Amateur golfer wins national tourney, qualifies for Saudi International

Faisal Salhab goes up and down on the 18th hole on his way to a birdie during the Saudi Open final round. (Photo by  Noel A. Alipoyo)
Updated 02 December 2019

Amateur golfer wins national tourney, qualifies for Saudi International

  • Faisal Salhab and English pro Jamie Elson to make debut at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club

JEDDAH: Saudi amateur golfer Faisal Salhab played No. 18 at 4 under for a 54-hole tournament as he stormed to a six-stroke victory in the 2019 Saudi Open on Saturday, qualifying for next year’s Saudi International — a European Tour event that will feature some of the biggest names in world golf.

He will be joined in the tournament, to be held from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) by English professional division winner Jamie Elson, who closed with a 1-under 71 for a three-day total of 210 on Saturday ahead of the Moroccan pair Ahmed Marjan and Ayoub Id Omar.

Saudi Golf Federation Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan attended the prize-giving ceremony and awarded trophies to Salhab and Elson.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka will headline the star-studded field vying for a total prize fund of $3.5 million.

Also confirmed to play are former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia, as well as reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and 2016 Open winner Henrik Stenson.

Salhab, a 23-year-old engineering student at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, could give the likes of Johnson a run for their money given his prodigious length off the tee.

In the first round on Thursday, Salhab tamed the 7,330 yard layout with a 3-under 69, capping his rousing start when his up-and-down from the bunker on 18 landed four feet from the cup, and making the putt for a birdie.

Amateur division winner Faisal Salhab receives his trophy from Yasir Al-Rumayyan. (Photo by 
Noel A. Alipoyo)

Salhab played even better on Friday. He overshot the green to the right with his driver but holed his wedge for an eagle two that enabled him to temper an otherwise wild round of 74.

He again birdied 18 on the final day for a closing 71 and a 214 total, to the delight of the gallery, including his father, who Salhab said had always pushed him to the next level.

“This is my biggest individual victory,” said Salhab, who will travel to Dubai this week for a training camp with the rest of the Saudi national team, including 2018 Saudi Open winner Saud Al-Sharif.

The team is preparing for the Pan Arab Golf Championship from Dec. 9 to 15 in Morocco.

Salhab had missed the chance to join it for the inaugural Saudi International early this year because of his studies.

With his golf schedule now “back on track,” Salhab, whose family of seven all play golf, is looking to at least make the cut for next year’s Saudi International.

“I’m excited. I hope to play well, enjoy myself, and try to get the ball in the hole,” he told Arab News.

Elson said he was particularly thrilled to be joining some of the world’s best players in KAEC come January.

“I am incredibly happy, I started with my best round on the first day and everything came together so well for me. I hope to take my performance one step further once the Saudi International starts in January and continue my recent good run of form,” he said.

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.