Monthly Archives: April 2019

McIlroy shoots 66 despite Dubai driving radar being off

“I didn’t hit a fairway till my eighth hole but I scored well for those holes,” the four-times major champion told reporters after his six-under-par effort.

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“I can’t really complain with a 66 to start. I feel like I’ve started off this tournament pretty well the last few years and it’s another good one … something to build on.”

The Desert Classic holds special memories for McIlroy because it was the first European Tour victory he picked up six years ago.

“Compared to when I first won here in 2009 my golf game is much better and the sort of score I shot this morning just comes a lot easier to me these days,” said the 25-year-old Northern Irishman.

“Managing my game and knowing how to shoot a score is kind of second nature now whereas back then 66 would have been a really good score for me. These days it’s sort of what I expect of myself.”

McIlroy was accompanied by Ryder Cup team mate Martin Kaymer (67) and Englishman Andy Sullivan (65), winner of this month’s South African Open.

“It was the best day of my life out there playing with these guys and I just enjoyed so much watching Rory and Martin play,” said Sullivan after setting the early pace with fellow countryman Lee Westwood and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.

“It was absolutely fantastic and to play the way I did in their company was brilliant.”

Stephen Gallacher, who made his Ryder Cup debut in September and is chasing a hat-trick of Desert Classic wins, holed out from a greenside bunker on his way to a 66.

“This round is a statement that I don’t want to give the trophy back without a fight but then it is only the first round and I still have three rounds to play,” said the Scot.

Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen withdrew from the tournament before teeing up because of back problems.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Australian golfer Kel Nagle dies age 94

Tributes began flowing in after the PGA of Australia released a statement saying golf’s oldest-living major winner had passed away at a Sydney hospital.

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“I heard the news this morning…and it’s always very sad when one of the legends of the game passes away,” world number one Rory McIlroy told Reuters at the Dubai Desert Classic.

“I do know a little bit of his Open win at St. Andrews in 1960 when he beat Arnold Palmer so it will be sad occasion this year for everyone heading back to the Old Course,” added McIlroy, who won last year’s British Open at Hoylake.

“But then I’m sure there will be a few glasses raised in Mr. Nagle’s memory at the Former Champions Dinner.”

Brian Thorburn, chief executive officer of the PGA, said golf had lost a “champion of our game.”

Nagle was one of Australia’s most successful and popular golfers, winning 81 professional titles in his long career, including at least one every year between 1949 and 1975.

His finest moment came in 1960 when he won the Centenary British Open at age 39, beating Arnold Palmer by a stroke at St. Andrews.

He also finished runner-up at the 1965 U.S. Open, beaten by Gary Player in an 18-hole playoff and was inducted into golf’s Hall of Fame in 2007.

“His name was one of the first I remember seeing when I was handed the Claret Jug in 2010 at St. Andrews,” recalled South African Louis Oosthuizen.

“Then when I had time to look more closely at all the names of those who won the trophy at St. Andrews there was Mr. Nagle’s name, so it’s kind of special to me, even though it is very sad, to know he and I both won on the Old Course.”

Double Open Champion Ernie Els also expressed his condolences.

“I’m sorry to hear Kel passed away as he was one of th​e legends of the game and what he achieved at St. Andrews in 1960 was remarkable given Arnold’s (Palmer) reputation at the time,” he said in Dubai.

“He was a great champion and I’m sure Australian golf, and golf in general, is poorer for his passing.”

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Alan Baldwin)

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Alonso ready to write a new chapter at McLaren

“My motivation could not be stronger for the new season,” said the double world champion, who has returned to McLaren from Ferrari, after the MP4-30 car was revealed in an online presentation.

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“I’ve done a lot of training during the winter break, to reach my peak physical fitness, and I’ve been working hard in preparation for this new era of McLaren-Honda,” added the Spaniard in a team statement.

“I’ve never felt better, or more ready for a new season.”

McLaren, who have used Mercedes engines since 1995, last won a race in 2012 and will start testing with the new car in Jerez, southern Spain, on Sunday.

The second most successful team after Ferrari in terms of total titles won and race victories, McLaren have gone through a major restructuring with former principal and group chairman Ron Dennis back in overall control.

The return of Honda, who left Formula One in 2008 when their own team became Brawn and then Mercedes, reunites McLaren with a partner from their glory years with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The new car appeared in a red, black and silver livery. There was still no sign of any title sponsor, with Honda branding appearing on the engine cover, and the team set no specific targets.

“Of course, we’re prepared for a steep learning curve, but it’s clear to see that inside McLaren-Honda there’s total commitment, and a real change in feeling, as we start this new partnership,” said Alonso.

“We’re all focussed on the challenge ahead, and I feel extremely honoured to be part of a relationship that has shared so much history together,” added the Spaniard, whose one previous season at the team ended in acrimony in 2007.

“My aim is to help write a new chapter in the history of McLaren-Honda. We understand the effort and teamwork required to take McLaren-Honda back to where it should be, at the front of the grid, and all our energy as a team is focussed on that goal.”

Team mate Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, said there was a “feeling of reignited optimism and positivity” around the factory.

“There’s a huge challenge ahead of us to try to pull back the gap to our rivals, but we’re certainly up for it,” added the Briton.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Portugal quick to back Figo’s FIFA campaign

Figo, 42, a former World Player of the Year and one of the greatest players of his generation in his time with Real Madrid and Barcelona, entered the race on Wednesday saying he had the five nominations from national FAs to launch a challenge for the top job in world football.

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The deadline for nominations closes at 2300 GMT on Thursday and he is challenging on an anti-Blatter ticket along with Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Michael van Praag of the Netherlands and French duo Jerome Champagne and David Ginola.

Figo was involved in a losing battle with the Spanish tax authorities in 2012 and was an ambassador for the unsuccessful Portugal/Spain 2018 World Cup bid that failed to co-operate with Michael Garcia’s FIFA investigation into corruption surrounding Qatar’s successful nomination as hosts for the 2022 edition.

“This is a great honour for the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF),” president Fernando Gomes said on Thursday.

“We stated at the beginning of our mandate we would do our utmost to elevate the FPF’s influence and standing in the decision-making bodies of international football. Luis Figo (is) a person whose tremendous qualities we readily recognise.”

Minister for Sport Emídio Guerreiro also offered government backing for the former midfield playmaker.

“The candidacy of a Portuguese for one of the highest offices in world sport demonstrates that our country continues to reveal itself capable and competent in the face of the most important challenges,” said Guerreiro.

Chelsea’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho and Southampton coach Ronald Koeman who, like Figo, played for Barcelona, also backed the former playmaker’s bid.

Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira was another supporter.

“It is not just pride in that he is Portuguese but in acknowledging that he knows football like few others and knows what is needed to improve it,” said Vieira.

On Wednesday, Figo commented: “I have a great love of football but when I look at FIFA and its current image I don’t like it.

“If you search on the internet with the word FIFA the first word that comes up is “scandal”. So we have to change FIFA because football deserves much better.”

Blatter is the overwhelming favourite to win the election.

(Editing by Mike Collett and Tony Jimenez)

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‘Bad mood’ Berdych rues another missed chance

The Czech seventh seed played some brilliant tennis to edge Murray in a marathon first set but was on the back foot thereafter to lose 6-7 (6) 6-0 6-3 7-5 on a chilly night at Rod Laver Arena.

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“I’m really not happy and not really in a good mood,” a downcast Berdych told reporters.

“I’m very disappointed to lose this match. It was a big match. I just need to come back stronger.

“What was the difference? I had one bad set for the second set and that’s it. I was just trying to get my chances, trying to fight for it, but it was not enough.”

The big-serving Czech thrashed third seed Rafa Nadal in straight sets in the previous round, ending a 17-match losing streak to the Spaniard.

Much has been made of coach Dani Vallverdu’s part in Berdych’s run in Melbourne, having joined the Czech after leaving Murray’s camp.

Berdych credited Vallverdu for helping him devise a master plan for Nadal but the respected Venezuelan was unable to make the difference against the sixth seed.

The glaring streetfighter that punched hard in the opening set was replaced by a lumbering giant in subsequent sets as Berdych was thrown by the Scot’s superior court speed.

Murray appeared fired up after an exchange between the first and second sets but his opponent said he was misunderstood.

“I say to myself, ‘Well done, Tomas’.” Berdych said. “I think I’m allowed to do that when I win a set. That was it.

“There is no really big deal about anything that was happening today on the court.

“It was a great battle, a good match. Unfortunately with a bad end for me. That’s how it is. That’s the sport.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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