ST. ALBANS, England – Graeme McDowell accepts it is “incredibly polarizing” to join the Saudi-funded rebel golf tour. He even offered a reason why.
“Take the Khashoggi situation,” he said. “We all agree that’s reprehensible. Nobody is going to argue that fact.”
The Northern Irishman was referencing the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. U.S. intelligence services said they believe the killing of the U.S.-based Saudi journalist came at the orders of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who heads the Public Investment Fund. The prince denies wrongdoing.
The Saudi sovereign wealth fund is providing the hundreds of millions of dollars in sign-on fees and prize money that is enticing players away from the established tours and jeopardizing their participation in the majors and Ryder Cup.
The tour is the latest branch of Saudi Arabia’s attempt to reposition itself as a backer of lavish sports events rather than one associated with human rights abuses, which rights groups call ‘sportswashing.’
McDowell is trying to avoid discussing the specifics of the country he is effectively working for.
“I really feel like golf is a force of good in the world — I just try to be a great role model to kids,” he said. “We are not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but we are really not, unfortunately. We are professional golfers.
“If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey using the game of golf and the abilities that we have to help grow the sport and take them to where they want to be.”
How, though, McDowell was asked, is that journey helping women who are oppressed in Saudi Arabia, the LGBTQ individuals whose rights to live freely are criminalized, the migrant workers whose rights are violated, the victims of the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, or the 81 men who were executed by the kingdom in March?
“I wish I had the ability to be able to have that conversation with you,” McDowell said. “As golfers, if we tried to cure geopolitical situations in every country in the world that we play golf in, we wouldn’t play a lot of golf. It’s a really hard question to answer.
“We’re just here to focus on the golf and kind of what it does globally for the role models that these guys are.”
McDowell did most of the talking on Saudi rights issues, with two-time major winner Dustin Johnson responding earlier: “I would pretty much say the exact same thing. I’d agree with what Graeme said.”
3 Keys: Lightning at Avalanche, Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final – NHL.com
(3A) Lightning at (1C) Avalanche
8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS
Colorado leads best-of-7 series 3-1
The Colorado Avalanche can win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001 with a victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena in Denver on Friday.
The Avalanche took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 on Wednesday. Colorado is 15-3 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including 7-2 at Ball Arena, but know this home game will be different with the Stanley Cup in the building.
“You try to treat it like another day, but you’re going to have thoughts of different things that haven’t been there all year,” Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram said. “But you’ve just got to stick to your routine, do what you’ve done every other day you’ve come to the rink and just make sure that you’re prepared to play your best tonight.”
The Lightning will seek to become the second team in NHL history to rally from down 3-1 in a best-of-7 Cup Final. Tampa Bay came back from trailing 3-2 in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 2-0 hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
Now the Lightning need three straight wins against the Avalanche to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in three consecutive seasons since the New York Islanders won four straight championships from 1980-83.
“You just don’t know how many opportunities, how many kicks you’re going to get at it,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “I think for us it’s easier to think that you’ll be back every year just because of how things have been going. That’s just not the reality. There’s a lot of guys in the room that haven’t won Cups, guys that have been in a lot of situations like this in the past, so there’s a lot on the line and you just want to make sure you make the most of these situations.”
Here are 3 keys to Game 5:
1. Be smart at the start
Colorado started fast in winning each of the first two games of the series at home, grabbing a 2-0 lead in the opening 9:23 of Game 1 and a 3-0 lead by 13:52 of the first period in Game 2. With the chance to win the Stanley Cup in front of their fans, the Avalanche will try to jump on the Lightning early again, but they will also need to control their emotions and keep their focus regardless of how the start goes.
“Any time — a playoff game, a regular season game — you want to start well,” Avalanche forward J.T. Compher said. “We’ve done that at home, but it’s going to be 60 minutes. We’ve talked about it. The hardest one to win is the one to close out a team, especially a team like this. So we know whether the start goes our way or not the first five, 10 minutes, it’s going to be a 60-minute effort, maybe even more. We’ll be ready to play our way for as long as it takes.”
Conversely, the Lightning will need to do a better job of weathering the early Avalanche storm than they did in the first two games.
2. Status of Point, Cernak, Cirelli, Burakovsky
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said forward Andre Burakovsky, who hasn’t played since being hit in the hand with the puck in the second period of Game 2, is “a possibility for tonight.” Things are less clear for the banged-up Lightning with forwards Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak.
Point returned to play the first two games of the Cup Final after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, but was unable to play the past two games. Cernak left Game 4 in the second period after blocking a shot from Nathan MacKinnon off his leg. Cirelli returned to finish Game 4 after appearing to injure his arm in the second period, but his status is unclear for Game 5.
“This is definitely a game-time decision with a few of our guys,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “‘Cernie’ is feeling better, though. I’m pretty confident he’s going to play tonight.”
3. Balance of power
The Avalanche have been dominant on special teams in the Cup Final. Colorado is 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) on its power play and has killed 13 of 14 (92.9 percent) Tampa Bay power plays.
Failing to stop the Avalanche power play while not converting on their own has been a difficult combination for the Lightning to overcome in the series.
“We’d like to score on the power play. We’d like to be more productive,” Killorn said. “But more importantly, I think we’ve got to just keep them off the power play. They obviously have had a great power play and it seems like the way they’re going, pucks are kind of bouncing off skates and that’s what a good power play does. It puts themselves in a good chance and a good opportunity to score. So I think keep them off the power play and even if we do, we have tighten up and do a little better job getting pucks out of the zone.”
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel — Anthony Cirelli — Alex Killorn
Ross Colton — Brayden Point — Nicholas Paul
Pat Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Zach Bogosian
Scratched: Cal Foote, Frederik Claesson, Riley Nash
Avalanche projected lineup
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog — Nazem Kadri — Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Logan O’Connor
Darren Helm — Andrew Cogliano — Nico Sturm
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson
Injured: Samuel Girard (sternum), Andre Burakovsky (hand)
The Lighting held an optional morning skate. … If Burakovsky is able to play, Sturm or O’Connor likely would be scratched.
Following Siakam's path, Koloko thrilled to join Raptors: 'It's just surreal' – Sportsnet.ca
Christian Koloko has big dreams, but also plans. He couldn’t be more excited about them unfolding while wearing a Toronto Raptors uniform.
The second-round pick by the Raptors believes in himself and is confident he can out-perform his draft position as the 33rd player taken on Thursday night.
“My goal is to be a long time NBA player, to be a really good player in the NBA,” he said Friday in media conference call. “Being mentioned for multiple time all-star and just having the best career possible, because you know I kind of started playing basketball kind of late so I think the sky is the limit for me and I will continue to get better.”
But first, baby steps. Having grown up in Cameroon and finished high school in Southern California and then spent three years at the University of Arizona, he’s already ear-marked a portion of his first NBA pay cheque towards a big winter jacket, his first.
He’s seen snow once but living in a northern climate will be a new thing for the long-armed, 7-foot-1, 22-year-old.
Fortunately, Koloko has proven remarkably adaptable throughout his athletic career. Like most kids in Cameroon, Koloko grew up playing soccer – flipping between striker and goalkeeper. He played basketball only recreationally and like Raptors star Pascal Siakam, who – like Koloko — also comes from Douala, only began playing seriously in his late teens, arriving in California for his last two years of high school.
His first language was French, but he pushed himself to become quickly fluent in English, and over his career at Arizona he pushed himself to grow as a player too. He barely saw floor time as a freshman, came off the bench in his second year but in his junior year was a starter, a star, and earned multiple all-conference awards in the Pac-12.
“I think what happened was just me being confident, me believing in myself,” he said. “My first couple years at Arizona were really tough with COVID and everything. “I never really had a chance to work on my game during the summer. My first year at Arizona during the summer I was home and couldn’t do anything with the California rules, so I think I really lost that period of time.
“This year we had a new coaching staff. I came in and talked with the coaches and he told me how he wanted to use me and how he was going to help me get better. I just needed to commit to work hard and that’s what I did, and I think I was more confident this year.”
Koloko is confident he’ll be able to contribute in the NBA sooner than later, with his ability to defend at the rim and — hopefully — hold his own on the perimeter as his calling card. He’ll get his first chance when he joins the Raptors summer league team next month.
“I think I’m a really good defender,” he said. “During the game I can switch one through five and contain my guy in front of me. I probably can’t guard the point guard the whole game, but I feel comfortable during the game switching on a guard and making it hard for him to score on me. I feel like I still have room to improve, and I’ll continue to get better with that, for sure.”
He’ll have a ready-made role model and possible mentor at hand in the form of Siakam, who was an unheralded selection at No.27 in 2016 and has since turned himself from an energizing defender and chaos agent to one of the best all-round forwards in the game, twice earning all-NBA recognition.
The two have met in the previously though only in passing, but Siakam made a point of calling his new teammate on Thursday night, sharing some words of congratulations and encouragement in French.
Koloko considers Siakam’s path to the NBA from Cameroon as a template that he and others back home want to replicate.
“He [Siakam] means everything,” said Koloko. “He’s the first person from Douala to go to the NBA, to get to that level. He’s an NBA champ. He’s an NBA All-Star. This year he was in one of the All-NBA teams. He just means a lot, showing people like me that anything is possible. I think he said when he won the MIP, everything seems impossible until it’s done. That’s what he just shows people … even this year, he had the injury and came back. [He had a] pretty slow start and kept working on his game, and he showed people who he is. Just that perseverance he showed, he just means everything to the city of Douala, for sure.”
The Raptors are obviously heavily invested in Koloko reaching the upper limits of his potential. They have been tracking him since he was a 17-year-old at a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa in 2017 and told him that he was available with the 33rd pick they would take him.
For Toronto, Koloko represents something different in that they haven’t had: a prototype of the modern big man – someone who can challenge shots at the rim defensively and be a lob threat offensively, while having the quickness to contain the ball on the perimeter.
“I mean, he’s seven foot, I’m not sure what his wingspan or standing reach is but it definitely is something that we do not have,” said Raptors general manager Bobby Webster. “We probably won’t know [when he can contribute] until we get to be around that a little bit more. But yeah, I think as far as like a seven-foot rim protector? We don’t have that.”
Koloko wants to be more than that – he wears No.35 in honour of his favourite player, Kevin Durant – but he understands that he’s got to prove his ability as a defender before his offensive responsibilities will be fully explored. That he improved so dramatically as a free-throw shooter – from 35 per cent as a freshman to 73.5 per cent as a junior– and that he has shown some dashes of playmaking while recording six assists in one game and four in two others provides room for optimism.
He watched the draft in Los Angeles, with his family, a night he won’t soon forget. To make to the NBA is one thing, but to do it while playing for Raptors vice-chairman Masai Ujiri, a legend in African basketball and alongside Siakam, a giant figure in their hometown makes it even more special.
“It was amazing. It was crazy. My family was really happy. I was happy for myself,” he says of his draft experience. “Where I’m from, it’s only me and Pascal from that city to make it this far. Even when I got to college, it was a big thing for me to get to that level. To get to the NBA, it’s just surreal. I’m just going to embrace it and continue to get better and show people that you can achieve anything if you put the work in, for sure.
“… I’ve built a really good relationship with Masai and every time I saw [people from the Raptors] they always showed love to me and having them pick me in this draft just means everything, man. I’m forever going to be thankful for them and I’m going to go out there and give everything I have for them.”
Canada's Bianca Andreescu reaches Bad Homburg final after Simona Halep withdraws – CBC Sports
Bianca Andreescu reached her first final in more than a year after Simona Halep withdrew ahead of their semifinal match at the Bad Homburg Open in Germany on Friday with a neck injury.
“I am sorry that I had to withdraw today before my semifinal match,” Halep wrote on Instagram. “But unfortunately I woke up this morning with a blocked neck and this is not allowing me to perform to the best of my ability.”
The 22-year-old Andreescu beat top-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Canadian’s last title win was her breakout U.S. Open victory in 2019, when she beat Serena Williams. Her last final was against Ash Barty in Miami in April 2021, when she retired with an ankle injury.
WATCH | Andreescu ousts top-seeded Kasatkina in Germany:
Andreescu, who took time off to recharge and work on her mental health, missed the Australian Open before returning to the tour in April.
While the Canadian was able to rest up and prepare for the final, Garcia had to spend close to three hours on court to beat fellow French player Alize Cornet 7-6 (9), 3-6, 7-5.
Garcia saved match point at 5-4 down in the deciding set before winning the next three games as Cornet struggled with an apparent right leg injury which restricted her movement.
Andreescu and Garcia have not met before.
WATCH | Canadian tennis star Andreescu answers questions from kids:
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