Jason Day handles rain, expands lead at Wells Fargo

Jason Day handles rain, expands lead at Wells Fargo
It was a wet blanket of a day in the Wells Fargo Championship. (AP)
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Updated 07 May 2022

Jason Day handles rain, expands lead at Wells Fargo

Jason Day handles rain, expands lead at Wells Fargo
  • Day expected a grind and got one, shooting a 3-under 67 in steady rain Friday to expand his lead to three shots

POTOMAC, Md.: Jason Day shook his head vigorously after holing an 11-footer for birdie on his ninth hole at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm — not out of disgust, but to whip the excess water off his cap. For the rest of the round, Day shed the hat entirely.
Whatever it took to get through a wet blanket of a day in the Wells Fargo Championship.
Day expected a grind and got one, shooting a 3-under 67 in steady rain Friday to expand his lead to three shots. Going for his first victory in four years, the former No. 1 player was at 10-under 130 through two rounds and relishing the chance to relax and watch the rest of the field try to stay dry.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to be back in the mix, nice to be leading. It’s still two more days left, so I can’t get too far ahead of myself,” Day said.
The rain didn’t stop for long in the afternoon as the scoring average at par-70 TPC Potomac ballooned to 72.6, three shots higher than Thursday. More rain, unseasonable cold and stronger wind were expected Saturday, followed by even colder temperatures Sunday.
Day got a tip from playing partner Max Homa, who was his closest pursuer after a 66. Homa told Day he flinched because water dripped from the bill of his cap onto his putter, causing him to ram his birdie attempt 6 feet by on the par-4 18th. Homa tossed the hat to caddie Joe Greiner before making the comebacker.
Day played his second nine holes hatless, a rare sight on the PGA Tour.
“I mean, not many times you see this hair, but hopefully this weather can kind of go away and we can have hats on for the weekend,” he said.
Day and Homa were grouped with Rickie Fowler, all past Wells Fargo champions at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. The tournament is making a one-and-done appearance at TPC Potomac because its usual venue is hosting the Presidents Cup in September.
The course is just fine by tour standards, but the weather couldn’t be much worse for early May in the mid-Atlantic. Shots from the first cut of rough sent water splashing off the clubface, and dollar bill-sized divots landed in the fairway with a loud thud.
Nobody spent much time fussing over the ball in the group of Day, Homa and Fowler, who shot 72 and was eight shots back. Day didn’t bother to take down the gallery ropes before hitting a flop shot from well left of the 17th green, and Homa efficiently took relief from an embedded lie without waiting for a rules official.
Day was pleased his retooled swing held up even when he felt out of rhythm.
“When you have conditions like this, it’s really hard to commit to a shot because you’re going in there and you’re doing it kind of a lot quicker than your normal pre-shot routine,” Day said. “You have to force yourself to hit the shot and trust that.”
Homa opened with an eagle and made five more birdies in a round he wasn’t sure he’d finish.
“I told Joe this morning I thought we might get to 8. The greens have held up really well,” Homa said. “We did just play 18 full holes in the rain, so it’s hard to say we got hooked up, but maybe, who knows. I’m just happy to be done.”
Denny McCarthy, from nearby Rockville, was the only player in the afternoon to challenge the top of the leaderboard. He had six straight one-putt greens around the turn, four of them to save par, and shot 69 to finish at 6 under, joining Luke List (66), James Hahn (68) and Kurt Kitayama (67). Keegan Bradley had the low round of the day, a 65 that left him five shots back.
Rory McIlroy, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7, shot 73 to finish at even par. Matthew Wolff, who shot an out-of-nowhere 65 on Thursday, fell back with a 73.
A day after he told a rules official he “can’t wait to leave this tour,” Sergio Garcia was 5 under at the turn but bogeyed two of his final three holes for a 71. He was eight shots back and declined to speak to reporters for the second straight day.
Morgan Hoffmann, making a long-shot bid to keep his tour card after two years away from golf because of muscular dystrophy, missed the cut with rounds of 73 and 80. He has one start remaining on a major medical extension and needs a tie for second to earn full status for the rest of the season.


Top grapplers expected as jiu-jitsu tour returns to Abu Dhabi

Top grapplers expected as jiu-jitsu tour returns to Abu Dhabi
Updated 20 sec ago

Top grapplers expected as jiu-jitsu tour returns to Abu Dhabi

Top grapplers expected as jiu-jitsu tour returns to Abu Dhabi
  • The two-day competition will take place Sept. 3-4 at the arena in Zayed Sports City

ABU DHABI: Some of the world’s top grapplers return to Abu Dhabi next month for the AJP Tour UAE National Pro championship.

This has been confirmed by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro. Open to all nationalities, the two-day competition will take place Sept. 3 to 4 at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena.

The opening day will start with the teens, youth, and masters’ categories, while day two will feature amateur and professional contests. With the tournament included in the annual classification of AJP Tour rankings points, the championship takes on added importance. First place in each category will receive 1,000 rating points, making it key for international players, their global classification, and advancement on the annual rankings ladder.

Fahad Al-Shamsi, the UAEJJF secretary general, said: “The AJP Tour UAE National Pro is one of the most important tournaments on the calendar, attracting great local and international participation. It also tends to highlight emerging young talents as they start their professional career journeys and is an important tributary to the national team as it heightens the level of local athletes.

“This year’s tournament comes at an ideal time, enabling players to prepare for key international tournaments, including the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship in October and the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in November. The tournament will gather a group of the strongest competitors representing countries that have a strong history in the sport, such as Brazil, Colombia, UAE, Kazakhstan, Italy, France, Angola, Sweden, and others.”

Tariq Al-Bahri, general manager of AJP, said his organization’s cooperation with the UAEJJF was proving mutually beneficial, resulting in an increased number of events, higher standards, and enormous success in terms of participation numbers, both regionally and worldwide.

“The UAE National Pro is a local event with international standards and is attracting a great turnout from the brightest talents around the world,” he said. “The players are eagerly awaiting the tournament as it is considered one of the most important organized by the league as part of the 2022 calendar. Abu Dhabi continues to work to consolidate its leadership as the global capital of jiu-jitsu by organizing and hosting the largest and most important tournaments in the world.

“The AJP organizes around 100 annual championships in various capitals and cities around the world, attracting the participation of elite champions and professionals, reflecting the UAE capital’s role in developing the sport across the globe.”


Influx of foreign goalkeepers adds spice to Saudi Pro League

Influx of foreign goalkeepers adds spice to Saudi Pro League
Updated 18 August 2022

Influx of foreign goalkeepers adds spice to Saudi Pro League

Influx of foreign goalkeepers adds spice to Saudi Pro League
  • No less than 15 out of 16 teams could start the new season with an import between the sticks

Saudi Arabia has some of the most exciting foreign imports of any league in Asia, with prolific goalscorers, silky playmakers and solid defenders spread across the competition.

That has not always been the case when it comes to goalkeepers, partly because of a 25-year-ban on outside custodians that was only revoked ahead of the 2017-18 season. Many teams have been making up for lost time however and it could well be the case that no less than 15 out of 16 teams will start the new season with an outsider between the sticks. This summer alone, 11 have signed new foreign keepers.

That has repercussions for the national team as we will see later but it also means that Saudi Arabia is a little unusual in Asia. Some leagues in the continent don’t allow them at all, such as South Korea. Japan does but clubs there tend to limit their imports to a handful of Koreans and an occasional Australian. Saudi Arabia is, however, one of the few places where there are showstoppers from more far-flung locations.

Al-Nassr recently signed one of the best-known goalkeepers likely to play in Asia and certainly one who has the highest international profile at the moment. David Ospina was Napoli’s number one last season before his contract ended and the Colombian, who has made over 100 appearances for the South American country, has also spent time in the English Premier League with Arsenal. His arrival this summer was a real coup for the Riyadh giants.

There is another goalkeeper with significant international experience in the capital. Kim Seung-gyu has played at world and Asian cups with South Korea and is the country’s number one heading into the tournament in Qatar. The 31-year-old has extensive experience playing for big clubs in his homeland — having won the AFC Champions League with Ulsan Horangi back in 2021 — as well as Japan. A good shotstopper who comes out of his area well, there is already plenty of interest back in East Asia as to how Kim performs in Saudi Arabia. If there are no communication issues with his teammates then there is no reason why Kim can’t become a major success at Al-Shabab and help the club challenge once again.

Then there is Marcelo Grohe at Al-Ittihad. The Brazilian is preparing for his fourth season in Jeddah and has earned plenty of plaudits in that time. Last season, the 35-year-old was excellent at times as the Tigers went on a winning spree that looked set to deliver a first league title since 2009. There were a couple of mistakes when the pressure was on in the run-in but it looks as if new coach Nuno Espirito Santo is going to stick with the South American.

Ittihad won’t forget Martin Campana in a hurry as they drew 0-0 with Al-Batin in the final match of last season partly because the Uruguayan was in such good form. The result meant that the Tigers lost all chance of the championship and also kept Al-Batin in the top flight. There is more Latin influence as Al-Taawoun have signed highly rated Brazilian keeper Mailson from Sport Recife, and Al-Tai have Victor Braga.

Newly promoted teams have also taken the foreign route. Al-Adalah have Montenegro’s Milan Mijatovic while Al-Khaleej have signed another Brazilian in Douglas Friedrich. There is also Arab representation. Gabaski’s move from Egyptian giants Zamalek to Al-Nassr may not have happened and Algerian international Rais M’Bolhi may have left Al-Ettifaq (and been replaced by Brazil’s Paulo Victor) but there is still Moustapha Zeghba who had a great season with Damac last time around.

Another new African presence is Devis Epassy, the Cameroon international joining Abha over the summer. Then there is Vladimir Stojkovic, the Serbian who kept out Al-Hilal last season to help Al-Feiha win the King’s Cup and fellow Europeans in Silviu Lung of Romania at Al-Raed and Sweden’s Jacob Rinne at Al-Fateh.

National team coach Herve Renard will be happy that Al-Hilal are not only the best team in Asia but also have no foreign goalkeepers. Abdullah Al-Mayouf has been the most consistent Saudi Arabian goalkeeper in recent years and played all but one game last season for the Saudi and Asian champions.

For Al-Hilal, the 35-year-old has kept Mohammed Al-Owais on the bench but Al-Owais was the go-to guy for World Cup qualification. With Kim’s arrival at Al-Shabab pushing Fawaz Al-Qarni onto the bench, there are not many options for Renard to choose from when it comes to selecting his squad for the World Cup.

If one or two of the new influx of goalkeepers struggle to adapt to life in the Saudi Professional League, it could be to the benefit of the national team.

With so few local goalkeepers playing week in, week out, anyone who can get some minutes on the pitch and get some clean sheets under his belt is sure to catch the eye of Renard. As it stands, while it will be fascinating to see how some of the foreign contingent perform, the locals have to try and do whatever they can to compete.


Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudis take two bronze medals in karate at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • The third-place finishes by Saud Al-Bashir and Sultan Al-Zahrani took the Kingdom’s overall medal tally to 23

KONYA: Saud Al-Bashir and Sultan Al-Zahrani on Wednesday claimed two bronze medals for Saudi Arabia in the karate competition at the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey.

The podium finishes took the Kingdom’s overall tally to 23 medals (one gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze).

Al-Bashir took third place in the 60 kg division after defeating the Moroccan Osama Al-Dari 9-4, while Al-Zahrani won the bronze in the 75 kg after beating Nurkhanat Azhikanov of Kazakhstan 2-1.

Saudi’s Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi will launch his participation in the +84 kg division on Thursday, as will his colleague Faraj Al-Nashiri in the -83 kg category.


New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase

New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase
Updated 18 August 2022

New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase

New baseball league announces Dubai International Stadium as official venue for inaugural showcase
  • The UIBL will transform the cricket stadium into the region’s first professional diamond-shaped park

DUBAI: The United International Baseball League, the first-ever professional baseball competition created for India, Pakistan and the Middle East, has signed a partnership with Dubai Sports City, which will see Dubai International Stadium as the official venue for the UIBL’s inaugural showcase from Feb. 23 to March 5, 2023.

The venue will play host to nine games and one exhibition featuring four of the league’s initial franchises.

Dubai International Stadium is an anchor of the Dubai Sports City complex, the premier multi-purpose sports development in Dubai. The stadium, which opened in 2009, has hosted several high-profile International Cricket Council and Indian Premier League tournaments, including last year’s IPL final between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders. The venue will also be home to the inaugural season of the International League T20, the UAE’s professional cricket league that begins play in January 2023.

“It’s an honor for our league to begin play in one of the world’s most storied stadiums,” said Kanwal S. Sra, founder, chairman and CEO of the UIBL. “Dubai International Stadium is one of the jewels of the region, and it will be an incredible launchpad for the UIBL as we bring professional baseball to fans across the Middle East and South Asia. We greatly appreciate the support and partnership of Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Sports City, and the entire Dubai International Stadium team.”

A key part of the UIBL’s growth strategy and intellectual property is the league’s process of transforming cricket fields — plentiful across the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East — into baseball diamonds. This includes formulation and transportation of the infield dirt, design and implementation of the fencing, and customization and build-out of the dugouts, bullpens and pitching mound. In addition, the UIBL team is creating first-of-its-kind seating options that will get fans closer than ever to the action.

“In the US, we have baseball fields in nearly every neighborhood,” said Kash Shaikh, president and chief marketing officer of the UIBL. “In India and the Middle East, you can drive thousands of miles without seeing one. While we work at the grassroots level to help expand that infrastructure, we are simultaneously creating our own proprietary process to transform world-class cricket stadiums into hotbeds of professional baseball. And, since we are starting with a blank canvas, we also get to reimagine how fans can experience the game. I’m really excited about the game innovations, fan experiences, and new seating concepts we have in store.”

The UIBL plans to share the stadium designs and new fan seating options — including new premium and corporate seating — in the months ahead. In addition to the UIBL’s innovation plans, Dubai International Stadium is world-famous for its “Ring of Fire” — a special system of 350 floodlights fixed around the circumference of its round roof. The lights minimize the shadows and replace the need for traditional light towers.

“We are honored to host the UIBL at Dubai International Stadium,” said Khalid Al-Zarooni, president of Dubai Sports City. “This event continues our stadium’s tradition of hosting world-class international sporting events. We support the UIBL’s vision to bring baseball to our region, and we’re excited to offer fans across our city — and the world — the chance to experience America’s pastime.”


NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region
Updated 18 August 2022

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region
  • Saleh Mohamed Al-Geziry, director general of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, talks to Arab News about the two games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena

With the NBA Abu Dhabi Games on Oct. 6 and 8 hosting the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island, Arab News spoke to Saleh Mohamed Al-Geziry, director general of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, about sports tourism, the partnership with the American league, and how it will lead to promoting basketball in the UAE and the region.

Here’s what he had to say:

On the partnership between the NBA and Abu Dhabi:

Our collaboration with the NBA is an exciting next step in our ambitious sports tourism strategy for the emirate, as we work to offer an unbeatable year-round calendar of fantastic sporting events. It’s hard to overstate basketball’s massive global appeal — the NBA is an incredibly popular league with millions of fans around the world, and viewership numbers that keep climbing year on year.

So, it was a natural choice to bring a sporting league of this magnitude to Abu Dhabi — it’s a fantastic opportunity to further raise our destination’s global profile, as the eyes of the basketball world will be firmly focused on the UAE capital this October.

The NBA partnership is ideal for Abu Dhabi; we already have a track record of numerous successful tie-ups with high profile global IPs and the emirate is a destination that prides itself on offering unique and innovative experiences. Now, with the NBA Abu Dhabi Games this October, we can offer some of the world’s biggest basketball superstars facing off in the region for the very first time.

And of course, fans converging in Abu Dhabi for this first-in-the-region event will have a positive impact on airlines, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and shopping malls while creating a great atmosphere.

On the massive response from basketball fans to the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games:

The response has been phenomenal — the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games is a sold-out event, and the anticipation is palpable among NBA fans across the country and the region. None of this is a great surprise to us, as we knew the interest was there, but it is still so gratifying to see the fan engagement and excitement in the lead-up to this ground-breaking sporting event.

The great news for fans in the city is that the action is not just focused on the arena, this is an unmissable week-long celebration of sport, entertainment and culture featuring two historic NBA games, citywide activations, an interactive fanzone and special appearances by NBA legends.

On the different NBA events to take place over the coming years:

Abu Dhabi and the NBA have entered into a multi-year strategic partnership, so we are exploring which activations and events make the most sense for the coming years.

One exciting offshoot of our collaboration that will definitely be taking place annually is the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, launched in February this year. It introduced the NBA and basketball to a whole new generation of 11- to 14-year-olds in Abu Dhabi, who also had the chance to meet and learn from seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry and Olympic gold medalist Clyde Drexler.

On the partnership between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi raising basketball’s profile in the UAE:

The partnership between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi has already begun to contribute directly to the growth of basketball within the region. Take the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, for instance, where more than 450 boys and girls from 30 schools across the emirate participated in its first-ever edition this year — and I have no doubt that we will see participation numbers rising in the future.

Looking to the wider region, this partnership also brings a huge range of activations to the GCC for the first time, including a series of NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness, an NBA 2K League Exhibition event at the annual Middle East Film & Comic Con, and interactive fan events featuring former and current NBA players. Such events will only grow interest in the sport of basketball and we look forward to seeing that development continue in the years ahead.

On how the NBA could develop local talent in the UAE and the region:

Hosting world-class sporting events ensures elite international players visit and inspire the local population, helping to grow interest and motivate young players to hone their talent and follow their dreams. Through its various high-profile events, Abu Dhabi has helped fuel the popularity of multiple sports throughout the region, including motorsports, golf, football, cricket, tennis, and swimming.

Basketball is firmly on that list. An increasing number of Emirati teams are entering international competitions, and more than 220 players from the Middle East recently joined Basketball Without Borders, a program that develops talent outside of the USA. Commonly known as the NBA Academy, this year’s cohort includes five players from the UAE.

What to expect at NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022:

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 is a first for the region, and undoubtedly a special and incredibly exciting time for basketball fans in the UAE and beyond. The sport of basketball is high-octane, with games speeding by at a breakneck pace, and those attending the games in October can expect non-stop action and thrills. I’m sure the audience’s energy will be electric as they cheer on their favorites.

What will make that time extra special are the accompanying activities and interactive fan events, which will provide unmissable opportunities to meet some of the world’s greatest basketball stars. Appearances by current top NBA players, as well as legends of the sport, will ensure that the NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will be an unforgettable experience for basketball fans.

Of course, we hope that fans venture beyond the on-court action and take the time to explore what the emirate has to offer. Visitors can ride the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, soak up the sun on our stunning beaches, take in some culture at Louvre Abu Dhabi, or enjoy alfresco dining experiences at Yas Bay. No matter what they’re looking for, there really is something for every visitor in Abu Dhabi.