Tagged in: defend

Hideki Matsuyama still dealing with stiff neck, hopes to defend Masters title

Defending Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is still dealing with a stiff neck but hopes to be ready to play by Thursday’s first round at Augusta National Golf Club.

Matsuyama, who last year became the first Japanese man to accomplish a major championship with his 1-shot triumph at the Masters, has been dealing with neck and back injuries over the last several weeks. He withdrew from the Players in March and again from last week’s Valero Texas Open.

Matsuyama, the 12th-ranked player in the world, said he was initially hurt in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March.

“Since then it’s been a struggle,” Matsuyama said Tuesday through an interpreter. “I had a lot of treatment last week, though, at the Valero Texas Open. [Last] Monday and Tuesday, I was pain-free, feeling really good. Then I woke up Wednesday morning, and the neck was stiff again.

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“But I’ve had a lot of treatment the last couple of days. I just came from the practice range and really felt good. It’s probably the best I’ve felt in a long time. So I’m looking forward to Thursday, and hopefully I’ll be 100 percent by then.”

Matsuyama, 30, stated he hasn’t been able to take a full swing in a while because of the injuries.

“But I feel like the treatment I’ve been receiving is helping,” Matsuyama said. “I’m on the road to full recovery. I still have [Tuesday] and tomorrow, and I think by Thursday I’ll be ready to play my best hopefully.”

Matsuyama hosted the traditional Champions Dinner at Augusta National Tuesday night. His menu includes assorted sushi, chicken skewers, miso-glazed black cod, Wagyu ribeyes and Japanese strawberry shortcake.

Matsuyama stated the highlight of the last year was being recognized as the defending Masters champion at tournaments. He said he didn’t wear his green jacket very often and wishes he had worn it more. He considered having it dry cleaned but never did.

“I thought about it and it needed to be cleaned, but I just was so worried that something might happen to it,” Matsuyama said. “So I didn’t want to let it out of my sight.”

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Sean McVay says he’s committed to coaching Los Angeles Rams

Coach Sean McVay is not pursuing any television opportunities and is committed to helping the Los Angeles Rams defend their Super Bowl title, he told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Friday.

The New York Post, citing sources, reported Friday that McVay was set to meet with Amazon next week, with Amazon possibly willing to offer him as much as five years and $100 million.

Amazon will stream “Thursday Night Football” exclusively on Prime Video beginning this fall.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, the 36-year-old McVay spoke introspectively about eventually attaining a healthier work-life balance, telling reporters, “I know I love football and I’m so invested in this thing and I’m in the moment right now. But at some point, too, if you said what do you want to be able to do? I want to be able to have a family and I want to be able to spend time with them.”

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He sparked further speculation regarding his coaching future a day after the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI, responding to a question about returning in 2022 with, “We’ll see.”

Two days later, however, McVay appeared to telegraph his intentions at the Rams’ Super Bowl parade, initiating a chant of “Run it back!” and playfully trying to coax three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald out of a potential retirement.

McVay’s comments on family — he is set to marry fiancée Veronika Khomyn this summer after their nuptials were twice postponed for pandemic-related reasons — and his coaching future came against the backdrop of multiple sources telling ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry in the past and again recently that McVay has considered working as a television analyst as an alternative to coaching.

In January, several league executives suggested to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that McVay could follow a similar coaching/broadcasting path to Jon Gruden, whom McVay coached under in Tampa Bay in 2008, and take a break from coaching for a lucrative TV job.

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Demetrius Andrade-Jason Quigley middleweight title fight headlines Nov. 19 tripleheader

Demetrius Andrade and Jason Quigley have agreed to terms for a middleweight title fight that will headline a DAZN-streamed championship tripleheader on Nov. 19 in New England, sources told ESPN.

Murodjon Akhmadaliev will defend his unified 122-pound championship versus Ronny Rios in the co-feature, sources said. Julio Cesar Martinez puts his 112-pound title on the line vs. McWilliams Arroyo in the opening fight.

All three fights pit champions promoted by Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn against challengers aligned with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. The promotions have yet to lock down a site for the card, but sources said it will be held in New England.

Andrade (30-0, 18 KOs), ESPN’s No. 3 boxer at 160 pounds, made the fourth defense of his title in April with a unanimous-decision triumph over Liam Williams. The 33-year-old from Providence, Rhode Island, has been dominant during his 160-pound title reign but has yet to face a formidable foe. That won’t change with this fight.

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The slick southpaw will be a heavy favorite to turn back the challenge of Quigley (19-1, 14 KOs), a hard-nosed fighter coming off the biggest vicory of his career. The 30-year-old Irishman scored a majority-decision win over Shane Mosley Jr. in May and will now step up to the elite level for the first time.

The other two title fights on the card figure to be far more competitive.

Akhmadaliev, a 26-year-old from Uzbekistan, is ESPN’s No. 1 boxer at 122 pounds. He won the unified championship from Daniel Roman in January 2020 and successfully defended it in April with a stoppage win over Ryosuke Iwasa.

An Olympic bronze medalist, Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7 KOs) is considered one of the brightest young talents in boxing.

He figures to face a stern challenge in Rios (33-3, 16 KOs). The 31-year-old from Southern California is ESPN’s No. 8 junior featherweight. Since suffering a sixth-round knockout to Azat Hovhannisyan in February 2018, Rios has reeled off four consecutive wins, most recently outpointing Oscar Negrete in February.

Martinez, ESPN’s No. 1 flyweight, has torn through the competition at 112 pounds under the guidance of reigning trainer of the year Eddy Reynoso. The 26-year-old Mexican is coming off a sixth-round TKO of Joel Cordova, and like Akhmadaliev, Martinez (18-1, 14 KOs) is on the cusp of pound-for-pound recognition.

Arroyo (21-4, 16 KOs) is a 35-year-old from Puerto Rico who has faced some of the best fighters in the sport. Among those: decision defeats to Roman Gonzalez and Kazuto Ioka. He has won four consecutive since the loss to Ioka, his latest outing a TKO victory over Abraham Rodriguez in February.

The DAZN card comes one day before Terence Crawford and Shawn Porter meet for a welterweight title on ESPN+ PPV.

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