Wednesday 13 December 2017

McDowell tips his hat to Stadler's fast start

Golf: American Kevin Stadler celebrated Independence Day by setting the clubhouse target in the Alstom Open de France, and earned generous praise from defending champion Graeme McDowell. At 10 under par, Stadler held a three-shot clubhouse lead over France's Victor Riu, whose only bogey in a round of 67 came on the 18th.

McDowell (pictured) added a 69 to his opening 70 to finish three under par - among seven players tied for fourth including Michael Hoey - and was quick to acknowledge Stadler's superb performance.

"I said to (US Open champion) Martin Kaymer it was nearly as good as his at Pinehurst, but not quite," said McDowell, whose winning total 12 months ago was nine under. "It's a great display of golf. It's Kevin's type of golf course and if he keeps playing like that he's going to be tough to catch, but I feel like three under is not a bad return for the last two days and if I can go low tomorrow and get myself back into it, who knows?"

Playing partner Kaymer, who won his second major title by eight shots last month, was a shot behind McDowell on two under after carding a 68 containing six birdies and three bogeys.

Stadler said: "I putted brilliantly the first couple of days. I got a little sloppy on my final nine today but other than that struck the ball very well as well, had a lot of chances and rolled in a lot of nice putts."

Hamilton 'up for it': Mansell

Formula One: Nigel Mansell believes this year's Formula One world title race will go down to the wire when the sport's controversial new points rule will be in the dock.

The 1992 world champion, serving as a steward over the course of this weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, is fully expecting Lewis Hamilton to mount a comeback and take the championship scrap into the final round of 19 in Abu Dhabi in November.

Hamilton (pictured) heads into his home event trailing Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 29 points.

Yesterday's practice proved to be bitter-sweet for Hamilton as he finished the day top of the times by almost a quarter of a second from Rosberg, only to suffer an engine failure 30 minutes from the end that brought him to a halt out on the Northamptonshire track.

"Lewis is a few points behind, but there are so many more races to go, it's nothing really with the way the system works now," said Mansell. "In years gone by it would have been a deficit, but I don't see it as a hiccup, or a problem.

"In fact, it could be an advantage because if Lewis starts to perform a little better than Nico, then the pressure will transfer from him on to Nico because he will then be defending his lead."

"It's going to be fascinating, but don't under-estimate Nico because he is a class act, a great driver. He is doing what needs to be done.

"Lewis has a challenge, but I think he is up for it."

Froome hails home support

Cycling: Chris Froome says he will do his utmost to help British sports fans overcome a disappointing summer by winning a second successive Tour de France title this month.

Froome's bid for a third straight British win in cycling's most prestigious race begins in Leeds today.

Attention has turned to Yorkshire after England's World Cup exit and Andy Murray's Wimbledon woe, with a mild-mannered 
29-year-old Kenya-born Briton (pictured) desperate to deliver despite never having visited Yorkshire prior to his reconnaissance of the stages at the end of May.

"It's massive, it really is special," Froome said. "I don't think many Tour champions get to come back as defending champions and can start in front of their home crowd.

"Given the way cycling is growing the past few years and to be in front of that home crowd and have their support is second to none.

"The reception we received from the people here has been just amazing.

"The number of people who have come up to me and said 'Chris, we're with you all the way, good luck, we'll be watching you the next three weeks'."

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