Short putts

Bubba named
vice captain

ONE way or another, Bubba Watson always wanted to be a part of the United States Ryder Cup team this week and his pleas to be an assistant captain finally met with success. Notably overlooked as a wildcard pick by captain Davis Love despite being ranked seventh in the world, Watson was appointed as one of five vice-captains for the hosts ahead of this week’s competition at Hazeltine National. “Bubba has offered a couple times to come and be one of our assistant captains, and I told him we had an extra red cart and we’d love to have him,” Love said. “He adds a lot of fun, he adds a different personality, he brings a great heart.” Left-hander Watson joins Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Tom Lehman as assistants to Love. — Reuters

Salute for Palmer planned

A VIDEO tribute, a moment of silence and a tangible salute to Arnold Palmer will be part of a celebration of the late golfer’s life at this week’s Ryder Cup matches between US and European golfers. A tribute to Palmer, who died on Sunday at age 87, will be held on the first tee on Friday’s opening of the competition, PGA of America president Derek Sprague said. US captain Davis Love and European captain Darren Clarke said the teams would both honour “The King”. “We’re still working on the details,” Love said. “PGA Tour and the Palmer family created a logo and an Arnie’s Army mention. There’s going to be buttons for fans and pins for players. Darren and I have agreed, whatever we do, we are going to do together.” — Reuters

Remembering a legend

JUST as Europe were inspired by the spirit of Seve Ballesteros when they won the 2012 Ryder Cup, Jimmy Walker is looking to Arnold Palmer’s impact to help the US cause this week at Hazeltine. Palmer, a veteran of six Ryder Cups as a player, died at the age of 87 on Sunday. “I’m sure he will be looking down on us,” PGA Championship winner Walker said. Four years ago, Europe pulled off one of the greatest comebacks on a golf course to win the Ryder Cup by drawing inspiration from their beloved Ballesteros, who had died the previous year aged 54 after a battle with cancer, every European player wore the navy blue colours favoured by the Spaniard in the final rounds of tournaments. Whether US players can follow suit with inspired golf at Hazeltine remains to be seen. — Reuters

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Johnson gives Americans edge, says North

DUSTIN JOHNSON’S “ridiculous” ability to overpower golf courses with his length and precision could be the key to American Ryder Cup glory this week, according to twice US Open winner Andy North.

The 32-year-old Johnson is ranked second in the world behind Australian Jason Day having won three PGA Tour events this season.

He secured his first Major championship victory in the US Open at Oakmont in June and has been a model of consistency all year, accumulating 15 top-10 finishes in 22 tournaments.

Europe’s talisman Rory McIlroy may have landed Tour Championship and FedExCup series honours in Atlanta on Sunday but North believes his countryman is as good as anyone in the game at the moment.

“Dustin is one good reason why I feel the United States are the favourites,” the ESPN analyst said.

“He wasn’t on the US team two years ago and he’s a powerful player who is playing some of the best golf.”

North, who made one appearance in the biennial team event when the Americans lost for the first time in 28 years at The Belfry in 1985, said Johnson was as accurate off the tee as he was long.

“It’s not just about length with Dustin, he’s very, very straight too,” the 66-year-old explained. — Reuters

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Clarke hails ‘inspirational’ McIlroy

RORY MCILROY’S Tour Championship-FedExCup Series double in Atlanta at the weekend has given Europe’s team a mighty fillip, said captain Darren Clarke.

World No 3 McIlroy rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the fourth playoff hole on Sunday to beat American Ryan Moore and win the season-ending PGA Tour event, FedExCup honours and a mind-boggling US$10 million (RM41.36 million) bonus.

“From a European perspective it is always good to have one of our members win the week before the Ryder Cup,” a hay-fever stricken Clarke said.

“Rory is a wonderful young man and an unbelievable golfer so he’s a hugely inspirational figure for our team and I feel very lucky he’s on our European side.”

McIlroy vaulted into the playoff with a barnstorming finish to his final round, holing out from 140 yards to eagle the same 16th hole where he would clinch the win 90 minutes later.

“To see Rory showing that fighting spirit and battling the way he did was wonderful,” said Clarke.

The 27-year-old Northern Irishman stormed home in 30 strokes to catch, and eventually overtake, the leaders on Sunday.

“To shoot what he did on the back nine … that was very impressive,” said Clarke.

“Ryan Moore was very strong. Rory hung in there, gave himself some opportunities … and then made birdie on the last playoff hole.”

The Ryder Cup starts on Friday.
— Reuters

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Eight Malaysians for Sime Darby LPGA

KUALA LUMPUR — Aretha Pan, Nur Durriyah Damian and Ashley Lau Jen Wen can look forward to competing with golf’s best talents as they finished first, second and third in the Sime Darby LPGA National Qualifying tournament at TPC Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The US$1.8m (RM7.44m) tournament will be held on TPC’s East Course from Oct 27 to 30.

Together with the three exemption berths to Malaysia’s top ranking players — Kelly Tan, Michelle Koh and Ainil Johani Abu Bakar — the tournament will feature the largest contingent of local golfers as Winnie Ng and Natasha Andrea Oon from the junior amateur category will join the illustrious field.

Winnie, 15, had rounds of 75 and 76 to finish fifth overall, while 14-year-old Natasha carded 76 and 78 to finish three places below.

“This is the biggest tournament and the first LPGA event I will take part in,” said Winnie.

“It will be cool to socialise with the top golfers. It can be overwhelming but I am just going to take it all in and enjoy the moment.

“I won’t place any expectations on myself. This is more an exercise to gain experience and get a feel of what it is like to play on the highest stage.”

Aretha carded a three-under 69 on Monday but conditions proved tricky yesterday with the strong winds contributing to wayward shot making that saw her card a three-over 75 to finish the tournament on even par 144, which was good enough for the win.

“The referee’s pin placements were insane,” moaned Aretha.

“They were behind the bunker, in the corner or just across the water. It made for some difficult shot making,” she lamented.

“However, I’m glad I made it through. The putter was missing so that’ll be one of the things I will need to work on.

“To do well during the tournament, I’ll need to improve my short game, particularly those within 100m.”

Nur Durriyah, who has played in three SEA Games (2011, 2013, 2015), had the best round of the day — one-over 73.

“I won’t set myself any targets, but what I must do is come back with better scores than last year,” she said.

Boxing body in the dark over failed test

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Amateur Boxing Federation (PTAM) have not received any letter from Malaysian Anti-Doping Agency (Adamas) regarding a medallist failing a doping test at the Malaysia Games in Sarawak in July.

A PTAM spokesman claimed they are waiting for the letter and said the case would be brought up at an executive council meeting chaired by president Tan Sri Isa Samad before a hearing by the disciplinary committee.

“After hearing the boxer out, we will then decide on the next course of action,” said the spokesman.

“We have also been in contact with National Sports Council (NSC) to obtain information on the case.”

He said the federation would give full cooperation to Adamas to ensure the case was conducted in a transparent and fair manner.

Adamas unit head Nishel Kumar stressed the unit was only responsible for conducting doping tests.

“The results were sent to NSC, who would issue letters to associations whose athletes had failed the tests.”

Nishel revealed on Monday four medal winners failed doping tests carried out between July 20 to 30.

A boxer was reported to have taken a form of diuretics while two archers were found to have taken sibutramine and a weightlifter took anabolic steroids. — Bernama

Fixtures

TOMORROW

Arsenal vs Basel (2.45am)

Atle Madrid vs B Munich (2.45am)

Besiktas vs D Kiev (2.45am)

B M’gladbach vs Barcelona (2.45am)

Celtic vs Man City (2.45am)

Rostov vs PSV Eindhoven (2.45am)

Ludogorets vs PSG (2.45am)

Napoli vs Benfica (2.45am)

Breaking Atletico’s wall

MADRID — Midfielder Thiago Alcantara believes Bayern Munich are facing the best defensive side in the world in Atletico Madrid.

However, he is confident Bayern can triumph in tomorrow’s much-anticipated encounter at the Calderon.

Atletico proved their European mettle by defeating heavyweights Bayern in last season’s semifinals when Pep Guardiola was in charge.

However, Thiago believes Bayern — now with Carlo Ancelotti as manager —- have learnt plenty of lessons from that two-leg defeat and is backing the team to leave Madrid with all three points.

“I am really looking forward to the game,” Thiago told reporters.

“We know about them after playing them last year. We know their strengths and weakness. We have to deploy all our weapons against them.

“They defend better than us, better than Barcelona, better than any other team in the world.

“We’re not thinking about revenge, it is a different game. It’s a group stage game so it will be less emotional than a semifinal.”

Bayern won their Group D opener against Rostov 5-0, while Atletico edged PSV Eindhoven 1- 0.

The Bundesliga leaders have won eight games out of eight under Ancelotti in all competitions, with five league victories accompanying glory in the German Super Cup and an easy win in the German Cup.

But midfielder Xabi Alonso warned they will come under much greater scrutiny against Atletico, who have conceded two goals in seven games in all competitions.

“We’re happy with our start but we know this is the first really powerful team we’re going to face.

“What we’ve achieved up to now could all fall apart in 90 minutes,” Alonso told Spanish newspaper Marca.

“They are a very similar team to last year, they are competitive, hard working, always well organised. They have positive aggression, they always compete to the limit.”

Ancelotti has won a joint-record three Champions League titles, his 2014 triumph coming at the expense of Atletico with local rivals Real Madrid.

The Italian also oversaw Atletico’s elimination at the quarterfinal stage the following season.

For Alonso, the Italian coach, who also had two Champions League triumphs with AC Milan, has not altered much since succeeding Pep Guardiola in the summer.

“The base has been here since the team won the triple (Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League in 2013),” Alonso said.

“There’s a very important nucleus in the team and everyone who comes tin works alongside that core.

“When you have a built-in idea and a winning project everything is much easier. We haven’t changed too much.”

Atletico overcame 10-man Deportivo La Coruna 1-0 on Sunday but their fourth straight win in all competitions was soured by a serious knee injury to midfield anchor Augusto Fernandez, who has been ruled out for seven months.

Atletico defender Jose Gimenez is also unavailable with a calf problem while Bayern will be without Holger Badstuber and Douglas Costa through injury.

— Agencies

Wenger wary of English slayers

LONDON — Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has called on his players to retain their killer instinct to sink Basel at home.

Wenger warned his stars against complacency after a red-hot display to beat Chelsea 3-0 in the Premier league on Saturday.

Wenger, whose men came from a goal down to earn a point from their group opener away to Paris St Germain, told reporters: “Everyone will think Basel will be easy. Then you look at the results of Basel against English teams, and you realise it will not be easy.”

Basel saw off Liverpool in the Champions League group stage two years ago, did the same to Chelsea a year earlier, put Tottenham out of the Europa League on penalties in April 2013 and beat Manchester United in the Champions League in 2011.

Domestically, Basel have won all nine league games this season, and they drew their first Champions League game at home to Ludogorets of Bulgaria.

“They beat United, Chelsea and Liverpool,” said Wenger.

“So let’s prepare properly and keep our feet on the ground because in our job, one thing I know if you are not prepared you are quickly hit.”

Wenger admitted ending Chelsea’s hoodoo would fill his side with belief that this could be their year domestically and in Europe.
— Agencies

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Big mouth, big bother, for Big Sam

LONDON — Sam Allardyce’s straight-talking style helped land him the England manager’s job, but just 67 days into the role it has left him in an almighty spot of bother.

Allardyce, known as “Big Sam”, was secretly filmed by The Daily Telegraph giving advice on how to circumnavigate transfer rules and mocking the speech impediment of predecessor Roy Hodgson.

The 61-year-old Allardyce is now the subject of a Football Association investigation, casting serious doubt over the future of a man who has always made a virtue of doing things his own way.

“This is Sam Allardyce, it’s not anybody else,” he told reporters in August.

“I wouldn’t have got here by doing it any other way.”

Allardyce’s blunt manner has already created its fair share of newsprint in his fledgling England tenure.

He said he would consider a recall for former captain John Terry, who retired from international football after racism allegations in 2012, and raised eyebrows by talking up the prospects of foreign-born players.

His reign began with a last-gasp win away to Slovakia in 2018 World Cup qualifying, but Allardyce inadvertently stole the headlines by saying he could not tell captain Wayne Rooney where to play.

The Telegraph sting includes the allegation that Allardyce told undercover reporters it was possible to “get around” rules banning third-party ownership of players, saying some agents were “doing it all the time”.

He was previously accused of sharp practice in transfer dealings in a 2006 BBC Panorama documentary.

The programme alleged Allardyce and his son Craig had received illegal “bung” payments from agents for signing certain players.

Allardyce was not found guilty of wrongdoing, but a British government inquiry into corruption in English football voiced concerns over the “conflict of interest” between him and his son.

Allardyce, then manager of Bolton Wanderers, threatened legal action against the BBC but did not go through with his threat.

Should he succeed in holding onto the England job, it will be the latest in a long list of triumphs against adversity.

Allardyce has struggled with dyslexia for most of his life, was snubbed by the England schoolboys team as a teenager and endured coaching rejections from lowly Doncaster Rovers and York City.

The former defender was 36 and working behind the bar at two social clubs he owned when he was given the opportunity to become player-manager of Irish club Limerick in 1992.

He had no managerial experience, but a playing career spent at sides like Millwall, Huddersfield Town and the Tampa Bay Rowdies had steeled him for the rigours of football below elite level.

He quickly established the motivational skills that would serve him so well throughout his career and led Limerick to promotion in his only season with the club.

After taking his first English managerial job with Blackpool in 1994, he joined Notts County, where relegation and then promotion provided the springboard for a move to Bolton in 1999.

It was with Bolton that he made his name, turning an unglamorous club from England’s northwest into battle-hardened Premier League perennials.

Contrary to his image as an unreconstructed “old-school” manager, Allardyce’s success at Bolton was built on data analysis, scouting systems and medical support superior to many leading clubs.

He led Bolton to sixth and European football, but it was not enough to secure him the England job in 2006, when he lost out to Steve McClaren.

At Newcastle and West Ham he struggled to win over fans who balked at his direct, muscular brand of football.

But at Blackburn Rovers and, most recently, Sunderland, his nous and team-building skills proved just the ticket.

Keeping Sunderland up at the expense of Newcastle last season finally paved the way for him to take up the England job, but his bullish nature may have already proved his undoing.

“This is the pinnacle of my career,” he said last month.

“I don’t want to fail.” — AFP

Allardyce, bungs and other dirty secrets

SAM ALLARDYCE is no stranger to controversy during his career managing West Ham, Sunderland and Bolton.

In 2006 he was implicated in a BBC Panorama programme which alleged he had taken “bungs” (bribes) — a claim he denied.

An independent investigation by the former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord John Stevens found no evidence of irregular payments.

On Sept 19, 2006 BBC current affairs television programme Panorama broadcast a special investigation into corruption in English football which had begun filming in August the previous year.

Undercover: Football’s Dirty Secrets included footage of meetings between agents, managers and high ranking football club officials, filmed undercover by Knut auf dem Berge, a freelance coach posing as a prospective football agent.

The footage purported to show agents and managers accepting backhanders and illegally “tapping-up” players under contract to other clubs.

Among the allegations:

Bolton manager Allardyce, and his agent son Craig were alleged to have accepted bungs from agents for signing certain players. Two agents, Teni Yerima and Peter Harrison, were secretly filmed, each separately claiming they had paid Allardyce through his son. Allardyce denies taking or asking for a bung.

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp secretly filmed discussing the possibility of buying Blackburn captain Andy Todd with agent Peter Harrison, which is illegal under FA rules. However, the programme merely showed Harrison approaching Redknapp and asking direct questions which Redknapp answered.

Portsmouth first-team coach Kevin Bond, first team coach of Newcastle when the programme was aired, secretly recorded admitting he would consider discussing receiving payments from a proposed new agency involving agent Peter Harrison. This was the programme’s description; it did not seem explicit from the extract broadcast. Bond was suspended and then sacked by Newcastle.

Chelsea director of youth football Frank Arnesen secretly filmed making an illegal approach or “tapping up” Middlesbrough’s 15-year-old Nathan Porritt. Arnesen offers £150,000 (RM802,639) over three years as an incentive to move, although he had been advised it was 99.9 per cent certain Porritt would leave Middlesbrough. Both allegations are illegal under FA rules. Officials from Liverpool and Newcastle were also implicated in attempts to sign Porritt. — Agencies

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