Budding golf stars hoping to make the cut at Saudi International

Faisal Salhab and Saud Alsharif during a break in training at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Budding golf stars hoping to make the cut at Saudi International

  • Four-day professional tournament features global names with prize pool of $3.5 million

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Amateur golfers Saud Alsharif and Faisal Salhab said they are both excited about playing alongside the biggest names in the sport and making the cut at the Saudi International tournament to be held later this month.

The Saudi International returns to the Kingdom for its second year and will be hosted at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). It has 72 holes, 132 players and a $3.5 million prize pool.

“I feel very lucky to be here again,” Alsharif told Arab News. “This is a big opportunity that I can take and play very well. I think it’s not a tough thing to do. It’s just a matter of keeping your head and playing your game. Nothing is guaranteed in golf. I’m sure that if I play well and have confidence I think I’m gonna do it (make the cut) this year.” The 20-year-old Saudi qualified for the second edition of the European Tour event, set for Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, through his top ranking on the national team.

Salhab, who is 23 and made the grade by winning the 5th Saudi Open at Riyadh Golf Courses, said preparations were going well. “We have a coach out here and great training sources in Dubai right now,” he told Arab News. “It’s been a month and a half training with our coach. We’ll do our best to make the cut. To be sure, we’re going to be stressed. That’s the reality. You should know how to work, to play under stress. That’s the beauty of the game. That’s all we need to do.”

The youthful Saudi duo were speaking to the media on Monday while at a training camp at the KAEC golf facility as part of their final preparations under the watchful eye of coach Jamie McConnell, director of instruction at the Claude Harmon Golf Academy in Dubai, who has been working with the Saudi national golf team since November.

“They’ve got game,” McConnell told Arab News. “I think they just have to trust their ability. They will be more than able to make the cut. As long as they take it easy and be calm in their approach there’s no reason they can’t. While Faisal has the natural power, Saud hits it a long way and really has the speed when you consider his build. He really hits the ball hard.”

During Monday’s practice round McConnell said Alsharif was 1-under and Salhab even par. 

“We’re going to work strategy on the golf course. The wind will play a big part. One thing I noticed today is that it’s calmer in the morning, very windy in the afternoon and the golf course is completely changed,” he added.
“First time I’ve been here. It’s stunning … almost like the Mirage (a golfer’s paradise in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia),” McConnell said of Royal Greens, a gem of a course along the Red Sea coastline.

Salhab shared his thoughts on the changing Saudi golf landscape.

“We have to be thankful that we have this all of a sudden, and it’s amazing. It’s unreal. If you look at the national team players, the fire that’s under them, they never had this fire. They never thought that this could be a life to live. To get into golf. There is an ecosystem that we never used to have. We now have the national men’s team, women’s team, under-13s and under-15s. A lot of new golf courses are being planned. Who’s going to play in them? That is why we have to have a good program. To really push them,” he said.

Completing the Saudi trio taking on elite golfers including Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson is veteran Othman Almulla, who will be playing on a pro invite.


Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.