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The young guns of world sport

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17 year-old world number one women's golfer Lydia Ko moves to embrace her caddy after winning the Australian Open. (Image via abc.net.au)

Lachlan Barker looks at some amazing young golfers, an outstanding veteran cyclist and who's up and down at the Cricket World Cup.

The Australian Open women’s golf tournament completed this Sunday and was won by New Zealander, Lydia Ko, another tournament won by a young woman with focus and attention to detail.

Last week’s Australian Masters was won by 18-year-old, Su Oh, from Victoria, while this week’s winner, Ko, is 17. Not only did she win, but when she touched down in the country to play in Open, she was the world’s number one ranked golfer, at 17 years of age.

I don’t know how you were travelling at 17, but I can assure you that when I was that age, I was still in high school approaching my HSC exams with trepidation and barely able to figure out how to put my pants on properly.

So, for Ko to be ruling the female golfing world at such a young age is quite an achievement.

Lydia, like Su Oh, is of Korea Republic (formerly South Korea) ancestry and now calls New Zealand home.

The Open this year was dominated by Asian golfers, with Amy Yang of the Korea Republic second and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand third. The first non-Asian flag on the leaderboard was Jenny Shin of the USA in equal fourth, yet Shin was likewise born in the Korea Republic.

The top Australian entry on the leader board was Minjee Lee in equal seventh and she, yes, also has Korea Republic ancestry. Minjee was born in Perth after her parents emigrated from Korea Republic in 1996.

Golf is indeed massive in Asia, one website has it that golf tourism to Thailand alone is worth US$2 billion a year.  This is reflected in the quality of play of these young women and shown in the number of golfers with Asian ancestry rising to the top of the leader boards.

Also this week, in the world of women’s sport, Australian cyclist Anna Meares became the most successful track cyclist in history. She achieved this by taking the gold medal, her 11th, at the World Track Cycling Championships in Paris.

She won the keirin event, and this 11th title took her to the top in isolation. She had previously shared the top spot with Frenchwoman Felicia Ballanger.

This gold took her overall medal tally to 26 and into the record books as the most successful track cyclist ever.

Now there, Tony Abbott please note, is an Australian worthy of a knighthood.

And so moving back to the world of men’s sport, the Cricket World Cup has been ongoing and New Zealand are looming as the team to beat. They began the tournament at home defeating Sri Lanka by 98 runs, a comfortable victory, which was a sign of things to come.

Next the Kiwis clobbered Scotland, dismissing the Scots for 142 in 36 overs, then posting the necessary runs in a mere 25 overs.

“Well,” you the reader may say, “Scotland are a minnow of cricket, that’s not such a big win by New Zealand is it?”

The answer, in isolation, “no”, however New Zealand’s next match was against England and the unholy thumping they gave the English made Scotland’s efforts look a whole lot better.

And man, does it give me great joy to report these figures.

The England-New Zealand match was played in the New Zealand capital, Wellington and that’s appropriate due to the “capital” nature of New Zealand’s win, and the total capitulation of England.

England batted first and were dismissed in the 34th over for 123. Joe Root offered the only resistance with 46. Only three other batsmen reached double figures, though one of these was woefully out of form captain Eoin Morgan with 17. However considering he has now scored four zeroes in his last six innings, he may consider this a barnstorming return to form.

Then New Zealand took to the crease and passed England’s total in – wait for it – 12.2 overs, less than a third of the allotted total. Brendon McCullum was the main destroyer with 77 off 39 deliveries.

Thus New Zealand sit atop group A with three wins from three matches and a very healthy Run Rate of 3.58.

Australia are second in this group with one win from two matches. However the Australians’ second match was a washout against Bangladesh. This game was due to be held this Sunday just past at the Gabba in Brisbane, but with cyclone Marcia lashing the Queensland coast, and sending rain tendrils in all directions, there was no chance of play on the ‘sink-ankle-deep’ grass of the Woolloongabba Sports ground.

This counts as a “loss” in real terms for the Australians, as they were strongly favoured to beat the Bangladeshis. However, it’s great news for the team from the sub-continent, as they receive one point for the “no result”.

On the upside for the poms, England have finally pulled it together it seems, and performed well against Scotland. England posted 303/8 after 50, with opener Moeen Ali setting the tone with 128 off 107, but probably the best news for England is that Morgan gritted it out for 46 off 71.

The Scots were (sadly) outclassed though and folded for 184 off 42.2 overs.

Thus group A is largely now as expected with Australia and New Zealand on top, but less so at the other end, where before the Scotland match, England sat last with no points. However with this first victory under England’s belt a modicum of order had been restored and England are now third last, at least ahead of Scotland and Afghanistan.

In the other group, B, things have a curious reflective nature of group A. India sit atop with two wins from two, followed by the West Indies with one from two. However major nation, Pakistan, are on the bottom, behind second-tier Zimbabwe, and associate, third-tier, members United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ireland.

Beginning with top and bottom in that group, India defeated Pakistan in the opening match for these two teams, by 76 runs, clearly an indicator of the pain for Pakistan to come. India notched 300 from 50 overs, then demoralised Pakistan, dismissing them for 224 from 47.

India then went on to even greater heights by defeating major players South Africa in their next outing. India posted another 300, then dismissed the South Africans for a paltry 177 in the 41st over. Again South Africa are no lightweights by any means, so this was comprehensive.

India thus loom with New Zealand as a serious hurdle for any team with aspirations.

Pakistan then went on to compound their misery with an utter surrender to the West Indies in Christchurch. The West Indies themselves were enigmatic at best, having lost to Ireland in their first match. Clearly this hurt, and they came out smoking against the Pakistanis and posted 310 off their allotted 50 overs. Pakistan then fell over to be dismissed for close on half the Caribbean team’s score, 160 in the 39th.

So the World Cup has given us teams at the top that we expected, but also teams on the bottom that no one had anticipated.

I’m still supporting Scotland though, so excuse me while I go and get my kilt back from the dry cleaners in readiness for their next match.

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