Graeme McDowell wins Saudi International by two shots

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Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland celebrates with the trophy after he wins the final round of the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. (AP)
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A beaming Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland with the trophy. (Photo courtesy: Noel A. Alipoyo / OR Media Madarat)
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Updated 02 February 2020

Graeme McDowell wins Saudi International by two shots

  • The veteran touring pro from Northern Ireland uses his wealth of experience to beat a strong field

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Graeme McDowell reminded everyone that, at 40, he can still seal the deal by winning the Saudi International by two shots on Sunday.
Winless on the European Tour for five and a half years, the veteran touring pro from Northern Ireland pulled through under pressure from the biggest names in golf, including American stars Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
“This win is special. I’m very excited and relieved I was able to get the job done,” McDowell, fighting back tears, said following his victory.
“The birdies on 14 and 15 were just huge at the time. This is a difficult golf course — it’s unusual to win feeling as uncomfortable as I did on a lot of these holes because it’s a tough course in tough conditions. This is a huge, world-class field with the world number one with massive world ranking points.
“It’s been 10 years since I won a US Open, 10 years probably since I played the best golf of my life. I feel like I’m moving back in the right direction,” added McDowell.
As expected, the chasing pack — notably Johnson and Mickelson — mounted a back nine charge to try to overhaul McDowell’s lead.
Johnson had two eagles — on Nos. 4 and 18 — and birdie on 9 against two bogeys in a 3-under 67 card and 10 under total in a fighting finish in his defense of the title in swirling winds at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

“I’m pleased with the way I played, but I would have liked to given Graeme a little more pressure coming down the stretch,” said Johnson.
“It was really hard to make putts — but I hit a lot of really good shots.”
Mickelson rattled in three birdies on the trot from the second hole and was three under at the turn. He birdied the 18 to rebound from a bogey at 16 for a 67 and 9 under total, three shots behind the winner.
Thomas Pieters of Belgium mixed seven birdies and two bogeys for a 65 (33-32) to join Mickelson at 9 under, as did first-round co-leader Malaysian Gavin Green, who enjoyed an eagle-birdie finish that steadied a wild even par 70 that contained five bogeys and further birdies on the second and sixth holes.
McDowell hit the turn at level par, dropped a shot 13 that saw his two-stroke lead cut to one. But he rebounded with those back-to-back birdies from 14. Regaining enough breathing room, McDowell played conservative golf and parred the rest of the holes to post the winning total of 12 after a closing 70.
“It’s my first time in Saudi Arabia and the setup of the course was magnificent. It’s been a brilliant event and I can’t wait to return next year,” said McDowell, confirming his intention to return for the 2021 tournament to defend his title.
McDowell’s playing partner Frenchman Victor Dubuisson had his game unravel, as he finished on 4-over 74 to be at 7 under in a big group that included, among others, Spain’s Sergio Garcia (64), Mexican Abraham Ancer 67 and England’s Ross Fisher (68).


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.