Oosthuizen, Stanley share lead at Players Championship

Louis Oosthuizen hits from a bunker on the 15th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass on Friday. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 13 May 2017
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Oosthuizen, Stanley share lead at Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida: As conditions toughened, Louis Oosthuizen and Kyle Stanley played even better. Each posted a 6-under 66 to share the lead at The Players Championship, making it even more difficult for the top two players in the world to catch them.
Oosthuizen and his sweet swing were a good fit in any conditions at the TPC Sawgrass, and he managed to play bogey-free and finish with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. Stanley had eight birdies as the wind increased and the firm putting surfaces became crusty.
They were at 9-under 135, two shots ahead of J.B. Holmes, who fell out of a tie with bogeys on his last two holes for a 69.
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy scraped it around Friday morning, Johnson making only one birdie for a 73 and McIlroy managing through nagging back pain for a 71. They were at even par and not too bothered. They were only five behind when they finished, and they could sense that because of steamy weather and swaying pines that nobody was going to get too far away from him.
“I definitely feel like I got the most that I could have out of that round,” Stanley said. “A couple bogeys, but you can expect that to happen around here with as difficult as the golf course is.”
Johnson and McIlroy at least are still in the game.
Jordan Spieth was headed home after missing the cut for the third straight year, yet he did not sound terribly upset. He chalked that up to not being able to handle this strand of grass when it gets firm and crusty. Spieth’s last hope ended with a tee shot that bounced at the back of the island-green 17th and into the water.
Equally surprising was Vijay Singh, the 54-year-old Fijian who was making putts from everywhere until a three-putt bogey on the 18th. He still shot 68 and goes into the weekend only three shots out of the lead.
The cut was at 2-over 146, and there will be another cut Saturday because more than 78 players advanced to the weekend. That is when the tournament will finally start to take shape, and while Oosthuizen and Stanley stood out with the best scores of the second round, both know it can change quickly.
“We’re in a pretty good spot going into this weekend,” said Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion who still has not won in America. “A lot of golf to be played around this golf course, and as we’ve seen the last two days, you can easily make a mistake around this track.”
Yes, there were plenty of those.
Anirban hit three shots into the water and made a 10 on the par-4 18th hole. Zac Blair hit three shots into the water on the par-3 17th and made a 9.
Phil Mickelson started making putts and moved up the leaderboard, only to begin a slow slide. He made three bogeys on the back nine and then, torn between a 9-iron and a wedge on the 17th, he opted for a wedge to make sure it didn’t go over the back of the island. It still hopped hard at the back of the green and went into the water, leading to a double bogey.
That left him at 72, seven shots behind.
“It’s a hard course, and any errant swings will lead to not a good score,” Mickelson said. “But I played a good front nine and shot even. I don’t know what else to say.”
Defending champion Jason Day did not make up any ground, either, trading birdies and bogeys for a 72. He also was seven back at 2-under 142. Rickie Fowler shot 74 and joined Johnson and McIlroy at 144.
Ian Poulter, who only got into The Players on a clerical mistake regarding his time away for injury, shot 67 and was in the large group at 5-under 139.
Oosthuizen picked up birdies on both par 3s on the back nine, and then hit his best shot on the first hole from deep in the woods on pine straw. He managed to play a low punch shot with a draw, and it ran up to about 5 feet for a birdie. He let his putter do the work the rest of the way, holing 20-foot birdie putts on the fifth and ninth holes to share the lead.
Thunderstorms are possible for Saturday afternoon, which might be what it takes to at least soften the Players Stadium Course. That still does not change the nature of the TPC Sawgrass, which can penalize a slight miss with a big number.
Among those at 4 under was Jon Rahm of Spain, who could not get going because of bogeys that followed birdies and led to a 74.


Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

Updated 17 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

  • A double from Almoez Ali means Qatar top Group E.
  • Juan Antonio Pizzi's men now face Japan in second round on Monday.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive. 

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages. 

A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group. 

From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough —  Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.

While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament. 

"It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16," Pizzi said.

"We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us," he added.

"But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don't feel that we are inferior to them in any way."

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.