Jersey City, Aug 8 (AP/UNB)— Tiger Woods' first vacation to Thailand was a lot different than when he goes there for work.
"No one knew who I was," Woods said Wednesday with a smile.
That might be true when no one's trying to bother him at a resort with his mother, children and girlfriend. Still, there's no question Woods is one of Thailand's most lauded sports heroes.
His mother was born and raised in Thailand. Since his first Masters win in 1997, Woods' face has been plastered across Bangkok's newspapers and television stations throughout his highs and lows.
Woods identified himself "Cablinasian" — Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian — on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1997. Even so, he has always reciprocated the special kinship he has with his Thai roots.
"We wanted to have at least one time where the kids got a chance to experience Thailand with my mom, and so it was special for all of us," Woods said. "The fact that my kids got a chance to be with my mom in her home country was pretty special considering that that may never happen again."
Woods has won his share of tournaments in the Southeast Asian country — he won the 1998 and 2000 Johnnie Walker Classics in Phuket and Bangkok. The 1998 victory was the most memorable — he started the final round eight shots behind Ernie Els, shot 65 and beat him in a playoff. That remains his greatest final-round comeback.
And it was at the 1998 tournament in Phuket that Chuah Choo Chiang, senior director of communications for the PGA Tour who has spent most of his career involved in Asian Tour golf, truly realized the impact Woods had on the region.
"As Tiger was about to win the tournament, one of the Thai players said, 'Hey, it's no problem, it's a win for Thailand as well,'" Choo Chiang said. "And this was a professional on the Asian Tour."
It was like that beyond the borders of Thailand, stretching all over the world. Woods has played in every continent except Antarctica — and returned with a trophy from each. his appeal is massive, and it is particularly strong across Asia.
Woods has played in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The two tournaments he hosts have title sponsors from South Korea and India. He returns to Japan in October for an exhibition and for the Zozo Championship, the first PGA Tour event in Japan.
He played in his mother's home country for the first time in 1997. According to a Sports Illustrated story, Woods landed in Bangkok after a 20-hour flight from Los Angeles. The plane's first-class cabin was bombarded by cameras and journalists from four of the five national TV stations, who began broadcasting live. This was two months before he won the Masters, which set off the first phase of "Tigermania."
Woods was exhausted from the flight and his hectic start to the season. In the delirium, one reporter asked what Woods would like to say to the Thai people.
"I'll sign everything outside," a bleary Woods said, according to the story.
To this day, Thailand's frenzy for Tiger continues. According to Choo Chiang, the excitement levels are the same — if not higher — especially since Woods won the Tour Championship at the end of last season and the Masters in April. It was his first major in 11 years.
"You see young kids in Thailand having the same reaction as to what kids had 20 years before," Choo Chiang said. "They're emulating his swing. They're just in full awe of Tiger."
Thai's own world-standing in golf is rising.
Four Thai women were among the top 50 on the LPGA Tour money list last year, led by Ariya Jutanugarn, who won the U.S. Women's Open and ended the year at No. 1 in the world ranking.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the first Thai PGA Tour member, is sometimes referred to as the "Asian John Daly" for his power and girth. Next on the horizon could be 23-year-old Atiwit "Jazz " Janewattananond, who played in the penultimate group at Bethpage Black in his PGA Championship debut. He is on the cusp of cracking the top 50 in the world ranking.
Aphibarnrat and Janewattananond have talked in length about the effect Woods has had on their lives. It's evident his profound impact is a part of every Thai golfer.
"I could bet you my last dollar every single one has been inspired by Tiger — 110%," Choo Chiang said.
Montreal, Aug 8 (AP/UNB) — Top-seeded Rafael Nadal opened his Rogers Cup title defense Wednesday, beating England's Daniel Evans 7-6 (6), 6-4 in a second-round match delayed by rain three times.
After rain delays of six and 30 minutes, Nadal fought off two set points in the first-set tiebreaker. Play was stopped for 1 hour, 56 minutes with Nadal leading 2-0 in the second set.
"All the matches are difficult here," Nadal said. "It was a tough first set. Then in the second, I was able to take advantage at the beginning, but then he broke me back."
The 33-year-old Spanish star, a four-time Rogers Cup champion, will face Argentina's Guido Pella in the third round. Pella beat Moldova's Radu Albot 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2).
Second-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Canada's Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Thiem was coming off a victory on clay at the Generali Open in his native Austria.
Felix Auger-Aliassime won an all-Canadian match when Milos Raonic retired because of a back injury. Auger-Aliassime the first set 6-3, and Raonic won the second 6-3 before stopping play.
Poland's Hubert Hurkacz upset fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and France's Richard Gasquet beat fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (4); and France's Adrian Mannarino, topped 11th-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia, 6-2, 6-1.
Sixth-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia edged Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2; eighth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia topped Kyle Edmund of Britain 6-3, 6-0; and 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain edged Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-2, 7-5; and
Cristian Garin of Chile knocked off 12th-seeded American John Isner 6-3, 6-4; and 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia topped Australia's John Millman 6-3, 6-4.
Toronto, Aug 8 (AP/UNB) — Serena Williams won her first match since losing the Wimbledon final, beating Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-3 on Wednesday night in the second round of the Rogers Cup.
The 37-year-old Williams has won the event three times, all in Toronto, and has a 31-4 match record.
"I feel like my movement is great — been working on my fitness, so I felt like it really was able to shine through today," Williams said. "I'm loving going out there, and I'm loving kind of running. So it's a good thing."
In the third round, she'll face Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova — a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Zhang Shuai of China.
"Now that I'm just injury-free, I'm just enjoying being able to train, and I haven't been able to do it since January, really," said Williams, seeded eighth. "So I just think that the fact that I can train and practice and get in the gym is really going to be helpful for me."
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep of Romania beat American qualifier Jennifer Brady 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
The winner last year in Montreal, Halep lost a 4-0 lead in the third set when Brady won five straight games. Halep broke Brady for the third time in the set to go up 6-5, but Brady broke back to force the tiebreaker.
"It was a very, very tough one," Halep said. "I expected it because I knew that she's going to serve big and also the forehand is big. I didn't feel 100% ready for the tournament because I had a long break (after Wimbledon). But I'm really pleased with the way it was today, the fact that I fought till the end."
The 26-year-old Halep will face Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia. Kuznetsova beat Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Second-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan reached the third round when German qualifier retired because of a left abdominal injury. Osaka led 6-2 in her first match since losing in the first round at Wimbledon.
Canada's Bianca Andreescu beat Russia's Daria Kasatkina 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. On Tuesday night, the 19-year-old Andreescu beat fellow Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.
Third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic also advanced, beating American qualifier Alison Riske 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-2
No. 16 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia reached the third round when Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain retired with a hip injury while trailing 7-5, 3-1. Kontaveit will face Pliskova on Thursday.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was eliminated, losing 7-5, 7-5 to Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, the 2017 Rogers Cup winner, moved onto the third round with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Katerina Siniakova, and 2015 champion Belinda Bencic of Switzerland edged Julia Goerges 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Bencic and Svitolina will face each other Thursday.
Florham Park, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — Valentine Holmes was as massive a star in Australia as he could have ever imagined.
The standout winger and fullback for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks of the National Rugby League was recognized wherever he went, with die-hard fans donning his team's jersey and wide-eyed youngsters wanting to play just like him.
And then, Holmes stunningly left it all behind.
He headed to the United States for a chance to play American football in the NFL, a decision that angered some of those same fans who once cheered him. But Holmes needed to tackle his dream — no matter what everyone else thought.
"I just felt like I wanted to test myself as a person and an athlete," the 24-year-old Holmes told The Associated Press. "I wasn't really thinking about what I was giving up, I guess. It was just that I wanted to chase more."
Holmes is in training camp with the New York Jets competing for a roster spot as a running back, wide receiver and return specialist.
He's here — 10,000 miles from home — as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway program. This summer, all four AFC East teams — the Jets, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots — can carry an international player in camp. It's a long shot, but players can earn a place on the 53-man active roster. If they don't, they are eligible for a practice squad exemption, meaning they wouldn't count against the team's allotment of 10 non-active roster players during the regular season.
Holmes first worked out for NFL scouts in Los Angeles in 2016, and spent three months early this year learning the game at IMG Academy in Florida before joining the Jets in the spring.
"I'd say it's been kind of like a roller-coaster," Holmes said. "Obviously, I've had some ups and downs. Learning the playbook and getting stuff wrong is not always good, just making mistakes on the field or even in the classroom. And then, also making good plays and making good stops is also a good thing, as well.
"So, yeah, I'm just excited to be here."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Holmes has been working in the backfield with the likes of Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell, catching passes and also returning punts — doing whatever he can to stand out.
Holmes has shown flashes in recent days after a back ailment limited him early in camp. He had a 50-yard touchdown catch in a drill Monday that had his teammates fired up.
"He's picking up the offense," Jets coach Adam Gase said. "That hasn't really been his issue. It's just when everything starts moving super-fast, he's trying to get used to that and I think it's starting to work for him. It's slowing down for him and I think it just keeps slowing down.
"I'm excited to see him get to play in some games and just kind of see how he reacts to all that."
Holmes might get that chance Thursday night in the Jets' preseason opener against the Giants.
"It'll be cool just to be on the sideline and interact with the guys," he said, "and watch with them rather than just watch on the TV, you know?"
Holmes was fascinated by the NFL as a kid, checking out highlights of games and reading about the league's biggest stars.
That stuck with him, even when he was 17 and moved out of his family's home in Townsville on the northeastern coast of Queensland to Sydney to begin a career in rugby league. Holmes quickly discovered he was good — really good — and racked up 369 points in five seasons with the Sharks. He represented Australia in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, where he set a record with 12 tries — the equivalent of touchdowns — in the tournament.
"I was a big fish in Townsville, but then when I went over to Sydney, it was 10 times bigger and a lot more competitive because they had a lot more people," he said. "I worked my way up there."
Holmes had one year left on his contract with the Sharks, but instead had the team release him, passing up about $720,000, to pursue the NFL.
Some speculated Holmes is merely passing time in the U.S. until next year when he could potentially make big-time bucks as a highly coveted free agent in rugby league.
"It wasn't really about my situation financially or anything," said Holmes, who would earn $129,000 on the Jets' practice squad. "The opportunity came up and I'm sure a lot of people would take it if they wanted to and if they could. It's also kind of creating a pathway for other guys who'd like to do that in the future."
What Holmes is attempting is not unprecedented, but is uncommon.
Jarryd Hayne was the first rugby league player who never previously played American football to make it onto an active NFL roster when he spent the 2015 season with San Francisco as a running back and return specialist.
Offensive lineman Jordan Mailata became the second after being drafted by Philadelphia last year in the seventh round, although he didn't play in any games as a rookie.
Holmes is on his way to forging his own legacy, but he refuses to look too far ahead. There's no time for that. He's living his dream right now.
"I'm just trying to focus on being healthy and staying fit, and the longer I do that, maybe the more time I get on the field and maybe that helps my chances," Holmes said. "I'm not really worried about the future of myself at the moment. I'm just kind of worried about what I'm doing now and needing to get better at learning the playbook and needing to get better on the field."
Orlando, Aug 7 (AP/UNB) — The Pro Bowl will return to Orlando for the fourth straight year and be held one week before the Super Bowl.
The NFL's all-star game will be an afternoon match at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26. A week later, the league's championship game will be played a few hours south in the Miami area.
Fans, players and coaches will vote for the 88 Pro Bowlers, and the game will match the AFC against the NFC.
A weeklong celebration in conjunction with the NFL's 100th season initiatives also will take place across the Orlando area. Those will include a skills showdown and the league's flag football championships.