Wednesday, November 29, 2023




Paris St-Germain 1-1 Newcastle: Late Kylian Mbappe penalty denies visitors win

Kylian Mbappe scored a controversial late penalty to deny Newcastle an impressive win at Parc des Princes but the draw keeps the visitors in the fight to reach the Champions League knockout stages.The spot-kick was awarded after review by the video assistant referee, with referee Szymon Marciniak consulting the pitchside monitor before ruling Tino Livramento had handled the ball inside the box when blocking a cross.It was a cruel blow for Eddie Howe's side, who had looked on course to secure a hugely impressive win after Aleksander Isak struck in the first half when Miguel Almiron's effort had been pushed to the striker's feet.Newcastle then defended with everything they had to keep out PSG and Nick Pope made a superb save from close range to deny first Bradley Barcola and then Kylian Mbappe, who drove the rebound just wide.But the visitors' resolve was broken deep in stoppage time when PSG were awarded the penalty, from which Mbappe made no mistake.The result means Newcastle are third in Group F, two points behind second-placed PSG. Eddie Howe's side now need to beat AC Milan in their final group game and hope already qualified Borussia Dortmund get a result against PSG.Controversial penalty breaks Newcastle's heartsThe finish to this game will have been devastating for Newcastle after they had put in a brilliant display of fight and bravery to keep out the hosts for 97 minutes.Howe's side had arrived in Paris impacted by a lengthy injury list as they named two goalkeepers on their bench alongside four teenagers.But those who played gave everything and more as they came within seconds of another huge result on their Champions League return.They rode their luck at times, with Mbappe and Barcola both missing some big opportunities, and it looked like it was going to be Newcastle's night.But in the last minute of eight added on in stoppage time, Ousmane Dembele's cross struck the chest of Livramento - who had been excellent throughout - and the ball bounced up onto his arm.Referee Marciniak had earlier dismissed a similar penalty claim for an Anthony Gordon challenge inside the box, but this time decided to award the spot-kick as Mbappe rescued his side.But the decision seemed harsh on Newcastle and the result means progress to the last 16 is now not in their hands.Player of the matchLivramentoTino Livramentowith an average of 8.24Paris Saint GermainSquad number7Player nameMbappéAverage rating4.49Squad number99Player nameG DonnarummaAverage rating4.34Squad number2Player nameHakimiAverage rating4.32Squad number10Player nameDembéléAverage rating4.23Squad number19Player nameLee Kang-inAverage rating4.16Squad number37Player nameSkriniarAverage rating4.04Squad number23Player nameKolo MuaniAverage rating4.03Squad number15Player nameDanilo PereiraAverage rating4.03Squad number21Player nameHernándezAverage rating3.95Squad number8Player nameRuizAverage rating3.95Squad number29Player nameBarcolaAverage rating3.87Squad number17Player nameVitinhaAverage rating3.86Squad number4Player nameUgarteAverage rating3.85Squad number11Player nameAsensioAverage rating3.56Squad number9Player nameGonçalo RamosAverage rating3.49Newcastle UnitedSquad number21Player nameLivramentoAverage rating8.24Squad number22Player namePopeAverage rating8.19Squad number14Player nameIsakAverage rating8.06Squad number24Player nameAlmirónAverage rating8.04Squad number2Player nameTrippierAverage rating8.01Squad number67Player nameMileyAverage rating7.98Squad number5Player nameSchärAverage rating7.89Squad number6Player nameLascellesAverage rating7.84Squad number39Player nameBruno GuimarãesAverage rating7.82Squad number7Player nameJoelintonAverage rating7.77Squad number10Player nameGordonAverage rating7.67Line-upsPSGFormation 4-3-399G Donnarumma2Hakimi37Skriniar15Danilo21Hernández8Ruiz4Ugarte19Lee Kang-in10Dembélé23Kolo Muani7Mbappé99G DonnarummaBooked at 72mins2Hakimi37SkriniarBooked at 60mins15DaniloSubstituted forGonçalo Ramosat 85'minutesBooked at 90mins21Hernández8Ruiz4UgarteBooked at 36minsSubstituted forVitinhaat 62'minutes19Lee Kang-inBooked at 54minsSubstituted forAsensioat 82'minutes10DembéléBooked at 58mins23Kolo MuaniSubstituted forBarcolaat 62'minutes7MbappéSubstitutes9Gonçalo Ramos11Asensio17Vitinha26Mukiele28Soler29Barcola30Letellier80TenasNewcastleFormation 4-3-322Pope2Trippier6Lascelles5Schär21Livramento67Miley39Bruno Guimarães7Joelinton24Almirón14Isak10Gordon22PopeBooked at 90mins2Trippier6Lascelles5Schär21Livramento67Miley39Bruno Guimarães7JoelintonBooked at 22mins24AlmirónBooked at 83mins14Isak10GordonSubstitutes1Dúbravka3Dummett18Karius20Hall55Ndiweni58Huntley63ParkinsonReferee:Szymon MarciniakAttendance:46,435Match StatsLive TextPost updateMatch ends, Paris Saint Germain 1, Newcastle United 1.

Wednesday’s gossip column: Broja, Varane, Ramsdale, Werner, Malen, Sudakov, Provedel

Chelsea are prepared to reject Fulham's interest in Albania striker Armando Broja, 22, in January. (Evening Standard)external-linkArsenal are willing to let England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale leave at the end of the season but will not let the 25-year-old go in the January transfer window. (90min)external-linkDutch midfielder Donny van de Beek, 26, says he will make a January move away from Manchester United if he does not start playing more games, revealing that a summer move to Real Sociedad fell through. (Diario AS, via Sky Sports)external-linkManchester United are hoping to strengthen in four positions in January, including in defensive midfield with concerns over 27-year-old Morocco midfielder Sofyan Amrabat's season so far. (Guardian)external-linkFrance defender Raphael Varane, 30, and England midfielder Mason Mount, 24, are among the Manchester United players at risk of being replaced. (Guardian, via Express)external-linkBayern Munich have discussed the possibility of signing Varane from Manchester United but do not think a deal is realistic. (Sky Germany - in German)external-linkTottenham are interested in Blackburn Rovers' England midfielder Adam Wharton, 19. (90min)external-linkUkraine and Chelsea striker Mykhailo Mudryk, 22, wants the club to sign his former Shakhtar Donetsk and national team mate Georgiy Sudakov, 21, in the January transfer window with the two striking up a strong partnership during their time together in Ukraine. (Gazzetta dello Sport - in Italian)external-linkEngland Under-17 forward Mason Cotcher has been training with Arsenal's first-team squad after leaving Sunderland but the Gunners face competition from Rangers for the 17-year-old's signature. (Telegraph - subscription required)external-linkManchester United are interested in 29-year-old Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provedel but the Serie A club will only sell the Italian for £30m. (Il Messaggero, via Football Italia)external-linkMystery starCan you tell who Wednesday's Premier League player is?Germany striker Timo Werner, 27, is prepared to stay at RB Leipzig and fight for his place in the side rather than move to Manchester United in January. (Metro)external-linkChelsea do not have an agreement in place with Corinthians for 18-year-old midfielder Gabriel Moscardo and a move for the Brazilian is not imminent. (Fabrizio Romano)external-linkParis St-Germain and a number of other Premier League clubs are keen on Moscardo with Corinthians holding out for a deal worth £26m. (ESPN)external-linkBorussia Dortmund winger Donyell Malen, 24, remains a key target for Liverpool with manager Jurgen Klopp a big admirer of the Netherlands international. (Bild, via Teamtalk)external-linkReal Betis have not given up hope of persuading Argentina midfielder Guido Rodriguez, 29, to reject Manchester United and Barcelona and stay with the Seville club. (Marca - in Spanish)external-link

Watford 3-2 Norwich City: Brilliant Yaser Asprilla goal completes comeback victory for Hornets

Yaser Asprilla's delightful strike completed a brilliant Watford fightback from two goals down against Norwich City.The Colombia international showed quick feet to dance the ball around Canaries goalkeeper George Long and finish to win it for the Hornets in the second half.Norwich seemed to be on course for a third consecutive victory as a header from Danny Batth and a stunning strike by South Korea forward Hwang Ui-jo put them two goals up after only 12 minutes.Watford are made of sterner stuff under manager Valerien Ismael, however, and they fought back to parity after Ismael Kone's fierce drive and a Mileta Rajovic header changed the game inside three minutes.Norwich appeared to be turning their season around after wins over Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers but they remain unconvincing, despite hitting the Hornets with a quick double.Watford only had themselves to blame in the third minute as Gabriel Sara swung a corner kick to the far post and Batth's only competition was team-mate Hwang as he firmly headed home.Vicarage Road was again stunned into silence after more slack work, this time from Ryan Porteous, who gifted Sara the ball on halfway. He freed Hwang, who sent a dipping shot in an arc over the head of rooted goalkeeper Ben Hamer, standing in for the suspended Daniel Bachmann.Hwang was forced off with an injury after 17 minutes and replaced by Ashley Barnes, but Kone fired Watford back into the reckoning, out of the blue on the half-hour mark, the ball arrowing into the bottom corner before Long could react.The Norwich lead was rubbed out entirely three minutes later as Jamal Lewis stood up a cross to the far post and Rajovic tucked away his seventh league goal of the season.Both sides were shooting on sight, as Norwich's Adam Idah forced Hamer to parry, and at the other end Long had to be sharp to turn Asprilla's rising drive over the bar and was then grateful to see Edo Kayembe's fierce effort narrowly clear the bar.That was part of a strong finish to the half by a resurgent Watford, and they kept up the pressure after the break, continuing to pepper the Norwich goal.Kone struck the underside of the bar, and Kayembe forced Long into a full-length save, but the willingness to have a bash from range finally paid off in the 77th minute.Defender Wesley Hoedt let fly from 25 yards to force the parry from Long which gave Asprilla the chance to show his twinkling footwork and take the three points.Watford manager Valerien Ismael told BBC Three Counties Radio:"After 2-0 we started our game. The players stayed calm, stuck to the gameplan, and bit by bit came back into the game, scored the first goal and came back quickly with the second goal."After that we knew we were back in the game and dominated and controlled Norwich completely."I am proud of the boys, the performance and attitude, the trust in each other to keep passing the ball and not blame anyone. For that it was a brilliant performance.[On Kone]: "It was his best performance, a complete performance. We had a feeling when he came back from the international break he was really tired against Leicester but [tonight] he was rested, had slept for nine or ten hours, and gave us the feeling he was really ready."Norwich City manager David Wagner told BBC Radio Norfolk:"We started very well. But unfortunately, the substitution of Ui-Jo shocked the players."This affected us and we were not able to come back to what we have shown in the first 30 minutes."You cannot do mistakes like we [did] before the goals, which we conceded. This is what cost us."Second half we didn't play well in possession, we had so many missed passes."Line-upsWatfordFormation 4-3-326Hamer45Andrews5Porteous4Hoedt6Lewis39Kayembe8Livermore11Koné18Asprilla9Rajovic12Sema26Hamer45Andrews5Porteous4Hoedt6Lewis39Kayembe8LivermoreBooked at 18minsSubstituted forPollockat 90+4'minutes11Koné18AsprillaSubstituted forMartinsat 83'minutes9RajovicSubstituted forBayoat 83'minutes12SemaSubstituted forSierraltaat 90+3'minutesSubstitutes3Sierralta7Ince10Louza14Healey15Pollock19Bayo24Dele-Bashiru37Martins40RobertsNorwichFormation 4-2-3-112Long3Stacey24Duffy21Batth30Giannoulis23McLean17Gomes Sara16Fassnacht31Hwang Ui-jo25Hernández11Idah12Long3StaceyBooked at 35minsSubstituted forFisherat 68'minutes24DuffyBooked at 64mins21BatthSubstituted forNúñezat 84'minutes30GiannoulisBooked at 90mins23McLean17Gomes Sara16FassnachtSubstituted forSainzat 83'minutesBooked at 90mins31Hwang Ui-joSubstituted forBarnesat 17'minutes25Hernández11IdahSubstituted forGibbsat 67'minutesSubstitutes7Sainz8Gibbs10Barnes15McCallum26Núñez35Fisher39Reyes42Springett50WarnerReferee:Simon HooperAttendance:16,714Match StatsLive TextPost updateMatch ends, Watford 3, Norwich City 2.

Barcelona 2-1 FC Porto: Spanish side reach last 16 after coming from behind

Barcelona came back from a goal behind to beat Porto and seal a spot in the Champions League last 16.Brazilian winger Pepe hammered home a rebound to give the Portuguese visitors the lead after half an hour.However, Porto's advantage lasted just two minutes as Joao Cancelo equalised with a stunning curling strike after cutting inside from the left.Porto goalkeeper Inaki Pena made several fine saves before Joao Felix tucked home a 56th-minute winner.Barcelona are guaranteed to qualify from Group H with Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk - who are both three points behind - playing each other in their final game.Although they have not yet won the group, they will only need to avoid defeat against point-less Royal Antwerp to finish top.Line-upsBarcelonaFormation 4-3-313Peña Sotorres4Araujo23Koundé5Martínez2Cancelo8Pedri22Gündogan21F de Jong11Raphinha9Lewandowski14João Félix13Peña Sotorres4Araujo23Koundé5Martínez2CanceloSubstituted forBaldeat 82'minutes8Pedri22Gündogan21F de JongBooked at 37mins11RaphinhaSubstituted forYamalat 90'minutes9Lewandowski14João FélixBooked at 59minsSubstituted forF Torresat 75'minutesSubstitutes3Balde7F Torres15Christensen17Alonso18Romeu20Roberto26Astralaga27Yamal30Casadó31Kochen32LópezFC PortoFormation 4-4-299Diogo Costa23Neto Lopes2Cardoso3Pepe12Sanusi11Aquino Cossa6Eustáquio22Varela13Rodrigues do Nascimento Galeno30de Lima Barbosa9Taremi99Diogo Costa23Neto LopesBooked at 57minsSubstituted forSánchezat 67'minutes2CardosoBooked at 36minsSubstituted forNamasoat 90'minutes3Pepe12Sanusi11Aquino CossaBooked at 74mins6EustáquioSubstituted forGonzálezat 81'minutes22Varela13Rodrigues do Nascimento GalenoSubstituted forMartínezat 90'minutes30de Lima BarbosaSubstituted forFernandes da Conceiçãoat 81'minutes9TaremiSubstitutes8Grujic10Fernandes da Conceição14Morais Ramos15Sánchez16González17Jaime19Namaso20Russo Franco21Navarro28Silva Baró29Martínez70Albuquerque BorgesReferee:Daniele OrsatoAttendance:43,533Match StatsLive TextPost updateMatch ends, Barcelona 2, FC Porto 1.

Man City 3-2 RB Leipzig: Champions come from two down to win Group G

Erling Haaland obliterated a Champions League goalscoring record at Etihad Stadium as Manchester City fought back from two goals down to complete a thrilling victory against RB Leipzig.The Norway forward is the quickest player ever to score 40 goals in the competition - reaching the milestone in just 35 matches, 10 fewer than Ruud van Nistelrooy, the previous record holder.His goal also sparked a comeback win that ensured City, already through to the last 16, secured top spot in Group G with a game to spare.For an uncomfortable 40 minutes, it looked as though their proud 28-match unbeaten home European record was about to come to an end.But the second-half introductions of Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku transformed City.Within seconds, Alvarez had sent Haaland through to half the deficit - and with Doku's running unbalancing the Leipzig defence, Phil Foden took advantage of the space he found after collecting Josko Gvardiol's inside pass to level.Three minutes from time, Alvarez completed the fightback, steadying himself eight yards out before delivering a precise finish to the corner after Foden had provided the cross.The defeat was tough on Belgian forward Lois Openda, who cost Leipzig a club record fee when he signed from Lens in July - one that could reach 45m euros (£38.95m).And he showed his quality with an excellent first-half double that had raised hopes of a shock win for the visitors on the ground where they lost 7-0 in last season's knockout phase.Haaland's great goalscoring feats continueThe first half must have brought back uncomfortable memories for Gvardiol. As the Croat recounted in the build-up to the game, he was part of the Leipzig squad beaten by seven goals in this stadium earlier this year in a one-sided last-16 game.Having switched between the clubs for £77m in August, Gvardiol might have hoped for a happier experience this time.And it was in the end - but only after a tough opening half. He was the man Openda stepped inside to drive his low shot past Stefan Ortega for Leipzig's second, even if the blame belonged to Ruben Dias, who lunged into a tackle by the touchline on the halfway line to allow a clear run for the forward.Close by, City manager Pep Guardiola waved his arms in that familiar dismissive fashion, which suggested he was not happy.That reaction was similar to the one that had followed Openda's opener. On that occasion, Manuel Akanji had tried to block the striker from reaching a bouncing ball on the halfway line. Although he succeeded in that mission, the Swiss defender did not think his opponent would simply spin away from him and on to the loose ball, which he tucked neatly into the corner.Rico Lewis and Haaland both drove over from central positions before the break. Haaland's thunderous effort in particular suggested he was not happy at the state of affairs.It was not to last.Instead, Haaland took his tally for the campaign in all competitions to 19. That means he now has 71 in less than a season and a half.Once the Norwegian had scored, there was an inevitability about what was to come.City will be sure of playing their second leg at home when the draw for the last 16 is made next month and few will argue against their chances of becoming the first English side since Nottingham Forest in 1980 to successfully defend what used to be known as the European Cup.Colin Bell 'would have been proud' of statueThe thrilling manner of the victory was appropriate given it coincided with City unveiling a statute outside the stadium in honour of three of their greatest past players: Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee.A video montage was played before kick-off in tribute to City's 'Holy Trinity'.Sadly, only Summerbee is still with us, although Bell's son, Jon, paid eloquent tribute to what the statue would have meant to his dad."I wish he was here to see it," he said. "I think he would be slightly embarrassed by it but deep down, I am sure he would have been extremely proud."It invites a new generation of supporters to ask questions about that era and the legacy of the football club. The great success we are having now is built on that history and fanbase and these three players and the ones who came before them. "It is great to see where we are. I enjoyed coming here with my dad towards the end of his life. He was a supporter first and foremost and loved watching the team of today." Player of the matchOpendaLoïs Opendawith an average of 7.98Manchester CitySquad number19Player nameÁlvarezAverage rating7.19Squad number11Player nameDokuAverage rating6.83Squad number21Player nameGómezAverage rating6.43Squad number47Player nameFodenAverage rating6.27Squad number6Player nameAkéAverage rating6.18Squad number9Player nameHaalandAverage rating5.89Squad number20Player nameBernardo SilvaAverage rating5.48Squad number82Player nameLewisAverage rating5.41Squad number2Player nameWalkerAverage rating5.32Squad number10Player nameGrealishAverage rating5.29Squad number24Player nameGvardiolAverage rating5.19Squad number16Player nameRodriAverage rating5.16Squad number3Player nameRúben DiasAverage rating5.06Squad number18Player nameOrtegaAverage rating4.98Squad number25Player nameAkanjiAverage rating4.91RB LeipzigSquad number17Player nameOpendaAverage rating7.98Squad number20Player nameSimonsAverage rating7.43Squad number24Player nameSchlagerAverage rating7.12Squad number10Player nameForsbergAverage rating7.11Squad number13Player nameSeiwaldAverage rating7.09Squad number2Player nameSimakanAverage rating7.09Squad number23Player nameLukebaAverage rating7.07Squad number8Player nameHaidaraAverage rating7.07Squad number16Player nameKlostermannAverage rating7.05Squad number22Player nameRaumAverage rating7.03Squad number21Player nameBlaswichAverage rating6.92Squad number14Player nameBaumgartnerAverage rating6.02Squad number30Player nameSeskoAverage rating5.91Squad number18Player nameFábio CarvalhoAverage rating5.89Squad number9Player namePoulsenAverage rating5.70Squad number44Player nameKamplAverage rating5.23Line-upsMan CityFormation 3-2-4-118Ortega2Walker3Rúben Dias24Gvardiol16Rodri25Akanji47Foden20Bernardo Silva82Lewis10Grealish9Haaland18Ortega3Rúben DiasBooked at 21minsSubstituted forAkéat 45'minutes2WalkerSubstituted forÁlvarezat 54'minutes24GvardiolSubstituted forGómezat 90+3'minutes20Bernardo Silva25Akanji16Rodri82Lewis47Foden9Haaland10GrealishSubstituted forDokuat 54'minutesSubstitutes4Phillips5Stones6Aké11Doku19Álvarez21Gómez31Ederson33Carson52BobbRB LeipzigFormation 5-4-121Blaswich8Haidara2Simakan16Klostermann23Lukeba22Raum10Forsberg13Seiwald24Schlager20Simons17Openda21Blaswich8HaidaraSubstituted forCarvalhoat 74'minutes2Simakan16Klostermann23Lukeba22Raum10ForsbergSubstituted forBaumgartnerat 60'minutes13Seiwald24SchlagerSubstituted forKamplat 88'minutes20SimonsSubstituted forPoulsenat 75'minutes17OpendaSubstituted forSeskoat 60'minutesSubstitutes1Gulácsi3Lenz9Poulsen14Baumgartner18Carvalho30Sesko39Henrichs44KamplReferee:Glenn NybergAttendance:51,402Match StatsLive TextPost updateMatch ends, Manchester City 3, RB Leipzig 2.

Woods will play until he can ‘no longer win’

Last updated on 34 minutes ago34 minutes ago.From the section GolfTiger Woods has said he will continue to play for as long as he thinks he can still win as he prepares to return to professional golf.The 15-time major winner then had fusion surgery on a bone in his ankle."There will come a time when I can no longer win. When that time comes, I will walk away," Woods said."I love to compete. I love the camaraderie, being around the guys."The 47-year-old American said earlier this month he had "zero issues" with his surgically repaired right ankle, which was done to address post-traumatic arthritis following the 2021 car crash that side lined him for nearly 14 months. However, he indicated that other injury problems remain."The only way to fix that was to replace it or have it fused," Woods said of his ankle. "The next part is the hard part. The six months of doing nothing. The first couple months were really rough - I'm here on the good side now."The five-time Masters champion has struggled to walk 18 holes since but, after he was seen caddying for his son Charlie at the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship earlier this month, he has decided the time is right to return to action."I was hitting golf balls a lot trying to get Charlie ready for the event. Then, post-event, I thought, 'I can probably do this,'" Woods said."I've played a lot of holes. I haven't used a pencil and a scorecard."My game feels rusty. I haven't played in a while. I'm excited to compete and play. I'm just as curious as all of you are to see what happens. "I can tell you this, I don't have any of the pain I had in Augusta in my ankle. Other parts are taking the brunt of the load. But that surgery was a success."The tournament, a 20-player invitational event which will also include Justin Rose, Scottie Scheffler, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland, begins on Thursday in Albany, The Bahamas.Woods said he hopes to play one tournament per month in 2024 and that this event will help to determine his schedule for next season.

‘R&A set to announce new ball rule before year end’

At long last, we are nearing a decision on how the game of golf will deal with the thorny issue of rolling back the golf ball and the outcome may well affect everyone who plays the sport.The rule makers - the R&A and United States Golf Association - have been grappling with the so called "distance debate" for years and they still agree that something needs to be done.Their recommendation that a Model Local Rule to allow elite events to impose the use of a distance limiting ball has been largely rejected, despite support from the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.During the comment period which ended in August, the PGA Tour was particularly outspoken against the move. Reacting to that the R&A's chief executive Martin Slumbers outline his options when he told BBC Sport: "We can bifurcate, as we suggested; you change the whole game; or you do nothing. "And doing nothing is not an option."Those comments were made in late summer and now the St Andrews based boss has doubled down, telling Golf Digest: "Once we published our distance report at the start of this process, I was very clear that, for the good of the game, we need to address this issue."Today's top players are hitting the ball too far. Courses are not long enough to cope with 340-yard drives and extending them to maintain the integrity of the challenge facing the best players is expensive, environmentally damaging and often impossible.The original plan was to only rein back the most proficient players and allow the rest of us to enjoy the benefits of a super-charged ball and forgiving large headed drivers. On paper, this bifurcation is contrary to one of golf's most celebrated tenets - that we humble hackers can play the same courses with the same equipment as the world's best players and therefore measure our inferiority.In his recent Golf Digest interview, Slumbers admitted: "The game was not happy with the Model Local Rule. There was a view that it would create a bifurcated game at the elite level. "It was a very strong pushback against that. The PGA Tour was very public about it. So was the PGA of America. A number of players spoke out. And our job is to listen."The rules makers were always up against it. Many top players are generously sponsored by golf equipment manufacturers, who have always been reluctant to curb the performance of their products.Leading stars were therefore always likely to side with the guys who pay them to use their equipment. And at a time of flux in the men's professional game, the PGA Tour could ill afford to upset those top stars.There was nothing in it for the American-based circuit to go with anyone other than the golfers they desperately need to remain loyal. There is a belief among some leading figures that their bifurcation proposals became collateral damage in golf's ongoing civil war, which was prompted by the arrival of the breakaway LIV tour 19 months ago.The feeling among senior figures on the European-based DP World Tour is more nuanced. Many are more sympathetic to the notion that driving distances should be hindered by introducing tighter limits on drivers."Lessen the sweet spot and players will have to swing slower to make an accurate strike," reasoned one leading player. "That does not hinder the most exceptional talents, who can combine precision and speed."And this would provide the added benefit that the better players become easier to identify."But outlawing clubs that cost hundreds of pounds and make the game far more enjoyable for recreational players feels like a drastic step, one that will be hugely unpopular with golfers of most abilities and the manufacturers who produce the clubs.The original bifurcation idea had plenty of merit. The most significant effects, reducing driving distance by around 15 yards, would only have been felt by players swinging at the highest speeds.Most club hackers would not have seen much difference if they used the adapted elite balls. And, by the way, there would have been nothing to stop us doing that if we desired such a test.Say we had secured a tee time at a top championship course, why not buy a sleeve of elite balls to enable us to measure our ability at a venue used for leading events?Equally clubs could have stipulated that their biggest events be played with the handicapped ball, if they saw fit. And if you are a promising player with ambitions to play top amateur tournaments and beyond, you would probably switch to the elite ball anyway.Back in the day, the game had this sort of bifurcation. The best players wanted the spin of a softer balata ball that might not fly quite as far, while the rest of us used rock hard missiles to gain distance.But that bifurcated opportunity seems to have disappeared thanks to what many might feel was myopic hostility towards the proposals. Now, though, new plans are afoot. "Our responsibility is to the long-term future of the game," Slumbers added. "We are listening. And we have made a decision about what we are going to do. "We're working that through at the moment and will make it public before the end of the year."Watch this space.

McIlroy beats Woods to PGA Tour’s $15m PIP prize

World number two Rory McIlroy has beaten Tiger Woods to the PGA Tour's $15m (£11.9m) prize for generating the most media interest in 2023.Northern Ireland's McIlroy pipped the 15-time major winner to top spot on the tour's 'Player Impact Programme' (PIP).Woods won it in 2021 and 2022 despite his injury-hit playing schedule. McIlroy takes top spot for the first time two weeks after saying "something had to give" when he resigned from the tour's Policy Board. The PIP, introduced in 2021, was designed to reward players who generate the most interest in the PGA Tour, with metrics such as Google searches, news article mentions and social media reach taken into account. McIlroy, who finished second to Woods in 2022, tops the PIP list after capturing his fifth DP World Tour Race to Dubai title earlier this month. Woods earns $12m (£9.5m) for finishing second. 34-year-old McIlroy was unable to defend his FedEx Cup title on the PGA Tour, however, finishing fourth behind Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele and Wyndham Clark, who also denied McIlroy a fifth major title at the US Open in June. Masters winner Jon Rahm earns $9m (£7.2m) for finishing third, with three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and world number one Scottie Scheffler rounding out the top five. England's Tommy Fleetwood collects $5m (£4m) for finishing tied seventh alongside Hovland, Justin Thomas and Max Homa. Next year, the Player Impact Programme's bonus pool will be $50m (£39.9m) between the top 10 players, a change from the $100m (£79.8m) that was awarded to the top 20 this year.Woods, 47, will return to action this week after seven months out in the Hero World Challenge, an event he hosts in the Bahamas, having recovered from ankle surgery.Woods and McIlroy are also fronting a new virtual golf competition called TGL, the start date for which was pushed back one year to early 2025, after its facility in Florida sustained serious damage after a power outage.

McDowell to continue playing on LIV Golf tour

Graeme McDowell is set to play on the LIV Golf tour again next year by joining the team captained by Brooks Koepka.The Northern Irish man is expected to be named in the Smash team, captained by US golfer Koepka.McDowell has had to negotiate his way back on to the Saudi Arabian-backed tour after finishing outside the automatic retention places this year.The Portrush man's two-year contract with LIV has expired.McDowell is still a member of the DP World Tour but it is understood he owes fines believed to be in the region of £1.5 million. As yet, he has not resigned his membership, like many other players who made the move to LIV. McDowell, who represented the Cleeks team last year, has earned over £4 million on the LIV Tour to date, but his future looked uncertain after his 40th-place finish in 2023.Only the top 24 and team captains were guaranteed their places next season.

Davis Cup final 2023: Italy beat Australia to win first title for 47 years

A dominant Jannik Sinner outclassed Australia's Alex de Minaur to help Italy secure their first Davis Cup title for 47 years.Matteo Arnaldi beat Alexei Popyrin 7-5 2-6 6-4 in a nervy opening singles match to put Italy 1-0 up in Malaga, Spain.Sinner then backed up his sterling week with a 6-3 6-0 win over De Minaur."It has been an incredible feeling for all of us, obviously we are really happy," Sinner said.It is the second time Italy have lifted the Davis Cup, having previously won the title in 1976.There were scenes of jubilation as the Italy team flooded on the court to celebrate with Sinner, who raised his arms in the air after De Minaur's backhand skewed wide to ensure victory.Australia were bidding for a 29th Davis Cup title but have now lost back-to-back finals, having been beaten by Canada last year.Sinner oozes class to secure 'historic result'Italy arrived for the final eight with some expectation around them, largely thanks to Sinner's recent stellar form.The 22-year-old has lost just three of his past 23 matches, winning titles in Montpellier, Toronto, Beijing and Vienna, and beat world number one Novak Djokovic in the ATP Finals round-robin stages.World number four Sinner had already starred for Italy on Saturday, saving three match points against Djokovic to level the tie against Serbia before partnering Lorenzo Sonego to victory in the doubles to book Italy's final spot."We kept everything together. Yesterday, we were one point from being out and now we can celebrate the win. I think we can all be very, very happy," said Sinner."Huge thanks to Matteo Berrettini too. He's had a very, very tough year with a lot of injuries and it means a lot to all of us that he came here with his positive energy."Sinner set out his intentions early against De Minaur, breaking in the third game before converting his second set point when the Australian overhit a lob.A ruthless performance in the second set gave De Minaur no hope of a comeback as he struggled on serve, while Sinner revelled in the support from a raucous crowd.It was a relentless performance from Sinner, who faced just one break point in the match and converted five of his own 10 opportunities.Earlier on Sunday, Arnaldi had got Italy off to a dream start against Popyrin in a tense first singles match. In a tricky opening set, both players exchanged breaks of serve as Popyrin, ranked 40th in the world, saved set points but was wasteful with his own opportunities, handing the Italian the first set when he pushed a return into the net.The Australian found his rhythm in the second set, racing to a double break advantage before serving out to force a decider.But the nerves that seemed to have dissipated in the second set returned in the third as Popyrin squandered eight break points before Arnaldi seized his moment on Popyrin's serve, converting his first match point."I won one of the most important matches in my life, I don't know what to say right now," an emotional Arnaldi said on court after his victory.Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni took to social media to congratulate the team, posting on X: "A historic result - congratulations to our players for the talent and commitment they have shown and also to all the staff."AnalysisBBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller in MalagaThe head-to-head record - that was Sinner's sixth win out of six against de Minaur - suggested an Italian win, but the manner of the 22-year-old's victory was quite breathtaking.A perfect five wins in a week, one of them from three match points down to Djokovic in Saturday's semi-final, underlined Sinner's late season brilliance.Djokovic won the Davis Cup with Serbia as a 23-year-old and never looked back. Will we one day say the same about Sinner?But in many ways the hero of the day was another 22-year-old - the world number 44 Arnaldi, who fought off break points left, right and centre before pinching victory against Popyrin.The atmosphere all week was fabulous. Debate about the best format for the competition will continue, but there can be no doubt Malaga and the International Tennis Federation put on a great show.

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