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No top player should be denied Dubai spot – Molinari

The 31-year-old Italian also wants the 20 percent bonus pool money that is awarded to players who compete in all four Final Series events to be scrapped.

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The European Tour’s new FedExCup-style competition has been golf’s hot topic in the last week and a half with leading players like Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel complaining the regulations are unfair.

“It’s not easy to get it right first time, we saw that in America too when the FedExCup started,” Molinari told Reuters in an interview during the final round of the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open.

“All four tournaments have good potential, it’s a lot of money especially for the European Tour so it’s just a matter of making the rules slightly better.

“I don’t think anyone should be forbidden from playing at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai even if they don’t want to play in the first three events of the Final Series,” said Molinari after a closing 67 gave him a share of 25th spot in Turkey.

“I don’t think there’s any need to say you have to play in two out of the three events before Dubai to be eligible for Dubai. If you are in the top 60 in the money list…nobody should tell you that you can’t play.”

South African Els, a member of the tour for almost two decades, has described the system as “farcical” while Schwartzel said this week he was thinking about his future on the circuit.

Molinari, who played in the triumphant Ryder Cup sides of 2010 and 2012, said the bonus pool awarded to those who participate in both Shanghai events and the Turkish Open that precede Dubai was a waste of time.

“They brought in the bonus to try to get all the top players in all the Final Series tournaments but it’s obvious to everyone that it didn’t work,” added the Italian.

NOT FAIR

“I think we just need to stress that and not have any sort of bonus. It’s silly … and not really fair for the players.

“I think what would probably make the difference is to increase the bonus pool for the leading 10 in the money-list to get the top players to play in the last few events,” said Molinari.

“If you can make more money from your position in the overall money-list I’m sure the top guys will be more involved in these last few tournaments.”

Molinari said there was too much golf on the calendar right now and something had to give for the elite of Europe who try to divide their time equally between their own tour and the U.S. PGA circuit.

“There are too many tournaments and each player decides when and where he will play but nobody plays all of them,” he explained.

“I think we should be doing our best to keep the best European players competing in Europe, if not for all the tournaments then at least a few of them.”

Molinari has been consistency personified this season, chalking up a string of top-20 finishes without managing to add to his tally of three European victories.

“I wasn’t really playing my best in the first half of the season but now I feel a lot closer,” said the Italian who occupies 14th position in the money list.

“It’s just a matter of getting the breaks at the right time, trying hard on the course and making the most of my chances.”

(Editing by Tony Goodson)

Wales suffer 28-24 loss to Cook Islands

Wales’ poor World Cup campaign has ended with a third successive defeat – but not before they went down fighting in Neath.

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With a final score of 28-24, the Cook Islands ultimately posted their first World Cup victory at the sixth attempt, yet they had to hang on despite building a 22-4 lead just after half-time.

Centre Keith Lulia ran the show for his team, scoring a first-half try, while Isaac John, Daniel Fepuleai, Dominique Peyroux and Jonathon Ford also touched down, with Chris Taripo kicking four goals.

Wales, though, threatened a second-half revival when Lloyd White, Christiaan Roets (two) and Rhodri Lloyd claimed tries following Rob Massam’s first-half score, while White and Danny Jones landed one goal apiece, but it proved too little too late.

Wales had exited the tournament with indecent haste, failing to recover from their Millennium Stadium defeat against Italy a fortnight ago before being beaten by the United States in Wrexham and conceding 56 points across both games.

They had plenty of incentive to bow out on a high, though, with Jordan James equalling the Wales cap record of 30 appearances before retiring from the international game, while prop Neil Budworth also bade Wales colours farewell.

The Cook Islands dominated early territory, and they deservedly went ahead after eight minutes when hooker Fepuleai powered over from close range.

Taripo added the extras, and Wales could have few complaints, but they stirred into life six minutes later as full-back Elliot Kear made a telling entry into the line, found Rhys Evans in support and Massam finished off.

It was a strong response by the home team, which knocked the Cook Islands out of their initial rhythm, but Lulia had developed into the game’s dominant figure.

His initial break nine minutes before half-time caused panic stations in the Wales defence, and he crossed unopposed.

In contrast to Wales, who lacked composure in the final third, the Cook Islands proved emphatic finishers, and John skipped his way across for try number three.

Taripo’s third goal from four attempts left Wales trailing 22-4 and seemingly facing a damage-limitation exercise for the remainder of a game.

But the hosts had other ideas, and fought back through tries during an impressive eight-minute spell for White and Roets that breathed life into a contest the Cook Islands appeared to have control of.

An exciting finish was cranked up another notch when Lloyd scored 14 minutes from time, but the Cook Islands responded with Ford’s well-worked try that finally closed off any comeback route.

Pellegrini at a loss to explain City’s away woes

“I really can’t believe we’ve lost this match.

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I think Sunderland won the match with just one shot on our goal in 90 minutes,” Pellegrini told Sky Sports.

“We had several chances at least to draw but we couldn’t do it. When you are one goal behind you are always playing against the score, against the time, and against the other team.”

City have now picked up just four points from a possible 18 away from the Etihad Stadium after registering one win, one draw and four defeats from their six away games this season.

But despite their dismal record on their travels, Pellegrini does not believe his side has anything to improve on to turn around their fortunes.

“When I think about what I would change, I think nothing. We are really playing well but the points say that we have just won four points away.”

Victory was another step in the right direction for Sunderland under new manager Gus Poyet.

The Black Cats have won two of their last three matches and have opened up a three-point gap from 20th-placed Crystal Palace.

An ecstatic Poyet told reporters: “They were outstanding. I am very proud, very tired like I played the game. If you can see the players standing on the bench everyone was like they were playing the game that is how much it means to us.”

City’s failure to score represented Sunderland’s first clean sheet this season.

“The proudest time is when you are able to keep a clean sheet against a team like Man City,” Poyet continued. “A team who did not keep a clean sheet before, It is perfection.”

(Reporting by Tom Hayward, editing by Justin Palmer)

Scott eyeing more history in Melbourne

His immediate focus might be on enjoying his Australian PGA Championship win with family and friends on the Gold Coast, but Adam Scott has his eyes on more history.

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Only Robert Allenby in 2005 has achieved the Triple Crown of Australian golf, winning the PGA, Australian Masters and Australian Open in the same summer.

While Scott’s four-shot win at Royal Pines on Sunday completed his career Triple Crown, the 33-year-old now also has a chance at emulating Allenby when he travels to Melbourne this week to defend his Australian Masters title.

A win there and a success at the Australian Open at Royal Sydney later in the month and Scott will cap off his stellar 2013 in some style.

The US Masters champion admitted the lure of creating another bit of history was tempting.

“I would love to, absolutely,” he said.

“That would be an incredible way to end the year, but I think I am going to enjoy this for a couple of days before I think about playing next week and trying to win that and then maybe an Australian Open.

“I mean that would be incredible … What Robert did was remarkable but he made it possible.

“I will be going for it, for sure.”

If Scott does achieve the Triple Crown, he’ll close the gap on world No.1 Tiger Woods in the rankings.

He said being the top-ranked player in the world, while not a goal, is a reflection of how far he’s come.

“It’s something I told myself when I was playing up at Twin Waters as a kid, or even younger in the street with a plastic ball,” Scott said.

“For a long time it really wasn’t attainable and I am getting close … I would like to get there.

“The process of getting there is winning tournaments so if I can keep winning tournaments, I can get close.”

China’s Bo supporters set up new party

Supporters of jailed Chinese politician Bo Xilai have established a new political party, a founder says, in a rare challenge to the ruling Communist Party.

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Scholar Wang Zheng said the party was set up on Wednesday, just days before a key Communist Party meeting, to support the former high-ranking official who was handed a life sentence for corruption in September.

Wang said the Zhi Xian Party, which means “supreme constitution”, has named Bo as its life-long chairman, though it was unclear if he had actually agreed to have ties with the group.

Attempts by the party to contact Bo through one of his lawyers failed.

Chinese authorities view organisations set up without express authorisation as illegal and have cracked down on similar groups in the past.

But Wang, an associate professor at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management said: “I don’t worry about being arrested.

“At first, my school tried to stop me from doing this, but I ignored them.”

Bo, the former Communist Party chief of the city of Chongqing and a member of the elite politburo, lost an appeal to overturn his convictions for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power last month.

His downfall followed his wife’s murder of a British businessman, details of which were allegedly leaked when Chongqing’s police chief fled to the safety of a US diplomatic mission in China.

Bo won admirers among China’s so-called “New Left” for revival of “red” culture, sending officials to work in the countryside and pushing workers to sing revolutionary songs, hearkening back to the country’s rule under leader Mao Zedong.

Wang said Bo’s trial was not carried out according to the law.

She declined to give the number of members and their affiliations, but said the new party hoped to hold a “national meeting” in half a year.

Several supposed members of the party, according to a list circulating on the internet, claimed not to belong or could not be reached.

“The tenet of our party is to protect the authority of the constitution,” Wang said.

China’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech and assembly but legal scholars say the document is considered subordinate to the Communist Party.

In April, authorities detained several members of a loose grouping of activists calling for reforms to China’s legal system, who took the name “new citizens movement”, according to US-based rights group Human Rights Watch.

Federer walks off into shadows with clock ticking

The 32-year-old’s 7-5 6-3 defeat in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals ended his hopes of winning the title for a seventh time and with his ranking now on the slide there is no telling if he will ever return at the season-ender.

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Federer, who has spent a record 302 weeks as world No.1 during his glittering career, preferred to look at the positives after his 22nd career defeat by Nadal.

The Swiss 17-times grand slam champion pointed to his strong finish to a disappointing year, with a final in Basel followed by a semi-final run at the Paris Masters and wins over world No.5 Juan Martin del Potro and Richard Gasquet in London.

He also pushed Novak Djokovic hard in Paris where he was a set and a break up and also here this week while on Sunday against Nadal he matched the Spaniard for the first 10 games.

The statistics are beginning to stack up against him, however, and inevitable questions are being raised about Federer’s prospects for 2014.

His one title this year was on grass at Halle.

At Wimbledon, as defending champion, his proud record of reaching at least the quarter-finals at 36 consecutive grand slams ended in the second round, almost unthinkably, against 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky.

In between there was a brief experimentation with a larger racket and further humbling losses to the likes of Federico Delbonis in Hamburg and Daniel Brands in Gstad, players he once swatted away in his sleep.

The grind of the Tour has also taken its toll on his body with the Swiss suffering a back injury before the U.S. Open.

Having split with coach Paul Annacone in October Federer, who slipped outside world’s top-four for the first time since in 10 years in July, was by no means guaranteed his place in the Tour Finals for a 12th consecutive year until his late return to form on indoor courts.

Federer’s game scaled the heights at times in London, if only in brief bursts.

The majestic forehands and backhands are still there, the backhand slice still fizzes low and the accuracy of his serve still earns him plenty of cheap points. He still makes the game look ridiculously easy at times.

Yet, just like golf great Tiger Woods, who still looks unbeatable on his good days, Federer is prone to more regular lapses of concentration, his shot selection can be questionable at key moments and the aura he once had has faded.

He also looks a yard slower.

“He hasn’t been moving as well this year as he did the year before, and that’s one of the reasons why he hasn’t had much success this year,” Djokovic said this week.

Nadal defended Federer to the hilt on Sunday saying he is a “candidate” for the Australian Open next year.

And Federer scoffs when asked what it is that makes him want to continue playing the sport.

TENNIS DNA

“It’s pretty simple; this is what I used to do as a little boy. It’s something that always is there in your DNA,” Federer said. “It’s almost like I started walking at the same time I started playing tennis in some ways.”

Yet there is not quite the same conviction when Federer talks about his aims for next year.

“Winning titles, winning five titles or something, I guess, something exciting, leaving the tournaments as winner,” he said. “Rankings? if it’s not world No. 1, then I’m not that interested, although it would be nice to stay in the top four, top eight, that kind of thing.”

Managing his schedule will be vital for Federer next year as he balances looking after his body with playing enough to regain the rhythm that has been so lacking this season.

“I’m just going to play a full schedule. What that means, I don’t know yet,” he said. I just still have to decide what the goal is, then I’ll just attack and try to play good tennis.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Justin Palmer)

France bow to All Blacks opportunism

For French captain Thierry Dusautoir, one statistic over the weekend encapsulates why it will take something special to end the All Blacks’ winning streak.

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France had the advantage in most facets during Saturday’s 26-19 loss to New Zealand in Paris – notably the offloads, usually a good measure of which team has played with more attacking intent.

The hosts made 18 offloads to the All Blacks’ two.

One of those two was young wing Charles Piutau’s spectacular flick pass to send No.8 Kieran Read across for his fifth try in his last five Tests.

“That is the thing that separates us. We matched them in terms of physical intensity but perhaps were lacking the lucidity that they have,” veteran flanker Dusautoir said.

“They had two opportunties to score and they took them. If you look at our try, it was well constructed after many phases of play.”

France lacked the killer blow as they launced an assault on New Zealand’s tryline over the closing minutes.

They came desperately close to snatching a draw when No.8 Damien Chouly was held up over the line by fullback Israel Dagg and reserve halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

That would have ended New Zealand’s bid to become the first team in the professional era to complete a perfect winning season.

With 12 wins from 12 so far, the All Blacks must win their remaining Tests against England and Ireland to achive that goal, something coach Steve Hansen believes the Paris Test has set them up for nicely.

“France had some genuine tactics that they wanted to stress us with, which at times they did,” Hansen said.

“They didn’t just play shuffle-shuffle pass-pass and we didn’t see the type of game they played against us in June where they just wanted to make contact.

“Their mindset was that they wanted to play.”

Indonesia ‘knocks back’ asylum requests

Indonesia has twice knocked back requests from the Abbott government to take asylum seekers picked up by the Australian Navy in their waters.

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Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made the comments after responding to a Jakarta Post report on Saturday, in which an Indonesian MP said they had declined three out of six Australian requests since September.

Mr Morrison, however, says Australia made four requests for transfer, of which two were rejected.

“I have given the Indonesian government an assurance that we would not canvass these requests publicly when and if they are made and I intend to honour that commitment,” Mr Morrison said.

“For the sake of correcting the public record, our post had made four such requests under Operation Sovereign Borders. Two were accepted and two were not.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the coalition’s plan to stop the boats is working despite there being setbacks.

Critics, however, say Jakarta’s refusals signal a crack in the government’s border protection policy.

Labor criticised the coalition’s policy of turning back the boats, saying it simply wasn’t working.

“The border protection policy which Tony Abbott took to the election is in tatters,” opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said.

The Australian Greens have called on the government to end its secrecy over border security operations, outlining plans to move a motion in parliament next week compelling the government to release details.

“Mr Abbott’s excuses for secrecy are wearing thin and the Greens will use the powers of the Parliament to reinforce transparency,” the minor party’s immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“The coalition’s turnaround policy is in tatters and it is time that Mr Abbott admitted that he had it wrong from the start.”

Munich 2022 Games bid ruled out by referendum loss

Munich mayor Christian Ude said the 2022 bid “had failed” after the Alpine community of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, one of four where elections were held, voted against another bid after Munich had unsuccessfully pitched for the 2018 Games.

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Munich bid hopefuls needed to win all four elections in the communities where the Games would have been held but early results suggested they could end up losing all four.

Results in Garmisch showed a narrow victory for those opposing the Olympics in their area because of environmental, construction and financial concerns with 51.5 percent against, while the negative result was even stronger in two other votes.

The Munich city votes were still being counted.

“We have to accept this result. Unfortunately, this is from our view a missed opportunity,” German Olympic Sports Confederation General Director Michael Vesper said.

A total of 1.3 million were eligible to vote at the elections in Munich, Garmisch and the communities of Berchtesgadener Land and Traunstein.

Munich had attempted to become the first city to host the summer and winter Olympics, after staging the 1972 summer Games.

Kazakhstan’s Almaty and Ukraine’s Lviv have announced their candidacies and China’s state media reported that Beijing and the northern city of Zhangjiakou will jointly bid for the Games.

The deadline for bids with the International Olympic Committee is November 14. Sochi will host next year’s winter Games while South Korea’s Pyeongchang beat Munich for the 2018 Olympics.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Nadal overpowers Federer to reach year-ending final

The mid-afternoon clash was not one of the most memorable in a 32-match series between them as Federer faded away in the second set to hand Nadal his first victory over the Swiss on an indoor court.

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Nadal was thrashed 6-3 6-0 by a rampant Federer at the o2 Arena two years ago but on Sunday his muscular game proved too much for the Swiss who had battled for more than two hours to beat Juan Martin Del Potro on Saturday.

Federer had his chances, notably when he had break points midway through the opening set, but after levelling at 5-5 by breaking Nadal’s serve for the only time he never really looked like upsetting the world number one.

“In the first set, he played very well. He was closer than me to have the break. Until 4-4 he was playing better than me,” Nadal, who is one win away from filling in the only blank on his CV, told reporters.

The year could have a grand finale with the two dominant players in the world meeting on Monday, although defending champion and world number two Novak Djokovic still had to get past Stansilas Wawrinka in the second semi-final later on Sunday.

Federer’s only real chance to stamp his authority on Nadal came in the sixth game.

On break point he was faced with a short ball on his forehand side but the shot that has won him so many titles misfired and he flew the ball over the baseline.

“I went for it when I had a chance for a breakpoint in the first set. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did. No regrets there, I guess,” Federer told reporters.

“I just struggled to stay consistent enough throughout the match, and that’s why he deserved to win. He was better today.”

Federer offered hope to his fans when Nadal served for the first set, winning a scintillating baseline exchange at 15-30 with a sweetly-timed forehand winner.

Federer then roared and clenched his fist as Nadal ballooned a forehand out to hand Federer the break back.

Just when it looked as though Nadal might be wavering, however, Federer served a double fault in the next game and Nadal then put away a forehand winner on his way to a break that was to prove decisive.

Nadal made no mistake at 6-5, winning four straight points to put one foot in the final.

When a Federer forehand nose-dived into the net on break point at 2-2 the belief seemed to drain out of the 32-year-old and the end came quickly as Nadal extended his career record over the 17-times grand slam champion to 22-10.

“It’s the perfect way to finish one of the best seasons of my career to have the chance to win a title I’ve never won,” Nadal, who has won everything in the sport apart from the season-ending tournament, said on court.

(Editing by Ed Osmond and Justin Palmer)