Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau to tee it up at Saudi International

Brooks Koepka is looking forward to the inaugural event north of Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau to tee it up at Saudi International

  • Former world No.1 Koepka to join Dustin Johnson and Co. at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the end of the month.
  • US world No.5 Dechambeau to also play in the European Tour event.

LONDON: Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau have added their names to the star-studded list set to tee it up at the inaugural Saudi International this month.
The tournament completes the Middle East swing of the European Tour and now arguably has the strongest field of the trio of tournaments taking place in January — the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic being the other, more established, events.
The two Americans join an impressive field looking to win the first title at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
The new stop off on the European Tour wanted to make a statement and it has by landing Koepka, meaning the tournament now has the past three world No.1s in the field — Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are heading the event.
Added to that impressive threeball is Masters champion Patrick Reed, while Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have also been confirmed.
With Dechambeau being ranked world No.5 that means the Saudi International can boast of having four of the world’s top five players teeing it up at the Red Sea course.
That is something that that can only be good for the growth of golf in the Kingdom, according to 
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation.
“Our intention from the outset was to secure one of the strongest fields in world golf to compete in our inaugural event,” Al-Rumayyan said. “(The announcement of Koepka and Dechambeau) is the final step and completes a headline roster befitting a championship of this significance and will attract major national and international interest.”
There has long been a battle between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to bag the strongest fields. For years Dubai could boast of having Tiger Woods take on the iconic Majlis course, while Abu Dhabi have attracted big names such as Phil Mickelson to grace the fairways of the UAE capital. Both are now firmly established events but took some time to attract the stellar names that they do on a regular basis now. So to have such an impressive field for the inaugural event is a big statement of intent by the Saudi International.
Koepka cannot wait to get on to the first tee.
“I started my professional career in Europe and the diversity of tournaments and experiences I enjoyed has undoubtedly helped broaden my game and helped me to perform on the international stage,” the three-time Major winner said.
“It’s always exciting to line up against the best players in the world and I am looking forward to experiencing the culture of a new country.”
Completing the impressive list of golfing talent on show are 
European Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Thorbjørn Olesen and four-time Major winner Ernie Els.
The South African played in an exhibition match against Saudi golfer Othman Almulla last year and said: “I’ve played golf all over the world and was delighted to be invited to play Royal Greens.
“The place is spectacular and it will be a great venue for the event.
“I’ve spent some time getting to know a little bit about the 
Kingdom’s plans to accelerate golf development in the country and I’m privileged to be a part of it,” the South African added.


FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax title wait set to continue

Updated 18 March 2019
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FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax title wait set to continue

LONDON: Zinedine Zidane marked his return to the Real Madrid dugout with a victory although Lionel Messi again stole the show in Spain with a magnificent hat-trick as Barcelona continued their march toward the La Liga title. Here we look at what we learned from the weekend’s key action across the continent:

ZIZOU BACK AND MAGIC MESSI

Zinedine Zidane may have made a winning start to his second spell as coach of Real Madrid but Barcelona look to have the La Liga title already sewn up. Barca blew away Real Betis 4-1 on Sunday as Lionel Messi scored his fourth hat-trick of the season and 51st of his career, prompting even the Betis fans to stand and applaud. The Catalans now have a 10-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who were beaten 2-0 by Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, four days after their Champions League heartache at the hands of Juventus.Real’s hopes of catching Barcelona were already all but over but Zidane has at least lifted the gloom. He recalled a handful of old favorites against Celta Vigo on Saturday, including Isco, who scored the opener, before Gareth Bale — who was not always appreciated by Zidane in the coach’s first spell — added another in a 2-0 victory.

Zidane enjoyed a winning start to his second reign as Real Madrid boss. (AFP)

SPALLETTI SAFE?

Under-fire Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti hit back at his critics with a dramatic 3-2 Milan derby win which lifted his side to third in Serie A. For Spalletti it was a third derby win in four since taking over in mid-2017, and just days after crashing out of the Europa League, as Inter extended their unbeaten run in the derby to six games, their longest run since 1999. “I read that this was to be my last derby, the ‘Last Supper’,” said the former Roma and Zenit Saint Petersburg coach. “And instead I know that there’s another supper for me,” he added, after being praised by Chinese-owned Inter’s president Steven Zhang. “We’re now already looking to the future, to the next match and next month,” said Zhang. “This derby sends an important message.” Juventus, without Cristiano Ronaldo, fell to their first Serie A defeat of the season in a 2-0 reverse to Genoa but still have a 15-point lead.

Inter extended their unbeaten run in the Milan derby to six games, their longest run since 1999​. (AFP) 

BAYERN’S YOUNG GUN

Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies became the youngest Bayern Munich goalscorer since Roque Santa Cruz in 1999, a year before the former was even born, in Sunday’s 6-0 demolition of Mainz. Bayern are level on points with Borussia Dortmund as they bid for an eighth successive Bundesliga title, but the meek nature of their Champions League exit against Liverpool posed questions about the future of a number of aging stars. With a clear-out on the horizon in Bavaria, the 18-year-old Davies, acquired last July in a $13 million move from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, could soon be given the opportunity to stake his claim as a core component in a new Bayern generation.

Alphonso Davies is making a name for himself at the Allianz Arena. (AFP)

LIGHT AT END OF ROAD FOR MONACO

With their Ligue 1 status under threat, Monaco’s decision to cut short a failing experiment with Thierry Henry in January and replace him with predecessor Leonardo Jardim has paid off handsomely. Friday’s 1-0 win at second-place Lille, enjoying their best points return at this stage of the campaign since 1948, extended Monaco’s unbeaten run since his return to seven games in Ligue 1. They remain just two places above the relegation play-off spot but are eight points clear of Guingamp and recent form suggests they will surely avoid the drop.

Under Jardim Monaco are making a very impressive tilt at avoiding relegation. (AFP) 

TITLE WAIT FOR AJAX LOOKS SET TO CONTINUE

Champions League quarter-finalists Ajax slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie to drop five points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven. PSV won 1-0 at VVV Venlo over the weekend courtesy of a late strike by Mexico international Hirving Lozano. Ajax, who won the last of their record 33 Dutch championships in 2014, must now win their clash with PSV in Amsterdam on March 31 if they are to remain in the title race.

Are Ajax and Daley Blind to go anohter year without winning the Dutch title? (AFP)