McDowell leads going into Saudi International final round

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Graeme McDowell prepares to make a putt during Saturday’s third round of the Saudi tournament. (Getty Images)
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Frenchman Victor Dubuisson at play during the third day of the Saudi International on Saturday. (Getty Images)
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Updated 02 February 2020

McDowell leads going into Saudi International final round

  • 40-year-old European Tour veteran hopes to seal the deal 

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Graeme McDowell did not let a second birdie chance slip away to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the second Saudi International golf tournament.

The 40-year-old tour veteran from Northern Ireland made sure he got the job done on the par-5 18th on Saturday at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. He drilled a wedge from 181 yards downwind to six feet and made the putt, after playing out neatly from a desert patch to the left where his 313-yard drive had landed.

A hole earlier, McDowell missed a chance to take the outright lead from Frenchman Victor Dubuisson after his birdie try from five feet slid past the par-4 17, after both players tied on 11 under going into the last two holes of the penultimate round of the competition of the European Tour event with a $3.5 million prize pot up for grabs.

Keeping his focus in stiff winds blowing in from the Red Sea, McDowell, who sets out in the final group in Sunday’s last round with 2014 Ryder Cup partner Dubuisson at Gleneagles, said: “Yeah  that was kind of a sign of things to come (third hole, par 3 over the green). I didn’t realize at the time — we felt we hit it in the left bunker — it was a bad shot. It was a flushed snap hook and I couldn’t believe it when it flew that bunker and I got up and saw that ball way over the back. And I was like, oh, no. It came out just perfectly killed and literally it was a lot good putt. So it was a nice way to kind of hang in there and keep the day going.”

BACKGROUND

  • Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland made sure he got the job done on the par-5 18th on Saturday at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
  • He drilled a wedge from 181 yards downwind to six feet and made the putt, after playing out neatly from a desert patch to the left where his 313-yard drive had landed.

McDowell handled the brutal conditions well on another overcast and pleasantly cool day to finish on 4-under 66 while Dubuisson had 65 and 11 under.

“The putt on 9 was massive. Those are the kind of putts you look back on the round and you go ‘that was the one.’ But then there were a couple more that came after that,” said McDowell.

At least four players have had a taste of the lead in a tight back nine battle that also featured Malaysia’s Gavin Green and Victor Perez of France, who ended on 9 under and 7 under after a 70 and 73 respectively on Saturday.

“It was brutal out there and a couple of pins, they were tucked so far in corners,” said the 26-year-old Green, who had six top-10 finishes in his European Tour career.

Perez, joined at 7 under by Italy’s Renato Paratore and American star and defending champion Dustin Johnson who said: “Tomorrow I’m going to have to go out and get off to another start like I did today and then finish it off a little better.”

World No. 1  Brooks Koepka made some inroads on so-called moving day to finish with the day’s lowest round of 65 along with Dubuisson and Ian Poulter.

Koepka was on -6 as was fellow US star Phil Mickelson. Along with Johnson the US trio are within striking distance of the leaders.


Liverpool face Chelsea test as Manchester clubs enter fray

Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah looked in fine form as he scored a hat trick in their match against Leeds on the opening weekend. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 September 2020

Liverpool face Chelsea test as Manchester clubs enter fray

  • Pep Guardiola has shored up his defense by signing Netherlands international Nathan Ake

LONDON: Liverpool face an early test of their Premier League title defense against Chelsea on Sunday as Manchester City and Manchester United launch their quest to be champions.

Arsenal, Everton and Leicester hope to build on encouraging opening wins while Jose Mourinho needs a morale-boosting victory for Tottenham.
AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the action.
Chelsea’s meeting with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday has added edge after a feisty exchange between the managers over transfer spending.
The London club finished 33 points behind the champions last season but have splashed out around £200 million ($259 million) on new players.
By contrast, Liverpool have been relatively quiet, adding just Greece left-back Kostas Tsimikas so far, with Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara likely to follow.
Jurgen Klopp pointedly said Liverpool could not spend in the same way as clubs owned by “countries” and “oligarchs” such as City and Chelsea during the coronavirus pandemic.
But Frank Lampard, who also became embroiled in a spat with Liverpool’s bench in July, pointed out the Anfield side had spent big in previous seasons as they built their title-winning side.
Liverpool will be keen to cut out the defensive errors they committed in a 4-3 win against newly promoted Leeds, but Mohamed Salah looked in fine early season form as he scored a hat trick on the opening weekend.
Chelsea were also unconvincing winners against Brighton in their opening match, but Timo Werner, who chose to join the Blues despite interest from Liverpool, did impress in winning a penalty against the Seagulls.
Manchester City are the bookmakers’ favorites to land a third Premier League trophy in four seasons but face a tough opener against Wolves.
City boss Pep Guardiola has shored up his defense by signing Netherlands international Nathan Ake and has added to his rich attacking options, landing Ferran Torres from Valencia.
City scored 102 goals last season as they finished second, but lost nine matches as they surrendered their crown to Liverpool.
Both Manchester clubs are starting a week later than other sides due to their European commitments last season.
Guardiola will be painfully aware that his team must be more consistent this campaign and he cannot afford to let Klopp’s men open up an early lead.
But he will feel nervous as he travels to face Wolves, who beat City twice last season, after a disrupted pre-season.
City duo Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, while Phil Foden was sent home by England after breaking coronavirus protocols while on international duty.
The challenge facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a match against Crystal Palace is how to improve on last season’s third-place finish.
Midfielder Bruno Fernandes was the catalyst as United put together a long unbeaten run, with a front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood providing the firepower.
But United have been relatively quiet in the transfer window, so far adding just midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax, despite persistent speculation linking them with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
“When we signed Bruno Fernandes, we knew we needed that kind of player — now we’ve signed Donny and he’s a type of player I felt we needed in the squad,” said Solskjaer.
Arsenal are buoyant after launching their season with a 3-0 win at newly promoted Fulham and tying down captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for three more years.
Mikel Arteta’s men, who host West Ham on Saturday, finished down in eighth place last season but ended their campaign on a high, winning the FA Cup for a record 14th time.
They followed that up by beating Liverpool on penalties in the season-opening Community Shield before the announcement on Aubameyang this week that fans had craved.
“I want to become an Arsenal legend just like Thierry (Henry), Wrighty (Ian Wright), (Tony) Adams and (Dennis) Bergkamp,” he said.