Victor Perez grabs lead after back-to-back 65s in Saudi International

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Victor Perez in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images)
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Gavin Green in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images)
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Faisal Salhab in action at the Saudi International. (Courtesy: Noel A. Alipuyo/OR Media)
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Martin Kaymer in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images
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Graeme McDowell in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images)
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Updated 01 February 2020

Victor Perez grabs lead after back-to-back 65s in Saudi International

  • Frenchman Perez, who came second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last month, moved to 10-under par at the halfway stage
  • Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a former world number one, had the best card of the day, a six-under par 64

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia: Victor Perez put together another solid 5-under 65 during Friday’s second round to surge into the lead heading into the weekend at the Saudi International golf tournament.

Taking advantage of benign conditions in the morning at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, the 27-year-old Frenchman posted a 36-hole total of 10 under 130, making clutch putts along the way during a seven-birdie round, along with bogeys on the third and sixth.

First round co-leader Gavin Green, from Malaysia, had shared the lead with Perez until a three-putt bogey on the eighth — the penultimate hole of his round, having started on the 10th — left him a shot behind at 9 under, despite not missing a green in a 3-under-par round of 67.

Veteran Tour campaigner Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland, who was tied for the lead at the start of the day, finished one stroke further back on 8 under after shooting a 2-under 68 on the 7,010-yard, par-70 course on the scenic Red Sea coast.

“Obviously (I am) very pleased with the second round,” Perez said of his performance on Friday. “I think it was important to keep the hammer down after an obviously unexpected 65 in the wind yesterday. 

"I think they were definitely the tougher conditions, and it’s one of those days where you hope to stay a couple under. I feel like I’ve been able to hole some key putts, and it also frees you up."

He added that it is important to take advantage of opportunities “and that’s what I’ve done really well so far.”

Green, who will tee off with with college teammate Perez in the last group out for Saturday’s third round, said: “I’m excited to be in the mix. I’ve been there a couple of times and just try to put myself in the position a couple more times and see what happens.

“I think I’ve done pretty well so far ... I’ve no complaints. I’ve been hitting it solid and putting the balls in the right position,” added Green, who is looking for his breakthrough win on the European Tour.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a former world number one, recorded the day’s best round, a six-under par 64 that helped him climb 76 places to tied 18th.

China’s Li Haotong, the runner-up to American Dustin Johnson in the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, and South African veteran Ernie Els just made the cut on 1-over.

Overnight co-leader Graeme McDowell could not take advantage of playing early in calm conditions, adding a 68 to his first round 64 to sit eight under, one ahead of Italian Renato Paratore who shot 65.

Northern Irishman McDowell said a slow-play warning after he gave an interview to one of the tournament broadcasters while walking down the fairway distracted him.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson was five back after shooting 68, while world number one Brooks Koepka sits back in 38th at one-under following his 69.

Saudi amateur Faisal Salhab was apparently overwhelmed by the experience of making his debut on such a big stage. He failed to play to his full potential and missed the cut, as did professional Othman Almulla and leading amateur Saud Alsharief, the other two members of the Saudi trio who competed in the blue-ribbon competition, which has a prize pot of $3.5 million.

Among those who missed the cut in the $3.5 million event were world number 12 Patrick Reed and England’s Lee Westwood, who recently won in Abu Dhabi.





Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

Updated 30 May 2020

Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

  • The move aims to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes

MANCHESTER, England: Liverpool might not win the English Premier League at Anfield after police included the leader’s key games among at least five it wants at neutral venues in a bid to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp hopes authorities will allow them to play at home as planned, with supporters adhering to advice while they are prevented from attending games due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Police originally wanted neutral venues for all 92 remaining games but the plan was opposed by the clubs — particularly those trying to avoid relegation.
The league plans to resume on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pending final approval from government, which is trying to prevent a second spike in cases.
Police don’t object to the games on that Wednesday night being played at Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But police want the derby between Everton and Liverpool to be played away from Merseyside a few days later. The game was originally scheduled at Goodison Park. Liverpool, which leads by 25 points with nine games remaining, could clinch the title by beating Everton if second-placed City loses to Arsenal on June 17.
If the 30-year title drought doesn’t end that day, police want Liverpool’s next game, against Crystal Palace, to be played away from Anfield.
Greater Manchester Police have already determined Liverpool’s third game back against Manchester City should be staged away from Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool’s fourth game back is against Aston Villa, currently scheduled at Anfield.
The same Manchester force wants City’s game against Newcastle and Manchester United’s home game against Sheffield United played outside of the northwest location.
Police in Newcastle also don’t want the home game against Liverpool to be played at St. James’ Park on the final day of the season, which could be July 26.
Mark Roberts, the head of football policing in England, said the plans will remain under review but are based on public health demands.
“We have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimizing the demand on policing,” said Roberts, the football policing lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council. “The views and agreement of forces which host Premier League clubs have been sought and where there were concerns, the Premier League has been supportive in providing flexibility in arranging alternative venues where requested.”
One obvious neutral venue is Wembley Stadium in north London which is not the home of any club side.
“This plan will be kept continually under review to ensure public health and safety and a key part of this is for supporters to continue to respect the social distancing guidelines, and not to attend or gather outside the stadiums,” Roberts said.
Even without a vaccine for COVID-19, fans could return to games next season, which is due to begin in September.
“There is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told Sky Sports TV, “and it may happen on a phased basis.”
Only 200 of the 380 Premier League games each season are contracted to be broadcast live in Britain, but all remaining fixtures will be aired live because fans will not be allowed in stadiums.
The reshaped English season is set to end with the FA Cup final on Aug. 1.
The Football Association on Friday announced its competition will provisionally resume with the quarterfinals on the weekend of June 27-28. The semifinals are now scheduled for July 18-19.
“This has been a difficult period for many people and, while this is a positive step, the restart date is dependent on all safety measures being met,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.
Though the COVID-19 deaths per day have fallen in Britain since early April, another 377 were still reported on Thursday, bringing the known death toll in all settings including hospitals and care homes to 37,837.