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The Masters: English amateur Laird Shepherd relishing ‘surreal’ Augusta National debut | Golf News

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English amateur champion Laird Shepherd says it has not yet sunk in that he has earned a place in The Masters

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English amateur champion Laird Shepherd says it has not yet sunk in that he has earned a place in The Masters

English amateur champion Laird Shepherd says it has not yet sunk in that he has earned a place in The Masters

English amateur Laird Shepherd is eagerly looking forward to his “surreal” Masters debut after qualifying in dramatic style last year.

The 24-year-old won the 126th Amateur Championship at Nairn in June, producing an astonishing comeback to beat fellow Englishman Monty Scowsill having been eight down after 17 holes of the 36-hole final.

With a place in the Masters, Open Championship and US Open at stake, he was still four down with four to play but won them all before clinching the title on the second extra hole.

“For some reason I never really felt I was going to lose and I just kept myself alive. To come through at the second extra hole I couldn’t believe it,” Shepherd told Sky Sports News at Augusta National.

Shepherd’s victory was all the more remarkable given his struggles with back and knee injuries which often meant he would go months without touching a club, and he had been contemplating returning to university to study for another degree just 10 days before the final.

He also worked in a Tesco call centre during lockdown but has since competed in the Open Championship at Royal St George’s and made the cut in the Cazoo Classic on the DP World Tour.

Shepherd in action at The Open at Royal St George's Golf Club last year where he missed the cut by two shots

Shepherd in action at The Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club last year where he missed the cut by two shots

A “surreal” Masters debut now awaits Shepherd and he will also play in the US Open in June.

“It probably won’t sink in until I peg it up on Thursday,” he added. “I never really got this far in my dreams because it just didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen. It’s pretty surreal to be here and I’m looking forward to it.

“Just over a year ago I was working in a call centre in Dundee for Tesco. I’d been struggling for the last three-and-a-half or four years with injuries and hadn’t really been able to play a set schedule because of that.

“I was starting to think about doing other things to be honest, so in terms of Covid it almost hit at the right time because it gave me a bit of time to reassess what I needed to do to get healthy and get playing and I was able to keep that going and obviously play some golf and play some decent golf.”

‘You’d love to play with Tiger’

Shepherd will learn on Tuesday who he will be playing alongside for the first two rounds and although he says he is happy to play with anyone, he does have one particular player in mind in the shape of five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, who will make a “game-time decision” about making a remarkable comeback after travelling to Augusta National on Sunday.

“Honestly I would take anyone – anyone playing in this field is pretty good at golf so it will be fun to learn from anyone I get a chance to,” said Shepherd.

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“Obviously you’d love to play with Tiger. To think, growing up, to now playing in the same event as him, potentially – we will see what happens – it would be just completely surreal. I will probably try my best to seek him out at some stage just to say hello.

“The guy is just a god, he has such an aura and personally having the injury troubles I’ve had to watch someone like him consistently come back and put the hard yards in to come and play tournament golf again is pretty inspiring. Golf owes him a lot.”

Professional plan after US Open

After playing in The Masters and US Open as an amateur, Shepherd plans to turn professional.

He said: “I’ll probably be turning pro on the Monday after the US Open all going well. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and these events give me a good start on that journey I suppose.

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“[I will] try and learn a lot and gain experience and then we will see what we can do. Just securing a card for next year is my goal and go from there.

“I have the utmost respect for anyone that’s playing professional golf because it’s a grind. It means you have to enjoy stuff like this because it might never happen again. I’ll be enjoying this week for sure.”

Shepherd twins have busy week ahead

One member of Shepherd’s family who will not be at Augusta National to watch him is his twin brother, Callum, a leading Flat jockey who is set to be riding on the all-weather on Thursday and Friday.

Jockey Callum Shepherd has ridden 14 winners so far this year

Jockey Callum Shepherd has ridden 14 winners so far this year

“It’s not the same as being there but I’ll be following him as closely as I can. For him being there is very, very special but I hope he can play some good golf,” Callum Shepherd told the Racing Post.

“My parents are going over with some family friends. They’ve rented a house but I’m going to stick it out here at the likes of Redcar [on Monday].”

When is The Masters live on Sky Sports?

What time does The Masters coverage start? What extra feeds are available? How can I follow the action from Augusta National? Our guide to watching the opening men’s major of the year live on Sky Sports Golf.

Monday April 4

1700-1900 – On the Range LIVE!

1900-2200 – Live from The Masters

Tuesday April 5

1400-2200 – Live from The Masters

Wednesday April 6

1400-1900 – Live from The Masters

1900-2230 – The Masters: Par-3 contest LIVE!

Thursday April 7

1400-1930 – Featured Groups LIVE!

1930-0030 – The Masters: Day one LIVE!

Red button (exact timings TBC) – 1330 On the Range, 1430 Holes 4-6, 1545 Amen Corner, 1645 Holes 15-16, 1830 Featured Groups

Friday April 8

1400-1930 – Featured Groups LIVE!

1930-0030 – The Masters: Day two LIVE!

Red button (exact timings TBC) – 1330 On the Range, 1430 Holes 4-6, 1545 Amen Corner, 1645 Holes 15-16, 1830 Featured Groups

Saturday April 9

0900-1200 – Masters Breakfast LIVE!

1500-1930 – The Masters build-up LIVE!

1930-0030 – The Masters: Day three LIVE!

Red button (exact timings TBC) – 1515 Featured Groups, 1530 Holes 4-6, 1600 On the Range, 1645 Amen Corner, 1730 Holes 15-16

Sunday April 10

0900-1200 – Masters Breakfast LIVE!

1500-1830 – The Masters build-up LIVE!

1830-0030 – The Masters: Day four LIVE!

Red button (exact timings TBC) – 1515 Featured Groups, 1530 Holes 4-6, 1600 On the Range, 1645 Amen Corner, 1730 Holes 15-16

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Malo Gusto transfer news: Chelsea agree £26.3m deal for Lyon right-back with player returning to France on loan | Football News

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Chelsea have reached an agreement in principle with Lyon for the signing of right-back Malo Gusto.

The west London side have agreed to pay £26.3m plus add-ons for the services of the 19-year-old, who will join the club in the summer.

Lyon head coach Laurent Blanc said that the board had guaranteed to him that Gusto would stay at the club for the rest of the season.

“The board have guaranteed to me that (Rayan) Cherki and Malo Gusto will be here until the end of the season,” Blanc told reporters on Friday.

The statement echoed the thoughts of president Jean-Michel Aulas Aulas who took to social media and declared Gusto would continue with the French giants beyond this transfer window.

But it appears the club has bowed down to the player’s wishes and while Chelsea have agreed the deal, Gusto will now be loaned back to Lyon for the remainder of this campaign.

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Chelsea wanted a deal now as they are aware other clubs – such as Manchester United and Tottenham – are interested in the France U21 international.

Reece James has played just once for Chelsea since October 11 due to a knee injury, with the sole appearance – against Bournemouth last month – seeing him aggravate the issue and return to the sidelines.

The England international also missed several months of the 2021/22 season with a hamstring injury.

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The Transfer Show’s Dharmesh Sheth and Kaveh Solhekol round up the latest transfer news from all 20 Premier League clubs.

Chelsea are determined to sign a midfielder and right-back this month, despite already spending almost £500m on new players this season.

The Blues have signed 16 players since Todd Boehly’s consortium purchased the club last summer, but remain keen to add to head coach Graham Potter’s squad during the January window.

Enzo Fernandez is still a target and Chelsea are considering making a new bid for the Benfica and Argentina midfielder.

How much have Chelsea spent in January so far?

Chelsea have splashed the cash under Todd Boehly
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Chelsea have splashed the cash under Todd Boehly

Chelsea’s January spending has risen to £190m now the Noni Madueke signing has been completed.

Here are the deals the Blues have made:

  • Benoit Badiashile – Monaco, £35m
  • David Datro Fofana – Molde, undisclosed (reported £10m deal)
  • Andrey Santos – Vasco da Gama, undisclosed (reported £18m deal)
  • Joao Felix – Atletico Madrid, £9.7m loan
  • Mykhailo Mudryk – Shakhtar Donetsk, £88.5m
  • Noni Madueke – PSV Eindhoven

Chelsea have now spent around £460m since Todd Boehly became the new owner of the club, having spent £270m in the summer transfer window.

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window closes at 11pm on Tuesday January 31, 2023.

Keep up to date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.



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Women’s leagues WNBA, etc. have ushered in sports’ golden age

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Image for article titled A rising tide lift all boats and it's time we threw Jason Whitlock’s ilk overboard

Image: Getty Images

Choosing between women’s and men’s sports is a false choice. If you’re a certain blogger for Glenn Beck’s conservative Blaze media, revisionist history can be a comfort zone that vilifies feminism in sports as your woke sports boogeyman, but makes you look like a headass instead. Jason Whitlock’s resentment-driven tweet on women’s basketball’s place at the bottom of the sports hierarchy eventually led to a longer missive against women’s societal advancements and the fall of masculinity.

Oddly enough, in a link I don’t care to share, Whitlock proceeded to blame feminism for everything ranging from drag queens, to the degradation of the nuclear family, and the decline of biblical values. In Whitlock’s opinion, the glass ceiling wasn’t sturdy enough.

He pontificated in his Wednesday column: “As technology advanced and curbed the natural hardships of basic survival, American men led the world in granting freedom and autonomy to women. Feminists have taken advantage of man’s instinct to please women, casting themselves as long-suffering victims of male supremacy, and reshaped American society into a culture that favors the weaker sex.”

In fairness to Whitlock, let’s analyze all the excellent points he made.

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Hold on a second. I read the entire screed. Something will squeeze out soon…

Whitlock spews more garbage

He did attempt to trace a crooked link between modern society and early man’s roles as hunter-gathers, but it doubled as a rant against evolution. Imagine beginning your argument for a return to medieval masculinity by bemoaning women’s sports on TV. As usual, the intellectual cupboard is bare. Whitlock’s fragility over women’s sports is indicative of the obstacles women in workplaces have always faced. For a contingent of dudes who take his word as gospel though, women’s sports are their bête noire.

Battling over an alternate view of history that makes a case for how sexism was good or opining that the women from the Greatest Generation who took occupations in defense plants and factories during the war effort of the 1940s defanged American culture is a fascinating insight into how a twisted mind justifies itself. Don’t give yourself hemorrhoids trying to mine wisdom from those thought turds, and never roll with a pig in his sty.

Women’s leagues have helped usher in sports’ golden age

If you’ve browsed the front page of Deadspin’s space lately, or any industry leaders like Fox Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, or Yahoo Sports, you’d know the myth of the feminist agenda pushing men’s sports aside is a pile of crap. America’s Big 4 leagues, plus NASCAR, Formula 1, college football, and college basketball have reigned supreme since being given a 50 to 75-year year head start over organized women’s athletics.

In a few short months, the U.S. Women’s National Team will defend their World Cup so you can expect to see their faces plastered all over ESPN screens between now and then. The USWNT has won half of the first eight Women’s World Cups FIFA’s held, but had to grapple with U.S. Soccer for pay commensurate with men last year. Their decades-long push was reminiscent of Billie Jean King and the “Original Nine’s” early enterprising. Their revolutionary founding of the WTA is one of the impetus for women’s tennis being on a more equal footing with the men’s tour.

The most prominent leagues have had to share space in an increasingly crowded room (pickleball has entered the chat), but this is the golden age of live sports. The continued growth of women’s leagues has been nearly as monumental as streaming has been to prestige television. The only downside to the panoply of options at our disposal is the paradox of choice.

Dawn Staley and Kim Mulkey are college basketball titans

Today men’s college basketball is in a rut. It’s as rife with parity, as it is empty in name-brand, blue-chip talent, or upper-echelon teams. The inverse of men’s hoops’ suboptimal tornado of middle-of-the-road teams, is happening in the division where Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks are cruising toward a repeat. Fans love dynasties and one may be building in Columbia.

UConn is still a threat on Feb. 5, however, its biggest obstacle resides within the SEC.

Kim Mulkey and Staley have taken the baton as college basketball’s preeminent rivalry. The juiciest storyline in college basketball, regardless of gender, is the upcoming tilt between the only undefeated teams left in the nation. Hopefully, someone informs Alfalfa’s He-Man Womun Haters club not to switch on the late-night SportsCenter shows on the night of Feb. 18.

The halcyon yesteryear of the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is long gone in the Vols’ post-Pat Summitt era. Even with former Naismith Player of the Year Paige Bueckers on the mend for the entire season and phenom Azzi Fudd in and out of the lineup, UConn has been firmly entrenched in the top 10. Tennessee is still on the road back to prominence under Kellie Harper and was promptly smacked down by the Huskies on Thursday night.

While we’re on that note, contrary to the Blaze TV blogger’s soliloquy about women’s advancements coming off the backs of men’s work, the infrastructure for modern women’s basketball was originally built by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. At its peak, the AIAW’s membership consisted of 280 colleges that held championships across 19 sports, including women’s hoops. The AIAW was a women’s collegiate sports organization founded by women, but in 1981, the NCAA took over from the AIAW after 120 schools left for the more economically advantaged NCAA.

Breanna Stewart’s free agency

Over in the WNBA, free agency is in full bloom. Candace Parker is vacillating on whether to wind her career down in Chicago or with one last hurrah in Los Angeles. Free agent center Brionna Jones, the reigning Sixth Player of the Year, is essentially seeking to branch out after her second Finals appearance. Think of a bigger James Harden in 2012, trying to loosen himself from Oklahoma City’s bench.

The bulk of WNBA free agency attention is trained on Breanna Stewart’s movements. Reportedly, Stewart has whittled her choice down to approximately four teams, including her home state New York Liberty, a pairing with Elena Delle Donne in Washington, running it back with a depleted Seattle Storm roster, or zagging unexpectedly to the Minnesota Lynx.

There’s no planned primetime TV special starring Jim Gray, or Hannah Storm for the internet Whitlocks to carp about, but the Liberty are what everyone in the league office is undoubtedly rooting for. Imagine if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh had chosen the Knicks in 2010. Or if Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Harden had been a more well-adjusted collection of personalities. Stewart linking up with 2020’s No. 1 overall pick, Sabrina Ionescu, recently acquired 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, and free agent Courtney Vandersloot would be the culmination of an arms race with the Las Vegas Aces.

In addition to looking out for her own future, Stewart is using her clout to engineer solutions to funding charter flights for the league’s 12 teams. Stewart’s efforts have reignited the discourse around the WNBA’s problematic travel arrangements. We’ve long known that cramming long athletes onto commercial flights dozens of times a season is a hindrance to peak performance, but the WNBA hasn’t quite taken it to heart yet and Stewart’s not keen on waiting until the CBA expires in 2028 to address it.

Ultimately, for every sports fan with Whitlock’s attitude, there’s Kobe Bryant. Kobe and others understood that a rising tide lifts all boats. In his final years, Kobe became an advocate for women’s hoops. Then, three years and a day ago, he perished on his way to coach his daughter’s AAU team. But if you’re having trouble choosing between living in a shared reality where the Black Mamba’s noblesse oblige spirit is considered ruinous to culture or one where internet Whitlocks signify strength, your worldview is bass-ackwards and you’ve got your head on the wrong side of your torso.



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Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager

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Arsenal will face City at the Etihad Stadium tonight, with Guardiola’s former assistant back on his old North West stomping ground in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.

Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.

“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.

“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”

Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.

City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.

“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.

“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”



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