Local hero Fleetwood eyes storybook finish at Birkdale

After a dismal start on Thursday when it appeared the pressure of all the hype had affected him as he shot an opening 76, the 26-year-old has recovered superbly and lies at one over par going into Sunday’s final round.

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Asked by reporters if he still felt he had a chance of the most outlandish win, Fleetwood shrugged: “Who knows? We’ll have to see what the weather brings this afternoon. After a good one, if I have another good one tomorrow, we’ll see.”

He followed up his resilient second-round 69, which he felt was one of his best of the year and enabled him to make the cut for the first time in four Opens, by recording four birdies and an eagle on Saturday while playing alongside another Birkdale hero, Justin Rose.

Followed by another big crowd all cheering the hirsute hero who was brought up in neighbouring Southport, Fleetwood reckoned that making things happen on the final weekend had represented another terrific experience in his big week.

“It would have been pretty rubbish staying home for the weekend. It was lovely,” he smiled, only disappointed that he did not quite get back to level par as his launch pad for a powerful Sunday finale.

“But it’s just great to be able to have two rounds on the weekend. This is an experience that you don’t get every week.

“Getting clapped on to every green and every tee and people that you know. Having four days of it is a lot better than two.”

Was there not a sense of what might have been following his stuttering start?

“Shot six-over the first round, so deal with it. That’s what you’ve got to do. I wish I would have started off better. But that’s golf and that’s life,” said the world number 14.

“Another low one tomorrow, might top-10 it or something. Just depends on what the conditions are.”

(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Clare Fallon)

Grace breaks major single round record with 62

In the 442nd major championship, Grace achieved what the greats of the game could not in 157 years of trying and cracked the previous best of 63, which had been achieved 31 times.

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Grace, ranked 35th in the world, made eight birdies in his bogey-free, eight-under-par third round at the par-70 Royal Birkdale course.

After making birdie on the par-four 16th and par-five 17th, Grace needed just a par on the final hole to break the record — which he did with two putts.

The South African said he might have been helped by being unaware of the fact that he was in with a chance of making history.

“I didn’t know what was going on 18, I promise you,” he told reporters.

“I honestly didn’t. You know, I was just so in the zone of playing, hole after hole. I knew I was obviously playing really well, and making the turn in five-under was pretty special.

“I thought if I could make a couple more on the back nine, then it’s going to be a great score. I had no idea that 62 was obviously the lowest ever,” he added.

The 29-year-old said that his caddie, Zack Rasego, had been the first to break the news to him.

“Zack came up and said, “You’re in the history books.” And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Now it makes the day even sweeter,” he said.

After Friday’s windy and rainy conditions, the course on the Lancashire coast was more placid on the third day, and with the soft greens and a generous set-up, there were plenty of players heading for low scores.

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Still coming to terms with his achievement, Grace said Rasego had probably helped him by keeping the historical context to himself.

“I think he did. He never said anything, so good on him, I suppose. But after I made the putt, that was the first thing he told me. So obviously he must have known,” he said.

American Johnny Miller was the first player to make 63 in a major, when he won the 1973 U.S. Open.

Grace added: “It’s special, it really is. It’s always nice shooting a low number, whether it’s any day of the week, whether it’s in a tournament or with friends.

“And to do it at the Open Championship is pretty special. It’s something I really enjoyed and something I’ll remember forever, definitely.”

(Reporting by Simon Evans,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

Wallace won’t go to six for injured Moylan

Peter Wallace has endorsed Tyrone May as Matt Moylan’s replacement at five-eighth if the star playmaker is ruled out with a hamstring injury.

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Wallace played the majority of his career in the halves – including four games for NSW in 2008 and 2009 – before shifting to hooker in recent years.

He filled in at five-eighth in the closing stages of Penrith’s 24-16 win over Gold Coast on Saturday after Moylan was taken from the field as his hamstring continued to tighten.

Moylan declared he would be fit for Thursday’s clash with the Bulldogs, but given the Panthers’ five-day turnaround he will likely be racing the clock.

The Panthers’ depth at hooker – where Mitch Rein is stuck in reserve grade – would make Wallace a logical choice to return to the halves.

But 31-year-old Wallace said May should return to the starting side after making his debut against the Warriors last week when both he and Moylan were injured.

“I don’t think I’ll be there,” Wallace said.

“Tyrone May did a really good job there last week, so I expect him to come in if Moyza is out next week.

“He played really well today as well as he went back to reserve grade … I would probably expect him to come straight in.”

Returning star Bryce Cartwright could also be an option at No.6 for coach Anthony Griffin after he played there earlier in the season.

Cartwright returned from a knee injury through reserve grade for Penrith on Saturday, and scored one try and set up two others in their 48-18 flogging of Illawarra.

“I just wanted to get him on there and get his confidence and let him play,” Griffin said.

“Even when he was on earlier in the year he was playing injured.

“I think everyone saw that. It’s good that he is fully fit at the moment.”

Cartwright has spent the past two months alongside Wallace in rehabilitation for his knee.

The former Penrith captain said he had seen a shift in the youngster after a drama-filled start to the season on and off the field.

“He had a rough start to the year off the field which didn’t help things,” Wallace said.

“But he’s in a really good place now off the field and he is getting his body right now too.

“So I expect him to come back with a lot of confidence.”

Resurgent Day in need of an Open miracle

His mojo back, Jason Day is targeting an historic 61 as he fights to complete a miracle comeback and win the 146th Open Championship.

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Day and free-rolling Scott Hend led an exciting Australian charge during the third round at Royal Birkdale, the pair sharing the clubhouse lead after firing superb five-under-par 65s at Royal Birkdale.

By the end of the day, though, their even-par 54-hole totals trailed runaway leader Jordan Spieth by a distant 11 shots.

Day knows only a special final round will be enough to contend for the Claret Jug.

But after successfully predicting one of the world’s elite would post golf’s first-ever 62 at a major championship, Day truly believes 61 is possible on Sunday.

“Right now I’m very happy with how I played today. I think if I can do that and play the way I did today going into tomorrow, there’s definitely a chance of shooting 61,” he said.

“I hope so. I hope so. That would be nice if I could shoot that one.

“The pin placements aren’t too crazy. You get yourself in the right positions, you can hole a lot of putts.

“And I think I left four in the heart today that would have got me to nine (under) if I holed those.

“So I definitely think there’s a good opportunity to shoot 62 out there today.”

And that’s exactly what South African Branden Grace did, even if it wasn’t enough to reel in Spieth.

The two-time major winner and world No.3’s unblemished five-under 65 left him three clear of fellow American Matt Kuchar (66) and with one hand on the trophy.

Only a Masters-like final-round crash from Spieth can help Day, Hend or Marc Leishman – at one over and 12 back after a 66 – break Australia’s 24-year Open title drought.

Like Day after his second-round 76, Hend thought he had missed the halfway cut before cashing in on his good luck with five straight back-nine birdies to charge from 61st to equal 18th.

Adam Scott entered the third round confident of making a move, but a laborious even-par 70 left the former world No.1 out of the running 14 shots off the pace.

It was a fittingly forgettable way to mark five years to the day since Scott infamously squandered his four-shot lead with four holes to play at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

Qualifier Andrew Dodt continued his impressive Open debut with a 69 to join Scott at three-over, while Aaron Baddeley is a further four strokes behind after a 74.

Adam Bland (75-72) and Matthew Griffin (70-77) missed the halfway cut by two shots.

Major championship rookie Ryan McCarthy (76-72) also failed to secure weekend action, as did Cameron Smith (74-75) and Ashley Hall (75-74).

Hezbollah, Syrian army in border attack

Lebanon’s Shi’ite militia Hezbollah and the Syrian army have advanced against Sunni militants on the second day of an assault to drive them from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border, pro-Damascus media reports.

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The operation has targeted Sunni Muslim insurgents from the former Nusra Front, a group that was aligned to al-Qaeda and who have controlled the barren, mountainous zone of Juroud Arsal.

A military media unit run by Hezbollah said its forces on Saturday captured a strategic hilltop area called Dhahr al-Huwa, previously a key Nusra Front base, which allowed them to overlook several border crossings in the area.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran’s Shi’ite government, has played a critical part in previous campaigns against Sunni insurgents along Lebanon’s border, part of its wider role backing President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war.

Hezbollah’s role has drawn criticism from its Lebanese political opponents, including Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who is a Sunni.

Footage on Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV channel showed fighters on a hilltop firing assault rifles and wire-guided missiles at militant positions. The media unit also reported that some Nusra fighters had raised white flags in surrender.

The chances of any negotiation with the militants appeared dashed, however, when a mediator and former deputy mayor of Arsal was killed in rocket fire by Nusra fighters, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.

The rocket hit Ahmed al-Fliti’s his car, killing him and wounding another passenger, it said. Previous negotiations had failed to secure the militants’ withdrawal from the Juroud Arsal area to other rebel-held parts of Syria.

Syrian warplanes meanwhile struck militant positions on the Syrian side of the border, near the town of Fleita, it said.

The offensive began on Friday and killed at least 23 Nusra militants on the first day, the Hezbollah unit said. At least five Hezbollah fighters were also killed.

A security source put Hezbollah’s death toll at 15 early on Saturday, and said at least 43 militants had been killed.

Philippines extends Mindanao martial law

Philippine lawmakers have voted to retain martial law on the southern island of Mindanao until the end of the year, giving President Rodrigo Duterte more time to tackle armed extremists allied with the Islamic State group.

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Some 261 legislators agreed to extend military rule in a seven hour-long joint special session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, more than the required two-thirds of the Congress.

Security officials had told lawmakers that martial law was needed to stabilise a region where Islamic State was gaining influence, and supporters could be inspired to stage uprisings in other areas of Mindanao.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana warned of more serious problems if the government did not have the powers to act swiftly.

“We need martial law because we haven’t addressed yet the existence of other Daesh-inspired groups,” he said, referring to another name for Islamic State.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23 when heavily-armed militants belonging to the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, along with foreign fighters, stormed Marawi City, sparking the biggest security crisis of his presidency.

The battle to liberate Marawi continues two months after, with more than 420 militants, 100 soldiers and 45 civilians killed. Some of those were executed by the rebels, according to the military.

Government troops pulverised and retook some of the Maute strongholds after weeks of artillery attacks and airstrikes, but an estimated 70 militants remained holed up in the downtown area.

“The rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and we want to stop the spread of the evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

But martial law remains a sensitive issue in the Philippines as it brings back memories of human rights abuses that occurred in the 1970s under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

He was ousted in a “people power” revolt in 1986. Saturday’s vote paves the way for the first ever extension of a period of martial law since the Marcos era.

Opponents expressed fears Duterte might eventually place the entire country under martial law, but the authorities have dismissed that.

Senator Franklin Drilon said the extension until end of the year was too long, and Senator Risa Hontiveros, a staunch critic of Duterte, said martial law has “no strategic contribution to the military’s anti-terrorism operations”.

Congressman Edcel Lagman said there was “no factual basis” for martial law and that the siege in Marawi was terrorism, not rebellion.

Rebellion is one of the pre-conditions for declaring martial law under a 1987 constitution that was drafted to prevent a repeat of the Marcos era abuses.

Military chief General Eduardo General Ano said retaking Marawi has proven difficult because it was the first time troops had engaged in a “Mosul-type, hybrid urban warfare”, referring to the fighting in the Iraqi city until recently held by Islamic State.

70 villagers kidnapped in Afghanistan, at least 7 killed: police

Around 30 villagers have been released but at least 30 others are still missing, Abdul Raziq, the head of Kandahar provincial police told AFP.

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“The Taliban abducted 70 people from their house in a village along the Kandahar-Tarinkot highway, Friday. They killed seven of them today,” Raziq said. “Their bodies were found by villagers this morning.”

“They released 30 and are still keeping around 30 others,” he said, adding they were “civilian Pashtuns”, the ethnicity of many Taliban fighters.

The highway runs from Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan, to Tarinkot, capital of Uruzgan province, a poppy-growing area where the Taliban have a heavy presence.

It is not clear why the villagers were seized. Government officials and security forces are usually the target of such incidents.

Afghan Police stand guard on a highway leading to Shah Wali Khan district, in Kandahar, AfghanistanAAP

Civilians are increasingly caught in the crosshairs of Afghanistan’s worsening conflict as the Taliban step up their annual spring offensive, launched in April against the Western-backed Kabul government.

Highways around Afghanistan passing through insurgency-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with the Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travellers. 

But it is unusual for the Taliban to go into villages to take civilians as hostages. In general they intercept vehicles on the road, checking to see if passengers have links to the government.

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In July, Taliban fighters closed a highway connecting Farah to Herat city, stopping a bus and forcing 16 passengers to dismount. They shot at least seven of them, while the remaining nine were taken hostage.

Friday’s incident was confirmed by officials at the Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar and Kabul in a statement condemning the kidnappings and executions.

Fighting is underway in several northern and southern provinces in Afghanistan, including Helmand where 16 Afghan police officers were killed by a US airstrike on Friday night — the latest setback to Washington’s efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

The strike hit a compound in Gereshk district, large parts of which are under Taliban control.

Chiefs moving on from Cane yellow card

Coach Dave Rennie won’t question the yellow card shown to flanker Sam Cane which had the potential to sink the Chiefs in their gripping quarter-final against the Stormers.

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The Kiwi side emerged 17-11 winners in Cape Town, overcoming the contentious sin-binning of co-captain Cane in the 60th minute.

The Chiefs were just one point ahead soon after the All Blacks flanker’s exit but tightened up admirably as the Stormers pressed for the lead.

Cane’s punishment was debatable after he and No.8 Michael Leitch crunched Stormers winger Dillyn Leyds with a double tackle in the chest/shoulder region.

South African TMO Johan Greef called for a review and twice overruled the views of referee Jaco Peyper, firstly in deeming a penalty was warranted and then a yellow card.

Rennie said the incident “absolutely” shouldn’t attract further judicial action but was careful with his assessment of the yellow card.

He compared it to a similar act and punishment for prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen in the Hurricanes’ win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.

“All you want is consistency. We’ve got to accept the fact that there might have been shoulder contact with the jaw,” Rennie said.

“I was really just rapt with the way the boys stood up with one down.”

Rennie said victory was built on spirit rather than execution, noting his players largely struggled for cohesion.

He was keen for his team to win the territory battle and placed extra emphasis on defence, which had let them down in the 34-26 loss in Cape Town in April.

“We were able to choke them and cause a lot of turnovers,” he said.

“We probably over-kicked and we were a bit loose early.

“But this is play-off footy now. Even though the game was tight, I felt we had control.”

Rennie said his team were “excited” by the prospect of facing the Crusaders in Christchurch.

It is the second of what would need to be three wins on the road to claim a third Chiefs title.

“We wanted to be in contention with a couple of weeks to go,” he said.

“We’ve got a great group of men. They work hard for each other and they’re very tight.

“We know it’s a big challenge but we’re embracing that.”

Family denied last chance to stay in Australia after second bid for intervention fails

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has refused to intervene in the case of the Lees, despite thousands signing a petition to stop them being thrown out of the country.

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The Department of Immigration and Border Protection advised the family in a letter that their final appeal for intervention by the Immigration Minister had failed. 

“The department has assessed that this request does not meet the guidelines for referral to the minister,” the letter said.

Byran Lee said he is devastated by the decision.

“Someone can just decide our whole future within two days…this one guy. It’s shocking. I am just crushed,” he told SBS World News.

The Lees had urged Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene after a migration scam swallowed up more than hundred thousand dollars of the family’s savings. 

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The migration agent hired by father David Lee to get him permanent residency instead fled the country with the money. Subsequent visa bid extensions, involving the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, failed due to what the family said was poor legal advice.

The plight of the Lees has led to more than 6,000 people signing an online petition started by their local Catholic Church, St. Christopher’s Parish Syndal.

Patrick Jackson from the local church said it hard to see the family experience such hardship.

“They are very hardworking members of this parish and it’s a real tragedy that they have been slapped down,” he said.

A spokesman from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the Lee family’s case has been carefully considered.

David Lee, an IT engineer, has run a series of businesses and was recently granted an innovation patent for a web-based device he invented that can control home appliances.

His wife Jessica works as a piano teacher.

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William and Harry’s last call with mum

Princes William and Harry have revealed their last conversation with their mother was a brief phone call on the day she died that now weighs “heavily” on William’s mind.

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In a TV documentary about Diana, William and Harry speak of the remorse they feel at how short their final chat with their mum was, with Harry confessing it is something he will regret “for the rest of my life”.

But looking back at the life of the princess, whose death 20 years ago shocked the world, Harry said “to myself and William she was just the best mother ever” who “brought a breath of fresh air to everything she did”.

The TV program chronicles Diana’s personal journey, her campaigns supporting the homeless, AIDS victims, and banning landmines, and her death, Harry says he has only cried twice for his mother – once at her funeral and during an undisclosed occasion.

William was 15 and Harry just 12 when their mother was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31 1997.

On the day she was killed William described the “very good time” they were having at Balmoral, the Queen’s private Scottish home, where the brothers were playing with their cousins.

William, interviewed with his brother at Kensington Place for the ITV documentary, told of his regrets about the call.

“Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye, you know ‘see you later’…if I’d known now obviously what was going to happen I wouldn’t have been so blase about it and everything else.

“But that phone call sticks in my mind, quite heavily.”

Asked if he remembers what his mother said he replies “I do” but does not divulge the conversation.

Harry described how it was his turn to chat to mum after his brother.

“It was her speaking from Paris, I can’t really necessarily remember what I said but all I do remember is probably regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was.

“Looking back on it now it’s incredibly hard, I’ll have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life. Not knowing that was the last time I was going to speak to my mum, how differently that conversation would have panned out if I’d had even the slightest inkling her life was going to be taken that night.”

On Diana’s birthday – July 1 – William, Kate and Harry, joined by Prince George and Princess Charlotte, attended a service to re-dedicate her grave at Althorp house, where she was buried on an island.

Harry said: “The first time I cried was at the funeral on the island and probably only since then maybe once. So there’s a lot of grief that still needs to be let out.”

In lighter moments the princess’s sons talk about her sense of humour with Harry saying: “Our mother was a total kid through and through, when everybody says to me ‘so she was fun, give us an example’ all I can hear is her laugh in my head…”

Reflecting on the 20 years since his mother’s death, Harry revealed his struggles.

“It has been hard and it will continue to be hard, there’s not a day William and I don’t wish that she was still around and we wonder what kind of mother she would be now, and what kind of a public role she would have and what a difference she would be making.”