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Luis Enrique supports players' decision to skip FIFA awards

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona coach Luis Enrique gave his full support Tuesday to his players' decision not to attend FIFA's awards ceremony. Luis Enrique said he was '100 percent behind' the players after they chose to skip Monday's ceremony in which Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was named the world's best player for 2016. The Barcelona coach said it was 'totally' up to the players whether to attend the event in Zurich, and that he would have been OK with any decision made by them. 'As a coach, I can only support their decision, especially because there is this situation of a game, which has to be a priority,' Luis Enrique said. The club had said that Lionel Messi and his teammates did not travel to Switzerland to prioritize preparations for the team's home match against Athletic Bilbao in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Barcelona, the Copa champion, lost the first leg 2-1. Messi was runner-up to Ronaldo in the best player award. Three other Barcelona players were named for the world's best 11 in a vote organized by the international players' union FIFPro. The Barcelona players included Andres Iniesta, who pre-recorded a video that was released during the event. 'As captain of Barcelona, we would like to thank FIFA and FIFPro for being awarded these prizes, and we apologize for not being able to attend the ceremony because of a very important game for us this season,' he said. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Top-ranked Kerber loses her opening match in Sydney

SYDNEY (AP) — Top-ranked Angelique Kerber lost her opening match at the Sydney International on Tuesday, upset 7-6 (5), 6-2 by Darya Kasatkina in a setback ahead of her Australian Open title defense next week. Kerber, who won last year's Australian and U.S. Open for her first major titles, has opened the new season with one win in two tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney. The Australian Open starts Monday in Melbourne. Eugenie Bouchard continued her resurgent run, meanwhile, with a 6-4, 6-3 win over WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova to reach the quarterfinals in Sydney. Bouchard improved her career record to 4-1 against Cibulkova, who was ranked No. 5 and was voted the WTA's comeback player of the year in 2016 after her title win at the season-ending championship. 'Any time you play one of the best players in the world it's like a standard of where you're at,' said Bouchard, who had a wild-card entry in Sydney. 'Every time I have played a match with Domi, we have had the toughest battles. 'I have won, I guess, more often than not, but everyone is a really tough battle.' Bouchard had an early break in the second set, but dropped serve and allowed Cibulkova, a finalist at the 2014 Australian Open, a way back into the match. But the Canadian star broke again quickly and held onto the advantage. Bouchard had a breakout season in 2014, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open before making the final at Wimbledon. But she has only gone past the fourth round at a major once since then and slipped to No. 46 at the end of last year. After winning back-to-back matches at a tournament for the first time since August in Cincinnati, she will play a quarterfinal against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-3. 'I have taken a couple of solid steps this week, but I'm far from where I want to be,' Bouchard said. 'Even though I won, to me, I could do a lot of things better.' Barbora Strycova had a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 9-seeded Roberta Vinci. At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, fifth-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinola lost 6-1, 7-5 in the first round to friend and training partner Joao Sousa. Ramos-Vinola, ranked 27, and Portugal's Sousa, ranked 44, are both based in Barcelona and are supporters of the city's rival football clubs and Sousa described their match as 'a kind of a derby.' 'On court we are no friends but off court we are,' he said. Ramos-Vinola's main weapon is his powerful forehand but he lacked accuracy in his first match of the season, missing too many easy points in the first set and making 18 unforced errors to Sousa's eight. He dropped serve in the fourth game and again in the sixth to lose the first set in 32 minutes. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA best player award for 4th time

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday. The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards. 'It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,' the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming 'Wow, wow, wow.' Ronaldo's fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory. His 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot was clearly better than Messi's 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online. Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a cup match on Wednesday. 'Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,' Ronaldo said. Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot. Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine. 'I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,' said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira. Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo's teams. Ronaldo's mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title. 'What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,' said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation. Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage. The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters. Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent. 'I honestly was not expecting this,' Lloyd said. 'I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.' Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist. The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang. A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo. The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord. FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Spain out for revenge in Italy in pick of WCup qualifiers

DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press br /> MILAN (AP) — Spain will be out for revenge when it plays old rival Italy in Turin on Thursday in the standout qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup. Italy beat Spain 2-0 in the round o.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 4th, 2016

Willett struggling to rediscover game before Masters defense

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Danny Willett has 2½ months to rediscover his game before making a pressure-filled return to Augusta National as the defending Masters champion. br /> Odds are that won't be long enough. Willett finished 2016 in a rut after dealing with fresh levels of attention for being a major winner as well as a mid-season swing change. Following a short off-season when he sacrificed practice to enjoy a break from golf and his first Christmas as a father, his start to 2017 is hardly encouraging. br /> Rounds of 74 and 76 saw Willett become the biggest name to miss the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Friday. He was 121st in a 126-man field, with his second round marred by a quadruple bogey 9 at the 10th when everything that could go wrong did go wrong. br /> Next comes the defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title in two weeks. Then all roads lead to Augusta for the Masters starting April 6. br /> 'I think if I'm playing bad, the attention will die down quite nicely, to be honest,' Willett said, when asked if the build-up to the Masters will be a hindrance. br /> Initially, the green jacket weighed heavily on the shoulders of Willett. Everyone wanted a piece of him after he capitalized on Jordan Spieth's back-nine collapse to be a surprise winner of the Masters. He popped up inside Wimbledon's Royal Box, and was a guest at the World Snooker Championship in his home city of Sheffield. br /> The attention died down, allowing him to return his focus to golf. But he is without a win since Augusta and has only three top-10 finishes in that eight-month period. br /> 'At the end of last year, I was working hard and doing the right things, but it was like I was knocking my head against a brick wall,' Willett said. 'I wasn't analyzing it properly. It was all just bad. It wasn't, but that's how I analyzed it.' br /> Willett is trying not to get too down about his play in Abu Dhabi. Finishing with two birdies — and two more decent birdie chances — in his final four holes helped, but couldn't disguise his problems in the previous 32. br /> His main issue was pulling lots of shots as he tried to hit a cut. That led to a triple-bogey 7 on Thursday and a quadruple-bogey 9 at the 10th hole on Friday, when he drove left into the desert, went out of bounds with his third shot, found a bunker with his fifth, and then three-putted. br /> Willett said he was 'slightly shocked' at the contrast between his form on the range and his form on the course. br /> 'Christmas golf-course rust,' Willett said. 'All joking aside, I know there were a few horrendous scores in there, but there was some better stuff in there, too.' br /> ___ br /> Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80 br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Zidane says Ronaldo is still a difference-maker for Madrid

div>  /div> div>MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored a goal from open play in three games, a run that has Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive. /div> div>  /div> div>The glitch isn't exactly a goal drought because Ronaldo did score one from the penalty spot against Sevilla. But the dry period has coincided with Real Madrid's two-game losing streak after a 40-match unbeaten run. /div> div>  /div> div>'Cristiano is fine,' Zidane said Friday. 'He might have a bad day here and there. So what? He will always be a difference-maker in my mind. /div> div>  /div> div>'We have lost a couple of games, but there is no need to go overboard. Nothing is broken. Actually, it might have been a good time to lose two straight, in order to get going again and build up some confidence.' /div> div>  /div> div>Madrid leads the Spanish league with 40 points from 17 matches, holding a one-point lead over surging Sevilla. It was Sevilla that beat Madrid 2-1 on Sunday, after Ronaldo had converted a penalty to give his team the lead. /div> div>  /div> div>Defending champion Barcelona is third in the league and two points behind Madrid, which has a game in hand because of its trip to Japan to win the Club World Cup in December. /div> div>  /div> div>The loss in Sevilla was followed by another setback on Wednesday, when Madrid lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals — again raising questions about the after-effects of playing in the Club World Cup. /div> div>  /div> div>'I'm not thinking about that at all,' Zidane said. 'As in life, you can't always win in football. You are going to have some bad days, and you need to overcome them to push ahead. It happened last year. We are going to reverse this. /div> div>  /div> div>'We aren't playing worse football than before. We just had a few bad plays that our opponents took full advantage of. The locker room is fine. The good news is we have another game tomorrow (in the league against 13th-place Malaga), and we are looking forward to it.' /div> div>  /div> div>Zidane said Ronaldo has lately been playing out of position at striker, a move that somewhat surprisingly has not translated into more goals for the Portugal forward. Ronaldo has 12 league goals this season, two behind Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. /div> div>  /div> div>'He played up top against Celta, but his favorite position is on the left wing, and that will not change,' Zidane said. 'The problem is more when he doesn't score, since we have grown used to him taking over. Cristiano will always be subject to criticism. He is used to it.' /div> div>  /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

A tournament without Djokovic to hit home in Australia

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The stark reality of an Australian Open third round without Novak Djokovic — for the first time in 11 years — hits home on Saturday when the remaining players in his half of the draw, Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic among them, attempt to advance to the second week of the tournament. Djokovic was beaten on Thursday in five sets by wild-card entry Denis Istomin, the earliest that the Serbian star has left Melbourne Park in singles since his first appearance here in 2006 when he was beaten by American Paul Goldstein in the first round. 'What Novak did here is just amazing, six victories here, six titles ... so it is not possible to be every time in that situation, no?' Nadal said after his second-round win. 'So then today was probably an accident, that's all. We are athletes. We know when we are going on court we can lose and we can win. It probably was a combination that Denis played a great match and Novak didn't play his best. When this combination happens, then you are in trouble. Everything can happen. And (it) happened.' Istomin, meanwhile, plays on. He's up against 30th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta on Show Court 2 on Friday. Here's a look at some of the key matchups Saturday: ___ RAFA'S TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: Nadal plays 19-year-old Alexander Zverev in an afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena. The young German was voted the ATP Star of Tomorrow in 2015 and has mostly lived up to the hype, seeded 24th here. 'He is one of the best players in the world, without a doubt ... and one of the next Grand Slam winners,' Nadal said. 'He has a big chance to become the future world No. 1 if he's able to keep improving the way that he's doing.' Nadal has been playing well since his return to the circuit after two lengthy injury spells last year, the 14-time major winner looking almost flawless in his straight sets win over Marcos Baghdatis in the second round. Still, he's expecting to have his hands full with Zverev: 'I know I have a very tough match ... I know I need to play my best if I want to have a chance.' ___ A SERENA BREATHER?: Six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams had two fairly tough matches through the first two rounds, facing Belinda Bencic, a former No. 7-ranked player now sitting at 59, and Lucie Safarova, ranked No. 61 but who Williams beat in the 2015 French Open final. Williams won both matches in straight sets. Her third-round match is against fellow American Nicole Gibbs, who Williams beat in straight sets at Stanford in 2012 in their only previous meeting. Williams said she feels she's better for the experience of having had tough opposition in the first two rounds. 'When I play players like Bencic and Safarova, they force me to play better,' Williams said. 'It forces my game from the very first day to be at a high level. I needed something to start really fast. I'm not going to complain about it.' ___ CONTRASTING STYLES: Third-seeded Milos Raonic plays Gilles Simon on Hisense Arena and the Canadian holds a 3-1 edge in career meetings. Their only Grand Slam match came in the fourth round of the 2014 French Open, when Raonic won in five sets, including 7-5 in the fifth. 'I know a lot about his game. I've watched him play a lot,' Raonic said. 'He's going to be there really trying to get me to play at his speed, his rhythm. Obviously he tries to slow things down, play low. I won't have the opportunity to get too many swings at many shots.' Which means Raonic, with one of the best serves in the game, will try to get points over quickly. 'I've got to serve well and I've got to be aggressive and I've got to take it to him. The last thing I want to do is get into this sort of game of playing long rallies with him.' ___ KONTA vs WOZNIACKI: Last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta and Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1 who made it to the final four here in 2011, meet for the first time in an afternoon match at Margaret Court Arena. Both have been playing well, Konta coming off a win in the Sydney International last week, and Wozniacki having dropped just seven games in her first two matches at Melbourne Park. 'She had a good last year,' Wozniacki said. 'But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is on the other side.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Raonic continues streak by reaching 3rd round in Australia

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Third-seeded Milos Raonic ended one streak and continued another with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) Thursday over Gilles Muller to reach the third round at the Australian Open. Raonic, who reached the semifinals here last year and the final at Wimbledon, had lost both previous matches to Muller — including one when he retired with an injured hip in the second round at Wimbledon in 2012. His win Thursday maintained Raonic's record of reaching the third round at least all seven years he has contested the Australian Open. The 33-year-old Muller entered the season's first major after capturing his first tour-level title in Sydney last week. Raonic was unable to defend his Brisbane title in the first week of the season, but is finding rhythm quickly in Melbourne — he fired 21 aces, hit 56 winners and only had 15 unforced errors against Muller. He left the court complaining of a sore throat, and will get a day off before his next match against No. 25 Gilles Simon. No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Raonic in the semifinals before winning the Brisbane International earlier this month, moved into the third round with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Chung Hye-on. Dimitrov will next play No. 18 Richard Gasquet. No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Donald Young 7-5, 6-3, 6-0. David Ferrer, the former world No. 3 who has only missed the quarterfinals once in the previous six years at Melbourne Park, recovered to beat U.S. qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 and set up a third-round match against fellow Spaniard and No. 13-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut. No. 30 Pablo Carreno Busta had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund to move into a third-round match against either six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic or Denis Istomin. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova and No. 9 Johanna Konta carried their winning form from warmup tournaments into the third round of the season's first major. Brisbane International winner Pliskova beat Anna Blinkova 6-0, 6-2 in 59 minutes, and has dropped just four games en route to the third round. She was leading 6-0, 4-0 in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. 'It's always good to be in the zone,' said fifth-seeded Pliskova. 'It can always be a bit better.' 'I'm feeling pretty good on the court, confident,' she said. 'Also, people are talking I have a good chance to win a Grand Slam, but we are just in third round, so let's see.' She will next play Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1. Sydney International winner Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year, advanced 6-4, 6-2 over Naomi Osaka. Konta, voted the WTA Tour's most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, will next play former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova held off Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 7-6 (8) and will next play No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova, who was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired because of a leg injury. No. 14 Elena Vesnina advanced to a third-round encounter against U.S. qualifier Jennifer Brady, who saved five match points before beating Heather Watson 2-6, 7-6 (3), 10-8. Andy Murray returned to the practice court for an afternoon hitting session under the scrutiny of coach Ivan Lendl, allaying concerns about his injured right ankle. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, twisted his ankle and tumbled to the court during the third set of his otherwise routine second-round win on Wednesday night. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Man United soccer's top moneymaker again after 11 years

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer br /> LONDON (AP) — Manchester United is a long way from winning the English Premier League again but is back on top of another table — as soccer's biggest moneymaker. For the first time since 2005, Manchester United overtook Real Madrid in top spot in the soccer finance rankings compiled by accountancy firm Deloitte even as it sits sixth in the Premier League. In 2015-16 when United won only the FA Cup and failed to qualify for the Champions League, the 20-time league champions generated 515.3 million pounds (689 million euros based on the annual average; now about $632 million). Spanish champion Barcelona had 620.2 million euros in revenue and Real Madrid, which won an 11th Champions League title in May, dropped to third on 620.1 million euros in Deloitte's 20th annual rankings. United's stay at the top could be short-lived with the pound weakening since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June and the failure to reach the Champions League. Despite Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as manager, United is struggling to break back into the top four Champions League qualification places let alone win the first Premier League title since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013. But United, owned by the Florida-based Glazer family and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has maintained an ability to attract sponsors. 'Manchester United have had to wait 11 years to regain their position as the world's leading revenue-generating club and it has taken phenomenal commercial revenue growth to help them achieve this,' said Dan Jones of the Deloitte sports division. 'In recent years, their ability to secure commercial partnerships with value in excess of that achievable by their peers has been the crucial factor in enabling the club to regain their place at the top of the Money League.' The top five is completed by German champion Bayern Munich and Manchester City. The eight English clubs in the top 20 account for 45 percent of the accumulated revenue in the standings of 7.4 billion euros — up 13 percent from the previous year. Leicester, a first-time winner of the Premier League, makes the cut for the first time, squeezing into 20th place on 128.7 million pounds. West Ham returns to the top 20 and should move up from 18th place (143.8 million pounds) following its move last summer to Olympic Stadium. The other Premier League teams are: Arsenal (seventh at 350.4 million pounds), Chelsea (eight at 334.6 million pounds), Liverpool (ninth at 302 million pounds) and Tottenham (12th at 209.2 million pounds). The weight of English clubs in the revenue rankings should increase next year with the rise in television revenue. Premier League clubs should each earn at least 100 million pounds a season as part of the rights deals worth more than 8.3 billion pounds over three years. The only French team represented in the rankings is Paris Saint-Germain, which fell two places to sixth with revenue of 520.9 million euros. Zenit Saint-Petersburg is the only Russian team included, improving a place to 17th by generating 196.5 million euros. Along with Bayern, German also provides Borussia Dortmund (11th at 283.9 million euros) and Schalke (14th at 224.5 million euros). Juventus heads the list of four Italian teams, in 10th place on 224.5 million euros, followed by AS Roma (15th at 218.2 million euros), AC Milan (16th at 214.7 million euros) and Inter Milan (19th at 179.2 million euros). Deloitte warns that the enhanced English broadcast deals could see at least one of the Milan teams fall out of the top 20 next year. Joining Barcelona and Real Madrid in the rankings from Spain are Atletico Madrid in 13th place at 228.6 million euros. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Chile amateur goes from no big victories to Masters

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Toto Gana hit what he described as the 'best shot I've hit in my whole life,' a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie to win the Latin America Amateur Championship and earn a trip to the Masters in April. His best shot produced his biggest trophy. Asked what his greatest achievement in golf was before his victory in Panama, the 19-year-old from Chile said: 'I didn't have any achievements, to be honest. I had won a couple of tournaments at home when I was really, really young.' The Latin America Amateur completed its third year, a stroke-play tournament created by Augusta National, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient to spur growth in that part of the world. It follows the successful launch of the Asia Pacific Amateur. The Asia Pacific Amateur is producing a higher pedigree of champions — Hideki Matsuyama won twice, and the winner last year was Curtis Luck, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The last two Latin America winners were surprises — Gana and 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica last year. The other winner was Matias Dominguez of Chile, who was a junior at Texas Tech. Gana said the only hard part about his victory was beating Joaquin Niemann of Chile, one of his best friends who won the Junior World in 2015 at Torrey Pines. 'I really never thought I could win this tournament because all the other players have won many other tournaments, very big tournaments,' Gana said in a conference call after his victory Sunday. 'What I did was keep a cool head. When I saw that I had a chance to win, I believed in myself that I could do. And I gave it my all.' Chile will have a player represented at Augusta National for the second time in three years. The only other Chilean player at the Masters was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964. Gana has flair, and he showed how much passion he has for golf when explaining how he got started. 'When I was a little boy, 8 years old, my stepfather taught me to play golf on the practice range,' he said. 'When I shot a really nice shot, I never quit.' Gana will be enrolling at Lynn University in Florida. ___ BLOOMING START: Justin Rose played the Sony Open as part of the new 'strength of field' regulation on the PGA Tour that requires players who played fewer than 25 events last year to add a tournament they had not played in four years. Rose was so excited about this year that he might have started earlier if he would have been eligible. He failed to win a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2009. But in a year slowed by injury, Rose geared himself for golf's return to the Olympics and won the gold medal in Rio. That was worth an exemption into the four majors (Rose already is eligible for them), but the PGA Tour did not offer a spot in SBS Tournament of Champions. 'I didn't inquire,' Rose said about Kapalua. 'But in my mind, I was surprised that it didn't count in a way, just because, why wouldn't it? It's a one-off thing.' He thought maybe the tour would only give a spot to Kapalua if the gold medalist was already a PGA Tour member, much like it treated the HSBC Champions early on in its World Golf Championships history. Rose chuckled, however, when he realized his history in Hawaii. 'It's funny enough, I don't have the right to say I should have been at Kapalua,' he said. 'Because I've won six years in a row and I've only been once.' A birdie on the final hole at the Sony Open gave him second place alone, which was worth $648,000. ___ PLAYING TO HIS STRENGTH: Jason Dufner is the defending champion at the CareerBuilder Challenger, where he won last year for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. What changed? Very little. He attributed the drought to a neck and shoulder injury that he suffered at the 2014 Masters. Dufner tried to play through it all year until he was forced to pull out of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which kept him off the Ryder Cup team. Playing with the injury led to bad habits with his swing, which led to bad shots, too many memories of bad shots and eventually shattered confidence. 'People don't realize, once you start playing, you have to redo everything,' Dufner said. 'You see it with a lot of guys coming back. It takes them 6, 8, 12 months. I spent 2015 trying to get back to where I was.' Where he wants to be is one of the top ball-strikers in the game. As for putting? He manages. Dufner has finished no higher than No. 143 in the key putting statistic over the last four years, and while he has to pay attention to his setup, it's not as though he's going to abandon what got him here (his swing) to pour everything into becoming Jordan Spieth. 'I've been putting bad for 17 years,' he said. 'It's tough to change. I can hit it good enough to make up for it. I'll wait for my weeks where I putt good and try to win.' ___ THE RACE TO MEXICO: Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, and his first thought was going to the Masters. Now that it's beginning to sink, the Canadian rookie has reason to consider other tournaments that were not on his schedule at the start of the season. First up is the World Golf Championship in Mexico. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings through the Honda Classic are eligible for the Mexico Championship, and there are only six tournaments between now and then. That's also true for Pat Perez, who tied for third at Kapalua and is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. Rod Pampling is at No. 6. The other World Golf Championships event in March is based off the world ranking, so those three players have much more to do for them to get into the top 64. One player who might have secured his spot was Kevin Kisner, who shot 60 in the third round of the Sony Open and wound up in a tie for fourth. That took Kisner from No. 51 to No. 41, making it difficult to fall that far in two months. ___ DIVOTS: Justin Thomas moving to No. 8 in the world means that six of the top 10 players are under 30. ... The Golf Writers Association of America has voted former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf. For the GWAA's award for press cooperation, it was a tie between Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink. They will be honored at the GWAA annual awards dinner on April 5 in Augusta. ... The three courses used for the CareerBuilder Challenge — PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus and La Quinta — ranked among the top 10 in easiest courses on the PGA Tour last year. ... The fourth Latin America Amateur Championship will be played at Prince of Wales Country Club next year in Santiago, Chile. ... The European Tour now has eight events in its Rolex Series with China-based HNA Group signing a five-year deal to be title sponsor of the French Open. That will raise the purse to $7 million in line with other Rolex Series events. ___ STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Thomas hit 34 drives that went at least 330 yards during his two weeks in Hawaii — 20 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, 14 at Waialae Country Club. ___ FINAL WORD: 'If there's no defense, then you ought to be able to make birdies. If there's wind, you ought to be struggling.' — Kevin Kisner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Big wins for Justin Thomas, proud moments for his father

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Justin Thomas used to call his father when he arrived at junior tournaments, and the conversation almost always started the same way. 'What's the number?' The father wasn't asking what score it would take to win, the length of the course or even the entry fee. The number in question was how many greens his son would be able to reach in regulation, and not just on the par 4s. 'I was guaranteed to hit driver into at least one par 3,' Thomas said. Mike Thomas was in the gallery along the ninth fairway at Waialae Country Club when his 23-year-old son nearly left his feet while launching a 358-yard drive, setting up a wedge into the par 5. It was only his seventh-longest drive during his time in paradise. This Aloha State adventure was the best two weeks of Thomas' career. He joined Ernie Els as the only players to sweep the Hawaii swing and became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win by at least three shots in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour. Thomas rose to No. 8 in the world and he is the third-ranked American behind Dustin Johnson (No. 3) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5). 'Unforgettable,' Thomas said of the last two weeks. That goes for his parents, too, mainly because they had yet to see him win on the PGA Tour. His other two victories were in Malaysia, so Mike and Jani Thomas had to stay up until the early morning hours to watch him beat Adam Scott one year, Hideki Matsuyama the next. Watching in person with an ocean view is better. Mike Thomas has been the head pro at Harmony Landing outside Louisville, Kentucky, for the last 28 years, and golf is really all his son has ever known. Justin was not even 2 when his father gave him a cut-down driver with a wooden head to whack golf balls around the house and at Harmony Landing. As a toddler, when the boy wanted to play he would tell his mother, 'Bag of balls, bag of balls.' But the boy fell in love with golf by himself. 'I made sure there was no formal instruction until he asked for it,' Mike Thomas said. 'There were a lot more little lessons than big lessons.' Part of the reason is that he had a golf shop to run, members to serve and lessons to give. A larger part was that Mike Thomas had seen too many kids pushed too hard and he didn't want to be that parent. 'I decided that I wanted to be his best friend more than his father,' he said. 'There were times I had to get on him as a parent. But mostly we had just had a lot of fun.' Even now, when he takes time away from Harmony Landing to watch his son on tour, he stands quietly behind Thomas and caddie Jimmy Johnson without saying a word unless his son asks him to shoot video of a swing with his phone. They will look at it together. Mike Thomas tends to wait to see if his son can figure it out first. His fondest memories are not the tournaments he won as a junior, but the time they spent on the golf course in twilight hours, sometimes playing nine holes, other times creating games by seeing who could throw a golf ball closest to the pin. Golf has been in the family for three generations. Paul Thomas was the longtime club pro at Zanesville Country Club in Ohio who qualified for the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Mike Thomas played at Morehead State and competed in college against Kenny Perry, but his aspirations of playing the PGA Tour didn't last long. He spent one year on the mini-tours before working fulltime as a PGA professional. He took three jobs, in Ohio and Pittsburgh, before moving to Kentucky. Justin was in elementary school, still swinging away, when his father began a tradition of keeping golf balls from every tournament he won. There were 128 balls at Harmony Landing when they left for Hawaii. The father headed home with five more golf balls — and he wanted six. Two were from the victories at the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, bringing the victory count to 130. A special display will hold the golf ball that Thomas rolled in from 15 feet for eagle on the final hole of his opening round for a 59. Another ball is from the 36-hole scoring record (123) he set on Friday, and the fifth is from the 72-hole record (253) Thomas set Sunday. 'I wanted the one after Saturday for the 54-hole record,' Mike Thomas said with a laugh. 'But Justin said that wasn't a record, it was only a tie.' It's tempting to think back to the toddler who said 'Bag of balls' the way most kids ask for candy, and see where his son is now. But only the stage has changed. 'The feeling is the same,' Mike Thomas said. 'I know this is the PGA Tour, but when he had a chance to win as an 8-year-old at a U.S. Kids event, it was like, 'This is really cool.' ... As a parent, I'm just glad he's healthy, I'm glad he's safe and I'm glad he's doing what he wants to do. What else could any parent want?' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Kapamilya star Gerald Anderson is PHI's bet in Los Angeles Marathon

Kapamilya actor and sports enthusiast Gerald Anderson will be playing a new role, this time carrying the country’s pride on his shoulders as our representative to the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon set on March 19. Anderson is the Philippines’ bet to the 32nd edition of the annual race where 25,000 runners both amateur and professional from all over the world are set to answer the crack of the starting gun. “I’m very excited and at the same time kinakabahan,” the actor and new Skechers Performance brand ambassador said during the press conference held at Dusit Thani Hotel Tuesday. “But at the end of the day hindi po ako pupunta doon para magpakita lang, para lang i-fulfill ko ang commitment ko sa Skechers. I really wanna go and finish the race sa best time na kaya ko.” Anderson has been training and joining numerous marathons, duathlons and triathlons including the 2015 ASTC Asian Triathlon Cup, Powerman Duathlon Asian Invitational last November and Powerman Duathlon Pilipinas World Series last month where he finished fourth and sixth place, respectively, under the Male 24-29 age group.       For the LA run, Anderson has been training since late last year under triathlon national team coach George Vilog. He added he also trains in his free time during the taping of his upcoming teleserye “Ikaw lang ang IIbigin” opposite Kim Chiu.          “Sakto rin kasi ‘yung bagong teleserye na ginagawa ko is about triathletes and isa akong triathlete doon,” he said.     This will be Anderson’s first 42 kilometer run and he vowed that he will not only cross finish the race but at least log in a decent time considering that he is carrying the nation’s pride. “Siyempre ang isa sa mga goals and motivations ko is not just to finish the race but to have a good time (of finish). Ayoko na nandoon lang ako para magpakita lang ako,” said Anderson, also a skilled basketball player and an auxiliary officer of the Philippine Coast Guard with the rank of lieutenant. “Everything that I do in my life hindi ko naman ginagawa para gawin lang. You always want to be the best of what you do. So abangan na lang natin sa March,” he added.           ---  Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Pinoy cage fighter shines in One Championship

FILIPINO MMA fighter Rene Catalan justified his quest for a world title shot by submitting his Indonesian foe in the undercard of ONE: Quest for Power in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday night. Catalan forced Indonesia‚Äôs Adrian Matheis to tap out via arm bar in the second round of their strawweight fight at Jakarta Convention Center. The [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  remateRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Murray wins in straight sets in 1st major match as No. 1

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during his 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed in his approach. The five-time finalist, back in Melbourne trying to end his drought, started on Rod Laver Arena on Monday and took the first step in his bid for a first Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals here — including the last two — to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. But he did take something off his long-time friend at the end of last year when he replaced Djokovic in the top ranking during a stunning finish to the season. In Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's honors list, Murray received a knighthood from the British monarch for reaching the pinnacle of the sport. Murray said the ranking and the civic honors won't change anything, and he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations.' He admits there's one thing he desperately wants to change. 'I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year,' he said. Two players who could potentially stand in his way — No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 10 Tomas Berdych — had first-round wins earlier in the day. Another, Roger Federer, was set to play his first tour-level match in more than six months when he played Jurgen Melzer in a night match on Rod Laver. There are 18 American women in the draw, and two recorded wins in the first two matches on Rod Laver. Venus Williams went onto main court right after Shelby Rogers' upset win over fourth-seeded Simona Halep, a result which sent the former French Open finalist out in the first round again. Williams also lost in the first round last year, and didn't plan to replicate Halep's early exit again. The seven-time major winner beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, twice recovering breaks in the first set and despite her 48 unforced errors. 'It's never easy playing the first round — you're just trying to find the rhythm,' Williams said. 'She played amazing. It's very satisfying to get through a match against an opponent who is on fire.' Rogers caused the first upset of the tournament with her 6-3, 6-1 win over Halep. Rogers made a surprising run to the French Open quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza last year, when she was ranked No. 108, but only advanced to the second round at one other tournament in 2016. But the run at Roland Garros gave her confidence. 'The biggest thing I took away from that was just that I can compete with the top players in the world and I'm good enough,' said Rogers, who was playing just her second main draw match at the Australian Open. 'So I have definitely carried that away from the French Open and just been enjoying it a little bit.' Halep, a two-time quarterfinalist in Australia, said she'd been hampered by left knee pain that was compounded by the pressure of the match. Seventh-seeded Muguruza saved a set point in the first set, needed a medical timeout and had to fend off three break-point chances at 1-4 in the second set before advancing with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Marina Erakovic. Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig raced through her opening match, beating Patricia Tig 6-0, 6-1, and No. 20 Zhang Shuai, No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu also advanced. Australian teenager Destanee Aiava's milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to German qualifier Mona Barthel. The 16-year-old Melbourne high school student became the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a major. In two all-U.S. matches, Samantha Crawford defeated Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and Alison Riske beat Madison Brengle 7-5, 6-3. Fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe recovered from a break down, and an illness, in the second set to beat No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-1, 7-6 (3). Two other seeded players lost early women's matches, with Varvara Lepchenko beating No. 19 Kiki Bertens 7-5, 7-6 (5) and former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic beating No. 26 Laura Siegemund 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. On the men's side, Nishikori needed 3 hours, 34 minutes to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2, but Berdych only played a set — which he won 6-1 — before Luca Vanni retired from their match. No. 19 John Isner beat Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 and advanced along with No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey, who beat Quentin Halys 6-7 (10), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

I'll have the usual: Patriots advance to AFC title game

JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — Short nights and short offseasons. It's the Patriot way. New England has advanced to the AFC championship game for a record sixth year in a row and the 11th time in 16 seasons. With one more win, the Patriots (15-2) would play in their seventh Super Bowl since 2001. To find out who was still in their way, they had to wait for the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16 on Sunday. That's also something they've grown accustomed to in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era. 'It was a long night — or a short night, however you want to look at it,' Belichick told reporters on Sunday, about 13 hours after beating the Houston Texans 34-16. 'We have people on our staff that work on our next opponent, just like we always do. This one's a little tougher because we're working on two teams instead of one, but they've just worked harder and gotten it done.' Brady completed 18 of 38 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns in the divisional-round victory over Houston, but he also threw two interceptions — as many as he had all season. Dion Lewis had three touchdowns — one running, one on a pass reception and a 98-yard kickoff return — but fumbled another return and helped the Texans stay in the game. So the Patriots don't have to look too far to find things to work on this week. 'There are some things I could do a lot better on, protect the ball. I put my team in jeopardy,' said Lewis, who is the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a run, catch and kickoff in the playoffs. 'We have a lot of work to do. We made a lot of mistakes. I'm glad we got a win, but in order to advance next week, we've got to play a lot better.' Brady was also focusing on improving. 'I think we've just got to learn from it,' he said. 'It was a lot of things, and then when you add our poor execution on top of that, then you add our turnovers on top of that, it doesn't feel great because we worked pretty hard to play a lot better than we played. 'I give them a lot of credit, but we're going to have to play better on offense. We expect to go out and have a good week and try to fix the things that we saw tonight, and then try to play better next weekend.' Brady, 39, overcame his four-game 'Deflategate' suspension to propel himself into the Most Valuable Player discussion while throwing for 28 touchdowns in the regular season and just two interceptions — the best ratio in NFL history. He has not missed the playoffs in a healthy season since 2002, and his 11 appearances in the conference title game is a record for any player. Saturday's win gave Belichick the record for coaching appearances in a conference championship, his 11th, breaking a tie with Dallas' Tom Landry. 'It's really a testament to this organization,' said New England defensive back Duron Harmon, who had one of three interceptions of Houston's Brock Osweiler. 'The work we continue to put in, how hard the coaches continue to push us. It's just a testament, it's very rarely done, and I'm just excited to be a part of something like this because there's not too many places that win like this.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Thomas caps off record week with trophy at Sony Open

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Challenged only by the record book, Justin Thomas won the Sony Open on Sunday with the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history. Thomas capped off his wonderful week at Waialae that began with a 59 with his second straight victory. He two-putted birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th and closed with a 5-under 65 to set the record at 253. Tommy Armour III shot 254 at the 2003 Texas Open. 'It's been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,' Thomas said before going to sign his historic card. Make that two weeks. The 23-year-old from Kentucky won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week by three shots, then destroyed the full field at the Sony Open to win by seven shots. Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more. 'I felt like I was trying to win a tournament for second place,' Jordan Spieth said, summing up the helpless feeling of everyone. That honor went to Justin Rose, who closed with a 64 to finish alone in second. Spieth shot a 63 to finish alone in third. The first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour was a one-man show. Thomas began the final round with a seven-shot lead and no one got closer than five shots all day. His only nervous moment was an 8-foot par putt on the sixth hole when he was five shots ahead. He made that, and the rest of the day was a Pacific breeze. Thomas joined Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Thomas was 49-under par for his two weeks, compared with Els at 47 under. Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger Woods (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of the their first five starts in a PGA Tour season. It started last fall with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. He moved to No. 8 in the world. 'He's got full control of his game, full confidence, and he's executing under pressure,' Spieth said. 'It's a lot of fun to see. Certainly stuff that myself and a lot of our peers have seen going back almost 10 years now. He's certainly showing the world what he's capable of.' No one ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round of a PGA Tour event, a fact that never entered the conversation on a balmy afternoon at Waialae. Thomas, thinking more about the trophy and another record when he started the final round, took no chances early on. He was 1 over through seven holes, making a soft bogey with a three-putt from 45 feet on No. 4 and a tough par save on No. 6, and still no one got closer than five shots. But when he poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth, Thomas shifted into another gear. That was the start of four birdies in five holes — the exception was a birdie putt he missed from just inside 10 feet — and he stretched his lead to as many as nine shots. Waialae was vulnerable all week with not much wind, fast fairways and greens that were softer than usual. Thomas produced the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday. Kevin Kisner had a shot at 59 on Saturday until missing a 9-foot eagle putt on his final hole. And on Sunday, Chez Reavie made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 17th hole that gave him a shot at a sub-60 round. Only a bogey on the sixth hole (he start on No. 10) stopping him, and he had to settle for a 61. That matched the third-best score of the week. Even in easier conditions, no one played like Thomas. He felt the nerves early, perhaps knowing that he could only lose with such a big lead. But when he made the turn with a six-shot lead, it was a chase for the record, and there was no stopping him. He hit a lob wedge over a bunker to 3 feet for birdie on the 14th, made a 12-foot par save on the 15th and picked up the last birdie he needed on the par-5 18th by easily reaching the middle of the green. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Liverpool frustrated with FIFA over Matip eligibility

  LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp expressed his frustration on Sunday that FIFA has failed to make a swift decision about the eligibility of defender Joel Matip. Matip withdrew himself from consideration for future selection for Cameroon's national team in September 2015, but his country tried to call him up for the African Nations Cup that started this month. Although Cameroon finalized its squad for the tournament more than a week ago, without Matip in it, Liverpool says the Cameroon Football Federation has failed to confirm he can play for the club during the African Nations Cup. The Premier League team has sought clarification from FIFA about the issue, but hasn't been given a decision by world soccer's governing body and did not feel it could take the chance on playing Matip against Manchester United on Sunday. He was therefore withdrawn from selection for a game that finished 1-1 at Old Trafford. 'We, the club, did everything we had to do to make this clear but until now we could not get the response we need to be 100 percent sure that he can play,' Klopp said. 'It's pretty difficult and pretty frustrating, to be honest. He's been in training for five days and would have been in the squad, 100 percent, maybe on the pitch today, so I don't think it's fair. But we cannot do more and are still waiting on the decision. We could not take the risk.' Liverpool believes Matip has followed all the correct procedures and considers he should be available for selection during a busy period for the club, which is playing Premier League, FA Cup and League fixtures this month. 'We need to get an answer as quickly as possible because on Wednesday we have the next game (an FA Cup third-round replay at Plymouth) and then another game and another game. We cannot wait forever,' Klopp said. 'It is public now, we have this problem and we are not the only team with this problem.' Fellow Premier League club West Brom has faced a similar situation with defender Allan Nyom, who has not played in the team's last two matches because it has not had similar clarification from FIFA. FIFA has the power to ban players it feels have not correctly acceded to the request of their national association. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

McIlroy to have tests on his injured back

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — One tournament into the new year, Rory McIlroy is going for tests on his back Monday to make sure he is fit enough to play Abu Dhabi without further damage. McIlroy felt pain in his back before the second round of the South African Open, and it lingered throughout the final round, where he closed with a 67 and lost in a playoff to Graeme Storm. McIlroy was flying to Dubai on Sunday and said he would have an MRI 'just to see what's up with this joint in my back.' 'It's OK,' McIlroy said on the European Tour's website. 'It was manageable this week. I'm taped up and I've got a few pills in me and I'm fine. But first and foremost, that's the most important thing, to get fit and healthy again. And hopefully, I'll be all right to play next week.' The runner-up finish looks to be enough for McIlroy to have a chance to return to No. 1 in the world if he were to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which in recent years has been the strongest field of the year among regular European Tour events. Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler are among those playing. McIlroy has not been atop the world rankings since September 2015. He is scheduled to play Abu Dhabi and then Dubai two weeks after that. 'If I go to Abu Dhabi next week and win, I think I get back to No. 1, so it's a nice goal to have going into next week,' McIlroy said. 'I really want to make next week because there's so much to play for. But at the same time, there's so much to play for this season. I don't want to jeopardize long-term goals for short-term gains. So we'll see. Hopefully, I'll be good to go.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Australian Open quotes: Rafael Nadal says no plans to retire

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal isn't planning to give up tennis anytime soon. Johanna Konta won't take too seriously her dominating win in the Sydney International last Friday. And Sam Stosur, who has never done well at her home Grand Slam tournament, isn't getting too down on herself after her preparation — or lack of it— for Melbourne Park. Following are some thoughts and impressions from players who spoke on Sunday, the day before the start of the Australian Open: ___ RAFAEL NADAL The takeaway: Rafa is not about to call it quits anytime soon. Nadal, a 14-time major winner, is coming off two lengthy injury layoffs last year, including 2 ½ months off after pulling out of the French Open before the third round with left wrist injury and another rest at the end of the season. Just don't ask him if he's ready to pull out a rod and reel, or a 9-iron. 'If I don't believe that I can be competitive, and when I mean competitive, is fighting for the things that I fought for during the last 10 years, I will be probably playing golf or fishing at home,' Nadal said. 'I am being honest ... I am here because I believe ... I can fight for the things that really motivate me.' Given his history with injuries, Nadal was asked if he was playing pain free. 'What do you mean 'pain-free'?' he said. 'I am not injured, no. Pain-free is a long time ago.' ___ JOHANNA KONTA The Sydney-born British player, a surprise semifinalist at Melbourne Park last year, won the Sydney International final against Agnieszka Radwanska last Friday, a victory so dominating that the Polish player, ranked third in the world, said: 'I can't remember playing someone like this on that level, that consistent for the whole match. I couldn't really say that I did something wrong. She was just playing amazing tennis.' Konta said Sunday she's not reading too much into those plaudits. 'Obviously to have beaten a player like Aga, I'm definitely very pleased with the level I played,' Konta said. 'But we all know that it's not a given. It doesn't decide how you will do in the next event. I'm taking it as a positive from the week itself, but I'm looking to, again, work hard here and really try to do the best that I can here.' ___ SAMANTHA STOSUR Competing in her 15th Australian Open, the highest-ranked Australian woman in the draw has never made it past the fourth round at Melbourne Park. Her preparation for her home major wasn't helped with first-round losses at Brisbane and Sydney 'I can't change it, it is what it is,' Stosur said of her early exits. 'I'm not going into my first round freaking out that I haven't had more than two matches. Like I said, I've done everything else that I can. Obviously it would have been really nice to have played more. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in that situation from the first two weeks of the year.' The 18th-seeded Stosur has a tough first-round match against Heather Watson of Britain. ___ SIMONA HALEP The fourth-seeded Halep lost in the first round last year at Melbourne Park. This year she'll have the distinction of opening play on the main Rod Laver Arena on Monday, against American Shelby Rogers. 'I hope is going to be better this year ... it's special to open the tournament on the biggest stadium. I'm not thinking very much at that thing. I just have to go there. I know the opponent pretty well.' Halep beat Rogers in straight sets in the third round at the 2015 U.S. Open in their only previous meeting. ___ TOMMY HAAS The 38-year-old German veteran has said 2017 will be his last year on tour — he's taking over as tournament director at Indian Wells. Haas, who plays Benoit Paire of France in the first round, wants to go out with some dignity after a career of injuries. He has been ranked as high as No. 2, won 15 ATP Tour titles, reached the semifinals of the Australian Open three times and Wimbledon once, and won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His career has been stalled by injuries since he had shoulder surgery two years ago and right foot surgery in the middle of last year. 'I think it's important to find that right time, or that moment for you when you feel it's over and it's time to do something else,' Haas said Sunday. 'For me it's very important just to be back on tour and back here at the Australian Open. It's been a while since I've played here and I'm excited to get the opportunity to go out on the court one more time and compete.' And to keep playing, hoping that his best is once again around the corner. 'When you are a dreamer, and a lot of us are, you obviously like to play at your best level again, maybe play against some of the top players somewhere on a big stage and play a great matches,' Haas said. 'Maybe get far in a tournament one more time.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017