GOLF

Justin Thomas intends to go through an individual training program to “become a better person” after he was picked up uttering a homophobic slur under his breath when he missed a putt at a tournament in Hawaii this month.

Clothing brand Ralph Lauren ended its long-time sponsorship with Thomas following the incident two weeks ago, which the No. 3-ranked American golfer described as “humiliating and embarrassing and it’s not me.”

Thomas has spoken to his other sponsors – Titleist, FootJoy and global bank Citi are among those listed on his official website – and hopes they will stand by him as he looks to educate himself and restore his reputation.

“It’s not a word I use,” Thomas said Wednesday, referring to the slur he blurted out when missing a 5-foot par putt on the fourth hole of Sentry Tournament of Champions, “but for some reason it was in there and that’s what I’m trying to figure out – why it was in there.

“And like I said, it’s going to be part of this process and training program, whatever I need to do, not only to prove to myself but to prove to my sponsors and prove to the people who don’t know who I am that that is indeed not the person I am.”

The Abu Dhabi Championship starts Thursday and is Thomas’ first event since the incident in Kapalua. He will be playing in the tournament for the first time in what will be only his fourth start in a regular European Tour event.

Rory McIlroy will play in the same group as Thomas for the first two rounds at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, and does not expect the issue to affect the American’s game.

“He maybe won’t be as ignorant to offend people – obviously what he said was offensive to a large portion of the population,” McIlroy said. “He’ll be better for it, he’ll learn, he’ll move on and he’ll be just as good a golfer as he’s always been. And, if anything, it’ll make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he is already a great guy.”

TENNIS

ATP CHANGES: The U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston was canceled for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic, part of a series of changes to the tennis calendar announced by the ATP on Wednesday.

The Houston tournament was supposed to be played April 3-11.

It was among the dozens of professional tennis events scrapped in 2020 while the tours were on hiatus for several months.

Until then, the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship had been held every year since 1929.

Among the other 2021 updates the men’s tour said it was making “in the face of scheduling challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic” was the move of the Hungarian Open clay-court tournament – usually held in Budapest in April – to Belgrade, Serbia.

The tournament director of the Belgrade event will be Djordje Djokovic, younger brother of No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic.

The Serbia Open is scheduled to be held April 19-25. Belgrade previously hosted a tournament from 2009-12.

The ATP added two tournaments just for 2021 — in Singapore right after the Australian Open ends next month, and in Marbella, Spain, starting April 5.

The main-draw or qualifying fields are being expanded at some men’s tournaments to give more players opportunities to compete.

SOCCER

PREMIER LEAGUE: Concussion substitutes will be used on a trial basis in response to mounting concern over head injuries, clubs agreed Wednesday.

Teams will be allowed to make up to two additional substitutions for players with suspected or confirmed concussion. The trial will begin once the league resolves with FIFA and football’s global lawmaking body, IFAB, how to deal with private medical information from players.

“With player welfare the Premier League’s priority, the protocols will allow a maximum of two concussion substitutes to be used per team, with the opposition side able to use the equivalent number,” the league said. “The additional concussion substitutions may be made regardless of the number of substitutions a team has already made.”

The move comes with Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez still working his way back to fitness from the fractured skull he suffered in a clash of heads with Arsenal defender David Luiz in November. Luiz initially played on, but had to be replaced at halftime as a result of the collision.

U.S. MEN: Goalkeeper Sean Johnson left U.S. national team training camp because of a knee strain the staff described as minor and will miss a Jan. 31 exhibition against Trinidad and Tobago at Orlando, Florida.

Matt Turner is the only senior goalkeeper training with the team. Three players are with the adjacent under-23 team preparing for Olympic qualifying: Matt Freese, JT Marcinkowski and Brady Scott.

Seattle forward Jordan Morris has been given permission by U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter to leave camp for an undisclosed reason, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.


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