Rory McIlroy eyes Masters glory after getting back on title-winning trail

Updated 18 March 2019
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Rory McIlroy eyes Masters glory after getting back on title-winning trail

LONDON: Rory McIlroy has won four of the five biggest events in golf after his one-stroke victory at the Players Championship in Florida on Sunday and is slowly turning his sights on the fifth — next month’s Masters at Augusta National.
A victory at the April 11-14 tournament would make him the sixth man to complete the modern grand slam of all four Majors — the Masters, US Open, The Open and PGA Championship — and the second this century after Tiger Woods.
McIlroy, who won his last mMajor in 2014, has had four cracks at completing the grand slam, but he has never gone to Augusta with quite the sort of consistent form he has displayed in 2019.
The Northern Irishman had not finished worse than sixth in five starts and he finally closed the deal on St. Patrick’s Day at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
He also leapt to fourth in the world rankings, his highest position in almost 18 months, and collected more than $2 million for the victory, but it did not take long for talk to turn to another type of green, namely the Green Jacket.
“If I go to Augusta with a similar golf game to what I have now and the attitude I’ve shown over the first few weeks of the year, I think I’ll have a great chance,” he said.
If nothing else, Sunday’s victory will silence the critics who had observed that McIlroy for all his consistency had appeared to have lost the closer’s instinct, having not won for almost a year.
“Even with some noise around me, ‘he can’t close, he can’t plays on Sundays’, blah, blah, blah, I’ve just got to do my thing,” he said.
“And if I go and I concentrate on me, control what I can do, good golf and good attitude takes care of the rest.
“(But) I don’t want to look too far ahead.
“I really want to enjoy this. I’ve actually got an interior design meeting tomorrow morning to pick out some stuff for our new house, so that’s the next port of call.
“I’ll turn my attention to what’s coming up in a few days’ time.”


Mahrez and Mane duel in rematch for Africa Cup of Nations glory

Updated 18 July 2019
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Mahrez and Mane duel in rematch for Africa Cup of Nations glory

  • Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season
CAIRO: Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane will renew their Premier League rivalry for a second time in Egypt, with Africa Cup of Nations immortality awaiting the victor of Friday’s final between Algeria and Senegal.
Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season, grabbing a pivotal goal on the final day of the campaign.
Liverpool standout Mane, however, is attempting to fulfill his “wildest dream” as one of just a handful of Africans to win both the UEFA Champions League and Cup of Nations.
For the marquee name in a Senegalese side ranked top of the continent, and a surprising 46 places above Algeria, the ride to the final for Mane and the Teranga Lions has encountered its share of roadbumps.
Two missed Mane spot-kicks, a group stage loss to Algeria, and the loss of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to a broken finger have tested Senegal’s resolve in their quest for the Holy Grail of African football.
Coach Aliou Cisse is on a mission for personal redemption. He was the skipper of the side beaten on penalties in the 2002 final, with his missed kick handing the title to Cameroon.
“Having lost that final, I still have it on my mind,” said former Paris Saint-Germain and Birmingham City midfielder Cisse.
“What motivated me to become a coach was to be able to take Senegal to the final. My players told me they would do better than my generation.”
A maiden Cup of Nations for his country is a prize for which Mane readily admitted he would trade in last month’s Champions League title.
“I’m ready to even swap a Champions League for a Cup of Nations. Going to Dakar with the trophy would be extraordinary. It would be my wildest dream,” Mane told France Football ahead of the competition.
Standing in the way, however, is an Algerian outfit that has undergone a remarkable transformation since the arrival of Djamel Belmadi as coach a year ago.
The Desert Foxes failed miserably in World Cup qualifying, but the steely Belmadi has healed divisions in the squad to lead them to the brink of a first Cup of Nations triumph since 1990.
“To the Algerian people, I want to say I’m not a politician, not a miracle worker or a wizard, but that we will fight like we have fought to this point,” Belmadi said after the semifinal win over Nigeria.
Algeria are the leading scorers in Egypt with 12 goals, including Mahrez’s spectacular last-gasp free-kick against Nigeria, and haven’t trailed at all in the tournament.
“Algeria are so well organized, so compact, so ‘Guardiolaesque’ in the way they recover the ball,” opined experienced international coach Claude Le Roy. “Perhaps it is the influence of Mahrez.”
The Algeria captain has been in fine form for his country here, brimming with confidence after helping City to the domestic treble.
“We are very happy to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations because it is something very special,” said Mahrez.
“It was our goal to do it for the people and for our families. We know they are behind us all the way. It’s my dream to win the Cup of Nations.”
“It’s going to be another battle against Senegal,” he added. “We’ve been very good in this competition. The (Nigeria) match has given us more confidence for the final and we’re capable of winning it.”
Their hopes will boosted by the absence of Senegal’s defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, whose yellow card in the semifinal victory over Tunisia cruelly ruled the Napoli star out of the final.
“It hurts to not be able to play. But I will be beside my brothers to write history,” tweeted Koulibaly, the cornerstone of a defense breached just once so far.