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Indian-American Theegala moves flies into Top-6 with a superb eagle at PLAYERS

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Ponte Vedra, US, March 17 (IANS) Sahith Theegala flew into the Top-six with a superb run close to the finish of the third round at The Players Championship. The Indian-American seeking his second PGA Tour win went birdie-eagle-birdie between 15th and the 17th to finish with a 5-under 67 and reach 12-under for 54 holes in the TOUR’s flagship US$25 million tournament.

Theegala, now Tied-sixth, is five behind the leader, Xander Schauffele, whose bogey-free 65 took him to 17-under and one ahead of the 36-hole leader, Wyndham Clark (70). Clark after 65-65 suffered two bogeys, one of them on the 17th, in his round of 70.

Schauffele and Clark were tied going to the island green on the par-3 17th. Clark’s wedge shot came up some 15 yards short of land, but he hit the next one to seven feet and escaped with bogey.

The Open champion, Brian Harman moved into contention with a 64 while playing with Theegala. Harman 72-65 in his first two rounds, is now 15-under and sole third.

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Maverick McNealy and Matt Fitzpatrick with 68s are tied for fourth at 13-under, while an injured Scottie Scheffler overcame the neck discomfort to birdie the last three holes for a 68 and get to 12-under in Tied-sixth place.

Tied with Harman was Theegala, whose second shot over 210 yards to get to inside 10 feet at the Par-5 16th was the highlight of the day. He duly grabbed his eagle. He was one-under in his first 14 holes and then picked four shots in three holes for an electric run.

Theegala, who was ninth at the 2023 Masters, and is looking forward to the first Major, was very thrilled about the PLAYERS and how his game has progressed. He said, “Yeah, it’s just awesome to see how much my game has progressed, and I think I use this course as a good basis, because no matter how easy the conditions are out here, this is a hard golf course, and it’s not long or there’s nothing particularly nasty about it. The water is there a lot. But you just have to put your ball in the right places, and you just have to hit good shots. You can’t fake it around here.

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“I think this is one of the courses that every type of player has won at, and I think inherently that makes it a great golf course design. You get punished when you hit a bad shot, and you get rewarded when you hit a good shot.

“The first year I played — I was like, this course is so hard. I don’t know how I’m going to compete unless I hit it better off the tee, hit better iron shots, everything. And I put up like a — I was probably 10- or 11-over, missed the cut. Last year, honestly felt like I played well the first two days, and I think I made the cut on the number and shot like 9-over on the weekend, too. I don’t have a good track record after two events, but it does seem like a place where it could get a little volatile, and if you’re playing well, you’re going to play well.”

“On THE PLAYERS Championship, our biggest event, and my best finish is 75th. But it’s cool to see the progression I’ve made since the first year and even since last year. It’s really cool to look back on.”

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Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama will be hoping his putter gets hot after ending the third round in tied ninth place and seven shots behind leader, Schauffele.

Among other big names, Rory McIlroy (69) was T-12 and at 9-under, while Viktor Hovland (73-69-71) at 3-under has been off-colour and is T-51.

Matsuyama, a nine-time PGA TOUR winner, ground out a 4-under 68 at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday as Schauffele overcame a four-shot deficit with a 65 to seize the 54-hole lead.

Chinese Taipei’s CT Pan battled to a 70 to sit in T-12 on 9-under while 2017 PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim of Korea shot his week’s best of 68 for 7-under.

–IANS

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Football: Bayern Munich’s rehab and conditioning coach Thomas Wilhelmi passes away at 57

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Munich, June 22 (IANS) FC Bayern Munich have announced the death of Thomas Wilhelmi, the German club’s rehab and conditioning coach who has died at the age of 57 following a long illness. Wilhelmi worked for Bayern since 2007 and played a big part in the numerous successes of the last 17 years.

“Our entire club, and not least the coaching staff and the team with whom Thomas Wilhelmi worked so intensively for so long, are in deep mourning. Thomas Wilhelmi loved and lived FC Bayern and his profession: he always had his finger on the pulse of the players and was always there for them, especially during periods of injury, when top athletes need the most encouragement,” said Jan-Christian Dreesen, CEO of FC Bayern.

“For over 17 years, he was part of the team behind the team and could always be relied on. He made an invaluable contribution to the many titles over this long period. We will never forget him, and his human and professional qualities. Thomas Wilhelmi will always be a part of the FC Bayern family. Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters,” he said.

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Wilhelmi joined the club in 2007 from Bayer Leverkusen and worked under various coaches, including Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Gaal, Pep Guardiola, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Jürgen Klinsmann, Carlo Ancelotti, Hansi Flick, Niko Kovac, Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel.

For players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, and Alphonso Davies, he was an important support, particularly during their rehab periods. During his time, FC Bayern won 13 Bundesliga titles, the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup twice, seven DFB Cups, the UEFA Super Cup twice, and the German Supercup nine times.

–IANS

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Hockey Pro League: Flawless Dutch women secure second straight title with three matches to spare

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Utrecht (Netherlands), June 22 (IANS) Returning to action for the first time since February, the Netherlands Women defeated Germany 4-0 for a dominant win – their 13th from 13 matches this season – and secured their fourth title overall with three matches to spare in FIH Hockey Pro League here on Saturday. The odds were stacked against their opposition, Germany, who had not beaten the Dutch in regulation time since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as the home team, which was on the cusp of wrapping up a second straight title, came out strong and never allowed them many chances.

Just a month before the Paris Olympic Games, the World and FIH Pro League winners Netherlands made a triumphant return to international duty with a comfortable win. The first half was evenly contested and it was essentially two sharp plays from the Dutch that made all the difference.

The prolific Yibbi Jansen fired them ahead from a quickly taken free hit in the 8th minute. It was then Luna Fokke who laid off to Jansen before covering 20m to complete a sensational deflection and double the home side’s lead. The third quarter was hotly contested with both teams squandering a single penalty corner opportunity each.

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The final period served up plenty of action, the Dutch stealing the ball from the pushback to win a penalty corner which Jansen rocketed home to extend her lead at the top of the women’s goal-scoring list with 1an impressive 17 goals so far this season.

Frederique Matla then slotted in a drag flick two minutes later for her side to put one hand on the trophy. And while the Germans had a strong spell in the middle of the quarter, it was not enough to make any dent in the significant deficit, with the Dutch reasserting control to close out the match and with that, the title.

–IANS

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WTA Tour: Gauff, Kalinskaya advance in Berlin after Jabeur, Sabalenka retire

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Berlin, June 22 (IANS) World No.2 Coco Gauff advanced to her second semifinal in Berlin Ladies Open after No.10 Ons Jabeur retired with illness. Gauff edged Jabeur in a tightly contested a 68-minute set, winning 7-6(9). After dropping the opening set, Jabeur was assessed by the trainer and doctor and retired.

It was a disappointing end for Jabeur, who gamely saved a total of 10 set points to take Gauff to the brink in the first set. The American saved two set points in the tiebreak but ultimately prevailed to advance to her third career grass-court semifinal.

“I was happy with how I was able to play,” Gauff was quoted as saying by WTA Tour in a report on its website. “Of course, I send my best wishes to Ons. It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”

Gauff will face fifth seed Jessica Pegula in the semifinals. Pegula closed out her rain-interrupted quarterfinal against Katerina Siniakova to win 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 and advance to her first grass semifinal of her career.

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Jabeur’s was the second retirement of the day in Berlin. No.24 Anna Kalinskaya advanced to her first grass-court semifinal after No.3 Aryna Sabalenka retired due to a shoulder injury. Earlier in the week, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova (right hip injury) and No.4 Elena Rybakina (abdominal pain) also retired mid-match.

Kalinskaya led 5-1 in the first set before the reigning Australian Open champion decided not to continue. Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck area assessed and treated at 4-1, and tried to play through the injury. But after another game, the No.2 seed made the decision to retire. It is the first injury retirement of Sabalenka’s WTA Tour career.

–IANS

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Formula One: Lando Norris pips Verstappen to take pole in thrilling Spanish GP; Hamilton to start third on grid

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Barcelona, June 22 (IANS) McLaren’s Lando Norris delivered a spectacular final lap to snatch pole position from Max Verstappen in the thrilling qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix here on Saturday. Norris claimed his second Formula 1 pole of the career and first of the season. Initially, Verstappen seemed certain to start Sunday’s race from the front of the grid. However, Norris narrowly stopped the Red Bull driver on the final throw of the top-10 shootout by a mere two-hundredths of a second.

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate George Russell will line up on the second row after finishing third and fourth, respectively. Charles Leclerc and home favourite Carlos Sainz had to settle for fifth and sixth in what was another tight session around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Pierre Gasly starred en route to seventh for Alpine.

Sergio Perez was eighth in his Red Bull but will drop three places on the grid with his penalty from Canada, promoting the other Alpine of Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who had a scruffy Q3 and failed to log a time. Fernando Alonso gave it his all to reach the pole position shootout on home soil but ultimately missed out on Q3 by just a couple of hundredths of a second, having been pushed into the Q2 drop zone by former teammate Ocon.

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Alonso was joined in the drop zone by Kick Sauber drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu in respective P12 and P15 slots, with Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg and the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll slotting between them. Magnussen could not quite match the pace of teammate Hulkenberg as he fell at the first qualifying hurdle in 16th position, the Dane just missing out on a Q2 spot to Stroll, who appeared to be impeded by Logan Sargeant during the Q1 phase.

A raft of updates this weekend brought the promise of cementing RB’s position at the front of F1’s midfield battle, but their practice struggles carried over to qualifying and left Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo in a disappointing P17 and P18 respectively. Williams also experienced one of their toughest sessions of the season, with Alex Albon and Sargeant unable to prevent the team from propping up the rear – leaving them with a significant challenge to add any more points to their tally on race day.

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–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Hardik Pandya’s unbeaten 27-ball fifty propels India to a commanding 196/5

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North Sound (Antigua), June 22 (IANS) An unbeaten 27-ball half-century by Hardik Pandya, coupled with attacking 30s from Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and Shivam Dube, propelled India to a commanding 196/5 against Bangladesh in their Super Eight stage clash of ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Saturday.

On a fresh pitch, India dominated from the word go with immaculate ease, as every batter looked to attack, resulting in four batters having strike-rate above 150. Pandya’s half-century was laced with four boundaries and three sixes, which was key in India amassing 62 runs off the last five overs. Kohli made a solid 37, while Pant smashed an entertaining 36 and Dube overcame his struggles to hit 34, as India also posted the highest T20I score at the venue. They also hit 13 sixes -– the most number of maximums they have hit in a T20 World Cup game, as Bangladesh struggled to contain them for prolonged periods.

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Pushed into batting first, with cross wind blowing, Rohit Sharma didn’t let the spinners settle by sweeping Mahedi Hasan for four, followed by repeating the same shot against Shakib Al Hasan for a similar result. Kohli joined in taking the attack to spinners by smacking Shakib for a clean six over long-on, followed by using his bottom hand strongly in flicking Tanzim Hasan Sakib for four. Rohit danced down the pitch to hit Shakib for a big six, before slicing him past backward point for four more in the fourth over.

Shakib eventually had the last laugh as Rohit got a top-edge on slog and was caught by backward point. Kohli used his bottom hand well in swinging Mustafizur Rahman for six, followed by slamming leg-spinner Rishad Hossain down the ground for another maximum. But in the ninth over, Tanzim’s clever change in pace got Bangladesh back in the game -– getting a slower off-cutter which kept straight to castle Kohli. Though Suryakumar Yadav swiped him for a six, Tanzim got extra bounce on a length delivery outside off-stump to take Suryakumar’s glove edge behind to keeper.

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Pant, who was at 12 off 15 balls, greeted Rahman with a drive through the gap between cover and mid-off for four. He was quick to heave a slower ball from Rahman high over mid-wicket for six and flicked a full toss in the gap between square leg and fine leg for four more to take 14 runs off the 11th over.

Hossain was next in the firing line, as Pant smashed him with the spin over long-on for six and then swept him behind for four more. But Hossain bounced back as Pant reverse-swept straight to short third man. Pandya and Dube dealt in singles before the former cut loose by hammering Mahedi with the wind through extra cover for six and four respectively.

Dube hammered three quick sixes before being cast by a slower googly from Hossain. Pandya continued to be at his free-flowing best -– slamming two sixes, before hitting three fours in the final over off Rahman to take India past 190 and get his fifty on the last ball of the innings.

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Brief scores:

India 196/5 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 50 not out, Virat Kohli 37; Tanzim Hasan Sakib 2-32, Rishad Hossain 2-43) against Bangladesh

–IANS

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