Shane Lowry record-equalling exploits fire him into early Abu Dhabi lead

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Lowry shot an impressive 62 to take the early lead in the UAE capital. (AFP)
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Updated 16 January 2019

Shane Lowry record-equalling exploits fire him into early Abu Dhabi lead

  • Irishman shots 62 to equal course record and take first-round lead on National course.
  • Dustin Johnson one of a number of top golfers trying to chase down Lowry.

LONDON: The first leg of the Desert Swing got under way in Abu Dhabi on Thursday with a star-studded field teeing it up at the National course. Here we look at how the big-names fared…

SHANE LOWRY (-10) — The Irishman has been out of form recently but he reminded how good he is with a record-equalling 62 to lead an impressive field on day one. “I had quite a lot of time off since the World Cup but put in a decent bit of work the last two weeks over here in Dubai and I’ve just gone out with not much expectation but knew I was playing OK and yeah, everything clicked,“the Irishman said.

LEE WESTWOOD (-6) — The Englishman enjoyed a winning end to 2018 and he continued that form in Abu Dhabi, firing an impressive 66 to lie in tied fifth.

IAN POULTER (-6) — The Ryder Cup hero only landed a few hours before his tee time, having flown in from the US, but any jet lag and lack of practice was not noticeable as he fired a brilliant 66. “I felt pretty tired, went to bed, woke up at 6.00am this morning, and actually felt okay,” said Poulter. “But the last sort of five holes was a struggle today. I thought it was a case of let’s go as low as we can as quick as we can and try and hold on.”

BROOKS KOEPKA (-5) — The big-hitting American is trying to wrestle back the world No. 1 ranking from Justin Rose so he will have been overjoyed to start with a blemish-free round of 67. 

MARTIN KAYMER (-5) — The German has fallen to 175 in the world rankings, far too low for someone of his ability. He has won three times in Abu Dhabi and returned to form with a fine 67.

DUSTIN JOHNSON (-3) — The American former world No.1 shot a 69 to lie seven shot back. He will be looking for a lower round today ahed of a title tilt over the weekend.

NOTABLE NAMES — Louis Oosthuizen (-7), Tommy Fleetwood (-3), Henrik Stenson (par), Robert Rock (-1)

Ernesto Valverde to stay in Barcelona dugout after contract extension

Updated 15 February 2019

Ernesto Valverde to stay in Barcelona dugout after contract extension

  • Barca boss took over at the Nou Camp in 2017.
  • Valverde led Catalan club to the league and Cup double last year.

BARCELONA: Spanish champions Barcelona announced Friday they have extended the contract of coach Ernesto Valverde for another season with the option of one more.

Valverde, who took over at the Nou Camp in 2017 after joining from Athletic Bilbao, won the league and cup double last season.

“FC Barcelona and Ernesto Valverde, the first team coach, have reached an agreement to extend the contract between the two parties for another season (2019/20) with the option for one more (2020/21),” the club said in a statement.

Valverde’s previous contract would have expired at the end of this season.

He came within a whisker of leading Barca to an undefeated 2017/2018 season when only a defeat late in the season at Levante prevented the team from making history.

Barca’s run of scoring in 37 consecutive matches in the league came to an end last Sunday with a goalless draw away to Athletic Bilbao.