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LIV on the mind at Augusta as DeChambeau takes the lead

Robbie Henshaw and Leinster “obsessed” with a fifth Champions Cup; Athletics to give prize money to Olympic champions

Gary Player is 88 and still does hundreds of press-ups to start his day. Still, “I can hardly put the ball on the tee anymore,” he quipped when he and youngsters Jack Nicklaus (84) and Tom Watson (74) shaped up to hit their ceremonial shots at Augusta on Thursday. There was no shortage of wisecracks from the trio, who have just the 11 green jackets and 140 Masters appearances between them, but, writes Philip Reid, later they displayed “burrowing frows” when the issue of “how fractured the game has become since LIV’s arrival” arose. Greg Norman, LIV’s boss, wasn’t even gifted a ticket for the opening round, having to pay for one on the secondary market, but once he gained entry he witnessed LIV’s own Bryson DeChambeau take the clubhouse lead with a 65.

If winning the Masters is an obsession for Rory McIlroy, who is six shots adrift of DeChambeau, that’s how Robbie Henshaw views Leinster’s desire to win a fifth Champions Cup too. Gerry Thornley talks to the centre ahead of Saturday’s repeat of last year’s final, while Brendan McGilligan brings news from the La Rochelle camp which is based this week in Cork - “Ronan’s city”. And it’s in Cork where the Irish women will take on Wales in the Six Nations, also on Saturday, John O’Sullivan previewing that encounter.

In Gaelic games, Ian O’Riordan hears from Meath goalkeeper Seán Brennan ahead of his county’s Leinster quarter-final meeting with Dublin on Sunday, Brennan only opting to play in goal as a youngster after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. And in soccer, Gavin Cummiskey was on Duffer-watch, hearing Damien Duff’s response to the latest flare-throwing incident which has resulted in Shelbourne fans being banned from their upcoming game away to Galway.

In athletics, Sonia O’Sullivan writes about being home in Cobh last Sunday for the he annual 10-mile road race that is named in her honour, while Johnny Watterson looks at the decision of World Athletics to award prize money to Olympic gold medallists, the move “shattering traditional principles of no cash prizes for Olympic champions”.


And in horse racing, Brian O’Connor writes about how the Grand National “simultaneously provides the sport with its greatest and most fraught shop window” - “with the spotlight comes scrutiny on jump racing’s most uncomfortable reality; that with thrills come spills and the inevitability that some of them at some point will result in fatal injuries”.

TV Watch: With a bit of luck, the weather Gods will behave themselves at the Masters after disrupting the opening round at Augusta. Sky Sports Golf bring coverage of round two (from 2pm). And at 7.35 this evening, Shelbourne kick off against Bohemians in the League of Ireland Premier Division (RTÉ 2).