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Despite some disdain among players, the forlorn Royal St. George's can provide a fun British Open – Golf Channel

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SANDWICH, England – Bryson DeChambeau’s face twisted into a question mark as his tee shot at the second hole early Wednesday drifted hopelessly right and toward the thick hay.

“Fore! See, I yell fore,” he laughed.

There is no better example of the enigma of links golf than DeChambeau. And as a cool wind raked Royal St. George’s, the busy mind was quickly coming to terms with the inevitable. For a man whose mission in life is to remove all the variables from the game, the 149th edition may as well be a single outsized question mark.

Jack Nicklaus is often quoted that the Open venues “get worse the farther south you travel,” and there is no farther south than Sandwich. This week Brooks Koepka offered the modern version of the same take, “It’s not my favorite venue that we’ve played,” he said.

Some have mistaken Koepka’s honesty for indifference, but he’s hardly the only player who considers Royal St. George’s the distant cousin of St. Andrews and Muirfield in terms of The Open rotation; and, to be fair, if Sandwich is the 10th best of The Open courses, that would make it among the top 10 courses in the United Kingdom.


149th Open Championship: Full-field tee times | Full coverage


But what Royal St. Elsewhere may lack in player appreciation is it easily compensates for one of the quirkiest and confounding layouts in the rotation. It’s exactly these oddities that turn some off. “Quite a few blind tee shots, kind of hitting to nothing. Fairways are quite undulating,” Koepka shrugged.

There will be a perfectly hit drive this week that bounces and bounds its way to an awful spot and there will be just as many players who will lament the golf gods and the English coast and links golf.

Unlike most courses in the rotation, which would be considered “proper links” in these parts, Sandwich twists and turns its way over and around the dunes, not along with them in a classic out-and-back routing. It’s a wicked move that keeps golfers off-balance and constantly dealing with new wind directions and odd obstacles.

“A bounce here or there can definitely be the difference between winning a major or not,” Dustin Johnson said. “Definitely around links golf courses or at The Open Championship that can definitely come into play a little bit more, but everybody is playing the same golf course, and it’s all the same humps and bumps for everybody.”


Royal St George’s Golf Course due for appreciation


Johnson, the world No. 1, endured his share of bounces and bruises in 2011 when the game’s oldest championship was last played along the English Channel. DJ began the final round a stroke off the lead and appeared poised to win his first claret jug until he sent his second shot at the par-5 14th hole onto the adjacent Prince’s Golf Club and out of bounds. He finished tied for second place and three shots behind eventual winner Darren Clarke.

If 2011 is any indication Royal St. George’s may be uniquely immune to the bomb-and-gouge set, DeChambeau, the dean of the long hitters, seemed to suggest as much when asked how he planned to play the course this week.

“There will be certain holes where there is a lot of wind and you can’t really control the golf ball with that type of wind, where it bounces, how it bounces,” DeChambeau said. “Keeping it low and on the ground if it gets firm is definitely something I would utilize.”


DeChambeau critiques Royal St. George’s conditions

DeChambeau critiques Royal St. George's conditions

DeChambeau stopped short of saying he’d go all Tiger Woods at the 2006 Open. That week Woods hit just a single driver on his way to victory on a brown and baked-out layout. But quirky Sandwich does have his attention.

Bad bounces are waiting around every dogleg at Royal St. George’s, so much that officials with the R&A have allowed for the unthinkable – watering of fairways.

“We’re very conscious that this course has got a lot of very severe undulations in the fairways and in the landing areas,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive. “We’ve been conscious right the way through to ensure that a ball that lands on that doesn’t get kicked off at a pace that could take it into deep, deep rough.”

But it’s those bounces, which can be endlessly brutal, and the deep rough, which is as punishing as any in the rotation, that defines the Sandwich Open. While St. Andrews has the history and the Auld Grey Toon and Muirfield has the player’s hearts and minds, Royal St. George’s is largely featureless and slightly forlorn.

The 149th Open was two years and a global pandemic in the making and regardless of the location, it was always going to be a celebration after the 2020 championship was canceled. And while Sandwich may not be on every players’ Christmas card list, it is sneaky nuanced.

“I like it here. I like the quirkiness of it. Typical links,” said Lucas Glover, who began the third round in 2011 tied for the lead and posted his best finish in an Open (T-12) at Royal St. George’s. “Once you get out there the fairways are rolling and there are some funky greens. It’s fun.”

Royal St. George’s isn’t the purest of The Open rotation and it’s certainly not the favorite, but it is an enigma that must be solved and for many that’s fun.

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Canadiens’ salary cap situation heading into the draft & free agency – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Some of the biggest stories of the off-season so far have revolved around the Montreal Canadiens. First, Shea Weber’s hockey future was thrown into doubt by reports of a serious injury, and the belief now is that his career is “probably” over, according to general manager Marc Bergevin.

The key bit of news when the Seattle Kraken expansion draft was approaching was that Carey Price was dealing with a less serious injury, but would nevertheless potentially miss the start of the new season. As a result he waived his no-movement clause and was available to be selected by the new team.

Seattle shied away from the $10.5-million cap hit, however, leaving Price unclaimed and free to re-enable his NMC to stay in Montreal.

Salary cap information via CapFriendly
Justin Blades/EOTP

That cap hit remains the largest on the team. Technically Weber’s is the second-highest on the books at almost $8 million, but he will likely be put on long-term injured reserve. For the intents and purposes of this graphic, removing his slice from the chart serves the same purpose; that cap space is free to be spent on other players.

There are six defencemen under contract for next season who played on the team in 2020-21, but Bergevin will want someone more of Weber’s calibre to take top-four minutes. Expect that to be one of his top priorities, and the first-round pick in tonight’s draft could be in play to acquire such a blue-liner.

He also needs to get a centreman to take big minutes against top players, because it’s sounding like Phillip Danault won’t be back with the team. Nick Suzuki has established himself as the top offensive option down the middle, but the team will be trying to add a number-two to back him up.

We also heard on Thursday that Jonathan Drouin is expected to play next year, so there are now eight forwards signed for next season, with five to six more to go. Restricted free agents Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen can probably be re-signed relatively inexpesively, the former getting a birdge deal hoping to cash in a few seasons from now, and the latter a reliable bottom-six player. Corey Perry may also be offered a deal, but his interest in sticking around may depend on how Bergevin is able to restore the team’s contender status via his other moves.

There is a bit more than $21 million available to make this all happen. A small portion of the available space is eaten up by a bonus overage penalty the Canadiens were handed, but having your young players perform too well in the post-season is far from the worst problem an NHL team is facing. There are more young prospects who could step into lesser roles without needing big financial commitments, so there could be a major splash — or two — made in the coming days.

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Down Goes Brown: Let's painstakingly build the worst possible team-by-team first round in NHL Draft history – The Athletic

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Last year, in the aftermath of the NHL Draft, I took on a challenge from a reader. They wanted me to come up with the ultimate first round, one where I’d use one pick from each team to create the best possible list of 31 choices. I threw in a bunch of rules to make it overly complicated and got to work, and this was the final result.

People seemed to like it. We debated the picks in the comments, readers argued about which teams got shafted, and a few of you even tried to make your own version.

And then, as always, came the request: OK, now do the same thing but for the worst picks.

Yeah, I knew this was coming. So now, as we count down to the first round of the 2021 draft, that’s what we’re going to do.

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Tokyo Olympics officially begin under spectre of pandemic – Al Jazeera English

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The opening ceremony marks the beginning of the Summer Games, delayed by a year and held under unprecedented restrictions.

The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games has begun in Tokyo, with a blaze of white and indigo fireworks officially kicking off the quadrennial international sporting event being held under the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach were followed by a small delegation carrying the Japanese flag as they entered Friday’s ceremony, which was initially scheduled to be held about a year earlier before its postponement due to surging COVID-19 infections across the world.

The procession was followed by a moment of silence for victims of the pandemic, as well as Israeli Olympians killed during the 1972 Munich games, before the first of an expected 5,700 athletes began streaming into the ceremony.

Only a few hundred dignitaries and special guests, including French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden, were allowed into the 68,000-capacity New National Stadium after games officials decided to largely bar spectators. International and domestic fans have been banned from all venues in Tokyo.

Top sponsors, including Toyota and Panasonic, also opted not to send their representatives to the opening event, with polls showing the Japanese public remaining largely against moving forward with the sprawling gathering in which about 11,000 athletes will contest 339 medal events across 50 disciplines in 33 sports over two weeks.

Japan’s flag is carried during the opening ceremony. [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Days preceding the ceremony have been defined by positive tests among athletes, officials and their small teams of support staff amid fears the games could become a super-spreader event.

On Friday, the number of Olympic-related infections since July 1 stood at 106, dashing the hopes of some athletes who have trained for years to qualify and forcing some events to already dip into carefully tailored contingency plans designed to assure the competition can proceed.

Concerns of further infection were on full display on Friday, with some country’s teams, notably Brazil, opting to send only their flagbearers as representatives at the ceremony.

Nevertheless, hundreds of people began gathering outside the Olympic Stadium on Friday hoping for a glimpse of what is usually an opportunity for the hosting country to offer an elaborate spectacle highlighting their history and culture to audiences watching around the world.

A small group of protesters also gathered outside of the event.

Anti-Olympics protesters gather outside the opening ceremony. ‘[Issei Kato/Reuters]

Reporting from outside the ceremony, Al Jazeera’s Andy Richardson said, “There’s a sense of almost disbelief hanging around this stadium.”

“There has been so much talk about this over the last 12 months – but here we are,” he said, adding that the planners of the event have said the programme will be “sombre and in sync with the sentiment of today, what this country and the world is going through with the pandemic.”

“The opening ceremony has always been a pretty integral part of the Games in showcasing the country’s national identity, but I don’t think many host cities have had to pull off quite such a balancing act to win over such a sceptical public,” he said.

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony. [Stefan Wermuth/Reuters]

Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sought to frame the games as the beginning of a return to normalcy after a year and a half of global uncertainty as he urged the athletes “to fully demonstrate their abilities and show us their very best performances”.

“The sight of athletes aiming to be the very best in the world gives dreams and courage to young people and children and deeply moves them,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.

Still, questions over the wisdom of moving forward with the games were not the only cloud to loom over Friday’s event.

In a last-minute scandal, the opening ceremony’s director, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired on Thursday over jokes he made in the 1990s about the Holocaust.

Officials said the dismissal would not affect the programme.

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