Todd matches Johnson’s 61 to take the lead at Travelers

Todd matches Johnson’s 61 to take the lead at Travelers
Brendon Todd in action during the third round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 29 June 2020

Todd matches Johnson’s 61 to take the lead at Travelers

Todd matches Johnson’s 61 to take the lead at Travelers
  • Both shot bogey-free rounds, with Todd making five birdies on the front nine and Johnson five on the back

CROMWELL, Connecticut: Brendon Todd and Dustin Johnson each shot career-low 61s at the Travelers Championship on Saturday, leaving Todd with a two-stroke lead over the 2016 US Open champion.

The 34-year-old Georgian, playing a couple holes behind Johnson, had a chance at the tournament’s second 60 of the week but missed a 10-foot putt to the left on the 18th hole.

He finished with a 54-hole score of 192, 18 under par, after shooting 66-65 the first two rounds. Johnson, who is looking for his 21st win on tour, also has improved each day, opening with a 69-64.

Both shot bogey-free rounds, with Todd making five birdies on the front nine and Johnson five on the back. Todd said the round became a game of whatever you can do, I can do just as well.

“It’s hard to miss the leader boards obviously, so (Johnson’s) name was up there from a pretty early point,” Todd said. “Again, I just use it as motivation to go out there and make some more birdies.”

Todd is looking for his third win of the season but his first since the fall, when he went back-to-back at the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.

“Whenever I get a two- or three-week stretch in a row, I tend to be playing better by the end of it,” he said. “That’s just something I’m using to my advantage now after missing two cuts. I’m peaking in the third week and hopefully I can get it done tomorrow.”

Despite going 9 under for the day, Johnson lamented missing several birdie chances and an eagle attempt on the par-4 ninth, when his ball stopped six inches from the pin.

Just two of his birdie putts, an 18-footer at the 10th hole and a 21-footer on the 12th, were longer than 9 feet.

“I really felt like I controlled the distance with my irons really well and hit tons of good shots,” he said. “I had a lot of really good looks at birdie.”

Kevin Streelman fired a 63 after two straight rounds of 66 and was just three shots back. Mackenzie Hughes, who led after a 60 on Thursday, shot his second straight 68 for sole possession of fourth place.

“Today if I had putted like I did the first day, I could have shot low 60s for sure,” Hughes said. “Play the same as I did today tee to green and roll in a few putts and it’ll be awesome.”

Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na each shot 65 and were tied for fifth at 197.

Phil Mickelson, who celebrated his 50th birthday on June 16, began the day with a one-stroke lead but struggled, finishing tied for seventh in a group six shots back. He made just his second bogey of the week on the third hole and also dropped strokes on the seventh and 13th before finishing with a 71.

Mickelson, looking for his 45th win and third on this course, has mostly struggled. He missed the cut in his previous three tournaments.

“I haven’t played great this year,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of cuts, and the next thing I know my game is starting to come back and I can sense it. I played two great rounds, and this is really a lot of fun.”

Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who opened the tournament with a 63, said he feels he is too far back to contend for the title after rounds of 68 and 69. He bogeyed two of his final four holes — his tee shot landed in the water on the course’s signature 15th hole and he also made bogey at 18 — to finish in a group eight shots back.

“I guess, if I had have been able to sneak a couple more over the last few holes, get to 14 and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re right in it. But I went the other way those last few holes, and that’s what took me out of it,” he said.


Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years

 Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years
Updated 04 March 2021

Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years

 Aston Martin announce new AMR21 car on return to Formula One after 61 years
  • The team formerly known as Racing Point is now officially Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team
  • Aston Martin will have former champion Sebastian Vettel and rising star Lance Stroll at the wheel

DUBAI: After a six-decade absence, Aston Martin is back in Formula One and on Wednesday revealed the car that it hopes will deliver success this season with former World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll at the wheel.

The team formerly known as Racing Point is now officially Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, after the British manufacturer was last involved in the competition 61 years ago.

The unveiling of the new AMR21 was described by Aston Martin Executive Chairman Lawrence Stroll as an “important event in automotive history,” with the new contender being the first works Formula One car to carry the famous wings since Maurice Trintignant’s DBR5 crossed the finish line at Silverstone in 1960.

“It’s quite inspirational to get a marque like Aston Martin back on to the Formula One grid after 60-plus years and we’re all honored here at Silverstone to have the opportunity to work really hard at making an extremely competitive car as an Aston Martin for 2021,” said Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer.

The team is only days away from testing the new car with an eye on the start of the 2021 Formula One season at the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.

“I’m very excited to take it to our competition and I’m also very excited with the new driver line-up that we will have this year,” said Szafnauer. “We’re really hoping to continue on the same path that we left off last year (as Racing Point). The penultimate race, we won, and we had some very good performances toward the end of last year, and we hope that this year continues on that same path and that we’ll be fighting for podiums from the start of the season.”

Szafnauer admitted that last season the competition was fierce in midfield, with Racing Point finishing fourth in the Constructors standings, only seven points behind McLaren in third, and that there are ambitions to challenge the likes of Red Bull for second place.

“It was very, very competitive in the midfield last year, I see the same thing happening this year,” he said. “Towards the beginning of last year I think we were closer to Red Bull than toward the end. They seem to traditionally develop quicker in the season than the conception and not so much over the winter. So my anticipation is that if we come out as strong as we finished last year and we’ve done a good job over the winter, we should be a little bit closer to Red Bull but I anticipate those teams around us, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, they’ll all do a good job over the winter.

Szafnauer believes Formula One learnt valuable lessons from last season and that there is a good chance the entire schedule will be completed. New to the calendar will be the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December and he is sure that Aston Martin will be ready for the street circuit in Jeddah.

“We really look forward to the new venues and we will do our due diligence and homework to make sure that we understand the characteristics of the track and we have a good set up to start with,” he said. “We don’t get as much time to prepare this year. We get an hour less of pre-practice so that will have an impact, especially on road circuits where we go for the first time. So because of that we will run simulations of the circuit, we will understand the layout, we’ll understand what type of set-up we need to have so we are as prepared as we can be.”

“And as far as road circuits goes versus closed circuits like at Silverstone, we do race in some quasi-road circuits and some pure ones” Szafnauer added. “We’ll be at Singapore and at Monaco this year, so we’ll have good understanding of what it takes.”

With the Middle East races in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi scheduled to be the last two of the season, Szafnauer is optimistic that live audiences will be back in time to enjoy the campaign’s finale.

“I do anticipate fans to be back in the second half of the year,” he said. “I think in the first half of the year, I’m not so sure. Even last year we had fans at a couple of the races, not full grandstand but a significant amount of fans, 40,000 plus at some of the venues, and I think there will be more of that this year.”

Szafnauer says the team has changed significantly since his arrival over 10 years ago. “When I first arrived we were 280 people, we are nearly double that now. But since we became Racing Point and now Aston Martin that change has accelerated. Our ambitions have increased, our goals and objectives are loftier now.”

The grander ambitions were made clear with Vettel’s addition to the team, with the four-time champion (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)) bringing a wealth of experience and the specific know-how of what it takes to win the Formula One title.

That will bring added expectations.

“I think Aston Martin, the name itself, will command on-track performance and I can assure you Sebastian Vettel is only doing this for one reason and that’s to win again; he pushes like mad for on track performance,” Szafnauer said. “That to us isn’t really pressure. Because this team, from the days of Jordan, has always been about that.”

“All we do is work to make sure that car goes faster,” he said. “Every minute of every day, to make sure we make that car go faster and that’s what the Aston Martin name commands and for sure that’s what Sebastian pushes us toward.”


Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 03 March 2021

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix

Mercedes-Benz EQ, NEOM bask in success of Diriyah E-Prix
  • Dutch driver Nyck de Vries leads ABB FIA Formula E World Championship after opening weekend win

DIRIYAH: Having celebrated a successful weekend at the Diriyah E-Prix, the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team and its principal partner NEOM have expressed their joy at the way the opening rounds of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Saudi Arabia have worked out for both parties.

On Friday, at the first ever night race to take place in Formula E, Nyck de Vries claimed a dominant victory for the German manufacturer in front of a delegation from NEOM. The Dutchman led the race from lights-to-flag, having set the quickest time in qualifying to start in pole position.

Ian James, Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team principal, said: “Both Nyck and (Belgian driver) Stoffel (Vandoorne) were able to demonstrate in Diriyah that we have developed a competitive package with the Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02.

“Nyck’s performance and control of every session from FP1 to the first race is something which had not previously been seen in Formula E. We have been confident in his potential from the outset, and it’s great that the experience he developed throughout his first season has now been translated into his first Formula E win.”

De Vries continued his fast pace in Saturday’s second E-Prix, earning an additional championship point for the fastest lap, as he drove through the field to finish in ninth place following a challenging start to the day for the team. De Vries leaves Saudi Arabia at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, with 32 points from the opening weekend.

“It’s been terrific to be back on track and also to have many of our partners here to support us to kick-off the first FIA World Championship Season,” James added.

“I’d like to thank NEOM and all team partners for their continued support. It’s been a good start to season seven and we look forward to building on this for the next race.”

The partnership with Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team aims to accelerate NEOM’s ambitions to be at the vanguard of future technology and mobility and become a center for sporting excellence.

Jan Paterson, managing director of sport at NEOM, said: “It was great to see such a strong performance from the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team in the season opener in Diriyah.

“Working alongside the team is of key importance for us to realize our ambition to become a center of sporting excellence and a major participant in the world’s sporting landscape, and this weekend offered our employees a unique chance to engage and learn from a world-class team.”

As part of the knowledge-sharing program between the two organizations, 70 NEOM employees and stakeholders attended the Diriyah E-Prix, adhering to strict coronavirus disease (COVID-19) safety protocols. During the pit lane walk, the delegation got a first-hand impression of how the world’s first net carbon-zero sport is accelerating adoption of electric vehicles.

Ahead of the start of the sport’s first FIA World Championship season, Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team racer Vandoorne put the Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 through its paces along the spectacular Magna Road in NEOM in the north-western corner of the Kingdom.


Documentary highlights Saudi Greens’ tournament run in 2019

Documentary highlights Saudi Greens’ tournament run in 2019
Updated 03 March 2021

Documentary highlights Saudi Greens’ tournament run in 2019

Documentary highlights Saudi Greens’ tournament run in 2019
  • All-female team competed in New York City while also promoting environmental causes

RIYADH: The profile of women’s football in Saudi Arabia continues to rise.

The first Women’s Football League was established in the Kingdom last year and now a new film documenting the historic appearance of the Saudi Greens at the 2019 Global Goals World Cup (GGWCup) is being released by the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA).

Launched across the SFA website, its YouTube channel and social media accounts last week, the documentary chronicles the all-women Saudi football team’s journey at the GGWCup in New York City.

It was the first time a female sports team from the Kingdom had ever competed in the US, but the team’s involvement went beyond just a sporting achievement.

The tournament framed the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a sport, as 30 teams worldwide competed to create the kind of world they would like to see. Each team created an action plan with a particular global goal and strived to achieve it in their own country while also competing in five-a-side football tournaments.

Regional qualifying rounds determined which teams progressed to the finals in New York, where the winner was decided based on the impact of its activism and performance on the pitch.

In 2019, the Greens focused on SDG 15 “Life on Land,” bringing attention to the effects of single-use plastics on the environment. Prior to the tournament, team members hosted community events and campaigns across the Kingdom, helping to educate people on the impact of plastics and the wider SDGs in general.

The team distributed reusable bags, collected litter, held awareness talks, and collaborated with local schools and sports clubs to collect plastic bottles and teach children about the importance of recycling.

After they progressed through qualifiers in Copenhagen, the Greens joined 14 other teams at the 2019 finals, where they finished in second place. 

The documentary highlights the team’s experience in New York, but not just in footballing terms. The film also reflects on the team’s social development, international bridge-building and the Greens’ role in boosting female empowerment within Saudi Arabia.

The Greens were formed in 2018 with support from the SFA, the Saudi Ministry of Sports and the country’s Olympic Committee. Less than three year later, the team has come to symbolize progress and female empowerment in the Kingdom.

Since the tournament, the team has hosted virtual workout sessions for the GGWCup Clubhouse, contributed to SFA events and initiatives, and paved the way for the Women’s Football League, which was launched last February.

The latest role for the team will be as ambassadors for the upcoming GGWCup Saudi Arabia – the Kingdom’s first qualifying round of the global competition – due to take place this year.


Golf Saudi launches ‘Power of the Game’ podcast

Golf fans in Saudi Arabia can now get the inside track to the Kingdom’s plans for the game via Golf Saudi’s brand-new podcast – Power of the Game. (Supplied)
Golf fans in Saudi Arabia can now get the inside track to the Kingdom’s plans for the game via Golf Saudi’s brand-new podcast – Power of the Game. (Supplied)
Updated 02 March 2021

Golf Saudi launches ‘Power of the Game’ podcast

Golf fans in Saudi Arabia can now get the inside track to the Kingdom’s plans for the game via Golf Saudi’s brand-new podcast – Power of the Game. (Supplied)
  • The podcast series is hosted by Dubai Eye’s golf obsessive Robbie Greenfield

LONDON: Golf fans in Saudi Arabia can now get the inside track to the Kingdom’s plans for the game via Golf Saudi’s brand-new podcast – Power of the Game.

The series has been launched to explore the creation of new golf courses, efforts to bring new players into the game and shed light on Saudi Arabia’s golf sustainability mission, as it seeks to establish the world’s most integrated golfing ecosystem.  

The podcast series is hosted by Dubai Eye’s golf obsessive Robbie Greenfield, who will regularly invite guests to discuss their involvement in golf development in the Kingdom.

The first five episodes have been released on Tuesday as a “box-set” and include discussions with Ladies European Tour CEO, Alex Armas, 2018 Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn and an exclusive feature with Jack Nicklaus, who describes the designs for his new golf course at Qiddiya.

The podcast series underlines Golf Saudi’s ambition and its connectivity to the national Vision 2030 program and will emphasise Saudi Arabia’s role in establishing new global benchmarks across its six pillars: Access and Infrastructure, Events, National Team and Academies, Sustainability, Mass Participation and Tourism.

These will deliver key metrics in the next decade for the country, including having up to 27,000 registered golfers in the Kingdom and ensuring over one million Saudi nationals have actively tried golf. 

Commenting on the new podcast for the country, Majed Al Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and The Saudi Golf Federation, said: “At Golf Saudi, we have a number of over-arching aspirations for golf in the Kingdom and we wanted to give our new listeners the chance to hear more about these. We have laid out major plans for the socio-economic growth and development of the golf in the Kingdom, through tourism, commerce, investment and the entertainment sectors and are working with many amazing organisations and people to deliver these.  

“These are hugely exciting times and through the ‘Power of the Game’ podcast series we hope the stories of the work we are doing and the passion shown by these individuals shines through and gives our listeners a better view than ever of the scale of our ambition.” 

Listeners will be able to tune into each episode via major podcast providers: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Stitcher.  


Life-altering operation keeps Olympic dream alive for Emirati surfer

Life-altering operation keeps Olympic dream alive for Emirati surfer
Updated 02 March 2021

Life-altering operation keeps Olympic dream alive for Emirati surfer

Life-altering operation keeps Olympic dream alive for Emirati surfer
  • Mohammad Hassan had his colon removed after years of discomfort. Now he has Tokyo in his sights
  • The operation to have the Stoma changed his life for the better and kept the dream alive, and now he is faced with option of having another operation which would do away with the bag

DUBAI: On his surfboard, waiting for the next wave.

Mohammad Hassan is never happier than when he is alone in the water.

The story of the Emirati’s attempt to be the only Arab surfer at the Tokyo Olympics would be inspiring at the best of times. But as it happens, Hassan also had to overcome a debilitating and life-threatening disease to follow his dream.

The baggage, in his case, is quite literal.

In August 2020, the 33-year-old had his colon removed, and the professional surfer now passes solid waste through a stoma in his abdomen that connects to a waterproof pouch called an ostomy bag.

“The first thing that came to my mind was, would I be able to live a normal life,” he said of his post-surgery state of mind.

“Would I be able to do my sports? All these things kicked in, and also looking at surgery itself, because I had to have a stoma, the first thing that came up was, would I be able to lay down on my board? Especially as I was trying to qualify for the Olympics.”

A naturally positive person, Hassan was nonetheless racked with concerns.

Will I be able to compete? Will I be able to do all the things I did before?

“Having the stoma was very difficult,” he said. “In my mind it was very difficult to lay down on my board, that was the main concern.”

Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis 15-years-ago meant that Hassan, a talented football and rugby player, could barely function in his everyday life, never mind in competitive sports.

Leaving the pitch every few minutes for bathroom break soon ended his team sports aspirations.

After moving to Australia, the Emirati increasingly found solace in surfing.

“Watersports were the perfect scenario,” he said. “I could sit in the water, enjoy my time.”

“[At first] I never knew what surfing was,” he said.

“So when I got injured playing rugby, through rehabilitation in the water I saw people surf and that’s how I got into it. I really enjoy the water. Water was my escape from everything. Every time I would go in the water, I’d feel at ease, I’d feel really good, I’d forget everything that happened during the day. And when I found sport I could do in the water, that was it, I clicked with it.”

He would carry his love of surfing with him to the US and eventually back home to the UAE.

“Sports come naturally to me, but I picked up surfing super well,” said Hassan, who was encouraged to pick the sport by his Australian friends.

“From the first time I caught the first wave, it felt good, it felt comfortable. I think I picked up really quick. I was born a surfer.”

But over the years medication could not improve Hassan’s illness, and he returned to the UAE two years ago.

During a routine follow-up for a patient with ulcerative colitis, a colonoscopy revealed pre-cancerous cells in Hassan’s colon. What was a daily inconvenience became life-threatening.

A team of surgeons and pathologists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi advised a total colectomy – the removal of the colon.

Successful surgery meant saving his life by eliminating cancer, and effectively curing his colitis, eliminating his symptoms.

Hassan would have to carry the bag with him, but he had his life back.

That he was soon back on his surfboard and dreaming of Olympic glory is testament to his willpower as much as it is to the team of doctors.

“In the past we used to do surgeries like this the traditional way,” said Dr. Shafik Sidani, the colorectal surgeon who performed the surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Which is open [surgery], big incision down the abdomen and basically the patients stay for many days if not weeks in the hospital. They don’t eat and drink for a while and when they recover, it’s slow recovery.”

Modern advances mean such operations are now carried out with small keyhole incisions, ensuring less pain and quicker recovery time for the patients.

A procedure called Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) played a big role in Hassan’s return to a normal life.

“It’s basically a pathway in patient care that starts the moment the patient walks through the door with a diagnosis,” Sidani added.

“We prepare the patient for surgery physically, mentally and we set expectations, we educate the patient. We involve the patient in the care and the decision of the treatment.”

“Mo added another element to all this in that the stars aligned with him and with our pathway, with his motivations, his expectations and what he wanted out of this,” the doctor added.

“So he took it to another level, really pushed himself to recover quicker. He didn’t play the sick role for as long, he tried to move on.”

Now Hassan is taking the steps back into professional surfing and looking to emulate some of his heroes

“My favorites are ‘John John’ Florence and Julian Wilson,” he said.

“I really enjoyed the way they surf, I enjoyed their creativity on the water, and I really like their Air Game, so they were my go-to surfers. I surfed with John John so that was dream come true."

Pursuing the biggest dream of all, surfing in the Olympics, did not happen overnight. The World Cup of surfing came first.

“My coach Matt told me, ‘why don’t you compete for the UAE? I don’t think anyone has competed from the Gulf countries.’ Give it a go, I’m going to teach you, I’m going to help you out and we’ll see how it goes’. I agreed,” Hassan recalls of a conversation in 2018.

It worked.

Qualification to the World Surfing Games followed, where he was the only surfer form the Middle East.

Then came the World Qualification Series (WQS) for the World Surf League. A few wins got him “excited”.

And when surfing was announced as an Olympic sport for the Tokyo Games, his path was set.

The operation to have the Stoma changed his life for the better and kept the dream alive, and now he is faced with option of having another operation which would do away with the bag.

It’s a decision he is pondering as he is happy with the quality of life he is currently enjoying, as proven by his participation in the Dubai Fitness Challenge 2020, playing 30 different sports in 30 days.

The Final Olympic Surfing Qualifier in El Salvador at the end of May will determine his fate.

Hassan admits to being a bit rusty after the operation, and Covid-19 restrictions have not helped his training program.

But it will all be worth it if he makes it to Japan wearing his country’s colors.

And what would it mean to represent the UAE at the Olympics?

“Everything,” Hassan said. “The UAE has given me so much, and I think this is the time for me to pay it back.”