Richie Mo'unga plundered a hat-trick as the Crusaders demolished the Reds 63-28 in Brisbane, with the champions of New Zealand swamping their Australian counterparts in Super Rugby Trans Tasman.

In just the second round of the competition, the Canterbury giants showed off their prowess and Mo'unga served up a dazzling offering of his quality.

The All Blacks fly-half was in inspired form from the off, and by the half-hour mark he had already snagged a pair of clinical tries and set up Sevu Reece to dart in for another stunning score. With Cullen Grace also sprinting through for a try, and Mo'unga clinical from the tee, the rampaging Crusaders were 28-0 ahead after just 29 minutes.

Tate McDermott got the Reds on the board with their first try, but the Crusaders kept the points flowing, Reece dashing in at the right corner to increase their lead to 35-7 early in the second half, before Mo'unga got his third try after 55 minutes, dotting down near the posts to allow himself an easy conversion.

A penalty try, accompanied by a yellow card for Harry Hoopert, nudged the Crusaders 49-7 ahead, but curiously the 14-man Reds then enjoyed their best spell, as Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu scored classy tries to reduce their deficit to 49-21 going into the final 15 minutes.

Hopes of further damage limitation were crushed when Tamaiti Williams powered over and Codie Taylor added another try to emphasise a devastating team performance, before Brandon Paenga-Amosa barged in for a last-gasp consolation.

Luke Jacobson earlier crossed twice as the Chiefs ran in six tries in a 40-19 victory over the Brumbies in Hamilton.

The hosts overwhelmed their visitors, with Jacobson landing a first-half double, collecting from the back of the scrum and crossing from close range each time, and further tries coming from Tupou Vaa'i, Damian McKenzie, Alex Nankivell and Anton Lienert-Brown.

McKenzie booted five conversions, with the result never in doubt. The Brumbies responded through tries from Len Ikitau, Tom Cusack and, right at the death, Rob Valetini.

Wing Bryce Heem grabbed a hat-trick for a rampant Blues side whose second-half dominance secured a 48-21 win against the Waratahs.

Armed with a 22-14 half-time advantage, the Blues raised their game for the second 40 minutes and pulled away, inflicting a 10th straight defeat of the season on the visitors to Eden Park.

Justin Burrowes shot a three-under-par score of 69 Friday to extend his lead to eight strokes on day two of the Alliance National Amateur Golf Championship at the Caymanas Golf Club.

Following his opening-round score of 73 on Thursday, Burrowes, the only golfer to post an under-par score so far in the championship, has a two-day score of 142.

Dr Mark Newnham is currently in second place following his second-round score of 74, for a combined score of 150. Newnham shot a 76 in the first round that had left him fourth on the leaderboard.

Meanwhile, defending champion William Knibbs is a further three strokes back after a particularly rough round.  He shot 79 to go along with his 74 on day one for a two-day total of 153, 11 strokes off the leader.

Burrowes believes consistency was key to his play on Friday.

“Today (Friday) was, I would say kind of more of the same as yesterday (Thursday).  I just felt like I made more putts today, definitely driving it well, hitting it well, doing all the parts of the game pretty well right now,” said Burrowes, who made three birdies on the front nine as well as two more on the back that were cancelled by two bogeys.

 “It was just about execution and today I went out and executed pretty well.  Still, something to build on, I still missed a few putts I thought I should have made but all in all the conditions today were pretty tough with the rain and the wind.  I felt like I managed it pretty well but still I know I left a couple out there and tomorrow (Saturday) that's what I am going go after."

Among the ladies, day one leader Jodi Munn-Barrow held her lead after shooting five over par 77 on day two.  Her round included three bogeys and a double bogey for a combined total of 149 (72 and 77). "Today was also another difficult day.  It started out being very hot and extremely windy and then the rains came.  We had to stop and then go back on the course so it was very difficult to maintain concentration,” she said.

“(The) course played tough again but overall pleased with my game. I felt like I kept it together well for the 18 holes even with the distractions that were there, so I am hoping I can do the same tomorrow and put up another good score."

Second place Samantha Azan shot 16 over for an 88 to close day two on 169.  She is followed by Winni Lau, who shot 90 on both days for a total score of 180.

Scores for the Ladies 13 - 24 category are Valerie Grant 105 (206) and Suzan White 110 (216).

The Men 7-12 category had two golfers with scores of 78 for Thajae Richards for a total of 166 who still leads Richard White, who shot 93 and now totals 190.

There is a new leader in the Men Senior 0-12 category with Tony Allison 80 (162) ahead of former Cricket West Indies president Dave Cameron 77 (164) in second and Vikram Dhuman 90 (170) copping the third spot.

The Men Super Senior 0-12 also has a new leader in George Hugh with a 76 (158).  The day one leader, former JGA president Wayne Chai Chong shot 80 (159), while Robert Chin 79 (160) is in third.

 The final male category - Men Super Senior 13 and over, with one occupant - Desmond Brown scored 92 for a two-day total of 189.

The golfers will tee off at 7:30 am on Saturday.

 

 

The rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants is one of the fiercest in MLB, and Trevor Bauer wasted no time staking out his territory Friday. 

The Dodgers' high-priced off-season acquisition was his usual demonstrative self in his first start against the Giants since joining the team, and made no apologies for it afterward. 

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner allowed only two hits and an unearned run while striking out a season-high 11 batters in the 2-1 Los Angeles win. But Bauer was not content to let his pitching do the talking. 

After striking out Alex Dickerson to end the fourth with Giants runners on second and third base, Bauer stopped on his way off the mound and acted as if he was sheathing a sword. 

When he departed the game with one out if the seventh inning, he put his hand to his right ear, egging on the jeering San Francisco fans, before spreading both arms like a professional wrestling villain. 

"They're going to hate me anyway," Bauer told reporters. "Might as well lean into it.

"I like when the crowd is into it; it makes the moment feel bigger and I perform better in those moments. It just feeds me.”

The man who signed a three-year contract worth $102million with the World Series champions this winter improved to 5-2 while lowering his ERA to 1.98, but he was more interested in the atmosphere than the numbers. 

"The fans wanted to boo me so I wanted them to turn the volume up," Bauer said.

"If you're going to boo me, don't half-whatever it around the stadium -- just give it to me."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had no objections to Bauer's playing to the crowd. 

“I think the gamesmanship, the fun, the banter back-and-forth, he dishes it out and he can take it,” Roberts said. “It’s just great for the game. It’s a lot of fun.”

Giants starter Alex Wood, who suffered his first loss of the season after starting 5-0, shrugged off Bauer's showmanship. 

"I'm sure that Giants fans will love to hate Trevor and he'll love that they hate him," Wood said. 

The New York Yankees have been playing baseball since 1903, but their 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday was unique among those thousands of games. 

For the first time in franchise history, the Yankees turned a triple play and earned a walk-off win in the same game. 

After the White Sox put two runners on with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela started a triple play - the Yankees' first since 2014 - to end the threat. 

In the bottom of the inning, Gleyber Torres singled to left field to drive home Aaron Judge with the winning run. 

Torres had homered in the seventh to open the scoring after a brilliant pitchers' duel between New York's Jordan Montgomery and Chicago's Carlos Rodon. 

Rodon struck out 13 and allowed just two hits in six innings, while Jordan fanned 11 while allowing four hits in his seven scoreless innings. 

According to Stats Perform, it was the first time in the modern era both starting pitchers had at least 10 strikeouts while allowing no walks and no runs.

 

Bauer, Dodgers edge Giants

Trevor Bauer and two relievers held the San Francisco Giants to just two hits and Chris Taylor's two-run homer proved the difference in a 2-1 Los Angeles Dodgers win Friday. Bauer out-dueled San Francisco starter Alex Wood as the Dodgers won a one-run game for the first time since April 24 after dropping their past six one-run affairs. 

Entering Friday, Tampa Bay Rays catcher Francisco Mejia was one for 13 in his career with the bases loaded, the one hit a walk-off grand slam in September 2018 when he played for the San Diego Padres. He went deep again Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays, with a two-out grand slam in the 12th inning that ended up being enough for a 9-7 Rays win. It was the eighth consecutive victory for Tampa Bay. 

Ronald Acuna Jr and Ehire Adrianza each hit grand slams as the Atlanta Braves mauled the Pittsburgh Pirates 20-1. Atlanta hit seven home runs in total, becoming the first team with at least that many homers, including two grand slams, in MLB history, according to Stats Perform.

Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs, including a seventh-inning grand slam, to help the Detroit Tigers a 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals. Cabrera has 491 career homers, two away from tying Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 28th on the all-time list. 

Stephen Strasburg allowed just one hit to the 20 batters he faced in his first start since April 13, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles in his return from a stint on the injured list with shoulder inflammation. 

Jesse Winker had three solo home runs for the Cincinnati Reds in their 9-4 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. 

 

Padres pound Flexen

Seattle Mariners starter Chris Flexen had picked up the win in three of his past four starts entering Friday but could not make it through two innings against the San Diego Padres. Flexen allowed 11 of the 16 Padres he faced to reach base, and eight of them scored on the way to a 16-1 Seattle loss. Flexen's ERA jumped from 3.46 to 5.09 in the process. 

 

Garcia gives Rangers the win

The Texas Rangers blew a 4-1 lead over the Houston Astros by allowing three in the eighth inning, then saw Houston go ahead in the 10th, but Adolis Garcia's walk-off home run gave the Rangers the win over their in-state rivals. It was the rookie's 12th homer of the season. 

 

Friday's results

Boston Red Sox 11-3 Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals 4-2 Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees 2-1 Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins 10-0 Cleveland Indians
New York Mets 6-5 Miami Marlins
Cincinnati Reds 9-4 Milwaukee Brewers
Atlanta Braves 20-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Tampa Bay Rays 9-7 Toronto Blue Jays
Texas Rangers 7-5 Houston Astros
Detroit Tigers 7-5 Kansas City Royals
Chicago Cubs 12-3 St Louis Cardinals
Colorado Rockies 7-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
Oakland Athletics 8-4 Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres 16-1 Seattle Mariners

 

White Sox at Yankees

The New York Yankees (26-19) will try to extend their winning streak to five games as Gerrit Cole (5-2, 2.03 ERA) takes the mound against Dylan Cease (2-0, 2.41) and the Chicago White Sox (26-17). 

The NBA playoffs are here!

After some tense one-off play-in games, we can now look forward to thrilling back-and-forth series.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant and all the usual big names will be backed to deliver, but some of their contemporaries have previously found life a little tricky in the postseason.

For five players in particular, it may be do or die as they aim to bolster their reputations or secure their futures.

With the aid of Stats Perform data, we look at the issues this high-profile quartet have encountered in the past...
 

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

In consecutive seasons, Antetokounmpo won the MVP award on a Milwaukee Bucks team with the best record in the NBA. Then, in the playoffs, the 'Greak Freak' failed to inspire a suddenly one-dimensional side.

Those freakish regular season performances were back again in 2020-21, but Antetokounmpo and the Bucks might have run out of excuses if there is no evidence of postseason improvement.

Last year's approach evidently did not work. Antetokounmpo was on a strict minutes restriction across the campaign, averaging 30.4 minutes per game, but he was still unable to make the difference in the playoffs.

As in all but one of his playoff campaigns, the forward's points return was down on the rest of the season – 29.5 to 26.7 – while the Bucks superstar's shaky shooting came to the fore as he made just 58.0 per cent of his free throws, the worst rate of any of the 23 players to visit the foul line more than 50 times.

Now with additional support in the form of Jrue Holiday, Antetokounmpo simply must deliver this year – and Milwaukee start against the Miami Heat team that beat them in five in round two in 2020.
 

JAMES HARDEN

The man Antetokounmpo followed as MVP has too often had the same problem. Harden is a regular season great, but his career to date has been tarnished by playoff failings.

Although Harden had a big role from the bench as the Oklahoma City Thunder reached the 2012 NBA Finals, he averaged just 12.4 points on 37.5 per cent shooting in that 4-1 series defeat to the Heat.

The dominant scorer has never returned to that stage, subsequently joining the Houston Rockets and repeatedly finding the Golden State Warriors a step too far.

The closest Harden and the Rockets came was in 2018, up 3-2 against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before letting big leads slip in both Game 6 and Game 7 – the latter seeing Houston's star man shoot two-of-13 from beyond the arc as his team missed a record-breaking 27 consecutive threes.

Now on the Brooklyn Nets, the 31-year-old will at least have former champions Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to turn to if he needs help, although the guard – still battling a hamstring problem – will no doubt be determined to succeed himself and alter his legacy for the better.
 

PAUL GEORGE

Without ever coming close to a title, despite losing back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals with the Indiana Pacers, George has regularly put up impressive numbers in the postseason. There have also been occasions on which he has looked lost on the big stage, however.

George's career playoff average has been kept to 20.1 by some alarming single-digit displays, notably contributing only five points in 45 minutes on two-of-16 shooting in a decisive Game 6 defeat to the Utah Jazz while with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And despite joining a talented Los Angeles Clippers team, George's woes were only magnified in the 2020 'bubble', where he later revealed he was in a "dark place" and "checked out".

The forward shot 25 per cent or lower from the field in four of 11 games, including the Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Back on song and playing in something approaching normal conditions, George has the opportunity to answer his critics, starting against a Dallas Mavericks team he struggled to master last year. The Clippers will need him in a competitive West.
 

CHRIS PAUL

There has generally been little wrong with the level of Paul's performance in the playoffs, his points average climbing to 20.9 from a career regular season mark of 18.3.

However, his deepest run was on Harden's 2018 Houston team as a hamstring kept him out of those painful last two defeats. For Paul, team success this year outweighs any individual achievements.

In his 16th season, he is entering a 13th postseason campaign but still waiting on a first Finals appearance more than 4,000 minutes in.

One of the great point guards of the modern NBA, Paul will be acutely aware of what a title would do for his legacy. He has helped transform the Phoenix Suns into a real force.

The Lakers in round one represent a daunting start for the Suns – especially having secured the number two seed – but fitness issues throughout the West might make this Paul's best and last chance to get to the Finals.
 

BEN SIMMONS

The Philadelphia 76ers ended the season with the best-rated defense in the East (105.1), but will that be enough in the playoffs? It might have to be.

On offense, Joel Embiid led the team by far with 28.5 points, with Simmons, the Sixers' second superstar, only able to contribute 14.3 – low even by his modest standards at that end of the floor.

Those numbers are unlikely to be able to hang with the Nets' 'big three' or a high-scoring Bucks team unless Philly come up with some significant stops.

Embiid, Simmons and Matisse Thybulle were among five 76ers players counted in the 22 best individual defensive ratings this year, but the pressure will ramp up in the postseason.

Simmons, a former first overall pick and the subject of trade rumours this year, is therefore required to become a playoff difference-maker, whether through improvement on offense or series-turning defensive contributions.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr insists their 2020-21 season should be regarded as a success despite missing the playoffs.

The Warriors lost their play-in game 117-112 in over-time against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, meaning they miss the playoffs for the second straight season.

Golden State had won 15 of their final 20 regular-season matches and eight of their last nine to finish with a 39-33 record, before losing both play-in games.

It was a vast improvement on their 2019-20 campaign where they finished 15-50 following serious injuries to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry and were not invited to the NBA bubble.

"I think this season was absolutely a success," Kerr said during his post-game video conference. "We would’ve loved to have gotten into the playoffs and tried to make a run.

"We were really a good team over the last 22 games. To put together a stretch like that over an entire quarter of the season is not a fluke. We were the number one defense over that span.

"To watch these young guys grow and develop, that makes this a successful season because of what it sets up for next year."

Golden State were also narrowly beaten in Wednesday's play-in game for seventh seed against the Los Angeles Lakers following some late LeBron James magic.

Kerr added: "Obviously a crushing way to go out, two straight games that were basically gut punches.

"We felt we had control of the game the other night and lost and really didn’t have the control of this one and could've won. We had the last shot in regulation [which missed]."

Kerr also praised star shooting guard Curry and Draymond Green on their outstanding seasons.

"Steph and Draymond have had fantastic years," he said. "We made a lot of strides this year and I'm really excited about what's next for this group.

"For now, I'm really disappointed they're not going to get the chance to play in the play-offs. It would’ve been a lot of fun."

A visibly disappointed Stephen Curry admits the Golden State Warriors missing the playoffs again was a "tough way" to end their amazing run but wants to keep sight of the bigger picture.

The Warriors won 15 of their last 20 regular-season matches, including eight of the last nine down the final stretch prior to the play-in tournament where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and were eliminated 117-112 in over-time by the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

Golden State misses the playoffs for a second straight season, but improved to 39-33 after finishing 15-50 last season, and Curry insisted major gains had been made, after being written off earlier in the season following their disastrous 2019-20 campaign.

"From 15 wins last year, injuries and all that, to what we made out of this year, it's pretty damn impressive," Curry said during his post-game video conference.

"It's a very tough way to go out. We would love to be playing on Sunday but you can't lose sight of the big picture in terms of where people had us at the start of the season, with youth, inexperience and line-up changes all year.

"We were two fourth quarters away from being a seventh or eighth seed. It's weird all the way around."

He added: "It's very unfamiliar territory obviously with the play-in and this being the end of the season. It's a very tough way to end it with these last two games coming down to the wire.

"I gave it everything in the tank. I'm proud of every single person in the Oakland uniform tonight and all season."

The 33-year-old shooting guard, who had a remarkable season averaging 32 points per game, added that the Warriors were "sick to their stomachs" post-game.

"We had a good little session in the locker room after the game where everybody was sick to their stomach disappointed this is the end and how you're going out," Curry said.

"It's okay to pat yourself on the back for doing something nobody thought we could do. I don’t think there's any moral victories, but we're proud of ourselves."

Meanwhile, Grizzlies 21-year-old point guard Ja Morant said his side are not fazed by being the youngest team to qualify for the NBA playoffs since the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder side which included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Memphis qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17 as former 2019 number two draft pick Morant, 21, finished with 35 points, six assists and six rebounds.

"We just go out and battle. We know we're a young team," Morant told ESPN.

"We've got some vets who coach us up and lead us. Me being the point guard you have to be a leader. It's my first time making the playoffs but we have some guys who've been in the playoffs before and they’ll help us out."

Morant made two crucial floaters down the stretch to help the Grizzlies to their over-time victory after they blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth.

"That's the shots I want to take," he said. "I like when the pressure is on me. It lifts my game. I've got all the confidence in my game."

The young Memphis Grizzlies have knocked Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors out of the NBA postseason and claimed the eighth seed in the West with a 114-109 over-time win on Friday.

The Grizzlies win through to play the Western Conference top seed Utah Jazz, although they blew a 10-point lead with three minutes to go before triumphing in over-time.

Golden State, who were one of the form teams late in the season, miss the playoffs for the second straight season, while the Grizzlies make their first playoffs since 2016-17.

Ja Morant starred with 35 points including two clutch floaters down the stretch, as well as six rebounds and six assists.

The 21-year-old point guard shot 14-from-29 from the field, including five of 10 from beyond the arc.

It was a big turnaround for Morant who shot one-for-six from three-point range in Sunday's 113-101 loss to the Warriors.

But Morant had great support, with Xavier Tillman (11 points and seven rebounds) draining a crucial three-pointer late as center Jonas Valanciunas had nine points and 12 rebounds before fouling out and Desmond Bane added 10 points including a decisive dunk.

Curry had 39 points for the Warriors, who trailed by 13 at the long interval and looked gone in the last before Draymond Green's back-to-back buckets and Jordan Poole's three put them ahead.

Green finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, while Andrew Wiggins added 22 points and 10 rebounds but the Warriors were always playing catch-up.

The Warriors only managed 12-from-34 from three-point range with Curry defended well by Dillon Brooks, shooting six-from-15 from beyond the arc.

LeBron James has compared Chris Paul's basketball IQ with stars Rajon Rondo and Draymond Green ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers' playoffs series against the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers won through their play-in game against the Golden State Warriors, earning seventh seed and the right to take on the second seed Suns, who are led by experienced point guard Paul.

Four-time NBA champion James has remarkably never faced 11-time NBA All-Star and high school friend Paul in the postseason.

Rondo and Green are widely known for their basketball intelligence and James identified Paul among those lofty standards.

"It's going to be comparable to playing against Rondo in a series, playing against Draymond in a series," James said during a video conference call on Friday.

"You have those out-of-this-world IQ type guys and fierce competitors, at the same time so it's the same thing.

"Every time I faced Rondo in the past, I knew I had to be not only on my A-game as far as my game, but also my mind as well and that's the same with Draymond, every time you go against those Warriors teams.

"I've had experiences with those two guys, so that will definitely help me in matching up with CP [Paul] because I know the competitor and I know the IQ of the basketball player that he is."

The Lakers may be the seventh seed but head into their series with the Suns as the bookmakers favourites, having been 2019-20 champions.

The Suns surprised a lot of people by ending their long playoffs wait and finishing as high as second in the Western Conference.

Suns coach Monty Williams insisted that being considered underdogs did not faze his side.

"We all hear it," Williams said on Friday. "Ultimately you got to get out there and compete for 48 minutes, and that's what we plan to do.

"Did anybody think we were going to win 51 games this year? In a shortened season? Don't think so. So why would we listen to those people now?"

On facing the reigning champions first up, he added: "Our guys aren't bitter. We're looking forward to competing against the Lakers.

"We're not upset or feel like anybody's done something to our Cheerios. We have to go play the Lakers."

Manny Pacquiao is set to return to the ring after an absence of more than two years in a welterweight title showdown with unbeaten Errol Spence Jr. 

Pacquiao and Spence announced the fight on social media Friday. It is set to take place on August 21 in Las Vegas, but the venue has not been determined. 

Spence (27-0) will put his WBC and IBF welterweight straps on the line against the 42-year-old Pacquiao (62-7-2), whose last fight was a July 2019 split decision win against Keith Thurman. 

Pacquiao's win made him the first four-time welterweight champion, but he was stripped of that WBA strap in January due to inactivity. 

The 31-year-old American Spence has successfully defended his IBF belt five times since winning it in May 2017 with a knockout of Kell Brook.

He added the WBC title with a split decision over Shawn Porter in September 2019, but did not fight for more than a year due in part to injuries suffered in an automobile accident the following month. 

Spence returned to the ring with a unanimous decision win over Danny Garcia last December. 

Louis Oosthuizen has come agonisingly close to a second major championship title several times over the past decade, and he is in contention once again at the US PGA Championship. 

The South African shot a 68 Friday under difficult conditions at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island to share the second-round lead with Phil Mickelson at five under par. 

Now more than a decade removed from his 2010 Open Championship triumph, the 38-year-old said he has grown more confident in his ability to handle the pressure that comes with contending for a major over the weekend. 

"Look, anyone playing last group or second to last group ... it'll be nervous. You'll be a little nervous," Oosthuizen said.

"But I know that, and I know how to deal with it or know what I have to do.

"I am definitely more comfortable playing in majors now than before.

"Hitting it well and knowing your game is there, it makes it a little less stress, but you still need to hit the shots and play in the moment and play well."

He did that throughout his round Friday, carding birdies on three of the first six holes before taking a share of the lead after a lovely chip to kick-in distance on the 11th, then taking sole ownership of the lead with a birdie at 12. 

A bogey on 18 was the only blemish on his scorecard, but he had no complaints about his round overall. 

"Drove it as good as I can drive it, and ball-striking was pretty good with the irons," he said. "With really windy conditions, you need that ball-striking to be on song."

Oosthuizen figures to need more of the same in the final two rounds as he looks to get over the hump and return to major glory. 

Since that stunning win at St Andrews, he has finished second or tied for second four times at major championships -- once at each -- falling in play-offs to Bubba Watson at the 2012 Masters and Zach Johnson at the 2015 Open. 

"I don't think it's a case of not being able to or thinking that I can't get the second," he said. "It's just both times I was outplayed.

"Look, it'll be great to get a second major. There's a lot of golf left, and I just feel whenever I get to a major, I sort of have my game where I want to have it, and mentally I feel very strong at a major week."

Two-time US PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka has rated his second day performance at this year's event as a "C-plus" despite remaining firmly in contention at the halfway mark.

Koepka shot a three-under-par 69 on Thursday for a tie for second, before a one-under 71 on Friday at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

The four-time major winner remains second, one shot behind joint leaders Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen who carded 69 and 68 respectively on Friday.

Koepka, who has been battling a knee issue, bogeyed twice in his opening six holes on Friday, before an eagle on the seventh got him back on an even ledger.

He eagled the 11th, birdied the 12th before bogeys on the 15th and 17th, needing a big putt on the 18th to finish one-under for the day.

"C-plus. I missed that short one on four, missed a short one there again on 16," Koepka said. "I thought I struck it great. I drove it a lot better but it's tough to putt in this wind.

"Sometimes you're playing the wind, and sometimes you don't. The wind might take it a little bit, but you're also not trying to firm it either, and have another three-footer coming back.

"I understand everybody else is probably going to miss a few short ones with this wind, but I ball struck my way around this golf course.

"One-under in these conditions, it's okay."

Koepka has battled injuries since his back-to-back PGA Championship titles, having undergone knee surgery in March.

The 31-year-old American had missed the cut in his past two events, including last month's Masters, but insisted injury would not be an issue this week.

"It's a major. It's going to be tough, especially with the wind blowing," he said. "It doesn't matter, just go out and go play.

He added: "This was all easy. Everything I did in rehab was a hell of a lot harder, I can promise you that."

Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen topped a leaderboard filled with major winners at the US PGA Championship, setting up a fascinating weekend at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. 

Mickelson started early and roared to the finish, carding five birdies on the back nine on the way to a 69 that left him at five under par for the tournament before Oosthuizen shot 68 in the afternoon for a share of the overall lead. 

Two-time US PGA winner Brooks Koepka (71) was one stroke back after recording a pair of eagles on Friday, followed by 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (68) at three under. 

Oosthuizen's fellow South Africans Branden Grace (71) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70) also were two back of the leaders. 

First-round leader Corey Conners (75) and 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland (72) were at two under, with reigning U.S. open champion Bryson DeChambeau (71) dropping back to one under after a bogey on 18. 

Players battled windy conditions throughout the day and had an especially difficult time with the last two holes.

Oosthuizen lost his chance to stand alone atop the leaderboard with a bogey on 18 that ensured no one would post a bogey-free round on the first two days of competition, while Grace dropped three strokes on 17 and 18 to mar an otherwise stellar round.

Rory McIlroy (72) saw a move for contention disintegrate with bogeys on the final three holes that left him eight back of the leaders entering Saturday, and Jordan Spieth (75) was in the same spot after bogeys at 17 and 18.

The four-time major champion Koepka had perhaps the most erratic day of any contender, carding just one birdie to go with his eagles at the seventh and 11th and four bogeys. 

Among the notables missing the five-over cut line by one stroke were Dustin Johnson (74), Sergio Garcia (73), Adam Scott (72) and Justin Thomas.

Former major winners also missing out on the weekend include Zach Johnson (78), Jason Dufner (81), Martin Kaymer (77), Rich Beem (77), Charl Schwartzel (79) and John Daly (86). 

The 2009 US PGA Championship winner, Y.E. Yang, was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard but would have missed the cut anyway. 

The play-in tournament may be here to stay with NBA commissioner Adam Silver stating that his personal preference is for it to continue beyond this season.

Teams ranked seventh to 10th in both the Western and Eastern Conference have faced off in the play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth seeds in the 2020-21 season.

The additional spots available for the playoffs added intrigue late in the NBA season, with 24 of the 30 franchises maintaining the possibility of playing in the postseason in the final fortnight.

The play-in tournament has been criticized for being unfair, with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James publicly vocal in his dislike of the concept.

"Whoever came up with that needs to be fired," James said earlier this month.

But Silver defended the play-in tournament, insisting it added vital viewership interest to the season, given the incentives for teams to compete.

"I haven't made any secret that I want it to be [around long term]," Silver told ESPN Radio.

"I have two constituencies I need to convince of that. One is the 30 teams, and I think for the most part they've supported it. I understand the sentiment if I were a team - a seven-seed in particular - the notion [that] after a long season, you could potentially play out of the playoffs. I understand those feelings.

"I think at the same time, the teams recognize the amount of additional interest we've created over the last month of the season plus those play-in games make it worth it.

"Of course, the other constituency is the players. For example, one player, who is on the executive committee of the union, said to me yesterday that he really likes the play-in tournament but he felt it could potentially be a bit unfair.

"For example, if you were the seventh seed and you were a significant number of games ahead of the eight-seed, the notion that you could somehow lose two games and be out of the playoffs seems unfair."

The sides who finished seventh in both conferences won their play-in games to claim seventh seed, while the Washington Wizards eventually took the eighth seed in the East with victory over the Indiana Pacers after finishing eighth.

The Golden State Warriors, who finished eighth on the Western Conference standings, play the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the last play-in game on Friday.

Silver said it is possible that the league will tinker with the current play-in format.

He added: "I'm going to wait only because I know there's people on both sides of it.

"Beyond the individual ratings, and some games have been pretty good and some haven't been as close, but putting aside those games and adding those games to our schedule and the amount of interest in them is where I think the play-in tournament had an impact.

"[It] was causing teams who frankly otherwise may have thrown in the towel some number of weeks back to fight for those last playoff spots."

For the second season in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

It is the same, only different.

A year ago, when the league moved en masse to Florida to finish a season badly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Mavs went up against a team expected to not only make it beyond the first round, but several more after that.

The Clippers were tested, eventually prevailing by a 4-2 scoreline. However, they fell at the next hurdle, letting slip a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semi-finals against the Denver Nuggets. That defeat, and particularly the nature of it, has loomed over them since. Their attempts to bury the memory of such a dramatic collapse begin on Saturday against familiar foes.

Dallas ended the regular season as the fifth seeds in the West, though their 42-30 record was not a huge improvement on a year ago, when a 43-32 finish was good enough to only get seventh spot.

However, since the All-Star break, they have gone 24-14. In Luka Doncic, they have a superstar who has shown little interest in sticking to the schedule, developing at such a rate that, despite averaging 27.7 points per game in his third season, it is perhaps a little surprising he did not force himself more into the MVP conversation.

Doncic had to carry much of the burden against the Clippers a year ago. Kristaps Porzingis' impact diminished due to a knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the final three games. He had also managed to get thrown out in the opener too, having taken umbrage at the attention his young team-mate was receiving to get a second technical foul.

Still, even with a healthy Porzingis available this time around, Dallas will ride or die on the performances of Doncic, whose first playoff experience saw him finish up averaging 31.0 points and 8.7 assists.

Looking back, it seems astonishing that two teams passed up the opportunity to select the dynamic, do-it-all guard in 2018, while a third – the Atlanta Hawks – opted to trade him away to get Trae Young.

At 22, the Slovenian has scored 5,115 points through 199 regular-season games. To put that number into context, LeBron James had 5,097 to his name when he reached the milestone of 200 outings.

Indeed, since 1985-86, the only player to manage 4,000 points, 100 or more assists and hit at least 500 three-pointers though their first 200 games is Damian Lillard – and Doncic is well ahead in all three categories.

His buzzer-beating shot at the end of overtime in the fourth game against the Clippers tied the series at 2-2 in 2020, but that was as good as it got for Dallas. This time around, they hope to make sure the outcome is different.

For that to happen, though, they will have to find a way of keeping quiet a superstar coming off a career year – and whose name is not Kawhi Leonard.

Paul George admitted to finding life difficult in the bubble. "I was just in a dark place," he said after helping the Clippers edge ahead 3-2 in the Dallas series. "I'd checked out. These past couple of games it was just difficult but shout out to the people who stood behind me and were in my corner."

While averaging 18.5 points in the end, he was successful with only 20 of his 69 attempts through the opening four games against the Mavs, including going 2-of-15 from deep in the third and fourth meeting.

This season, however, he has looked far more at home, in more ways than one.

The seven-time All-Star finished the regular season averaging 23.3 points, including shooting an impressive 41.1 per cent from beyond the arc (up on his overall mark of 38.4 per cent). Under Ty Lue, the team as a whole averaged 41.1 per cent from beyond the arc, ranking them first in the entire league.

Leonard remains the number one for the Clippers – he was the only player to average at least 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game in the regular season – but George will be pivotal to his team's hopes of making a deep run, in the process exorcising their playoff ghosts.

Forget familiarity breeding contempt: these teams getting acquainted again in a seven-game series offers up an absorbing clash where both have a point to prove.

Phil Mickelson played himself right into contention to become the oldest major champion in history after taking the clubhouse lead on day two of the US PGA Championship.

The 50-year-old looked in good shape in his first round on Thursday and he went a step further on Friday, finding himself top of the leaderboard having gone around the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in 69.

It meant the American was on five under for the tournament, and he was leading by two shots shortly after he had finished for the day.

For much of Friday it looked as though Branden Grace was going to be in charge, the South African sitting pretty at six under for the tournament as he stepped up to the tee on the 17th.

But he finished his round with a double-bogey and a bogey as the breezy conditions took their toll on the two holes regarded as the toughest on the entire course, meaning he walked off after his final hole three under for the tournament.

Mickelson had similar issues on the same two holes earlier in the day after starting on the 10th, though the five-time major winner only dropped two shots across the 17th and 18th – it clearly was not enough of a wobble to really impact his mood.

The 2005 US PGA Championship winner has not had a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season, but he has a great chance to end that here.

Opening up on his brilliant start at Kiawah Island, he said: "Physically I've felt as good as ever, I've been able to perform to play the shots, but I haven't been able to be as present or sharp mentally to visualise the shots I want to play.

"Meditation has been a big part of me being able to play the shots I want. It's gotten more difficult as I've got older to focus. Your mind is like a muscle, you have to exercise.

"That's what I've been doing, some days playing [as many as] 40-45 holes to make sure I can concentrate longer than just 18."

Mickelson carded five birdies after the turn, playing a huge role in putting him into contention to surpass Julius Boros as the oldest ever major winner at 48 in 1968.

Additionally, he is the first man aged 50 or over to be in top-five contention after 36 holes at a major since 2013.

His form here is made all the more remarkable by the fact he needed a special exemption to even qualify for next month's US Open, given his current ranking of 115.

"I'm having a lot of fun," he added. "To play well, to know I'm playing well heading into the weekend, to be in contention, to have a good opportunity, I'm having a blast. I'm excited for the weekend."

Ian Poulter looked to be putting himself into contention as well only to fall apart in the latter stages of his round, carding four bogeys in his final five holes – he was previously six under for the day.

Similarly, overnight leader Corey Conners' dropped down to two under for the tournament thanks to a difficult three-over second round.

Meanwhile, world number one Dustin Johnson will almost certainly not be returning on Saturday as he followed up a shocking first day with comparatively poor two over on Friday, leaving him on six over.

Jordan Spieth faces a nervy wait, he sits at four over following a second-round 75.

Stefanos Tsitsipas insists it must be purely business when he tackles Italian teenager and fellow tennis artisan Lorenzo Musetti in the Lyon Open semi-finals.

Ahead of a tilt at the French Open, for which he is among the favourites, world number five Tsitsipas has been tuning up his game at this week's ATP 250 tournament.

The Greek star was sharp in posting a 6-3 6-4 win over Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, and 19-year-old Italian Musetti awaits him on Saturday.

Tsitsipas dropped just four games when he crushed Musetti in an Acapulco semi-final in March, but he senses more of a threat this time from the exciting youngster.

"We played in different conditions. Acapulco was a hardcourt match and with altitude," said Tsitsipas, speaking on Amazon Prime. "The conditions here are different. He's someone who enjoys playing on clay.

"We share a similar game style I think with a one-handed backhand, which is beautiful to see, but tomorrow it's going to be serious business I knew he can play good on this surface. I know he can elevate his game, so it's important for me to be in the semi-finals."

Musetti overcame Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in their quarter-final, scrambling through a chaotic second set in which he trailed 5-2 at one stage but then reeled off four straight games, only to fail to serve out.

Thankfully for the youngster, he pulled through the tie-break.

"It was a crazy end," said Musetti. "I was 6-5 up, and at 30-30 played a really bad volley and hit an underarm serve. Sometimes I go out of my mind. I am really proud of myself as I was 2-5 down in the second set and I stayed focused. I tried to play each point at my best."

Russian Karen Khachanov marked his 25th birthday with a 6-1 7-6 (7-3) win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet, veteran doyen of the single-handed backhand.

Khachanov faced a wait to learn who he must face in the semi-finals, however, with Cameron Norrie and Arthur Rinderknech level at one set all overnight, after rain forced an early end to play.

At the Geneva Open, Norway's Casper Ruud will tackle Canadian Denis Shapovalov in Saturday's final.

Ruud saw off Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-3 6-2, while Shapovalov earned a 6-4 7-5 win against Uruguayan qualifier Pablo Cuevas.

Coco Gauff battled through to the second WTA final of her burgeoning career as the 17-year-old American sank the title hopes of Katerina Siniakova in Parma.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open, Gauff scored a 7-5 1-6 6-2 victory over the player who shocked top seed Serena Williams in round two of the clay-court tournament.

It means Gauff faces a first final appearance since landing the Linz Open title as a 15-year-old in October 2019, with Wang Qiang awaiting her in the title match after a dramatic win over former US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Gauff served eight double faults against Siniakova, a familiar weakness in her game, but her opponent was similarly afflicted and coughed up 10 doubles across the two hours and eight minutes of their contest.

Having reached the semi-finals of the WTA 1000 event in Rome last week, Gauff is enjoying her stay in Italy ahead of competing at the French Open.

"I need to play more aggressive. I learned to trust my shots and they ended up working out," she said on Amazon Prime. "The Italians, they cheer me on and bring me good luck, and hopefully I can keep this going tomorrow."

Wang beat Stephens 6-2 7-6 (7-3), but the scoreline barely told the story of the second semi-final. It seemed sure to go to a third set as Stephens raced to a 5-1 lead in the second, but Wang reeled her in before easing through the tie-break.

Chinese star Wang, coached by former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, said: "I just tried to hang in there and focus on the court, try to hit every ball back. It will be my first time to play [Gauff] and I will make a plan tonight."

At the Serbia Open, promising Colombian teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano set up a semi-final against Croatian Ana Konjuh by beating world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Osorio Serrano secured a 6-4 6-2 success, while Konjuh saw off Argentinian Nadia Podoroska 6-4 6-3. In the top half of the quarter-final draw, Spain's Paula Badosa was a 6-2 6-4 victor over Swedish player Rebecca Peterson, and Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova edged out Hungarian Reka-Luca Jani 6-1 2-6 7-5.

Giacomo Nizzolo finally came out on top in a sprint finish at the Giro d’Italia to win stage 13 as Egan Bernal retained his overall lead in the race.

Nizzolo had finished second on 11 occasions previously in the race, including missing out this year to Tim Merlier on stage two and Caleb Ewan at the end of stage five.

However, the Italian made sure he would not be denied on Friday, overhauling Edoardo Affini following a 198-kilometre journey from Ravenna to Verona.

"Finally I've got a stage victory at the Giro!" Nizzolo said. "Today I decided to launch a long sprint.

"I chose to risk staying too long in the wind rather than wait for too long behind other riders with the chance of being blocked. My choice paid off."

Affini appeared set to be rewarded for his late attack from long range, yet the Jumbo-Visma rider did not quite have enough to hold off the fast-finishing Nizzolo and had to settle for second place, just ahead of Peter Sagan.

As for the general classification, Bernal was able to stay safe and conserve some energy ahead of Saturday’s potentially pivotal stage that finishes on a climb up the famous Monte Zoncolan.

The Colombian crossed the line with the peloton to remain 45 seconds clear of Aleksandr Vlasov in the battle for the maglia rosa.

"Finally we had an easy day," Bernal said.

"It would be special to win atop the Zoncolan tomorrow but that means controlling the whole peloton, so I'd be happy if I just keep the maglia rosa."

STAGE RESULT

1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 4:42:19
2. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) +0:00
3. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) "
4. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) "
5. Fernando Gaviria Rendon (UAE Team Emirates) "

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 53:11:42
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) +0:45
3. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +1:12

Points Classification

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 135
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 126
3. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) 113

King of the Mountains

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroen Team) 96
2. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 48
3. Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) 24

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