Dustin Johnson looking to get back on track at PGA Championship

Dustin Johnson looking to get back on track at PGA Championship
Dustin Johnson plays a shot on the ninth hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club on May 18, 2022 in Oklahoma. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2022

Dustin Johnson looking to get back on track at PGA Championship

Dustin Johnson looking to get back on track at PGA Championship
  • Johnson has gone 27 starts over 15 months since winning the Saudi International

OKLAHOMA, US: Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are examples of how quickly the landscape can change.

Look back one year, and Johnson was the No. 1 player in the world who had been runner-up in the previous two PGA Championships and among the favorites every time he played.

Going into this PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Southern Hills, he is No. 12. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s his lowest ranking in seven years, and the questions have changed. Instead of when he will add another major, it’s about when he will win again.

Johnson has gone 27 starts over 15 months since winning the Saudi International.

“The thing for me has just been driving,” Johnson said. He thought back to the Masters, where his driver was behaving so badly he switched to a 3-wood. That’s not a bad option for most players, just not Johnson.

“I’ve never done that in my life — 3-wood is the last club in my bag that I’d want to hit,” he said. “I’ve always felt most comfortable with a driver.”

That would be a good club for him at Southern Hills after its acclaimed restoration project. Unlike the last time the PGA was here in 2007 and players were hitting mostly irons off the tee. Now that it’s at 7,556 yards for a par 70, the driver could go a long way.

“Obviously, this is a really good place to drive it straight for me,” Johnson said.

He arrived on Monday, taking those long strides up the hill toward the clubhouse, when Johnson was asked if it was his first time in Oklahoma.

“Yep,” he said. “And after this week, it will be my ... .” He finished the sentence with a smile. At age 38, and with no major on the horizon here for the next eight years, well, he’d like to make the most of his time in the Sooner State.

A year ago, Spieth was No. 28 in the world, a month away from ending a long victory drought but still far away from his game being back to the form that made him a major force in golf at age 21.

Now the 28-year-old from Texas is No. 8 and coming off a particularly good stretch that followed an irritating missed cut at the Masters. Spieth won in Hilton Head the following week and then finished one shot behind in Dallas last week.

The PGA Championship is all that’s keeping him from the career Grand Slam, which is one of the key talking points this week. Spieth brought up the missing leg of the Grand Slam as the “elephant in the room.”

But for the state of golf, it’s starting to feel like a herd of pachyderms.

Where’s Phil Mickelson, the defending PGA champion? And what will he do next when he emerges from this self-imposed exile over his comments on the Saudi-funded golf series that seemingly offended both sides?

Tiger Woods still commands all the attention. The gallery was enormous for him playing nine holes on Monday and again on Wednesday in his final tuneup for his return to Southern Hills. Those around him felt it was a victory that he made it through 72 holes at the Masters in his first competitive tournament since his car crash.

“I’ve gotten stronger since then,” Woods said. “It’s still going to be sore, and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking. It’s going to be that way for the foreseeable future, for sure.”

Not to be overlooked is the Saudi-funded series Greg Norman is orchestrating, set to start in three weeks outside London with still no idea who will be playing, with the PGA Tour denying releases required to play outside the country.

Rory McIlroy said earlier in the week, “It’s going to shape the future of professional golf one way or another, so I think we’re just going to have to see how it all shakes out.”

Spieth could only smile when after a series of questions about the career Grand Slam and his game and Southern Hills, he was asked about Mickelson and the Saudi league.

“Since everyone was lobbing me questions, you just went and threw two bombs,” he said with a wry smile. He didn’t looked bothered, and odds are he wasn’t.

“I’m excited to come here this week and just keep my head down, and none of those distractions weigh on me whatsoever,” he said.

And then there’s Johnson, who doesn’t seem to get distracted by much of anything. He was courted heavily by the Saudi group at the start of the year before declaring he wanted to play against the best on the PGA Tour. He also had no small matter of a wedding to Paulina Gretzky just two weeks after the Masters.

Which was the greater distraction?

“Neither,” he said. “Paulina did an unbelievable job with the wedding. I really didn’t have to do much. I helped for about half an hour with the seating chart. That was about it. That was my whole contribution.”

On Thursday, it’s all about major championship golf. And even with the Masters only five weeks removed, it couldn’t get here soon enough.


Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan

Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
Updated 01 July 2022

Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan

Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
  • Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way in the Drivers’ World Championship with a five-point advantage over nearest challenger and double champion Jean-Eric Vergne of DS TECHEETAH

SAUDI ARABIA: The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns to Marrakesh on Saturday for round 10 in the 16-race season, with four drivers pulling ahead in the battle for the drivers’ title.

Going into the Marrakesh E-Prix at the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan, Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way in the Drivers’ World Championship with a five-point advantage over nearest challenger and double champion Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH).

Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) is two points back in third place, while Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing), who won last time out in Jakarta, sits fourth, but only 12 points back from the standings lead.

With a maximum of 29 points on offer in Marrakesh, any one of those four drivers could lead the championship come the chequered flag on Saturday,

Evans’ win in Indonesia squeezed the margins splitting the top four, with Mortara and Vergne also making the podium last time around to pile the pressure on points pacesetter Vandoorne.

Consistency is key in Formula E if any driver is to assemble a run at the World Championship. The Belgian has finished outside the top five just twice in nine rounds, though both Evans and Mortara have scored in all but two races this season, while Vergne has never failed to tally.

The Atlas mountains provide the backdrop for Formula E’s fifth trip to the city’s centuries-old Agdal district, with the first Marrakesh E-Prix taking place in 2016. The track follows the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan — named after the crown prince of Morocco — before spilling out onto the streets of Marrakesh’s hotel district.

Renowned for being an energy-zapping circuit, this fast and highly technical track features 12 turns, three straights and a series of bends completing a track length of 2.971 kilometers.

Last time out in Morocco was magic for Antonio Felix da Costa and DS TECHEETAH who dominated proceedings, with victory setting in motion a run to the 2019-20 championship trophy.

Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) sealed the win on Formula E’s inaugural visit in 2016, with Felix Rosenqvist and Jerome D’Ambrosio taking back-to-back victories for Mahindra Racing in 2018 and 2019 before da Costa fired his season six title charge into life a year later here.


Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia

Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia
Updated 01 July 2022

Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia

Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia
  • Automobile Club d’Italia and Regione Sardegna co-organizing event

RIYADH: The countdown is on to the first-ever double-header Extreme E event, as the championship returns to the Italian island of Sardinia for a summer showdown of back-to-back racing on July 6-7 and July 9-10.

NEOM’s title sponsorship of the Island X Prix follows the announcement that Extreme E has entered into a multi-year relationship with ENOWA, NEOM’s energy, water, and hydrogen subsidiary, to introduce green hydrogen power to their global sustainable racing series.

Extreme E continues to showcase innovative sustainable solutions, whether they demonstrate the full potential of e-SUVs or deliver legacy programs at race locations.

The event will be returning to the Season 1 location of the army training area at Capo Teulada in Sulcis-Iglesiente. The Teulada will provide a challenging backdrop for the course, which measures around 7 kilometers.

Due to the hot summer conditions in July, the terrain will be much drier than last year’s Enel X Island X Prix, with the drivers having to navigate a harder, more compact surface riddled with rocks, bushes, and dry riverbeds cracked from the heat.

The purpose-driven message of the series will focus on blue and green carbon restoration in Sardinia, continuing to work alongside the MEDSEA Foundation (Mediterranean Sea and Coast Foundation) to support two significant projects.

For Round Two, the first project explores green carbon. The sport-for-purpose championship will be returning to Sennariolo to visit the communities affected by the devastating wildfires of 2021.

As for Round Three, the second project supports seagrass conservation,  mitigating the detrimental effects of blue carbon in Mediterranean waters.

Extreme E has been working closely with Automobile Club d’Italia - the national sports federation co-organizing and coordinating the event - the Region of Sardinia and its Tourism Department, the Ministry of Defense, and the Italian Army.


Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan

Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan
Updated 01 July 2022

Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan

Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan
  • Milan icon Maldini's new deal means that the seven-time European champions will keep the duo who built their Scudetto-winning side
  • Maldini worked alongside sporting director Frederic Massara to take Milan from the doldrums to the top of the Italian game

MILAN: Paolo Maldini will stay on as AC Milan’s technical director after signing a new two-year contract, the Serie A champions announced on Friday.
Milan icon Maldini’s new deal means that the seven-time European champions will keep the duo who built their Scudetto-winning side.
Maldini worked alongside sporting director Frederic Massara, who has also signed a two-year extension, to take Milan from the doldrums to the top of the Italian game.
“This deal highlights the importance of continuity we see throughout the club as we continue to strengthen and grow,” Milan said in a statement.
The 54-year-old confirmed late last night that he had signed an extension after weeks of delays which almost led to Milan starting the summer transfer window — which opened in Italy on Friday — without their key men.
He has been critical in Milan signing some of their most important players, one such example being a now-famous meeting in Ibiza which was crucial to bringing Theo Hernandez to the club in 2019.
France left-back Hernandez was a stand-out player in last season’s surprise title win.
Maldini is one of the greatest players in Milan’s history, winning a raft of trophies over a quarter of a century passed entirely with his boyhood club.
He played over 900 times for Milan, winning the European Cup or Champions League five times and claiming seven Serie A titles before retiring in 2009.
That success was not replicated in an Italy jersey despite earning 126 caps, losing in the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000 finals.
Last month Milan announced that current owners, investment fund Elliott Management, had agreed to sell the club to rival US fund RedBird for 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
Milan said that the sale of the club will be completed no later than September.


Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract

Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract
Updated 01 July 2022

Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract

Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract
  • The Egypt international had entered the final year of his existing contract
  • Salah has scored 156 goals in 254 appearances for the club since arriving in 2017

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah signed a new three-year contract with Liverpool on Friday which will keep him at the club until 2025.
The Egypt international had entered the final year of his existing contract after negotiations over extending his stay dragged on for most of last season.
The 30-year-old forward’s wage demands had been a stumbling block, but a delegation flew out to meet with the player, who is still currently on holiday in the Mediterranean, and came to an agreement which reportedly makes the forward the highest-paid player in the club’s history.
“I feel great and (I am) excited to win trophies with the club. It’s a happy day for everyone,” Salah told the club’s website. “It takes a little bit of time, I think, to renew, but now everything is done so we just need to focus on what’s next. I think you can see in the last five or six years the team was always going (upwards).”
Salah has scored 156 goals in 254 appearances for the club since arriving in 2017 and has helped them win the Premier League, Champions League, Club World Cup, FA Cup and League Cup during that time.
“If I look back to that time when I came (here), the club were not winning many things but I think I told you I had come (here) to win trophies,” Salah said. “I think we have won good trophies together and I think we can do it again.”
Liverpool won the FA Cup and League cup last season but finished second to Manchester City in the Premier League and lost the final of the Champions League to Real Madrid.


Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying

Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying
Updated 01 July 2022

Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying

Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying
  • Saudi Arabia remained composed and saw out the game to seal a 69-67 win

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s basketball team secured their spot in the second round of qualifying for next year’s FIBA World Cup with a come-from-behind win against Indonesia in Jakarta on Friday.

The Saudis were down by 13 points at one point mid-third quarter, but outscored their hosts by 16-2 to lead 49-48 going into the final quarter.

Despite a valiant effort from Indonesia, Saudi Arabia remained composed and saw out the game to seal a 69-67 win, which propelled them to top of their Asia First Round qualifying pool.

The Saudis can go into their preparations for the second round in style if they seal another win on the road when they face Lebanon, who along with Jordan have also qualified for the next phase, in Zouk Mikael on Monday.

Indonesia are co-hosting next year’s basketball World Cup with the Philippines and Japan.