Koepka survives mini-collapse to win back-to-back PGA titles

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Brooks Koepka plays from the rough on the 13th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bethpage State Park, NEW YORK. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
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Brooks Koepka celebrates after winning the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Koepka survives mini-collapse to win back-to-back PGA titles

  • Koepka almost squandered his seven-shot lead in final round
  • Aside from defending his title, he also displaced Dustin Johnson as world No. 1 

NEW YORK: A coronation almost turned into a calamity but Brooks Koepka survived to win the PGA Championship for a second consecutive year on Sunday and establish himself as golf’s new top dog.

The American, who had held a seven-stroke lead at the start of the final round, almost lost control of the title when he made four successive bogeys from the 11th hole before staving off Dustin Johnson for a two-stroke victory at Bethpage Black.

Koepka shot a 4-over par 74 to finish at eight-under 272 and captured his fourth major title in his last eight starts in grand slam events.

Johnson (69) was second on 6-under, with Americans Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay and Britain’s Matt Wallace four strokes further back tied for third.

What had seemed for much of the tournament to be a coronation almost became a calamity on Sunday, to the delight of most of the raucous New York gallery, who were openly cheering against Koepka as he walked off the 14th green with a tenuous one-stroke lead.

He has played with a chip on his shoulder his entire career, and hearing chants in his face of “D.J., D.J.” only served to fire him up as he walked down the steep hill and across Round Swamp Road to the 15th tee at Bethpage Black.

Johnson was playing the adjacent 16th hole when the chants went up after Koepka’s mini-collapse.

“I wasn’t nervous. I was just in shock at what was going on,” Koepka said. “When they started chanting D.J. on 14, it actually kind of helped.

“That was probably the best thing that could have happened ... helped me refocus and hit a good one down 15.”

Koepka’s playing companion Harold Varner III, however, was annoyed by the crowd reaction.

“I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke,” Varner said.

“That’s not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that. I have a few choice words for that. Just cheering for him to do bad, I just don’t get that.”

Johnson, however, subsequently bogeyed the 16th after misjudging his approach shot in the strong and gusty winds and the lead was back up to two strokes.

In becoming the first champion to lead wire-to-wire since Hal Sutton in 1983, Koepka successfully defended his title and also displaced Johnson as world No. 1 

Koepka, who also won back-to-back US Open titles in 2017-18, admitted his run of bogeys had put him under pressure.

“Tell you what, the hour spent from No. 11 to 14 was interesting,” Koepka said. “I just got stuck in a bogey train. I just made mistakes at the wrong time.

“You’ve got to hit good drives and I put it in the rough. I challenge anyone to play this course in 15-to 20 miles-per-hour winds and see what they shoot.

“Today was definitely the most satisfying out of all of them for how stressful that round was, how stressful D.J. made it.”

“I know for a fact, that was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life ... on 18.”


Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 18 June 2019
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Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”