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)
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Updated 29 June 2020

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.


Why Riyad Mahrez should shed reluctant hero tag and join Arab greats

Updated 05 August 2020

Why Riyad Mahrez should shed reluctant hero tag and join Arab greats

  • The Algerian winger could be a few weeks away from his crowning glory
  • Beyond his goals, assists and medals, he is one of the most aesthetically pleasing players to watch in the Premier League

DUBAI: We should talk about Riyad Mahrez. Because, it seems, Riyad Mahrez doesn’t really like to talk about Riyad Mahrez.

Manchester City’s Algerian international is famously reticent when it comes to dealing with the media. For one of modern football’s most unique and successful talents, Mahrez remains an enigma; brilliant, instantly recognizable, and yet so often underrated.

Most fans would struggle to recall what his voice even sounds like. Though he has 5.5million followers on Instagram, and a further 2.2 million on Twitter, he mostly shuns the behind the scenes glamorous posts that so many footballers seem to enjoy in favor of match action shots. And there is no team of PR warriors shouting his achievements from the rooftops.

Which is a shame. One of the greatest Arab footballers of all time certainly deserves more. Except that, when the discussion of the greatest Arab or African footballers to play in Europe comes up, Mahrez rarely comes near the top.

A strong showing in the mini-champions League tournament over the next few weeks, starting with Friday’s round of 16 second leg against Real Madrid, could throw some gold dust on an already outstanding career.

Since his quiet introduction to the Premier League in 2014, Mahrez has been nothing short of a revelation; an enchanting, balletic footballer, whether gliding across the right wing to set up yet another chance for Jamie Vardy or Sergio Aguero, or cutting inside onto his magical left foot to score another stunning curling effort. Or, as he has done twice, winning the Premier League.

Beyond his goals, assists and medals, he is one of the most aesthetically pleasing players to watch in the Premier League, even the world.

So why does he struggle to gain the acclaim of other Arab and African footballers of past and present?

Like Karim Benzema in Spain, Mahrez is the right player, at the right place, at the right time. But not always, metaphorically speaking, the loudest of players.

By most metrics, Mohamed Salah takes some beating as the outstanding Arab footballer of modern times, perhaps ever. Since joining Liverpool in the summer of 2017, he has played a pivotal part in transforming the club from a fourth-placed team to proven winners, both in the Premier League and Champions League; twice won the Premier League Golden Boot, and also claimed the PFA Player of the Year in 2017-18.

Like Salah, Mahrez has won the Premier League in England, arguably the most high profile league in the world. In fact, he is one of only 11 players to have won it twice, first as the driving force behind Leicester City’s still scarcely believable 2015-16 title win (which also earned him the PFA Player of the Year award), and then as part of Pep Guardiola’s staggering collective at Manchester City in 2018-19. 

Unlike Salah, though, he has yet to win the Champions League. That could be about to change in a few weeks. Manchester City remain the favorites to win the delayed competition, now scheduled to conclude in Lisbon between 7th and 23rd of August.

Salah’s army of fans, from Liverpool to Cairo, rightly hail his every move.

But for Mahrez, there are no murals on neighborhood walls in New York or the Northwest of England. No string of television commercials. And no fashion magazine covers.

It is not for lack of achievement or talent either. You get the impression Mahrez just prefers it that way.

The 29-year-old, at first instance, might also suffer in comparison to one of Algeria’s greatest footballers.

Rabah Madjer achieved instant international fame when he scored in his nation’s finest hour-and-a-half, the 2-1 win against mighty West Germany at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Five years, and many domestic titles later, he would return to haunt the Germans, scoring a remarkable back-heeled goal in Porto’s 1987 European Cup final win over Bayern Munich. Later that year he put on a man-of-the-match performance, and scored the winner, as Porto beat Penarol to claim the Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo.

Such iconic moments are hard to compete with. Yet Mahrez has many of his own.

In February 2016, Mahrez produced one of the Premier League’s most memorable individual performances of the last decade as Leicester defeated his future club Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad stadium on the way to that stunning league title win. Even that early in the season, the Player of the Year award was in the bag.

And Premier League-centric viewers, at least those who don’t follow Manchester City, may have missed a truly outrageous stoppage time free-kick in a 2-1 win over Nigeria which secured Algeria’s place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup. Where the home crowds had eagerly anticipated a Salah and Egypt triumph, it was Mahrez and Algeria that were crowned African champions after beating Senegal 1-0 in the final at Cairo International Stadium.

Again, and inexplicably, the achievement did not garner the global acclaim it deserved.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Mahrez’s understated reputation is the company he keeps. When you play in forward line alongside Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Jesus Gabriel, David Silva and, above all, the peerless Kevin De Bruyne, the credit will inevitably be spread around.

Mahrez, a maverick at Leicester, has been transformed by Pep Guardiola into the perfect team player at Manchester City. An excellent return of 11 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League this season may not quite see him at the top of either chart. But, in addition to one goal and four assists in the Champions League, his numbers accurately illustrate a consistent, at times spectacular, overall contribution in a season where he has been one of the club’s most impressive forwards.

If all that still doesn’t make him one of the greatest Arab footballers of all time, perhaps a Champions League medal on August 23 finally will.