Weekend Sports in Brief
MADRID (AP) Reigning champion Real Madrid is supporting plans to expand the Club World Cup to 24 teams following a meeting at FIFA.
Madrid is part of the European Club Association, which has voiced concerns about FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s proposals for a quadrennial Club World Cup to replace the annual tournament and pushed for players to get more mandatory rest periods.
Europe’s top domestic competitions, including the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, have also opposed FIFA’s plans.
But Madrid, winner of the last two editions of the Club World Cup, is endorsing Infantino’s vision of the tournament being played every four years in June or July with 12 representatives from Europe.
Madrid’s director of institutional relations, Emilio Butragueno, believes fans would prefer the new tournament over the current seven-team format.
BERLIN (AP) – German officials called on the global soccer federation FIFA to intervene Saturday after a journalist who exposed systematic doping in Russian athletics was denied entry to Russia to report on the upcoming World Cup.
German lawmaker Dagmar Freitag, who chairs the sports committee in parliament, said the cancellation of Hajo Seppelt’s visa was ”not just completely unjustified, but pretty scandalous.”
Freitag told German news agency dpa she was ”anxious to see how (FIFA chief Gianni) Infantino reacts.”
Reinhard Grindel, the head of the German soccer federation, also noted FIFA’s pledge to uphold press freedom. He told dpa he had ”full confidence FIFA will use its influence so Mr. Seppelt can report unhindered from Russia.”
Seppelt works for German public broadcaster ARD. FIFA confirmed that it had already approved his accreditation request and was trying to obtain further information from Russian authorities about the case.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Tiger Woods shot a 3-under 69 in the final round of the Players Championship and tied for 11th at 11-under 277.
His round could have been much closer to the 65 he shot Saturday, except his approach on 14 spun off the green. He then missed an 8-foot par putt that caused him to flip his club, ended up with a disappointing bogey and limped home with a double at the famed 17th . Woods, however, left the course feeling better than ever about his comeback. He’s still seeking his first victory since returning from a fourth back surgery.
”This weekend was more like it,” Woods said.
Woods felt like he finally pulled together all aspects of his game: His driving was impeccable, his iron play was better than it’s been all week and his putting was as good as it’s been all season. He stirred packed galleries into a frenzy on Mother’s Day while wearing his traditional red shirt. Fans young and old stood dozens deep, scurrying from tee to fairway to green, just for a brief peek at Woods.
CHICAGO (AP) – Major League Baseball has warned Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs against wearing black cleats.
Zobrist posted a letter from the league office on Instagram saying the cleats he wore May 2 against Colorado violated the collective bargaining agreement. MLB says they must be at least 51 percent blue – the Cubs’ color – and warned he could be fined and disciplined if he doesn’t comply.
Zobrist wrote he has worn black cleats for day games at Wrigley Field the past two years to honor the game’s past. He said he was inspired by watching highlights of greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s and 1960s.
He had little to say about the warning after the Cubs beat the crosstown White Sox on Saturday, other than he plans to talk to the league and union about it. He came in to play left field as part of a double switch. And yes, he had on black cleats.
BOSTON (AP) – Jaylen Brown had 23 points and eight rebounds, Marcus Morris added 21 points and 10 boards, and the Boston Celtics opened a 21-point, first-quarter lead and scorched the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Al Horford scored 20 points for the Celtics, who ran off 17 consecutive points in the first quarter and never allowed the Cavaliers within single digits again. Boston led by 28 when Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue pulled LeBron James for good with 7:09 left.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
Kevin Love had 17 points and eight rebounds, and James finished with 15 points, nine assists and seven boards. The Cavaliers missed their first 14 3-point attempts of the game and shot just 32 percent in the first half.
By that time, Boston led 61-35 – the biggest halftime playoff deficit in James’ career.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – The Washington Capitals scored in the opening minute of the game and twice in the last 1:02 of the second period to pull away to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference final.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller each had a goal and two assists. Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had a goal and an assist apiece.
Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly also scored for the Caps, who took the first two games of the best-of-seven matchup on the road. Since 1974-75, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the conference final or semifinal have a series record of 39-2 (95.1 percent).
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Washington.
Braden Point and Steven Stamkos had early power-play goals for Tampa Bay, which rebounded after falling behind on Wilson’s goal 28 seconds into the game.