Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Woods caught between Rock and not such a hard place

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There was no first full-field event win for the first time since November 2009 for Tiger Woods despite starting the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship tied for the lead, but at long last the future seems bright for the 14-times major winner.

Englishman Robert Rock could barely believe what he had achieved in seeing off Woods in the final round to claim his second European Tour victory. It was a heart-warming triumph for the lesser known players who battle each season just to keep their tour-playing rights, galaxies away from the world Woods inhabits.

The American however seemed to return to earth during his time in the desert. Gone was his aloof, hot and cold manner of the past two years since his much-publicised sex scandal, replaced in the Middle East by friendly TV interviews and a vastly improved on-course demeanour.

Next up for the 36-year-old is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am starting on Feb. 9, another favoured location for Woods where he stormed to a record 15-shot U.S. Open win in 2000 when at the peak of his powers.

Sweden boosted by Guidetti and Ibra displays

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By Phil O’Connor

Under normal circumstances Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dipping first-half free kick in AC Milan’s 3-0 win over Cagliari on Sunday would have been enough to give Sweden coach Erik Hamren a pleasant end to the weekend.

But if Hamren had been watching Feyenoord beat Ajax in in Holland’s Eredivisie on Saturday he would have seen another Swede, John Guidetti, net a hat-trick as Feyenoord won 4-2, giving him a mouthwatering selection problem ahead of Euro 2012.

Boca put River in their place

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By Rex Gowar

The result of the year’s first “superclasico” was logical with first division champions Boca Juniors beating second-division River Plate 2-0.

But Wednesday night’s friendly – an unprecedented clash with one of the two giants of the Argentine game in the second tier — was also something of an anti-climax after the massive build.

Will “fit and happy” Woods rediscover on-course cheer?

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The photos depict it, Rory McIlroy’s been saying it, now it’s up to the Abu Dhabi Golf Club to confirm that at long last, Tiger Woods is happy and fighting fit again.

That the 14-times major champion should choose the European Tour’s first big event of the season to make his 2012 debut in favour of one of his favourite courses at Torrey Pines in California is one thing.

No longer No. 1, Wozniacki can start taking risks

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Finally, the most worn-out debate in women’s tennis can stop after Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki’s defeat in the Australian Open quarter-finals by Kim Clijsters means she will no longer be No.1 in the rankings.

Ever since she first topped the rankings in October 2010, Wozniacki’s lack of a grand slam title has prompted questions about her suitability for the lofty position. Even this week former great Martina Navratilova said Wozniacki’s status was more to do with the limitations of the ranking system which rewards her grinding consistency rather than results at grand slams.

Technology, Lendl and expectations at the Australian Open

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By Greg Rusedski

The big Australian hope for the woman’s title Sam Stosur, the U.S. Open champion, went out in the first round which wasn’t a huge surprise. She said in all her press conferences before the event about how she wasn’t dealing with the pressure and home expectations. In my experience, even if a player is feeling that way they shouldn’t bring it up at a press conference as it could potentially give the opponent an extra belief. Sam will learn from this and hopefully get stronger for it.

On the men’s side, Australia’s big hope Bernard Tomic played well and is the real deal. He loves playing with the Australian pressure and expectation. Unfortunately for Tomic in the fourth round he came up against the great Roger Federer. It was another entertaining match from Tomic but Federer was just too good. Tomic is an exciting player to watch because of the variety in his game. He can hit any shot and mixes the pace of the ball all the time. He is a great thinker on the court and is a natural born winner. At only 19 years of age he should be in the top 10 very soon if he keeps working.

NFL Liveblog

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We are liveblogging the NFL Conference championships on Sunday – come back at game time for in-game chat and info with Reuters reporters and fans.


Click here for the Liveblog

Sunday’s American Football Conference (AFC) championship game (15:00 ET) between the high-powered New England Patriots and ferocious Baltimore Ravens is more than just a clash between two rivals battling for a place in the Super Bowl.

England to play Panesar? Another batter more like

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The fallout from England’s crushing first-test defeat by Pakistan has led many pundits to call for Monty Panesar to play as a second spinner in next week’s second test, despite the fact it was the batsmen and not the bowlers who failed to turn up for the world’s top-ranked test side.

Number 11 Panesar may have performed heroics with the bat in Cardiff to save the first Ashes test in 2009 but the Pakistan bowlers will hardly be quaking in their boots. Including Panesar would seemingly mean dropping seamer Chris Tremlett, who did not get a wicket in Dubai but still bowled decently. England getting Pakistan down to 289-8 having only scored 192 first up themselves was a good effort from the England attack.

Roddick leads movement for ATP change

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By Martyn Herman 

Andy Roddick on Friday insisted that tennis players must adopt “one voice” to push through changes to the ATP Tour but that may not be as easy as it seems despite the general feeling of solidarity.

Pity Brad Drewett, the new chief executive of the men’s Tour, who has the job of trying to keep everyone happy, grand slam champions, journeymen, tournament organisers, sponsors and TV.

Tebow time makes way for Manning mania even outside U.S.

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The Tim Tebow fairytale is over but NFL provided more drama with Super Bowl champions and previously imperious Green Bay being unceremoniously dumped out at home by New York Giants.

Over here in Europe, interest in NFL has grown markedly this year if Twitter trends are taken into account. Maybe the annual game in Wembley has boosted UK interest along with better live coverage on satellite TV but the players themselves deserve credit.

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