Stellar field set for Thailand as LIV Golf makes Asian debut

Stellar field set for Thailand as LIV Golf makes Asian debut
Hometown hero Phachara Khongwatmai will be part of a strong field at the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok next month. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 September 2022

Stellar field set for Thailand as LIV Golf makes Asian debut

Stellar field set for Thailand as LIV Golf makes Asian debut
  • New format will be experienced by Asian golf supporters for the first time as series gets set for regional bow at all-new Stonehill

BANGKOK: The eyes of the golfing world will turn to Thailand next month as it gears up to host the biggest tournament to be held on Asian soil — the $25million LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok.

Forty-eight of the best golfers on the planet are Bangkok-bound to battle it out for individual and team glory as LIV Golf breaks new ground with Asia’s debut LIV Golf Invitational, taking place at Stonehill, Oct. 7-9.

A stellar field including defending Open champion Cameron Smith, big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau and multiple-major winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka is confirmed for the tournament. In addition, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson will make on-air contributions to the broadcast coverage and serve as a non-playing captain at the course.

They will be joined by hometown heroes Sadom Kaewkanjana and Phachara Khongwatmai, plus a host of Ryder Cup and Major-winning stars including Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed.

The sixth event of eight in LIV’s inaugural year, the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok will hold the distinction of becoming the first international tournament to be staged at the all-new Stonehill in the northern suburbs of Bangkok, situated in Pathum Thani province.

LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman said: “Everyone at LIV Golf is enormously excited to bring our innovative format and elite competition to Thailand and the people of Asia, one of the most exciting and rapidly developing golf landscapes in the world. At LIV Golf, we’re committed to creating opportunities that grow the game and reach new audiences around the globe. Thailand is our first Asian stop as we continue our launch, and the LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok promises to be a truly incredible week for players and fans alike.”

“I’ve been looking forward to saying this for a long time: Asia, here we come.”

The new tournament format of LIV Golf aims to raise the excitement levels in the sport of golf. Each event sees a world-class 48-man field compete in 12 teams of four, with a shotgun start, on-course music and entertainment that creates an electric atmosphere.

After three rounds of golf, both an individual and team champion is crowned and a prize of $25 million shared.

An incredibly strong field for Bangkok features no less than 12 Major champions and four former World No.1s set to be on the hunt for individual and team glory.

Thai star Khongwatmai has featured in all five of this year’s LIV Golf Invitationals, earning his spot through some top performances in the Asian Tour’s new marquee International Series events, which are supported by LIV Golf.

He said: “To be playing in an event of this scale at home in Thailand is something I could only have dreamed of growing up. The quality of the field is unlike any golf event that will ever have competed here, which makes this a huge moment for not only golf, but sport in Thailand and in Asia.

“These LIV events bring together the best golfers in the world, in a new format which works for both players and spectators. The atmosphere has been incredible in all the events I have played so far, and to be able to experience the same on home turf is something I’m really going to relish. It’ll be something very special for Thai golf and golf fans.”

Kaewkanjana, a two-time Asian Tour winner who has also teed it up in all LIV Golf events so far this season, said: “Playing in Thailand confirms that LIV Golf is a global league, bringing the best in the world to our country and growing the game across the region. LIV Golf is something different, something very exciting, and this week is further evidence that the series is connecting with new audiences all around the world.”

Indian star Anirban Lahiri is delighted to be bringing the series to Asia. Lahiri, who signed on with LIV Golf in late August, finished runner-up on his Boston debut in a thrilling three-way playoff defeat to Dustin Johnson, which also featured Chilean star Joaquin Niemann.

He said: “From my experience so far, LIV Golf is something very special — I could hardly have got off to a better start. The LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok brings something special to Thailand and also the wider region. There are so many golf fans in the Asian region and they will all be able to enjoy some world-class golf featuring some of the best in the game. The players love the atmosphere at the tournaments, as well as the format, and the fans in Asia are in for a real treat.”


Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon
Updated 24 sec ago

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon

Saudi Sports for All Federation to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon
  • Runners will take part in 4km, 10km and 21km races on Dec. 10 across the Formula One circuit in Jeddah
  • The end of the half-marathon will see 24 winners awarded SR1 million ($266,000) in cash prizes

The Saudi Sports for All Federation has completed its preparations to host the Jeddah Half-Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 10, with the support of the Ministry of Sports and the Quality-of-Life Program.

Through this important event, the SFA aims to promote an active lifestyle and foster a competitive spirit among participants.

The SFA has called on the public to take part in the event, which will include 4km, 10km and 21km races. Participants can visit the Marathon Village, which will be open on Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., to collect their race numbers and racing tools. The village will host a range of entertainment events and provide food and beverages.

The tracks will cross Jeddah’s Formula One circuit, while the end of the half-marathon will see 24 winners awarded cash prizes, estimated at SR1 million ($266,000) in total.

The federation’s preparations to host the race were made in alignment with the Kingdom’s ongoing Vision 2030, which encourages Saudi citizens and residents to practice regular physical activity and participate in sporting events.

The SFA also organized a successful full marathon in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s first, which included a 42km track and attracted more than 10,000 participants from around the world.


Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
Updated 50 min 3 sec ago

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women

Leading coaches hold tennis try-outs for Saudi women
  • Judy Murray, Barbara Schett-Eagle and Mats Wilander hold tennis try-outs for women on sidelines of Diriyah Tennis Cup
  • Judy Murray: ‘To be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on around it, is very, very important’

Female students from Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) Riyadh participated in tennis coaching sessions with leading international coaches and former players as part of the Diriyah Tennis Cup program.

The students were coached by Judy Murray, mother of leading players Jamie and Andy Murray, former World Number 1 Mats Wilander from Sweden and Austrian Barbara Schett-Eagle.

Some of the women students held a racquet in their hands for the first time and were introduced to the sport by the tennis legends.

“At the sessions we had a real mix of complete beginners who want to learn the game, some people who have been playing for years and wish to improve and also teachers and coaches,” said Judy Murray.

“I have worked in tennis for over 30 years and the last twelve years I have really focused on encouraging women and girls. Not just to play tennis but to get involved in delivering tennis. We don’t have enough female coaches in tennis worldwide, so actually to be able to come here against the backdrop of the Diriyah Tennis Cup, which is a mens’ event, and have a whole womens’ program going on in the community around it, is very, very important.”

“As a — hopefully — role model and female coach I like to go out and share all the content I have created over many years. I am so passionate about getting more women and girls involved, so this is a lovely opportunity for me to come to Riyadh to do that.”

Former leading player Mats Wilander said: “People are very much into sport here. To play tennis with the female students was wonderful. Judy Murray has a wonderful program. It’s important, to bring tennis to the women of Saudi Arabia, women in general and people in general. Everybody should have a chance to experience and try out the sport.”

Former Austrian player Barbara Schett-Eagle added: “I had an unbelievable day playing tennis with the female students, some playing for the first time. I love tennis. It’s my love and my passion. At the end, they were all able to hit a tennis ball. Some never held a racket before. It was great, there were lots of smiles.”

The President of the Saudi Tennis Federation Arij Almutabagani said that she sees a bright future for tennis in the kingdom.

“There is a strong possibility of finding some young talent. We are really starting at the grassroots, at the beginning, but we have to start somewhere. I think Judy Murray is a great inspiration and I think this program with her is a good start and I hope we can work with her in the future,” said Almutabagani.


Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
Updated 07 December 2022

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic

Shane Lowry to compete in Dubai Desert Classic
  • Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event
  • Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes

Shane Lowry, the 2019 Open Champion, has announced that he will compete in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Lowry joins the top-ranked player in the world Rory McIlroy and DP World Tour stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton in January’s Rolex Series event.

Irishman Lowry’s career highlight so far came when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, winning by an impressive six strokes. A four-time winner on the DP World Tour, and twice on the PGA TOUR, Lowry secured his second Rolex Series title at the BMW PGA Championship in September, in a season that also included a top three finish at The Masters.

On the prospect of teeing off at Emirates Golf Club from 26th to 29th January — as he aims to add more silverware in the UAE following his 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title — Lowry said: “I always enjoy going to Dubai and I am delighted to be returning to Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic in January.

“I’ve had success in the UAE in the past, and it would be great to add my name to the impressive list of players who have lifted this trophy.”

Fleetwood ended the 2022 season in style, securing his sixth DP World Tour title when he successfully defended his Nedbank Golf Challenge title in November. The former European Number One has also tasted success in the UAE with two wins in Abu Dhabi, and was runner-up to Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow fan favorite Lowry at the 2019 Open. It is his joint best Major outing to date, having also finished second at the US Open the previous year.

New Zealand’s Fox has had a stunning 2022, finishing second behind McIlroy in the season-long DP World Tour Rankings after winning the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February and the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October. With a further eight top tens throughout the season, including a narrow playoff loss at the Dutch Open, the Kiwi, will be looking to take that impressive form into 2023 and his appearance in Dubai.

Englishman Hatton is another tournament addition with considerable pedigree, who has experienced recent success in the region following his 2021 triumph in Abu Dhabi. The two-time Ryder Cup star has six DP World Tour victories to his name, including four Rolex Series titles. After a runner-up finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he will be aiming to carry on that form when he returns to Dubai in January.

The four will join two-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, four-time Major winner and current World Number 1 McIlroy, who has already confirmed his participation.

Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The latest player announcement shows the strength of the Dubai Desert Classic and its ability to attract the very best players in the world. Over the years we have been proud to assemble stellar line-ups for fans to enjoy some scintillating golfing action — and the 2023 edition will be no exception.”

“To add the 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to the field guarantees that we have a world class field. Ryan Fox will come to us on the back of a brilliant 2022, his best career year to date and will be another excellent addition to our line-up,” added Corkill.


Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
Updated 07 December 2022

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
  • The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia
  • The defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from travelling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajime Moriyasu

NARITA, Japan: Japan will put their World Cup heartbreak behind them and focus on becoming Asian champions for a fifth time, captain Maya Yoshida said after the team returned home on Wednesday.
The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday, denying them a first-ever place in the quarter-finals.
But the defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from traveling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajjime Moriyasu back from Qatar.
“We won’t stop here,” Yoshida said at a news conference after arriving.
“We will aim to become the best in Asia,” he added.
“Our fight will continue. As long as we keep playing football, we must keep fighting.”
The Asian Cup will also be held in Qatar after original host China dropped out due to its strict anti-Covid policies.
The tournament was set to be held in June and July 2023 but is now likely to be postponed until early 2024 to avoid Qatar’s fierce summer heat.
Japan won the most recent of their four Asian Cup titles the last time Qatar hosted the tournament, in 2011.
The Blue Samurai could not find a way past Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup, but they stunned former champions Germany and Spain to top their first-round group.
“We couldn’t reach new heights but my players showed us a new era, and this is just the beginning,” said Moriyasu.
Among the crowd of fans waiting to welcome the team home at the airport was 55-year-old Takamichi Masui.
He said the wins over Germany and Spain were proof that “Japan has become a soccer powerhouse.”
Another fan, 37-year-old Takahiro Ichikawa, said that like captain Yoshida, he is only looking ahead.
“For now, I hope the national team will focus on pulling off a solid performance in the Asian Cup in Qatar,” he said.


Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
Updated 07 December 2022

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
  • Club likely to strengthen the squad in the January window
  • The Magpies are in the Saudi capital for a training camp that includes a friendly against Al-Hilal

RIYADH: Towering palms, the tinkling of ivories, clinking of coffee cups and a warm winter sun hue about the Saudi skies, is not your usual location for a Newcastle United transfer summit.

It’s a far cry from the inner bowels of St James’ Park, where head coach Eddie Howe, along with the club’s minority owners, thrashed out a summer raid for one of the hottest prospects in the game, Sweden international Alexander Isak. Not since the Vikings have the European elites been so unsettled by a force from the north.

But Howe, meeting with club chiefs and the money men at the Public Investment Fund, spent his Tuesday evening in the Kingdom talking transfers with Al-Olaya the backdrop, the Four Seasons an opulent frame.

Beyond the ostentatious surrounds lies a steely determination, one funded in the Gulf, but driven with North East grit. A goal not publicly admitted, but privately discussed. A want to take Newcastle United into the promised land, the UEFA Champions League, a feat the club has not achieved on Tyneside in two decades.

Lying third in the Premier League, which is beyond even the wildest of Newcastle fans’ expectations, the prospect is not out of the realms of possibility.

But will that be boosted by another Magpies’ January transfer window raiding party? Howe says talks have started.

“I have had half an eye on January and the squad and how it looks,” he said, confirming the transfer talks with Newcastle chiefs.

“We need to be adaptable and prepared for what is always a difficult window. But if there is something we can do to improve the team, I, naturally as the manager, would like to look at that.”

Expectation may be that Newcastle will be bold in their moves with the likes of England international James Maddison, however such a switch has been played down by those in the know.

More likely is movements for players more in the Isak or Sven Botman mold, ready to attack the Premier League, but not at an English topflight premium. And key to this January regeneration will be the right players, at the right price and for the right reasons, if at all.

“Me, sitting here now, I am not expecting too much business, whether incoming or outgoing, but it is football and it is January so it’s unpredictable,” Howe told Arab News.

“We can’t predict what is going to happen with our own squad at times, in terms of fitness and availability, so we do need to be ready to act if we need to. The need for that will be minimized by keeping a fit and healthy squad of players.

“We look like, on paper, we have a very strong squad when everyone is fit. Everyone is not fit currently, and that has a bearing on what you look to do in January.

“Probably the squad, in my eyes, looks different to what it did in the summer because of how well players have done — and from my perspective, I can’t ignore that.”

On the level of those who may arrive, Botman and Isak have set the blueprint but financial fair play rules, until United’s commercial revenues are boosted significantly, will always be the elephant in the ever-expanding room.

Howe continued: “In my position you are keen to sign the best players you can — but those players come at a premium, as you know. Botman wasn’t cheap, Alex wasn’t cheap. Those are players who can influence the starting 11. Do we have the finances for that? I do not know. That might impact our options on that one.

“As a manager I am always looking to improve the team. I will never sit here and be content — I don’t think that is the right way to manage. My way to take the team to new heights is to improve through the training of the players we have. If we can’t get to a certain level then we need to find that in the transfer market. And, of course, you have to work within the guidelines of the club.”

Meanwhile, United’s trip, which started on Sunday and ends on Saturday, is being officially supported by, it’s been announced, Saudi telecommunications giant stc.

In a further boost to club revenues, stc have been named as the official digital partner of the tour and the news follows hot on the heels of Saudi Airlines’ sponsorship of the tour to the Middle East.

A club statement confirmed: “The partnership will provide stc with a digital presence at the Al-Hilal versus Newcastle United fixture, as well as an ongoing presence at St. James’ Park throughout the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, and supporters will have exclusive opportunities to win memorabilia and tickets.”

The NUFC’s chief commercial officer, Peter Silverstone, said: “Our ambition is to grow our supporter base in Saudi Arabia, a country whose young population includes a large, passionate and highly engaged football community.

“We are delighted to welcome stc to our growing family of partners and have them on board as our second strategic partner for the club’s visit to Saudi Arabia this December.

“stc digitally connects millions of individuals and businesses throughout the Middle East and their market knowledge, expertise and experience in sport partnerships will complement our drive to reach and engage with more people across one of our key markets. We look forward to working closely with stc.”