US build 4-1 lead over Internationals in Presidents Cup

US build 4-1 lead over Internationals in Presidents Cup
Xander Schauffele, left, and teammate Patrick Cantlay of the US team line up a putt at the 2022 Presidents Cup on Sept. 22, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2022

US build 4-1 lead over Internationals in Presidents Cup

US build 4-1 lead over Internationals in Presidents Cup
  • Another strong American team from top to bottom played at a high level on a hot day at Quail Hollow and walked off with a 4-1 lead after the first session

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: American red numbers filled the electronic scoreboards Thursday in the Presidents Cup, an outcome that surprised no one for these one-sided matches.

“Somebody came on the radio and said, ‘Yeah, but we’re 1 up in three matches and those can flip real quick,’” US captain Davis Love III said.

When it was over, the International team was happy it wasn’t shut out.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele set the tone with the shortest foursomes match in the Presidents Cup since 2011, dispatching Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott in 13 holes as the American duo improved to 5-0 in this alternate-shot format.

Right behind them were Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, coming up with big moments after bad shots in a 2-and-1 win over Sungjae Im and Corey Conners.

Another strong American team from top to bottom played at a high level on a hot day at Quail Hollow and walked off with a 4-1 lead after the first session.

“I told the guys last night we need to set the tone — us and J.T. and Jordan’s match — and we did,” Schauffele said. “Playing this format on a day like today and not making any bogeys, it’s exactly what we need.”

Even the breaks fell the Americans’ way.

Max Homa and Tony Finau were all square with four holes to play when Homa’s shot from a fairway bunker on the 15th hole — typically the 18th at Quail Hollow — was headed for the middle of the stream when it caromed off the rocks and into the rough. Finau pitched to 8 feet and Homa made the putt to halve the hole.

“That tie felt like a win,” Homa said, and they wound up winning the match with a par on the 18th hole.

The lone bright spot for the International team was Cameron Davis and Si Woo Kim, who won the last four holes to take out Sam Burns and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world.

“If we got whitewashed today, it would have been a tough pill to swallow,” International captain Trevor Immelman said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but like I said, we’ll keep going, man. We’ll keep going until they ring the bell.”

The International team, already an underdog in these matches, was hurt more than the Americans by players leaving the PGA Tour for Saudi-backed LIV Golf, including British Open champion Cameron Smith, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann.

“Nobody here expects us to win. We’ve got to have that belief deep down,” Immelman said. “Go out there and fight. We’re up against maybe the strongest American team ever assembled on paper.”

Two of the eight rookies for the International team, Taylor Pendrith and Mito Pereira, nearly picked up another point. They were all square going to the tough par-4 closing hole when Pereira hit a wild tee shot, Pendrith could only manage the right bunker and they made bogey. Finau and Homa walked away with a 1-up win and a point.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” Finau said.

The other US point came from Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year, who soaked up the environment before a full house at Quail Hollow and produced a winning moment of his own.

They were in a tight match with against 20-year-old Tom Kim and K.H. Lee, all square with six holes to play. At the time, the last three matches could have gone either way.

The Americans had a 1-up lead and appeared to be headed toward the 18th when Young slammed in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th to end the match.

“That moment there is about all I can ask for,” Young said. “Obviously, it’s the first day, but every point we get is important. And that’s a feeling I’ve been waiting to have for a long time.”

Cantlay and Schauffele first hooked up on the long flight over to Australia for the Presidents Cup in 2019, the first team matches for both. They have become fast friends off the course and are a tough team to beat inside the ropes, particularly in foursomes.

They got plenty of help from Scott and Matsuyama — the two most experienced players on the International team — who missed plenty of putts that could have won or halved holes along the way. Matsuyama missed from 4 feet on the third hole, and the Americans took the lead and ran with it.

Thomas, who won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in 2017, had a wild day. He chunked a 9-iron so badly on the par-3 fourth that it came up 40 yards short of the green. He hit a shank from the bunker on the par-5 16th. He and Spieth didn’t lose either hole.

The match turned on the 15th when Spieth’s drive landed on the left side of a creek, Thomas did well to get to the back of the green, and Spieth ran his downhill putt some 25 feet by the hole.

Conners and Im were in position to win the hole — 7 feet away for par — and square the match. Thomas holed the par putt, Conners missed and the Americans were 2 up and headed for another point.

“You win when you pick up your partner, and he did that,” Spieth said. “That switch we had on the 15th was unreal there. Looking at going to even and instead we leave that green 2 up. It was the difference in the match.”

Next up were five matches Friday in fourballs, and each point moves the Americans closer to a ninth straight victory in these one-sided matches. They have never lost on home soil since the Presidents Cup began in 1994.

With such a dominant start, the Americans need only 11 1/2 points from the 25 matches remaining to retain the cup.


Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
Updated 29 sec ago

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
  • Saudi driver will be joined by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz in third round of World Rally Raid Championship

AGADIR: Saudi world champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi has completed last-minute preparations ahead of the 22nd edition of the Rallye du Maroc, the third round of the World Rally Raid Championship.

Al-Rajhi, will be accompanied by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, the replacement for Michael Orr, who was injured in an accident at Baja Poland three weeks ago.

Crossing the desert from Agadir, in the southwest of Morocco, to Tan Tan and Al-Ayoun on the Atlantic coast will represent a new challenge for Al-Rajhi.

Day one of the rally will be a qualifying stage, while the race will last six days in five stages from Oct. 1-6. Competitors will cover a total of 2,319 km, including 1,583 km of special stages on the sand, gravel tracks and golden dunes.

The Yazeed Racing team faces a busy period until the end of the year, with Al-Rajhi  competing in three championships, including the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.

The international events are the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Baja and the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, in which Al-Rajhi currently ranked third.

Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz tested the new Toyota Hilux over two days around the Moroccan city of Erfoud, which is known for its high sand dunes and varying terrain.

The Belgian team Overdrive prepared a new car similar to the vehicle that crashed in Baja Poland. The car is equipped with a V6 engine and twin turbocharger, unlike the one used in Aseer Rally few days ago.

“I’m looking forward to the Morocco rally a lot,” Al-Rajhi said.

“I thank my team for doing an amazing job as usual. We are looking forward to winning this rally and there is nothing stopping us from doing so. We need to focus and develop appropriate strategies to advance and collect points.

“Our challenge in the Morocco rally requires endurance and effort from man and machine. We have a long race ahead of us in the Moroccan deserts, and we hope that God will guide us on our way.”

Von Zitzewitz is looking forward to the challenge.

“Yazeed and I, along with the Overdrive team, believe we have what it takes to win the rally,” he said. “We have all the factors to win, and I pray that God will be on our side. The world of motorsport is unpredictable.”


Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
Updated 3 min 52 sec ago

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
  • The giveaway will take place on the official FIFA partner’s Twitter account

RIYADH: Coca-Cola is giving fans in Saudi Arabia a chance to see their favorite teams on football’s biggest stage with the opportunity to win thousands of 2022 FIFA World Cup match tickets.

With Saudi Arabia’s participation at Qatar 2022 less than two months away, Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of the tournament since 1978, will provide the opportunity to claim the tickets on its official Twitter account in the coming weeks.

In addition, Coca-Cola will bring the original FIFA World Cup trophy to the Kingdom in November where thousands of fans will have the opportunity to see football’s most prized possession.

The FIFA sponsors also revealed they have plans to invest in development programs for local Saudi talent and will soon be making an announcement on this.


Saudi Arabian national women’s football team play first home matches

Saudi Arabian national women’s football team play first home matches
Updated 15 min 25 sec ago

Saudi Arabian national women’s football team play first home matches

Saudi Arabian national women’s football team play first home matches
  • Two fixtures against Bhutan saw a total of 12 goals and showcased the hosts development in only their third and fourth international matches
  • Players to return to clubs ahead of Premier League kick-off next month, as 50,000 girls register for inaugural nation-wide schools league

RIYADH: Following their launch last year, Saudi Arabia’s Women’s National Team has completed a historic week after taking on Asian counterparts Bhutan in their debut matches on home soil.

Taking place across four days at the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Stadium in Abha, both friendly fixtures witnessed six-goal thrillers.

The first match on Saturday saw the hosts bounce back from a 3-1 deficit at half-time to claim an 3-3 draw thanks to Al-Bandari Mubarak and Nora Ibrahim’s strikes in the closing 15 minutes. Both teams met again on Wednesday night with the visitors claiming an action-packed 4-2 victory.

Reflecting on the past week, SAFF Women’s Football Department Supervisor and board member, Lamia Bahaian, said: “We have been working very hard toward the moment we finally see our women’s national team compete at home.”

“We are extremely proud of how they’ve already inspired a nation and are helping pave the way for a career in the sport with over 50,000 young girls signing up for the first-ever schools league,” she said. “Since the launch of the team just last year, we’ve been grateful for the unconditional support shown to us by the Kingdom’s leadership. The players will now continue their development and progress in the Premier League’s inaugural season, in what is a hugely exciting moment in their careers.”

The matches represented the latest chapter in women’s football rapid journey in Saudi Arabia over the past few years. Since the establishment of a dedicated women’s football department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in 2019, it currently hosts 450 registered players, 49 qualified referees and more than 900 D, C and B licensed coaches.

The national team’s German head coach Monika Staab. (SAFF)

This progress is a result of a long-term strategy launched last year by the federation to grow interest and participation at all levels of the women’s game, with unprecedented investments in areas such as grassroots, player development, coaching, facilities, competitions and governance.

The national team’s players’ attention now turns toward their respective clubs ahead of the launch of the SAFF Women’s Premier League and return of the First Division League. Featuring eight clubs from across Saudi Arabia, most notably Saudi Pro League sides Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad for the first time, the newly formed Premier League takes place on a home-and-away basis with a total of 56 matches.

The First Division League, formerly known as the SAFF Regional Football League, will see a further 17 teams compete across three cities.

The national team’s German head coach, Monika Staab, said that she could not be prouder of the team’s performances and progress over the 180 minutes, in what were only the national team’s third and fourth matches following the encounters against the Seychelles and Maldives in February.

She believes playing the first meetings at home marks another historic milestone in the national team’s journey and the women’s game as a whole.

“This week will undoubtedly go down in the history of Saudi Arabian football. Playing our first matches at home was a massive source of pride for everyone involved in the women’s game across the country,” she said.

“I am extremely pleased with the experience gained by our girls and their performances against a tough opponent. They showcased their true fighting spirit and strong willingness to fight till the final whistle. We look forward to getting more international minutes under our belt, both at home and away, as we continue toward journey to achieve the ambitious goals set for women’s football.”


350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad
Updated 55 min ago

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad
  • Cameras will monitor crowd’s behavior after several matches at the venue last season saw objects thrown onto the pitch

Mrsool Park’s stadium has been equipped with 350 security cameras ahead of Sunday’s high-profile clash between Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad in the fifth round of the Roshn Saudi League.

The stadium’s administration announced the installations in a post on its official Twitter account, saying it has adopted the latest security and safety technologies available for the match.

The 350 high-definition cameras are distributed throughout the stadium and will monitor the movements and behavior of the crowd, before, during and after the match.

Last season, several matches that took place at Mrsool Park witnessed spectators throwing objects onto the pitch, which resulted in fines for the clubs involved, including Al-Nassr, owners of the stadium.


World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest
Updated 30 September 2022

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest
  • Categories for teens, youth and master grapplers from Oct. 1-2
  • Preparation for world and professional tourneys to come

ABU DHABI: The latest edition of the AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is set to take place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena, Zayed Sports City from Oct. 1 to 2, featuring some of the world’s best grapplers.

Organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in partnership with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro, the competition will see hundreds of athletes from various clubs and academies take to the mat over the course of two days for prize money and points in the annual AJP ranking.

Open to all nationalities, the championship features some of world’s top-ranked players in the kids, youth, amateur, professional and master divisions, ahead of the upcoming Jiu-Jitsu World Championship and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

“The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is in line with our vision to stage a range of international competitions that bring the top jiu-jitsu athletes to Abu Dhabi, the global jiu-jitsu capital,” said Mubarak Al-Menhali, technical director of the UAEJJF.

“We are just a few weeks away from the start of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship and the participants are keen to sharpen the technical prowess that qualifies them to compete at the highest levels. The two-day event on the weekend is an ideal platform for them to train and will take them a step closer to achieving their goals.”

Tariq Al-Bahri, general manager at the AJP, said: “The Asia Continental Pro is part of a series of championships AJP organizes across multiple locations in the world. This year we have planned five AJP Tour events in the UAE attracting the top-ranked players. We have experienced an increased demand from the players for the Asia Continental Pro Championship as the winners could win 1,400 ranking points.”

The competitions for the teens (grey, yellow, orange and green belts), youth (white, blue and purple), and men’s master’s (blue, purple, brown and black) categories will take place on the first day of the championship. The amateur (blue) and professional (purple, brown and black) categories for both men and women will compete on the second day.