Grace grabs Texas Open lead

Branden Grace watches his shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament in San Antonio on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 21 April 2017
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Grace grabs Texas Open lead

LOS ANGELES: South African Branden Grace had seven birdies in a six-under par 66 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the US PGA Tour’s Texas Open.
Grace, coming off an 11th place finish in his title defense at the Heritage, birdied three of the four par-fives on the TPC San Antonio Oaks Course.
His birdie at the par-five eighth marked the start of three birdies in a row, a burst that included a 25 foot putt at the ninth to salvage a birdie after his tee shot found the rough.
“I hit it right in the thick of stuff and managed to get a flyer,” Grace said. “I think I hit a wedge from 180 yards, got it to the back level. Made 25-footer for birdie. That’s the best birdie I made all day.”
Grace played early and said the winds that can bedevil golfers at the Oaks were mild.
“There’s gusting,” added Grace. “The nice thing about this place, there’s not that many trees out there. It’s all more bushes.
“So you can pretty much judge what the wind is going to do to the ball as soon as it gets over them. It was nice. This is a nice little breeze to what it could be out here.”
Will MacKenzie, John Huh, Steven Alker and Stewart Cink shared second on 67. Huh had five birdies without a bogey in his five-under effort.
MacKenzie opened with a bogey at the 10th but had six birdies the rest of the way.
“That was a tough start, but then I started hitting some good iron shots in there and made some clutch putts,” he said. “The second hole I hit a sprinkler head in the middle of the fairway — goes into the lip of the bunker and I made a pretty miraculous birdie there.”
New Zealand’s Alker joined the group with birdies at his last three holes.
Cink teed off on 10, and after two birdies and a bogey in his first nine he really got going with three straight birdies at the second, third and fourth. He added one more at the sixth, hitting just eight of 14 fairways in regulation but finding 15 greens.
“It was mostly my iron play,” said Cink, who hasn’t won since his 2009 British Open triumph. “I hit a lot of really nice iron shots and hit the ball the right distance.”
It was a further stroke back to a big group on 68 that included former US Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Brooks Koepka and South Korean Noh Seung-Yul. Ken Duke was also at four-under after a round that included holing out from a bunker for an eagle at 14.
Defending champion Charley Hoffman carded a 71, while Curtis Luck, the 2016 US Amateur champion from Australia who is making his professional debut, signed for a 73.
Luck opened with three straight bogeys. He finished with six bogeys, three birdies and an eagle.


Mohamed Salah’s brilliance and impact better seen off-pitch than on it

Updated 26 April 2018
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Mohamed Salah’s brilliance and impact better seen off-pitch than on it

  • Jurgen Klopp praises the positive impact Mohamed Salah has had on attitudes towards Islam and the Arab World
  • Salah has 43 goals in all competitions this season and is a serious Ballon d'Or contender

LONDON: “Mohamed Salah is the best footballer in the world at the moment,” “Salah is up there with Messi and Ronaldo,” “Salah has the world at
his feet...”
In a world ever more prone to hyperbole and after yet another masterclass from the Egyptian ace, it is not surprising that such grandiose statements get bandied about with the regularity of a Salah goal. The 25-year-old was simply sublime during Liverpool’s 5-2 destruction of Roma on Tuesday night.
He has now scored 43 times this season, has a genuine chance of winning the Ballon d’Or, and with every match looks more deserving of the superstar mantle his admirers have given him.
But while we can sit back and marvel at his talent, all those tributes are perhaps missing the point. We can debate whether he is a world-beater on the pitch, but what is not in doubt is that Salah is a game-changer off it — and that is the true mark of just how impressive he has been since moving to Liverpool.
Go to Anfield for any match now and, once the rousing rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has died down, it is likely you will next hear the Liverpool fans’ hymn to Salah. Sung to the tune of “Good Enough” by Britpop band Dodgy, it goes like this: “If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I’ll be a Muslim, too.” Such is the “Salah effect.”
Britain is a hugely fractured country at the moment. The Brexit vote and debate surrounding it has held up a mirror to an island ill at ease with itself, with regressive attitudes to race, religion and immigration out in the open.
That Salah has been welcomed with open arms and lauded in that climate — albeit in a city with a proud tradition of tolerance — is quite something, not least at a time when Islamaphobic attacks in the UK are on the rise and when, as recently as 2016, a national newspaper ran a headline that claimed “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.”
The context of the Salah worship evident not just in Liverpool, but also around the country has not been lost on his manager, Jurgen Klopp.
“(The hero status of Salah) is fantastic. It’s exactly what we need in these times,” the German told Channel 4 News.
“To see this wonderful young man, full of joy, full of love, full of friendship, full of everything, in a world where we all struggle a little bit to understand all the things happening around on this planet — so it’s just fantastic.
“He is a Muslim and he is doing all the things that Muslims are doing before a game, washing procedures and stuff like that … like Sadio (Mane) by the way, like Emre Can, by the way; they all do that. Nobody says what we have to be…
“Now we wait, that’s completely normal in a team and that’s how in an ideal world the world would work; we all try to understand each other and deal with all the little strange things for the one or the other.”
Sport sometimes aims for profundity when there is none. Witness any stomach-churning statement of national brilliance during an Olympics, or any underdog story, and you will find people deriving a lot more from some match than the simple “team scores more to win game” narrative that is most set in reality.
But the “Salah effect” has prompted real change off the pitch. From fans singing “I’ll be a Muslim, too” to appreciating the Liverpool talisman simply as a great player regardless of background, the “Egyptian King” is a genuine role model for his country, the region and Islam at a time when the world needs it most.
“We are all kind of ambassadors and sometimes we fit to that role and sometimes not, and at the moment Mo is the perfect ambassador for Egypt, for the whole Arabic world. I love that,” Klopp said.
So it is immaterial whether Salah wins the Champions League for Liverpool, beats Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or or leads Egypt deep in the World Cup — he has already done more than most footballers do.
Should the positive image of both Arabs and Muslims he has created endure, then that will be his true mark of greatness.