Sunday, 31 July 2011

Jenson Button Wins in Hungary


McLaren’s Jenson Button emerged the fairy tale victor in his 200th Grand Prix, after a gripping Hungarian race had seen Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton take turns leading early on before the 2009 champion pushed irresistibly to the fore.

Vettel led the first four laps on a track made super-slippery by drizzle, but had no answer to the forceful Hamilton who pushed ahead on the fifth as the German ran wide in Turn Two. Button jumped Vettel when they switched to slicks on Laps 11 and 12. For the next 29 laps Hamilton seemed a shoe-in for the victory with Button riding shotgun and keeping Vettel under control.

But when Hamilton pitted on Lap 40 he took another set of super-soft tyres, whereas Button, and the Red Bull drivers (Mark Webber on Lap 39, Vettel on 41), went for the more durable softs and a better chance of making it to the finish without another stop.

Then it began to rain a little again, and suddenly Button was first after Hamilton half spun in a chicane on the 47th and lost what had been a 5.6s lead. Worse, however, as he spun himself back into second place Hamilton unwittingly forced Paul di Resta to take avoiding action which badly delayed the Scot’s Force India which was in strong contention for a top-seven finish.

As Button’s race suddenly came alive, Hamilton’s fell to pieces. He regained the lead from Button on Lap 51, then pitted at the end of Lap 52 after he and Button had passed and repassed one another in a frenzied but clean duel. Now, however, like Webber on Lap 51, Hamilton opted for intermediate tyres, but it was a mistake as it started to dry again. Both had to stop yet again for soft tyres, on lap 54, and Lewis had a final stop to serve a drive-through penalty on Lap 56 for the incident with Di Resta.

Button, meanwhile sailed serenely on, delighted with the call to switch to the soft tyres and his determination to resist a pit call to stop for intermediates on the lap that Hamilton did. As Vettel experienced minor brake problems in the closing stages, Button was thus able to stroke it home to a brilliant 11th triumph that was in many ways reminiscent of his first, in similar conditions, here back in 2006.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso recovered from having to chase the fast-starting Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher at the start, then getting trapped for a while behind Webber’s Red Bull, as a four-stop strategy helped him through to a solid podium finish.

Behind the Spaniard, Hamilton overtook Webber on the 63rd lap to salvage something from an ultimately disappointing afternoon, leading the Australian home by just under a second and a half.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was a lonely sixth after an early spin, with Di Resta taking an excellent seventh a comfortable distance ahead of the remains of a huge battle for eighth. This eventually fell to Sebastien Buemi, who had started his Toro Rosso 23rd, as the Swiss fended off Rosberg to the line.

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari had been in this scrap too, together with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, and the lapped Force India of Adrian Sutil and Sauber’s Sergio Perez, but half spun trying to pass Kobayashi in Turn One shortly before the Japanese driver stopped for fresh rubber. The Spaniard quickly recovered for 10th place, making it a good day for Franz Tost’s team, with Kobayashi taking 11th ahead of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, Rubens Barrichello’s Williams, Sutil and Perez, and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado.

Neither Lotus finished, while Nick Heidfeld’s Renault came to a fiery halt just after a pit stop when an exhaust caught fire. The German was unharmed. Schumacher also failed to finish, spinning on the exit to Turn Two after tagging Massa as they fought over sixth.

That left Timo Glock to bring his Virgin home 17th ahead of Daniel Riccardo’s HRT, Jerome D’Ambrosio who half spun his Virgin in the pit road, and Tonio Liuzzi who lost a whole load of time on the opening lap that he could never thereafter make up for HRT.

Vettel extends his world championship points lead with 234, while Webber remains second on 149, with Hamilton third on 146, Alonso fourth on 145 and Button closing in again with 134. Red Bull’s lock on the constructors’ championship shows no sign of waning with 383 points to McLaren’s 280 and Ferrari’s 215.


Masson Leads Ricoh into Sunday

Germany’s Caroline Masson holds a surprise two shot lead heading into the final round of the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open over the Championship course at Carnoustie.

The relatively unknown 22 year-old World No. 141 from Gladbeck, near Dusseldorf, carded a hugely impressive four under par 68 to go into the last day on 15 under par 201 and with a two shot advantage over World No. 1, Yani Tseng.

Tseng started the day four shots off the pace but moved ominously into second place after a best-of-the-day six under par 66 and will now meet her German rival for the first time when they step onto the first tee at lunch time on Sunday.

In the match ahead, Scottish former champion, Catriona Matthew, is paired with South Korea’s Inbee Park after both finished in a tie for third place on nine under par 207. Another Korean, Na Yeon Park, is fifth after posting a 72 for a 54-hole aggregate of 208, while America’s Britanny Lang, Korean’s Se Ri Pak and another former champion, Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson are one shot further back on seven under par. Altogether, 44 players are under par heading into the closing 18 holes.

Masson arrived in Scotland without much of a pedigree but has impressed everyone with the way she has handled the spotlight. She started her third round with a three-putt bogey on the 394-yard par-4 first but bounced back with a birdie on the 396-yard par-4 second and then added two more on the fifth and the sixth to go out in 34.

The German continued to move in the right direction with further birdies on the 11th, 14th and 17th and only slipped up right at the end when she hit her second shot into the sand at the last and failed to get-up-and-down. Even then, however, she can take great credit because her fourth shot, from just off green raced past the hole, leaving her to hole a testing 5-foot putt to retain a two hole advantage over Tseng.

“It feels really, really good to be in this position,” said Masson, whose father, Stephan, is a tennis coach and whose brother, Alex, is with her in Scotland. “To be honest, I can’t really believe it. I’m just trying to enjoy every moment and take in everything that’s happening.

“I was watching the leaderboard so I knew what Yani was doing,” she added. “I’m very excited about playing with her already. I’m really looking forward to meeting her and am pretty sure I can learn a lot from the way she plays.”

Tseng confirmed after her round that she had never heard of Masson before the start of the week but was full of praise for what the German had achieved. “When I saw her name, I had to ask my caddie ‘who’s that,’” she said. “I have never played with her. I have never seen her play before but she must be good to play so well this week.

“I think she’ll be a great player and it’s good to see her at the top of the leaderboard,” Tseng added. “I think tomorrow we’ll become friends. We’ll just have a chat and enjoy it.”

Tseng arrived in Scotland having won once in Taiwan, twice on the Ladies European Tour and three times on the LPGA Tour to date this season. One of those victories came at the LPGA Championship, where she became the youngest player ever to win four majors at the tender age of 22 year, five months and 3 days, and now she is hungry for more.

The diminutive Taiwanese player went out in level par 35 after a birdie on the 448-yard par-5 fifth and a bogey on the 348-yard par-4 seventh but then moved ominously into gear by gaining five shots to par in five holes from the 10th.

That run started with birdies on the 369-yard par-4 10th and the 317-yard par-4 11th and then gathered pace with a birdie on the 129-yard par-3 13th and a glorious eagle on the 427-yard par-5 14th where she holed out from about 23-yards across the green.

“You know, I played awesome today,” she said. “I played really smart and hit my irons well. I missed some (putts) but I still made a lot. I just felt really good.”

“I have learned a lot of things over the last few years,” she added. “I have won tournaments, lost tournaments and have learned from the experience. I know that will help tomorrow. All I can do is try my best, play one shot at a time and try not to think too much. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I just want to keep my chest out, chin up, keep my body language positive. That’s what I have been doing this year and it helps me to stay relaxed and keep thinking positive.”

Matthew will also have years of experience to call on as she endeavours to win a Major title in front of her home fans.

The Scot started the day in a share of 12th place after opening rounds of 70 and 69 but moved into a share of third place with a fine 68 which might have been better had she managed to hole from 14 feet for her fifth birdie of the day on the last hole.

The 41 year-old mother of two from North Berwick began the round with four straight pars before claiming her first birdie on the treacherous 358-yard par-4 fifth where the hole was cut in the most difficult position on the small shelf to the rear of the green.

The Scot reached the turn in one under par 35 and then romped home in 33 with three birdies at the 11th, 14th and 17th to give herself a realistic chance of duplicating her emotional victory at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2009.

“It was great to win at Lytham but it would mean even more if I could do it in front of my home fans tomorrow,” she said. “I mean, obviously, it would be fantastic. I’m an ambassador for Carnoustie Country so it couldn’t get better than that.

“I’d still like to have been a little bit closer (to the lead),” she added. “But it’s supposed to be a little bit windier tomorrow, so there should be plenty of chances to make up the ground.”


Hackers Post Distasteful Button Hoax


Hackers who posted a story on Jenson Button's official website claiming he had been seriously injured in a car crash carried out a "distasteful hoax", his spokesman has said.

The story appeared on Saturday night saying the F1 driver was in a "critical condition" in hospital following a "serious accident" in Hungary.

The website was taken down soon after the post emerged.

Button later said on Twitter that he was "completely fine".

The British driver tweeted on Sunday: "Morning everyone I'm sure you've realised by now but someone hacked into my website last night, I'm completely fine and on my way to #200 (his 200th Grand Prix)."

Button added: "The guy who did it obviously didn't have any better offers on a Saturday night so stayed home to do that instead #getsomefriends."

A spokesman for the McLaren driver said a hacker had breached the site's security and added: "The story is completely untrue and is a very distasteful hoax.

"The website was immediately taken down and its security will now be reviewed. Jenson was asleep in bed when we were made aware that someone had hacked into his site and made the untrue claims.

"We can assure people that he is completely fit and healthy and will be taking part in today's race."

The hacker had posted the story on www.jensonbutton.com and his representatives were made aware just after 23:30 BST on Saturday.

They later posted an explanation of what had happened, adding to Button's fans: "We can only apologise for any alarm this may have caused."

Button, 31, and his team are in Hungary for Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix, in which he will start third on the grid.


Harrington and Torrance Take Break

Torrance and Harrington Ryder Cup 2010
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images Europe


Padraig Harrington has decided he needs a break from long-term coach Bob Torrance.

After missing the cut in the Irish Open on Friday, Harrington, down from third to 64th in the world, said: "I'm not thinking of changing personnel. I've got to change something in myself, attitude or something along the lines of that."

But the Dubliner told reporters this weekend: "We haven't split. We are having a break because I am getting very frustrated. Until I am ready to listen to what he has to say we are having a break."

Harrington starts life without the 79-year-old father of former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron this week, with the final major of the season - the USPGA Championship - coming straight afterwards.

He has not won a Tour event in America or Europe since the last of his three majors came in the PGA three years ago, although he won the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia late last season.

Torrance, one of the most respected coaches in golf, said: "He's like a son to me and I hope we can get back together.

"We've been together for 15 years and I wasn't really expecting this, but I know he's been unhappy,

"His game is in a bad shape because of his mind - I've said that to him - but he's determined to make changes."

Under Torrance's guidance, Harrington, who turns 40 at the end of August, won two Open titles and a USPGA.


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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Dan Carter Helps Blacks Beat Boks

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images AsiaPac)

New Zealand produced a dazzling display to run South Africa ragged in an emphatic Tri Nations victory at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

The All Blacks scored six tries in total, including two each for Cory Jane and Zac Guildford, while fly-half Dan Carter regained the world Test points scoring record despite struggling in tricky kicking conditions.

In fact the margin of victory would have been much greater had Carter been more accurate with his boot, but it was nevertheless an encouraging win ahead of next week's clash with Australia at Eden Park.

In his first kicking act of the game in the third minute, Carter passed the world record of 1,195 points held by England's Jonny Wilkinson by landing a penalty goal, although he then missed his next three attempts in the first half.

His South African counterpart Morne Steyn was not so fortunate and broke a sequence of 49 kicks in Tri Nations rugby without a miss when attempting to land a 42-metre goal in the fourth minute.

New Zealand began to stamp their authority after 12 minutes when Jimmy Cowan, fed by Adam Thomson, ran through a big gap and linked with a backhand pass to Ma'a Nonu.

The ball moved to Jane on the right, but as play moved back left two or three rucks saw the ball moved, again by Cowan, to centre Conrad Smith who fed Wyatt Crocket over in the corner.

Then, from the restart, Ali Williams found space and the ball was moved to Carter, who slipped a kick through.

Nonu elbowed his way past several South Africa defenders, regained the ball and set up a ruck, which saw Carter get the ball and run before slipping a pass to Guildford, who raced 40 metres to score his first Test try.

The Springboks finally got themselves on the board on the half hour.

Mistakes by the All Blacks saw the ball kicked to the corner after a penalty conceded by captain Richie McCaw. South Africa opted not to take the kick for goal and had their reward when captain John Smit drove over for the try beneath the posts, with Steyn adding the conversion.

But minutes later New Zealand stretched their lead to 18-7 with a long pass from Cowan which found Jane. He stepped inside three defenders and then raced 40 metres to score.

The All Blacks added another before the interval. It began with an uncontrolled pass from Cowan to the right flank, but the bounce favoured Jane and he crossed to score.

Carter then landed his first conversion of the match to give the home side a 25-7 half-time advantage.

Carter slotted another penalty early in the second period, before New Zealand created their fifth try after 66 minutes.

Thomson and Nonu were both involved in the build-up before the ball was laid off to Mils Muliaina, who in turn fed Guildford into a gap for an easy canter over.

The rout was then completed nine minutes from time. More innovative running allowed Colin Slade to dot down with Carter once more adding the extras.


Sebastian Vettel Secures Hungary Pole

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images Europe

Just when it seemed that Lewis Hamilton had done enough to take pole position in Hungary after the first runs in Q3, lapping his McLaren in 1m 19.978s, Sebastian Vettel pushed his Red Bull to the front with seconds to spare with a lap of 1m 19.815s.

While it was a good session for both, it was a minor disaster for Fernando Alonso who had been third fastest going into the final runs. The Spaniard failed to better his earlier 1m 20.365s and dropped to fifth for Ferrari as McLaren’s Jenson Button improved to 1m 20.024s and his own team mate Felipe Massa to 1m 20.350s.

Mark Webber improved to 1m 20.474s for sixth in the Red Bull, with Nico Rosberg’s 1m 21.098s for Mercedes putting him on the fourth row with Adrian Sutil for company. The Force India driver lapped in 1m 21.445s. Michael Schumacher will start ninth in the second Mercedes on 1m 21.907s, while Sergio Perez, who didn’t run in Q3, will be 10th for Sauber.

Alonso set the pace in Q2, ahead of Button and Webber, as a late improvement for Schumacher bumped Paul di Resta whose 1m 22.256s didn’t match Force India team mate Adrian Sutil’s 1m 22.000s. Behind the Scot, Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld were 12th and 14th for Renault on 1m 22.284s and 1m 22.470s apiece, sandwiching Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 22.435s in his Sauber. It was a poor session for Williams; Rubens Barrichello posted 1m 22.684s with only intermittent use of KERS, and Pastor Maldonado had a technical problem which prevented him from leaving the garage. Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was 16th, splitting them, with 1m 22.979s.

Alonso just pipped Hamilton and Vettel in Q1, as Sebastien Buemi was the first who did not make Q2 after lapping his Toro Rosso in 1m 24.070s. The Lotuses were close, as Heikki Kovalainen jumped ahead of team mate Jarno Trulli, with 1m 24.362s to 1m 24.534s.

Behind them things could barely have been closer, as Timo Glock just beat Tonio Liuzzi, Daniel Ricciardo and Jerome D’Ambrosio for 21st. The German lapped his Virgin in 1m 26.294s, the Italian his HRT in 1n 26.323s, the Australian his sister car in 1m 26.479s, and the Belgian his Virgin in 1m 26.510s.

They were actually fighting for 20th, however, as Buemi drops to 23rd because of the five grid place penalty he incurred for his collision with Heidfeld in Germany.

Ireland U-19 Suffer Spanish Inquisition


Spain advanced to their sixth UEFA European Under-19 Championship final as a clinical attacking display proved too much for the Republic of Ireland in Chiajna.

Ginés Meléndez's side were two goals to the good at half-time thanks to fine strikes from Gerard Deulofeu and Pablo Sarabia, Juanmi adding a third shortly after the restart. Álvaro Morata then took his tournament tally to six goals with a late double, setting up a final meeting with the Czech Republic on Monday.

Featuring seven changes to the team that lost 3-0 in their last Group B encounter against Turkey, Spain looked to return to the form that saw them produce eight goals in their opening two encounters. Although boasting most of the early possession they struggled to create a clear opening until Sergi Gómez struck the outside of a post with a low free-kick in the 20th minute.

Ireland responded with a couple of wayward efforts from Samir Carruthers but found themselves behind in the 27th minute after Deulofeu's fantastic strike from distance arced away from Aaron McCarey and inside the far post.

It almost got worse for Paul Doolin's men less than a minute later when the goalscorer met Sarabia's cutback only to shoot just over. Spain continued to press and were awarded an indirect free-kick after McCarey failed to release the ball in time. The Wolverhampton Wanderers FC goalkeeper redeemed himself, though, with a flying stop from Sarabia's set piece.

McCarey was helpless again five minutes before the break, however, another spectacular strike doubling Spain's advantage as Sarabia span to unleash a left-footed drive that found the corner of the net. The Spanish captain was involved again shortly afterwards, diverting Jon Aurtenetxe's centre narrowly wide.

Any hopes Ireland had of continuing their Romanian adventure faded shortly after the restart when Deulofeu's pass from the left picked out Juanmi to finish off the underside of the crossbar. The four-time winners were still hungry for more and it was four 11 minutes from time when Morata rounded McCarey and slotted in after collecting Juanmi's through pass.

Morata ensured Spain would match their 5-0 margin against Austria in the 2006 semi-finals with a crowning fifth goal from the penalty spot. Jeffrey Hendrick handled Ignasi Miquel's chipped pass to concede the spot kick and Spain's No7 made no mistake, rounding off a memorable night.


For Ireland it's Guten Tag Germany


The Republic of Ireland kick off their Brazil 2012 campaign in September next year with plenty of obstacles will need to be negotiated if Ireland are to make their first finals since 2002.

The qualifying group includes Germany, Sweden and Austria with the Faroe Islands, now managed by former Ireland manager Brian Kerr. 

The final country in the Group C is  Kazakhstan.

Ireland did avoid the toughest draw, Group I where Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia and Finland will battle it out.

England will face Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino in Group H. Montenegro are currently England’s biggest rivals in qualifying for next year’s European Championship finals.

Scotland and Wales were drawn together in Group A along with Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and Macedonia. Northern Ireland take on Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg in Group F.

The winners of the nine groups qualify automatically and the eight best runners-up play off for the four places remaining.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter had launched the draw insisting the world governing body had confidence that Brazil would overcome delays in preparations.

Blatter said: “We need the support of the government of Brazil, the state governments, the organising committee and the 190 million fans of football that is the population of Brazil.

“It is a matter of trust and confidence and FIFA have trust in Brazil and are confident of its abilities. Football is the beating heart of Brazil. It is a multi-cultural country of joy and celebration blessed with natural beauty and a booming economy ranking number seven in the world.”

Today’s draw was in danger of being postponed as workers struggled to keep the roof on the giant marquee hosting the event as high winds threatened to tear it off. The winds blew across the Marina da Gloria on Rio's shoreline causing serious problems to the top of the temporary auditorium specially erected for the draw.

Security barriers more than two metres high all around the complex were also taken down because of the risk posed to more than 2,000 people at the event, including officials, guests and journalists.

Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales

Group B: Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta

Group C: Germany, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan

Group D: Netherlands, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra

Group E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland

Group F: Portugal, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg

Group G: Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein

Group H: England, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino

Group I: Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland


Kilnsmann Named New USA Coach


The former Germany manager Jürgen Klinsmann has been named the new head coach of the USA. The announcement comes only days after Bob Bradley was sacked after four years in charge.

Klinsmann had a distinguished playing career, highlighted by winning the World Cup in 1990 and the European Championship in 1996 with Germany, but has had only fleeting spells in management, first with Germany and later Bayern Munich.

He has lived primarily in the United States since retiring from playing, and now resides in California with his family. Klinsmann has frequently been linked with the national team job and vacancies in Major League Soccer.

"I am proud and honoured to be named the head coach of the US men's national team," said Klinsmann, who will take charge of his first match on 10 August against rivals Mexico.

He added: "I would like to thank the US Soccer Federation for the opportunity, and I'm excited about the challenge ahead. I am looking forward to bringing the team together for our upcoming match against Mexico and starting on the road toward qualifying for the 2014 Fifa World Cup."

Klinsmann enjoyed an outstanding playing career that lasted 17 years and included spells with Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, Tottenham and Bayern Munich. He scored 47 goals in 108 appearances for Germany and West Germany.

He retired from playing in 1998, and took his first management job with Germany in 2004. He led them to third place in the 2006 World Cup on home soil, but stepped down from the role after the tournament. Two years later, he took charge of Bayern, reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but left after one season.

"We are excited to have Jürgen as the head coach of our men's national team," the US Soccer president, Sunil Gulati, said. "He is a highly accomplished player and coach with the experience and knowledge to advance the programme. Jürgen has had success in many different areas of the game and we look forward to the leadership he will provide on and off the field."

Klinsmann will be introduced at a press conference in New York on Monday.


Friday, 29 July 2011

Meena Lee Cards Ricoh 65

Meena Lee in action
(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images Europe)

South Korea’s Meena Lee used to play the piano as a child but at Carnoustie today she composed sweet music of an altogether different kind when she carded a superb seven under par 65 to claim the first round lead at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The diminutive 29 year-old, who hails from Jeonju, South Korea, gave up her musical studies at the age of 15 in order to concentrate on her golf and in the rain on the East coast of Scotland that looked like a fine decision as she carded seven birdies to go into the second round two shots in front of America’s Brittany Lincicome and three ahead of her compatriot Amy Yang, Germany’s Caroline Masson, Swedish former champion Sophie Gustafson and a second American, Angela Stanford.

On a day which started under bright skies and improved late in the afternoon, Caroline Hedwall, Momoko Ueda, Na Yeong Choi, Amy Hung, Song-Hee Kim, Lorie Kane, Paula Creamer and Mika Miyazato all returned three under par rounds of 69 to go into the second round in a share of seventh place.

2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, Catriona Matthew, and Becky Brewerton, from Wales, were the best-placed British competitors after posting 70s to share 15th place alongside Anna Nordqvist, Karrie Webb, Shanshan Feng, Eun Hee Ji, Pat Hurst, Vicky Hurst, Britanny Lang, Morgan Pressel, Kristie Smith, Inbee Park, Dewi Schreefel, Hee Young Park and German amateur, Sophia Popov while a further 18 golfers, including defending champion and pre-Championship favourite, Yani Tseng, also broke par on one under par 71.

Lee has not won since the 2006 Fields Open in Hawaii but she did finish tied sixth at this year’s LPGA Championship and she replicated that sort of form with a faultless round that might have been even better but for missing a seven foot putt for a birdie on the closing hole.

The Korean’s round started in fine fashion when she holed from eight feet for a birdie on the 360-yard par-4 opening hole and she went on to reach the turn in four under par 32 after further birdies at the sixth, seventh and ninth.

The rain was at its worst when Lee turned for home but that did not stop her moving to five under par with a birdie three on the 317-yard par-4 11th and she made further advances at the 427-yard par-5 14th and the 433-yard par-5 17th both of which she hit in two.

“That’s as good as it gets,” she said as she tried gamely to answer the questions fired at her by the world’s media. “My feel was very good today and my putting was very good.

“My putting is normally pretty good,” she added with a disarming smile.

Lincicome began her round brightly with birdie on the 360-yard par-4 second where she hit a driver and a gap wedge to 15-feet. She dropped a shot at the 448-yard par-4 sixth after narrowly avoiding driving out-of-bounds but then repaired the damage when she hole a 40-foot putt for a birdie on the 143-yard par-3 eighth.

The 2009 LPGA champion started the back nine with a bogey on the 10th but then went on a fabulous run that saw her make up four shots in the space of three holes from the 12th.

The American’s first birdie came on the 12th where she hit a driver and a wedge to 25-feet. She proceeded to hit a 7-iron to seven feet on the 13th before claiming an eagle on the 427-yard par-5 14th where she hit a 300-yard drive and then a 6-iron to no more than 10-feet from the flag.

“It was a really good round,” said Lincicome. “I felt I hit the ball really well.

“It’s one of those courses where you need to take advantage of some holes and I managed to do that. I also got lucky on the sixth because I was literally an inch from being out-of-bounds off the tee.

“It’s just a great golf course and it seems to fit my game very well,” she added.

Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall is one of the rising stars of the Ladies European Tour and she took advantage of the tranquil morning weather with a fine three under par 69 which left her in the large group four shots behind Lee.

Twelve months ago at Royal Birkdale, Hedwall won the Smyth Salver awarded to the leading amateur at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and, subsequently, after winning the LET Qualifying School, she has claimed two victories in the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open and the Finnair Masters in what has been a sensational debut season as a pro. For good measure, the 22 year-old from Barseback also beat the likes of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell and John Daly at a PowerPlay Ignition event at Celtic Manor and in the process won a cheque for £100,00 to add to the €176,773 she has collected to date on this year’s Tour. 

Hedwall had the honour of hitting the first shot at this year’s Championship and her 06.30 start clearly did not unsettle her as she fired six birdies and three bogeys in what she described as an up-and-down round.

“I didn’t hit the ball that great today, and I also got a couple of yardages wrong, but I saved myself with my putting,” she said.

“I think I’m going to have to do a bit of work on the range because, if the wind starts to get up. I think I’m going to struggle if I keep hitting it like this.

It turned out to be a good day for several of the amateurs in the 144-woman field. Germany’s Sophia Popov, who is currently in her first year at the University of Southern California and owes her place in the field to her victory at last year’s European Ladies’ Amateur Championship, was the best of the bunch.

The world’s No. 6 ranked amateur carded a fine two under par 70 to go into the second round in a share of 15th place. Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell,  the 2010 British Women’s Open Amateur champion, looked set to join her before recording a double bogey on the treacherous 213-yard par-3 16th but she held her nerve to post a creditable level par 72.

The Scot, Pretswell was later joined on that mark by 2010 US Women’s Amateur champion, Daniella Kang, who, incidentally, is a Tae Kwon Do expert and earned a second degree black belt at the age of just seven. Lauren Taylor, who also displayed precocious talent, winning the 2011 British Women’s Amateur Championship at the age of just 16, carded a two over par 74, Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow returned a 75 while 19 year-old English qualifier, Nikki Foster carded a 78. 


Rebecca Codd carded an opening round of 71.


Amateur Stephanie Meadow singe for a three over par 75.


Leaderboard


Eccelstone May Sell QPR Stake


Queens Park Rangers are in preliminary talks with potential new owners. In March, the club's owner, Bernie Ecclestone, suggested he might be interested in selling his 69% stake in QPR for £100m and the club held talks with an unnamed group, with due diligence taking place.

While those discussions failed to reach an agreement, QPR have released a statement revealing the club has started "preliminary discussions with a different party". "On 4 March the company [QPR Holdings Limited] announced that it was in preliminary discussions with a potential purchaser," the statement on www.qpr.co.uk read.

"At the time the takeover panel confirmed that should those discussions result in an offer being made for the company, the offer would be subject to the City code on takeovers and mergers [the code], even if such an offer was made after 2 April, being the date on which the company ceased to be to the code [sic], due to it being delisted 10 years previously.

"The company confirm that these discussions came to an end in March. Since the end of these discussions, the company has entered into preliminary discussions with a different party and can confirm that these discussions and any subsequent transaction would not be subject to the code. Accordingly the company confirms that it is no longer in an offer period for the purposes of the code. We will be making no further comment at stage."

A third of QPR's stock is owned by the family of the metals billionaire Lakshmi Mittal. In May, the vice-chairman Amit Bhatia, Mittal's son-in-law, resigned from the board after a disagreement over ticket-price increases and changes to the club's management.

The Force India Formula One team owner, Vijay Mallya, also the chairman of United Breweries Group, which produces the Kingfisher beer brand, has previously been linked with the Loftus Road club.


Bob Bradley Sacked as USA Coach


Bob Bradley has been sacked as United States coach after four and a half years in charge.

The 53-year-old took the team to the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup after drawing 1-1 with England in Group C.

Bradley was subsequently linked with the Aston Villa manager's job, before opting to sign a four-year deal extension with US Soccer.

"We felt now was the right time for us to make a change," said US Soccer president Sunil Gulati.

Bradley's departure follows a 4-2 defeat by Mexico in the Gold Cup final on 25 June.

But his reign also included a shock win over European champions Spain en route to a runners-up finish at the 2009 Confederations Cup and last summer's creditable World Cup campaign that ended in extra-time defeat by Ghana.

"It is always hard to make these decisions, especially when it involves someone we respect as much as Bob," added Gulati.

"We wish him the best in his future endeavours."

US Soccer added that it would make a further announcement on Friday, raising expectations that it may name a replacement.


Woods Back to Action at Akron

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images North America)

Tiger Woods will return to competition next week in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, he announced Thursday.

"I'm excited to get back out there," said Woods, who has been idle since withdrawing from The PLAYERS Championship after nine holes on May 12 after sustaining a mild medial collateral ligament strain to his left knee and aggravating a strained left Achilles tendon.

Both injuries were originally occurred during the third round of the Masters, when Woods hit a recovery shot out of pine straw on the 17th hole. He went on to shoot 74, but followed with a 67 on Sunday and tied for fourth.

Following the advice of his doctors, Woods has rested and rehabbed his left leg, and just recently began hitting practice balls.

Woods has had great success at Firestone, winning the WGC event seven times. Last year, he tied for 78th, marking the first time in 11 appearances that he has failed to finish in the top four.

In 2011, Woods has competed in six PGA Tour tournaments. He has posted two top 10 finishes and has made five-of-six cuts.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Rogge Happy with London Readiness

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe)

International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge has put London 2012's readiness for the Games on a par with Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008.

The Belgian visited London's Olympic sites on a day of festivities to mark exactly one year until the opening ceremony.

"You can't compare cities," Rogge told the BBC when asked whether London was the best prepared city.

"Regarding operation readiness, I'd put it on par with Sydney and Beijing."

Rogge was particularly impressed with the Aquatics Centre, describing the £269m arena as "a masterpiece".

"I've seen so many venues in my life but when I came up [it] I had a visual shock - this is unique, state of the art," he said.

Rogge also praised London 2012 organisers for finishing the last of the six main permanent Olympic Park venues 12 months ahead of the opening ceremony.

But he urged the London Organising Committee and its chairman Lord Sebastian Coe to be wary of complacency.

"It's all about the delivery of the Games, not just about the preparations," said Rogge. "I have no worries. I just have a clockwatch and that says to me 27th of July, eight o'clock in the evening, next year, you have to be ready."

The IOC president believes that London 2012's only "major challenge" is to have an efficient transport system in place, although he added that all Olympic hosts cities had been faced with that problem.

However, the issue of the Olympic Lanes is a contentious one.

Designed to ensure athletes, officials and media can move quickly and efficiently between the various venues, the Olympic Lanes will result in some of London's roads closed to the public during Games time.

Transport for London (TfL) admitted the lanes would put greater traffic demands on certain parts of the network during the Olympics but Rogger said they were necessary.

"The Olympic Lanes, let me tell you that it is less than 10% of the London territory that is affected," said Rogge.

"It is very much needed because, if you don't have Olympic Lanes, the athletes will not be able to perform and will not be able to compete on time."


Carter Returns to All Blacks for Boks

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images AsiaPac

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has recalled flyhalf Dan Carter for the All Blacks' first Tri-Nations clash against an injury-ravaged South Africa in Wellington on Saturday.

Carter, rested for the warmup test against Fiji last week, replaces Colin Slade in one of four changes to the lineup named on Thursday.

Carter has only to score two points against the Springboks to surpass England's Jonny Wilkinson (1,195) as the highest points scorer in tests.

Cory Jane comes into the right wing after recovering from a finger injury, shifting Zac Guildford to the left wing, while lock Sam Whitelock returns to the second row in place of Jarrad Hoeata, who debuted in the All Blacks' 60-14 demolition of Fiji.

Jerome Kaino returns to blindside flanker, demoting Liam Messam to the bench, with loose forward Adam Thomson shifted to number eight.

Explosive inside centre Sonny Bill Williams is poised to make his test debut for the Tri-Nations champions on home soil after replacing Ben Smith on the bench.

Coach Henry said the Springboks would be keen to hit back after their 39-20 loss to Australia in the Tri-Nations opener in Sydney last week and would come out firing.

"They are a proud rugby nation and won't want a repeat performance so we will have to be ready for that challenge," Henry said in a media release.

"But we have had a good build-up this week and have picked a team we know that will be up for that challenge."

New Zealand won all of their Tri-Nations matches last year to snatch the title from world champions South Africa who spluttered to five losses from six matches.

The Tri-Nations has been reduced to six matches this year from the usual nine due to the World Cup starting in September.