By Mark Lamport-StokesThe return from injury by Rory McIlroy to defend his title at this week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits gives the year’s final major extra spice as Jordan Spieth aims to carve out another slice of golf history.World number one McIlroy and second-ranked Spieth have between them won four of the last five majors played and, aged just 26 and 22 respectively, they are likely to dominate the game at the highest level for some time to come.Much of the focus at Whistling Straits will be on the remarkable Spieth, who will be seeking to join fellow Americans Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players in the modern era to have won three majors in a single year.Hogan was the first to complete the hat-trick, in 1953, and Woods followed suit in 2000.Having claimed the Masters in April and the US Open in June, Spieth fell agonisingly short in his bid to land the first three majors of the season as he tied for fourth in last month’s Open Championship at St. Andrews one shot short of joining a playoff.“I recognise there’s only been a couple times that people have won three majors in a year, and that would be just such special company,” Spieth said while preparing for Thursday’s opening round at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.“But just like at The Open Championship, when I get there, it’s just going to be about that tournament, and that’s all that will be on my mind … not thinking about three in a row (or) grand slam.“It will take a little bit off my shoulders, and it will be very easy for me to just focus on it as a tournament.”Four-time major champion McIlroy will also draw intense scrutiny at Whistling Straits as he returns to competitive golf after an absence of more than seven weeks.The Northern Irishman, who tied for ninth in the US Open at Chambers Bay in his most recent start, has been out of action since he ruptured a ligament in his left ankle while playing football with friends on July 4.However, McIlroy has been diligent with his recovery and his arrival at Whistling Straits on Saturday to play 18 holes of practice at the PGA Championship venue, folowing by another 18 on Sunday, was warmly welcomed by his peers.“It’s huge,” said English world number six Justin Rose. “Any time a tournament misses its defending champion, it’s a shame.“He had such an amazing spell this time last year,” Rose added, referring to McIlroy’s wins in the last two majors of 2014 – The Open and PGA Championship.“I think it’s fantastic for golf that he’s back, back playing. Obviously, he’s in a great pairing next week, him and Jordan and Zach (Johnson).”Traditionally, the winners of the season’s first three majors have always been drawn together and McIlroy, Spieth and Open champion Johnson are set to start on the first tee at 2:20 p.m. ET (21.20 Cyprus time) in Thursday’s opening round.The PGA Championship has often been the most unpredictable of the four majors, in part because it attracts the strongest field, and this week is no different with 97 of the world’s top 100 players entered.Among other early favourites are third-ranked American Bubba Watson, who was beaten by Germany’s Martin Kaymer in a playoff for the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, fifth-ranked Australian Jason Day and American Rickie Fowler (seventh).The ability to hit greens in regulation will be a major factor on a par-72 layout measuring 7,514 yards, marking Americans Jim Furyk and Johnson, Swede Henrik Stenson and Australia’s Adam Scott among those to watch.Host venue for the PGA Championship in 2004 and 2010, Whistling Straits is modelled on an Irish seaside links and will once again provide a stiff test with its soaring sand dunes, fast-running fescue fairways and deep pot bunkers.Eight of the holes hug the Lake Michigan shoreline and the heavily bunkered layout, which includes three par-four holes in excess of 500 yards, is among the longest in major championship history.“It’s a ball striker’s golf course,” said Spieth. “Tee to green, you just have to be very special. Greens in regulation might be the most important stat next week.“Around the greens, they’re not too tricky to putt. They’re subtle. There’s not crazy ridges.“It’s a phenomenal golf course.”
CARLOS Brathwaite’s four consecutive sixes that carried West Indies to victory over England in the World Twenty20 final capped what former players and journalists described as one of the sport’s greatest matches on Monday.With the West Indies requiring 19 runs for victory off the last over, the Barbadian needed just four of Ben Stokes’ final six deliveries to seal a four-wicket victory at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Sunday.“Anyone who was here witnessed one of the great T20 matches. It was won, it was lost, then won, then lost. No side really deserved to lose it,” former England captain Nasser Hussain wrote in his Daily Mail column after West Indies chased down England’s 155 for nine on a difficult batting surface.Fellow former England skipper Michael Atherton wrote in The Times: “It was a stunning end to a stunning tournament that showcased the best of the modern game – a game in which England played a full part for once.”The Daily Telegraph described Brathwaite’s onslaught as “four balls that stunned the world” with its correspondent Jonathan Liew writing: “It was one of the most remarkable victories ever known.“A match that will resound well beyond the boundaries of this stadium, well beyond the boundaries of Twenty20 as a finish for the ages.”While Brathwaite’s incredible display of power-hitting allowed the Caribbean side to become the first to win the World Twenty20 title twice, there was plenty of sympathy for England bowler Stokes, who was on the receiving end of the late mauling.England skipper Eoin Morgan said: “Ben is going to be devastated. Cricket can be a cruel game, it will take its toll over the next couple of days but we share the pain, we share the success.”Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, one of the greatest batsmen of recent times, also had sympathy for Stokes saying on ESPN that he was punished by Brathwaite because his deliveries were not quite accurate enough.“But I feel sorry for Ben Stokes – and a lot of the bowlers in this day and age,” he added.Meanwhile, former Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee was full of praise for the victors and their approach towards Twenty20 cricket.He told ESPN he had written about their batting prowess in his newspaper column before the tournament began and said it was that power that secured victory in the end.“There has never been another six-hitting team like this one, and that turned out to be the clincher,” he said.
The sporting items were donated by local businessman Branny Libe who is the managing director of Homex Contractors Ltd.Libe also gave a sponsorship boost of K5, 000 to help run the competition for the youths in Takipa village and promote peace and development in Margarima through sports.He is a passionate rugby player and said there are many raw talents back home and his assistance would indirectly pave way for some of them to come out to the spot light.“Many talented players at the village level are not given proper recognition and assistance to further develop their passion in rugby.”“I feel for the boys back home and came up with the idea to boost them,” he said.Libe added that the village boys are kept busy with sports and have no time to take part in criminal activities like abuse of illicit drugs and homebrew.He said the assistance will boost their morale so that they continue on to live meaningful lives and give up other illegal activities.
The European team lost to North Korea 2-0 on Sunday, November 13 at the Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby. Sweden head coach Calle Barrling said after the match that his team needs to improve on their attacking skills in order to score goals.Barrling explained that the Swedish women defended very well in their opening match however the North Koreans were very skillful in their attacking.“North Korea is a very good team and probably besides Japan they’re big favorites in the tournament.“We unfortunately were not that skillful to score and the players got too anxious in their defending which stressed them out.“We really have to improve on our defense and skills before our next match,” Barrling said.Sweden takes on home side Papua New Guinea in the second round on Wednesday, November 16 at the SJG stadium.PNG also lost in their World Cup opener to Brazil 9-0.PNG coach Lisa Cole said, “We need to do a better job especially against Sweden on Wednesday or we will be in big trouble.”Meantime, Barrling said his players have settled in well adapting to the environment despite the very humid weather.“We’ve been very welcomed, you’re very friendly people and we appreciate that everyone including the fans are very supportive and so we’re enjoying our stay here,” he said.
It is anticipated that the international friendly will be an exciting and entertaining match for the soccer-mad nation of Solomon Islands.In their last international friendly in 2011, Vanuatu defeated Solomon Islands 1-0 and there is no doubt that they are keeping this at their back of their mind to maintain the winning record.Tomorrow’s friendly match is going to be the eighth time that both teams have met to help each other prepare for bigger games.In their first friendly in 2004, Solomon Islands won 2-1 and lost 1-2 in the away game.In 2011, both teams hosted five international friendlies at one time which saw Solomon Islands winning the first match 2-1, draw nil twice, losing 2-0 and 1-0 the latest.Apart from the international friendlies Solomon Islands won 10 games, drew three games and lost two games to Vanuatu since 1981.With these records both teams have equal chances of a win or draw.Head coach of Solomon Islands, Felipe Vega-Arango from Spain indicates that the game will not be easy.He said he did not watch how Vanuatu plays but from his conversation he understands that most of their players are similar to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.“They run a lot, they like to have the ball and I don’t think it’s going to be an easy match even though it is a friendly they also want to win.“We will see on the game and I have the confidence on the team and I expect them to on the better side,” he said.For Vanuatu the friendly match will build them up for the up-coming Pacific Mini Games to be held in Port Villa from December 4-15.
Photo supplied. Caption: Sothern Flames hard at training. Basketball players and supporters in Honiara are anticipating the friendly match to be full of actionsDescribed as “Battle of the Wantok” both teams will play three matches and the winner will receive a trophy sponsored by KSS Southern Flames.KSS Southern Flames are the three-time reigning champions of the PNG Men’s Basketball League (PMBL 2014 /2015/2016) and have been invited by the Solomon Islands Basketball Federation (SIBF) to play against the men’s national squad in their build up towards the up-coming FIBA Melanesia Cup in PNG, later in September.Led by well-known sports promoter and owner of Hekari Soccer Club in PNG, John Kappi-Natto and his wife Vonnie, the KSS Southern Flames are basketball’s equivalent of the top soccer and rugby clubs managed by the couple in PNG. Since joining the PMBL, the semi-pro league in PNG in 2014, KSS Southern Flames have dominated the competition, and are now looking to go a further fourth year running as champions.Vonnie Natto, who is also the GM to the visiting KSS Southern Flames team, explained in a recent visit to Honiara that they are looking forward to the trip.She thanked SIBF for the invitation and promised to make sure a good strong competition is set-up for all to enjoy.“We are looking forward to giving Solomon Islands a good game as part of their preparation for the FIBA Melanesia Cup 2017,” Vonnie explained in an email.“It will be a best of three matches and whoever wins two games will take the trophy donated by our group as part of our support towards Solomon Islands”.According to reports, this will be the second time the same basketball club visits Honiara. The last visit included a women’s team and it was during the basketball glory days of the mid-1990s’ when John and Vonnie brought over their maiden Souths Basketball teams. The couple continues to support sports in both countries.KSS Sothern Flames will arrive in Honiara on Tuesday 29 August, and will commence their quest in the “battle of the wantoks” on Wednesday at the Multipurpose Hall against the Solomon Islands Men’s national basketball squad starting at 5pm. They return to PNG on Saturday 2 September 2017.
De’bono Paraka made history this morning to qualify for the finals tomorrow night in the men’s discus throw competition.He finished fifth with a throw of 49.02 metres in Group A of the qualifying events this morning at the Carrara stadium.Paraka is aiming for a National record throw in the finals.In triple jump event earlier in the morning, Peniel Richard leaped 15.23m which was 0.32cm short of his personal best while in the women’s long jump on Wednesday night, Rellie Kaputin marked the sand at 6.81m in a long and chilly night of competition.Kaputin struggled with her lead up distances under difficult conditions and made only one of three jumps count.Adrine Monagi ran a 13.92 seconds in the women’s 100m hurdles which was only 0.03 seconds outside her personal best, another great effort by PNG’s athletes.Team PNG also had its last competition in the lawn bowls event which saw PNG’s team in the men’s fours narrowly losing to Canada 19-17.PNG Flag Bearer, Vero Nime faced up against Australia’s number one female para-athlete, Melissa Tapper in the Women’s TT6-10 singles competition.Leading by a margin, Tapper decided to enjoy the game with Nime and both women took their time playing, enjoying the rallies, with the scores mainly coming from fouls and misplays.“She’s the best in Australia and could have ended the game with a quick win but we had fun playing and it was great to learn from this opportunity, that we’re not just playing to win but also to recognise and respect each other,” Nime said.Her table tennis team mate, Geoffrey Loi bowed out on Wednesday night in the first round of the main draw against Harmeet Desai of India.It is not all over for Papua New Guinea as they have two more events for a final run home. These are the men’s rugby sevens which begins on Saturday with the finals on Sunday and the trap shooting on Friday which will feature Angus Donald and Danny Wanma.The team will parade again at the closing ceremony of the Games on Sunday night before returning home to Port Moresby on Monday the 16th.
It is sometimes said that team spirit is the privilege of the victor but there seems absolutely no question, even though they are serial winners, that Saracens possess that intangible sporting trait in abundance.In Saturday’s see-saw European Champions Cup final the London club kept believing in themselves, even though battling Clermont Auvergne refused to lie down and were within a point of the holders going into the last quarter of an hour.No panic, no arguing as the referee declined to show a yellow card despite repeated offences by the French club defending their line, just a relentless recycling and launching of the next assault.Despite the noise generated by the Clermont fans dominating Murrayfield and the one-point margin, the feeling around much of the ground was one of inevitability, and it proved correct as after yet another series of probing thrusts, the space finally appeared for fullback Alex Goode to blast through for the killer third try.That gave Saracens a six-point lead with seven minutes remaining but — just as everyone watching knew he would — Owen Farrell nailed the difficult touchline conversion to make it a two-score game as Saracens eventually prevailed 28-17 to retain the title.After the match a procession of their players lined up to be interviewed on the pitch and to a man they referenced the togetherness of the squad as being key to the victory.“We stayed true to ourselves and our character. It’s a huge testament to the Saracens culture today,” said captain Brad Barritt.“We had unbelievable respect for Clermont but it’s about that belief, that trust of the player beside you – it’s just special to be a part of this group.”Farrell is never a man to get carried away with emotion but even he showed a chink in his armour.“We know each other inside out, a lot of us since we were 14 15, and others have been here eight years or so,” said the flyhalf, whose memorable day was capped by being named European player of the year.“That time spent together, not just in rugby things, it counts for a lot.“We felt like we were on top but didn’t quite get the tries we should have got, so to stay as composed as we did and to stick in there and finally win it was really pleasing.”‘SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL’Director of rugby Mark McCall is another who is reluctant to talk up his or his team’s achievements but he, too, could not hide his pride.“After they scored that unbelievable 100-metre try we had to show our experience and resilience, and I’m pleased with the way we went after them for that last 20 minutes,” he said.“We showed a lot of sides of ourselves today – it’s a brilliant feeling.”Dan Carter, who had a close-up view when playing in the Racing Metro team beaten by Saracens in last year’s final, was full of praise as a pitch-side pundit.“Something very special has been brewing there for a long time,” said the World Cup-winning former New Zealand flyhalf.“To see how clinical their game was today … Clermont came back and put them under pressure but you always just knew that Saracens would hold on and their constant pressure just paid off.”Saracens allowed the TV cameras in to their changing rooms after the match and their celebrations were long and loud. The songs and the beer were flowing and there was no talk of ice baths or recovery shakes.It was an unusual and uplifting sight in the modern world of professionalism but one thing is certain. When they line up to face Exeter in English Premiership semi-finals next week, seeking another double, they will be as prepared and ready to go as they were at Murrayfield on Saturday, and as they will be again from the first game of next season to the last.
World Number One Andy Murray pulled out of an exhibition match at London’s Hurlingham Club on Tuesday with a sore hip, less than a week before the start of Wimbledon.“His hip is a bit sore,” said a spokesman for the Scot, who had been due to face Frenchman Lucas Pouille.Murray’s withdrawal was precautionary and the two-time Wimbledon champion intended to play at the club on Friday, the spokesman said.Murray added the two matches at the Aspall Tennis Classic to his schedule to gain grass court practice after a surprising first-round exit from last week’s Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club.Murray’s form has been patchy during a 2017 season that has been disrupted by shingles, an elbow injury and influenza.Wimbledon begins on July 3.
Manchester United are well placed to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League titles amid strong competition on both fronts, the club’s Serbia midfielder Nemanja Matic told Reuters on Monday.The 29-year old defensive midfielder blended seamlessly into Jose Mourinho’s side after joining from Chelsea during the close-season and made an immediate impact in their opening three league wins which put United top of the standings.“At the age of 29 I am an experienced player and at that stage of my career I shouldn’t need too much time to adapt,” Matic said as the Serbian national team gathered on Monday for World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ireland.“I knew many of United’s players from before as I’ve played against them quite a few times so I had a pretty good idea what I was walking into.“The team helped me adapt quickly, they treated me like one of their own in the dressing-room from the very first day. We’ve made a pretty good start in the Premier League but it’s a long season and we will see how it goes.”United, who won a record-extending 20th league title in 2013 in Alex Ferguson’s last season as manager, scored 10 goals and conceded none in their opening three wins with Matic efficiently pulling the strings in midfield.They captured their third Champions League crown in 2008 and won the Premier League in the same season but Matic acknowledged that repeating the feat in Mourinho’s second campaign in charge of United would be a tall order.“Winning the Premier League title will be a tough task not just for us but for everyone because there are five or six realistic contenders,” said Matic, who helped Chelsea to two league titles during his two spells with the champions.“But we all know that Manchester United are expected to win every game. As far as the Champions League is concerned, we’ve had a favourable draw and we are hopeful of still being in the competition in the latter stages.“The 2-1 UEFA Supercup defeat against Champions League holders Real Madrid was a good test of our credentials to slug it out with Europe’s best.“We were outplayed but that was a one-off while the Champions League is a competition where you face different rivals in every round.”Matic earned instant praise from Mourinho after the match in Skopje, having previously worked with the Portuguese manager at Chelsea.He remained tight-lipped, however, about his move from Stamford Bridge which prompted many to conclude that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had made a big mistake by letting him go.“No comment,” Matic replied when asked whether he wanted to leave Chelsea’s title-winning side or became a surplus to requirements after Conte signed Tiemoue Bakayoko from French champions Monaco.United were drawn with Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League group stage.