Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event

Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
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Saud Al-Sharif, playing with Open Champion Shane Lowry, ahead of 2020 Saudi International, secured his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
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Saud Al-Sharif, with Open Champion Shane Lowry, ahead of 2020 Saudi International, secured his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
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Saud Al-Sharif, with Open Champion Shane Lowry, ahead of 2020 Saudi International, secured his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
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Updated 13 January 2021

Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event

Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
  • Othman Almulla, Saud Al-Sharif to represent Saudi Arabia; Jordan’s Shergo Kurdi among international rising stars invited
  • One of golf’s most talked-about prospects, America’s Akshay Bhatia, who turns 19 at the end of January, will also be in the lineup alongside his hero, Phil Mickelson

JEDDAH: Golf Saudi announced the professional and amateur invitations on Wednesday for the Saudi International, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, to take place Feb. 4-7 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

Invitees will get the chance to compete alongside a world-class field including world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau as well as leading Europeans Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and defending champion Graeme McDowell.

Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla made history in 2019 when he became the first golfer from the Kingdom to turn professional and compete internationally and is receiving his third invitation from Golf Saudi to compete in one of the European Tour’s leading events. Saud Al-Sharif will be the second Saudi player in the field, securing his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia, having impressed on the 2020 MENA Tour, where he shot the lowest round of the day on the fourth event of the 2020 season. He also finished second in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Championship in Oman at the start of the year.

Al-Sharif said: “We are very fortunate to have such a high-profile event in our country, and I feel very honored to be representing Saudi Arabia in a field of such high-quality global golfers. This will be my third time playing, and each year I gain such invaluable insight into what it takes to be a top golfer. I hope that all the work I have been putting into my game since last year pays off and I can make everyone proud by becoming the first player from the Kingdom to make the cut.”

One of golf’s most talked-about rising stars, America’s Akshay Bhatia, who turns 19 at the end of January, will also be in the lineup alongside his hero, Phil Mickelson. Formerly the US’s top-ranked junior, Bhatia turned professional after becoming the first high-school student to compete on the US Walker Cup team in 2019 and is already well-known for his impressive ball-striking and 125-mile-an-hour swing speed.

England’s Harry Hall, who also made his professional debut following the 2019 Walker Cup, has just completed his first year as a professional, having concentrated largely on the PGA Korn Ferry Tour, where he impressed with three top-ten finishes. As he looks to gain his full status on the European Tour, this will offer a wonderful opportunity.

Joining their fellow countryman and defending Open champion Shane Lowry, and boosting the Irish representation in the field, are Paul Dunne and Cormac Sharvin. Dunne is a European Tour winner while Sharvin secured his European Tour card through finishing the 2019 Challenge Tour season in 11th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings following eight top-ten and six top-five finishes.

The final professional invitation goes to Japan’s Takumi Kanaya, the most exciting talent to join the professional ranks in 2020. A former No. 1 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Kanaya only turned professional in October and immediately underlined his potential by winning the Dunlop Phoenix Masters on the Japan Golf Tour in only his fourth start as a professional.

Kanaya commented: “I am very thankful to the Saudi Golf Federation for extending me this invitation. It will be a very important experience to play alongside so many of the best players in the world and a huge opportunity for me. One of my goals this year is to earn my European Tour card, so I will be hoping for a strong showing on my first visit to Saudi Arabia.”

Golf Saudi continues to showcase the stars of tomorrow with two more amateur invitations: one for Jordan’s Shergo Kurdi and the other for Spain’s Eduard Rousaud Sabate. Kurdi, a 17-year-old amateur, became the first player from the GCC and the Middle East to earn Official World Golf Ranking points with his runner-up finish on the MENA Tour at the Journey to Jordan tournament held at the Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba. Sabate currently sits at a career-high No. 4 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, having won twice in 2020, joining his fellow countrymen Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Sergio Garcia.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum resulting from hosting two extremely successful weeks of Ladies European Tour events last November as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “We are very excited to announce these invitations for the upcoming Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers. The inclusion of these players will inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps and support our goal to grow the game of golf in the Kingdom.

“As we embark on the third edition of our tournament, it feels right that we are also supporting so many young international players who look set to be the stars of tomorrow. We hope their experience [in] Saudi Arabia will be their first of many visits and they will be part of our journey [toward developing] a vibrant and sustainable golfing nation.”


Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller

Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller
Updated 25 January 2021

Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller

Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller
  • The English champions lost a league game at Anfield for the first time

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Bruno Fernandes’s stunning free-kick inflicted more misery on Liverpool as Manchester United progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a thrilling 3-2 win at Old Tafford on Sunday.

Both sides struggled to create chances in a cagey 0-0 draw when they met in the Premier League last weekend.

But there was no repeat of that caution in a wide-open contest that ended Liverpool’s hopes of a first domestic cup win under Jurgen Klopp for another season.

The English champions lost a league game at Anfield for the first time in nearly four years to Burnley on Thursday to fall six points behind United at the top of the table.

In response, Klopp named a strong side despite making five changes as Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino returned.

Liverpool’s only goals in their previous five games came against an Aston Villa youth team in the last round of the FA Cup after Dean Smith’s side were struck down by a coronavirus outbreak.

But shades of the side that stormed to a first league title in 30 years last season were restored even if Klopp’s wait for a first win at Old Trafford goes on.

Firmino and Salah combined perfectly for the opener on 18 minutes as the Brazilian’s pass opened up the United defense and the Egyptian provided a dinked finish over Dean Henderson.

United have made a habit of coming from behind to win this season and took just eight minutes to hit back.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed Fernandes a rare rest from the start, but still picked a side packed with firepower featuring Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba.

Rashford’s raking cross-field pass just evaded James Milner and Greenwood did not look like a striker lacking confidence as he fired past Alisson Becker for his first goal in 11 games.

A number of injuries to center-backs have disrupted Liverpool’s season with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez expected to miss the rest of the season, while Joel Matip has struggled to stay fit.

Klopp has been forced to field two midfielders in Jordan Henderson and Fabinho together at the heart of the defense in recent weeks and the performance of 19-year-old Rhys Williams showed why the German has been reluctant to rely on his young center-backs.

Williams failed to cut out Greenwood’s through ball for Rashford three minutes into the second half and the England international composed himself before slotting past the advancing Alisson.

This time, United’s momentum was short-lived as Milner should have levelled for Liverpool when he spooned a glorious chance over from close range, but quickly made amends by teeing up Salah to smash home his second just before the hour mark.

Both managers turned to their match winners off the bench for the final half-hour as Klopp first turned to Sadio Mane before Fernandes made his entrance.

Trent Alexander-Arnold stung the palms of Henderson, who then saved twice from Salah as Liverpool’s attack began to click back into gear.

But it was Fernandes who won the game with a brilliant free-kick 12 minutes from time.

This week will be the first anniversary of the Portuguese’s arrival from Sporting Lisbon that has transformed United’s fortunes.

A year ago, United trailed Liverpool by 30 points in the Premier League having played two games more.

The past seven days have shown they are now more than a match for their old rivals.

Fernandes’s strike was a worthy winner of a thrilling tie as he used Pogba to unsight Alisson and fired the ball low into the Brazilian’s left-hand corner.

United will face West Ham in the last 16 next month.