Defending champ Steele, Duncan, Hoge share Safeway Open lead

Brendan Steele follows his shot from the second tee of the Silverado Resort North Course during the first round of the Safeway Open PGA golf tournament in Napa, Calif. on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Defending champ Steele, Duncan, Hoge share Safeway Open lead

NAPA, California: Brendan Steele opened his Safeway Open title defense Thursday with a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead with Tyler Duncan and Tom Hoge in the PGA Tour’s season opener.
Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie, Emiliano Grillo and Jamie Lovemark were two shots back at 67.
Steele had an eagle, six birdies and a bogey. Last year at Silverado, he birdied the final three holes to overcome a four-shot deficit and beat Patton Kizzire by a stroke for his second PGA Tour title.
“A little bit of everything worked for me today,” Steele said. “I had a really good ball-striking day. I don’t think I missed a green, so that really helps. And then I had a good putting day as well, so you put that together and it’s going to be pretty good.
Duncan, making his first start as a PGA Tour member, also had six birdies, an eagle and a bogey.
“I thought the course would fit my game because hitting the fairways is important,” said Duncan, whose only other PGA Tour event was the 2015 US Open. “There are a lot of sections in the greens that you’ve got to hit into and to hit it into those sections from the rough is pretty challenging.”
Hoge, beginning his fourth PGA Tour season, had seven birdies. He had a back-nine 30 with six birdies.
“I played really well the whole day,” said Hoge, whose PGA Tour career best is a tie for fourth in August at the Barracuda Open. “I was in a lot of fairways, on a lot of greens and the made a few putts.”
Steele didn’t miss a green in regulation.
“The greens are not holding very well, you have to be in the fairway,” Steele said. “I think this is the way that it’s meant to be played. It plays really nicely this way.”
Zach Johnson, the 12-time PGA Tour winner playing the event for the first time, had a 68 with five birdies and a bogey.
“I love it. I liked to the moment I stepped foot on it,” said Johnson, whose last title was the 2015 British Open. “You can’t fake it around here. It’s right out in front of you. There are a couple of tee shots and a couple of approaches where you have to pay attention. It’s a very classic golf course.”
Phil Mickelson, the 42-time PGA Tour winner beginning his 27th PGA Tour season, birdied the 18th from 7 feet for a 69. The 47-year-old Mickelson, playing in his 91st PGA Tour event since his last title at the 2013 British Open, had five birdies and two bogeys.
Sang-moon Bae, the 2014 tournament winner, shot 73. He’s playing in his first tournament since a mandatory 21-month military stint in South Korea.
John Daly, the two-time major winner who won the PGA Tour Champions’ Insperity Invitational in May, had a 74. Daly has missed the cut in 12 straight PGA Tour events.


Al-Ittihad banking on experience of Saad Al-Shehri to replace Ramon Diaz

Updated 19 September 2018
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Al-Ittihad banking on experience of Saad Al-Shehri to replace Ramon Diaz

  • Al-Shehri led the young Green Falcons to the last eight of the 2018 Asian Games
  • Diaz was fired on Saturday after two defeats in the opening two games of the Saudi Pro League season

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad are not hanging around in replacing manager Ramon Diaz as the Jeddah club are set to appoint Saudi Arabia U-23 coach Saad Al-Shehri as their new boss.
Diaz was fired on Saturday after two defeats in the opening two games of the Saudi Pro League season.
The 3-0 defeat at home to Al-Qadisiyah at the weekend sent the eight-time champions to the bottom of the table and resulted in the instant dismissal of the Argentine who was handed the reins only in May.
Al-Shehri has a growing reputation. Without any over-age players, the 38-year-old led the young Green Falcons to the last eight of the 2018 Asian Games which included a famous 4-3 win over a strong Chinese team in the second round and then a narrow 2-1 loss to finalists Japan.
“The question for the club now is one of stability in the coaching side,” an Al-Ittihad official told Arab News. “There have been a lot of changes and it is time to grow the club and Al-Shehri could be the man to settle everything down. He deserves a chance.”
Al-Shehri is regarded as the opposite of Diaz. The 59-year-old South American had a stellar playing CV and a long coaching resume that stretches back to 1995 while the Saudi Arabian saw his promising career cut short through injury.
So far, the former physical education teacher has been heavily involved in youth football, winning titles at that level with Al-Ittifaq and Al-Nassr before leading the U-20 team to the knockout stage of the 2017 World Cup and a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
“He is young but has had plenty of time to prepare for a coaching career after he finished as a player in his early twenties,” added the official. “His football is more positive as we saw at the Asian Games and the players enjoyed that experience and he also knows the local players really well. Al-Ittihad want to play more aggressive football than under Diaz. He wasn’t here a long time but the style of play did not fit the expectations of fans.”
The club are keen to get the deal done as soon as possible, though Al-Shehri is holding out for a contract until the end of the season. In the meantime, Bandar Basirah will take temporary charge of the team for the crucial trip to Al-Taawon on Thursday, a team that has drawn its first two games of the season.
“I am proud to be part of this big club and I thank the management here for having faith in me,” Basirah said. “I don’t have a magic wand to wave to change everything overnight but we will do everything we can to make the fans happy. We don’t have much time to prepare for the next game but I trust the players and we are all focused on getting the victory and get our season really started.”
At the very least, there is a desire to play more entertaining football. “We know that we haven’t been at our best this season so far but we have studied the opponent well and are ready to get the three points.”
Assuming that Al-Shehri comes in sooner rather than later, there will be funds available to strengthen the team. President Nawaf Al-Muqairn has promised fans that better times are around the corner.
“We will give our players a chance in the coming weeks but when the time comes, we will not hesitate to strengthen the team with local and foreign talent.”