Take your medicine to tame Augusta, says McIlroy

The Northern Irishman led the tournament going into the final round in 2011 but carded an ugly 80 to blow his chances.

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After top-10 finishes in the last three years, however, he believes he now has the experience to deal with any conditions at Augusta and he received advice this week from six-times Masters champion Jack Nicklaus.

“He said to me that he took on too much a couple of times and it cost him a couple of Green Jackets,” McIlroy told reporters on Tuesday.

“He said, it is a golf course that can tempt you into doing a little bit too much.”

McIlroy remembered a costly error of judgement on the 11th hole of his third round at Augusta last year when he drove the ball into the pine straw bordering the fairway.

“I’m trying to hit this low hook around and catch the hill, and trying to get it up on to the green and hit this heroic shot, and it goes in the water and I make a six. That’s the last thing I needed,” he said.

“Even if you make five, five is better than six. Take the water out of play. Just little things like that where the golf course tempts you to do something. So it’s just a matter of being smart, taking your medicine when you have to and moving on.”

McIlroy, 27, has had a quiet start to the season, missing several weeks due to a rib injury, but he has enjoyed his low-key preparations for the year’s first major.

“The break allowed me to work on a few things in my game that whenever you’re playing week-in, week-out you may neglect a little bit,” he said.

“So I spent a good bit of time around the short-game area and the putting green. Obviously, it’s of huge importance this week to have your short game as sharp as possible,” McIlroy added.

The world number two, who won the last of his four major titles in 2014, has played 99 practice holes at Augusta over the last two weeks.

“Physically, I’m fine. I’ve played the golf course enough, I feel. I’m ready to go.”

(Editing by Neville Dalton)

Sri Lanka take opening T20 over Bangladesh

Kusal Perera hit 77 runs off 53 deliveries to propel Sri Lanka to a six-wicket win over Bangladesh in the first of their two Twenty20 internationals.

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Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza won the toss and elected to bat, with his team going on to make 6-155 wickets in 20 overs. Mosaddek Hossain top-scored for the tourists with an unbeaten 34.

Lasith Malinga took two wickets for Sri Lanka before Sri Lanka reached their target with seven deliveries to spare. Perera’s sixth half-century innings in Twenty20 internationals included a six and nine boundaries.

Malinga gave Sri Lanka a promising start with the ball, bowling out in-form Tamim Iqbal with the second delivery of the match.

But Soumya Sarkar (29) and Sabbir Rahman (16) led a recovery, adding 57 runs for the second wicket with more than 10 runs an over. But a brilliant direct hit from Seekkuge Prasanna found Rahman inches short of his crease.

Bangladesh lost another wicket without addition to the score when Sarkar was caught by Thisara Perera off seamer Vikum Sanjaya.

Sri Lanka’s bowlers soon had Bangladesh 5-82, before Hossain and Mahmudullah Riyad shared 57 runs for the sixth wicket to help the tourists to a competitive total.

Kusal Perera led Sri Lanka’s reply, sharing 65 runs at a run rate of 10 per over with captain Upul Tharanga.

Tharanga was caught by Mustafizur Rahman off a delivery from Mortaza, who then caught and bowled Dilshan Munaweera for eight.

Asela Gunaratne was run out for 17 and Perera was out last caught by Sarkar off seam bowler Taskin Ahmed.

Prasanna scored 22 runs off 12 deliveries including two sixes and a boundary to seal Sri Lanka’s victory.

US Senate clashes over Trump Supreme Court pick

The Senate began formal debate on federal Judge Neil Gorsuch, as opposition Democrats insisted they have the necessary votes to block his nomination through use of a tactic known as a filibuster.

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Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster and end debate in the 100-seat Senate. Republicans hold 52 seats. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted that “due to an unprecedented filibuster threat,” he was setting up the crucial test vote for Thursday morning.

Due to an unprecedented filibuster threat, I just filed cloture on the Judge #Gorsuch nomination. #SCOTUS

— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) 4 April 2017

A confirmation vote follows on Friday, after which Congress shutters for a two-week recess.

The expected failure of the test vote sets the stage for Republican leaders to employ the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules in order to advance the nomination — and all subsequent Supreme Court nominees — by a simple majority vote.

McConnell warned that the Democrats’ filibuster could do something “truly detrimental to this body and to our country.”

Democrats were “hurtling toward the abyss,” he said, “and trying to take the Senate with them. They need to reconsider.”

To overcome the filibuster, Republicans need eight Democrats to back Gorsuch, named by Trump to fill the seat of conservative justice Antonin Scalia who died in February 2016.

To date, just four Democrats have announced their support.

President Donald Trump announces 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch as his choice for Supreme Court Justice AAP

“They’re pretty much dug in,” Republican Senator John Thune said of Democratic colleagues.

McConnell will need to put the rules change to a majority vote. He said he has enough votes from his party for the change to succeed, but some Republicans have bristled at the nuclear option and how the threat of using it has poisoned the atmosphere.

Senator John McCain fumed to reporters that whoever thought it was a good idea to blow up longstanding Senate rules “is a stupid idiot.”

But fellow Republican Tom Cotton appeared unperturbed, saying he would be glad to be rid of Democratic threats to block any conservative nominee that Trump puts forward. 

“Republicans aren’t going to be played for suckers and chumps,” Cotton said on the Senate floor.

Lawmakers from both parties have observed that the nuclear option will lead to fewer consensus Supreme Court nominees and more fringe justices.

“This fallout will be dangerously and perhaps disastrously radioactive for the Senate in years to come,” Democrat Richard Blumenthal said.

But there were no apparent signs of a deal to avoid the filibuster, or the nuclear option.

Top Democrat Chuck Schumer pointed to McConnell’s refusal to hold hearings or a vote on Merrick Garland, whom then-president Barack Obama had tapped to replace Scalia.

When Trump won November’s presidential election, the Garland nomination was dead, infuriating Democrats.

“We lost one, they lost one,” Schumer said. 

“No one is forcing Senator McConnell to change the rules,” he added. “He’s doing it at his own volition.”

Trump blames Assad and Obama for chemical attack

Trump said the attack in Syria’s Idlib province was “reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilised world”, although he also sought to blame his predecessor, Barack Obama.

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“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said in a statement.

Watch: UN Security COuncil to meet over attack

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“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”

The Syrian military denied responsibility and said it would never use chemical weapons.

The chemical weapons attack on Tuesday, which killed scores of people, including children, came a week after both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said their focus in Syria was on stopping

Islamic State militants rather than pushing Assad to leave power.

A senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday the government was looking at policy options after the attack in Idlib but that the options were limited and that the views expressed by Tillerson and Haley still held.

Watch: UN says chemical weapons are a threat to international peace

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Fairfax in $30m newsroom restructure

Fairfax Media has announced new cuts to its editorial operations aimed at delivering about $30 million in annual savings.

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The major structural overhaul will affect newsrooms at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WAToday.

Managing director of Fairfax’s Australian Metro Publishing division, Chris Janz, said the proposed changes are required to “secure” the futures of its metropolitan mastheads.

“The primary focus of Fairfax Media over recent years has been to lay the groundwork for the creation of a sustainable publishing model. We are now within reach of that goal,” Mr Janz said in a statement.

“Our publications will be genuine digital businesses with the capabilities and cost base to best operate in the current media environment.”

Mr Janz said the majority of the savings are expected in 2017/18.

He also committed Fairfax to print publishing “for many years”, saying it would remain part of the company’s mix “so long as our newspapers have an audience and advertisers”.

The restructuring announcement comes less than two months after Fairfax confirmed it was conducting a strategic review of its Domain real estate listing business, with a possible float on the Australian Securities Exchange by the end of 2017.

Fairfax said at the time it would retain a 60 to 70 per cent stake in Domain, preserving a valuable revenue stream while opening the business up to further investment.

Fairfax journalists are being briefed on the proposed restructuring changes on Wednesday.

Initially, the restructuring news lifted Fairfax’s share price two cents to $1.065 but at 1133 AEST the stock was flat at $1.045.