[NOTES on a SCORECARD] Ryosuke Kinoshita produces a respectable performance in LIV Golf Opener


Ryosuke Kinoshita finished 14th in the inaugural LIV Golf Tournament in London, which ended on Saturday June 11. South African Charl Schwartzel won the event.

The new circuit, which is due to hold eight events this season around the world, runs three-round tournaments with 48 players without cuts and includes a team concept.

Kinoshita, 30, from Nara Prefecture, won 270,000 USD or the equivalent of 36.4 million yen JPY, for his par two over the Centurion Club. Kinoshita is a two-time winner of the Japan Golf Tour with both victories coming in 2021. He was one of three Japanese, along with Jinichiro Kozuma and Hideto Tanihara, to play in the tour opener that could revolutionize the sport.

The arrival of LIV Golf, backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and its immediate impact on the PGA Tour harks back to the days of the NFL-AFL, NBA-ABA and NHL-WHA bidding wars, when leagues were vying for the rights of top talent with huge contracts. Controversy followed the launch of LIV Golf due to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Big names on the new tour include Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Mickelson was reportedly paid $200 million to join, while Johnson was reportedly signed for $150 million. These sums are separate from the tournament prize money.

Schwartzel won US$4 million for his one-hit win over fellow countryman Hennie Du Plessis. The winner’s share was the largest in golf history.

Kinoshita finished three strokes behind Johnson and eight strokes ahead of Mickelson in the final results.

NBA player Watanabe marries

Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe just announced their marriage to former Fuji TV presenter Akiko Kuji. Watanabe, 27, just completed his fourth season in the NBA and is a restricted free agent.

Kuji, also 27, is from Oshu, Iwate Prefecture. She worked at Fuji from 2017 until her departure in April this year.

Congratulations to Yuta and Akiko.

Ohtani reacts to Maddon’s ousting

The Los Angeles Angels fired manager Joe Maddon on June 7 after the team lost their 12th straight game on their way to a record 14-game losing streak. Reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani, who has struggled this season like several other players on the team, lamented Maddon’s departure.

“Obviously it’s not entirely Joe’s fault,” Ohtani commented. “The players are, myself, partly to blame, as I was underachieving. I just want to say thank you to Joe, I appreciate everything he has done for me.

The Angels have much bigger issues to deal with when it comes to Ohtani. The superstar, who turns 28 on July 5, will be a free agent after the 2023 season and said winning is his first priority. If he wants to do that, it looks like he’ll have to change teams.

The Angels are already short of huge salary commitments to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon for years to come. To keep Ohtani, they will have to pay a record amount between 45 and 50 million dollars per year. It may not be feasible.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with Ohtani over the next 18 months, but it sure looks like he’ll find a new home.

Mikolas loses a no-hitter bid in the ninth

A tough break for former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Miles Mikolas, who now plays for the St. Louis Cardinals, on June 14. Mikolas was one hit away from the Pittsburgh Pirates when rookie Cal Mitchell doubled the header from center fielder Harrison Bader.

Mikolas struck out six batters, walked one and threw 129 pitches in the 9-1 win. Reliever Packy Naughton came on to secure the final for St. Louis. Mikolas is 5-4 with a 2.62 ERA this season for the Cardinals.

“I really can’t be upset,” Mikolas said. “I guess you have to take your hat off to that guy over there.

Mikolas, 33, spent three seasons (2015-17) with the Kyōjinwhere he posted an impressive 33-13 record with a 3.69 ERA.

Save Jingu Stadium Campaign

A campaign is underway to try to save the current Jingu Stadium before it is demolished and replaced by a new building.

Rochelle Kopp, a Yale-educated international management consultant, posted a petition on change.org to stop the planned renewal next to the new national stadium. She also held press conferences at Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices to halt the renewal project.

Jingu Stadium, which opened in 1926, is set to be rebuilt on the current site of the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium (which will also be demolished) as part of an overhaul that will include a pair of high-rise buildings. Jingu has a rich history and is one of four remaining stadiums (along with Koshien Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) in which Babe Ruth played.

Samurai Blue’s flaws Exposed in loss against Tunisia

Japan’s 3-0 loss to Tunisia in the Kirin Cup final on June 13 should temper expectations ahead of the World Cup in Qatar later this year. For the Blue Samurai, 23rd in the FIFA rankings, being whipped at home by Tunisians (ranked 35th) is not a good sign.

Japan are in Group E for the World Cup along with Costa Rica and traditional powerhouses Germany and Spain. Good luck with that.

We’ve seen this movie so many times over the years: Japan playing a bunch of home games against mostly weak competition, then going to the World Cup and bouncing back in the first or second round. It never ceases to amaze how people buy into the hype. This happens every four years.

National team captain Maya Yoshida didn’t help matters last month when he spoke of Japan “making the quarter-finals” in Qatar. Good grief.

The reality is that Samurai Blue hasn’t been the same since the days of Hidetoshi Nakata. He was a leader and a visionary on the pitch and they could never replace him.

Kei Nishikori (GETTY IMAGES/via KYODO)

Nishikori falls out of the Top 100

Kei Nishikori has dropped out of the top 100 of the ATP rankings released on Monday, June 13. It was the first time in 12 years that the Shimane native has broken out of the top 100. Nishikori, 32, is currently recovering from hip surgery. which he suffered in January.

Nishikori, who was ranked fourth in the world in 2015 behind Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, has struggled with injuries in recent years. The sand is now crossing the hourglass and it is going to be very difficult for the ever friendly and accommodating Nishikori to get back in the running with the current group of top players.

Opposition to Sapporo’s 2030 Olympic bid

A small group of protesters in Tokyo and Sapporo gathered on June 12 in a bid to try to drum up opposition to the capital of Hokkaido to secure the 2030 Winter Olympics. This will prove to be another futile exercise.

If these people think they are going to prevent Sapporo from hosting the games a second time (after 1972), they are out of touch. The truth is that the Olympics offer cities a chance to build new facilities for the future if they are willing to do so.

One of the mistakes of the recent Tokyo Games was not to build a new state-of-the-art facility to replace the aging Yoyogi National Stadium. Living in the past is not the way to go. You can’t keep fixing old things forever. It’s not sustainable.

Tokyo lacks a venue like London’s O2 Arena or New York’s Madison Square Garden. That’s why whenever a big sporting event or concert comes to town, they have to hold it at the Saitama Super Arena.

Not exactly the most convenient place to get to it.

Sapporo desperately needs a new building to replace the Makomanai Ice Arena, which was built in 1970 and hosted figure skating at the 1972 Games, on the outskirts of town. Makomanai is best known as the place where American Janet Lynn fell during her free skate in 1972 but got back up with a smile on her face, endearing herself to Japanese fans. She won the bronze medal despite the fall.

In 2030, Makomanai will be 60 years old, which is far too old. I say build a new arena, locate it in the center of the city where people can easily access it, and put a statue of two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu in front.

Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a seasoned sports journalist and one of the world’s leading figure skating experts. Find Jack’s articles and podcasts on his author page, hereand find him on Twitter @sportsjapan.


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