Time to step up Tiger and Rory - after a blockbuster week for sports, The Open needs you

By Sports Desk July 15, 2019
The Open organisers will be hoping for a big week from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy The Open organisers will be hoping for a big week from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy

How do you top what happened on Sunday?

That question will be asked by the R&A in the next few days ahead of the 148th Open Championship after a weekend of phenomenal sporting drama.

At Lord's, hosts and pre-tournament favourites England won the men's Cricket World Cup for the first time in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Ben Stokes' heroics with the bat took England into an unlikely Super Over with New Zealand, after a scarcely believable final six balls yielded the 15 runs England required to tie the game.

The drama was not over there, not even close.

England posted New Zealand a target of 16 in their additional over. The Black Caps could only match their opponents despite Jofra Archer coughing up a wide on his first delivery and then being hit for six from the next, meaning Eoin Morgan's men won by the way of boundary count in a finale befitting any Hollywood blockbuster.

Just down the road at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer served up a five-set classic in the men's singles final.

The two modern-day greats went toe to toe as Wimbledon's new rule enforced from 2019 saw a final-set tie-break come into play at 12-12. It was Djokovic who defended his title to deny Federer a ninth Wimbledon crown and 21st slam overall after almost five hours of gruelling, gripping tennis.

A Super Over, a super tie-break, a super day of unimaginable sport. 

Which is why there will be so much expectation on golf's biggest stars to deliver when The Open returns to Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years.

If the action on the course can be as mesmerising as the picturesque backdrops surrounding the Dunluce Links then it will be job done. There is a growing sense that the game's biggest stars need to deliver a show, though.

How tournament organisers would love a repeat of Tiger Woods' dramatic Masters triumph in April, which ended his 11-year wait for major glory.

A fourth Open triumph was on the cards a year ago at Carnoustie when Woods surged into contention, only to fall away in what was a familiar story in 2018 as Francesco Molinari claimed a richly deserved win.

The crowds following Woods that day were 10-people deep, desperately scrambling for the best vantage point of the global icon. That is the draw he has - how timely it would be for golf if he could generate that same buzz at Portrush.

One man who will draw the crowds regardless of performance is Rory McIlroy, who will carry the weight of an expectant home crowd on his shoulders.

It was back in 2005 as a precocious, curly haired 16-year-old that McIlroy took Portrush to bits in the North of Ireland Championship to fire a course-record 61.

Changes to the course since mean such heroics are unlikely to be repeated, but McIlroy will be aware that now is the prime time to end a barren run of five years without a major title.

Brooks Koepka is another with the skills to bring the thrills having turned himself into a major-winning machine. Were it not for Gary Woodland's fantastic performance at Pebble Beach, he would have had a third consecutive U.S. Open to his name last month.

The rest of a star-studded field can play their part too, with recent history suggesting we can get a tournament to rival the dramas that unfolded elsewhere on Sunday. It is three years since Henrik Stenson outbattled Phil Mickelson in one the most memorable final days in Open history at Troon, while a year later it was Jordan Spieth's recovery from an infamous meltdown to deny Matt Kuchar that stole the headlines at Birkdale.

A daunting gauntlet has admittedly been laid down by the events at Lord's and Wimbledon, but golf will hope the star turns can take centre stage at Portrush.

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    Gareth Southgate has sought to act quickly and decisively to draw a line under the matter, but the England manager can at least take comfort from the fact he is far from the first boss to have to try to defuse a team-mates' tiff.

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    Neymar v Nelson Semedo

    Neymar's world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain dominated Barcelona's preparation for the 2017-18 season, and all was not well on the training ground in the weeks leading up to the €222million switch.

    Recent arrival Nelson Semedo became involved in a skirmish with the wantaway star in what proved to be an unseemly coda to his time at Camp Nou.

    "I just arrived and one of the most important players in the team got in a fight with me," Semedo told Sport five months on from the July 2017 fracas. "It annoyed me at the time, but I also understood he was in a difficult moment, he wanted to leave."

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Oguchi Onyewu

    Never a shrinking violet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasts a career of confrontation in football. The taekwondo black-belt seemingly came close to meeting his match in USA defender Oguchi Onyewu when both played for AC Milan.

    "I head-butted him, and we flew at each other," Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography. "We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious – it was like life and death.

    David Beckham v Alex Ferguson

    Many a Manchester United player felt the heat of Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdryer' during the Scot's historic Old Trafford reign but – as far as we're aware – his ferocious words never actually drew blood.

    The same could not be said for a stray boot in the United dressing room, though, when David Beckham was given a rocket by his boss in the aftermath of a February 2003 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal during the midfielder's final season at the club.

    "He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye," Ferguson explained. The resulting cut and butterfly plaster predictably dominated as the UK tabloids gorged on the fallout. 

    Mario Balotelli v Micah Richards

    Mario Balotelli was rarely far away from behind-the-scenes controversy at Manchester City, allegedly throwing darts at youth team players and once even grappling with his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini.

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    "We were playing five-a-side and we were losing because he didn't work, which is evident,' Micah Richards told Sky quiz show 'A League of Their Own' in 2016. "He swore at me in Italian and he thought I didn't understand. But I know a bit of Italian lingo, so I said, 'Who you talking to?' He said it again, so we squared up and I offered him out. But he said no."

    Craig Bellamy v John Arne Riise

    Balotelli's arrival at City in August 2010 came around the same time as Craig Bellamy was tying up a loan move to Cardiff City, leaving us all to wonder what might have happened had the combustible duo shared a dressing room for any period of time. John Arne Riise, perhaps, has a fair idea.

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    While the risks of a rowdy team karaoke session might seem obvious in hindsight, sometimes even yoga isn't safe.

    Aboubakar Kamara had not appeared particularly zen when he grabbed the ball off Aleksandar Mitrovic to take and miss a penalty during Fulham's December 2018 Premier League game against Huddersfield Town.

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    - Paris Saint-Germain are looking to the future. Sport reports the Ligue 1 giants are seriously considering a move for Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have been linked with moves away from PSG and the 19-year-old could help the French club going forward.

    - Manchester City and Real Madrid could be set for a transfer battle. The clubs are interested in Real Sociedad and Spain forward Mikel Oyarzabal, according to CalcioMercato. The 22-year-old has scored 29 LaLiga goals since the start of 2017-18.

    - Unai Emery has some time. The Sun reports the under-fire Arsenal head coach will be given until 2020 to turn the club's form around. It also reports Manchester City would allow assistant Mikel Arteta – an ex-Arsenal midfielder – to head to Emirates Stadium, should his former club want to appoint the Spaniard.

    - Liverpool could strengthen in January. TalkSPORT reports the Premier League leaders are in advanced talks with Bournemouth over a deal to sign winger Ryan Fraser, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Bournemouth may want Harry Wilson – who is on loan from Liverpool – as part of a deal.

    - Struggling in ninth in Serie A, Fiorentina may be ready to move on from Vincenzo Montella. The club are ready to make an approach for former Inter coach Luciano Spalletti, according to Firenze Viola.

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    Rory McIlroy joked he may have beaten Tiger Woods for the first and last time after a statistic shared on social media indicated the world number two had set a new record.

    A Twitter post reported McIlroy, who turned 30 in May, had become the youngest player to spend 500 weeks inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    According to the post, this betters the great Woods, the present number seven, who was four months older than McIlroy when he achieved the same feat.

    Taking to his official Instagram account, McIlroy posted a screenshot of the statistic to his story and wrote: "The first (and maybe last) thing I've ever beaten Tiger at."

    McIlroy, a four-time major winner, first moved into the top 10 in 2009, going on to become world number one three years later. 

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