the opportunity. That was their best option for those who are not European tour members. Otherwise, it’s final qualifying in the United Kingdom on July 2.

The US Open typically takes the top 60 in the world toward the end of May, and that will make the Masters and PGA Championship critical for Adrian Meronk (No. 49 and falling), along with Niemann and Burmester, along with however they fare in Oman.

RETURN OF CABRERA

The 78-man field at PGA Tour Champions event doesn’t change much from tournament to tournament, though one name stood out for the Trophy Hassan II this week in Morocco. Angel Cabrera plays for the first time since getting released from prison.

Cabrera was imprisoned for two years for threats and harassment of his partner, a case that was joined by another former partner. He was released on parole in August and has been playing in Argentina.

The PGA Tour notified Cabrera his suspension has been lifted, though he is required to comply with terms of his prison release. The 54-year-old Argentine also is welcome at the Masters as a past champion, provided he can get a visa to travel. That’s been a problem.

Morocco is one of only two PGA Tour Champions events held outside North America. The other is the Senior British Open.

BROADCAST NEWS

It’s safe to say two developments in golf’s TV world span generations.

CBS announced that Verne Lindquist will be at the Masters for the final time in April. Lundquist, 83, has had a long and distinguished career that includes being the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys and the lead announcer for SEC football.

He is best known for two calls at the Masters. “Yes, sir!” he proclaimed when Jack Nicklaus pulled ahead with a birdie on the 17th hole on his way to winning in 1986. And when Tiger Woods hit that pitch on the 16th green that rolled down the hill and hung on the cup before falling, Lundquist said, “In your life have you seen anything like that?”

Meanwhile, NBC is bringing in a new voice for the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Golfweek reports longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay will be the lead analyst for the final three rounds. He will be the first caddie to serve in that role.

AUGUSTA CHANGES

Augusta National has lengthened the course again — this time by a whopping 10 yards.

The club released its media guide for the 2024 Masters on Monday, and the only change to the course was a tee box on the par-5 second hole that is 10 yards back and to the left.

The hole now plays 585 yards. It ranked as the easiest hole last year, and cumulatively has been ranked the second-easiest hole behind the par-5 13th.

WALK AND TALK

The networks have gone to a “walk and talk” with players on the weekend dating to last year, and Jim Nantz at CBS knew which button to push when he got Mackenzie Hughes of Canada signed up for the chat on Saturday at Riviera.

Hughes delivered one of the most reasoned interviews of the year at Kapalua when he talked about how much golf has emphasized money. He also spoke during Pebble Beach at a private function, which prompted Nantz to ask Hughes to share his views:

“I just think that it’s kind of unfortunate where we are in the game right now, where it seems that it’s just all about the money, it’s all about, ‘How much money can I make?’ Kind of lost the spirit of the game in the process,” Hughes said. “The reason I play the PGA Tour wasn’t because I wanted to make a million dollars. I wanted to compete against the best players in the world, make an impact on the communities that we play. That’s been the dream since I was a kid. It seems that some guys have lost a little sight of that.

“Now we’re in a place where I think fans are just generally a little bit kind of fed up with it, to be honest. Those are the people that drive our sport. So I’d love to appeal to the masses a lot more and certainly the way we’re going right now to me isn’t quite it.”

MONEY MATTERS

The lucrative new PGA Tour already has had three $20 million tournaments and the other four tournaments have had an average purse of $8.6 million.

That translates into 12 players already at $2 million or more before the PGA Tour even gets to the Florida swing, and seven of them haven’t won yet. Through seven tournaments, 30 players already have cleared the $1 million mark.

Twenty-five years ago, only nine players surpassed $2 million for the entire season.


Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final

Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final
Updated 17 sec ago
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Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final

Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final
  • Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain will face either Yokohama F-Marinos or Koreans Ulsan Hyundai in the final in May

RIYADH: Al Ain reached the Asian Champions League final for the first time since 2016 with a 5-4 aggregate victory over four-time winners Al Hilal, despite a 2-1 second-leg defeat in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Trailing 4-2 after their record 34-match winning run was ended in last week’s first leg, Al Hilal quickly cut the deficit through Ruben Neves’ fourth-minute penalty.
Brazilian Erik drew Al Ain level on the night, though, to leave runaway Saudi Pro League leaders Al Hilal with a mountain to climb in the second half.
But Salem Al Dawsari scored a rebound less than six minutes after the restart to give the hosts renewed hope.
Brazilian Michael and former Lazio star Sergei Milinkovic-Savic both went close as Al Hilal piled on the pressure, the latter seeing his effort cleared off the line.
Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa enjoyed a fine evening, making six saves, including from Michael and Mohamed Kanno late on.
The Emirati visitors clung on desperately through nine minutes of added time, with Eisa keeping out a Michael header in the 98th minute.
Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain will face either Yokohama F-Marinos or Koreans Ulsan Hyundai in the final in May as they bid for a second triumph in the competition and first since 2003.
Japanese club Yokohama trail 1-0 on aggregate heading into their semifinal second leg on Wednesday.


Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal
Updated 36 min 58 sec ago
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Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal
  • Griner made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday
  • “Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said

LOS ANGELES: WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has revealed she contemplated suicide during her nine-month ordeal in a Russian jail that left her feeling “less than a human.”
Griner, who was detained in a Moscow airport in February 2022 on drug charges before being sentenced to nine years in prison, made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday.
“Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said when asked by her interviewer on ABC’s 20/20 news show if she had considered “ending it all.”
In other segments of the interview, Griner, who was freed in late 2022 as part of a prisoner swap, gave an insight into the grim conditions of her incarceration at a Russian penal colony.
“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it. I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human,” Griner said.
Griner said at one stage during her imprisonment she was ushered into a room to find “a huge knife sitting on the table.”
“And I was like ‘Now, this is going to be a ride,’” she said. “You’ve got to do what you got to do to survive.”
Griner was arrested and charged by Russian officials for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage as she passed through airport security.
She later testified she had “no intention” of breaking the law and had packed the cartridges by accident.
Asked by ABC what she felt when she realized that she had left the cartridges in her luggage, she replied: “My life is over right here.”
Later in the interview, Griner recalls the moment she was handed her nine-year prison term.
“I was just so scared for everything because there’s so much unknown,” she said.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion, Griner was eventually released in December 2022 as part of a deal that saw her swapped for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — known as the “Merchant of Death.”
At the time, Griner was one of several US-based players playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season in order to boost her income.
She has vowed never to play basketball abroad again for clubs following her jail sentence.
Griner’s full interview, which comes ahead of the release next month of a memoir by the basketball player detailing her ordeal, will be aired on May 1.


Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension
Updated 23 April 2024
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Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension
  • “We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday
  • The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking

DUBAI: Ahead of a summer when three of the biggest jobs in world soccer are up for grabs, Unai Emery became the latest top coach to decide to stay put.
The Aston Villa manager extended his contract until 2027 on Tuesday to stay in Birmingham at a time when Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern Munich all have looming vacancies.
In recent weeks, candidates Xabi Alonso and Julian Nagelsmann took themselves off the market by committing their futures to Bayer Leverkusen and Germany, respectively.
Emery was reportedly on the radar of Bayern and Barcelona after establishing himself as one of the shrewdest coaches in the sport with his work at Villa over the past two seasons.
Having taken over a team that were in danger of relegation in October 2022, he has guided Villa to fourth in the Premier League and into the semifinals of the Europa Conference League.
“We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday.
“Ambition already is, and must always be, the motto of this project.”
The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking.
Alonso was the favorite for Liverpool and Bayern, having played for both teams during a storied career. But he announced last month that he would remain at Leverkusen, the team he has gone on to lead to their first German title at the expense of Bayern.
“This is the right place for me to be, to develop as a coach,” Alonso said.
Nagelsmann, fired by Bayern last season, was a contender to return to the German giant until last week when he extended his contract with the national team through to the 2026 World Cup. He was also considered a possibility for Liverpool, which faces the daunting task of replacing Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season.
Klopp said in January he would step down after a trophy-laden spell of more than eight years on Merseyside.
Alonso seemed like a natural fit as an ex-player who has made a remarkable start to his coaching career with Leverkusen.
Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim replaced Alonso as the favorite for the Liverpool job, while Roberto De Zerbi has impressed at Brighton.
Bayern need a replacement for Thomas Tuchel, who is stepping down at the end of the season. His reputation has taken a hit after failing to win the title this year, but he could yet walk away a Champions League winner after leading Bayern to the semifinals of European club soccer’s elite competition.
The Champions League trophy could yet see Tuchel in the running for one of the other two top jobs available this summer.
Barcelona need a new coach after Xavi Hernández said in January that this would be his last season.
Speculation that Emery was on the Catalan club’s radar had increased in recent days.
Emery’s reputation has only grown since taking over from Steven Gerrard when Villa was above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Emery, who joined from Villarreal, led Villa to a seventh-place finish and qualified the team for Europe for the first time since 2010. Villa did not say at the time of his appointment in 2022 how long his original contract would run.
The 52-year-old Emery has won four Europa League trophies — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal — and won the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain.
He previously coached in England with Arsenal from 2018-19.
“We are thrilled and are building a sporting operation around Unai to support him with a view of returning Aston Villa, a co-founder of the English Football League as we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary, to its historic levels of greatness,” club chairman Nassef Sawiris said.


Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK

Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK
Updated 23 April 2024
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Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK

Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK
  • It was Stoinis’ first IPL century and his second in T20 cricket, trumping an unbeaten 108 by Chennai skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad
  • Stoinis reached his hundred in 56 balls as he and Hooda, who made 17 not out off six balls, secured Lucknow’s second straight win over Chennai

CHENNAI, India: Australia’s Marcus Stoinis hit an unbeaten 124 as Lucknow Super Giants chased down a target of 211 with six wickets and three balls to spare against Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday.
It was Stoinis’ first IPL century and his second in T20 cricket, trumping an unbeaten 108 by Chennai skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad at his home M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
Lucknow looked in trouble at 88-3 after 11 overs but Stoinis put on 70 runs with Nicholas Pooran, who hit 34 off 15 balls, and an unbeaten 65-run stand with Deepak Hooda to achieve victory in 19.3 overs.
Stoinis reached his hundred in 56 balls as he and Hooda, who made 17 not out off six balls, secured Lucknow’s second straight win over Chennai, replacing the five-time winners in fourth spot.
Needing 17 to win in the final over, Stoinis smashed Mustafizur Rahman for a six and three fours, including one off a no ball.
“Tough pill to swallow, but good game of cricket,” said Gaikwad. “LSG played really well in the back end. We had the game in control till 13-14 overs, but Stoinis played a great innings.”
Stoinis walked in in the first over after Quinton de Kock’s departure for a duck and paced his innings to perfection as he hit 13 fours and six sixes in his 63-ball knock.
It was the highest score by a batsman while chasing in the IPL.
Hooda said Stoinis “played like a warrior, he is a kind of motivation to us.”
Sri Lanka pace bowler Matheesha Pathirana took two wickets including the dangerous Pooran.
Chennai posted 210-4 courtesy of Gaikwad’s second IPL ton and a 104-run stand between the captain and Shivam Dube, who smashed 66, after the hosts were invited to bat first.
Gaikwad took on the opposition attack despite losing Ajinkya Rahane and Daryl Mitchell and raised his hundred from 56 balls with a six and four.
Gaikwad became only the third Chennai player after India’s Murali Vijay and Australia’s Shane Watson to hit two IPL tons and moved to second in this season’s batting chart with 349 runs.
Royal Challengers Bengaluru star Virat Kohli tops the chart with 379 runs.
Dube got to his fifty with a four and a six before being run out in the final over, which saw veteran M.S. Dhoni walk out to a rousing reception and hit a four off the final ball.


Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears
Updated 23 April 2024
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Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears
  • The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
  • French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

PARIS: French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP.
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts, and of conspiring to extort, or attempt to extort, funds to finance a terrorist organistion between 2020 and 2024, the PNAT said.
Investigators believe the eight to be connected to a campaign to collect funds from Kurdish business people and other Kurds in France, a source close to the case added.
Police can hold the suspects for up to 96 hours for questioning, the source said.
Another source said the funds were destined for use in Belgium, where police on Monday raided Kurdish-run media as part of a probe undertaken at the request of a French anti-terror judge, the PNAT said.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority of Turkiye in the southeast of the country, in a standoff with the Ankara government that remains unresolved to this day.