Park hits 8-under-par fina​l round to win Women’s World Championship in Singapore

The Korean finished 15-under-par, two strokes ahead of Minjee Lee.

World number two Park Sung-Hyun achieved an incredible eight-under-par round of 64 in the fourth and final round of the Women’s World Championship in Singapore to claim the title. The Korean, who has won two majors, finished the tournament 15 under-par, beating world number three Minjee Lee by two strokes.

The defending champion, American Michelle Wie withdrew from the event due to a wrist issue, saying in a statement: “I made the decision on 15 to withdraw because at that point, I was unable to lift the club. After getting surgery, I had it in my mind that I was going to be completely pain-free when I came back to Asia to defend my title.”

“I was so ready to be pain-free, I ignored a couple of warning signs. As a result of not listening to my body, I endured a bad flare-up during my round.” Her injury left the tournament wide open for a slew of athletes to potentially win the title. Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn led going into the final day but ultimately finished eighth, such was the talent on show.

Park takes home $225,000 of the $1.5 million prize pot for her win and will be hoping to keep the momentum flowing with the Founders Cup taking place later in the month. Talking about her win the Korean said: “I’m really, really delighted and happy with my play today, and I think today is one of the best days that I am playing so far on the LPGA Tour. I didn’t think I would win this fast and I’m really happy.”

“I used to have a tough beginning (of the season) in the last years, and this first win is so fast I think I will play really comfortable the rest of my season. To see all these fans travel from so far away to watch really helps me. I am really surprised every time I see them as it’s such a big group but they really give me energy.”

England’s Women on course for Grand Slam in the Six Nations

Only Italy and Scotland stand in the way of a 14th Grand Slam

England beat Wales 51-12 as they look to secure the Six Nations Grand Slam with two games remaining in the tournament. Nine tries were scored by the Three Lions as they comfortably won in Cardiff.

The result leaves England top of the table with 15 points. Italy are the only other undefeated team, although having drawn to Wales, they are three points behind the English. With the next game between the two sides, there is still all to play for.

After the game, England head coach Simon Middleton said “We’re definitely not taking a Grand Slam for granted, you can never do that. It’s too valuable. We’re really pleased with the result. To score 50 points in any game is impressive but to score 50 today is testament to some skilful play and down to staying in the game and overcoming some frustration to finish strong.”

England are the only professional team in this year’s Six Nations having been given professional contracts in January. The only other nations to offer contracts are France and New Zealand, however these are part-time. Fans and players alike will be hoping that other nations will follow England’s lead.

These full-time contracts for the rugby union side aren’t the first example of professionalism in the women’s rugby game. Back in 2011, the Netherlands became the first side to offer women’s rugby contracts to their sevens team.

A slew of other country joined in with England following suit in 2014. Funding for the sevens game has been easier to come by with it being reintroduced into the Olympics in 2016 and there are several sources of money which, despite not being massive, are enough to provide the team with contracts.

Fifteens on the other hand hasn’t been so lucky. Efforts were made by Italy in 1960, the Soviet Union and 1980, and South Korea in 1988, to get the sport put into the Olympic program but all were met with rejection. It is hoped that the excitement of sevens, as seen in Rio Olympics, will convince the committee that it too should join.

Should that happen, the fifteens sides will have excess to many of the same sources as money as their sevens counterparts, and we would see many more sides turning professional. That said, the decision by England to offer their side contracts regardless will send a message to the other rugby governing bodies.

With just two games left, against Italy and Scotland, England will be hoping to emulate what the French achieved last year, the Grand Slam. England sides over the years have won 13 Grand Slams with the only real test being Italy for a fourteenth.

Their final game is against Scotland and is expected to be a walkover. Two of the top ten highest team scores in the Six Nations have been England vs Scotland. The first was back in 2011 when England were going for their sixth consecutive title. A run that would finish at seven, with six of those being Grand Slams.

In that 2011 Championship, England demolished Scotland 89-0. That score is nine points more than the equivalent men’s highest score, an 80 point drumming of Italy by England in 2001. The second was when England’s women last won a Grand Slam in 2017, with a smaller 64-0 victory.

Simon Middleton and his side will be hoping to cap their Six Nations off with a something similar but there is still a game against a strong Italy side to go. That game will take place on March 9th at Sandy Park, Exeter while Wales face Scotland on March 8th.

James DeGale announces retirement after loss to Chris Eubank Jr

Eubank Jr won the vacant IBO super-middleweight belt and will be hoping to secure a fight for one of the four major belts

Chris Eubank Jr achieved arguably the biggest win of his career so far in a unanimous points victory against James DeGale.  The fight, at London’s O2 Arena, was the last for DeGale as he announced his retirement from boxing.

Despite neither boxer finding momentum during the bout, Eubank Jr forced two counts, once in round two and again in round ten, both from left hooks. DeGale wasn’t far behind, although he didn’t knock his opponent down at all, and held his hand in the air as the scores we read out.

The scores all read in Eubank Jr’s favour, 114-112, 115-112, 117-109. After the fight, he said: “I’m back where I need to be, at the top of the food chain and now I’m coming for all the other belts in the super-middleweight division.”

“I dominated pretty much every round. He is a hell of a skilled fighter but my heart and tenacity got me there. A lot of people said I was going to get my head jabbed off and not stand with a proven boxer. It was the most important fight of my career and I’ve made the statement. It is belt season, it is collection season.”

Eubank Jr won the vacant IBO super-middleweight title which, while not one of the four major titles (WBO, WBC, IBF, WBA), is a step back in the right direction after losing the belt a year ago to George Groves. He will be hoping that this will put him back on the map and open up fights with the four belt-holders.

DeGale, on the other hand, said before the fight that he would “knock it on the head” if he lost, something he later confirmed. He said about the loss: “I’m going to go back, talk to my team and talk to my family.”

“I’ve been to the heights of boxing, I’ve won an Olympic gold medal, won the world title twice, made history and I’ve boxed the best around the world. I’ve left my mark in boxing.”

England’s Grand Slam hopes crushed at the Principality Stadium

Wales took advantage of England’s inability to use possession in a match that could decide the whole 6 Nations

England’s hopes to win the Grand Slam in the 2019 6 Nations were crushed by fellow Grand Slam hopefuls Wales in a scrappy Test at the Principality Stadium. Wales sealed a record-breaking 12th consecutive victory as they came from behind to win 21-13.

Having beaten Ireland 32-20 at the Aviva Stadium and demolished France 44-8, England were favourites heading into the Test. With Wales also sporting a 2-0 lead so far in the tournament, it felt as though the whole Championship rested on this game.

Eddie Jones’ side went into half time 10-3 up thanks to flanker Tom Curry’s first try for England. Up until that point, Wales had been defending resiliently however a bit of miscommunication cost them dearly. The Welsh regrouped during the break and came out in the second half on a mission to retake control of the game, and that they did.

Second row Cory Hill managed to put the home side into the lead 13 minutes from time after a gruelling series of drives. England looked lost while in possession often kicking after one or two phases and seemingly the only way to stay in contention was a penalty or drop goal to level the score at 16-16.

Any hopes of getting a draw were dashed as Josh Adams caught a Dan Biggar cross-field kick to secure the win with another try. Biggar missed the conversion but the damage was already done.

If England are to lift the 6 Nations trophy they will need a bit of luck. With only Scotland and Italy left to play, arguably the two easiest teams, they should end with a 4-1 record. Wales, on the other hand, have Ireland to play last, a defeat there would give Jones’ side the Championship due to their bonus points.

After the game England captain, Owen Farrell said: “we didn’t really get a foothold in the last 30 minutes of the game. We did well in the first half and we had a good go at the start of the second, but then we couldn’t get back that momentum.”

“We made a few errors and they did what they did well. We couldn’t get out of our half and they managed to build a lot of pressure. It will feel a lot worse than it should now but we will look back on it and learn from what we need to.”

Testing for new F1 season underway as Hamilton expects a tougher challenge from Ferrari

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to win a sixth World Championship this season as pre-season testing gets underway in Barcelona

With the first Grand Prix of the 2019 season in Melbourne, Australia under a month away, the ten teams competing for this year’s World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship have been testing their new cars in four days of pre-season testing.

There have been a number of changes to both the teams and rosters between seasons with several new drivers who will be lining up on the grid on March 17th. Force India have completed their transition after being bought in August 2018 and will now race under the name Racing Point. 

Sauber has also seen a name change this time through a sponsorship deal, and have been renamed Alfa Romeo Racing. Alfa Romeo’s two drivers will be Kimi Raikkonen, who has swapped his place at Ferrari with Charles Leclerc, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who raced twice in 2017 while Pascal Wehrlein was injured.

Two British drivers will be joining the pack this season, both promoted from Formula 2. F2 champion George Russell joins Williams alongside Rober Kubica. Polish driver Kubica returns after an eight-year absence from F1 following a horrific crash at the Ronde di Andora rally in 2011 that left doctors fighting to save his hand.

The other British driver is 19-year-old Lando Norris who came second in last season’s F2 Championship. He will race with Carlos Sainz at McLaren after Fernando Alonso decided to retire. Norris and Russell will be hoping they can rise to the same level as five-time World Champion and Mercedes Driver Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari had the superior car last season but a slew of bad racing decisions which Hamilton capitalised on allowed him to win by a margin of 88 points. The Brit thinks that it will be a lot harder to retain the title this season though.

“Ferrari are very strong. It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us. They have been looking great. We have just been digging deep, trying to understand the car, pretty much the same as the beginning of every year. 

“Ferrari always look strong, particularly the last few years; they looked strong right at the beginning, so that’s to be expected. It has been normal. I am competing with everyone. I don’t know who’s going to be quickest. You can’t say just Ferrari. You don’t know where the Red Bulls are. Who knows what people are going to bring up for the first race.”

While nine of the teams were testing their cars in the first two days of testing, one was surprisingly absent. Williams did not manage to get a Russell or Kubica on the track until day 3, giving their rivals massive advantages.

Williams’ deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “it’s not a situation that we anticipated, or that we ever wanted to find ourselves in. We’re not just disappointed. It’s embarrassing not bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to do that, particularly a team like ours that has managed to bring a race car to testing for the past 40-odd years.”

“We’ve missed two days of testing, and that’s not ideal. That’s a lot of potential kilometres, but I don’t think that we will actually know the full impact of having missed those days until probably a bit later on.”

“Clearly we’re doing everything we can to condense the programme that we had, to make sure that we maximised the time available and we really focused our efforts and attention on the most important and critical areas to make sure the car is in the best shape possible for Australia.”

Perhaps the biggest change to F1 this season will be seen after the season has begun. The first day of the Bahrain Grand Prix in March is also the deadline for the UK to make a decision on Brexit. With eight of the ten teams based in southeast England there is the potential for a lot of problems.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that “a no-deal Brexit would have a major impact on our operations going to races and developing cars. We have certain contingencies in place, like having more stock and thinking about how we would get parts and people in and out of the country.”

“But it would be a disruption and it would cause all the UK teams a lot of headache, while Ferrari in Italy and Sauber (Alfa Romeo) in Switzerland would have a massive advantage over every UK-based team.”

England win the final Test against West Indies in a game overshadowed by on-field homophobic comments

West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel allegedly asked Root ‘why are you smiling? Do you like boys?’

England claimed a 232-run win in the third and final Test against West Indies to stop the first whitewashing by their opposition since 1986. The victory was vital if they want to stand any chance of beating Australia in the upcoming Ashes series.

After the game, captain Joe Root said that “this was a really important week for this group. It has been much more what we are about. To play in the manner we have, coming back from two disappointing games, was massive going into what is a really important summer. It is nice to finish on a high even though we have lost the series.”

With several batting collapses in the first two Tests, England relished their opposition suffering a similar fate, losing all ten wickets for 154 runs in the first innings. This collapse meant that when England declared on 361-5 in their second innings, West Indies had to chase 485 runs to win. 

Root led his side impressively, scoring 122 runs to guide England to victory. However, it was during his time at the crease that an incident with West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel occurred, which has sadly dampened an otherwise great Test series.

Describing the incident, Gabriel said: “the pressure was on and England’s captain Joe Root was looking at me intensely as I prepared to bowl, which may have been the usual psychological strategy with which all Test cricketers are familiar.”

“I recognise now that I was attempting to break through my own tension when I said to Joe Root: ‘why are you smiling? Do you like boys?’ His response, which was picked up by the microphone was: ‘don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay’.”

“I then responded: ‘I have no issues with that, but you should stop smiling at me’. I know now that it was offensive and for that I am deeply sorry. To my team-mates and members of the England team, especially their captain Joe Root, I extend an unreserved apology for a comment which in the context of on-the-field rivalry, I assumed was inoffensive sporting banter.”

Gabriel was charged by the International Cricket Council under article 2.13, which is used for the use of language that is not permissible. It states that it “is intended to cover a Player or Player Support Personnel directing language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature at any Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an International Match.”

By accepting this charge, Gabriel was fined 75% of his earnings for the match and picked up three demerit points. As the player already had five, he reached the threshold where he would be given a four-match ODI ban. This means he will miss the first four out of five ODI’s between the two sides starting on February 20th. 

The point Gabriel mentions in his statement, about how he assumed it was “inoffensive sporting banter” is an issue that Cricket commentator Fazeer Mohammed discussed on the Test Match Special podcast.

“In the Caribbean, there tends to be a different attitude towards what I will describe as homophobic remarks. Of course in England and many other parts of the world there’s a very different attitude. There’s a zero level of tolerance to this sort of situation, if it is that he said something that could be defined as homophobic.”

“It’s all part of the learning process. If you’re playing international sport, with all these microphones, all these cameras around, you’re going to get caught sooner or later.”

Kyler Murray: to MLB or not to MLB

Murray has announced he will be leaving the Oakland A’s to pursue a career in the NFL.

Texas-born athlete Kyler Murray has announced that he has chosen to target a career in the NFL playing American football over the MLB playing baseball. The 21-year-old was drafted ninth overall by the MLB side Oakland Athletics, who some may know from the film Moneyball, last June.

Murray received a signing-on bonus of $4.66 million by the A’s, of which he will repay or forfeit the majority. After being drafted in the MLB he stayed at Oklahoma University to play a season as their starting quarterback. The incredible talent of this young athlete was clear as he won the Heisman Trophy, given to the best college football player in America that season.

In a Twitter post, Murray answered questions about his future, saying: “I am firmly and fully committing my life to becoming an NFL quarterback. Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships.”

“I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews,” added Murray. “I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”

The Oklahoma Sooners finished the season with an impressive 12-2 record with Murray recording some brilliant numbers. He topped the league in passing yards with 4361, along with 1001 rushing yards and a total of 54 touchdowns.

He will be hoping that his consistent performances last season, as well as his results in the NFL combine taking place on the 26th February, will be enough to convince franchises he is good enough. The first round of the draft begins on the 25th April and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr predicts Murray will be a top 5 pick. If Kiper Jr is correct he will be the first player ever to be picked in the first round in both the NFL and MLB.

The general manager of the Oakland Athletics, David Forst, said that he does not regret picking Murray in the draft, even though his side will not receive a compensation draft pick. “We’ve known all along that this was a possibility, we’ve been in constant contact and we knew he had a great option in the NFL.”

“When we knew definitively is not the story here. We’ve known from the tone of the conversations that he could choose the NFL. We’ll focus on what we need to do to make sure that if he comes back to baseball at some point then he’ll come back with the A’s.”