Rory McIlroy ready to roll back the years in search of more Major glory at the Open

The four-time Major winner has high hopes he can win a second Open Championship this weekend.
Updated 18 July 2018
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Rory McIlroy ready to roll back the years in search of more Major glory at the Open

  • Former world No.1 without a Major victory in four years.
  • McIlroy looking to play carefree as he goes in search of second Claret Jug.

Rory McIlroy knows what he needs to do to win the Open this weekend: Play as if it does not matter and go for broke.
The world No. 8 has won four 
Majors but, by his high standards, is in a bit of a slump, having not got his hands on one of the four big titles since 2014. That win came at the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, which came barely a month after his only Open victory at Royal Liverpool.
He tees it up at Carnoustie today with five top-fives this season, but only one win. However, with ever 
expectant fans and a game that when on song is better than anyone else’s there is expectation he can claim 
Major No.5 this weekend.
The Northern Irishman’s first Open came at Carnoustie 11 years ago and he is aiming to play the famous links in the same carefree attitude he did as a teenager, and hopes that lands him 
another Claret Jug.
“I do need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and I’m just happy to be here,” the 29-year-old said.
“(2007) was my first Open — I was just trying to soak everything in and I was just so grateful to be here. I think that’s a big part of it — if you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll be successful.
“As you get a little older, you get a little more cautious in life — it’s only natural. For me, it’s more about 
playing with the freedom and I don’t want to say being naive but there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff.
“When we last played The Open here, I was bouncing down the fairways and didn’t care if I shot 82 or 62 because I was just happy to be here. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play.”
For McIlroy that may well involve using the driver more than some of his rivals. The heatwave the UK has been experiencing has seen the fairways run firm and fast with many of his rivals such as Tiger Woods saying they will mostly hit irons off the tee. But for McIlroy the game plan will change from day to day.
“There’s not going to be one player in this field with a game plan on Wednesday night who will to stick to that the whole way around for 72 holes,’’ McIlroy said. “It’s just not going to happen with wind conditions, with pins. You start to feel a little bit more comfortable with a few shots, and you might start to take some on.
“It’s going to be really interesting, I think, because the golf course is playing so firm and fast, there’s some guys that will see it completely different to the way I see it and vice versa. It’s 
going to be really interesting to see how it all plays out.’’


Belief running high for Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons

Updated 20 August 2018
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Belief running high for Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons

  • Where others have picked over-aged players, Saudi Arabia, in contrast, have brought their U-21 team
  • Al-Shehri arrived at the Games playing down the importance of results and focusing on performances

JAKARTA: Saudi Arabia’s football team are doing things differently at the Asian Games this month. The three-week tournament is open to players aged under-23, with countries having the option to select three over-age players. The result is hosts Indonesia have selected a 37-year-old naturalized Brazilian and South Korea, whose players can avoid mandatory military service if they win gold, have called upon Heung-min Son, the Tottenham Hotspur forward.
Saudi Arabia, in contrast, have brought their Under-21 team.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri, who has been in charge of the side for three years, does not shy from the fact his Young Falcons are here primarily to gain experience and develop ahead of a crucial U23 Asian Championships, which offers direct qualification to the Olympic Games.

Yet he is also aware the deeper his side go this month, the more it will ultimately benefit the Kingdom’s Tokyo 2020 objective.
“We are playing here with an Under-21 team in a tournament that is for Under-23s,” he said. “But I believe in these players. I worked with them at the Under-20 World Cup in 2017 in Korea and this team is the future of Saudi Arabia. I do not doubt that, and the Federation is in agreement.
“The players need more experience, more games and strong tournaments, but we all believe in them and our work will continue on this path. This is the squad that we want to qualify for Tokyo.”
Al-Shehri arrived at the Games playing down the importance of results and focusing on performances, but after two games in Jakarta, his team sit joint-top of Group F alongside Iran, with whom they drew 0-0 in their opening game. A comfortable 3-0 victory over Myanmar on Friday means progress to the knock-out stages is all but secure, with today’s match against North Korea offering an opportunity to secure an easier Round of 16 draw.
Finalists in 2014, North Korea were expected to prove the most difficult opponent of the group stage, yet a draw with Myanmar and a 3-0 humbling by Iran have altered expectations for both sides. Al-Shehri, who will be without key playmaker Ayman Al-Khulaif today through suspension, is now expected to make several changes to avoid fatigue in what will be the Young Falcons’ third game in five days.
“I have 20 players and trust them all,” Al-Shehri told Arab News. “I am confident we can play a good game against North Korea because we have players hungry and waiting to take their chance. Everybody is ready to play and be involved. Whether we win or lose… all we want is to play games. We need to play more games to improve and the further in the tournament we go, the more games we play, so if we get to the final it’s very good for us regardless. Every single game we play between now and the Tokyo qualifiers is very important for us.”
Al-Khulaif, 21, has been instrumental in his side’s results so far, proving a constant outlet on the right of midfield and drawing nine fouls, including two penalties. The Al-Ahli playmaker made his Pro League debut last season, coming on as a 90th minute substitute for Taiser Al-Jassem against Ohod, and will hope this tournament can help him catch the eye of new Al-Ahli boss Pablo Guede.
Forced to sit out today’s match, he is looking to the positives. “I am sad to miss the next game, but I trust fully in my teammates to get a good result and it gives me a chance to rest and, inshallah, prepare better for the knock-out stages.”