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Tiger struggles with back issues as Memorial cut looms

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WASHINGTON, United States, Jul 17 – Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods struggled with back issues on his way to a four-over par 76 on Friday and possibly a first-ever missed cut at the PGA Memorial tournament.

The 44-year-old superstar, playing his first PGA event since February after a tour shutdown in March over the coronavirus pandemic, has never missed the cut in 17 prior starts at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

But the 15-time major winner, whose total ranks second only to the 18 won by Memorial host Jack Nicklaus, made five bogeys and a double bogey against three birdies in round two after an opening 71 on Thursday.

“Not very good,” Woods said. “I 3-putted two holes early. Whatever momentum I was going to create, I stifled that early and struggled the rest of the day.”

Woods said his back began bothering him when he was warming up before the round, noting, “It’s going to happen more times than not these days.”

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His back, which like his knees has been surgically repaired multiple times, affected his swing, saying, “It was a bit of a struggle.”

Woods had not played since February at Riviera and the back issues come with the year’s first major in a COVID-19 shuffled schedule coming on August 6-9 at the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Woods stood on three-over par 147 after 36 holes, just on the projected cut line as the last players teed off in the round.

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“I would like to have the opportunity to play tomorrow,” Woods said. “Hopefully the cut will fall one more and I’ll have the opportunity.”

Woods, who began Friday on the back nine, put his approach to three feet at the par-3 12th and made birdie, but missed a three-foot par putt at 13 and sent his first three shots into the rough on the way to a bogey at the par-5 15th.

World number 14 Woods found a fairway bunker and needed four shots to reach the green on his way to a bogey at 17 then made a double bogey at the first to begin his second nine of the day.

Bogeys at the par-4 second and sixth holes followed before Woods bounced back with birdies at the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth. But he needed three shots to reach the green and a seven-foot putt to salvage par at the last just to have hopes at making the weekend.

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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