Monthly Archives: January 2019

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Watson’s two-iron comes out of the locker

It will get an outing this week though as the twice Masters champion prepares to use every tool at his disposal to solve the riddles of links golf that have so far proved beyond his skills.


With it’s undulating fairways, deep fairway bunkers, sculking hollows and fresh sea breezes, the Royal Liverpool course could not be more different to the manicured Augusta layout the big-hitting Watson conquered again this year.

Low ball flight and imagination will be key factors around the 7,300 yard layout alongside the Dee estuary, which is why Watson has added an otherwise redundant club to his bag.

“I’ve played the last couple of days with it and I’ve hit it pretty decent,” left-hander Watson, whose best finish at the British Open was 23rd in 2012, told reporters.

“Now, on the pressure of the tournament, it might not feel the same. I haven’t used it all year until this week. But it feels good right now.”

Despite struggling to adapt his game to the British links course, fan favourite Watson, who launches balls with mind-boggling power with his trademark pink-shafted driver, is a keen student and says watching compatriot Phil Mickelson storm to victory at Muirfield last year was a motivation.

“Watching Phil win for the first time, seeing Rickie Fowler play pretty good the last couple of years, it’s inspiring,” Watson, who is an 80-1 shot with some bookmakers, said.

“But because I’m inspired doesn’t mean I’m going to hit good shots. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

“I love the creativity this kind of golf provides,” he added. “I haven’t been successful at it yet, but hopefully over the next few years I can get better at it.”

Watson will be in good company if he wants to pick up some tricks on Thursday and Friday after being paired with Mickelson and another former winner, South Africa’s Ernie Els.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Google agrees contact lens deal

A smart contact lens that can monitor the glucose levels in the eye is a step closer to reality as Google has announced a partnership with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop it.


The technology giant first unveiled the concept in January, which works using tiny sensors and microchips fitted into contact lenses that can then measure and read the amount of glucose in tears, before sending the information to a mobile device so diabetics can manage their condition.

“Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said.

“We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”

The move will see Novartis’ eye care division, Alcon, which develops contact lenses, work with Google on making the technology commercially available in the future.

The announcement is the latest in a string of futuristic projects that Google has undertaken over the last year. The company has launched Google Glass, its wearable headset that has its own range of apps that work within the wearer’s field of vision, and has also begun trialling driverless cars on the streets close to Google headquarters in California.

All of these projects come from the Google X lab, the company’s infamous creative space where staff are encouraged to come up with “moonshot” ideas for new ventures.

“We are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs,” Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said.

“This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.”

In a statement, the Swiss company said their focus would be on two areas of the technology, to help diabetic patients manage their condition, but also to offer some vision correction to those who are short-sighted.

“For people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, the “smart lens” has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus on near objects in the form of an accommodative contact lens or intraocular lens as part of the refractive cataract treatment,” said a Novartis spokesman.

Neither company has placed a time frame on the development of the lenses, with Novartis stressing that there were no guarantees a commercial product would ever be launched, and that more development was needed on both sides.

JPMorgan’s second-quarter net income falls

JPMorgan Chase, the US’ largest bank by assets, says its second-quarter earnings fell 9 per cent as revenue at its investment banking and mortgage businesses dropped.


The bank’s net income totalled $US5.6 billion ($A6 billion) in the quarter after payments to preferred shareholders. That was down from net income of $US6.1 billion in the same period last year.

Earnings amounted to $US1.46 per share, compared with $US1.60 a year earlier.

The bank beat the forecasts of analysts polled by FactSet, who predicted earnings of $US1.29 a share.

Revenue in the quarter fell 3 per cent to $US24.5 billion, which analysts had forecast $US23.7 billion for the period.

The earnings are the first since JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon disclosed at the start of this month that he was battling throat cancer.

Dimon, 58, said he plans to remain on the job and be actively involved in key decisions while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

Dimon told reporters on a conference call that JPMorgan’s board would be continually briefed on his condition and would make any announcements if there were any material changes.

“I’m hoping the next time I talk about this at all, it will be in about eight weeks and I’ll tell you (the treatment) is complete and the prognosis is still very good,” Dimon said.

The bank’s fixed income and stock trading revenue fell 14 per cent to $US4.65 billion from $US5.37 billion in the same period a year ago.

While that was a big drop, the bank said in a regulatory statement May 2 that it was expecting trading revenue to decline by about 20 per cent in the period.

Dimon said that the bank saw “encouraging signs” of a pick-up in business across some of its units, including the markets division of investment banking.

JPMorgan’s stock rose $US2.09, or 3.7 per cent, to $US58.40.

Like Chicago and Sinatra, Hoylake’s McDowell’s kind of town

The biggest tournaments these days often play into the hands of the long hitters but the Royal Liverpool Golf Club is an exception, as evidenced in 2006 when Tiger Woods shunned his driver on the way to a two-stroke victory.


“I’m one of the short knockers here,” McDowell told reporters at Hoylake on Tuesday. “But is distance going to be an advantage around this golf course? I don’t think so, no.

“Certainly my game plan is…to place the ball in those kind of areas where the course forces you.

“I don’t walk on to this course and kind of sigh and say, ‘Here we go again, this is 330-yard distance, paradise’,” said McDowell who won this month’s French Open in Versailles.

“Look at the way Tiger won here in 2006. He can dominate with length but he didn’t have to. It asks you to play a game of chess more than anything – this is my kind of golf course.”

McDowell’s 2010 U.S. Open victory catapulted him up the world rankings and his recent Ryder Cup performances have rubber-stamped his status as one of the most reliable players in the modern era.

The British Open, though, is the one major championship he is itching to win.

“I feel like I’m ready to kick on to the next chapter in my career and compete and win more major championships,” said the world number 17.

“I certainly don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. The green jacket is probably neck and neck with the Claret Jug but this is the one where I feel like I have the game to win as opposed to the U.S. Masters.

“The Open championship is a special one. Augusta has that same kind of mystique and tradition as well because of the venue and what it creates,” added the 34-year-old Northern Irishman.

“But the Open seems to maintain that mystique as it goes around to various courses. I’d give my left arm for the Claret Jug – that would be the end of my career but it would be a nice way to go.”

(Editing by Tony Goodson)

Typhoon pounds Philippines; three missing

Tens of thousands of people in the Philippines have hunkered down in evacuation centres while three people have been reported missing as a typhoon pounds its eastern coast amid warnings of giant storm surges and heavy floods.


The eye of Typhoon Rammasun struck Legazpi city in the eastern Bicol region in the early evening of Tuesday, with Manila and other heavily populated regions expecting to be hit on Wednesday afternoon, the state weather service said.

“Roofing sheets are flying off the tops of houses here… the wind is whistling,” Joey Salceda, the governor of Albay province in Bicol said over ABS-CBN television.

He said there had been no reports of deaths while damage to the region – an impoverished farming and fishing region of 5.4 million people – was expected to be “moderate”.

However, Bicol police said three local men were listed as missing off the island of Catanduanes on Tuesday, a day after they pushed out to sea to fish and failed to return.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly. The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be struck after storm build above the warm Pacific Ocean waters.

In November Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed giant seven-metre high storm surges that devastated the coasts of the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte, killing up to 7300 people in one of the nation’s worst-ever natural disasters.

More than 96,000 families were moved to evacuation centres Tuesday as a precaution, Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman said.

The government declared a school holiday for areas in the typhoon’s path, while ferry services were also shut down and dozens of flights cancelled.

Kaymer hoping to maintain German quality in the Open

Kaymer added the U.


S. Open title to the PGA title he won in 2010 last month and arrived at the Royal Liverpool course this week full of confidence and one of the favourites to lift the British Open’s Claret Jug on Sunday.

Since claiming his first major four years ago and shooting to the top of the world rankings, Kaymer’s career suffered a brief lull in 2012-13 before re-igniting with a vengeance.

As well as his romp in Pinehurst, where he won by eight strokes, he also claimed the Players Championship, the so-called fifth major, in Florida the month before.

Kaymer, 29, who is friends with Germany’s World Cup winning striker Thomas Mueller, said it was all down to quality.

“If you build a house in Germany, it lasts 1,800 years. It’s not going to fly away when there’s a storm,” Kaymer told reporters on Tuesday in the build-up to the year’s third major.

“You see the cars that we build. I’m making an advertisement for my country, but it’s just the quality of work. It’s permanent. It lasts.

“That’s how you want to do certain things on the golf course. I changed my swing because it lasts long-term. I can rely on it.

“At the end of the day it’s not about talking and always hoping and believing, it’s about the delivering. So and I think that is what a lot of Germans do.”

Kaymer watched on television on Sunday as Germany beat Argentina to win the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro and said that the patience they showed throughout the month-long tournament would be something he needs to display this week as he tries to make his mark on the Open.

“They played it very patient,” he said. “They were waiting. It was a very patient success. They didn’t try to force anything because they knew they were good enough. It was just about delivering what they can do.

“Every team has a bad day here and there. Germany didn’t play great against America. But they got away with it.

“That’s the same at a golf tournament. You have a day when you don’t play super good, but you hang in there and you play something around par that keeps you in the tournament.”

Kaymer, who became world No.1 in 2011, has only one top-10 finish at the Open, a seventh in 2010, but says links golf requires more of a cerebral touch than the functional style that can earn rewards in the other majors.

“There’s never really a standard golf shot,” he said of the challenges that the field will face at Hoylake this week.

“There’s always something you have to put in consideration. You need to really play a game. It’s not about 155, 8-iron. You have 165, 6-iron. It’s never like this.

“You have to think so much. You have to be creative. You have to play with the slopes, with the weather, with the wind, everything. So I really enjoy that.

“And it’s never a putting competition. I think the British Open is every year like a fight, a battle.

“I haven’t been very successful at the Open yet but I’ve been always — I think I always made the cut, at least.”

Kaymer will be expecting more this year to continue the feel-good factor sweeping German sport.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Tony Goodson)

UCI boss Cookson comes under fire amid more wrangling

Members of the sport’s Ethics Commission have been replaced in controversial fashion, a high profile doping case was not disclosed to the media and last month, 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome was granted a therapeutical use exemption (TUE) in disputable manner.


Shortly after Cookson was elected UCI president in Florence during a spectacular congress – [nL4N0HN2RT] – the Ethics Commission, the guardian of the ethical principles of the UCI’s Code of Ethics, was subject to a major overhaul.

Dutchman Peter Zevenbergen, who brought up claims against Russian Igor Makarov, one of the biggest supporters of Cookson in his election campaign, was asked to leave his job, he claims.

“It is quite simple: the new management committee did not accept my criticism,” Zevenbergen told Reuters on Tuesday.

Article 14 of the Code of Ethics of the UCI state that the members of the Ethics Commission “shall be irremovable”, unless they die or resign.

“I think those who were in the congress meeting last year would have been disappointed with the performance of the Ethics Committee as it was represented, Cookson told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think that it was quite clear that we had to change. We have got a new ethics commission now, all the members of the commission have been renewed. People we have are of the highest quality.”

Zevenbergen said that he received a visit from Martin Gibbs, the UCI director general, in late December, 2013, as the Ethics Commission was investigating claims that Russian federation president Makarov had promised one million euros ($1.36 million)to the Union Europenne de Cyclisme (UEC) in exchange for a Cookson vote.

“Martin Gibbs came to Amsterdam to discuss this with me on the 27th of December. I would not say he asked me to resign, there was some pressure, he said he did not want to continue with me.

“He said if I stayed, it (the Ethics Commission president job) would be an empty function.

“As a consequence Peter Barth from Germany resigned from the commission.”

Sources told Reuters that Barth, who left his job in April, felt the independence of the Ethics Commission could not be guaranteed anymore.

Last month Froome, who rides for Team Sky, was handed a TUE for a steroid-based drugs so he could ride the Tour de Romandie with a chest infection.

Member teams of the Mouvement Pour un Cyclicme Credible (Movement for Credible Cycling, MPCC) prevent their riders from competing while under steroid-based treatment but Team Sky is not one of them.

It was, however, the way the TUE was granted that was subject to debate.


Regulations state that “the UCI shall appoint a committee of at least 3 (three) physicians to consider requests for TUEs”, yet only the UCI doctor Mario Zorzolli was involved in granting Froome a TUE.

Asked why the UCI would bypass its own regulations, Cookson said: “Not strictly true. The commission had given delegation to the UCI’s doctor to make those decisions

“It would have applied to any other rider.”

Cookson pointed out that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had not seen anything untoward but the Briton added that from now on, only the three-man panel would decide on TUEs.

“But we can do a better job. We will now change our procedure,” he said.

“We have reconfirmed the members of the TUE commission and we have ensured that from now on decisions about TUEs are not taken by one single individual but taken by a panel of TUE experts.”

Last week, Russian Denis Menchov, who retired after winning the Giro and the Vuelta, was retrospectively stripped of all his Tour de France results from 2009, 2010 and 2012 after irregularities in his biological passport were found.

The UCI failed to communicate this to the public or the media despite usually sending out a statement once a doping case is closed. It simply put a pdf document on its website without advertising it.

It only sent a statement after some media discovered the pdf file.

Reuters understands that the case was opened in April 2013, and in September 2013, when Cookson took over from McQuaid, negotiations were still ongoing between the UCI legal department and Menchov.

“We would put out a press release at the end of the process,” McQuaid told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think you have to be upfront and when your system is working and working well you need to be able to state that.

“You need to make statements when you catch big guys and Menchov is a big guy.”

Cookson denied there could be a link between this way of communicating and him having been backed by Makarov, the founder of Menchov’s Katusha team, during the UCI election campaign.

“I understand the implications of that,” said Cookson, who insisted on transparency during his election campaign.

“It was not hidden at all. If I look at it, probably it would have been better if we had made a more positive announcement.

“I have not spoken to Mr Makarov about this and I haven’t seen him since a management committee back in June so I understand why people say these things but it’s not true,” he added.

Last September’s UCI election in Florence which ended in Cookson’s appointment, involved wrangling between delegates, lawyers arguing and eventually Cookson storming the podium and demanding a vote on the presidency which he won.

($1 = 0.7331 Euros)

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Tony Goodson)

Van Gaal can renew United challenge, says Robson

“You could see Holland were very well organised in the World Cup and there was discipline.


Hopefully, he can bring that to Manchester. I think he will,” Robson told BBC Sport.

“They can bounce back straight away. His CV is great. He’s got great experience with top clubs and top players.”

United finished a lowly seventh in the Premier League last season – 22 points behind champions Manchester City – under former Everton boss David Moyes who replaced long-standing manager Alex Ferguson.

“A lot of the players let themselves down (last season) and didn’t perform the way they had under Sir Alex,” said Robson, who spent 13 years at United and earned the nickname “Captain Marvel” for his driving performances in midfield.

“They will be up for the challenge and will be excited by the new coach.”

The lack of European football, while disappointing, could also be beneficial to United, who failed to qualify for either this season’s Champions League or Europa League, he said.

“The players get a bit more rest and you don’t get as many injuries,” he said. “That can also be a real advantage.”

Van Gaal arrives at United on a wave of hope and expectation following his Dutch team’s performance at the World Cup, where they finished third with the 62-year-old’s reputation greatly enhanced.

He was heavily criticised when he changed Dutch tactics and ditched the traditional attacking style on the eve of the Brazil tournament.

In a country obsessed with playing possession football, the decision to adopt a defensive approach, with emphasis on swift counter-attacks, was tantamount to heresy but Van Gaal was eventually proved right – after getting his senior players to buy into his belief.

“He had everyone believing in the tactical changes and the fact it would work for us,” said Wesley Sneijder on the team’s return home this week. “Our success in the tournament was a lot about the coach.”

There were few detractors by the end of the World Cup as the Dutch battled their way to the semi-finals, finally being eliminated by Argentina on penalties.


He was also not scared to throw young players – like Memphis Depay and Jordy Clasie – into key World Cup games, highlighting his belief in youth.

In Brazil, Van Gaal made few references to his new job – he signed a three-year contract with United in May – but looked genuinely enthusiastic when he eventually spoke about his next assignment after last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Brazil in the third place playoff.

“It is an exciting challenge,” he told Dutch television.

It is a return to club football for Van Gaal for the first time since Bayern Munich sacked him in 2011.

Van Gaal has shown little of his hand yet with the pre-season signings of Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao and Luke Shaw from Southampton.

At Barcelona more than decade ago he was heavily criticised for creating a colony of Dutch players, but one of them says that is unlikely to happen at Old Trafford.

“There were seven players dominating the changing room, speaking Dutch and not moving out of our own bubble. It was a very unhealthy situation and I think Louis realised that. He won’t do it again,” Ronald de Boer, now an analyst on NOS television, predicted.

(Editing by Tony Goodson/Rex Gowar)

Israel resumes air strikes on Gaza

Israel has carried out at least four air strikes against Gaza, resuming raids after a truce that failed to get off the ground, eyewitnesses said.


An AFP correspondent reported one air strike east of Gaza City on Tuesday afternoon, and eyewitnesses reported a second in the centre of the city.

Witnesses also reported strikes in Nusseirat in central Gaza as well as in the Khan Yunis area in the south.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The raids came shortly after Israel’s army announced it was ending a ceasefire it had observed since 0600 GMT (1600 AEST) under the terms of an Egyptian truce proposal.

Hamas had effectively rejected the proposal, saying it was not consulted and would not halt fire without a broad deal that included concessions it has sought.

“Hamas has fired 47 rockets since we suspended our strikes in Gaza at 9am. As a result, we have resumed our operation against Hamas,” the army said on its official Twitter account.

“Following six hours of indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel, the IDF (army) has resumed operational activities against Hamas,” military spokesman Lieutenant Peter Lerner said on his Twitter account.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Israeli official told AFP that the military had been ordered to “act forcefully”.

“After Hamas and Islamic Jihad refused the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and fired dozens of rockets at Israel, the prime minister and defence minister have ordered the IDF to act forcefully against the terror targets in Gaza.”

More than 192 people have been killed in Gaza over the past week as Israel has waged a relentless air campaign against Hamas militants.

In response, militants have fired more than a thousand rockets into Israel where no one has been killed in the current confrontation.

Bunker mentality the key as Rose aims for third straight win

The 33-year-old Englishman followed up his triumph at the Quicken Loans National in Maryland last month by capturing the Scottish Open title at Royal Aberdeen on Sunday.


Rose believes the key to making it three wins in a row at Hoylake will be to keep away from the sand traps.

“It’s important in links golf to keep the ball out of the bunkers,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “They are true penalties.

“Typically if you take on the first set of bunkers you’re not always rewarded because very often they are so well designed that there’s the next set of bunkers at 280, 290, 300 yards so your decision is to take all of the bunkers out normally.”

Ryder Cup team mate Rory McIlroy said earlier in the day that the par-fives would be the most important holes at Royal Liverpool this week and Rose agreed.

“Some of the par-fives are going to play relatively easily,” said the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion. “If you don’t make four you’re actually dropping a shot.

“It’s a very fair golf course. The fairways are relatively flat, the greens are relatively flat yet the trouble is there – the rough is relatively thick but nothing is extreme.

“It offers shot-making, something for everybody.”

Rose, who has only once finished in the top-10 in 12 previous appearances at the British Open, said his victory at Merion taught him the virtues of staying patient in a major championship.

“The important thing for me this week is not to let expectation or anything like that get in my way,” he explained.

“It’s basically about building a game plan and going out and committing to it, just let the rounds and the week develop.

“That’s what happened at Merion. I sort of grew into the week and felt like I got better every day and last week I did the same,” said Rose.

“In the past I was maybe less experienced and maybe not quite as good. Now I just build my strategy around what I’m good at and I don’t force things as much as I used to.”

It is not often that professionals win back-to-back tournaments, let alone three in a row, but Rose feels his chances of landing the coveted Claret Jug have increased as a result of his victory at Aberdeen.

“I don’t feel it any less realistic because I won last week,” he said. “I think the odds go more in my favour just through confidence.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)