Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship
In Gee Chun, of South Korea, tees off on the 18th hole during the second round in the Women's PGA Championship golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, Friday in Bethesda, Md. (AP)
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Updated 25 June 2022

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun tightens grip at Women’s PGA Championship
  • Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round

Bethesda, Maryland:  In Gee Chun extended her lead at the Women’s PGA Championship on Friday, firing a 3-under-par 69 to open up a six-stroke advantage at the halfway stage as she hunts down a third major title.

The 27-year-old South Korean had demolished Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, in Thursday’s first round, shooting a course record 8-under-64 that left awed rivals in disbelief — and five shots adrift.

Chun found the going slightly harder on Friday, opening with three early birdies before back-to-back bogeys checked her progress just before the turn.

However, she regained those two strokes with birdies on the 10th and 18th to maintain a vice-like grip on the lead heading into the weekend on 11 under with a 36-hole aggregate 133.

Chun admitted she had felt under pressure after her scintillating opening round.

“I got a little pressure for sure because after I had a great first round, everyone (talked) about how you are, like, five-shot lead,” she said.

“Now I’m in a good position. Everyone’s expectations are really high.

“So it was a little tough to make focus, but I believe it’s another process in my life ... So I just want to enjoy my next two days.”

Chun’s nearest rivals are New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who moved up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67, and in-form Jennifer Kupcho, who shot seven birdies and three bogeys in a 4-under 68.

Kupcho and Ko are five under for the tournament.

Former world No. 1 Ko is chasing her first major victory in six years.

The last of her two majors came at the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage in 2016 — the same year she finished second at the Women’s PGA Championship.

“It is hard to win, but I’m just trying to put myself more in that kind of position, and I think when you keep knocking on the door, you hope that one day that door will open,” Ko said.

Kupcho, chasing her second major win of the season after victory at the Chevron Championship in Rancho Mirage in April, said she will not change her strategy to try and catch Chun.

“If she’s going to continue to play well, that’s her game, and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it,” Kupcho said.

Five players are tied for fourth on four under, including Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Australia’s Hannah Green and South Korea’s 2020 Women’s PGA champion Kim Sei-young.

Lexi Thompson and Australia’s Minjee Lee are eight off the lead on three under, tied for ninth with three other players including Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and South Korea’s Choi Hye-jin.

Thompson caught the eye with a 5-under 67 which included a spectacular eagle two at the par-four 17th, when she chipped onto the green from 102 yards, prodigious backspin sending her ball into the cup.

“I just came into today with a positive attitude and same going into the weekend if I go out and play like I did today, just solid and committing to my shots in the process of my routine,” Thompson said.

“We’ll just see where that takes me. You never know.”


Usyk and Joshua face off at pre-fight press conference

Usyk and Joshua face off at pre-fight press conference
Updated 38 sec ago

Usyk and Joshua face off at pre-fight press conference

Usyk and Joshua face off at pre-fight press conference

JEDDAH: The increasing anticipation ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster World Heavyweight Championship rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua scaled new heights in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this evening. The traditional fight week press conference culminated with the ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ headliners facing off for the world’s media and VIPs in attendance.

With only three days to go before the reigning unified world heavyweight champion Usyk battles former two-time champion Joshua for the second time, the fighters and their teams topped the bill as a capacity crowd inside the coastal city’s Shangri-La Hotel and millions more tuning in from around the globe watched on.

Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn, who led the press conference proceedings, said: “This is the unified world heavyweight title between two greats of boxing. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. Oleksandr Usyk; an Olympic gold medallist, the pound-for-pound number one, former undisputed cruiserweight, and current unified heavyweight champion.

“Anthony Joshua; also, an Olympic gold medallist, became heavyweight champion in his 16th fight, unified the division in front of 90,000 people in his 19th fight, and has changed the face of the sport around the world. Two tremendous fighters, two tremendous athletes, champions, and ambassadors of the sport that people in Saudi Arabia and all around the world can be inspired by. It’s been an incredible week and the best is still to come.”

Unlike last time when he was widely considered the underdog before taking on Joshua, Ukrainian Usyk (19-0, 13 KO) enters Rage on the Red Sea as favorite following his impressive unanimous decision victory over the Briton. Billed as ‘The Perfect Storm’, last year’s event saw the undefeated Usyk claim the WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBA, and IBO titles at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England, as well as lay his claim for boxing’s coveted ‘pound-for-point number one’ status.

Speaking about his upcoming title defense, Usyk commented: “First and foremost, I want to say thank you to all who made it possible for us to fight here in Saudi Arabia. It is very important for me, my team, my country, and I’m really happy to be here.

“We learned from each other in the first fight, but this is a continuation and the first round on Saturday will be Round 13,” he continued. “We were born to compete for life, for belts, for everything. The one who does not compete, does not win. All our lives are competitions for something or somebody. That’s why we are competing. We’ve had enough time to study each other and this Saturday will be a great, great fight.”

Meanwhile, Joshua is no stranger to Saudi Arabia or to avenging defeat at the first attempt. In December 2019, he defeated Mexican-American champion Andy Ruiz Jr by unanimous decision at Riyadh’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al-Turaif, reclaiming the unified WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles to avenge his stoppage loss to Ruiz Jr at New York City’s Madison Square Garden six months earlier. This time around, ‘AJ’ is aiming to repeat history while going where few have gone before him by becoming a three-time heavyweight champion of the world.

“It’s a ‘must-win’ fight,” he stated. “Preparations have been tough, but I like the pressure. Robert Garcia, Angel Fernandez, members of my previous team as well; they’ve been pushing me, challenging me, ensuring I stay focused, and positioning me to get the job done and emerge victorious come Saturday night. This is what competition is all about; setting goals I want to achieve and being disciplined enough to follow them through. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes and I’m looking forward to competing this weekend.”

In addition to the Rage on the Red Sea headliners, the press conference saw the fighters featuring on Saturday’s undercard give their thoughts ahead of their respective bouts before facing off with their opponents. The undercard includes Croatian contender Filip Hrgovic vs China’s unbeaten Zhilei Zhang to establish the new number one contender and mandatory challenger for the IBF heavyweight title, and former world champion Callum Smith vs Mathieu Bauderlique in a final eliminator for the WBC light-heavyweight title. Former two-weight world champion Badou Jack and former cruiserweight world title challenger Andrew Tabiti were also present at the press conference, as was Ramla Ali, Benjamin Whittaker, and local professional boxing prospect Ziyad Almaayouf.


Ronaldo cautioned by police after allegedly slapping phone from fan’s hand

Ronaldo cautioned by police after allegedly slapping phone from fan’s hand
Updated 17 August 2022

Ronaldo cautioned by police after allegedly slapping phone from fan’s hand

Ronaldo cautioned by police after allegedly slapping phone from fan’s hand
  • Merseyside Police launched an investigation after a clip was circulated online of Ronaldo appearing to knock the supporter's mobile phone on to the ground
  • After the incident, Ronaldo issued a social media apology for his "outburst"

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo has been cautioned by British police after footage emerged of the Manchester United forward appearing to smash a phone out of an Everton fan’s hand at a match last season.
The 37-year-old was interviewed by officers in relation to an allegation of assault and criminal damage following the incident at Goodison Park on April 9.
Merseyside Police launched an investigation after a clip was circulated online of Ronaldo appearing to knock the supporter’s mobile phone on to the ground as he limped toward the tunnel following United’s 1-0 loss.
The force said in a statement on Wednesday: “We can confirm that a 37-year-old man voluntarily attended and was interviewed under caution in relation to an allegation of assault and criminal damage.
“The allegation relates to an incident following the Everton v Manchester United football match at Goodison Park on Saturday April 9.
“The matter has been dealt with by way of conditional caution. The matter has now concluded.”
After the incident, Ronaldo issued a social media apology for his “outburst” and invited the supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford “as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship.”
Taking to his Instagram account after the match, the Portuguese forward said: “It’s never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing.
“Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game.
“I would like to apologize for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship.”
It comes as Ronaldo hit out at the “lies” surrounding reports about his future at struggling United.
The Portugal forward missed the club’s pre-season tour to Thailand and Australia for personal reasons as speculation swirled over whether he would be leaving Old Trafford.
It has been reported Ronaldo wants to play Champions League football, but United maintain he is not for sale and remains an integral part of the plans of new boss Erik ten Hag.
The former Real Madrid star played the full 90 minutes of United’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford on Saturday, which left them bottom of the Premier League.
In a reply to a fan account on Instagram that referred to a report linking the United frontman to Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo said fans would “know the truth” in a couple of weeks, adding: “The media is telling lies.”


Eddie Hearn: Joshua-Usyk will not go past six rounds

Eddie Hearn: Joshua-Usyk will not go past six rounds
Updated 17 August 2022

Eddie Hearn: Joshua-Usyk will not go past six rounds

Eddie Hearn: Joshua-Usyk will not go past six rounds
  • The British and Ukrainian boxers headline Rage on the Red Sea in Riyadh when they face off for the World Heavyweight Championship Saturday night
  • Eddie Hearn: I think Usyk’s coming in heavy; I think he’s going to try and be aggressive; he’s going to try and stand and fight with Joshua, and I don’t think the fight will go past six rounds

JEDDAH: Eddie Hearn is predicting a knockout when Anthony Joshua attempts to become a three-time world champion by defeating Oleksandr Usyk at Rage on the Red Sea in Jeddah on Saturday.

The Matchroom Sports chairman believes both boxers will go into their rematch more aggressive than their first, which saw Usyk rip the WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO belts from Joshua’s grip. Usyk’s victory came courtesy of a unanimous points decision, but Hearn does not think their second meeting will go to the judges.

“I think they both will be aggressive,” said Hearn ahead of fight night at Rage on the Red Sea at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Sports City Arena.

“I think Usyk’s coming in heavy. I think he’s going to try and be aggressive. He’s going to try and stand and fight with Joshua, and I don’t think the fight will go past six rounds. I think you’re going to see a knockout in this fight, more aggression from both guys and a tremendous battle.”

Having suffered defeat at the hands of Usyk last time around, the importance of victory is not lost on Joshua’s camp.

“We’ve got to win,” Hearn added. “It’s the ultimate of the sport, the World Heavyweight Championship, and we’ve got no interest in just taking part — it’s only about victory for Joshua. He did it before out there, and this is a much tougher challenge, but he’s ready. And I believe he can become a three-time heavyweight world champion in Saudi next week.”

Although thousands of miles from home, Joshua finds himself in a familiar position.

He previously regained his title from Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia in December 2019, and he now returns to the Kingdom in search of a third heavyweight championship.

The fight with Ruiz Jr. three years ago made Joshua a hero figure in Saudi Arabia, and for the last month, he has set up his training camp in Jeddah.

Joshua revealed that the kindness he has been shown by Saudis “fills me with energy,” and Hearn believes his fighter’s previous experience at the Clash of the Dunes provides both comfort and confidence.

“Joshua has been out there for four weeks, and it shows you how comfortable he is out there because normally a fighter would go for a week really,” Hearn explained. “And they don’t like to be away from the home comforts, but he feels very comfortable in Saudi, and he’s got very fond memories from the Ruiz fight. He’s in a great place and ready for fight week.”

Hearn and his company played active roles alongside the Saudi government, Ministry of Sport and Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation to take both the Clash of the Dunes and Rage on the Red Sea to the Kingdom.

The first event saw participation numbers rocket in the country, and boxing’s popularity in Saudi Arabia has continued to rise since.

“I think a lot of people think that those guys are just happy to go and take the money, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Hearn.

“They want to inspire that next generation there, and when they get that kind of response and they see those smiles, they love it. And they want that to continue.

“They’re also two great guys who give their time to people, and they’re not people who are just going to turn their nose up at others. They want to showcase boxing, they’re lovers of the sport, and if they think that boxing could flourish there, they’ll do everything they can to inspire those fans and the next generation of fighters.

“Both of them are great athletes, great individuals. They have great values, great respect and tremendous amounts of time for the fans. They’re spot on."

It is not just the main event duo that Hearn believes can further aid boxing’s development in Saudi Arabia.

Chief among them for the local audience are the professional debut of Saudi-Egyptian Ziyad Al-Maayouf and the presence of Ramla Ali and Crystal Nova Garcia as the first female boxers to ever feature in an official international fight in Saudi Arabia.

“For Ali, the first female fighter, to be showcased there is so important for boxing. It’s important for Saudi as well. So too is the presence of Al-Maayouf; what an opportunity for him. And he’s going to get a fantastic reception as well,” the Matchroom chief said.

“But everybody on this card is very lucky. I mean, this is historic. When we shot that promo, it felt like Rumble in the Jungle or the Thriller in Manila. It’s one of those iconic moments and everybody on the card, Joshua included, should be very thankful for this moment.

“Next week’s going to be really special, from the build-ups to the receptions, to the press conferences, to the weigh-ins, to the show itself. And the whole world will be watching Saudi Arabia next weekend.”


Saudi golf trio get ready for Korean test on Asian Tour calendar

Saudi golf trio get ready for Korean test on Asian Tour calendar
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi golf trio get ready for Korean test on Asian Tour calendar

Saudi golf trio get ready for Korean test on Asian Tour calendar
  • Othman Almulla, first professional Saudi golfer, joined by amateurs Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif
  • Saud Al-Sharif: The three of us have pretty much grown up in the national team together so having the whole team here has been great

Three of Saudi Arabia’s brightest golfing talents will be going for glory when they tee up in this week’s International Series Korea at the picturesque Lotte Skyhill Country Club on the scenic Korean island of Jeju.

Othman Almulla, the first professional Saudi golfer, is in the field along with amateurs Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif, two of the country’s brightest hopes in the game, for the second of two back-to-back $1.5 million marquee tournaments on the Asian Tour calendar, after jetting out to Jeju from Singapore via Seoul.

All three will be hoping to put in strong performances from Aug. 18-21 to show the strides that Saudi golf has made in recent times.

Almulla said: “It’s been quite an interesting year. I have made a lot of progress in the Asian Tour events I have been able to play in. I have been hitting the ball very well, but I have not been able to capitalize on the chances I have been giving myself.

“The same happened last week. I was in with a great chance of making the cut going into the back nine of the second round, but maybe I pushed it a little too hard and made some silly bogeys, but it has been a great experience again.”

Almulla had a great chance to benchmark his game against the best last week in Singapore, as he went round the Tampines Course in the same group as eventual tournament champion Nitithorn Thippong of Thailand in rounds one and two.

“I have been lucky to be paired with some very good players on practice rounds. It’s great to be able to pick their brains and see what they are doing, and last week it was great to play alongside the eventual champion for the first two rounds.

“It is nice to know that I’m closer than I think. I’m glad that we are making real progress on all the work we have put in as preparation. I just need to find a bit more consistency, hit those bad shots a little better and improve the putting too, taking those 10-footers for birdie.”

Almulla has flown the flag for Saudi six times already on the Asian Tour this season, and his growing experience has proved invaluable as he helps his two junior compatriots prepare for two of the more high-profile tournaments on the calendar.

“I still think of them as national team teammates — if one of us succeeds we all succeed. They are super talented, and it is great that they can rub shoulders with some high-quality professional players. They are putting in some hard work and that will stand them in good stead in the future,” he said.

“It is awesome to have the backing of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf in Saudi — we are a young golfing nation but it is nice to have that springboard to throw yourself in and learn to swim.”

Salhab, only one over par after an impressive two rounds at the Tanah Merah Country Club last week, said how important it is to have a more experienced player to look up to.

“Othman is a great friend and we seek him for many aspects of the game. We ask him for a lot of advice and he has been great,” he said.

On his own form going into the first round on Thursday, Salhab added: “My game is heading in the right direction. I just have to be patient and focus on the right things. This week is a tough track and a great test to see where we stand.”

Meanwhile, Al-Sharif added: “The three of us have pretty much grown up in the national team together so having the whole team here has been great. Hopefully we can follow in Othman’s footsteps and become professionals. He is a great role model to have — he is helpful and has invested a lot of time in us.

“It’s going to be fun. It’s not what we are used to but you have to get used to it and it is going to be interesting — a great experience,” he added.

“It is a beautiful course, super soft and lush. It is very different to the courses we are used to, so we are all excited about this learning experience.”


Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup

Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup
Updated 17 August 2022

Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup

Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup
  • Qatari envoy: ‘We prepare for the worst and hope for the best’
  • British defense secretary hails deal as ‘exciting milestone’

LONDON: Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from the UK will protect Qatar’s airspace from threats during the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup later this year, The Times reported on Wednesday.

It comes as part of a major purchase of the jets — sold by Britain’s BAE Systems — by Qatar, which will take delivery of 24 of them by next year.

Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s ambassador to the UK, said during a ceremony in Lancashire to mark the first jet transfer that pilots from both countries will be ready to scramble on short notice during the tournament.

Typhoons have a top speed of almost 1,400 miles per hour. They were used during London’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 2012 to provide air cover. The jets sold to Qatar will arrive “fully operational” and ready to fly.

Al-Attiyah said major public events are “soft spot” targets for terror attacks, and adequate protection is needed.

“The situation globally remains stable but nonetheless could be volatile. Anything could basically happen. So we prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he added.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace hailed the Typhoon deal as an “exciting milestone.”

As part of Qatar’s preparations for the tournament, the country will also deploy navy and army forces to react to threats.

Al-Attiyah described the deployments as “one of many proactive measures we are taking to ensure we deliver a safe and secure tournament. One has to be vigilant.”