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Claret Jug despair and squash dominance

Steven Lynch July 8, 2013
Sergio Garcia is in some rare Open Championship company © Getty Images

How many golfers have been in a playoff for the Open Championship but never won it? asked Gordon Murray

This is quite a long list: the most recent entrant is Sergio Garcia, who was beaten in a playoff by Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007. It's not too late for Garcia to get off the list, of course - and the same could perhaps be said for the other 21st-century nearly men, Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet, who made up the four-man playoff won by Ernie Els in 2002.

The first man to reach an Open playoff but never won the title was Andrew Kirkaldy, who lost to Willie Park junior at Musselburgh in 1889. Since then the same fate has befallen Roger Wethered (1921), Craig Wood (1933), Harry Bradshaw (1949), Dave Thomas (1958), Phil Rodgers (1963), Doug Sanders (1970), Jack Newton (1975), Wayne Grady (1989), Costantino Rocca (1995), Brian Watts (1998) and Jean van de Velde (1999).

Both defending champions at Wimbledon were knocked out quite early this year. When was the last time neither made it into the second week? asked Sally Morris

This year's Wimbledon was certainly one filled with upsets. The 2012 men's singles champion Roger Federer crashed out in the second round, while his counterpart Serena Williams made it to the fourth round before her surprise defeat by the eventual runner-up Sabine Lisicki.

It's difficult to be precise about people making it into the second week at Wimbledon, as weather often disrupts the schedule - but the last time neither defending champion made it into the quarter-finals was as long ago as 1926, when Suzanne Lenglen withdrew before her third match, and Rene Lacoste pulled out just before his first-round match. (This excludes years when one or both champions did not defend their title: in 1946, for example, neither winner from the last pre-war Wimbledon in 1939 entered.)

A while ago you told us which countries had beaten Brazil at football more often than they had lost to them. How do Italy fare in this test? asked Marco Martini

Italy's footballers have had a fair bit of trouble with some of the "newer" European nations, and currently trail Serbia 4-1 and Croatia 3-1. The Czech Republic lead them 2-1 (as Czechoslovakia it was 9-9). Of the older-established European countries Italy trail Spain 13-10, the Netherlands 8-7 and Poland 6-5, while they will be forever behind the USSR (5-2) and East Germany (2-1). Further afield Uruguay (4-2) and Peru (1-0) also have the upper hand over the Italians, as do, rather more surprisingly perhaps, Cameroon (2-1) and the Ivory Coast (1-0).

Quevaga won the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham for the fifth year running in 2013. Is this a record for Cheltenham - or indeed Britain in general? asked Tom Henderson

The success of Quevaga - trained by Wille Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh - in what is now called the OLBG Mares' Hurdle equals the Cheltenham record, set by the rather more vaunted horse Golden Miller, which won the Gold Cup there each year from 1932 to 1936. The British record is seven wins in the Preston Gold Cup by Doctor Syntax (1815-21), while Risk of Thunder - owned by James Bond actor Sean Connery - won the La Touche Cup at Punchestown in Ireland seven times too. The world record for an annual race is eight wins, by Leaping Plum in the Grasmick Handicap at Fonner Park in Nebraska, USA, between 1995 and 2003.

Which sport's World Cup has been won by Rich Fellers? asked Marcus Hewitt

The answer to this unlikely-sounding question is show jumping - the annual individual World Cup was won in 2012 by the American rider Rich Fellers, who hails from Oregon in the United States. At the competition in the Netherlands Fellers was riding Flexible, the horse on which he finished eighth in the London Olympics later in the year.

Is it true that the squash champion Heather McKay never lost a match in her entire career? asked Danny Symonds

It's not quite correct, as Heather McKay - or Heather Blundell as she then was, before her marriage - did lose two matches early on in her squash career. But she then embarked on an amazing unbeaten run that lasted from 1962 until her retirement, aged 40, in 1981. That period included 16 successive victories in the British Open, the premier squash tournament at the time and effectively the world championship.

McKay was so pre-eminent that it was rare for her even to lose a game, and in the 1968 British Open final she thrashed her unfortunate fellow Australian Bev Johnson 9-0 9-0 9-0.

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