Golf: Spieth wins in Sydney with ‘best round’ of career

Jordan Spieth played the best round of an already impressive career with an eight-under 63 on Sunday to win the Australian Open by six strokes, making his first trip Down Under a successful one.

Spieth’s 72-hole total of 13-under 271 on the tough, windy Australian Golf Club made him the first American to win the Australian Open since Brad Faxon in 1993, when the 21-year-old Spieth was four months old.

“It’s the best round I have ever played, especially considering the conditions,” Spieth said. “It was just kind of one of those rounds when you’re in the zone and you’re not sure what you’re at. It’s nice that it came on a Sunday.”

Spieth birdied four holes on the front nine – three of them in a row – to lead by three strokes after nine holes, then made light of the challenging, windy conditions by adding four more on the back nine, never threatening to lose his lead.

“You don’t want any kind of crack in the door to be open and I felt like we kept it shut from the front nine on,” Spieth said.

Spieth’s score was a record for the revamped Jack Nicklaus-designed layout which was being played as a par 71 for the first time. On Friday, Jamie Lovemark of the United States shot 65.

Adam Scott shot 71 and finished fifth, nine strokes behind. Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who shot 76 on Saturday, finished with a 72 and was two-over, 15 strokes behind Spieth.

Three Australians who finished closest to Spieth earned trips to next July’s Open Championship. The Australian Open is the first qualifying tournament for the major and offers three spots to the top finishers not already exempt.

Rod Pampling shot 68 to finish second, while former two-time Australian Open champion Greg Chalmers (71) and Brett Rumford (70) were third and fourth, respectively. All three will play at St. Andrews next year.

Gusty northeasterly breezes played havoc all week with scores, and only eight players finished under par.

Chalmers and Spieth were tied for the lead at six-under after four holes, but Spieth birdied the par-five fifth where Chalmers made bogey for a two-shot swing. The American also birdied the sixth and seventh holes, made a fine par save on the ninth, then did the same on the 10th from about five feet, pumping his fist as he edged closer to the title and the Stonehaven Cup trophy.

It was Spieth’s first win of 2014, and second of his pro career – he won on the John Deere Classic in a play-off on the PGA Tour in 2013. Although he hadn’t won this year, he was runner-up in the Masters and had eight top-10 finishes in 24 PGA tournaments.

He was reminded that last year’s Australian Open win by McIlroy was his only victory that year, and the Northern Irishman went on to win two majors and have an outstanding 2014.

“If I had the follow-up year that Rory had this year, I’d be pleased this time next year,” Spieth said.

McIlroy’s 76 all but ended the defence of the title he memorably won in 2014 with a birdie on the last hole to deny Scott the Australian Triple Crown.

“It’s been tough all weekend,” McIlroy said. “I was trying to get something going but with the pin positions and the wind, it was just very hard to get the ball close to the hole. It just wasn’t meant to be this year.”

There were tributes around the golf course Saturday and Sunday for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died Thursday after being hit by a ball during a match at the nearby Sydney Cricket Ground.

The number 63 was used in many of them, as that was the number of runs Hughes had scored before he was fatally injured. Spieth provided the final reminder – and an unintentional tribute – by finishing with a round of 63.

Read more at ESPN

Boxing: Saunders earns split decision against Eubank Jr.

Billy Joe Saunders won a hard-fought split decision against Chris Eubank Jr. on Saturday at the ExCel Arena in London to earn a world title shot.

Fighting in the co-feature to the heavyweight elimination fight between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora, Saunders became the mandatory challenger for the winner of the vacant world title fight between Matt Korobov and Andy Lee. They are scheduled to meet on December 13 in Las Vegas to fill the belt that Peter Quillin relinquished on September 4.

Two judges had it for Saunders, 25, a 2008 British Olympian, 115-114 and 115-113, while one judge scored the fight 116-113 for Eubank, 25, the son of former world champion Chris Eubank Sr.

Saunders also retained the European, Commonwealth and British titles – and he also gained bragging rights over Eubank, with whom he traded vicious verbal barbs throughout the promotion before they showed respect in the aftermath.

“Fair play to Chris Eubank Jr.,” Saunders said. “He is better than what I thought he was. Next stop is the WBO world title. I have some more learning to do but I am ready for the world title. When I’m world champion I will gladly give him first shot.”

Said Eubank: “I thought I won the fight but congratulations to him. He boxed the plan, he come out strong. I feel like I overtook him but the judges made their decision. I’ll be back.”

Saunders put many of the early rounds in the bank by outboxing a seemingly tentative Eubank, who was perhaps looking to conserve energy because he had never been past the eighth round.

Saunders (22-0, 11 KOs), a southpaw, was controlling the pace and landing solid jabs. He looked very comfortable while the less experienced Eubank did not begin to look comfortable until the second half of the fight, when he had his best rounds.

When he finally let his hands go, Eubank (18-1, 13 KOs) shook Saunders with several hard shots over the final few rounds. While Eubank Sr., in a black suit, stood in the ring in his corner between rounds, head trainer Ronnie Davis was forced to give instructions through the ropes. After the 10th round, he told Eubank he needed a knockout to win.

From there on, Eubank went for the knockout as he chased Saunders around the ring and exerted extreme pressure. But even when Saunders took some big blows he did not wobble. Eubank had a huge 12th round but could not get Saunders off his feet.

“It was close,” Eubank said. “I felt like I won most of the second half of the fight if not all of it. I’m back in the gym tomorrow. Hopefully, there can be a rematch ASAP.”

Read more at ESPN

League 2: Southend 2-0 Northampton

Goals from Barry Corr and David Worrall saw Southend United make it four league wins in a row after they defeated 10-man Northampton Town.

Jack Payne wasted a great early chance for the Shrimpers when he fired wide of the right-hand post from close range.

Northampton goalkeeper Jordan Archer was then sent off after spilling a cross and bringing down Corr, who fired in the resulting penalty.

Worrall made it 2-0 when he swept home a left-wing cross from Myles Weston.

Northampton Town manager Chris Wilder tells BBC Radio Northampton:

“We think Stewart Murdoch has pulled his hamstring. They (the injuries) are hurting me more than anybody can say.

“Some players have not done themselves any justice today. You’ve got to sometimes ride with it until you can change it round.

“My patience is running low on certain aspects. I don’t like the inconsistency of our team”

Read more at BBC Sport

Conference: Telford 1-1 Grimsby

Conference promotion hopefuls Grimsby Town only managed a point away at bottom-of-the-table AFC Telford.

The Mariners, who are second after the draw, dominated but it was Telford who took a surprise lead through Andy Parry’s 35th-minute strike.

Grimsby managed to regroup after the break and levelled the score when Jack Mackreth headed in from close range.

Paul Hurst’s men pushed for a winner but they found Telford goalkeeper Freddy Hall in impressive form.

AFC Telford United manager Liam Watson told BBC Radio Shropshire:

“The first 20 minutes they did cause us a lot of problems – and we did ride our luck with Freddy pulling off some great saves – but they are without doubt one of the most lively sides we have seen here this season.

“Grimsby are right up there, and they are going to make chances which are hard for us to deal with, but there wasn’t a lot between us in the second half and we came out and did the job and put on a good performance.

“The disappointing thing when looking back today is the work rate we have put in and to not get a result, especially when you jump back seven days when the wheels fell off last weekend.”

Grimsby Town manager Paul Hurst told BBC Radio Humberside:

“I feel like it’s a day that we’ve let Telford off the hook a little bit. We go a goal behind and get the equaliser in the second half, after that I didn’t think we played quite well enough to create the chances.

“It got a bit scrappy but over the course of the game we should have been probably 3-0 up before they got the goal.

“You just wonder if it’s going to be one of those days although it’s important that you get something from the game which we have. But there’s no getting away from it that we should have got all three.”

Read more at BBC Sport

Championship: Bournemouth 2-2 Millwall

Magaye Gueye’s late strike rescued a point for Millwall as Bournemouth missed the chance to go top.

The Cherries opened the scoring through Steve Cook, who found the net with a header from Andrew Surman’s cross.

Brett Pitman made it 2-0 after latching onto Matt Ritchie’s pass, before Ed Upson’s back-post header pulled one back for the Lions.

Alan Dunne’s header then hit the bar for Millwall, who equalised when Gueye lashed home from inside the box.

The result sees Bournemouth, who had been top at one stage in the afternoon, slip to fourth, two points off leaders Derby, while Millwall are 20th – two points off the bottom three.

Bournemouth dominated the first half at Dean Court with an early Cook header coming before Ritchie’s strike flew just wide of the target.

Yann Kermorgant’s header from Simon Francis’ cross cleared the bar for the Cherries while Pitman saw an effort tipped over by David Forde.

However, their breakthrough came after 22 minutes when Cook’s header back across goal beat Forde for 1-0.

Soon after, Pitman raced onto Ritchie’s throughball and slid under Forde as Bournemouth doubled their advantage.

Millwall came back into the game in the second period with Martyn Woolford nodding wide before Upson pulled one back, heading past Artur Boruc for 2-1.

The Cherries wasted a golden chance to seal the game when Pitman found himself in front of goal. But, rather than slot past Forde, he opted to tee up Junior Stanislas, who found the net but was in an offside position.

And they paid the priced when the visiting team levelled the score, with Gueye firing home in the 88th minute.

Read more at BBC Sport

Premiership: Swansea 1-1 Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace produced a spirited display to earn a point from a lively encounter at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea dominated the early exchanges and went ahead when Wilfried Bony shot on the turn into the bottom corner for his sixth goal in the last seven games.

But Jonjo Shelvey felled Marouane Chamakh and Mile Jedinak converted from the spot to equalise for Palace.

There were fewer chances after the break, Gylfi Sigurdsson twice firing off target from the edge of the area.

After the euphoria of last week’s impressive victory against Liverpool, it was another solid performance from Neil Warnock’s Palace, who might have been swept aside within the opening quarter.

Swansea began in irresistible fashion, Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge causing havoc on the flanks and Sigurdsson linking skilfully with Bony through the middle.

Bony, who had already twice gone close after flowing team moves, collected Sigurdsson’s disguised pass just inside the area and fired in acrobatically from close to the turf.

Ironically, Palace improved after striker Dwight Gayle went off injured, as his replacement James McArthur brought much needed extra presence to the midfield.

The visitors had been reduced to the occasional foray from the pacy Yannick Bolasie but it was one of those bursts that led to a brace of corners, the second of which resulted in the penalty.

Shelvey was adjudged to have backed into Chamakh and Jedinak hit the spot kick down the middle to send Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way.

The equaliser revitalised Palace and they might have taken the lead when Ashley Williams missed his kick to allow Chamakh a clear sight of goal eight yards out, but Fabianski was alert to rush out and smother the shot.

Swansea fans were convinced Chamakh, who had been booked for a scything challenge on the touchline, should have been dismissed for a handball on the edge of the box.

And Shelvey should have atoned for his earlier misdemeanour shortly before the break, firing wide when unmarked in space eight yards out.

After the break Swansea’s creative players were unable to exert as much influence on proceedings as Palace’s well-marshalled defence ensured further progress, the Eagles climbing to 14th in a congested mid-table.

Read more at BBC Sport

Cricket: England overwhelmed as Sri Lanka canter to 2-0 series lead

England presented Sri Lanka with the sort of run chase that Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene could have supervised in their sleep

Sri Lanka 186 for 2 (Jayawardene 77*, Sangakkara 67*) beat England 185 (Bopara 51, Root 42, A Mendis 3-33) by eight wickets.

It was all so predictable that they might have batted with servants holding sun shades. A single there, sir; would you like to take more runs there perhaps? All politely accepted with eight wickets and more than ten overs to spare.

England’s 185 had felt inadequate at midway, despite a slow, tacky pitch, and a match reduced by morning drizzle to 45 overs. Kusal Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan succumbed with only 37 on the board, but Sangakkara and Jayawardene absorbed the pressure, such as it was, proceeding with a quietude which took little note of the blaring horns around them.

It was the 15th time that Sri Lanka’s old masters had assembled a century stand in a one-day international. It feels like more. Sangakkara was not really in touch, and Chris Woakes dropped a return chance when he was 36, but Jayawardene played felicitously to set his side at ease. Only with victory feeling inevitable did they allow themselves liberties, the last 10 overs bringing 75.

Read more at ESPN

F1: Sainz secures Toro Rosso drive for 2015

Carlos Sainz has been confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver for 2015, joining Max Verstappen in an all-rookie line-up.

Initially Verstappen was supposed to join Daniil Kvyat at the team next season, but when Sebastian Vettel left Red Bull for Ferrari, Kvyat took his place and opened up a space at Toro Rosso. Sainz was in the running alongside 2014 driver Jean-Eric Vergne and GP3 champion Alex Lynn, but got the nod this week following a test with Red Bull in Abu Dhabi.

Sainz is the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion and feels ready to make the step into the top flight.

“I am really happy to have landed the drive with Scuderia Toro Rosso,” he said. “Ever since I have been part of Red Bull’s Young Driver Programme, this has been my aim and I want to thank Red Bull for putting their faith in me. I have had a very successful season in World Series by Renault this year and now I am looking forward to taking the step up to Formula One.

“I tested for a day with Toro Rosso last year and I liked the atmosphere in the team. In the next few months I will be working hard on my preparation, ready to get in the cockpit in Jerez for the first test of next year. It will be nice to make my “official” debut as a Formula One driver in my home country!”

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost added: “With Carlos Sainz joining Max Verstappen in our driver line-up next year, we continue the Toro Rosso tradition of providing youngsters from the Red Bull Junior Driver Programme with their first steps in Formula One. I have watched Carlos progress through the junior categories, always improving as he moved higher up the ladder, culminating in a well-deserved win in this year’s World Series.

“However, I also remember the day’s testing he did with us at Silverstone in 2013 in the STR8. He really surprised me and his engineers that day, with his mature approach and his speed.”

Read more at ESPN

Cricket: Kent Fixtures

The 2015 season is shaping up to be an exciting summer of cricket in England.

The county cricket schedule was announced today with the domestic season starting on April 12 with Kent’s first home LV= County Championship game on Sunday, May 3 versus Leicestershire.

The first five LV= Championship home fixtures start on a Sunday with six of the seven Natwest T20 Blast matches played on Friday evenings.

Next summer is an big international summer and Kent is hosting the first match of the Ashes tour with Australia visiting The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence on June 25-28.

Tunbridge Wells Festival takes place in July with the four-day fixture on July 19-22.

The Royal London One-Day Cup starts in late July with three of four 50-over fixtures played in daytime.

Canterbury Week is played in early August with Royal London fixtures against Sussex and Lancashire either side of a LV= game versus Gloucestershire.

The world’s oldest cricket festival continues as England play Australia women in the Women’s Ashes Kia Test on August 11-14 at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence as part of an extended edition.

The season concludes with the visit of Gloucestershire to Canterbury on September 14-17.

Read more at Kent CCC

F1: Wolff promoted to test driver at Williams

Susie Wolff has been promoted to test driver at Williams following Felipe Nasr’s move to a Sauber race seat for next season.

The role will offer Wolff two first practice sessions at grand prix weekends and two days of testing in next year’s Williams FW37. Wolff has been the team’s development driver for the past three years and will continue to conduct extensive simulator testing at the team’s factory.

Wolff made her grand prix debut during first practice at this year’s British round but was limited to just a handful of laps due to an engine issue. She had a more productive session at the German Grand Prix and is hoping to continue to build on her experience next season.

“This is another step in the right direction for me,” she said. “I am delighted Williams are recognising my progression, hard work and that it is performance that counts. Williams is at a very exciting stage in its history and we are moving into 2015 with fantastic momentum, I’m proud to be part of the team. I’ll be using my position to work closely with Felipe and Valtteri to make sure that the FW37 builds on the strong performance shown by the FW36.”

Claire Williams, deputy team principal of Williams, added; “We are delighted to have Susie continuing with the team next season in this new role. She continues to impress us with her strong technical knowledge, the feedback she delivers and the performance when she drives the car both on the track and in the simulator. She has steadily increased her time behind the wheel since she joined us in April 2012 and her appointment as Official Test Driver was a natural progression. We have a very strong and stable driver line-up for 2015 and this will be a key asset as we look to build on a positive 2014 season.”

The team is currently evaluating a number of drivers to replace Susie as development driver.

Read more at EPSN