Danny Willett claimed he gets more nervous playing against his friends than under the spotlight of a major championship after launching himself into contention at the British Open with a six-under round of 65 to move to seven-under.
The Englishman has experienced the contrasting fortunes at the top of the golf game as after winning the Masters in 2016, he slipped down to 276 in the world due to injury and a loss of form.
However, his first victory in over two years in Dubai last November was the turning point for Willett to return to the world’s top 100.
“I’m 31. I’ve done what most people wish to do in a career already. If you can’t be relaxed playing in an Open early on a Saturday morning when can you,” he said.
“I’m probably more nervous playing with the lads at home because I need to win.”
Willett conceded there were some “dark times” during his fall from grace that saw him lose his PGA Tour card little over a year after donning the green jacket.
But he believes his new-found carefree attitude is the way to play his best golf.
“The more tense you get, the worse your breathing gets. The worse your breathing gets, the worse you’re going to move. It just has an effect and stress is a big part of that,” he added.
“When I was at my worse, that was one of the main factors. Now you can keep yourself relaxed and kind of go about things businesslike, but you might as well have fun doing it and go from there.”
New Zealand coach Gary Stead has called for the Cricket World Cup’s rules to be overhauled, labelling the showpiece final “hollow” after England defeated the Black Caps on a technicality.
The teams could not be separated at the end of both regular play and a Super Over shootout, so England were handed victory because they had a superior boundary count.
“It’s a very, very hollow feeling that you can play 100 overs and score the same amount of runs and still lose the game, but that’s the technicalities of sport,” Stead told reporters in remarks released by New Zealand Cricket on Tuesday.
He said such a thrilling match, which has been hailed by many experts as the greatest one-day game in history, deserved a better way to determine the result.
“There’s going to be many things they look at over the whole tournament — I’m sure when they were writing the rules they never expected a World Cup final to happen like that,” he said.
“I’m sure it’ll be reviewed (and) there’s many different ways that they’ll probably explore.”
Stead shrugged off suggestions England had been mistakenly handed an extra run after a throw from a fielder hit the bat of a diving Ben Stokes’ and deflected to the boundary in the final over of regular play.
England were awarded six runs but former umpire Simon Taufel said they should only have got five as the batsmen had not crossed for their second run when the throw was made.
“I didn’t actually know that,” Stead said. “But at the end of the day the umpires are there to rule.
“They’re human as well, like players, and sometimes there’s a mistake but that’s just the human aspect of sport.”
– ‘We didn’t lose’ –
Skipper Kane Williamson pointed out his team was not defeated on the pitch, saying it instead fell victim to “fine print” in the rules.
He said that was a shame but the New Zealanders had signed up to the rules that governed the tournament.
“At the end of the day nothing separated us, no one lost the final, but there was a crowned winner and there it is,” he told Newstalk ZB.
The New Zealand captain and his teammates have been widely praised for the grace with which they accepted the gut-wrenching defeat.
“Williamson has shown sports fans and elite athletes alike how to behave with humility, how to accept heartbreak,” stuff.co.nz columnist Kevin Norquay wrote.
“You don’t need to smash your equipment, yell at the umpire, or swear at and threaten rival batsmen, even with the stress of a World Cup on your mind; this news will be foreign territory to some.”
There have been calls in New Zealand to give the team a ticker-tape parade, regardless of the result.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that was unlikely but she wanted to ensure that the players received “a heroes’ welcome” when they returned to the country.
New Zealand Cricket said they were in discussions with the government about when that would take place.
“At the moment, however, with some players arriving back at different times, some not arriving back at all, and others having alternative playing commitments, it’s just not practical,” they said.
“Hopefully, given the interest surrounding this, we can organise something appropriate in the weeks to come.”
England paceman James Anderson is recovering well from a calf muscle tear and could be fit for the one-off test match against Ireland starting on Wednesday, failing which the 36-year-old will target next month’s Ashes series against Australia.
England’s leading wicket-taker was named in their squad for the four-day contest at Lord’s — their first against Ireland — despite picking up the injury in a County Championship match earlier this month.
“We meet on Monday and at the moment I feel good,” Anderson, who has 575 wickets from 148 tests, told the BBC.
“I will keep bowling and we will monitor it. If it comes to Wednesday and I’m fit to play then great, but if not I will work towards being fit for the Ashes.”
The first Ashes test begins at Edgbaston on Aug. 1, with Joe Root’s side looking to regain the coveted urn on home soil after losing 4-0 away in 2017-18.
They head into the five-match series on the back of their maiden 50-overs World Cup triumph last week but Anderson said they had to put celebrations on the backburner and completely focus on red-ball cricket.
“We realise the dangers that the Australian team bring to test cricket, so we’re going to have to be fully focused on that,” Anderson added.
“We can’t afford to hang on to the World Cup win. It’s our job as English cricketers to try and carry that momentum on and hopefully an Ashes win will do that.”
The future of long-serving wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni and finding a solution to the number four batting conundrum will top the agenda when India’s selectors meet in Mumbai on Sunday to pick the squads for the team’s tour of West Indies.
Dhoni, who turned 38 this month during the Cricket World Cup, enjoys cult status in the cricket-mad country after he captained the side to the World Twenty20 title in 2007 and their second 50-over World Cup title in 2011 at home.
The veteran of 350 one-dayers, however, has been the subject of intense speculation on his retirement from international cricket over the past few days since India’s semi-final exit from the World Cup.
Widely considered as the best ‘finisher’ in contemporary cricket, Dhoni has recently struggled to start his innings while his ability to put bowlers to the sword at the end has also been on the wane.
Dhoni’s glovework, however, still remains top class and questions have been raised by former cricketers, pundits and local media if it was the right time for him to step away and help India groom his successor.
The next 50-over World Cup is still four years away but the World Twenty20 will be held in 2020, leaving chief selector MSK Prasad and his colleagues to plan for the tournament in Australia.
Dhoni, who quit playing tests at the end of 2014, has not provided even a hint of what his plans are but he enjoys unwavering support from India captain Virat Kohli who has publicly backed him on numerous occasions in the past.
India will play three T20s, three ODIs and two tests in the Caribbean and the tour will provide the opportunity for the selectors to test the fringe players while resting some who play all three formats for the team.
The team have also failed to nail down the number four batting position in the limited overs sides, something that hurt them during the World Cup, and a new set of batsmen are expected to audition for the spot.
All-rounder Vijay Shankar, who was initially given the nod, left the World Cup through injury while KL Rahul had to move up to open the innings when Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out.
India’s test wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, the favourite to fill in Dhoni’s shoes in the limited overs formats, slotted into the role during the latter stages of the World Cup, while Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill are also in the mix.
WWE superstar Triple H (Paul Michael Levesque) congratulated England cricket team on winning the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at Lord’s on July 14.
The chief operating officer (COO) of WWE honoured the English team with a custom made WWE championship belt on Friday. The customized belt has the England team’s logo on the side plates.
Triple H took to Twitter to announce that Eoin Morgan and boys will be presented with a custom made WWE Championship belt.
“An incredible tournament, an awe-inspiring final, and a team of worthy champions. Congratulations to @EnglandCricket for winning the ICC Men’s @CricketWorldCup 2019! This custom @WWE Championship is YOURS! @WWEUK,” Triple H wrote on his official Twitter handle.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Romelu Lukaku was not fit to play against Inter Milan in Singapore on Saturday, as the Italian side reiterated their desire to lure the striker to Serie A.
Speaking to media on Friday ahead of the match at Singapore’s National Stadium in the International Champions Cup, Solskjaer said: “He is not fit, so he won’t be able to play.”
Asked if Lukaku would still be a United player at the start of the season, he added: “I don’t have any updates.”
Lukaku is yet to feature on the pre-season trip to Australia, Singapore and China after taking a knock in training earlier this week.
The Belgium international, who joined United two years ago, has been targeted by Inter Milan, but talks between the two clubs have stalled recently, according to British media reports.
Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte, who also spoke to media on Friday, did not hide his desire to secure a deal for Lukaku.
“I like this player and I consider him an important player for us to have a good improvement. We will see what will happen but now, for sure, Lukaku is a United player,” Conte said.
Solskjaer was also pressed on the focus and form of midfielder Paul Pogba, who joined United from Juventus in 2016 for a then-world record fee of 89.3 million pounds and has been linked with a move away from the club.
“I’m looking to get all the players back to the form that we were on when I first came in. It’s not about just Paul Pogba getting back to that form. It’s every one of us,” Solskjaer said.
“Everyone has been spot on pre-season and the games they’ve played. When they are out on the pitch, I can’t fault anyone. When we have got meetings, they are more proactive…I’ve been very encouraged.”
United have pledged to invest in their squad in the close-season following a disappointing sixth-placed finish in the Premier League, 32 points behind champions Manchester City.
They have so far signed defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace and Wales winger Daniel James from Championship side Swansea City. Solskjaer said the club is working on “one or two” more targets before the transfer window closes.
Solskjaer has already said the team would need a “miraculous season” to mount a challenge in the next campaign because of how much their rivals have improved.
United kick off their new league season against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Aug. 11.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic lived up to the bravado on Friday, scoring all three goals to power the LA Galaxy to a hard fought 3-2 victory over MLS rivals Los Angeles Football Club.
The unstoppable 37-year-old showed he’s still capable of astounding feats by dominating the smaller LAFC defence and scoring when it counted the most for his second career MLS hat trick.
“When you play against a rival like that, in a full stadium, I get pumped. I get adrenaline. This is considered to be the biggest game in the league and I show up in the biggest games,” said Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic, who has a flair for the dramatic since the big Swede joined the MLS in 2018, boasted prior to Friday’s game that he is “by far” the best player in the league despite Carlos Vela’s superior stats.
The pre-game hype was about the marquee matchup between Galaxy’s Ibrahimovic and LAFC’s Vela. The duo scored all five goals, but it was the Swede who delivered in the key moments, scoring in the eighth, 56th and 70th minutes.
The Galaxy depend almost entirely on Ibrahimovic for offence and he thanked them with another hat trick performance against the top ranked team in the league.
“I am in playoff mode every day,” said Ibrahimovic.
Vela scored his league leading 20th and 21st goals in fourth and 97th minutes for LAFC, who were hoping to stake their claim to North American soccer supremacy with a win on Friday. Vela now has five more goals on the season than Ibrahimovic who is in second place.
Vela opened the scoring with his 20th goal of the season by converting a penalty kick into the bottom left corner. Vela took a pass down the wing and Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham came charging out of his net to trip him up.
Ibrahimovic tied it up four minutes later with a spectacular right-foot shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner at Dignity Health Park in south central Los Angeles.
While in full flight, Ibrahimovic took a high pass from Julian Araujo off his chest to his right foot. He volleyed it over the head of two defenders and let it bounce once on the turf before blasting it home from long range.
He scored in the 56th minute on a header to give the Galaxy their first lead of the game. Ibrahimovic outleaped LAFC defender Jordan Harvey and lofted the ball from the right side of the box to the high centre of the goal and out of the reach of goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
LAFC, who are on pace to break MLS records for points and goals scored this season, were controlling the offence around the hour point but all it took was one chance for Ibrahimovic to pad the Galaxy’s lead.
Ibrahimovic blasted a left footed shot from outside the box to the right corner in the 70th minute to bring the Galaxy to 3-1. It was his 520th career goal across all leagues.
– Testy contest –
Mexican international Vela rounded out the scoring in extra time by right footing a shot home but Ibrahimovic’s heroics had already taken the fire out of the LAFC offence.
Tempers flared in the hotly contested contest in the 73rd minute between LAFC’s Eddie Segura and the Galaxy’s Rolf Feltscher. After they came together, players from both teams joined in on the mainly pushing and yelling match.
There were a total of eight yellow cards handed out Friday with five going to the Galaxy.
Young Taekwondo masters Mohammad Danish, Hamza Saeed, Ammar Ashfaq, Saad Asif, and Sinan Ashfaq will represent Pakistan in 10th Asian Junior Taekwondo Championship in Jordan.
The championship kicks off 21 July in Oman where players will around Asia contest to win the title in respective categories.
Danish, Taimoor, who are the silver and gold medalist of Fujairah Open, said that this is yet another opportunity for them to showcase their talent.
“We are fully prepared for the challenge. We have trained under international coaches which have given us exposure,” Danish said.
Saad Asif, a young Taekwondo master, is confident to represent his country on a high in Jordan’s event. “I am ready to face the challenge. It is tough but I will try to clinch the title for my country,” he said.
The honorary president of Pakistan Taekwondo Federation Umar Saeed is happy to see the passion of young kids to hoist the flag of their country at international level.
“I am confident that these kids have the potential to achieve something worthy for Pakistan,” Umar said.