Monthly Archives: July 2013

WGC Bridgestone Invitational 2013 Preview

By Michael McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

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This week the PGA Tour heads to Akron, Ohio for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at the Firestone Country Club.

The South course is a Par 70, 7400 yards monster. It is the longest Par 70 course on the PGA Tour. It has 82 sand bunkers and 3 water hazards. The greens are pencross bentgrass, poa annua.

There are several intimidating long Par 4’s on the course however they take a back seat to the Par 5, 16th which is the longest hole on the Tour measuring at 667 yards. Watch out for the water in front of the green.

Before you play the 16th you need to contend with the Par 3, 15th at 221 yards. It is a challenging hole as there are hidden bunkers to the left of the green. Many players will come unstuck.

Players who play well at the US Open tend to do well here due to the narrow fairways and thick rough. Players also have the option of using the driver a lot more often as there are not as many doglegs on the South course that you would normally see each week.

Past winners have all ranked highly in GIR stats so keep this in mind when looking at the field.

This week the bookies Top 5 players in the market are: 9/2 Tiger Woods, 14/1 Phil Mickelson, 16/1 Adam Scott, 20/1 Brandt Snedeker and 22/1 Rory McIlroy.

The field also consists of 23 players who have already won on the PGA Tour this season. Names include Dustin Johnson, Kevin Streelman, Martin Laird, Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley and Bill Haas.

Joining them are several International players such as Angel Cabrera, Nicolas Colsaerts, Mikko Ilonen, Matteo Manassero and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

So who do we like this week?

Tiger Woods 9/2

I generally stay clear of the favourites however this week I am making an exception. Tiger loves Firestone. He has won this event a staggering seven times. (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009).  He will be looking for his eighth win this weekend to go alongside his eight wins at both Torrey Pines and Bay Hill.

It is hard to fault his game this season. Ten starts for no missed cuts. Six Top 10’s and 4 wins! He has won the Farmers Insurance, WGC Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.

Tiger is coming off a T6th at The Open which has given him a few weeks rest between events.

Stats wise he is ranked 1st in scoring average, 1st in all round rankings, 4th in strokes gained putting and 17th in ball striking.

While he may be at rather short odds this week, it would not be smart to over look him. He stands out as the obvious choice this week.

Jason Day 33/1

If there is one player who deserves a win this season it is Jason Day. While he has not won just yet, he has put in some great results meaning a win is just around the corner.

Fifteen starts for no missed cuts resulting in five Top 10’s. Highlights have been 3rd at The Masters and T2nd in the US Open. Day’s last start was at The Open Championship were he finished T32nd.

This will be his fourth start in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. T22nd in 2010, T4th in 2011 and T29th last year.

His game is in great nick and at 33/1 Jason represents an excellent each way selection. Currently ranking 18th in driving distance, 21st in strokes gained putting and 13th in scoring average he is sure to be up there challenging over the weekend.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

 

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The Ashes: Second Test Review

By Justin Davies ( @DargonPunk12 )

The Ashes: Second Test

From the euphoria that followed the opening Ashes test with Australia losing by 14 runs. The second test was the exact opposite. The margin only scratched the surface of the problems facing the tourists in the remaining games.

Australia started on the backfoot losing the toss once again and being told to field. There were two changes for the Aussies in Ryan Harris and Usman Khawaja. The former showed why fans had wanted the quick selected much more than his number of caps showed when he tore through the English top order to reduce them to 3/28 on his way to a first innings 5 for.

That was where the joy for Australia’s quicks ended though. England much like in the first test, were able to hold their ground through Ian Bell with help from Johnathan Trott and Ian Bairstow. This had been the difference in the series thus far, the English collapses were stabilised before becoming calamity.

Bell had his third consecutive Ashes hundred before an unlikely hero stepped up for Australia. Steven Smith thrown the ball to waste time before the new ball, produced a ripper to remove Bell and followed up with dismissing Bairstow and Prior.

Australia have been looking for the unlikely hero (Agar in the first test with the bat) while England were consistent with odd flashes of brilliance from someone to propel them on. The consistency was underlined with the lower order scoring 12, 28 and 33 respectively to drag England to 361.

It was the same old song and dance for the tourists once they got the chance to wield the willow. Shane Watson got off to a promising start then was caught lbw, Chris Rogers missed a full toss and Usman Khawaja tried to send Swann into the stands but only made mid-on. Those were the glaring moments in a collapse of 128 with the strains of “Swann, Swann will tear you apart again,” ringing true around Lords.

Heads were bowed again and the Australia that had surrendered meekly at home in the Ashes battle reared their ugly head. Michael Clarke called it an embarrassment but that was still to come. Alastair Cook showed some leniency in not enforcing the follow on thus  England got a chance to bat again and put Australia out of the contest.

Once again though, the bowlers had worked magic for Australia. Peter Siddle in this instance probably greater than anything Harry Houdini produced as he reduced England to 3/30 allowing that wicked mistress hope to poke her head out. She was promptly firmly in her seat soon into the afternoon session though.

Joe Root before this test was known to Australian’s for getting into an altercation with David Warner but he turned conqueror on the Lord’s pitch. He was dispatching the bowling with ease as he motored to his century and more importantly, team wise making the lead unassailable for the tourists.

Cook’s men had studiously worked to move the lead past 500 only leaving the opportunity for Joe Root to make 200 at Lords. He was denied twenty runs short in a rare bright spot on Day four for the Australians. 583 was the target but reality had the Aussies surviving day four and doing the single largest rain dance to draw.

Any talk of the rain would be premature though, as Australia in the most predictable outcome since Phil Taylor was winning darts tournaments, collapsed. The collapse wasn’t immediate like the first innings though, Clarke and Khawaja allowed hope to poke her head back in before both falling to Joe Root who had a smile you couldn’t wipe off if you tried after this test.

Predictably Graeme Swann delivered the final blow catching Pattinson lbw on the final over of the day after Harris and Pattinson teasted to drag the public (and Lord’s crowd attendants) into the final day with a dogged stance.

Where to from here? 2-0 isn’t an unsurmountable lead but with the batting frailties Australia has, pride and preserving their test spot would be high on the agenda. For England, it is all about the sweep on a side that is ripe for that.

Walk Alone? Not With 95,000 of Us

By Daniel Cousens ( @DanCuzns )

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Yesterday I returned home from my pilgrimage to Melbourne to participate in one of the most amazing experiences of my life as a sports fan. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, the Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League came to Melbourne to play a preseason friendly match against A-league side Melbourne Victory. Fellow EPL team Manchester United took on an A-League All Stars team in Sydney on Saturday night, but as a Liverpool fan I was one of thousands of Reds fans who descended on Melbourne for the event.

The news has attempted to show just how incredible the atmosphere was in the city and at the match itself, but it also isn’t able to do it justice. I have been to some incredible sporting events in my life and sat in some massive crowds, but very little compares to what we experienced on Wednesday night.

Whilst I’m sure Liverpool expected there to be a solid turnout at the game and to make some money whilst also giving their players a taste of another country, I don’t think they were even remotely prepared for the outpouring of passion from Australia’s Liverpool faithful. I am also about to make a statement that may be completely biased but I still believe is true, but I think Liverpool fans, at least in Australia, are the most passionate and hardcore fans of any EPL club. It is possible they are rivalled by some of the fan bases of smaller clubs, but those clubs don’t quite have the numbers to rival it.

Having been in Sydney for the build-up to the Manchester United match, Sydney did not feel like it was invaded by Red Devils. The match sold out and plenty of United fans got to experience seeing their favourite team play, but the entire city of Melbourne was covered in red as well as all the flights in to Melbourne from Sydney and I’m sure elsewhere. Then on Thursday the entire Melbourne airport was once again covered in red as the fans flew back to their cities of origin.

I am not sure what percentage of the 95,000 in the crowd on Wednesday was actually from Melbourne, but I would suggest that a large portion were people who travelled for the match. It was truly an incredible experience, starting from arriving at Sydney airport on Tuesday morning.

I personally bumped into several people I knew that I had no idea were even heading to Melbourne for the game as well as all the people I did know were coming and planned to meet up with. The walk to the stadium almost felt like being part of an army going to war, back in the days when armies used to actually march into battle like that.

The MCG being completely red (besides the pocket of very vocal and passionate Victory supporters) was a sight to behold and then we sang ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. I posted a video of this on my Facebook, but again it doesn’t do it justice. Until Wednesday night the most amazing singing experience I’ve witnessed was ‘Advanced Australia Fair’ being sung before the Socceroos qualified for the 2006 World Cup against Uruguay in 2005, but this blew it out of the water.

I had goose bumps the entire time and it was one of those moments you know as it is happening that you will remember for the rest of your life. Other friends of mine have said they were in tears, but the joy and togetherness and emotion of the experience was palpable all around the stadium. It honestly felt like all these strangers were part of your family for that moment in time. These are the moments where sport is more than just some meaningless game, but actually does make the world a better place.

Later that night a stranger in a Liverpool shirt asked if we were from Melbourne so we could give him directions. We told him we weren’t but we looked up where he wanted to go on my phone and helped him find it. I’m not going to lie, if he wasn’t in a Liverpool shirt I probably would simply have said I’m a tourist and didn’t know where the pub he wanted was, but on that night I felt compelled to get him to where he wanted to go because we were family.

The game itself obviously wasn’t the greatest football match ever, but seeing Steven Gerrard score in person is another amazing experience that added to the night. Also seeing his celebration and how stoked he was to be able to deliver for a crowd he admitted he didn’t expect made it even more joyous.

I was particularly impressed with youngster Jordan Ibe as well as Andre Wisdom playing centre back. Raheem Sterling continued to look like a threat every time he touched the ball and after a slow start Fabio Borini looked dangerous as the game went on.

On the negative side there was the continued incompetence of Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen also continuing to struggle defensively in midfield. But the biggest negative of course was the attitude and body language of Luis Suarez. When Suarez got on the ball he looked dangerous every time and of course he finished the match with a lovely assist, but his lack of work rate, sour attitude and refusal to even celebrate the goal he created showed where he is at mentally.

Every fan I spoke to seemed to agree that Suarez was sending a clear message that he no longer wanted to play for Liverpool and we may well have witnessed his last ever appearance for the club. I still hope he decides to stay and if he is to be sold, I would hope that it is not to a direct rival to make the top four in Arsenal. But clearly he doesn’t want to be there and something has to change one way or another.

The 2013/14 season could be a bounce back year for Liverpool, but selling Suarez on the eve of the season will be seriously detrimental, especially if they are unable to secure an adequate replacement on short notice.

However, the main story is the success of Liverpool’s first trip to Australia and playing in front of the biggest crowd in their entire existence. I’m sure they will be back soon, probably to play in Sydney next time.

You can read more of Daniel’s work at the Back Sage.

RBC Canadian Open Preview

golf

By Mick McGill ( @MickSportsNews )

The PGA Tour heads over the boarder into Canada this week for the RBC Canadian Open which is being played on the Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville, Ontario.

The tournament was last played at Glen Abbey in 2009. This will be the 26th time the course has hosted this event. It is a Jack Nicklaus designed Par 72 course measuring 7,273 yards.

Fairways are generous so expect low scoring this week much like 2009 when Nathan Green won with -18 and 2008 when Chez Reavie was triumphant on -17. The approach shot will be the main key this week as there are many green side bunkers that have been strategically placed to catch you out.

The Top Five in betting this week are 14/1 Brandt Snedeker, 18/1 Matt Kuchar, 18/1 Hunter Mahan, 20/1 Dustin Johnson and 20/1 Graeme McDowell.

My two players to follow this week are-

Hideki Matsuyama 40/1

Hideki is the name on a lot of people lips at present. This guy has a huge career ahead of him and plenty more people will be taking about him as the year continues.

I selected him last week in The Open to be the Leading Asian player at 11/2. Not only was he successful in this market he also finished T6th after rounds of 71-73-72-70 and that included a one stroke penalty in the third round for slow play. It was that result that brought him to peoples attention.

If you look at his record to date you will see why he has been on my radar for a while now. In 2010 he won the Asian Amateur Championships and successfully defended the title the following year. He played in the 2011 Masters Tournament and finished T27th and was the leading amateur.

In 2012 he had eight starts and managed four Top 10 finishes while still an amateur. He started the year ranked N0.202 in the World and finished the year as No.131.

This year he has gone from strength to strength. From eleven starts he has had nine Top 10’s and two wins. Highlights have been 1st Tsuruya Open, 1st Diamond Cup Golf, 2nd The Crowns, T2nd Nissin Cup and T4th Sammy Cup. They were all on the Japan Tour.

You then look at his two Major Starts this year. T10th in the US Open and T6th at The Open last week. It seems like he is bullet proof when it comes to nerves!

Interesting to note that he was ranked 2nd in greens in regulation last week. Not bad from a kid playing in his first Open.  He is now ranked 34th in the world.

Then there are his Japan Tour stats. He is 1st in money earnings this season by a long way, 1st in scoring average, 11th in putting average, 4th in greens in regulation, 2nd in birdie average and 1st in Par 4 performance.

Matsuyama is one talented player. With youthful exuberance and the calm demure I expect to see him up there on the leader board challenging on Sunday.

Last Week

Miguel Angel Jimenez gave us a great showing after being the Leader at the end of Day Two. He came into 19/1 which made for a great trade for those who backed him on the exchanges. Hideki Matsuyama finished as the leading Asian player giving us an 11/2 collect.

Good Luck and Good Punting.

Marquez Wins at Laguna Seca

By Brad Eveleigh ( @Brad_Eveleigh )

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Marc Marquez has won the 2013 Red Bull U.S. Moto Grand Prix at Laguna Seca to further extend his Championship lead.

Prior to the days main attraction a minute’s silence was held to pay the respects to Italian rider Andrea Antonelli who was tragically killed in an accident during the World Supersport race in Moscow earlier that day.

After the sad formalities were completed it was race time where 20-year-old Marquez started the GP from second on the grid to German Stefan Bradl on Pole. The Spaniard off to a dreadful start, which mirrored that of last round in Sachsenring but he was able to settle and hold onto third in the early stages.

The Rookie established race pace behind Valentino Rossi who started from fourth and slotted in ahead of defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and championship contender/team mate Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa and Lorenzo, who both missed last round due to injuries both, had work hard riding with those injuries and poor qualifying times.

As all rides developed the feel for the race gaps were evidently opening and closing but one in particular was the gap between Rossi and Marquez. Marc was registering times that were just off qualifying times and a battle between him and the seven times World Champion were inevitable.

The Doctor once distinctively battled with Casey Stoner on this track in 2008 and Rossi controversially won that battle on the famous “Cork Screw” section of the track (a tight left then right on a steep decline). It was enjoyable viewing as an enormously brave Marquez pulled the same maneuver on the master himself undertaking him off the track on the inside of the exit, pundits describing it as Rossi being Rossi’ed.

Marquez then haunted race leader Stefan Bradl edging closer in every sector. Bradl’s pit crew tried their hardest to give him the “hurry up” posting gap times on the pit wall less than it actually was.

There were 13 laps remaining when Marquez made the foreseeable passing of the German and finished the race with comfort and control to extend the Championship lead to 16 points over Repsol Honda team mate Dani Pedrosa.

Bradl was ecstatic to hold onto second for his first ever podium finish and Rossi kept his recent form alive with third place going into the mid-season break.

Alvaro Bautista finish forth with the battered and bruised paring of Pedrosa and Lorenzo collecting the chequered flag in fifth and sixth respectively.

After the race Macquez said: “I am so happy to win, I thought I would struggle here but I have taken 25 points and now we can enjoy the break.”

Rossi was asked about the battle with the race winner through the Cork Screw and responded with: “It looks like Marc made my own overtake but I have the trademark! He owes me some money!”

Round 10 will commence after the mid-season break in Indianapolis on 18 August.

 

U.S. GP Results:

1. Marc Marquez –  (Spa) Repsol Honda

2. Stefan Bradl – (Ger) LCR Honda

3. Valentino Rossi – (Ita) Yamaha

4. Alvaro Bautista – (Spa) Gresini Honda

5. Dani Pedrosa – (Spa) Repsol Honda

6. Jorge Lorenzo – (Spa) Yamaha

7. Cal Crutchlow – (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha

8. Nicky Hayden – (US) Ducati

9. Andrea Dovizioso – (Ita) Ducati

10. Hector Barbera – (Spa) FTR

 

Championship Standings

1. Marc Marquez – 163 points

2. Dani Pedrosa – 147 points

3. Jorge Lorenzo – 137 points

4. Valentino Rossi – 117 points

5. Cal Crutchlow – 116 points

 

pic: gulf times

As Bill Lawry Would Say: ‘It’s All Happening’

By Daniel Cousens ( @DanCuzns )

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So for once, instead of struggling to come up with a topic to write about, this week there has been so much going on that I couldn’t decide which topic to pick. Therefore, as the fence sitter than I am, I figured I’ll just touch on a bit of everything and then reward myself with a weekend away.

To start, let’s talk about the Origin decider. The Queensland streak remains alive after they hung on to win by two and NSW have to wait another year to try to end the drought. Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know that I, like many others, think the biggest issue for NSW was halfback Mitchell Pearce.

The only people I have seen defending Pearce have been Roosters fans and even Roosters fans have been divided on it. I am not questioning Pearce’s heart or effort levels. I think he desperately wants to be the best player he can and gave it his all yet again, but he quite simply isn’t good enough. He is a good defender for his position but NSW need a halfback that can create points and that is something Pearce has not done in five years playing for NSW.

His kicking game is below par and he doesn’t have the dynamic passing or running game. He also didn’t take control of the direction of the team, which lead to many plays that looked like they had no plan.

The argument that a halfback needs a forward pack going forward to be able to perform doesn’t hold water here either as the NSW pack won the arm wrestle. NSW had every opportunity to win game 3 as well as getting the better of the forward back for the last two years in general. Pearce may well be a great guy, but he has had more than enough chances and it’s time NSW make the move they should have made before this series. It’s certainly a popular opinion and I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said elsewhere over and over, but enough is enough and it’s time the Pearce experiment ends. He just isn’t that good.

Onto the Ashes, where Australia lost the First Test but there were certainly a number of positives to take out of it. From a neutral standpoint it was one of the most entertaining and gripping Tests I have ever watched and whilst Australia ended up on the losing end, it gave me belief that we can absolutely make this a competitive series.

Darren Lehmann’s decision to play Ashton Agar instantly paid off with one of the greatest moments in Test history, with a 19 year old Agar, batting 11 and with Australia in dire straits, getting to 98 (alongside a tremendous knock by Phil Hughes) before holing out trying to get his century.

There is clearly a concern with the top order, which hopefully will be rectified as the series moves forward, but I can’t remember a tail that so consistently wags. Our bowlers are honestly not that much worse at batting than our specialist batsmen are. Which isn’t really a compliment to our batsmen, but is still praise for our bowlers.

As I write this the team for the Second Test was announced and so I had to quickly rewrite this bit about selections for the match. Cowan was axed as expected and replaced by Usman Khawaja, who was the likely replacement. Mitchell Starc also makes way with Ryan Harris getting the nod over Jackson Bird as the replacement fast bowler. Cowan had to go and Starc has been a bit down on form so neither was unexpected. I wasn’t sure whether Harris, Bird or a second spinner would come in depending on the conditions and it’s hard to argue with Ryan Harris getting the nod.

But either way, I’m no longer feeling as down about our chances for the series as I was before the First Test, which is saying something considering we are now officially trailing in the series.

Also a quick point on the whole DRS and Stuart Broad saga. First of all, I think we need to be a bit careful to put all the blame on England, when we got a bit lucky ourselves in the first innings with Agar and the fact that Clarke continues to misuse the review system. That said, Broad should have walked and the fact that he didn’t absolutely makes him a dirty cheat.  Also, the on field umpires were atrocious for both sides and this wouldn’t be an issue if they actually did their job at a level even near competent. Aleem Dar is one of the worst umpires I can remember and it baffles me how he continues to get such big matches. He is like cricket’s Jason Robinson.

Onto Le Tour. Whilst some of the individual stages have been exciting, is it just me or is the fact that Chris Froome is so dominant making the race kind of boring. It’s hard to stay up at night knowing the result is already over barring injury. That’s not to take anything away from Froome himself. He was expected to do this and he is delivering in spades and proving that he probably would have won Le Tour last year as well if his team had let him.

I also think raising speculation of him cheating as the media have been doing is ridiculous. It’s an unfortunately side effect of the sport’s history, but Froome has done nothing to suggest he is cheating besides being really, really good. I’d like to think he isn’t cheating because neither are his competitors anymore. However, should he end up in a doping scandal at any stage, it would be tragic and would be another nail into the coffin of the sport for many people.

We also are currently being graced with the presence of English Premier League champions Manchester United, who are here to play an A-League All Stars team this weekend. Then next Wednesday, my beloved Liverpool will be taking on the Melbourne Victory and I am fortunate enough to be traveling to Melbourne to watch the game. I’ve never seen Liverpool play and I’ve never been to a sporting event at the MCG, so to say I’m excited would be an understatement.

I hope to write about the experience next week, so stay tuned for that and remember, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

Queensland win 8 Straight

By Brad Eveleigh ( @Brad_Eveleigh )

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The Queensland Maroons have won Game 3 of the 2013 Rugby League State of Origin series defeating New South Wales 12-10 to clinch yet another series title.

With the series locked at 1-1 having both teams win at their home ground, it was down to game 3 to see who would take home the prestigious shield and a year of territorial bragging rights.

It was Queensland who collected the honors again this year to make it an amazing 8 straight series wins and continue to live up to the reputation as the greatest team in Origin history.

The Maroons took an 8-0 lead with a try to Johnathen Thurston, who converted his own try in the 10th minute, and converted a penalty not long after. A smart move in such an important game having a score line set for the opposition having to score twice to overtake the lead, no matter what part of the game it is.

New South Wales reacted with an unconverted try to James McManus in the 26th minute to reduce the deficit to just 4, as the conversion by James Maloney was unsuccessful.

Both teams when to the sheds at the halftime break evenly poised and with a respectable 8-4 score line.

With a quarter of the game remaining, Justin Hodges crossed for the Maroons to extent the lead to 12-4 formulating an exciting final period to the game.

A converted try to Trent Merrin with 8 minutes remaining on the clock gave the Blues a glimmer of hope to muster a late win, but it wasn’t to be.

Queensland were on the brink of extending the lead in the final moments however they were denied by the interference of a pitch invader. The pending try was disallowed but a Maroon scrum feed to resume play was enough to wind down the clock and keep the Blues deep in their own territory.

The first half penalty conversion for Queensland turned out to be a critical call in the match as they were able to hold on to their slim 2 point margin.

After the match, Queensland’s Brent Tate was awarded the Man of the Match honors along with the Peter Jackson Medal (for players player) and the Dick “Tosser” Turner Medal for playing 20 Origin Matches.

Tate said that winning the Tosser Turner Medal was what has been his driving force to keep playing.

Pic: Stuffnz