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Spieth chasing Grand Slam and hardly anyone notices

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The spotlight on Jordan Spieth should be bright enough to cut through the marine layer blanketing Harding Park this week at the PGA Championship. Win this major and he joins the most exclusive club in golf with the final leg of the career Grand Slam. Only five other players — Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen — have won all four majors since the Masters began in 1934. This is his fourth chance, and each year becomes more difficult. The longest anyone went from winning the third leg to completing the Grand Slam was three years by Player and Nicklaus. And hardly anyone is talking about it. It's not because Brooks Koepka is trying to become the first player to win the PGA Championship three straight times in stroke play, or because Tiger Woods is going for his record-tying fifth PGA. It's not even because golf has returned amid a coronavirus pandemic that has kept spectators away from a major championship for the first time. Spieth has become an afterthought because he hasn't won since he captured the British Open three years ago. Who would have guessed that? Certainly not the 27-year-old Texan. “If you told me that, I'd probably say that guy is kind of a jerk and I'd walk the other way,” Spieth said with a smile. “But here we are. And I hope to end that as soon as possible.” So much has changed since his last visit to the TPC Harding Park. That was in 2015 for the Cadillac Match Play. Spieth was the newly minted “Golden Child” in golf as the Masters champion. He would win the U.S. Open the following month, miss a British Open playoff by one shot at St. Andrews and be runner-up at the PGA Championship. No one ever made such a spirited bid for the calendar Grand Slam. Now, the world ranking tells the story. Spieth was No. 2 after winning at Royal Birkdale and getting his first shot at the career Grand Slam in the 2017 PGA Championship (he tied for 28th). He was No. 8 in the world going to Bellerive for the PGA Championship the following year (he tied for 12th). He was No. 39 going to Bethpage Black last year. He played in the final group with Brooks Koepka on Saturday, albeit eight shots behind, and fell back quickly. He tied for third. Now he has plunged all the way to No. 62, out of the top 50 for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie. More troublesome than not winning is that Spieth has rarely contended. He has not finished within three shots of the lead since his remarkable rally in the final round of the Masters two years ago left him two shots behind Patrick Reed. Is there hope? He has no doubt. Is there a chance at Harding Park? He has experience. “Majors aren’t necessarily totally about form,” Spieth said. “They’re about experience and being able to grind it out, picking apart golf courses. So I feel like I probably have more confidence going into a major no matter where my game is at than any other golf tournament.” Exactly what went wrong is a topic of debate and discussion. He was ill all of December before going into the 2018 season. His alignment got off. His putting, the hallmark of his game, went sideways. And he's been trying to put back the pieces ever since. The last two years he hasn't made it to the Tour Championship. His only real success of late has been a more positive attitude. Spieth used the word “grace” at Colonial, his way of saying he will learn to shrug off mistakes and keep going. “I almost feel at times like the game is testing me a little bit right now,” he said. Last week, he spoke of a shot that hit a tree. Whereas it used to bounce in the fairway, this one went off a cart path and out-of-bounds. The same thing happened at Hilton Head. “I feel like you can look at it a couple ways,” Spieth said. “You can get really upset and complain about it — which I’ve done and that’s not helpful — or you can look at it like, ‘Hey, this is part of the game testing you, and the better you handle these situations, the faster you progress forward.’” Spieth says he is in no hurry. At 27, he has plenty of golf ahead of him in his career. As brilliant as his 2015 season was, he'd like to think his best years are ahead of him. But there's only one PGA Championship this year. One shot at the career Grand Slam. “It's something that I really want,” Spieth said. “It's probably the No. 1 goal in the game of golf for me right now is to try and capture that. I’d love to be able to hold all four trophies.” The way the last three years have gone, any trophy would do......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnAug 5th, 2020

Column: FedEx Cup about the money, not the majors

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — The FedEx Cup is still about the money. Whoever wins this week at the Tour Championship gets $15 million, more than Greg Norman's career earnings on the PGA Tour. The FedEx Cup might one day be as much about prestige. Tiger Woods (twice), Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk won the first four FedEx Cup titles, and all four will be in the World Golf Hall of Fame if they're not in already. The last four winners were Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. That's good company to keep. The FedEx Cup was never about major championships. Woods is absent from East Lake, this time not by choice but because he didn't qualify. It stands out because of his last two victories, Nos. 80 and 81, both in Georgia. The first was the Tour Championship, the most electric moment in golf all of last year. Woods won at East Lake to cap a remarkable return from four back surgeries, a DUI arrest stemming from his reliance on painkillers and his own fears that he would never compete again. Memories would be a lot stronger if he were here. Instead, he becomes the seventh player to win the Tour Championship and not be eligible to return the following year during the FedEx Cup era. Should he be at East Lake? It seems that way because of his other victory, this one in April at Augusta National, as captivating as any of his 15 majors. Woods said Sunday at Medinah when his season officially ended that he was disappointed and he wished he could be at East Lake. But he hardly was torn up over it, for one reason. "I'm the one with the green jacket," he said of winning the Masters. He also has company. British Open champion Shane Lowry didn't make it to East Lake, either. He has a claret jug at home in Ireland to console him. This is the fifth time in 13 years of the FedEx Cup that at least two major champions were not at the final event, usually with extenuating circumstances involved. Five major champions who didn't make it to East Lake were not PGA Tour members, three of them in 2010 — Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. The last time was in 2016, when Masters champion Danny Willett and British Open champion Henrik Stenson fell short. Willett didn't become a PGA Tour member until after he won the Masters. Stenson had a knee injury he wanted to protect for the Ryder Cup and wound up playing just two playoff events. Given their stature, it would seem the majors should get more FedEx Cup points than a measly 20% bump. For example, Woods received 600 points for winning that little invitational at Augusta National. That's only 100 points more than Kevin Tway got for winning the Safeway Open. Could it be more? Sure. Does it need to be? Not necessarily. Would anyone even be talking about major champions not being at East Lake if not for Woods being one of them? Because while the PGA Tour has drastically changed its season with the FedEx Cup format, what hasn't changed is what matters — winning majors. The reward for capturing a Grand Slam event is worth far more than having a tee time at East Lake and a chance to win $15 million. Besides, it's not like Woods and Lowry didn't have the opportunity. Woods played only six times after he won the Masters — three times he failed to make the cut, the other three he was a combined 39 shots behind the leader — and finished the season with 12 events. Lowry played 14 times, a product of having only conditional status at the start of the year. He had middle-of-the-pack performances at two playoff events. He finished 57 points short of East Lake, which equates to being two shots better at Liberty National and at Medinah. "I think what it says is that it's really hard to get to Atlanta and the Tour Championship," PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. "You've got to play exceedingly well over the course of an entire season. And with volatility, there's risk." The volatility refers to the playoff events offering four times as many points. If any change should be considered, perhaps triple the value would do the trick. Or the tour could double the points for the first event and triple the points for the next one. It really doesn't matter. The majors are over. Names are etched on silver trophies and in golf lore. The FedEx Cup is merely an end-of-the-year competition to keep golf compelling and to give the PGA Tour season a definitive end. It hasn't done any harm. If anything, it has kept the best players competing against each other after the majors. And they all get rich when it's over. Total bonus money for the 30 players who made it to Atlanta is $46 million. That's what they will be chasing over the next four days. Woods and Lowry now can only look behind them. The view is just as sweet......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2019

Serena fights way into US Open quarters as Thiem sails through

Serena Williams battled into the quarterfinals of the US Open on Monday as second seed Dominic Thiem sailed through to the last eight of the men’s draw at Flushing Meadows. Williams, chasing a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title, had to summon up every last ounce of strength to depose 15th seed Maria Sakkari in […].....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 8th, 2020

Serena fights way into US Open quarters as Thiem sails through

Serena Williams battled into the quarterfinals of the US Open on Monday as second seed Dominic Thiem sailed through to the last eight of the men’s draw at Flushing Meadows. Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, had to summon up every last ounce of strength to depose 15th seed Maria Sakkari in […] The post Serena fights way into US Open quarters as Thiem sails through appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsSep 8th, 2020

Barty, Jabeur chasing history in Melbourne

Top seed Ashleigh Barty steps up her bid to end the host country’s title drought and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur is chasing more history in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday. The world No. 1 Barty is under huge pressure to win in Melbourne—the last time an Australian woman triumphed in their home Grand Slam was Chris O’Neil in […] The post Barty, Jabeur chasing history in Melbourne appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsJan 27th, 2020

Record-chasing Serena powers into 10th U.S. Open final

    NEW YORK, USA – Serena Williams cruised into a 10th US Open final as she brushed aside 5th seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 6-1, to claim a record-equaling 101st win at Flushing Meadows Thursday, September 5 (Friday, September 6, Manila time). Williams is seeking a 24th Grand Slam singles title to match ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsSep 6th, 2019

Erratic Federer loses to Dimitrov in US Open quarterfinals

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Betrayed by his forehand, and maybe his body, too, Roger Federer is out of the U.S. Open. Federer gave away a lead against a guy he'd never lost to and was beaten 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 by 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals before a stunned crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night. "He started slowing down a little bit," Dimitrov said. "For sure, in the end, he was not 100% of himself." Chasing a 21st Grand Slam title, and sixth at Flushing Meadows, the 38-year-old Federer took a rare-for-him medical timeout after the fourth set, leaving the court with a trainer. It was not immediately clear what might have been wrong with Federer, although he did appear to be flexing his back after some points. When play resumed after a break of nearly 10 minutes, Federer's form never picked up. He kept contributing to Dimitrov's cause, missing shots this way and that, long or wide or into the net. The stats were staggering and showed exactly how off Federer was on this evening: 61 unforced errors, 33 on the forehand side. Compare that to his 40 total winners. Federer had been 7-0 against Dimitrov, taking 16 of their previous 18 sets. And Federer could have become the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Jimmy Connors was 39 in 1991 at the U.S. Open. He could have claimed a berth in his record 56th career major semifinal. Instead, it is Dimitrov who will participate in a Slam final four for the third time, facing No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev on Friday. Medvedev has drawn plenty of attention at Flushing Meadows for the way he sarcastically thanked booing crowds, trolling them by suggesting their venom was why he kept winning. Now maybe folks will pay more attention to the 23-year-old Russian's unusual brand of shape-shifting tennis, which carried him past three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday despite 12 double-faults and a body that's just short of breaking down. Dimitrov has struggled for much of 2019, failing to even get to a quarterfinal anywhere since Week 1 of the season. And it's been nearly 1½ years since Dimitrov reached a semifinal at any tour-level event, let alone a major. His Grand Slam results have been trending in the wrong direction, too: from a loss in the fourth round at the Australian Open to the third round at the French Open to the first round at Wimbledon. So his ranking, as high as No. 3 a couple of years ago, is nowhere near that now. His coaches, Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, aren't anywhere near Flushing Meadows, either. They opted to stay away from the tournament. Asked why, Dimitrov hemmed and hawed. It's certainly working so far......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 4th, 2019

Koepka survives Bethpage Black to win PGA Championship

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Brooks Koepka took his place in PGA Championship history with a wire-to-wire victory, minus the style points. In a raging wind that turned Bethpage Black into a beast, Koepka lost all but one shot of his record seven-shot lead Sunday. He lost the brutal Long Island crowd, which began chanting "DJ!" for Dustin Johnson as Koepka was on his way to a fourth straight bogey. But he delivered the key shots over the closing stretch as Johnson faded with two straight bogeys, and Koepka closed with a 4-over 74 for a two-shot victory and joined Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA Championship since it went to stroke play in 1958. Koepka said at the start of the week that majors are sometimes the easiest to win. This one should have been. It wasn't. His 74 was the highest final round by a PGA champion since Vijay Singh won in a playoff in 2004 at Whistling Straits. "I'm just glad I don't have to play any more holes," Koepka said. "That was a stressful round of golf. I'm glad to have this thing back in my hands." Koepka appeared to wrap it up with a gap wedge from 156 yards to 2 feet on the 10th hole for a birdie, as Johnson made his first bogey of the round up ahead on the 11th. That restored the lead to six shots, and the coronation was on. And then it all changed in a New York minute. Koepka missed three straight fairways and made three straight bogeys, having to make a 6-foot putt on No. 11 to keep it from being worse. The wind was so fickle that it died as he hit 7-iron to the par-3 14th that sailed over the green, leading to a fourth straight bogey. The crowd sensed a collapse, and began chanting, "DJ! DJ! DJ!" as Koepka was playing the hole. Ahead of him, Johnson made birdie on the 15th — the toughest hole at Bethpage Black all week — and the lead was down to one. That was as close as Johnson got. His 5-iron pierced through a wind that gusted close to 25 mph, over the green and into a buried lie. He missed the 7-foot par putt, went long of the green on the par-3 17th for another bogey and had to settle for 69. "Hit the shot I wanted to right at the flag," Johnson said of his 5-iron from 194 yards on the 16th. "I don't know how it flew 200 yards into the wind like that. Johnson now has runner-up finishes in all four of the majors, the wrong kind of career Grand Slam. "I gave it a run," he said. "That's all you can ask for." Koepka returned to No. 1 in the world with a performance that defines his dominance in golf's biggest events. He becomes the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time, having won a second straight U.S. Open last summer 60 miles down the road at Shinnecock Hills. He was the first wire-to-wire winner in the PGA Championship since Hal Sutton at Riviera in 1983. And what stakes his claim as one of the best in his generation was a third straight year winning a major. He joins a most elite group — only Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have done that since the Masters began in 1934. He now has four majors in his last eight, a streak not seen since Woods won seven out of 11 when he captured the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Next up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Koepka defends his title for the third time. No one has won the U.S. Open three straight years since Willie Anderson in 1905. No one will doubt whether Koepka is capable the way he is playing. The 29-year-old Floridian is an imposing figure, a power off the tee and out of the rough with no obvious weakness in his game and the kind of mental fortitude that majors require. He needed all of it over the final hour of this one. Koepka doesn't know his resting heart rate, and he said on the eve of the final round that it probably was not much different on the first tee of a major than when he was chilling on his couch. But he could feel this one getting away from him. He could sense Johnson making a charge. He could hear it. "How could you not with the 'DJ' chants," Koepka said. "I heard everything." Bethpage has a reputation for being over the top, and it irritated Harold Varner III, who shot 81 playing in the final group. "I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke," Varner said about the 14th hole. "That's not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that." Koepka held it together at the most crucial moment. He piped his driver down the 15th fairway and two-putted for par. And he drilled another one into the 16th, which played the most difficult in the final round because it was into the wind. Johnson hit 5-iron just over the green. The wind died enough 20 minutes later that Koepka hit 7-iron only to 50 feet and had another good lag putt to get par. He kept it interesting to the end, three-putting the 17th as the lead went back to two shots, and pulling his driver on the 18th into fescue so thick it left him little choice but to lay up and scramble for par. Once his medium lob wedge settled 6 feet away, he could relax. Finally. Woods won the Wanamaker Trophy in consecutive years twice, in 1999 and 2000, and again in 2006 and 2007. Koepka was starting to draw comparisons with Woods for the way he obliterated the competition, much like Woods in his 12-shot victory in the 1997 Masters and 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Koepka tied the PGA Championship record by opening with a 63. He broke the major championship record for 36 holes at 128. He set another PGA Championship record with his seven-shot lead. In the end, just having his name on the heaviest championship trophy in golf was all that mattered. Jordan Spieth registered his first top 10 since the British Open last summer with a 71 to finish at 2-under 278, six shots behind. He tied for third with Patrick Cantlay (71) and Matt Wallace (72). This really was a two-man race over the back nine that not many would have seen coming at the start of the final round. Only the outcome was expected......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Spieth tries to stay close to Koepka at PGA Championship

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Jordan Spieth doesn't feel as though his confidence is getting higher. All that mattered was his score getting lower. Spieth did his best to stay within range of Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship on Friday by making five birdies over his last 11 holes for a 4-under 66 and his lowest 36-hole score in a major since he won the British Open two years ago. He had to wait on Koepka playing in the afternoon to see how close he could stay. But this was an important step for Spieth, who hasn't won since his 2017 British Open victory gave him the third leg of the career Grand Slam, which he can complete by winning the PGA. That was still far from his mind. "I haven't been in contention on a Sunday since The Open last year," said Spieth, who shared the 54-hole lead at Carnoustie and tied for sixth. "And if I'm able to put some good work in tomorrow, I will be in contention on Sunday. And at that point, it will be just more of trying to win a golf tournament. It won't matter to me what tournament it is." It will be proof to Spieth that his struggles over the last year — he even used the words "bit of a slump" earlier this week — are finally turning in his favor. He was at 5-under 135, one shot ahead of Dustin Johnson (67) and Daniel Berger (66) among those who finished early. Koepka started with a 7-under 63, after becoming the only player to post 63 in the same major twice. He opened with three birdies over the opening four-hole stretch at Bethpage Black and threatened to pull away. Tiger Woods, playing in the same group as Koepka, started at 2 over and was trying to make sure he at least made the cut. Spieth has been showing signs of making progress, only to be done in by one round or a nine-hole stretch. It looked as though that might be the case Friday when he made bogey from the right rough on the 15th and bogey from the left rough on the 16th, putting him 1 over for his round. The key moment was a 6-iron to 8 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th, mainly because it got him back to even after the toughest stretch. "My goal in turning was try and get to a few under for the championship," Spieth said. "You don't expect Brooks to fall at all, so I thought I needed to be within five or six or seven to feel like I had a chance on the weekend." He was helped by his tidy short game. Spieth used his putter only 13 times over the last 11 holes, making five birdies and four par saves, only from about 12 feet after finding a bunker on the par-3 third. Berger is best known in these parts for his 66 in the third round at Shinnecock Hills in the U.S. Open last year that put him in the final group. He dropped only one shot early in his round at No. 12. Johnson played alongside Spieth and reached 5 under for the tournament approaching the 18th, only to miss the fairway and go over the green. He also three-putted from long range on the par-3 third, but made a 20-foot birdie putt late in his round at No. 7 for a 67. "The afternoon guys still got 18 holes to play," Johnson said. "I feel like I'm in a good position. I'm happy with where I'm at no matter what the lead is after today. I'm going to be somewhere around it or close enough to where with 36 holes left, I'm OK." Danny Lee was among the few early starters who failed to take advantage. He opened with a 64 and was one shot behind Koepka, and he never got any closer. Lee made a pair of double bogeys on the back nine for a 41, and salvaged a 74 to join a group at 2-under 138. Rory McIlroy was happy to still have any chance at all. He started with two double bogeys and a bogey and was 7 over for the championship through three holes when he rallied with four birdies over his last six holes for a 71. Spieth did enough to believe the worst days of his slump are behind him. It was only in the last few weeks that he felt comfortable enough to return to a familiar philosophy: aim small, miss small. "I'm not 100% hitting it as well as I did a couple of years ago," Spieth said. "But I'm hitting it a lot better than I did the end of last year, beginning of this year." And the putting looks as strong as ever. So when someone suggested Spieth looked freer than he has lately, he smiled and said, "When you're making everything you look at, anybody is going to walk around feeling pretty free.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Danger matches Tuesday for Djokovic, Williams at Aussie Open

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Not much room for error: six-time Australian Open champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic face tougher-than expected first-round matches on Tuesday. Both are chasing records at Melbourne Park, where Williams is hoping to set an Open-era record by winning her 23rd Grand Slam title and Djokovic is striving to be the first man to win the Australian title seven times. Williams, who lost to Angelique Kerber in last year's final, has drawn Belinda Bencic, who was seeded 12th here last year and who beat her in Toronto in 2015. Their career record is 1-1, with Williams having beaten Bencic on clay at Madrid in 2014. Bencic advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park last year. 'I think it will be good for us both,' Williams said. 'She's done well here before. It's never easy for me. I didn't come here to lose in the first round, or the second round, or at all. If I can play the way I've been practicing, it will be fine.' Djokovic, meanwhile, faces veteran Fernando Verdasco, a man he's beaten nine times in 13 career meetings. Verdasco had an upset win over fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal last year in the first round. 'Fernando is a very complete player on any surface. In a given day, if things go right, he can beat really anybody on any surface,' Djokovic said. He's not overwhelmed by the occasion of playing on center court. I'm expecting a tough one, there's no doubt about it.' ___ BENCIC IS PUMPED: Bencic has a 9-2 record in first-round Grand Slam matches. Bencic found out about her first-round opponent when, she admitted, 'my Twitter was blowing up. I was like, What's going on? My first reaction was really happy. So I think I'm super pumped, like excited I get to play on the big court.' She thinks it's anything but back luck that she drew Williams: 'I think we're going to play on the big court. It's a big match ... it's what everyone's working for.' Williams has Bencic's record in first-round majors covered, and then some. She's 64-1 in Grand Slam first-round matches, her lone opening-round loss at a Grand Slam came at 2012 Roland Garros against Virginie Razzano. ______ RAFA READY: Rafael Nadal is coming off two lengthy injury layoffs last year, and his match on Rod Laver Arena against Florian Mayer will be the first between the pair since 2012, when Nadal won on clay at Rome. Mayer beat Nadal on hard courts at Shanghai in 2011. Nadal has reached the second round or better in all but one of his 12 previous trips to Melbourne Park — the one failure coming last year when he lost to Verdasco in the first round. Mayer is hoping to end a seven-match losing streak at the majors and record his first Grand Slam match win since he reached the round of 16 here in 2014. ___ CAN KONTA DO IT AGAIN?: Last year, Sydney-born Johanna Konta was a surprise semifinalist at Melbourne Park, and the British player is now in the top 10 and coming off a victory in the Sydney International last week, where she overwhelmed third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. She'll play Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium to open the day session on Margaret Court Arena. 'I played her (Flipkens) last year in Monterrey, she beat me there. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play her again. She's a great player. She's a Wimbledon semifinalist (2013). She's been around the tour for a long time. That's by no accident.' Konta has won only five of her 12 first-round Grand Slam matches. ___ RAONIC FAVORED: Last year's semifinalist and No. 3-seeded Milos Raonic plays Dustin Brown of Germany in the second match on Margaret Court. Brown has never won a match at Melbourne Park, and he's only beaten a top 10 player once in a Grand Slam. Advantage to the Canadian. They have played once before, when Raonic beat Brown in the first round at last year's U.S. Open. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

New look: Murray, Kerber start Australian Open as top seeds

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It's new and exciting for Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, entering a Grand Slam tournament with the No. 1 in front of their names. Both reached the top of the rankings for the first time near the end of 2016, ending long reigns by Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. And so they'll open their Australian Open campaigns on Rod Laver Arena on day one — both against Ukrainians. Murray, a five-time runner-up, opens his pursuit of a first Australian title against Illya Marchenko in the last day match on the main show court. Kerber opens the night session against Lesia Tsurenko. She'll be followed on court by Roger Federer, who is returning from six months on the sidelines. The 'one-round-at-a-time' cliche is well worn in tennis. For Kerber, though, it's pertinent. Seeded seventh last year, the left-handed German had to save a match point in the first round against Misaki Doi. Spurred on by that, she went on to beat Serena Williams in the final and claim her first Grand Slam title. She added a second major at the U.S. Open and ascended to the No 1 ranking. 'I think this point where I was match point down, that was the important point for my career,' Kerber said Sunday, speaking of her first-round escape against Doi. 'You never know (if) I lost the match, what would have happened.' It gave her the freedom to play without pressure, and that made all the difference. 'When I'm looking back, I was feeling that I got a second chance to stay in the tournament,' she said. 'I was playing since then without expectation ... just enjoying everything.' Kerber can hang on to the top ranking by reaching to the final here, but she's already feeling there's more to defend than her title. 'It's a new challenge for me, for sure,' she said. But, 'We are starting from zero here. I have to be ready from the first round again. 'I will try to not put too much expectation and pressure on myself. I mean, I will try to do it like last year — that was the way I had my success.' Record-chasing, six-time champions Djokovic and Williams, seeded No. 2 and anchoring the bottom half of the men's and women's draws, won't be in action until day two. Djokovic is aiming to be the first man to win seven Australian titles. Serena Williams is chasing an Open-era record 23rd major title. Newly-engaged Williams hasn't wanted to talk about the record, being a little bit superstitious. Williams is concentrating on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, who was seeded 12th here last year and who beat her in Toronto in 2015. While Serena has to wait, the Williams family will be represented on Rod Laver Arena on Monday by her older sister, Venus. The 13th-seeded Venus Williams will play against Kateryna Kozlova following fourth-seeded Simona Halep's opener against Shelby Rogers. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza starts play on Margaret Court Arena against Marina Erakovic, and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka opens the night session on the second show court. Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori gets things underway against Andrey Kuznetsov on Hisense Arena, where Nick Kyrgios will make his return to the tour against Gastao Elias. The 21-year-old Kyrgios finished 2016 under a ban in a season overshadowed by clashes with officials and fans and by the tanking at the Shanghai Masters which led to an eight-week suspension. The ban was reduced to three weeks when Kyrgios agreed to consult a sports psychologist, allowing to warmup for the Australian Open at the Hopman Cup. That's where Federer made his return from six months out to give his injured left knee time to heal. The 17-time major winner didn't play after Wimbledon and his ranking slid to No. 17 by this week. That resulted in him getting a tougher draw than usual at the tournament he has won four times, and where he has reached the semifinals in 12 of the last 13 years. If results go with rankings, he'll play two qualifiers before a potential third-round match against No. 10 Tomas Berdych. Nishikori and Murray are also in his quarter. Federer will open against another 35-year-old veteran, former No. 8-ranked Jurgen Melzer. 'That's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing,' Federer said. Wild-card entry Destanee Aiava, a 16-year-old Melbourne high school student, is set to become the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a Grand Slam when she meets German qualifier Mona Barthel on Show Court 2. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Dimitrov upsets Raonic, sets up Brisbane final vs Nishikori

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Milos Raonic's title defense ended in a semifinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov at the Brisbane International on Saturday, a day after his come-from-behind win over Rafael Nadal. Top-seeded Raonic beat Roger Federer for the title here last year, avenging a loss to the Swiss star in the 2015 final, and appeared to be on course for a third straight Brisbane final when he had set point in the first-set tiebreaker against Dimitrov. But the 25-year-old Bulgarian held firm, saving that set point, converting his own moments later and then breaking Raonic's serve twice in the second set on the way to a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win. The No. 17-ranked Dimitrov improved his record to 3-1 in career meetings against Raonic and set up a final against Kei Nishikori, who beat U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3 to reach the final for the first time at the season-opening tournament. Nishikori has a 3-0 record against Dimitrov, who lost the 2013 Brisbane final to Andy Murray and was ousted by Federer in his previous two trips to Brisbane. Wawrinka, who won the Chennai tournament in India in the first week of the season for the three previous years, had treatment on his left ankle in the first and second sets but didn't expect it to cause him any trouble at the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 16 in Melbourne. Third-seeded Nishikori took full advantage, converting his first break point in the second set to take a 3-1 lead when Wawrinka missed consecutive backhands. The No. 2-seeded Wawrinka broke back immediately, but dropped his serve again in the next game. Wawrinka beat Nishikori in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year; his only win in their past four matches. With the result in Brisbane, Nishikori has leveled up his career head-to-head record against the three-time major winner at 4-4. Nishikori was making his seventh trip to Brisbane, and playing a semifinal for the fourth time. The Japanese star is still chasing his first Grand Slam title, with his best run at a major remaining his appearance in the 2014 U.S. Open final. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova was playing unseeded Alize Cornet in the women's final on Saturday night. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

A clean slate and a fresh start for Jordan Spieth

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Three victories around the world. A chance to win another major. A Ryder Cup victory. Jordan Spieth had every reason to celebrate his year. Part of him, however, couldn't wait for it to end. 'I was happy when the ball touched down and 2017 started,' Spieth said Wednesday. He wasn't the least bit bothered by what he achieved last year, especially a pair of PGA Tour victories that ran his total to eight before he turned 23. He just knew he faced endless comparisons with the year before, and even matching that was going to be close to impossible. Spieth was coming off the best season in golf over the last 40 years by anyone not named Tiger Woods. His five victories included the Masters and U.S. Open and as close as anyone has come to the modern Grand Slam. He capped it off with a FedEx Cup title and all the big awards. And it didn't help when he started the next year with an eight-shot victory in Kapalua. 'Off of this week last year, it didn't necessarily help my own and anyone else's expectations, given the performance that we had,' Spieth said. 'But I also knew that wasn't realistic to continue to do. It's also a 30-something event ... which makes your chances of winning significantly higher, even though it is a world-class field. 'But I learned a lot on both end of things, highs and lows, which I didn't really have many lows in 2015,' he said. 'I think I can use that to my advantage.' One bad swing on the 12th hole at Augusta National could have changed that. Spieth lost a five-shot lead on the back nine of the Masters and never caught up, and then he never had much of a chance. But consider his outlook a year ago. Asked what he would consider a good season, Spieth at first joked, 'Last year.' He's not one to be specific about goals, though he did mention giving himself a serious chance in a couple of majors and closing out individual events. He had a chance in one major. He closed out victories at Kapalua, Colonial and the Australian Open. The Masters was the only tournament he had a chance to close out and let get away. Not a bad year. Just not like the previous year. And now, 2015 is far enough in the past that it's easier to look forward. Another reminder is the world ranking. Even with three victories and a runner-up in a major, Spieth went from No. 1 to No. 5. 'Just have to get it back,' he said. It starts on a Plantation Course that is far different from a year ago, when Spieth became only the second player in PGA Tour history to finish 72 holes in 30-under par or lower. It was dry with light wind throughout the week. This year, nearly two months of rainy weather makes has made the fairways lush. More rain this past weekend made it so soggy that instead of balls running down the fairways, tee shots were backing up from pitch marks. That would seem to be more suited to U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, who will be paired with Spieth in the opening round. Then again, length has nothing to do with why Spieth loves it here. In his only other appearance in 2014, he was in a three-way tie for the lead going into the final round and finished one shot behind Zach Johnson. 'I think this course, a lot like Augusta National, a few other ones, with the amount of slope and uneven lies and the amount of imagination you need in approach shots and on and around the greens, it brings out more the feel side of my game,' Spieth said. 'More kind of the quick-twitch, reactionary-type golf that I just love playing and I feel like is my DNA, my golf DNA. So that's why I feel like I've had success. 'When your swing isn't a driving range swing other than tee balls, I tend to hit the ball better than I do if it's just a dead-flat golf course,' he said. 'I don't know necessarily why. I think it's just the strength of mind to be able to adapt my swing to different lies.' Spieth has played only twice since the Ryder Cup, winning the Australian Open and tying for sixth in the Hero World Challenge. He's not alone. Jason Day, the world's No. 1 player, last played Sept. 23 at the Tour Championship. Dustin Johnson played only twice since the Ryder Cup. Everyone gets a chance to see where their game is against a 32-man field in paradise. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

5 questions for a new year, starting with Tiger Woods

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — The new year in golf is consumed by an old topic, this time with a twist. Instead of wondering when (or if) Tiger Woods will play, the question now is how will he play? And here's another question: Who ever imagined a time when the guys he beat for so many years would be rooting for him to play better? 'I think we've proved that golf does not need Tiger to be successful,' Brandt Snedeker said last month in the Bahamas. 'That being said, golf is better when Tiger is around. I don't think we need Tiger necessarily any more. We all want Tiger. I think golf is a better product, it's better TV and I want to see Tiger play again. It's fun. You see the crowds he brings and he still has an innate ability to do something only a couple of guys can do.' No one commands attention like Woods. The biggest problem for golf might be battling the perception that it matters only when Woods is playing. Compared with last year, that's a nice problem to have. There remains a battle for supremacy, minus any talk about a 'Big Three.' Europe has to face a Midwestern crowd, this time in the Solheim Cup. Two of the majors are going to courses that have never held one — Erin Hills for the U.S. Open, Quail Hollow for the PGA Championship. The first tee shot of the year is Thursday. Answers to a few topics will take months to sort out. TIGER WOODS By most accounts, Woods made a successful return in the Bahamas, except for the one that matters. He finished in 15th place out of 17 players and 14 shots out of the lead. But it was a start, and a healthy one. The best bet is that Woods will return at Torrey Pines at the end of the month, and with each event, the measure will shift form his health to his score. Jack Nicklaus is mostly curious about his motivation, and he speaks from experience. Nicklaus won his 16th and 17th majors at age 40, and he refers to his final major in the 1986 Masters as 'an accident in many ways.' 'It's really difficult when you've had as much success as I had over a long period of time to charge your batteries, day after day, and go back out and say, 'Man, I want to do this again.' That's what he's going to have to do,' Nicklaus said. 'Whether he can do that or not, I don't know. That's going to be the question.' THE BATTLE FOR NO. 1 Jordan Spieth started last year at No. 1, won three times and fell to No. 5. Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy were separated by 0.76 points of their world ranking average going into last year, so some movement was inevitable. Day has been at No. 1 since the end of the March, and while there is slightly more separation at the top, there are a half-dozen players or more who could end 2017 at No. 1. McIlroy came on strong at the end of the year. Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open and was the PGA Tour player of the year. Henrik Stenson won his first major and became a threat every time he teed it up. Hideki Matsuyama ended last year by winning four of his last five tournaments. A different player has finished No. 1 for the eighth consecutive year. Odds are this will be the ninth. MAJOR MYSTERIES No one knows what to expect at the U.S. Open for the second time in three years. The USGA took golf's second-oldest championship to Chambers Bay in the Pacific Northwest in 2015, and now heads to Erin Hills in the middle of Wisconsin. The last time the U.S. Open went to two courses in a three-year span that had never held a professional major was Hazeltine (1970) and Pebble Beach (1972). Then again, Pebble had been around since 1919 and hosted the U.S. Amateur four times. Erin Hills opened in 2006. The PGA Championship is going to Quail Hollow, the North Carolina club's first time holding a major, though it has held the Wells Fargo Championship since 2003. CUPS RUNNETH OVER The Americans will be going for a third straight victory in the Solheim Cup when it goes to Iowa this summer. Nothing brings out passion in team golf quite like the United States vs. Europe. The Presidents Cup also holds some intrigue. The International team has lost six straight times and has won only once since the Presidents Cup began in 1994. More pressure would seem to be on U.S. captain Steve Stricker, not only because the Americans haven't lost since 1998, but because he is the likely Ryder Cup captain for 2020 at Whistling Straits in his native Wisconsin. Speaking of Ryder Cup captains, expect the next American skipper to be named next week. But those matches are two years away. WHAT WILL PHIL DO NEXT? Phil Mickelson was runner-up at a major for the third straight year since his last victory, which was the 2013 British Open at Muirfield for his fifth major. The focus, as always, will be whether Lefty can complete the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open. At age 46, and having gone through two hernia operations in the offseason, it would seem a victory anywhere would suffice. Mickelson, however, shouldn't be ruled out after last year. He made 10 birdies in a Ryder Cup singles match against Sergio Garcia. He shot 267 at the British Open, matching the fourth-lowest score in major championship history. Just his luck, he got only a half-point against Garcia, and he was runner-up at the Open. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Alex Eala earns praise from Rafael Nadal after French Open stint

Nadal, who recently won his 13th French Open title for his 20th career Grand Slam, congratulated the 15-year-old on twitter days after her campaign ended......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsOct 15th, 2020

Nadal routs Djokovic for 13th French Open, record-equalling 20th Grand Slam

Rafael Nadal demolished Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to win his 13th French Open and equal Roger Federer's all-time record of 20 Grand Slam titles on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsOct 12th, 2020

‘Poland Garros’: Swiatek powers to landmark French Open triumph

Polish teenager Iga Swiatek won her country’s first Grand Slam singles title on Saturday as she defeated American fourth seed Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 to become the youngest women’s French Open champion since 1992. The 19-year-old Swiatek, at 54 the lowest-ranked woman to capture the Roland Garros title in the modern era, is the ninth […] The post ‘Poland Garros’: Swiatek powers to landmark French Open triumph appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsOct 11th, 2020

Eala vows to strike back

The morning after missing a dream French Open girls’ singles final stint, young Alex Eala vowed to come out better, stronger the next time a crack at a Grand Slam glory comes along......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsOct 11th, 2020

Plucky Eala eyes final vs home bet

Two wins away from a dream record feat in a junior Grand Slam, Alex Eala isn’t just focusing on the tough task at hand – an intriguing duel with a local bet for a crack at the French Open girls’ singles diadem......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsOct 10th, 2020

Eala at pace to clinch World No. 1 in ITF Juniors Rankings

The 15-year-old, who became the first Filipino to reach a Grand Slam singles semifinals in 35 years since Felix Barrientos did in the 1985 Wimbledon juniors tournament, will most likely move up at least two places in the rankings from her World No. 4 place......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsOct 9th, 2020

Alex Eala reaches semis in 2020 French Open juniors

Filipino tennis hope Alex Eala fought through a problematic service game to overcome Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, late Thursday, October 8, 2020, and reach a milestone by barging into the French Open girls singles semifinals. The 15-year-old World No. 4 became the first Filipina to reach this far in a Grand Slam […] The post Alex Eala reaches semis in 2020 French Open juniors appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsOct 9th, 2020