On Iowa Daily Briefing
LONDON (Reuters) – John McEnroe was once the “bad boy” of Wimbledon, berating linesmen and umpires alike and famously screaming “You cannot be serious”.
The 54-year-old silver fox had a new role on Thursday as comedy fall guy to Iranian Mansour Bahrami in the gentlemen’s senior invitation doubles on a packed outside court.
The crowd whooped and cheered and the score – John and his brother Patrick beat Mansour and Frenchman Henri Leconte 6-1 6-4 – was irrelevant.
Even with a few creaking limbs, the quartet demonstrated all their silky skills of old and the fans lapped it up.
Bahrami, who delights in playing to the gallery, even shouted out “You cannot be serious” in mocking tones to McEnroe.
The Iranian earned by far the biggest cheer of the day when he rushed to the back of the court, played a glorious trick shot between his legs and left the McEnroe brothers flummoxed and flat-footed at the net.
John McEnroe’s elegant serve is unchanged. He still can fire them down at over 100 miles an hour and for the grand slam winner turned television commentator, the competitive fires are clearly still burning.
But he too knows how to play to the gallery.
After hitting one particularly wayward double fault that landed beyond the tramlines, he jokingly shouted out “Are you sure?” to the umpire.
Another McEnroe double fault provoked a yell of delight from Bahrami who taunted him, shouting “Yes, come on.”
In the first two rounds, Wimbledon crowds have got to see McEnroe having a great time. None of the sulking, none of the sound and fury, just tennis as pure fun. Temper tantrums were just a memory.
In the first round on Wednesday, the brothers beat the Australians Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee in a match that had more Macs than a fast food restaurant.
When someone shouted out “C’mon Mac,” John McEnroe was quick to shout back “Which one?”
On Thursday, he wisely took a back seat in the comedy duel with Bahrami, a master at bringing the house down with his clowning antics.
Readying to receive McEnroe’s serve, he even adopted a lumbering King Kong pose to try to put his opponent off.
The American’s love/hate relationship with the crowd is now all adoration. The fans roared their approval and gave him a big cheer at the end when the former “Mr Grouch” applauded them back.
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Any doubts that Brazil are serious contenders for next year’s World Cup were swept away by a majestic 3-0 victory over world champions Spain as they won the Confederations Cup in front of an ecstatic crowd at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday.
Inspired by Neymar and Fred in attack, David Luiz at the back and the indefatigable Paulinho thundering around the midfield, Brazil ended Spain‘s record run of 29 unbeaten competitive matches and brought back memories of their glory days with their fifth straight win of the tournament.
They began with a scrappy goal from Fred after some shocking Spanish defending in the second minute, went 2-0 ahead when Neymar lashed an unstoppable angled left-foot shot past Iker Casillas a minute before halftime, and wrapped up the match and the title when Fred plundered a third with another angled shot two minutes after the re-start.
A crucial stop from Luiz after 41 minutes was vital to the victory, however.
But with the ball about to cross the line, Luiz sprinted from nowhere, stuck out a leg, and diverted it away for a memorable clearance.
“I managed to pay back the debt and help the team.”
Spain, who have dominated the world scene for the past five years with two European titles and the World Cup, were swept aside.
They suffered their biggest competitive defeat since losing 3-0 to Wales in a European qualifier 37 years ago.
Brazil went into the tournament with an indifferent set of results following the re-appointment of 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari last November, with just two wins, four draws and a defeat from his opening seven matches.
Sunday’s performance was the best of them all, with Fred’s second-minute goal lifting the crowd andNeymar‘s strike raising them higher still.
After Fred scored his second of the night and his fifth of the competition in the 47th minute, sheer joy descended on the Maracana as Brazil chalked up a third successive win in the competition that FIFA use as a test event for the following year’s World Cup.
“Let’s keep calm, let’s keep our feet on the ground,” he said. “We did very well and we are on the right track.
“We needed this time to train, we get to know each other and to work together and we are much better than we were.”
Julio Cesar added: “There is a lot still to happen, there’s a year to go until the World Cup, but I really wish that this was the World Cup. But we’re delighted and it was an amazing experience.”
“We had a bad night,” Casillas said. “But anyone thinking this team is finished should think again.”
The short film above is called “Coach,” and is about Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer, who was Iowa’s women’s basketball coach from 1983-1995.
The film is part of ESPN’s “Nine for IX” series, showcasing nine stories that have come out of the Title IX decision in women’s sports.
Never mind that Tahiti lost its opening game of the Confederations Cup 6-1 to Nigeria on Monday. The smallest nation in the tournament (178,333, roughly the population of Providence, RI) trailed 3-0 in the second half before Jonathan Tehau scored the nation’s first goal in any FIFA soccer tournament.
No need to look at the scoreboard, guys. Just enjoy the euphoria.
Photos below courtesy of our dear friends at Reuters:
And the Tahiti soccer Twitter account went justifiably bananas.
The Tahitians probably won’t score again in this tournament, and Spain might beat them by dozens, but who cares. Go Tahiti.
ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – Like a vintage bottle of wine brought out of the cellar after gathering dust for 32 years, Merion Golf Club’s iconic East Course made a welcome return as host of the U.S. Open – and did so in classic style.
The challenging par-70 layout with its brutally difficult finish had long been regarded as too short to stage one of golf’s four major championships, many feeling that it had become obsolete due to the power and technology in the modern game.
Torrential rain during the tournament build-up had softened the 6,996-yard East Course, prompting some to predict a birdie binge with the possibility of the major record score of 63 being threatened.
However, those suggestions were consigned to the scrap heap as the 113th U.S. Open slowly unfolded at Merion before Justin Rose ending a marathon week of weather-delayed rounds and, at times, harsh conditions for the players with a two-shot victory.
Englishman Rose, remarkably poised despite all his challenges in the final round, revived memories of Ben Hogan’s victory at the 1950 U.S. Open staged here as he parred the daunting 511-yard 18th in champion fashion.
Rose closed with a level-par 70 on a breezy day at Merion where the narrow, tilting fairways, thick rough and fast, sloping greens posed all sorts of problems for the players, all of them knowing that just one bad swing could end a title bid.
Add to that tough pin positions and the number of blind or semi-blind shots so often required to be hit on the East Course, it is no surprise that the average score during last week’s championship ended up being 74.54.
The winning total of one-over 281 offered clear proof that Merion had certainly stood the test of time in staging its first U.S. Open since Australian David Graham triumphed by three shots in the 1981 edition.
“I don’t think anybody expected this golf course to hold up the way it did,” Rose told reporters on Sunday after clinching his first major crown, and his fifth victory on the U.S. PGA Tour.
“I certainly didn’t buy into the (predicted) 62s and 14-under, but I figured that maybe four, five, six under par would be the winning total. But it surprised everybody. I’m just glad I was kind of the last man standing.”
Ernie Els, a twice former U.S. Open champion, gave Merion a ringing endorsement.
“It’s been an unbelievable venue this week,” the big South African said after finishing with a 69 to share fourth place, four strokes behind Rose. “The course definitely held up.
“Started the week with people saying there could be record scores. I totally disagreed with that. It was a great setup. The rough was tough.
“Everything about it was just wonderful, and the fans were unbelievable. It definitely shouldn’t wait another 32 years.”
Ireland’s triple major champion Padraig Harrington, who tied for 21st after signing off with a 72, also praised Merion’s virtues.
“The course is great. It was a big test with massive greens. Real difficult. I’m glad they weren’t firm and fast,” smiled Harrington. “The golf course played super as it was this week. I, for one, would come back.”
American Jim Furyk, who won his only major title at the 2003 U.S. Open but missed the cut at Merion after battling to scores of 77 and 79, felt the difficulty of the East Course hinged on its set-up.
“You could set Merion up to where 10 over par would win and you could set Merion up where 10 under would win,” said PGA Tour veteran Furyk.
“They (organisers) were very protective of it. Where they hid the pin placements, how they backed the tees up on some of the longer holes, I felt they were definitely protective of par.
“It’s a wonderful old golf course. It’s a testament to a golf course that it doesn’t have to be 7,800 yards to be a great golf course and Merion will always stand the test of time.”
The biggest concern for organisers last week related to logistics. Holding the U.S. Open in the cramped suburban surrounds of Merion is, scale-wise, like taking the Super Bowl to a small-college football field.
Merion is hemmed in by a railway line, private homes, public roads and the neighbouring Haverford College, which provided 25 acres of its campus during U.S. Open week for an operational compound, several hospitality tents and an 800-car parking lot.
“Our question all along was, ‘Could we pull off the operations of this event?’ We were pleasantly surprised,” said United States Golf Association executive director Mike Davis.
“It was never a question of, ‘Would the golf course stand up?’ It’s always been short relative to other championship sites, and it’s always, always held its own. It’s always a great test of golf. And we knew it would be.”
ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroyplayed together for the first two rounds at this week’s U.S. Open and they remained in lock-step after battling to matching scores in difficult scoring conditions on Friday.
World number one Woods and second-ranked McIlroy each carded a level-par 70 on a brutally challenging Merion Golf Club layout where finding rough was a virtual guarantee of a bogey with tough pin positions to tackle on the greens.
Both players were happy with their respective positions going into the final two rounds of the year’s second major, despite finishing at three over par – six strokes off the early lead.
“I played well,’ Woods told reporters after mixing three birdies with three bogeys on a sun-drenched, breezy afternoon at Merion that followed a week with rain.
“I just made a couple of mistakes out there today, but I really played well. Maybe I could have gotten one or two more out of it, but it was a pretty good day.
“They’ve really tried to protect the golf course, with it being as soft as it is. And they’ve given us some really, really tough pins.”
Asked if he liked his chances heading into the weekend as he continues his bid for a 15th major title, but his first in five years, Woods simply replied: “Yes.”
Though Merion is hosting the U.S. Open for the first time in 32 years after long being viewed as too short to stage a major, Woods disagreed with suggestions that the iconic East Course would be exposed by the power hitters in the modern game.
“Unless you have played practice rounds out here and you’ve seen the golf course, you don’t realize how difficult it is,” the three-times U.S. Open champion said.
“The short holes are short, but if you miss the fairway, you can’t get the ball on the green. And the longer holes are brutal.
“And this is probably the stiffest set of par-threes that we ever face. And then they’ve thrown some of the pin locations in that they have and it’s really tough.”
McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion at Congressional, felt the combination of tricky pin positions and swirling breezes had been the biggest factor in pushing up the scores in the second round.
“They put the pins in places that even when you hit it close, you had a tough putt for your birdie or your par or whatever,” the 24-year-old said after offsetting four birdies with four bogeys.
“The wind is up, and it’s tough to gauge this wind. It swirls a little bit in these big trees and it’s hard to pull a club sometimes. That’s why I think you’re seeing the scores rise a little bit today.
“And if you don’t hit the fairways here, you’re not going to score. If you do hit the fairways, it’s still a big challenge from there.”
Like his good friend Woods, McIlroy was also delighted with his two-round total on a challenging venue where the average score in the second round was almost five over par.
“I’m very happy,” said McIlroy, who clinched his second major title at last year’s PGA Championship to put the seal on a stellar 2012 campaign which he ended by leading the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Right in there for the weekend. I don’t think I’ll be too far away by the end of the day. I’m in a nice position going into the last two days.”
McIlroy and Woods attracted huge galleries at Merion after being grouped with Masters champion Adam Scott for the first two rounds in a mouth-watering combination of the world’s top three players.
However, Australian Scott has not fared as well, struggling to a 75 to finish at seven-over 147.
The raceway calls itself the “Fastest Dirt Track in the East.” It consists of a spacious 5/8-mile high-banked dirt oval, where average speeds reach well over 100 miles per hour, according to the track’s website.
Leffler was a two-time winner of the Nationwide Series. He had been racing for over a decade, with experience in so-called midget race cars as well as the Indianapolis 500, where he placed 17th in 2000, his website noted.
“NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening,” the organization said in a Twitter posting. “For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.”
(Reuters) - Merion Golf Club has been linked with some of the most iconic moments in championship golf and Tiger Woods will aim to add a chapter of his own when he competes there in this week’s U.S. Open as the overwhelming favorite.
A host of other in-form players can lay claim to being genuine contenders for the year’s second major, which begins on Thursday, but Woods is widely viewed as the likeliest winner based on his outstanding record and the often dominant form he has shown this season.
Though Woods did not fare well in his most recent start, languishing joint 65th in a field of 73 at theMemorial Tournament eight days ago, he has triumphed four times on the 2013 PGA Tour and is clearly the player to beat at Merion.
With much of his golf this year, the American world number one has revived memories of his glory days in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he will be eager to end a major title drought dating back to his playoff victory at the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I feel comfortable with the motion I’m making,” three-times U.S. Open champion Woods said of the progress he has made in consultation with coach Sean Foley following the fourth swing change of his career.
“All the stretches where I’ve played well for a few years, a few tournaments … I just felt good about what I was able to do … being able to fix it (the swing) on the fly.
“That took a little bit of time, and I finally have turned the corner. What you’re seeing this year is that I’ve gotten more precise and I’ve been able to work on other parts of my game and made them strengths.”
Woods was bitterly disappointed with his overall game at the Memorial Tournament, especially his putting, and was swift to outline what needed improving for Merion when asked by reporters.
“Everything,” the 14-times major champion replied. “You want everything clicking on all cylinders, especially at the U.S. Open because everything is tested in the U.S. Open.”
Merion’s iconic East Course will be hosting its fifth U.S. Open this week, but its first in 32 years after long being regarded as too short to host a major.
The par-70 layout located in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore has been stretched to 6,996 yards since Australian David Graham triumphed by three strokes in the 1981 edition, and Woods appreciates that precise shot-making is required for success.
This is a course, after all, where Bobby Jones completed his “grand slam” by winning the 1930 U.S. amateur, where Ben Hogan claimed the 1950 U.S. Open just 16 months after being involved in a near-fatal motor vehicle accident and where Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff to win the 1971 U.S. Open.
“If you look at the list of champions, they have all been really good shot-makers,” said Woods, who played 13 holes of practice at Merion on Sunday.
“They have all been able to shape the golf ball. That’s what it lends itself to. You have to be able to shape the golf ball, and you have to be so disciplined to play the course.”
Phil Mickelson, runner-up a record five times at the U.S. Open, visited Merion last week and was lavish with his praise for a layout that has thick rough, narrow, tilted fairways, deep bunkers, contoured greens and several semi-blind tee shots.
“It’s really a wonderful set-up, the best I’ve seen,” said the four-times major champion.
“They gave you birdie opportunities on the easy holes, and they made tough pars a little bit harder, which allows the player that is playing well to separate himself from the field.”
As ever at a U.S. Open, the ability to minimize errors and to stay patient on slick greens and tight fairways flanked by thick, graduated rough will be defining traits in the make-up of this week’s champion.
Because of Merion’s limited yardage and its mix of long with short holes, United States Golf Associationexecutive director Mike Davis has predicted more birdies than usual at a U.S. Open, and a greater number of potential winners.
“There’s going to be more birdies made, trust me, at this U.S. Open than any we have seen in recent history,” said Davis. “Why? Because there are just some holes out here that lend themselves to it.
“And there are probably more players that can potentially win this U.S. Open than in any other U.S. Open venue we go to. Some of that is the overall distance, that we’re under 7,000 yards. It allows more players to be competitive.”
Included in that long list of potential winners are Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, EnglishmenJustin Rose and Luke Donald, and in-form American Matt Kuchar, who clinched his sixth PGA Tour title at the Memorial Tournament.
Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion at Congressional, is another likely contender as he bids to claim his first tournament victory this season after winning five times worldwide last year.