McIlroy keen to make history in Hong Kong Open

Updated 14 November 2012
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McIlroy keen to make history in Hong Kong Open

HONG KONG: Only one golfer has successfully retained the Hong Kong Open title in 53 years. Rory McIlroy wants to be the second.
McIlroy holed a brilliant bunker shot on the last hole a year ago to win the title by two strokes, becoming the tournament’s youngest winner at 22 after being runner-up in 2008 and 2009.
He first competed in Hong Kong at 16, when he fell in love with the tiny islands off mainland China.
“I first came here as a junior in the Faldo Series and players like Oliver Fisher and myself and a few others stayed at the golf club at Fanling and it was great fun and I’ve always really enjoyed the golf course,” McIlroy said. “Then when it became a European Tour event I came back and stayed in the city on Hong Kong island and I’ve just really enjoyed the buzz and the atmosphere.
“It’s here also that I have had some great experiences as a player, taking part in one of the best playoffs ever against Lin Wen-tang in 2009 and then I was able to finally put my name on the Hong Kong Open trophy last year.
“I wasn’t feeling all that well on the Saturday and went into the final round three behind going into the last day but shot a 65 in holing a bunker shot at the last to beat Peter Hanson by two, so that was a nice way to finish it off.
“I would love to end my season by doing that again this year.”
Only Taiwan’s Hsieh Yung-yo has won the event two years in a row, in 1963-64.
McIlroy is assured of strong opposition in the form of 19-year-old Matteo Manassero, the new Singapore Open winner, who will play the opening two rounds with McIlroy.
“When I think of Rory, I think he has an impossible game to imitate,” the Italian teen said. “He is so good and he plays probably the best game in the world.”
While McIlroy has sealed the European Tour money title, others are keen to make the top 115 and secure automatic tour membership for next year.
Four players will come off the money list for not playing the minimum of 13 events, including Scotland’s Martin Laird who has played just 10, and the cutoff will be 119th.
Rhys Davies of Wales currently holds that position, and two former tour winners in compatriot Bradley Dredge (121st) and Australia’s Andrew Dodt (122nd) are within 1,911 euros ($2,400) of Davies.
Also, Portugal’s Ricardo Santos, this year’s winner of the Madeira Islands Open, is looking to seal the rookie of the year award.


Saudi Arabia prepare to step up World Cup preparations with Italy test

Updated 56 min 40 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia prepare to step up World Cup preparations with Italy test

  • Green Falcons play the Azzurri in Switzerland
  • Mancini: 'Saudi Arabia are a fast and physical team'

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is wary of the threat posed by Saudi Arabia ahead of their friendly on Monday in St.Gallen in Switzerland.
The four-time global champions failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and are looking to rebuild ahead of the 2020 European Championships. Mancini was appointed in May to take over the national team and breathe in some new life.
“This is a vital game for us,” Mancini told Saudi Arabian television ahead of the friendly. “We know that Saudi Arabia are preparing for the World Cup so this is a great chance for us to build for the future,” said the former Manchester City boss.
“Saudi Arabia are a fast and physical team,” added Mancini. “All of the players are technically very good and we are looking forward to the test. We have to be careful as some of the players are playing for their World Cup place.”
Mario Balotelli is set to win his first international cap in four years for Italy after being recalled by Mancini.
“We didn’t make the World Cup,” said Balotelli. “Now we have to forget about that and focus on the future.”
The former Manchester City, AC Milan and Liverpool forward is looking forward to the challenge on Monday.
“We have to forget about what happened earlier this year and the fact that we didn’t qualify,” said Balotelli. “That is history now and we are really looking forward to playing Saudi Arabia. I haven’t played for the national team for a long time and I feel that I still have a lot to offer.”
Saudi Arabia are coming off the back of two 2-0 friendly victories against Algeria and Greece in a Spanish training camp that took place in May, but a good result against Italy would increase confidence levels further.
The lowest-ranked of all the 32 teams at the World Cup have a busy preparation period and take on Peru and Germany after the Italy clash. Saudi Arabia will meet the hosts Russia in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow on June 14. After that, the Green Falcons take on Uruguay and Egypt in Group A.
“Any game is an important one in the build-up to the World Cup,” Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said on Sunday. “But playing Italy is something special. If we can get a good result then it can give us confidence to go on and have a good tournament. The important thing for us is that we feel we believe at this level and that is why we can try and push Italy all the way.”
The Green Falcons have been in Switzerland for a week in what is the fifth and final leg of their World Cup preparations. “Preparations are running smoothly and perfectly,” said Nawaf Al-Temyat, the vice president of Saudi Arabian Football Federation and chairman of World Cup 2018 preparation team, in a video on the federation’s Twitter account.
“We look forward in the coming three weeks to strong preparations. We’ll be playing three tough games against tough opponents. The Italian team has a new coach, Mancini, which is a great motivation for us. The Peruvian team is also a strong one and might be full of surprises in the World Cup. The coach and the players are very skilled.”
The Green Falcons have won three, lost three and drawn one of the seven games since Pizzi replaced Edgardo Bauza.
“We always say in the Saudi team that performance should be good during friendlies and results should be good in official games,” added Al-Temyat. “This means results are not important in friendlies but our performance is.”