Back surgery has given returning Woods a fresh perspective

The 14-times major champion will be making his second competitive appearance in four months at this week’s British Open and Woods is just happy to be back at the venue of his memorable 2006 victory at Royal Liverpool.


“With this particular injury with my back I didn’t want to do anything,” Woods told reporters on Tuesday. “I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t move around the house.

“That made me appreciate just how fortunate I was to be able to play at that high level for the better part of 17 years. It made me appreciate that a lot more.”

Woods famously won the 2008 U.S. Open, the most recent of his major triumphs, virtually on one leg due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) problems that eventually led to surgery.

“When I had no ACL and my leg was pretty trashed I could actually still go out there and play,” explained the 38-year-old American. “I couldn’t do that with this back injury.

“I couldn’t actually enjoy my life…the daily things of just moving around. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”

Woods missed the cut on his comeback at the Quicken Loans National event in Maryland last month but he is delighted just to be pain-free these days.

“The people who have had my surgery, they’ve all said the same thing. It changes your whole life, it just takes away all the pain,” said the world number seven.

“Yeah, you’re sore from the incision but you don’t have that radiating pain that goes down the leg. Once that was removed, even though I was hurting from the surgery, I knew I could come back and play.


“It was just a matter of time before I got out here and was able to play at elite level again. Once I went through the procedure and I was just sitting in the recovery room and I didn’t have that pain any more it was a lot of relief.”

Former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange told Reuters earlier this month that Woods had to limit his ambitions at Hoylake because of his limited playing time since surgery.

Golf’s great drawcard, however, said he had proved in the past how he can triumph in the face of adversity.

“I’ve been in circumstances like this before,” Woods added. “In 2008 I had surgery after the U.S. Masters at Augusta.

“The Sunday before the U.S. Open I didn’t break 50 for nine holes and still I was able to win it in a playoff (with Rocco Mediate) with an ACL and a broken leg.

“I’ve proven I can do it. It’s just a matter of giving myself the best chances this week, to miss in the correct spots, to be aggressive when I can and obviously to hole putts.

“That’s a recipe you find for every major championship.”

Woods’s golfing mentor, his father Earl, died in the months leading up to the Hoylake Open in 2006 and he said his tear-stained victory that week was extra special.

“That was a very emotional week,” he said. “I pressed pretty hard at Augusta that year because it was the last time my dad was ever going to see me play in a major championship.

“I came here and just felt at peace. On Sunday I felt real calm out there.

“It was surreal at the time. I felt my dad was with me in that round,” said Woods.

“I said it back then in 2006 that it was like having a 15th club in the bag.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Bayern rout Hanover to go 19 points ahead

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola had described the Bundesliga as “pizzas and hamburgers” compared to the “gourmet” of the Champions League in the wake of last Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Arsenal in Europe.


Their main domestic rivals did little to disprove Guardiola’s point as Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke picked up just a point between them over the weekend.

The Bavarian giants extended their record unbeaten run to 47 Bundesliga matches, dating back to October 2012, to strengthen their iron grip on what will be their 24th German league title, baring a miracle.

Having won last season’s league title with a record six games to spare, Bayern are on course to break their own best mark.

Hanover offered little resistance as Germany winger Thomas Mueller scored twice while attacking midfielder Thiago Alcantara and Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic also netted.

There was more good news for both Bayern and Germany as Bastian Schweinsteiger made his first start since November after an ankle, then knee injury, to partner captain Philipp Lahm in the defensive midfield.

Brazil’s Rafinha, who took over from Lahm at right-back, strengthened his case for a Selecao place at June’s World Cup with two crosses which both led to goals.

– Champions League hangover –

Mueller set Bayern on the way to their 14th consecutive league win when he headed home Rafinha’s cross with 25 minutes gone.

Thiago then chested down Schweinsteiger’s superb pass and fired home to make it 2-0 after 34 minutes.

Mueller profited from a Mandzukic pass to get behind the Hanover defence and score his second on 59 minutes, while Mandzukic then headed home Rafinha’s cross for Bayern’s fourth, seven minutes later.

On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund suffered a shock 3-0 league defeat at strugglers Hamburg ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash at Zenit St Petersburg.

Hamburg recorded their first league win since November in Mirko Slomka’s first match in charge as his side broke their eight-match losing streak, including a club record seven league matches.

The result sees Hamburg remain among the relegation places, but move up to 16th, while Dortmund stay third.

There was more bad news for Jurgen Klopp on Sunday as defensive midfielder Sven Bender was ruled out for the next 10 weeks with an inflamed pelvis.

Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen went down 3-1 at VfL Wolfsburg as Sami Hyypia’s side lost for the seventh time in their last nine games.

Leverkusen suffered a Champions League hangover, following their 4-0 last-16, first-leg home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, with another poor display.

Braunschweig are now three points adrift at the bottom after their 2-1 defeat at ten-man Nuremberg in a match where three penalties were saved.

Borussia Moenchengladbach stay sixth, but are winless in their last seven games after their 2-2 draw at home to Hoffenheim.

Augsburg got back to winning ways with a 4-2 victory at Freiburg to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Nuremberg, their only loss in the last eight games.

VfB Stuttgart are just above the bottom three after they suffered their seventh straight defeat at home to Hertha Berlin, who ran out 2-1 winners.

Hertha’s replacement striker Sandro Wagner headed the winner, three minutes from time, but was then sent off for a second yellow card having only been on the pitch for 12 minutes.

Dominant Nordqvist records Thai win

Anna Nordqvist has completed a two shot pillar-to-post win at LPGA Thailand, holding off a dramatic late challenge from world number one Park In-Bee.


In a thrilling battle at the Siam Country Club Old Pattaya Course, Nordqvist, who led the event from the first round, held her nerve to notch her third LPGA title and her first win since 2009.

The Swede finished 15-under with a four round 273 (66-72-67-88), two up from South Korean defending champion Park whose birdie-studded final round 66 was just not enough to claim victory.

But she finished with an impressive overall 275 (71-71-67-66), securing her place at the top of the rankings after a disappointing run of results had imperiled her status as the world’s top womens’ player.

Scotland’s Catriona Matthew was two shots further back after a championship 277 (76-71-65-65), while America’s one-time teen star Michelle Wie rattled in three birdies and an eagle to finish with a 69 and 278 overall.

Nordqvist had to draw on all her reserves to win the $US225,000 ($A250,000) prize-money, with both Park and Wie playing some of their best golf for a while.

“I am so happy to finally break through again,” Nordqvist, who admitted that her disappointing form last year made her almost give up the game, told reporters.

“Michelle played so great and In-bee was pushing me all the way I knew I had to stay strong.”

Both Park and Wie came within one shot of Nordqvist at the turn, but she held them off in determined fashion.

Holding a four-shot overnight lead, Nordqvist appeared to be going smoothly until a double-bogey at the fifth saw her come under pressure, first from Wie and then Park.

The trio reached the turn separated by just two shots, setting up an intriguing battle on the back nine.

There was high drama at the 10th when Wie converted an eagle, while Nordqvist and Park sunk birdies.

Facing a serious challenge, Nordqvist rose to the occasion in style as she birdied the next two holes to pull three clear of her nearest rivals.

Wie then began to fade, leaving Park as the main challenger, but another birdie at the 15th, her fourth in five holes, gave the Swede some breathing room.

Over the final three holes Nordqvist remained in control, finishing up with 15-underpar, two clear of Park.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe celebrates 90th birthday

Thousands of people turned out Sunday to celebrate the birthday of Zimbabwe’s veteran President Robert Mugabe, who threw 90 balloons into the air to mark his 90th year and continuing hold on power.


Fresh off the plane from Singapore, where he had travelled for eye surgery last week, Mugabe was in typically defiant mood as he launched his birthday celebrations at Marondera stadium, east of the capital Harare.

“I feel as youthful and energetic as a boy of nine,” Mugabe said before cutting his cake.

Dressed in a black suit, red tie and white shirt, he moved around the venue on the back of a truck waving his fist to a crowd made up largely of school children bussed in for the occasion.

In a speech that lasted over an hour, Mugabe told the crowd that his ZANU-PF party’s election win last year had confounded his critics in the West.

“Those opponents of ours who had imposed sanctions on us were baffled,” he said.

“The truth is ZANU-PF won, ZANU-PF had the support. ZANU-PF had the message, had the history, ZANU-PF has the people.”

Mugabe, who turned 90 on Friday while he was still in Singapore, has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist ever since the former rebel led the country to independence from Britain in 1980.

His party won another resounding victory in August elections — taking two-thirds of the vote — although critics say he used state power to intimidate voters and opponents.

“At times I think of how I have survived over the years, escaping death, many of my friends and relatives have died. It saddens me at times, but at the same time you are happy that you have turned 90.”

Huge cakes were on display in the centre of the stadium, while the crowd wore red scarves, as is traditional on the president’s birthday, and waved national flags.

A series of speakers led the crowd in chanting ZANU-PF slogans, and denouncing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Ambassadors from China and Russia also presented Mugabe with special messages of congratulation from their presidents.

Mugabe was presented with 90 sheep, while several cattle were also among his many birthday presents and 90 cattle were slaughtered for the feast.

Five huge cakes in an array of designs including the independence flame were at the celebrations, one weighing a massive 90 kilograms.

Second a realistic aim for Scots

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan could scarcely have asked for a tougher draw in Euro 2016 qualifying, but he is confident that his side have what it takes to make it to an expanded finals in France.


The Scots were drawn in Group D along with Germany, the Republic of Ireland and Poland, with Georgia also likely to provide stiff opposition and minnows Gibraltar completing the section.

In the past it would have appeared an impossible task for a Scotland side who have not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France, but UEFA’s decision to increase the number of finalists from 16 to 24 certainly gives them a chance.

The top two sides in each group will progress while third place will at least guarantee another chance to advance via a two-legged play-off, although Germany – the three-time winners who are bidding to qualify for a 12th successive Euro finals – surely have top spot annexed.

“Excited. I think that’s the one thing you can say about this group. Others might be a bit mundane,” was Strachan’s reaction after the draw was made in the southern French city of Nice on Sunday.

“There’s a new nation in the tournament in Gibraltar, and then you’ve got four other teams who are all possible to get the second place.

“I would imagine so,” said the 57-year-old when asked if it would be a straight fight to snatch second behind Germany.

“The Germans might make one mistake, and I don’t think they’ve failed to qualify for a major tournament for, I don’t know, 100 years. Since tournaments started they have always seemed to get to a finals.

“So the rest of us, I think common sense would be saying we’ll go for second place,” added Strachan, who will come up against an Ireland side managed by Martin O’Neill, the man he replaced in the Celtic dugout in 2005.

Scotland were the first European nation to be eliminated from qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, but a revival under Strachan saw them win three of their last four matches in that campaign.

They will get an early look at the Poles when they travel to Warsaw for a friendly match next Wednesday, March 5.

Microsoft plans spring Windows update

Microsoft will update its Windows system this northern spring to address some of the gripes people have had when they use devices without touch capabilities.


Windows 8 and last autumn’s 8.1 update were designed for a touch environment. But some of the gesture commands don’t translate well when using traditional mouse and keyboard controls.

Among other things, Microsoft Corp. will add search, power and settings buttons to the Start page, so that users don’t have to figure out how to pull those functions like a sock drawer from the right. There also will be easier, touch-free ways to close apps.

Microsoft is also updating its Windows Phone system this spring to work better in corporate environments and to bring features desired in fast-growing emerging markets.

The announcement came Sunday ahead of the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain.

Many of the changes are geared at reducing manufacturing costs.

In essence, Microsoft is relaxing hardware requirements. For instance, there will be no longer a requirement that phones have a physical camera button and three control buttons on the front. That can be done through software instead, the approach used in many Android phones. Meanwhile, tablets and personal computers won’t need as much memory and storage as before.

Microsoft is also allowing phones to support two SIM cards, something in demand in China, India and other emerging markets where prices and plans vary so much that people switch services constantly for the best deals. For developed markets, Microsoft plans improvements for corporations, including VPN support on phones so people can access work networks securely.

More details on the phone changes are expected at Microsoft’s Build conference for software developers in April.

Netflix reaches deal with Comcast

Netflix has reached a deal with Comcast to ensure that its TV shows and movies are streamed smoothly to households, the first deal the online video streaming service has reached with an Internet service provider.


The two companies said in a joint statement on Sunday that they are establishing a more direct connection to provide a better service to customers that will also allow for future growth in Netflix traffic. The companies say the arrangement is already giving customers a better experience.

Netflix had 33 million US streaming subscribers at the start of the year and accounts for about one third of all traffic on the Internet, according to research firm Sandvine. As the video steaming company has grown, Internet service providers like Comcast have pushed the company for more structured deals to enable its content to be transmitted smoothly and reduce the strain on their networks.

While the companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, Netflix investors will want to know how much this deal will affect the company’s bottom line and whether the costs will be passed on to customers. Netflix has been resisting paying fees to Internet companies and this deal could open the door to similar deals with other providers.

Netflix is already experimenting with different rate plans that charge slightly more for households that want to stream its shows and movies on four different screens simultaneously.

The deal comes after months of collaboration with Comcast though Netflix will receive no preferential network treatment under the multi-year deal, the statement said.

Germany has World Cup injury worries

Germany coach Joachim Loew admitted Sunday he has a few concerns ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with several of his stars either struggling for form or injured.


“There are eight or nine players who have not played for a long time,” admitted Loew in Nice after the draw for the 2016 European Championships.

“They have no playing rhythm and for some it is questionable whether they will come back in time.

“That worries me and gives me a headache.”

The main concern is in Germany’s defensive midfield where Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger are Loew’s first-choice.

Madrid’s Khedira faces a race against time to be fit for Brazil having torn his cruciate knee ligament last November, while Bayern Munich’s Schweinsteiger only started his first game for the European champions on Sunday after an ankle injury late last year, then a knee problem.

Their back up, Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan, has not played since August after suffering from a back injury and a virus.

Loew received more bad news in the position on Sunday when Dortmund’s Sven Bender was ruled out for 10 weeks with an inflamed pelvis.

Up front, both strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez have struggled with injuries this season.

Likewise at centre-back, Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels is struggling to return from an ankle knock, his fourth injury since September.

Bayern’s Holger Badstuber is only just starting to run again after twice tearing knee ligaments and having last played in December 2012, while fellow central defender Benedikt Hoewedes of Schalke 04 has had three injuries in the last three months.

“At the World Cup, we need players who are in a very good rhythm,” said Loew.

“I hope some of the players can take a few steps forwards in the next few weeks.”

But Loew said he had no concerns about attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who’s form has dipped recently at Arsenal and missed a crucial penalty in their 2-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich last week in the Champions League’s last 16.

“Mesut didn’t have a good day, but he can deal with criticism,” said Loew, after Ozil was left out of Arsenal’s 4-1 league win against Sunderland on Saturday.

“He has already learnt to do that at Real Madrid.

“For us, he is a key component.”

Germany open their World Cup campaign against Portugal in Salvador on June 16, then face Ghana and the USA in Group G.

Daniel Radcliffe wins UK stage gongs

Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint both won gongs at the WhatsOnStage Awards which were dominated by The Book Of Mormon.


The award-winning show, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, won best new musical, best actor in a musical, and best supporting actor and actress in a musical.

Radcliffe, who was named best actor in a play for his role in The Cripple Of Inishmaan, said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this prestigious award and I accept it on behalf of the whole cast who together helped make this production of The Cripple Of Inishmaan a truly joyous experience for me as an actor.”

Grint was named the London newcomer of the year for his West End debut in Mojo – an award which Radcliffe won previously for Equus.

The winners, decided by a vote of theatregoers and announced at a ceremony at the Prince of Wales Theatre in central London, also included David Walliams who won the best supporting actor in a play award for his role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Dame Helen Mirren, recently honoured with the Bafta Fellowship, was named best actress in a play for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience.

In a pre-recorded acceptance speech, she said: “I’m so thrilled to receive this. I’m honoured that it was voted for by the public, that’s the most wonderful thing.”

The Audience also received best new play for Peter Morgan and best supporting actress for Haydn Gwynne, who played Margaret Thatcher in the drama based on the Queen’s regular meetings with the prime ministers who have held power during her reign.

Nets sign openly gay Collins to contract

Jason Collins has signed a 10-day contract with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets to become the first openly gay man playing in a major US professional sports league.


The Nets confirmed on Sunday the widely reported deal on their official Twitter feed, and Collins was expected to be in uniform for Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Collins, 35 and a 13-year NBA veteran, revealed his homosexuality last April.

But that was after his contract with the Washington Wizards had expired, and he had not been picked up by another team since then.

Nets general manager Billy King said the move to sign Collins was “a basketball decision”.

“We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract,” King said.

Even though King said the Nets weren’t intending to make a social statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver commented on the deal.

“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team,” Silver said in a statement.

“Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”

Collins was praised for his courage in coming out as gay by US President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton and many players in the NBA.

If he takes the court in an NBA game, Collins would be the first openly gay man to play in one of the four major North American pro sports leagues.

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a US pro league when he took the field for a Major League Soccer match last May, three months after revealing he was gay.

In addition, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, a US college star in American football who announced this month he is gay, is likely to be selected in the NFL Draft later this year. But his first chance to play in the NFL would not come until an exhibition game in August at the earliest.

Collins played for the Nets in his first six seasons in the league, helping take the team to the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals when it was based in nearby New Jersey.

Collins will be united with former Nets teammate Jason Kidd, now the Nets’ coach.

The Nets, in the midst of a seven-game road trip, are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and lie four games behind Toronto for the Atlantic division lead.