By Bernie McGuire DUBAI, (Reuters) - Darren Clarke is really looking forward to competing in the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship this year because both venues have a special place in his heart. The Northern Irishman, the favorite to be appointed captain of Europe's 2016 Ryder Cup team, told Reuters in an interview that he always enjoys playing at St Andrews and at Whistling Straits. "I led in the first round of the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits so I've got fond memories of that effort," said Clarke after missing the halfway cut at the Dubai Desert Classic. "A St Andrews Open is always special as the Home of Golf and this year will be my fifth British Open there so that is something I look forward to very much.
By Bernie McGuire DUBAI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Darren Clarke is really looking forward to competing in the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship this year because both venues have a special place in his heart. The Northern Irishman, the favourite to be appointed captain of Europe's 2016 Ryder Cup team, told Reuters in an interview that he always enjoys playing at St Andrews and at Whistling Straits. "I led in the first round of the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits so I've got fond memories of that effort," said Clarke after missing the halfway cut at the Dubai Desert Classic. "A St Andrews Open is always special as the Home of Golf and this year will be my fifth British Open there so that is something I look forward to very much.
By Bernie McGuire DUBAI (Reuters) - People should not read too much into Tiger Woods' disastrous performance at the Phoenix Open, according to his close friend and fellow former British Open champion Darren Clarke. Clarke himself has struggled since winning golf’s oldest Major in 2011 at Royal St. Georges. The 46-year old Northern Irishman, who is widely tipped to become Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain, has not had a top-10 in 55 events on the European Tour since lifting the Claret Jug.
Martin Laird posted his second straight six-under 66 to take the lead at the Phoenix Open which will be without both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson after they missed the cut. It was also his first bogey of the event at the rain-soaked TPC Scottsdale course. Daniel Berger, who is playing on a sponsor exemption, posted a two-under 69 and he stands alone in second place at eight under. Justin Thomas carded a three-under 68 to move into third place at seven-under-par 135.
Teen star Lydia Ko birdied five straight holes on the back nine to take a one-stroke lead after the third round of the season-opening LPGA Tour's Coates Golf Championship. I just have to stay in that mood," Ko said. Ko, who finished 54 holes at 14-under 202, has five career LPGA Tour wins with three of those coming last year. Amy Yang equalled Ko's 65 and jumped into a share of fifth at nine-under.
All-star forward Paul Millsap scored 21 points as the Atlanta Hawks won their 18th consecutive contest with a 105-99 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Millsap had plenty of help from his fellow all-stars Al Horford and Jeff Teague who finished with 17 and 13 points respectively. The Eastern Conference-leading Hawks haven't lost since December 26 in Milwaukee. Atlanta could post a perfect 17-0 month with a win Saturday against Philadelphia, which will end a seven-game home stretch.
By Mark Lamport-Stokes LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stunned golf fans at the Phoenix Open were left to ponder how the mighty have fallen after Tiger Woods plunged to new depths with the worst score of his professional career in Friday's second round. Looking more like a struggling amateur than the greatest player of his generation, and arguably of all time, Woods was out-of-sorts in every phase of his game as he laboured to a mind-boggling 11-over-par 82 at the TPC Scottsdale. His chipping, in particular, was poor and many pundits are now pointing to Woods, a 14-times major champion once renowned for his magical skills around the green, as being a sufferer of the 'yips' when it comes to that component. Nerves not mechanics." Arron Oberholser, a PGA Tour player who also works as an analyst and commentator for Golf Channel, said: "I think the greatest player that I've ever seen has the yips.
(Reuters) - A bogey at the final hole left Scotland's Martin Laird with a two-stroke lead after the second round at a wet Phoenix Open on Friday. On a day that will be best remembered for the worst single round by Tiger Woods in his storied career, an error-riddled 82, Laird used a series of precise approach shots to card a second straight five-under-par 66 at TPC Scottsdale. American Daniel Berger (69) was alone in second place on eight-under, while another tour rookie Justin Thomas (68) was next on seven-under.
A bogey at the final hole left Scotland's Martin Laird with a two-stroke lead after the second round at a wet Phoenix Open on Friday. On a day that will be best remembered for the worst single round by Tiger Woods in his storied career, an error-riddled 82, Laird used a series of precise approach shots to card a second straight five-under-par 66 at TPC Scottsdale. American Daniel Berger (69) was alone in second place on eight-under, while another tour rookie Justin Thomas (68) was next on seven-under.
By Lisa Richwine LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fans flocking to the Super Bowl in Arizona will see peculiar lights in the Friday night sky. No, it is not a UFO but part of Pepsi's invasion of host city Phoenix ahead of the big game. The soda maker is aiming to recreate a mysterious 1997 UFO sighting over the city as part of its advertising campaign leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show with pop singer Katy Perry, which Pepsi is sponsoring. Pepsi focused its Super Bowl promotions on the theme "strange things happen in the desert," an idea inspired by Arizona's long history of purported UFO sightings.
By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - The owners of the San Francisco 49ers football team have purchased a stake in Sacramento's minor league Republic soccer club, the second major team to do so this week in an effort to bolster the club's chances of winning major league status. Sacramento sports boosters, including Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former star player with the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns, are trying to persuade Major League Soccer to pick the Republic as an expansion team, part of a move to make the state capital into a regional professional sports center.
By Scott Malone BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston officials on Friday said they planned a heavy police presence and travel restrictions in some areas when the New England Patriots play in Sunday's Super Bowl, hoping to avert the violence seen following championships a decade ago. "We're not going to allow celebrations to become an excuse for dangerous and illegal behavior in the city of Boston," Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference. "We're not going to tolerate public drinking, we're not going to tolerate destruction of property." The Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in Phoenix on Sunday.
The worst round of Tiger Woods’ professional career was a mild surprise rather than a complete shock to most golf insiders. Woods shot an 11-over-par 82 in the second round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday, a score that might be stunning to casual observers of the game, but not necessarily to those who have closely observed him. Now for the first time in his career, I am guessing he is concerned in the back of his mind whether he is going to make solid contact, so he is distracted from the target and the execution of the shot." Former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch said it was too early to write off Woods. Woods has particularly struggled with his chipping since switching instructors from Sean Foley to Chris Como in November.
Commercials that cast dads in a positive light are standing out in this year's crop of Super Bowl television ads -- alongside cute puppies and a burger-eating buxom blonde. "You're reaching the last mass audience that's left on TV," said Keith Quesenberry, a professor of marketing and social media at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and an expert on Super Bowl advertising. In a bid to stimulate water-cooler chatter and whip up social media buzz, many ads -- or teasers -- have been posted online in the run-up to Sunday's showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that several clubs are interested in a possible move to Los Angeles, but the league would prefer its franchises to stay where they are. Goodell's comments come weeks after St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke joined a group putting forward a plan to build an 80,000-seat, NFL-suitable stadium in Los Angeles. "We have been working on the stadium issue with St. Louis, as you know, for several years," Goodell said. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, who are also dealing with local stadium issues, are also often mentioned as candidates for a move to LA.
By Jim Forsyth SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - NBA superstar Tim Duncan has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $1 million in damages against a longtime friend and financial adviser the basketball player says cheated him in his investments. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in a Texas court against Atlanta businessman Charles Banks, who Duncan said he met during his 1997-98 rookie season in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Friday refused to speculate on the outcome of the league's "Deflategate" probe or potential penalties New England could face if found to have broken league rules. Goodell, addressing the state of the league as it looks forward to Sunday's season-ending Super Bowl 49, said the NFL is conducting a "thorough and objective investigation" into whether the Patriots purposely used under-inflated footballs to gain an advantage in a playoff win over Indianapolis. The league has confirmed that some of the footballs used by the Patriots offense in the contest were found to be inflated below the level mandated by the league at halftime, and properly inflated for the second half. On Monday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft defiantly defended his team, and said that if the investigation exonerates the Pats, the league owes coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady an apology for calling their integrity into question.
National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell likes the "passion" he sees in London fans, but offered no word on Friday on a potential franchise in the United Kingdom. "London has done not only everything we expected but more than we expected," said Goodell, whose league held three regular-season contests at Wembley Stadium in 2014. Goodell said ticket sales are brisk for the three NFL games in London next season -- the New York Jets against Miami on October 4 and an unprecedented back-to-back weekends pairing of Buffalo and Jacksonville on October 25 and Detroit against Kansas City on November 1. The 2015 London Series games have been scheduled for an afternoon kickoff that will put them on US television on Sunday morning.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Leonard Marshall is teaming up with the lawyer who first sued the NFL over concussions to form an educational road show on how to avoid and treat head injuries in sports. The target audience for the Brain Unity Trust is players, coaches and organizations, said Marshall, who suffers from CTE-related illnesses, perhaps from concussions during his 12 seasons as a defensive lineman in the National Football League in the 1980s and '90s. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain often found in athletes who suffered repetitive brain trauma.
(Reuters) - Tiger Woods slumped to his worst round as a professional when he carded an 11-over-par 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday. The 14-times major winner, struggling in his return to competitive golf after a long layoff due to a back injury, had six bogeys, two double bogeys, a triple bogey and two birdies in the round. "I'm just doing this so I don’t get fined,” he joked to reporters, echoing media-shy Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who is playing in the Super Bowl in nearby Glendale on Sunday.
By Steve Keating PHOENIX (Reuters) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's annual Super Bowl state of the league address on Friday was not so much about highlighting the league as it was defending his own job performance during what has been a tumultuous season. Goodell, who has come under sharp criticism for fumbling the league’s response to a string of domestic violence cases involving players, was repeatedly questioned about the controversy and missteps during the nearly one-hour media session ahead of Sunday's championship game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
(Adds quotes) Jan 30 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods slumped to his worst round as a professional when he carded an 11-over-par 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday. The 14-times major winner, struggling in his return to competitive golf after a long layoff due to a back injury, had six bogeys, two double bogeys, a triple bogey and two birdies in the round. "I'm just doing this so I don't get fined," he joked to reporters, echoing media-shy Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who is playing in the Super Bowl in nearby Glendale on Sunday.
Friday's visitation and his funeral, scheduled for Saturday, are taking place at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Chicago's upscale shopping street Michigan Avenue. Chicagoans revered him for his ever-optimistic personality and unswerving dedication to his former team, the often hapless Cubs. "I love Ernie Banks, he brought class and love to Chicago. He showed us what it was about," said retired police officer and lifelong Cubs fan Fernando Threet, 77, after attending the viewing.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll's energetic style couldn't be more removed from the downbeat displays of New England's Bill Belichick, but each has a way of bringing out greatness in a team. Carroll, in his fifth year with the Seahawks, is vying to become the first coach to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Belichick's 2003-04 Patriots in Sunday's 49th edition of the NFL's championship spectacle.
By Simon Evans PHOENIX (Reuters) - New England head coach Bill Belichick is not known for heaping compliments on his own team, but when it comes to Sunday's Super Bowl opponents the Seattle Seahawks, the Patriots coach has not been shy in expressing his admiration. A joint news conference with his opposite number Pete Carroll by its nature encouraged polite words, but Belichick was unusually fullsome in his praise. "They compete relentlessly as well as any team or any organization I’ve ever observed," said Belichick. The Seahawks illustrated that point perfectly in their remarkable comeback win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game, which they won in overtime after trailing 16-0 at the half.
By Daniel Lovering FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - A semiprofessional football player found dead in an industrial park near former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez's home in 2013 was in the "early stages of friendship" with the rising NFL star, the dead man's girlfriend said on Friday. The testimony at Massachusetts Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, came during the first of two murder trials Hernandez faces this year.
By Daniel Wallis PHOENIX (Reuters) - Hoping to follow in the hairy footsteps of an orangutan who correctly predicted the victors of the last seven Super Bowls, a world champion bucking bull dubbed the "baddest" on the planet is forecasting a win on Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks. Elijah the orangutan died last year at a Utah zoo with his perfect record intact. Now Bushwacker, a 1,750-pound (794-kg) bull and three-time Professional Bull Riders (PBR) world champ, is getting into the game by attempting to divine the outcome of the biggest annual U.S. sporting event. In a video released on Friday by the PBR organization, Bushwacker's owner, Julio Moreno, is seen letting the giant dark-brown beast into an enclosure on his California ranch where two feed buckets represented the Seahawks and their opponents, the New England Patriots.
Domestic violence and cheating allegations have made for a "tough" National Football League season, Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted on Friday, but said the hard times offered an opportunity for introspection and growth. The underfire Goodell will be hoping that Sunday's Super Bowl showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will see the campaign end on a badly needed high. He was criticized for an initial two-game ban on star rusher Ray Rice for knocking out his then-fiancee in an elevator -- a punishment seen as far too light. There was also a public outcry over a child abuse charge against running back Adrian Peterson, a domestic violence case involving Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy, and sexual assault accusations against 49ers tackle Ray McDonald.
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was named to replace injured Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference squad for next month's 64th NBA All-Star Game, the league announced Friday. NBA commissioner Adam Silver appointed Cousins, who will make his first All-Star appearance in the wake of Bryant being sidelined for the remainder of the NBA season following right shoulder surgery Thursday.
By Frank Pingue PHOENIX (Reuters) - Marshawn Lynch may not have made any friends with Super Bowl reporters given his reluctance to answer questions but he has plenty of support from current and former players who feel the NFL should revisit its media policy. The Seattle Seahawks running back, who earlier this season was fined $100,000 by the NFL for his decision to continually avoid the media, made headlines this week for his "I'm here so I won't get fined" stunt on Super Bowl Media Day. "I don't think it's fair to force someone to talk if they don't want to talk," two-time Super Bowl winner Deion Branch, who is promoting TGI Fridays Happy Ever Hour, told Reuters. "I don't know what you are going to get out of someone who makes enough money to pay the fine." The National Football League's media policy mandates that players must be available to reporters during practice weeks and following all games.
By Simon Evans PHOENIX (Reuters) - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Friday the growth in popularity of American football in Britain was "better than we ever dreamed" but he gave no sign of a franchise going there. "London has done not only everything that we expected but more than we expected, they are responding to the game better than we ever dreamed with more enthusiasm, more passion," he said. "You see it every year, the passion, the understanding of the game, every event that we have explodes with interest," said the National Football League chief. The league now has three regular-season games at Wembley Stadium and has been building political connections, with mayor Boris Johnson and Chancellor George Osborne enthusiastic in their support.
Former world number one Tiger Woods fired his worst score as a professional, an 11-over par 82, to miss the cut at the US PGA Phoenix Open on Friday. Woods stood last at 13-over 155 for the tournament, his first tour event since last August after recovering from a back injury, and said he was healthy but simply needs more tournament work to try and recover his top form. "I've still got a lot of work to do," Woods said. He will have missed the cut at least once in each year since 2008, when he won his most recent major title at the US Open at Torrey Pines.
Jan 30 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods slumped to his worst round as a professional when he carded an 11-over-par 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday. The 14-times major winner had six bogeys, two double bogeys, a triple bogey and two birdies in the round.
Playing in only his second tournament in five months after enduring back problems for much of last year, the former world number one posted three bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey to make the turn at 44 at TPC Scottsdale. Woods, who opened with a two-over 73, was in 132nd place, 20 shots behind leading fellow American Ryan Palmer midway through the round.
By Daniel Wallis PHOENIX (Reuters) - As fans gather for Sunday's Super Bowl in Arizona, a billboard campaign is seeking to win acceptance for gay players whom the organizers say have been part of the National Football League since it started, but are scared to come out in public. The campaign by SCRUFF, a gay social networking application used by 7 million people worldwide, features two men eyeing each other in a locker room alongside the slogan "Play On Our Team." At a time when NFL players such as Michael Sam and Kwame Harris have come out in public, the organizers say they want to use the Super Bowl - the biggest annual U.S. sporting event with an estimated global TV audience of 100 million people - to create a dialogue about acceptance in professional sports.
By Mark Lamport-Stokes SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - If proof was ever needed for the average club hacker that even the very best players can struggle in golf, then look no further than at putting maestro Brandt Snedeker. A six-times winner on the PGA Tour, Snedeker has not triumphed on the U.S. circuit since the 2013 RBC Canadian Open and he fell short of his customary high standards last season when he made 20 of 25 cuts but posted only three top-10s. "Obviously my game hasn't been anywhere near where it needs to be," the fast-talking American told Reuters at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he is playing his fifth event of the 2014-15 season. "But I feel like after making a change last year to (swing coach) Butch Harmon that my game is a lot better now than it has been for the last year-and-a-half.
By Mark Lamport-Stokes SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, Jan 30 (Reuters) - If proof was ever needed for the average club hacker that even the very best players can struggle in golf, then look no further than at putting maestro Brandt Snedeker. A six-times winner on the PGA Tour, Snedeker has not triumphed on the U.S. circuit since the 2013 RBC Canadian Open and he fell short of his customary high standards last season when he made 20 of 25 cuts but posted only three top-10s. "But I feel like after making a change last year to (swing coach) Butch Harmon that my game is a lot better now than it has been for the last year-and-a-half. FIXATION WITH PERFECT TECHNIQUE However, having long been an ever-present at the top of the PGA Tour's putting charts, Snedeker has dropped well down the pecking order over the past year mainly due to a fixation with perfect technique.
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