Saturday 31 August 2013

Mickelson Just Misses Deutsche 59

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Phil Mickelson keeps saying how much he loves playing with Tiger Woods. He shot 63 at the Deutsche Bank Championship to prove it.

In a feature grouping of the top three players in the FedExCup standings, Mickelson turned in the star performance Friday morning with a 28 that allowed him to consider -- but only briefly -- another shot at 59.

By the end of the day, when he played a risky shot from deep in the trees on his final hole to salvage bogey, he was happy to have a share of the lead. Mickelson was tied with Brian Davis, who made a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole to join him at 8-under 63. He’s now projected to move from No. 3 to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings here at the second leg of the Playoffs.

"What Phil did today was pretty impressive," Woods said after a 68 that only seemed worse considering the company he kept.

Masters champion Adam Scott, rounding out the 1-2-3 pairing, struggled to a 73 and joked later that he rolled out of the wrong side of the bed. "I wish could have gotten in their jet stream," Scott said.

Mickelson did everything right.

He started his round on the TPC Boston by making birdie putts of 20 feet on No. 10 and 30 feet on No. 11. He ended the front nine with five straight birdies, only the second nine-hole score of 28 on the PGA TOUR this year. And even after a bogey from the bunker on No. 1, he hit a 6-iron from 213 yards that settled just more than a foot away for eagle on the next hole. That put him at 8 under for his round with seven holes to play.

"It was a good start," Mickelson said. "I got off to a great front nine and somewhat stalled on the back. But after shooting 7 under the first nine, it was going to be a good round as long as I didn't mess it up."

He tried. Mickelson ended his brilliant round with two words: "Oh, no." He hit a snap-hook off the ninth tee, so far right that it missed the fairway by some 40 yards and went so deep in the woods that fans could barely see Mickelson ducking and weaving through the branches to find his ball.

He decided against a one-shot penalty drop out of the lateral hazard, fearing the slope would roll the ball too close to the branches and restrict his swing.

"Just give me an 8- or a 9-iron," he told his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay. He was ready to hack away when his caddie reminded him the gallery was still in the way. Choking well up the grip, flattening the swing to avoid limbs, Mickelson chopped it out to the rough and still had 210 yards left. He knocked that one on the green and two-putted for his bogey and a 63.

Kevin Stadler birdied his last four holes for a 64.

Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan and Roberto Castro were in the group at 65. Garcia tends to skip the Deutsche Bank, but he is No. 55 in the FedExCup with no guarantee of being among the top 70 who advance to the third playoff event -- the BMW Championship -- outside Chicago in two weeks. Instead, the Spaniard is playing his fifth straight week.

Rory McIlroy opened with a 70, which he said was the worst score he could have shot.

It was at the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2007 when Mickelson first got over the mental hurdle of playing with Woods, his longtime nemesis. He said swing coach Butch Harmon, who formerly worked with Woods, gave him a few tips about playing with the world's No. 1 player that relaxed Mickelson.

In the 15 rounds they have played together since, Mickelson has a 9-5-1 advantage in posting the lower score. He has shot the better score all five times in the final round, three of those leading to wins.

Mickelson had said Woods "brings out the best in me" on Thursday after his pro-am round. When asked about that again after his 63, Lefty smiled and said, "After today, it's hard to think any differently."

Woods referred to the course as "gettable," the same description he gave of Muirfield when Mickelson shot 66 on the final day to win the British Open, considered one of the great closing rounds in a major. That was the case, though. The TPC Boston was soft enough -- and the fairways wide enough -- to allow some low numbers.

Woods said his back felt fine, and there were no outward indications he was in any pain. The only thing that hurt was not hitting enough shots close for birdie chances, and missing a few at the end. Woods had a 6-foot birdie putt on the seventh and a downhill birdie putt from about 12 feet on his last hole, missing both of them.

"The back is good," Woods said. "Unfortunately, I didn't give myself a whole lot of looks."

Even though the majors are over, and Mickelson added a big one at the British Open, the next month is a great chance for him. For all his greatness over the last two decades -- 42 career wins on the PGA TOUR, five majors and a spot in the Hall of Fame -- he came along at the wrong time. Mickelson has never won the FedExCup (now in its seventh year), been named Player of the Year or topped the Official World Golf Ranking.

This might be his best chance. Mickelson feels great, though at 43 he was reminded he wasn't getting any younger when he went home to San Diego last week to take his oldest daughter to high school.

With two wins -- one a major -- and a runner-up in the U.S. Open, another win at a FedExCup Playoffs event might be enough to get voted PGA TOUR Player of the Year. Woods has five wins, all of them strong, but failed to win a major.

"If I finish off with one or two wins this year, and win the FedExCup, I think that would be enough to get the player of the year," he said. "My game clicked again last week, and I feel like these next three weeks I'm going to play very well. I can just feel it. You can just tell sometimes. The game feels sharp. And mentally, I have a lot of energy and I'm able to focus clearly. And that's usually when you play well."

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Roche Leads as Cousin Leaves Vuelta

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Nicholas Roche has taken the overall lead in the Vuelta España after finishing third in the eighth stage.

The Irishman, riding for Saxo-Tinkoff, started eight seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali but rode away from the Italian, who is now fourth, on the final climb.

Czech Leopold Konig held off a late surge from Spaniard Daniel Moreno to win the race to Estepona in Andalucia.

Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin withdrew from the Vuelta on Saturday morning after crashing on stage seven.

Martin, the Garmin-Sharp team leader, was suffering from concussion after suffering a blow to the head on Friday and tweeted: "I hit a hole or rock in the road. Down I went.

"Nothing broken, but the most painful crash [I've] ever had. Sad to leave the Vuelta but can't race with these birds flying round my head."

Konig, who rides for the fledgling NetApp Endura team, sped away from the race favourites in the final 5km of the 14.5km-long category one climb to the finish.

Katusha's Moreno led the chase and almost paced his ascent to perfection but finished one second back to move up to third overall.

Roche, the son of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen, led a group of four riders over the line, five seconds after Konig and with the assistance of a time bonus for finishing third, took the race lead by 17 seconds.

American Chris Horner finished 23 seconds behind Konig, and alongside Team Sky's Rigoberto Uran, but retained second place as he was four seconds clear of Nibali, who had led by three seconds overnight.

Spanish contenders Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez finished together, 19 seconds behind the stage winner, but they were eight seconds ahead of Nibali, to reduce their deficit to the Italian to 13 seconds.

Sunday's ninth stage is a 163.7km race from Antequera to Valdepenas de Jaen.

Result of stage eight
1. Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic / NetApp) 4:09:46"
2. Daniel Moreno (Spain / Katusha) +1"
3. Nicolas Roche (Ireland / Saxo - Tinkoff) +5"
4. Thibaut Pinot (France /
5. Ivan Basso (Italy / Cannondale)
6. Bart De Clercq (Belgium / Lotto)
7. Igor Anton (Spain / Euskaltel) +13"
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Movistar) +19"
9. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain / Katusha)
10. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Team Sky) +23"
11. Chris Horner (U.S. / RadioShack)
12. Rafal Majka (Poland / Saxo - Tinkoff)
13. Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy / AG2R)
14. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain / RadioShack)
15. Sergio Henao (Colombia / Team Sky) +27"
16. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Astana)

Overall standings after eight stages
1. Nicolas Roche (Ireland / Saxo - Tinkoff) 31:39:30"
2. Chris Horner (U.S. / RadioShack) +17"
3. Daniel Moreno (Spain / Katusha)
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Astana) +18"
5. Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic / NetApp) +29"
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain / RadioShack) +30"
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Movistar) +31"
8. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Team Sky) +42"
9. Rafal Majka (Poland / Saxo - Tinkoff) +52"
10. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain / Katusha) +1:03"

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Hewitt Stuns Del Potro

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Lleyton Hewitt displayed the same shots and grit that earned him a US Open trophy a dozen years ago on the way to the No. 1 ranking.

Now 32, and ranked 66th, Hewitt came back to surprise 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 Friday night in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

"I don't know how many years I've got left in me. I keep getting asked the question," Hewitt said an on-court interview. "I'm just pumped to get out on this court and try to put on a great show."

The 4-hour, 3-minute match was the ninth time in the past 10 years that two past US Open title winners faced each other in New York. Hewitt was involved four times, losing the other three.

He won the US Open in 2001 by beating Pete Sampras in the final, and then added a Wimbledon title the following year. But he has been troubled by a series of injuries more recently and lost in the first round at four of his last six Grand Slam tournaments.

"A couple years ago, when I had a couple foot surgeries, I didn't know if I was going to play tennis again," Hewitt said.

"For me to be out here competing, it's a ... lot of fun. I cherish every match I get out there. This is why I still play, to have moments like this," he continued. "Sometimes playing the smaller tournaments, it's hard to get up for. It's not hard to get up for here, that's for sure."

Against the sixth-seeded del Potro, who is 24, the Australian repeatedly scrambled along the baseline to stretch for terrific groundstrokes.

"He's a great champion, a great fighter, and for the second round, he's a very difficult player to play," del Potro said.

While the men hit about the same number of winners -- Hewitt had 42, del Potro 41 -- the biggest difference was in the unforced error department. Looking sluggish at times, and particularly ineffective off his generally weaker backhand side, del Potro finished with a whopping 70 errors, 27 more than Hewitt.

"The wrist is not the way I'd like, but it's not an excuse," said del Potro, who did not try to defend his US Open title in 2010, because of a left wrist injury that required surgery. "Now I have a few days to rest."

It was a match filled with momentum shifts. Hewitt got broken when he served for the first set at 5-4, and again when he served for the fourth at 5-3. Still, he eventually managed to claim the latter by playing what he termed "one of the best tiebreaks of my life."

Already ahead 4-0, Hewitt smacked a backhand passing winner down the line from a full stretch, then followed that with a cross-court forehand passing winner to earn set points. After del Potro erased the first with a service winner, he double-faulted to send the match to a fifth set.

And that's when Hewitt really took over, which makes sense considering the two players' records in such lengthy matches. This was the 51st five-setter of Hewitt's career, and he improved to 32-19. Del Potro, meanwhile, dropped to 4-8.

Hewitt next faces 102nd-ranked Evgeny Donskoy of Russia.

"I hit with him a couple of days ago," Hewitt said. "First time I'd ever seen him."

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Friday 30 August 2013

Lotus Want Kimi to Stay

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Lotus are doing everything they can to persuade Kimi Raikkonen to stay with them next season, the British team's principal Eric Boullier has said.

The 33-year-old Finn's future has been the subject of much recent speculation.

While saying he was hopeful that the 2007 world champion would not leave, Boullier admitted several unresolved issues need to be dealt with before any new contract talks could take place.

Raikkonen is 63 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel in the championship.

Frenchman Boullier added: "It's clear Kimi likes racing for us and would like to continue, which is a testament to all the hard work put in by everyone.

"From our perspective, we can see what a complete driver he is and how much he brings to the team in many different areas.

"Kimi wants to be assured we have everything in place to tackle the significant changes we will see in the sport next year.

"We're working hard to assure him Lotus is where he should be, and piece by piece we are getting all our ducks in a row."

In last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, brake failure forced Raikkonen out of a race for the first time in 39 grands prix.

Lotus believe the problem was caused by a helmet visor tear-off that blocked a cooling duct, so overheating the component.

Boullier concedes if Raikkonen is to remain in the title hunt over the remaining eight races, starting in Italy next weekend, he and the team cannot afford another retirement.

"We're studying all the data and working on ways to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future," added Boullier.

"It was unfortunate for Kimi to experience his retirement, but this is sometimes part of motor racing, so we must now switch our focus to Monza.

"We need to get Kimi back on the podium and consistently. His 'Did Not Finish' in Spa was the first he has had with Lotus and we certainly don't want to see any more this season.

"We all know the gap to Sebastian is not getting any smaller, but behind Seb the battle is quite tight as we've seen over the last few race.

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Lorenzo Leads Silverstone Practice

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World champion Jorge Lorenzo was fastest as he edged out title rivals Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa in practice for Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Lorenzo, 26, has not won any of the last five races to fall 44 points behind championship leader Marquez.

But he was back to his best on Friday, putting his Yamaha top of the timesheets with a commanding lap.

Alvaro Bautista was fourth, with Briton Cal Crutchlow in sixth place.

Repsol Honda rider Marquez, 20, set the best time of a cold morning session with a lap of two minutes 3.816 seconds, but Lorenzo was the man to beat as the track warmed up in the afternoon.

His lap of 2:02.734 was two tenths of a second quicker than Spaniard Marquez's best effort, with 27-year-old Pedrosa nearly half a second behind his team-mate in third and Gresini Honda's Bautista, 28, next.

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, 34, was fifth on his Yamaha, while Crutchlow, 27, will be hoping to improve in qualifying on Saturday after taking pole position on his Yamaha Tech 3 at Brno last weekend.

His fellow British riders Bradley Smith, also of Yamaha Tech 3, and Michael Laverty, of Paul Bird Motorsport, ended the day in eighth and 20th respectively.

In the Moto2 class, championship leader Scott Redding - who signed a deal to race in MotoGP from next season on Thursday - was fastest in the morning session but ended the afternoon in fifth.

Silverstone practice times:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha 2:02.734
2. Marc Marquez (Spa) Repsol Honda 2:02.958
3. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Repsol Honda 2:03.192
4. Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Gresini Honda 2:03.463
5. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 2:03.480
6. Cal Crutchlow (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 2:03.505
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati 2:03.658
8. Bradley Smith (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 2:03.750
9. Stefan Bradl (Ger) LCR Honda 2:03.784
10. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 2:04.089

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Stybar Narrowly Wins Vuelta Stage

Zdenek Stybar beat world champion Philippe Gilbert in a photo finish to win Friday's seventh stage of the Vuelta a Espana with Nicolas Roche remaining in third position overall.

The pair made a late bid for victory on the 206-kilometre route from Almendralejo to Mairena del Aljarafe, attacking with 10km to go.

And Czech rider Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was able to hold off the challenge of Gilbert (BMC Racing) by a tyre's width. A charging peloton was led in one second behind by Robert Wagner (Belkin), who was third, while Briton Andy Fenn, a team-mate of Stybar's, was sixth.

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who won May's Giro d'Italia, retained the overall leader's red jersey by three seconds from American Chris Horner(RadioShack) with Ireland's Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) third after his 27th place finish.

Roche also continues to lead the Mountains Classification.

Roche's cousin Dan Martin finished 116th today after suffering a nasty crash late in the stage and slips to 43rd overall.

Saturday's eighth stage is the 167km route from Jerez de la Frontera to a summit finish at Estepona Alto Penas Blancas.

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