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Aramco Team Series Sotogrande confirms top-class field in $1m event

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The Aramco Team Series continues to prove a big draw for the world’s leading golfers as the Ladies European Tour (LET) revealed a raft of international stars heading to Sotogrande, Spain for the second of its four $1 million tournaments.

European Solheim Cup heroes Georgia Hall, Charley Hull and Bronte Law have been confirmed for the three-day event — organized by Golf Saudi and the LET — taking place at La Reserva Club from Aug. 5 to 7.

They will be joined by their 2019 captain Catriona Matthew, with the Scot set to use the Aramco Team Series Sotogrande’s unique team format to run an eye over some of her key players ahead of September’s rematch with the US.

Hall, the 2018 AIG Women’s Open winner who finished fourth in the inaugural Aramco Team Series event in London, said: “I loved the experience in London. Outside the Solheim Cup it’s rare to have an opportunity to play team golf — so not only is this a fabulous innovation for the tour that’s exciting to continue to be a part of, but it’s also another great opportunity to impress the captain.”

Representing the US in the Aramco Team Series Sotogrande field will be 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship runner-up and four-time US Solheim Cup player Lizette Salas, with fellow American Alison Lee also in the field. They will be joined by Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, the 2013 LPGA Rookie of the Year, and 2018 LPGA Rookie of the Year Lindsey Weaver.

The Aramco Team Series Sotogrande is the second of four events to take place this year, following its London debut two weeks ago. It precedes both the Aramco Team Series events in New York (Oct. 14 to 16) and Jeddah (Nov. 10 to 12), with the event in Saudi taking place just days after the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund, held from Nov. 4 to 7.

Each Aramco Team Series tournament sees 36 captains lead teams of four players, who together compete to shoot the lowest combined score over three days of golf.

All teams feature three LET players paired through a unique draft system, in which captains choose one player and are randomly assigned another. The fourth member of each team is an amateur golfer — a position open to all golfers in Spain for the Sotogrande event through the tournament’s world-first Team Up competition.

That means it could fall to an amateur golfer to hole an LET tournament-winning putt to secure prize money for the professional players, a feat unique to world golf.

London’s inaugural event saw Team Cowan — captained by Germany’s Olivia Cowan and featuring fellow German Sarina Schmidt, India’s Diksha Dagar and amateur Andy Kelsey — come out on top.

Marianne Skarpnord of Norway sank a 12-foot putt on her final hole to win the individual competition, her fifth LET title, and will also play in Spain.

“It was awesome to win and go down in history as this tournament’s first ever winner,” she said. “London was so much fun so I already can’t wait to do it again in Sotogrande next month.

“Events like the Aramco Team Series go to prove that so much great work is being done to elevate women’s golf, so I know the opportunities I have available for these magical moments are only growing, which is fantastic, and great to be a part of.”

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PSG coach Pochettino must work on weaknesses as stars flop

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Paris Saint-Germain was able to start its superstar attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the first time on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Instead of fireworks, though, they only produced a big thud as PSG drew 1-1 draw against modest Belgian side Club Brugge.

“Fantomatique” — or “Ghost-like — was the headline in French sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday.

While 2020 champion Bayern Munich and last season’s runner-up Manchester City won and scored freely, PSG’s performance highlighted that the team still has glaring shortcomings despite being able to field three of the world’s best forward.

The fact that Keylor Navas was the busier goalkeeper on the night — and PSG’s best player — should be of concern to coach Mauricio Pochettino ahead of playing much tougher teams in the competition.

“We’ve got a magnificent squad, but we need to find balance,” Pochettino said.

But given PSG’s remarkable summer recruitment drive, Pochettino knows he has little room for error in a season where the Qatari-backed club has been touted by many observers as the favorite to win the Champions League.

Behind the veneer of Messi’s arrival, the reality is that the midfield and defense still look very vulnerable, and allowed a modest side like Brugge to muster 16 shots at goal.

That is alarming considering that City is PSG’s next opponent in the group stage. Pep Guardiola’s side visits Parc des Princes on Sept. 28, giving Pochettino little time to make his team more solid.

PSG has a home game against Lyon in the French league on Sunday followed by a midweek trip to Metz before hosting Montpellier.

Pochettino also has a thorny goalkeeping dilemma to resolve — whether to stick with Navas or start Italy’s European Championship star Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Last season, Navas rescued PSG with outstanding performances against Barcelona and Bayern in the knockout stages before PSG’s limitations were exposed by City in the semifinals.

PSG would likely have lost against Brugge without Navas who, through no fault of his own, now finds himself fighting for the No. 1 jersey. Pochettino sounded evasive when asked after the Brugge game if Donnarumma would play against Lyon.

“Anything’s possible,” Pochettino said. “Decisions will be made game after game with regards to the performances.”

But rotation could also work against Pochettino, for he needs a settled goalie to take command of a brittle defense that was too easily exposed by Brugge.

Even the signing of Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Italian league champion Achraf Hakimi at right back did little to stop the waves of Brugge attacks.

Wijnaldum lost a surprising number of tackles and was not helped by Leandro Paredes, who failed to control a simple pass early on as it rolled under his foot and led to a yellow card as he then fouled a Brugge player breaking through.

Wijnaldum and Paredes were both replaced by Pochettino, whose midfield clearly struggles when Marco Verratti is absent. The Italy star’s ball retention and distribution is superior and takes pressure off his teammates.

With Messi and Neymar up front, PSG also has a forward line that isn’t known for tracking back to defend, which can lead to the midfield getting overrun and the defense being exposed as a result.

Central defenders Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe looked exhausted at the end on Wednesday, as they often did last season when PSG lost eight games and the league title to Lille.

Messi’s positioning on the right of the three-man attack offers little protection to the midfield or to Hakimi, who by nature is a very attacking player and leaves space behind him where the opposition is free to counter.

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Boateng appeals assault verdict, 1.8 million euros fine

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Germany’s 2014 World Cup winner Jerome Boateng has filed an appeal against his conviction for assault and 1.8 million euros ($2 million) fine, a court official in Munich confirmed Thursday.

A spokesperson for Munich regional court told AFP subsidiary SID that both Boateng’s lawyer and the state prosecutor have contested the verdict.

A week ago, Boateng looked visibly shocked after being found guilty of assaulting and insulting his former partner, the mother of his twin daughters, during a Caribbean holiday in 2018.

The prosecutor had asked the court to give Boateng a suspended 18-month prison sentence and a fine of 1.5 million euros, but the former Bayern Munich defender avoided a custodial sentence when the judge gave his verdict last Thursday.

The 33-year-old Boateng, who left Bayern Munich to sign for French club Lyon at the start of the month and made his debut off the bench last Sunday, denied the allegations.

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Haaland scores as Dortmund beats Beşiktaş 2-1 away in opener

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Erling Haaland scored again to help Borussia Dortmund to a 2-1 win at Turkish champion Beşiktaş in their Champions League opening game on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old Jude Bellingham was outstanding as he scored the opener and set up Haaland for the Norwegian’s ninth goal in six games across all competitions this season. Haaland scored 10 in eight Champions League games for Dortmund last season.

Beşiktaş made the much better start, roared on by vocal supporters, while the visitors seemed to struggle with the soft playing surface.

Former Dortmund forward Michy Batshuayi almost scored in the sixth minute when he drew a good save from Gregor Kobel.

It took 17 minutes before the visitors first showed a threatening sign, but the move between Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Haaland lacked precision and broke down.

Bellingham scored three minutes later when he took Thomas Meunier’s cross on his chest before firing the ball through goalkeeper Ersin Destanoğlu’s legs.

From then on it was all Dortmund, though the visitors had to wait before Bellingham set up Haaland for the second just before the break. The England midfielder moved past a defender by switching the ball from his right foot to his left before he picked out Haaland for an easy finish.

Destanoğlu stopped a central shot from Bellingham early in the second half, before Kobel did well to deny Batshuayi again at the other end.

Dortmund coach Marco Rose made three substitutions at once with 20 minutes remaining, with Bellingham among those to go off, before Destanoğlu saved another good chance from Haaland.

Ansgar Knauff came on for Haaland with five minutes of normal time remaining and grazed the crossbar in injury time.

Francisco Montero scored Beşiktaş’ consolation goal in the fourth minute of injury time with a header off Miralem Pjanic’s free kick.

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