Rangers batter St Joseph's to progress

Steven Gerrard’s side crush Gibraltar opposition

Last Updated: 18/07/19 11:10pm

Jermain Defoe was at the double for Rangers against St Joseph's

Jermain Defoe was at the double for Rangers against St Joseph’s

Rangers set up a Europa League revenge mission with Progres Niederkorn as they routed St Joseph’s 6-0 at Ibrox on Thursday night.

Alfredo Morelos struck his third Gers hat-trick as Jermain Defoe’s double and Joe Aribo strike sealed a 10-goal aggregate triumph.

And now having swept aside the minnows of Gibraltar, the Light Blues will welcome their old foes from Luxembourg to Glasgow next Thursday as they look to lay to rest the Neiderkorn ghosts of two years ago.

Thankfully for the Ibrox faithful, the team now managed by Steven Gerrard bears little resemblance to Pedro Caixinha’s team of that time.

The Portuguese boss presided over arguably the club’s worst-ever result when Rangers crashed out to the Grand Duchy part-timers in the opening qualifier of the 2017/18 campaign.

But it would be an even bigger shock should Progres repeat the feat against a squad now bursting with attacking options.

Alfredo Morelos took home the match ball following his hat-trick

Alfredo Morelos took home the match ball following his hat-trick

Alfredo Morelos took home the match ball following his hat-trick

Last week’s crushing win under the Rock of Gibraltar allowed Gerrard the luxury of sweeping changes for the Glasgow return, with only Connor Goldson and Glen Kamara keeping their places.

New signings George Edmundson and Jake Hastie came in for their debuts, while Aribo, Matt Polster and Greg Stewart were making their competitive home bows in Govan.

And it took just two and a half minutes for Aribo to open his Ibrox account.

The entire St Joseph’s defence was caught cold as Greg Docherty slid a cute reverse pass in behind for the former Charlton midfielder to bury low into the net.

As expected, it was one-way traffic from there on in but there was still a hint of last week’s first-half display as the Gers again made heavy work of adding to their lead.

The Ibrox support had turned up expecting a goal-fest but Gerrard did not look too perturbed as a series of chances went begging, knowing his men are not yet up to full sharpness.

Steven Gerrard denied last week any bids had been lodged for his star striker

Steven Gerrard denied last week any bids had been lodged for his star striker

Steven Gerrard denied last week any bids had been lodged for his star striker

Stewart looked rusty as failed to finish a close-range header while Morelos carelessly wandered offside on 27 minutes as he collected a Docherty pass, with the flag already up by the time Hastie stuck the Colombian’s cross into the net.

Andy Halliday clipped a free-kick just past the far post, while Hastie got his feet all wrong as he skewed another golden chance wide.

But the second did arrive just before the interval. Hastie fired a corner to Goldson at the corner of the six-yard box and the defender’s flick fell perfectly for Morelos to head home at the back post.

Morelos scored again from the penalty spot 12 minutes into the second half after Docherty was bundled over in the box by Daniel Guerrero.

And last season’s top scorer notched his fourth of the new campaign already on 66 minutes as he guided home from yet another teasing Docherty delivery from the right flank.

Having claimed the match ball, Morelos immediately made way for Defoe but the 36-year-old ensured Rangers lost none of their killer touch.

Number five was a carbon copy of the fourth, this time with Polster acting as provider and Defoe the finisher.

The Englishman then grabbed his 10th goal in Rangers colours late on after a neat move involving Scott Arfield and Stewart opened up St Joseph’s yet again.

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Awesome De Villiers seals Middlesex win

Last Updated: 18/07/19 10:42pm

AB de Villiers hit 88 not out from just 43 balls

AB de Villiers hit 88 not out from just 43 balls

AB de Villiers made an instant impact on the Vitality Blast as he blazed an unbeaten 88 to guide Middlesex to a seven-wicket victory over Essex Eagles at Lord’s.

The former South Africa star, making his first appearance in the competition, struck six sixes and five fours in his 43-ball knock, sharing a century partnership with Dawid Malan (43) as Middlesex triumphed with three overs to spare. Middlesex vs Essex scorecard

Having been put in to bat, Essex posted 164-6 thanks to Ryan ten Doeschate’s undefeated 74 from 46 deliveries, while Tom Helm returned 3-27 for the home side.

AB de Villiers led Middlesex to a resounding victory on his Vitality Blast debut

AB de Villiers led Middlesex to a resounding victory on his Vitality Blast debut

AB de Villiers led Middlesex to a resounding victory on his Vitality Blast debut

It looked as if Middlesex might struggle after losing Paul Stirling (10) and Nick Gubbins (12) early, but Malan and de Villiers kept their side on track as they added 105 in 10.1 overs.

De Villiers finished proceedings off in style by sweeping Simon Harmer to the boundary, ensuring that Middlesex made a winning start to their South Group campaign.

“I just had a bit of fun tonight,” said De Villiers. “I wasn’t really expecting to hit them that well, but it is a funny old game, cricket – it keeps surprising me every day.

“I started off not feeling like I was 100 per cent in control, so I still feel I can play better.

“I was a little bit scratchy from time to time, but every time I took on the boundary, I hit them well. Maybe I should just stick to that.”

Somerset also began the Blast with a comfortable victory, overcoming Glamorgan by eight wickets at Cardiff with two overs to spare.

Ryan ten Doeschate's 74 not out proved to be in vain for Essex Eagles

Ryan ten Doeschate's 74 not out proved to be in vain for Essex Eagles

Ryan ten Doeschate’s 74 not out proved to be in vain for Essex Eagles

The home side got off to a flying start in the powerplay, with Jeremy Lawlor (43) and David Lloyd (57) putting on 88 for the opening wicket. Glamorgan vs Somerset scorecard

But they were pegged back by the left-arm spin of Roelof van der Merwe (2-17), although Dragons captain Colin Ingram hammered 50 not out from just 28 balls to lift his side to 180-5.

Somerset made short work of the target, with Tom Banton (64 from 34 balls) and new overseas signing Babar Azam (35) putting together a swift partnership of 98.

Tom Banton top scored with 64 for Somerset against Glamorgan

Tom Banton top scored with 64 for Somerset against Glamorgan

Tom Banton top scored with 64 for Somerset against Glamorgan

Although both openers departed in quick succession, veteran pair James Hildreth (24no) and Peter Trego (47no) saw Somerset home with an unbroken stand of 69.

Ed Barnard starred with an excellent all-round performance as holders Worcestershire Rapids made a good start to their defence of the trophy, beating Notts Outlaws by 28 runs in the North Group at Trent Bridge.

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Paceman Barnard dug his side out of trouble with the bat, hitting 42 from 19 balls after the Rapids – who had opted to bat first – slumped to 102-6. Notts vs Worcs scorecard

He and Ben Cox (21no) put together an unbroken partnership of 59 to lift their side to 161-6 – and that proved to be more than enough as they restricted the Outlaws to 133-9 in reply.

Ed Barnard's efforts with bat and ball helped Worcestershire Rapids beat Notts Outlaws by 28 runs

Ed Barnard's efforts with bat and ball helped Worcestershire Rapids beat Notts Outlaws by 28 runs

Ed Barnard’s efforts with bat and ball helped Worcestershire Rapids beat Notts Outlaws by 28 runs

Alex Hales (52 from 34) was the only Notts batsman to pose much threat, but Barnard (1-18) yorked him and also took two catches, including a superb diving effort to remove Jake Libby (24).

Worcestershire skipper Moeen Ali was also influential with the ball, finishing with impressive figures of 4-18 from his four overs.

Klopp: My focus is on us, not rivals

Last Updated: 18/07/19 11:49pm

0:34

Jurgen Klopp says he wants to remain at Liverpool for ‘at least three’ more years

Jurgen Klopp says he wants to remain at Liverpool for ‘at least three’ more years

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists he is “completely focused” on his own team and not the pre-season preparations of rivals Manchester City.

The Reds missed out on the Premier League title by just a single point last season with City instead crowned champions on the final day.

The two teams are expected to challenge each other again and while Klopp believes City are favourites to win a third successive title, he insists his only ambitions are based on improving his own team.

Speaking on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, Klopp said: “I am completely focused on Liverpool. Completely.

“It would be great if we could be around Man City again because that’s the only possibility to have to pass them. It is already clear they are the big favourite again. No problem with that.

Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title last season

Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title last season

Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title last season

“They have a very good situation, which they showed last year especially after having 100 points in the season before – the greed they showed, the determination they showed, it was just impressive.

“I don’t think they would have had 98 points if we wouldn’t have been around – and we would not have had 97 points if Man City wouldn’t have been around.

“We chased each other through the season, put each other under pressure and that led to that.”

0:57

Highlights of the pre-season friendly between Bradford and Liverpool. Watch all of Liverpool’s pre-season games live in the UK and Ireland on LFCTV (Sky channel – 425). Go to www.sky.com/lfctv for more details about how to join

Highlights of the pre-season friendly between Bradford and Liverpool. Watch all of Liverpool’s pre-season games live in the UK and Ireland on LFCTV (Sky channel – 425). Go to www.sky.com/lfctv for more details about how to join

Liverpool finished 25 points clear of third-placed Chelsea last season but Klopp expects the rest of the Premier League to cut the gap.

“All the teams will start again: there is no duel with City and Liverpool and all the rest are watching us,” the German added. “That’s not how the Premier League is, all of these games are so difficult to play.

“You see what Manchester United are doing in the transfer market, or probably will do; Arsenal want to strengthen; Chelsea have their situation but bring all the young boys, all the players on loan, back.

Liverpool are currently on a pre-season tour of the United States

Liverpool are currently on a pre-season tour of the United States

Liverpool are currently on a pre-season tour of the United States

“If a team is not really influenced by a transfer ban, then it is Man City because they have the players and they will be strong as well.

“Everton, probably nobody wants to hear that here, but they – year in, year out – really strengthen the squad. [They’ve made] good signings again [and] they had a good team already last year.

“There are a lot of jobs to do and that’s what we have to be concerned about – not how we can beat City. That’s not the only thing we have to do because there are a lot of other things.”

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The Open: Day 1 top shots

Last Updated: 18/07/19 9:51pm

2:06

Watch a selection of the best shots from the first round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush

Watch a selection of the best shots from the first round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush

Emiliano Grillo, Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods all feature in the top shots from the first round of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush.

Argentine Grillo made his mark with the first hole-in-one at The Open in three years as he aced his tee shot at the 13th.

Johnston was also a crowd pleaser when he holed a monster eagle putt at the second, while his playing partner Robert MacIntyre got in on the act with an eagle at the fifth.

Robert MacIntyre celebrates his eagle at the fifth with Andrew Johnston during the first round of The Open

Robert MacIntyre celebrates his eagle at the fifth with Andrew Johnston during the first round of The Open

Robert MacIntyre celebrates his eagle at the fifth with Andrew Johnston during the first round of The Open

There is further action from the 13th hole with an excellent tee shot from Dustin Johnson and Fleetwood drew the applause at the par-three with his putt for a birdie.

Rahm produced some wizardry from a bunker at the 17th and there was a rare highlight from Woods as he made his only birdie of the day at the 15th.

Click play on the video above to watch the best of the action from Day 1 at Royal Portrush…..

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Farrell fires Wigan to victory

Last Updated: 18/07/19 11:34pm

Liam Farrell scored three tries in Wigan's win over Wakefield

Liam Farrell scored three tries in Wigan’s win over Wakefield

Liam Farrell ran in a hat-trick of tries as Wigan Warriors recorded a comfortable 46-16 victory over Wakefield Trinity in Thursday’s Super League game.

The Warriors raced into an 18-point lead at the DW Stadium with barely a quarter of an hour gone and were 34-0 up at half-time on the back of two scores from Farrell.

Wakefield did hit back early on the second half through ex-Wigan man Ryan Hampshire, but a length-of-the-field try from Oliver Gildart and another score from second-row Farrell wrapped up a convincing win.

3:34

Watch all of the tries as Wigan Warriors moved up to fourth in Super League with a 46-16 win over Wakefield Trinity.

Watch all of the tries as Wigan Warriors moved up to fourth in Super League with a 46-16 win over Wakefield Trinity.

Wigan opened the scoring after just four minutes with Farrell steaming onto a short ball from Sam Powell to touch down. Hardaker converted to make it 6-0.

The Warriors extended their lead six minutes later with another attack down the left. George Williams, Gildart and Liam Marshall exposed some poor defending, before Hardaker used brute force to get the ball down. He converted his own try for a 12-0 advantage.

Trinity were struggling to get in the game and they soon found themselves 18-0 down with Isa benefiting from a cross-field run from Williams to grab Wigan’s third try inside 15 minutes.

Wakefield's Danny Brough looks dejected during the defeat at Wigan

Wakefield's Danny Brough looks dejected during the defeat at Wigan

Wakefield’s Danny Brough looks dejected during the defeat at Wigan

Wakefield only had one real attack at the home side’s line in the first 40 minutes and that came to nothing. Wigan then exerted their dominance with three tries in the final 10 minutes of the half.

First, Farrell collected a short ball from Williams to grab his second, while Shorrocks collected an attempted short kick-off from Wakefield to race 60 metres. Sammut then went over on the hooter as he intercepted a pass from Jacob Miller to race away and score.

Trinity showed some improvement after the break and finally got on the scoresheet as Miller sent a kick over the Wigan defence and Hampshire was on hand to touch down. Danny Brough converted, but they trailed 34-6.

Jake Shorrocks was one of Wigan's other try-scorers in the win over Wakefield

Jake Shorrocks was one of Wigan's other try-scorers in the win over Wakefield

Jake Shorrocks was one of Wigan’s other try-scorers in the win over Wakefield

Bulgarian-born teenage prop Ethan Havard was handed his debut in the 47th minute and he watched on in awe as Gildart raced the full length of the field to score as Wigan hit the 40 mark.

Hampshire crossed over for his second of the game before Farrell raced away to complete his first hat-trick since 2013, while Trinity had the final say as Max Jowitt finished off a nice passing move in the corner.

Match reaction

1:26

Wigan Warriors’ Liam Farrell was named man of the match after scoring a rare hat-trick in the win over Wakefield Trinity.

Wigan Warriors’ Liam Farrell was named man of the match after scoring a rare hat-trick in the win over Wakefield Trinity.

Liam Farrell was delighted to get his first hat-trick for six years and praised departing Wigan Warriors team-mate George Williams for his role.

1:48

Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester was forthright with his views after his side’s 46-16 loss to Wigan Warriors.

Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester was forthright with his views after his side’s 46-16 loss to Wigan Warriors.

Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester was left to rue a poor first 40 minutes for his side which left them facing an insurmountable task in the second half.

2:14

Wigan Warriors head coach Adrian Lam praised the contribution of his young players after the win over Wakefield Trinity.

Wigan Warriors head coach Adrian Lam praised the contribution of his young players after the win over Wakefield Trinity.

Adrian Lam was pleased to see Wigan Warriors’ youngsters come to the fore again, including 18-year-old debutant Ethan Havard.

Simunovic banned after friendly red card

Last Updated: 18/07/19 9:56pm

Jozo Simunovic will miss the first two games of Celtic's 2019-20 Scottish Premiership campaign through suspension

Jozo Simunovic will miss the first two games of Celtic’s 2019-20 Scottish Premiership campaign through suspension

Celtic’s Jozo Simunovic will miss the first two matches of the Premiership season following his recent red card in a friendly in Switzerland.

The Scottish Football Association confirmed the defender would be suspended for two matches after he was sent off against St Gallen on July 2.

Simunovic will miss the Hoops’ season opener against St Johnstone at Parkhead on August 3 and the trip to Motherwell seven days later.

The centre-back was initially shown a yellow card for a head-high challenge on Boris Babic, but the colour was changed to red following a VAR review.

The video system was being trialled ahead of its introduction in the Swiss top flight and a domestic suspension will now apply after the Swiss football authorities reported the sending-off to their Scottish counterparts.

The development will come as a blow to manager Neil Lennon, who has been employing a makeshift defence following the summer departures of Filip Benkovic, Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig.

Midfielder Nir Bitton played in central defence alongside Simunovic in their opening Champions League qualifiers against Sarajevo, with Kristoffer Ajer shifting to an unfamiliar right-back role.

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England set up New Zealand showdown

Roses face World Cup nemesis of previous two tournaments in last four, while South Africa will take on 14-time champions Australia

Last Updated: 18/07/19 10:19pm

Helen Housby and Jo Harten teamed up again to give England their sixth victory at the Netball World Cup and a semi-final against New Zealand

Helen Housby and Jo Harten teamed up again to give England their sixth victory at the Netball World Cup and a semi-final against New Zealand

England set up a Netball World Cup semi-final against New Zealand after a 58-47 win over South Africa in front of a frenzied home crowd on Thursday night.

The Roses maintained their perfect record this week at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, recording a sixth successive victory thanks to the brilliance of Jo Harten and Helen Housby whose shooting partnership was again inspired.

England’s win over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday had secured their place in the last four but their target has always been the final, and Thursday’s results mapped out their path to a first World Cup gold.

And on Saturday, less than a week on from an England team beating a New Zealand side to lift a trophy in this country, the two nations will meet again with a place in the final on the line.

2019 Vitality World Cup – Thursday’s Preliminary Stage Two Results

Group ENorthern Ireland 46-43 Barbados
Australia 50-49 New Zealand
Zimbabwe 43-59 Malawi
Group FTrinidad & Tobago 43-43 Scotland
Jamaica 61-48 Uganda
South Africa 58-47 England

The Silver Ferns ended the Roses’ World Cup hopes in 2015 and 2011 with semi-final victories, but earlier in the day the Kiwis suffered their first defeat of the week as they were beaten 50-49 in an epic contest against Australia.

For the sixth time in 16 World Cup meetings, the Trans-Tasman rivalry was settled by a solitary goal – or more specifically, Maria Folau’s last-second miss that would have levelled the scores in a game that saw defences prevail.

But the evening focus was on Tracey Neville and the Roses as they came through their second serious test and after a win over Jamaica to start the second preliminary phase, they finished with another victory against the world’s no 5 ranked nation to pass it again with flying colours.

The little to separate the teams early on, England’s smothering defence and playmakers Geva Mentor and Serena Guthrie forced a couple of turnovers in quick succession.

With Harten and Housby near flawless and Proteas captain Bongi Msomi withdrawn through injury, the Roses took full advantage – Harten sending the partisan arena crowd wild with a sensational long-range strike on the buzzer.

Jade Clarke’s classy turnover kept England on the front foot and the Roses began to showcase their skills, with Guthrie again to the fore as they moved 13 in front midway through the second quarter.

A double miss from South Africa was the final play of the half and seemed to sum up their situation as England led by 11 at half-time before an improved Proteas upped the ante early in the third quarter.

Searing defender Karla Pretorious eradicated a first half of contact calls as South Africa chipped away at England’s lead but staring at their first quarter defeat of the week, the Roses again turned to their game-changing defence to avoid any concern, fishing strongly to retain their double-figure advantage.

0:20

Jo Harten threw a lovely no-look assist to Helen Housby against South Africa

Jo Harten threw a lovely no-look assist to Helen Housby against South Africa

Having started with her strongest possible team, Neville introduced Nat Haythornthwaite, Nat Panagarry, Fran Williams and Rachel Dunn from the bench as they looked to close out the contest and despite losing the final quarter, an 11-goal win was just reward for an impressive display.

England now know they will most likely have to beat both of their great netballing rivals if they are to claim the glory on Sunday, not that Neville has been expecting anything less.

0:22

Serena Guthrie took a big fall against South Africa, but was unhurt and got straight back up to continue

Serena Guthrie took a big fall against South Africa, but was unhurt and got straight back up to continue

South Africa will face Australia on Saturday at 11am, while the Roses will aim for a first-ever World Cup final against New Zealand at 3pm.

One note of caution amongst the Roses optimism – they have won just one of their 27 World Cup contests against Australia and New Zealand. Yet this is a very different England.

Watch every match of the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 live on Sky Sports. Coverage of the Netball World Cup continues on Sky Sports Netball right through until the final on Sunday July 21.

'Bolton doubtful for start of season'

Last Updated: 18/07/19 9:36pm

1:02

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor says cash-strapped Bolton’s situation is being monitored almost on an hourly basis

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor says cash-strapped Bolton’s situation is being monitored almost on an hourly basis

Bolton Wanderers may be unable to fulfil their League One fixtures, according to PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.

It comes after the club’s proposed friendly against Chester on Friday was cancelled, with the players refusing to play due to an ongoing dispute over unpaid wages.

Members of the Bolton squad claim they and the club’s coaching staff had not been paid for 20 weeks, while they also returned for pre-season to find their training facilities locked up.

The club has struggled with financial difficulties in recent seasons and entered administration in May after a takeover bid by former Watford chairman Laurence Bassini collapsed.

0:39

Speaking in May, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said he believed it was the correct decision to call off Bolton’s game with Brentford

Speaking in May, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said he believed it was the correct decision to call off Bolton’s game with Brentford

After seeing their Championship game against Brentford scrapped at the end of last season amid safety concerns, Taylor believes the club could struggle to honour further games this season.

“I shudder to say it’s not looking good for Bolton, it’s not looking as positive as I would have hoped at this stage,” Taylor told Sky Sports News.

“The situation has probably gone on too long with different things coming out of the woodwork and every day seeming to be another hurdle to climb.

“Where there’s life, there’s hope – but we’ll have to wait and see. We’re checking things almost on an hourly basis.”

EFL not doing enough?

Taylor was also critical of the role the EFL plays, believing more could be done in enforcing Financial Fair Play to ensure the long-term future of clubs.

“We feel the league has not being forceful enough, particularly after the great season it has had,” Taylor added.

“There has never been as much income in the game and we want the fabric of the game to survive but in order to do that, the basics need to be done which is balancing the books.”

Administrators for Bolton announced a preferred buyer – Football Ventures – for the club at the start of July, although the sale is yet to be agreed.

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Holmes leads Open as big two falter

Last Updated: 18/07/19 11:05pm

3:40

Highlights from the first round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club

Highlights from the first round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are staring at early exits from The 148th Open as JB Holmes emerged as the first-round leader at Royal Portrush.

After an emotional Darren Clarke got the Championship underway on its much-heralded return to Portrush for the first time in 68 years, the two biggest drawcards in golf both struggled in the changeable conditions and ended the day perilously close to the bottom of the leaderboard.

Rory McIlroy started and finished his 79 with horror holes

Rory McIlroy started and finished his 79 with horror holes

Rory McIlroy started and finished his 79 with horror holes

McIlroy made the worst possible start on Thursday when he pulled his opening tee shot out-of-bounds, smashing an unfortunate spectator’s mobile phone en-route, and he went on to make a quadruple-bogey eight before closing out a 79 with a triple-bogey at the last.

Woods was only one shot better off and appeared to be battling a sore back once again, but there were no such problems for Holmes as he recovered from an opening bogey to snatch the outright lead ahead of Shane Lowry with his sixth birdie of the round at the last.

Tiger Woods is struggling to make the cut at Portrush

Tiger Woods is struggling to make the cut at Portrush

Tiger Woods is struggling to make the cut at Portrush

Lowry went out in the eighth group of the morning and enjoyed the best start of his Open career, carding five birdies and just one blemish in a 67 which earned him the clubhouse lead for the majority of the day, until Holmes surpassed the Irishman shortly after 7pm.

JB Holmes snatched the first-round lead from Shane Lowry

JB Holmes snatched the first-round lead from Shane Lowry

JB Holmes snatched the first-round lead from Shane Lowry

With the rain-softened Dunluce links offering plenty of birdie chances as well as some card-wreckers, a remarkable 13 players opened with three-under 68s, a group which included world No 1 Brooks Koepka, the English trio of Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood, and Spanish duo Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm.

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Koepka, the dominant force in majors since 2017, put himself in position to challenge for a fifth as he cruised to four under par with two to play before dropping his only shot of the round at the 17th, where Webb Simpson had tarnished an error-free day and also bogeyed the last to match the earlier 68 of Alex Noren.

Double Irish Open champion Rahm looked set to sleep on the overnight lead when he capped a sublime, outward 31 with three consecutive birdies and, after a bogey at 11, he got back to five under with a neat up-and-down for birdie at the 11th.

2:33

Jon Rahm analysed his performance with Tim Barter at the Sky Cart after the Spaniard posted a first-round score of 68 to leave him three-under par

Jon Rahm analysed his performance with Tim Barter at the Sky Cart after the Spaniard posted a first-round score of 68 to leave him three-under par

But he faltered down the stretch and followed a bogey at 15 with two scrambled pars before another wayward approach to the last cost him a further shot as he fell into the large group on three under which also featured New Zealander Ryan Fox, son of All Blacks legend, Grant.

Fox set a new Open record when he covered the back nine in a blistering 29 strokes with birdies at six of the last seven holes in a stunning recovery from a wayward outward half of 39.

Justin Rose, joint runner-up at Carnoustie last year, made a steady start with a three-birdie 69, while the likes of Eddie Pepperell and three former champions in Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth and Louis Oosthuizen all fired 70s as 41 players finished in red numbers.

McIlroy rues dreadful start

Rory McIlroy put on a brave face after firing an eight-over 79 in the first round at Portrush

McIlroy and Woods, however, need to have several red numbers on their second-round scorecards on Friday if they are to grace the Portrush fairways over the weekend.

Home favourite McIlroy looked visibly shaken after his horrendous first hole and soon dropped another stroke at the third, although he did lift his spirits with birdies at seven and nine before a nice run of pars ended abruptly with a five at the short 16th, where he carelessly missed a tap-in from a few inches away to fritter away another shot.

Woods dropped six shots in as many holes

Woods dropped six shots in as many holes

Woods dropped six shots in as many holes

He needed two attempts to get out of the thick grass on 18 and scrapped his way to the untidiest of sevens, while Woods dropped five shots in as many holes in a torrid end to an outward 41, and hopes of a back-nine fightback were scuppered by yet another blemish at the 10th.

He did raise a rueful smile when he birdied the 15th, after another bogey at 14, but he gave the shot back at the last to slip back to seven over and in a tie for 144th place.

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Koepka: All good with Tiger

In-form American happy with ‘solid’ 68 at Royal Portrush

Last Updated: 18/07/19 8:50pm

3:06

Brooks Koepka was satisfied with his opening 68 at The Open

Brooks Koepka was satisfied with his opening 68 at The Open

Brooks Koepka confirmed there were no issues between himself and Tiger Woods after completing his opening round at The Open.

Woods jokingly revealed earlier in the week that he had been snubbed by the world No 1 after texting him about playing a practice round together at Royal Portrush.

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July 19, 2019, 6:30am

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The 15-time major winner had also congratulated Koepka on his US Open victory as he looked to make use of the local knowledge of his fellow American’s caddie Ricky Elliott at the Northern Ireland venue.

Woods said he had not heard back from Koepka, but the PGA champion said the reason for that was that he had changed his phone number.

“I changed my phone number, that was the problem,” Koepka told Sky Sports.

“I changed it at the US Open when somebody leaked it. I got about 40 text messages so I changed it Monday night and I didn’t let many people know. We don’t text that often so I didn’t get any of the text messages. But I texted him on Wednesday from the new number and he texted me back. Don’t worry, we’re good.”

Koepka shelters from the rain with his caddie Ricky Elliott

Koepka shelters from the rain with his caddie Ricky Elliott

Koepka shelters from the rain with his caddie Ricky Elliott

Koepka made a solid start at Royal Portrush with a three-under 68 as he goes in search of a fifth major victory in 10 attempts.

He looked comfortable around the course as he made birdies at the second, fifth, 12th and 14th before surprisingly slipping up at the 17th when he missed a par putt from five feet.

“I feel like I played pretty solid,” he said. “I missed it in the right spots all day. One bad one on 17. That’s going to cost you. Didn’t really make any putts. Didn’t take advantage of anything to really go low. But definitely didn’t shoot myself out of it, so I’m okay with that.”

Koepka is two shots off the lead after 18 holes

Koepka is two shots off the lead after 18 holes

Koepka is two shots off the lead after 18 holes

Koepka also remains content to rely on Elliott, who was born and raised in Portrush.

“I don’t have to learn much, my caddie knows it all. I’m okay with not knowing much,” he said.

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