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'Nothing is impossible. I am living proof of that.' - Milan Melindo

strong>'NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.' /strong> This is what the new IBF interim world Jr. light flyweight champion Milan Melindo wishes to impart to aspiring boxers and champions alike. Barely two months after his impressive win over then-IBF number-three ranked light flyweight Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. at the Cebu Coliseum, Melindo has already set his sights on his next goal. In an interview with ALA Boxing, Melindo shares that he now looks forward to becoming a regular world champion. While there's no final date yet for a fight against regular IBF World Light Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi, Melindo hasn’t stopped training since coming back to the gym a week after his most recent championship win.  “I didn’t even feel like going on a vacation for the holidays. I know I still have to train harder, I want to train harder”, Melindo added.  strong>Q: Do you feel like you need to train harder because Yaegashi’s a better fighter? /strong> strong>Milan Melindo /strong>: Yes and No. Yaegashi is a good fighter. He doesn't have the world title if he isn’t. But that is not why I am more relentless in my training after my latest fight. I realized what helped me win is the strong motivation from my past two attempts at world titles. Because of the experience, I felt a stronger will to finally win and make something out of my dreams. I want to train harder because I want more. I don’t want to go back to just dreaming of being in this level. There’s more out there, and that’s what I want now. strong>Q: How different is Milan Melindo now? /strong> strong>MM /strong>: There’s not much difference in me as a person. I am the same Milan before I won the title. I want people to know that. What I am is thankful. I am very happy to have finally won a world title for all of us. I am happy I was given the chance fight again despite my failures the past years. More importantly, I am happy with how I turned my doubters to believers. It gives me more confidence to aim higher not just for myself, but also for my gym and country. This is for all of us. strong>Q: Why do you think you succeeded this time? /strong> strong>MM /strong>: I prayed to win. I have to admit, the last fights I had, I don’t pray to win. I pray for guidance instead. I pray for our safety. I was always dependent on our training and my skills as a fighter. But this time, I prayed since I got the date and confirmation of the fight. I prayed all the time. I asked for this. I also worked so hard to win. I realized it does take everything from you to get what you really want to happen. strong>Q: What’s next for Milan Melindo? /strong> strong>MM /strong>: I want to be a regular world champion first. After that, I hope to challenge the other world champions in my division. It’s strange because before I got this title, I was only focused on actually winning it. Now that I have it in my hands, I want to achieve more. I want to get my country on top of the rankings again. It’s the reason I’ve been spending more time training instead of resting after my fight. There’s this want in me that’s keeping me on the move. Milan added that he wants to get his story out, how he failed not once, but twice, before he won his first title. He believes he can inspire other Filipino athletes. “I know not everyone gets the opportunity to big fights, that is why I am very thankful to my manager, my promoter, all the people behind ALA Gym and ALA Promotions, my coaches, stable mates that I’ve sparred with, my family, and of course our TV partner ABS-CBN Sports. Without everyone, the media, and fans who’ve always supported us fighters, I wouldn’t be able to get to where I am now. This is the motivation everyone needs and I hope, everyone finds. I hope the young fighters out there who have yet to conquer their own dreams know my story and continue to do what they believe in. I know I’ve yet to achieve mine too, but I hope they don’t give up when they fail and do their best every time they go in the ring. I hope they continue reaching for their dreams because nothing is impossible. I am living proof of that.” .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Worth a mention: Williams aiming for record 23rd major title

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams definitely doesn't want to talk about the No. 23. She doesn't really want to think about planning a wedding, either, while she's pursuing a Grand Slam record. Newly engaged Williams brushed off concerns about the 88 unforced errors she had in a loss in New Zealand last week in her only warmup tournament ahead of the Australian Open, which starts Monday and where she's aiming for Open-era record 23rd major title. 'I've moved on,' she said. 'I'm feeling relaxed, calm, ready and poised.' Williams responded to questions about milestone achievements last year when she had 21 Grand Slam titles, and it didn't help — she lost the final here to Angelique Kerber and to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open before winning Wimbledon to equal Steffi Graf's Open era mark of 22. She's being more superstitious this time. 'I'm not talking about that,' Williams, a six-time Australian Open winner, said as she shut down questions during a promotional activity this week. 'I said I'm not talking about that. Move on.' Another Australian title is also high on the agenda for Novak Djokovic, who already has won six. But he isn't thinking much beyond his opening match after drawing Fernando Verdasco. A first is the priority for Andy Murray, recently knighted in Britain after finishing 2016 at No. 1. He is looking at the draw from the top for the first time at a major and is hoping it comes with a change in fortunes at Melbourne Park. He has lost five Australian Open finals — the first to Roger Federer in 2010, the other four to Djokovic. Federer could again stand in his way, only at the quarterfinal stage this time. The 17-time major winner slipped down the rankings during six months off last year recovering from an injured left knee and was seeded No. 17. Williams took time off after the U.S. Open, where she lost in the semifinals for the second year running and lost the top ranking to Kerber. The big news during her break was her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month, when she posted a poem on the news website to confirm she'd accepted his proposal. After hitting this week with 16-year-old Destanee Aiava, who will be the first person born in the 2000s to play in the main draw of a major when she meets a qualifier in the first round, Williams said her mind was back entirely on business. 'I told (Ohanian) my main goal was to win this title,' she said. 'Yeah, it really doesn't feel like anything different.' No date has been set for the wedding, with Williams' mind on one major thing, so she's not thinking about a dress or a cake, and she's not wearing a ring to practice. 'Oh my God. I don't think about it really,' she said, responding to questions about her marriage plans. 'I'm just ... I don't know I'll have to ask him that. I have a job — I mean, he does too. I kinda gotta focus.' Kerber won the Australian and U.S. Open titles last year, so will be attempting to defend a major for the first time in Melbourne. She may be feeling pressure as the No. 1 seed, having won only one match in two warmup tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney. That doesn't take any pressure off Williams. 'I am No. 2, I guess. I definitely don't feel like anyone's saying that, 'Oh, there's no pressure on Serena,'' she said. 'It's always there, I'm used to it. 'I feel like I've been No. 1 for so long, so many times. I've done things that are amazing. Sometimes that ranking really means a lot, but also I feel like sometimes just winning events ... means just as much.' That's something Djokovic understands. His 122-week streak at No. 1 ended amid Murray's incredible finish to last season, when he won Wimbledon and defended the Olympic gold medal among eight titles he won after reuniting with Ivan Lendl as coach. Before then, Djokovic had beaten Murray in the Australian and French Open finals, his 11th and 12th major titles. Half of those have come in Melbourne, where his victory last year equaled the record six Australian titles Roy Emerson won (1961 and 1963-67). 'I'm feeling phenomenal,' Djokovic said after arriving in Australia following a win over Murray in his season-opening event at Doha. 'Maybe this is the year — 2017 for seven. I'm not a numerologist, but it sounds good.' Murray jumped on a flight almost immediately after last year's final to be with his wife, who was expecting their first child. There have been plenty of changes for him since, becoming a father for the first time, No. 1 in the world for the first time, and reuniting with Lendl. 'Each time I come, I think I've got a chance of winning but it's just never happened,' he said. 'Hopefully, this year will be different. 'I do think the last few months of last year can help me with giving me confidence — other players look at that and see you're playing well and (I) feel physically and mentally strong.' Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who ended the run of wins by Djokovic and Murray when he won the U.S. Open last September, said the next generation of players such as Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori would be among the contenders for the Australian title. But he thinks it will be difficult for any new champion to emerge against the likes of the in-form Murray and Djokovic, and the returning Federer and Rafael Nadal. 'So far, last 10 years, the 'Big Four' was really strong,' Wawrinka said, 'so it's going to be interesting to see this year how Novak, Andy, Rafa, and Roger will play.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Thomas takes 2-shot lead over Matsuyama in Kapalua

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer br /> KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Justin Thomas, who as a skinny kid in Kentucky had to hit driver to reach a par 3 in junior golf, stood on the 14th tee at Kapalua trying to decide if 3-wood would be enough to drive the green on a par that was playing 287 yards up the hill. His caddie thought driver was the club, and Thomas took it from there. 'It needs to be something hot to run up there,' he said. 'And I just nuked it, and hit it low and just enough to scoot up the ridge.' The ball bounded onto the green to 20 feet, and Thomas made that for eagle . It was enough for him to take control Saturday at the SBS Tournament of Champions, ultimately leading to a third straight round of 6-under 67 and a two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, who had a 66. Perhaps it's only fitting that those who will be in the final group. Thomas, who was at 18-under 201, is the only player to beat Matsuyama over the last three months. The 24-year-old from Japan has won four of his last tournaments dating to Oct. 16 at the Japan Open, a streak that includes seven-shot victories in Japan and at a World Golf Championships event in Shanghai. Thomas beat him by three at the CIMB Classic at Malaysia, and Matsuyama wasn't much of a threat that final round. He is now. 'If I'm near Hideki in the tournament, that's usually a pretty good thing on Sunday,' Thomas said. 'He's obviously a tremendous player and he's on an unbelievable run here the last five events. I actually had no idea I was the only one to beat him in the last five events, which is absurd, the fact he's won four of his last five. ... But there's a lot of great players out there. I just need to go take care of my job.' There might not be as many players to beat in this winners-only field after Thomas gave himself a little separation. Only five players were within five shots of the lead going into the final round, with Dustin Johnson seven shots back and world No. 1 Jason Day eight shots behind. Thomas was only mildly perturbed that his lead wasn't greater. Following his eagle on the 14th, he smashed another drive that caught the slope on the par-5 15th and rolled to the bottom of the hill, a 348-yard drive that left him only 180 yards to the elevated green. But his shot was a clunker coming out of the short rough, and while he hit a tough pitch to 6 feet, he read a fraction too much break in the putt and had to settle for par. 'I had 8-iron twice and made par,' he said of his week. On the short 16th, he pounded another drive within 60 yards of the pin, but his wedge came up well short and he missed from 15 feet. He also looked back to how he closed out the front nine, with a soft bogey on No. 7 and missed birdie chances of 10 feet on the par-3 eighth and a 3-footer on the par-5 ninth. 'I'm definitely not disappointed with today, but I left a lot out there,' Thomas said. Matsuyama made three birdies over his last five holes, starting with a chip-in on the 14th hole, to get into the final group as he goes for his fourth straight victory 'Justin doesn't have any weaknesses at all in his game,' Matsuyama said. 'He hits it long, has a marvelous short game, putts well, hits the ball well. We've got to go low tomorrow to be able to catch him.' Memorial winner William McGirt, one of 11 players playing the Plantation course at Kapalua for the first time, played bogey-free for a 66 and was four shots behind, along with Ryan Moore (71) and Jimmy Walker (70). Moore was tied for the lead until Thomas drove the 14th green for his eagle and Moore missed a 15-foot birdie putt. On the next hole, Moore's tee shot plugged into the steep face of a bunker and he had no choice but to pitch out sideways, leading to another bogey. Walker spent most of the gorgeous afternoon wincing over putts that kept burning the edges of the cup. 'Plenty of looks. Nothing went in,' Walker said. 'That's just kind of frustrating, especially the finish. I had a good look on 17, and then to not get that up-and-down on 18 is a bummer. ... I'm hitting the putts the way I feel like I need to hit them. They're just not going in.' Thomas has won twice in his three years on the PGA Tour, both in Malaysia. Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, had another double bogey, this one on his second hold. He ended with a three-putt par on the 18th for a 70 and was 10 shots behind. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Dining Delight: This Ortigas Gem Will Totally Change The Way You Look At Buffets

Helmed by world-renowned Chef Giuseppe Rivoli, Cucina not only boasts of an extensive sumptuous menu, but also of an open kitchen setup that makes every dining experience much more memorable......»»

Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 30th, 2016

LeBron considering return to US Olympic team under Popovich

em>By Tom Withers, Associated Press /em> INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James might make another run at Olympic gold with Gregg Popovich. James, who already has two gold medals, said that Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. team will influence his decision on whether to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games. 'It factors a lot,' James said Saturday as the Cavaliers prepared to host Popovich's San Antonio Spurs. 'I've said that before. He's just a great mastermind of the game of basketball.' James skipped last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to get rest after leading Cleveland to an NBA championship. But he's still connected with Team USA and Popovich replacing outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski could be enough to draw James back to the Olympics. James will be 36 in 2020, but his game is showing no signs of decay and the three-time NBA champ has relished his previous Olympic appearances. He was a key member of the American teams that captured gold in Beijing (2008) and (2012), performances that helped him and the U.S. squad erase some of the disappointment from taking bronze in Athens (2004). Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals, had a hand in naming Popovich as his successor. For James, the pick was perfect. 'Team USA is in good hands with him,' James told The Associated Press in 2015. 'It was in good hands with Coach K. It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now.' Earlier this week, James said he considers Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA titles, 'the greatest coach of all time. I've said that over and over and over. You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ballclub. If you were an NFL player, it's probably the same as going against a [Bill] Belichick team. 'What they're going to do, they're going to do and you have to try to figure it out.' James has lost twice to teams coached by Popovich in the NBA Finals — in 2007 with Cleveland and in 2014 with Miami. He admires the way the 67-year-old coach has adjusted and adapted over the years. 'A guy that's been able to do what he's done in an era of basketball where it's changed so much and he's been able to have a growth mindset and be able to change with the game,' James said. 'Obviously Tim Duncan was a huge part of that because Timmy was allowed to change with the game as well, but he's just continued to build around Timmy and Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker] and bring pieces in and out throughout his whole tenure.' On Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), the Spurs will play their first game without center Pau Gasol, sidelined indefinitely with a broken left hand. James said that won't change San Antonio much — because of Popovich. 'It doesn't matter who is in the lineup for the Spurs,' James said. 'They'll play Spurs basketball and Pop will have them ready. I mean, what's their record, 33-9, I believe? And if you asked me how things would change without Timmy D., they still pushing forward, man. It's just nothing out of the ordinary.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Darvish wants to prove himself in final year of Texas deal

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer br /> DALLAS (AP) — Yu Darvish marked his five-year anniversary as a Texas Ranger this week. Now healthy again, he wants to prove how good a pitcher he is. 'It's not much about my contract, but coming back from Tommy John surgery,' Darvish said through his interpreter at the Rangers' winter banquet Friday night. 'This will be my second year to see how my body reacts and how much I can do to prove how good of a pitcher I am. That's what I'm looking forward to.' Darvish is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed with the Rangers in January 2012 after seven seasons in Japan. While the 30-year-old Darvish is 46-32 with a 3.29 ERA in 100 career starts for Texas, he missed all of the 2015 season because of the surgery and didn't pitch for the Rangers last season until May 28. Darvish was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings during the regular season. But in his first AL Division Series start last October, he gave up a career-worst four homers. Three of them were in the same inning of a 5-3 loss to Toronto in Game 2 of the best-of-five series that the Blue Jays swept. 'I would love to pitch in that kind of situation again this year,' Darvish said. 'And I would like to pitch very well.' Darvish said he just started throwing again and feels 'really good.' Texas spent more than two years scouting Darvish and getting to know him personally before committing more than $107 million to get him. On top of his guaranteed $56 million contract, the Rangers had to pay in the old system a massive $51,703,411 posting bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan. The 2017 season could have become a player option without a buyout had Darvish won the Cy Young and finished second-through-fourth another time, or finished second in the voting once and second-through-fourth two other times. Darvish finished second behind Max Scherzer in the 2013 AL Cy Young voting, when the Rangers right-hander was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-high 277 strikeouts. He was an All-Star each of his first three seasons (2012-14), a span in which he had 680 strikeouts before getting shut down late in the 2014 season because of elbow inflammation. 'I am really grateful to the Texas Rangers organization by just giving me this big of a contract. They've been taking care of me really well,' he said. 'So I just want to show the Rangers how much I can do and then show them that they were right giving me that contract.' Darvish said he considered it too much of a risk just two years after surgery to compete in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Then, he smiled and said, 'At the end, let me tell you that I didn't get offered' a spot. NOTES: The Rangers announced they will retire uniform No. 7 during an August ceremony to honor former catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week and will be inducted with the class of 2017 on July 30 in Cooperstown, New York. The only other Rangers to have their numbers retired by the club are Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan (No. 34) and former manager Johnny Oates (No. 26). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

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

Blue Jays ownership involved in bringing Bautista back

ROB GILLIES, Associated Press   TORONTO (AP) — Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said ownership got involved in the re-signing of veteran Jose Bautista. Atkins said Thursday the desire of Edward Rogers, the controlling shareholder of Rogers Communication, to help was 'abundantly clear.' He said thanks to Rogers, they don't have to rebuild. The free agent slugger looked like he might sign elsewhere but agreed to an $18.5 million, one-year contract this week that includes mutual options for more years. A longtime fan favorite, Bautista hit 22 homers with 69 RBIs last year while batting .234 in an injury-slowed season. The Blue Jays' failure this offseason to re-sign fan favorite Edwin Encarnacion didn't go over well in Toronto, which led the AL in attendance last year. Atkins expects Bautista to perform more like the 2015 season than the 2016 season.  He hit 40 homers and had 114 RBI in 2015. He blamed injuries for Bautista's subpar 2016. He said they've seen the 36-year-old work out this offseason and expect him to play right field for the bulk of the 2017 season. 'I would expect him to be a defender that we can rely on,' he said. Bautista gets an $18 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $17 million mutual option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout, payable if either side declines. There is a $20 million option for 2019 that becomes guaranteed if Bautista has 300 games played during the next two seasons and doesn't have a physical impairment that would prevent him from playing in 2019. Bautista also could earn $1.5 million annually in bonuses based on home attendance: $150,000 each for 3.5 million and 3.6 million, $250,000 apiece for 3.7 million and 3.8 million, and $350,000 each for 3.9 million and 4 million. Toronto drew 3.39 million at home last season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi stepping out of brother's shadow

DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press   MILAN (AP) — As a coach, Simone Inzaghi is finally stepping out of his older brother's shadow. The younger Inzaghi had some success as a player with Lazio, winning one Serie A title and three Italian Cups. But Filippo Inzaghi was one of the most famous forwards in the world, winning three Italian league and two Champions League titles with Juventus and AC Milan. Filippo, a former Milan coach now at the helm at third-division club Venezia, also helped Italy win the World Cup in 2006, and finished his international career with 57 appearances. Simone played only three times for Italy. But Simone, now 40, is coming into his own as coach of Lazio after taking over from Stefano Pioli in April. Under Simone this season, Lazio — which finished eighth last year — is proving to be somewhat of a surprise package, challenging for a Champions League spot behind Serie A leader Juventus, Roma and Napoli. 'Our aim is to try to always do well,' Simone said. 'Forty points in 20 matches is a lot. We've got to applaud these lads, because in July probably nobody believed Lazio would put together 40 points and deserve them and should even have a few more. 'Now the difficult part comes because we're not a surprise anymore. We have the duty now to try to remain there right until the end, knowing that it will be difficult, knowing that there are teams which are much better-equipped, but we have proved we belong there and we want to remain at the top.' Next up for Lazio on Sunday is a trip to Juventus, which last weekend lost at Fiorentina 2-1. Juventus has been tough to beat at home, and improved on its own Serie A record with a 26th consecutive home victory on Jan. 8. 'We've won five of the last six games, losing only to Inter despite an excellent first half,' Simone said Wednesday after Lazio beat Genoa 4-2 to reach the Italian Cup quarterfinals. 'We have to continue like this. 'We know we're playing against Juve, which has won the last 28 matches at home, so we know it will be very difficult for us but we have three or four days to recover, get our energy back and we'll go there to try and impose our game, try to do our best against a team which has been dominating our league for five to six years.' Simone has already faced Juventus twice as a coach, losing 3-0 in Turin in April, shortly after taking charge, and 1-0 in Rome in August. Lazio hasn't beaten Juventus in the league in 13 years, while the Bianconeri have won the past eight encounters. 'We have to try to give our all,' Simone said. 'In the first match this season we had a good match but there was a mistake and (Juventus midfielder Sami) Khedira punished us. 'We have to try and impose our match, knowing that we're facing a really strong team ... I beat Juventus as a player, I'd like to beat it as coach, too.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Needing a part-time caddie, Westwood calls on familiar face

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer   ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Lee Westwood needed someone to carry his bag for him at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week when his long-time caddie dropped out following the death of his father. With his options limited at such short notice, the former No. 1 called on someone close to home. His girlfriend, Helen Storey, has wanted to try out the job for a while and was happy to help out, especially since she had the week off from her day job as a personal trainer. With the par-72 National Course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club measuring long at 7,583 yards, it wasn't easy to replace usual caddie Billy Foster. 'I wouldn't want to carry the golf bag around six miles in this kind of heat,' Westwood said. 'Every credit for doing it.' It was a valuable experience for Westwood, too. 'She doesn't play a lot of golf so she can't do too much about that (side of things),' Westwood said. 'It was good for me, doing the yardage, reading the greens, and taking a bit more responsibility. You sometimes lose touch with your game when you haven't got that responsibility.' Westwood, now ranked No. 45, shot a 4-under 68 in his first round of competitive golf in nearly two months and was tied for 10th place, four strokes behind leader Henrik Stenson. 'I didn't advise him,' Helen said at the back of the 18th green at the end of Westwood's round. 'Just keeping up: That was my job. And I made sure he was hydrated. 'I managed to get round in one piece. He's very even-tempered all the time with me. It was good fun.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

No practice, no problem: Stenson leads in Abu Dhabi

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer br /> ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Henrik Stenson chipped in from 30 yards and had seven more birdies Thursday to open the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with an 8-under 64 in his first competitive round of 2017. Showing no rustiness from an offseason of little practice, the fourth-ranked Stenson led by two strokes midway through the first round. Three-time winner Martin Kaymer, Oliver Fisher, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Marc Warren were next. Stenson will do well to top 2016 — he won the British Open for his first major title and finished the season as Europe's No. 1 — and he prepared for the new year by mostly ditching his clubs, preferring to spend more time on the ski slopes with his family in Utah. Even his build-up to the Abu Dhabi event wasn't ideal, with two overnight flights in three days from his home in Orlando interrupted by his attendance at an awards ceremony in Stockholm where he beat Zlatan Ibrahimovic, among others, to win Male Sports Athlete of the Year at the Swedish Sports Awards. All Stenson needed was a few buckets of balls and some good putting sessions to get him back on track. Playing in an early-morning three-ball with two more current major champions in Dustin Johnson and Danny Willett, Stenson birdied four of his first five holes after starting at No. 10, completing the hot streak with the chip-in after leaving his approach five yards short of the green. He curled in a birdie putt from 15 feet on No. 17 and tapped in at the par-5 18th to pick up another shot before making birdie on two of his last three holes to end a round in which he was never in trouble. 'Very limited preparation,' said the 40-year-old Stenson, before adding with a smile: 'So that might be the way forward.' 'I was quite amazed how good the game felt coming into today. But again, I feel like I scored better than I played.' It was Stenson's second best round at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, only bettered by his course-record 62 in 2006 when he was runner-up to Chris DiMarco. It is a long course that suits Stenson's eye, and the same could be said of Kaymer. The two-time major winner from Germany mixed eight birdies — three coming on his final three holes — with two bogeys for his 66, his latest low score at an event where he usually excels. He won in 2008, '10 and '11, and should have won in 2015, only to throw away a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play on the final day. 'The golf course, for me, doesn't feel like I need to do a lot of special things in order to play well because I usually putt well on those greens,' Kaymer said. 'Doesn't feel like a hard-working day.' Johnson, at No. 3 the highest-ranked player in a strong field after Rory McIlroy's withdrawal on Monday, shot 72 in his first appearance in Abu Dhabi. Defending champion Rickie Fowler also was at even par. .....»»

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

Put the pedal to the metal

With their playoff hopes fading fast, Mahindra is just out to take everything it can out of the last three games in its Philippine Cup schedule. Losing to TNT Wednesday, the Floodbuster seem like a longshot of crashing the quarterfinals of the very first PBA conference this season. However, that doesn't mean Mahindra has taken everything for a loss so far in its All-Filipino campaign. “We’re still going game to game right now. We really have a nothing-to-lose-everything-to gain kind of attitude. It’s either we’re going to tank mode or we lift ourselves up from failure,' top deputy Chris Gavina said. 'I’m a big fan of believing that your failures lead to your success, so we’ll build off of this,' he added. After going on a mini two-game winning streak that put life to their otherwise woeful season, the Floodbuster looked primed for an upset after taking over the KaTropa at halftime, erasing an early 10-point deficit to post a six-point lead. Mahindra just wasn't able to sustain in the second half, leading to yet another disappointing defeat, it's sixth in eight games. 'It was a tough loss. We had the momentum for sure,' forward Alex Mallari said who ended up with a game-high 19 points for the Floodbuster. 'We had the momentum going into the second half and I don't know, we took off on the gas pedal. We Weren't aggressive,' he added. Basically looking for a miracle to make the playoffs at this point, Mahindra need not look far to find recipe for success. 'At this stage for us, it's all about team basketball,' Mallari said. 'Just go back to our last two games where we succeeded. Just be aggressive. If you're open, shoot it. Get some threes up. Keep assists coming. We need a lot of it. And defense as a group -- me, including everybody. So we'll get back on the drawing board and try to get another win,' he added.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Packers-Falcons NFC matchup expected to produce big offense

CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer br /> FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia (AP) — The high-scoring offenses of the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers appear poised to provide a memorable send-off for the Georgia Dome in Sunday's NFC championship game. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring. Even so, they know it won't be easy to keep up with the scoring pace set by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 'It's obvious they've got a stud at quarterback,' Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said Tuesday. 'We've played a lot of great teams with great players at quarterback... Whatever it takes, we just have to put up as many points as we need to.' Matthews said the weekly message from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is 'I don't know if we're going to have to win 6-3 or 40-37.' Of those alternatives, 40-37 appears to be the more likely target, in part because the Atlanta and Green Bay defenses don't dominate the statistics like their offensive counterparts. The game will be the Falcons' farewell to the Georgia Dome, which will be demolished in the offseason. The Falcons will move into the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season. The Falcons and Packers finished the regular season ranked 28th and 31st, respectively, in pass defense. The Falcons allowed 25.4 points per game to rank 27th, only a few spots below the Packers (24.2) at 21st. Atlanta led the NFL with 33.8 points per game. Green Bay linebacker Nick Perry said the goal will be to prevent big plays. 'They are very explosive,' Perry said. 'When we look at the film, we have to make sure we don't give up those explosive plays. Everything lives off that. They are good at what they do. We are going to look at the film and go over it and make sure we prevent as much as we can of those guys giving up explosive plays.' The Falcons advanced with a 36-20 divisional playoff win over Seattle last week. Green Bay's offense also rolled in a 34-31 win over Dallas. Despite the unimpressive season totals, Atlanta allowed fewer than 20 points in four of its last six regular-season games. But none of those games were against Rodgers. The Falcons have faced Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Drew Brees in their past three games. Asked who compares with Rodgers, Falcons linebacker De'Vondre Campbell had a quick answer. 'Nobody. It's just that simple,' Campbell said. 'The things that he can do, it's just amazing to see. There's no one I can compare him to.' The Falcons are led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, the All-Pro who ranked second in the NFL in yards passing and TD passes. Atlanta's offense featured depth, as Ryan threw scoring passes to a record 13 players during the season, and balance with running back Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Atlanta's offense provides nice support for its defense, but cornerback Jalen Collins insisted Tuesday he doesn't want to have to rely on that strength. 'You don't go in the game thinking you're going to give up hundreds of yards and a bunch of points,' Collins said. 'We're looking forward to trying to limit the points as best we can and give our offense an opportunity to put points on the board.' Falcons cornerback Robert Alford said expectations for a high-scoring game gives the defense reason 'to have a chip on our shoulders.' Added Alford: 'We're all going to have something to prove. I love it.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Patriots happy to be home for latest trip to AFC title game

KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — The New England Patriots have had what seems like an annual spot in the AFC championship game over the past decade. But the fact that this year's game is at home could factor into whether they are able to make a return trip to the Super Bowl. The Patriots became the first team since the 1970 merger to advance to the AFC title game in six straight seasons with their win over the Houston Texans last week. The Patriots are 5-1 at home in AFC championship games, with their lone loss coming in 2013 against the Ravens in Ray Lewis' final trip to Foxborough. While being at home doesn't guarantee victory, playing the game at Gillette Stadium is welcomed by a team that has been on the road in two of their past three trips to the AFC title game. Both of those road games ended in losses to Denver, including a 20-18 defeat last season. 'It's the energy. You get out there and everyone is really energetic. The fans are really intense,' receiver Chris Hogan said Tuesday. 'At the end of the day, it's another football game, and I just have to approach it like that, just the way I've been approaching every single game this year. Go out there, play my best, play good football and try to help this team win as much as I can.' Special teams captain Matt Slater acknowledged that New England's performance against the Texans could have been better, but said no one is taking anything for granted about this latest shot at a Super Bowl berth. 'Anytime you win a playoff game, whether you play well or not, if you win the game that's all that matters,' Slater said. 'I think we all appreciate the opportunity that we have. Could we have played better? Certainly. But we could also be at home.' The Steelers — and coach Mike Tomlin specifically — can expect to get an even more hostile reception than usual from the Patriots fans. This comes after Tomlin was broadcast using a derogatory expletive to describe the Patriots during a postgame speech to his team following Pittsburgh's divisional-round win over Kansas City. Unbeknownst to Tomlin, the speech was aired on a social media livestream by Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown. Tomlin apologized for his use of 'regrettable' language on Tuesday. But he said he's not worried about it having an impact on his team's preparations this week. 'We are in the AFC championship. You aren't going to creep in the back door of New England and win a football game, and creep out of there with an AFC championship,' he said. 'I am not worried about our team's ability to deal with the potential distractions.' Slater said he continues to have respect for Tomlin and didn't think his comments would serve as any extra motivation. 'At the end of the day the only thing that is gonna matter is what we do in between those white lines on Sunday,' Slater said. 'What is said or what is done off the football field it really doesn't matter. It's about executing on Sunday.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

LA2024 committee proposes venues for 3 more Olympic sports

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The committee seeking to land the 2024 Summer Olympics for Los Angeles would stage archery at a new football stadium, mountain biking in a regional park and modern pentathlon at a stadium, with all three locations away from the downtown core. LA2024 announced on Tuesday its proposed locations for the three sports in completing a list of existing, planned or temporary venues for the Games. The committee has stressed the city's bid doesn't require any permanent venue construction. Archery would be held in the new football stadium in Inglewood, 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The stadium is currently under construction and set to open in 2019. It will be the home of the NFL's Chargers and Rams. It would also be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, with gymnastics across the street at the Forum. Mountain biking would be hosted at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in suburban San Dimas, 30 miles from downtown. The venue would be upgraded and allow for future World Cup races to be held there. Modern pentathlon would be at StubHub Center in Carson, 17 miles from downtown, with all five of the sport's disciplines held within a single stadium. StubHub is the proposed venue for rugby during the first week of the games, and modern pentathlon would be held the second week. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 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