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 19 October 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.

Saudi’s Final Championship of the Racecourses kicks off on Friday with prize money of $240k

Saudi’s Final Championship of the Racecourses kicks off on Friday with prize money of $240k
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi’s Final Championship of the Racecourses kicks off on Friday with prize money of $240k

Saudi’s Final Championship of the Racecourses kicks off on Friday with prize money of $240k
  • The weekend’s races will feature 22 rounds with over $667k to be won

RIYADH: King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Janadriyah is gearing up for the launch of The Final Championship of the Racecourses which will be held during the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia’s 92nd and 93rd festivals of the ongoing season on Friday and Saturday.

The JCSA has since last year added two extra rounds to The Final Championship, dedicated to Arabian horses and locally bred fillies.

The weekend will feature 22 rounds — including eight main races — with prize money exceeding $667,000 (SR2.5 million).

The three races of The Final Championship of the Racecourses will equally split a total prize of $240,000 (SR900,000).

Friday’s race card

Friday evening’s main races will begin with the 14th renewal of the late Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Albasam Award in the seventh round, in recognition of his achievements in horseracing.

The round will be held on a 1,600-meter track dedicated to 3-year-old locally bred horses with a prize pool of $35,000 (SR130,000).

Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Albasam assumed the management of the JCSA between 1970 and 1988, succeeding the late manager Ali Alkhargi, the club’s first manager since its inception in 1965.

This race will be followed by the Al-Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University Cup, over a distance of 2,000 meters, which is dedicated to locally produced fillies and horses from the age of 4 and up, and its prize is $40,000 (SR150,000).

The Final Championship of the Racecourses round kicks off with a race dedicated to locally bred 4-year-old fillies on a 1,800-meter track with a prize pool of $80,000 (SR300,000).

The 10th round of racing on Friday will see The Final Championship Open round, dedicated to Arabian horses aged 4 and over, also on a 1,800-meter track with a prize pool of $80,000 (SR300,000).

The third, and last race of The Final Championship of the Racecourses — an Open round for all grades dedicated to 4-year-old locally bred horses — concludes Friday’s action on a 2,000-meter track with a prize of $80,000 (SR300,000).

Saturday’s race card

The exciting racing continues on Saturday evening, with the Apprentice Jockeys Hands & Heels Race Series on a 1,200-meter track, dedicated to local bred 4-year-old horses, classified 0 to 70 degrees, with prize money of $22,652 (SR85,000).

The Open Race of the Ministry of Media Cup, dedicated to locally bred horses aged 4 and up, will be held in the ninth round on a 1,400-meter track with a prize pool of $23,000 (SR150,000).

Additionally, the Broadcasting & TV Corporation Cup will be held during the 10th round of the festival on Saturday and is dedicated to 3-year-old horses of local and imported breeds which compete at a distance of 1,600 meters with prize money of $40,000 (SR150,000).

Finally, the 93rd Jockey Club Festival will end with the Al-Madinah Al-Monawarah Region Governorate Cup, dedicated to locally bred horses aged 4 and up, on a 2,400-meter track with prize money of $40,000 (SR150,000).

Al-Hilal hoping to surpass previous runs at FIFA Club World Cup

Al-Hilal hoping to surpass previous runs at FIFA Club World Cup
Updated 26 min 27 sec ago

Al-Hilal hoping to surpass previous runs at FIFA Club World Cup

Al-Hilal hoping to surpass previous runs at FIFA Club World Cup
  • The Saudi and Asian champions have been knocked out at the semifinal stages in the last two editions of the competition

Al-Hilal have unfinished business at the FIFA Club World Cup. When the Blues kick off against Wydad AC on Saturday in Rabat, Morocco, they hope it will be a case of third time lucky in front of a global audience.

The Saudi Arabian and Asian champions have yet to progress past the last four but this time could be different. Success would not just be welcome in its own right but would reclaim some of the global spotlight that has been stolen recently by Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr with their titanic signing of Cristiano Ronaldo.

In the 2019 and 2021 (which actually took place in 2022) editions, the Riyadh giants won their opening games, against Esperance de Tunis on their debut in Qatar and then a 6-1 thrashing of Al-Jazira representing the host nation of the UAE a year ago.

First time around, they were defeated in the semifinals by Brazilian giants Flamengo, and their run was ended last time by Chelsea after a hard-fought game with the European champions.

Such experience will, it is hoped, stand the team in good stead for the coming challenges.

“Because we have played twice before in the Club World Cup, I expect that we will reach the final this time though there are difficult games ahead of us,” Al-Hilal’s Colombian star Gustavo Cuellar said as the team arrived in Morocco on Monday. “There is enough talent in the team to reach the final.”

Wydad present, on paper, a tougher opening game than Al-Hilal have had in the two previous tournaments. The Casablanca club defeated Al-Ahly of Egypt in the final of the African Champions League last year to become continental champions for the third time. They are also on home soil and sure to be backed by a passionate crowd.

Moroccan football is on a high at the moment after the national team reached the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup, defeating Belgium, Spain and Portugal on the way to giving defending champions France a tough game. Similar success in the club edition would be cited in North Africa as further evidence that Morocco are the leading Arab football nation.

For Al-Hilal it is probably good news that Walid Regragui is no longer at the helm. The 47-year-old is the toast of the coaching world after leading Morocco to global glory. He took over the national team not long after leading Wydad to the African title and was replaced in Casablanca by Mehdi Nafti.

“I am up to date with what is going on with the other teams and so I know very well what awaits us at the Club World Cup,” Nafti said in the build-up to the tournament. “We have motivation, confidence and capabilities, and the competition is playing in Morocco, and this will guarantee us great support from our supporters. We have to remain calm and focus on our opening game with Al-Hilal.”

Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz knows how important this tournament is to the 18-time Saudi Arabian champions. After all, it is because of the Club World Cup that the Argentine took the reins in Riyadh. A year ago, a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Al-Ahly of Egypt in the playoff for third place meant that Leonardo Jardim was given his marching orders. Diaz then led the team to an amazing run in the Saudi Professional League that resulted in another championship.

Domestically, Al-Hilal are in a better position than they were a year ago as they are just a point off the top, though they have played a game more than leaders Al-Nassr.

The form is not perfect however with just three wins in the last seven games, not a terrible record but standards are very high at the most successful club in the history of both Saudi Arabian and Asian football.

That run included a shock 1-0 defeat to Al-Feiha in the semifinal of the Saudi Super Cup on Jan. 26. After returning from last year’s Club World Cup, Hilal moved into top gear and overhauled Al-Ittihad’s double-digit lead, to take the title and a similar run would be welcomed this time though the hope is it comes after a better performance in Morocco.

Diaz has called up a strong squad. The main absence is that of Salman Al-Faraj as the captain, who went off injured in that historic Saudi Arabian win over Argentina at the World Cup in November.

If Wydad are overcome then there will be a rematch with Flamengo. With the South American champions coming to North Africa off the back of mixed form domestically, Al-Hilal would be in with a chance of a big win and a place in the final, probably against European champions Real Madrid.

That would be a major success but there is a long way to go before a possible meeting with arguably the world’s biggest team in a global final and it starts with a tough game in Morocco.

Saudi Cup is the target of Es-Unico who hopes to emulate Uruguayan horses

Saudi Cup is the target of Es-Unico who hopes to emulate Uruguayan horses
Updated 45 min 48 sec ago

Saudi Cup is the target of Es-Unico who hopes to emulate Uruguayan horses

Saudi Cup is the target of Es-Unico who hopes to emulate Uruguayan horses
  • 3-year-old is being primed for Group 3 Saudi Derby on Feb. 25

Es-Unico, the winner of last year’s Uruguayan Gran Criterium (domestic Group 2), is ready to follow in the footsteps of Aero Trem, fifth in last year’s Group 1 Saudi Cup, with the 3-year-old being targeted at the Group 3 Saudi Derby on Feb. 25.

Antonio Cintra’s assistant trainer Julio Olascoaga is overseeing Es-Unico’s preparation in Dubai and said: “He won the most important race for 2-year-olds in Uruguay. Then he had a problem that did not allow him to compete in the Uruguayan Triple Crown and after that we thought of aiming for the Dubai Carnival and The Saudi Cup meeting.”

Although only four of their horses — Aero Trem, Perfect Love, El Patriota and Ajuste Fiscal — have run previously at The Saudi Cup, Cintra’s team has been focused on the meeting since it started in 2020.

“The planning to run at The Saudi Cup is something that comes from a long time ago,” said Olascoaga. “In the first edition, we already had it in our minds that we wanted to compete there. Our plan is to select the best horses from Uruguay and test them against some of the world’s top performers.”

Unbeaten as a 2-year-old in Uruguay, Es-Unico finished second on his first start in Dubai, the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial over 1,400 meters.

Olascoaga said: “He ran a very good race and ran very hard at the end. It always seemed that a little more distance would help him. The mile of the Saudi Derby will suit him perfectly. His form is at a very high level and he will enjoy the long straight at King Abdulaziz.”

The only question is if he will run in the UAE 2000 Guineas first or go straight to Saudi. “He recovered very well after the race — better than we expected because it was a tough one,” said Olascoaga.

“I think that if he does the same in the 2000 Guineas, he could easily go to the Saudi Derby afterwards. It’s not ideal, maybe an extra week would have been better, but if the horse is fine, it’s very possible that he will run in both.”

No decision has been made on who will ride him in the Saudi Derby yet, but Jose Da Silva has always been on board and there does not seem to be a reason to change things.

Olascoaga said: “South America has always been an exporter of great jockeys. There are outstanding examples like Silvestre de Sousa and Joao Moreira. Anywhere in the world you will find South American jockeys. We like jockeys who really feel the silks — not only wearing the colors of an owner but those of a country, an industry and a continent.”

When anyone mentions a Uruguayan great in the horse ranks, it is inevitable that the name Invasor comes up. Although born in Argentina, he is the best horse trained in Uruguay to date.

“When Invasor ran, I was still very young, but of course I watched all his races. I don’t know if you could say they are similar as they are horses of different physiques. Invasor was a little taller and slimmer, while Es-Unico is a medium-sized horse and a little more compact which makes him more agile,” said Olascoaga.

“When he gallops he reaches top speed very quickly and I think his turn of foot will make the difference in Saudi,” he added. “But there is something they both have in common — a huge heart and the fact they both carry the Uruguayan flag. Invasor became the best in the world, let’s see how far Es-Unico goes.”

Newcastle’s Wembley dream fulfilled with historic Carabao Cup final

Newcastle’s Wembley dream fulfilled with historic Carabao Cup final
Updated 01 February 2023

Newcastle’s Wembley dream fulfilled with historic Carabao Cup final

Newcastle’s Wembley dream fulfilled with historic Carabao Cup final
  • Geordie Sean Longstaff was the local hero with 2 goals
  • Magpies likely to face surging Man United on Feb. 26

NEWCASTLE, UK: Tell me ma, me ma, they won’t be home for tea — Newcastle United are going to Wembley.

For the first time in 23 years the Magpies are heading to the home of English football and it was the iconic chant, to the tune of Doris Day’s classic “Que Sera Sera,” that rung around the streets and bars of Tyneside for the first time this century.

Geordie Sean Longstaff proved United’s local hero as his two goals put United 3-0 in front over the two legs, before Che Adams got a consolation. Bruno Guimaraes was sent off late for the Magpies, however they hung on to secure a Carabao Cup date with destiny on Sunday, Feb. 26. Facing them is likely to be Manchester United, who take on Nottingham Forest in their second leg on Wednesday with a 3-0 advantage in the bank.

“I feel really good. Very proud of the players and everyone connected with the club. A great night for us,” said head coach Eddie Howe.

“I thought it was one of the best 20-minute spells we’ve seen. The rest of the game was difficult but really pleased with the start to the match.

“You speak to people and there is a lot of people at the football club that have been here a long time so you get an idea of what it means. From my perspective, you’re so focused on the details of how we’re going to play and what we’re going to do, you can’t take your eye off that for a second so you shelter yourself from some of the feeling around the city. I think it’s nice to know and see how much it means. The view of the stadium again tonight with the flags and scarves made it an incredible place to play football.”

Very much in keeping with their Premier League form, the Magpies got off to a flyer — and it was Tyneside born and bred Longstaff who packed his shooting boots on the night.

He bagged two goals in the space of 16 first-half minutes and but for a swing and a miss, could have netted the Magpies’ first hat trick in the competition since Craig Bellamy in 2001.

His first came when a Guimaraes turn on the edge of the area freed skipper Kieran Trippier on the right and a deft ball into the midfielder was tucked home with a class so often missing from Longstaff’s wayward finishing this season.

Just moments later he almost made it 2-0 as a lash with his left foot skidded narrowly wide. He was in no mood to let the Saints off the hook, though, and did double the advantage on 20 minutes when he finished a slick passing move.

A rapid break down the left by Joe Willock saw Miguel Almiron fed in the middle and a cutback fell kindly for Longstaff, who smashed into the Gallowgate End net. The stuff dreams are made of for the lad from North Shields.

This wouldn’t be Newcastle United without a scare or two, though. And despite seemingly cruising at 3-0 up in the tie — having won 1-0 down on the south coast — they opened the door for the opposition.

A Willock error gifted possession to Che Adams and with one stroke of his right peg from distance he narrowed the difference between the sides.

Despite being two goals to the good nerves began to emanate from the pitch and into the terraces as the visitors pressed, pressed and pressed some more.

Nick Pope, a spectator largely to this point, had to be at his broad, sprawling best to deny former United forward Adam Armstrong.

Hanging on, but still looking dangerous on the break, United had a penalty call turned down when a Sven Botman header seemingly hit a Saints arm in the area before Longstaff almost finished it with a long-range effort, saved by Gavin Bazunu.

Having clipped the outside of the post with a left-footed curler, Bruno then had a moment of madness, which did little for nerves on the night.

The Brazilian was red-carded for a late lunge on Samuel Edozie, which was rightfully turned from a yellow into a red with the help of VAR.

Despite the late scare, United held on. And luckily for the team, Howe and Guimaraes, his instant three-game ban will be up by the time the trip to London comes around later this month.

Howe continued: “At the moment this doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s about the club it’s not about me. I’m proud to get to the final but my thought is always for the club.

“The challenge comes in the next few days with preparing for West Ham. We need to get back to work and not let this impact our league form.

“You’re always on to the next challenge.

“I’ve enjoyed tonight in a weird way but when you sit back and relax you come undone. You’re always on edge looking to win the next game.”

James triple-double sparks Lakers to overtime victory over Knicks

James triple-double sparks Lakers to overtime victory over Knicks
Updated 01 February 2023

James triple-double sparks Lakers to overtime victory over Knicks

James triple-double sparks Lakers to overtime victory over Knicks
  • James’ first triple double of the 2022-2023 campaign also makes him the only player in history to score a triple-double in their 20th season
  • Jimmy Butler’s 23 points helped the Miami Heat score a hard-fought 100-97 win over the Cavaliers

NEW YORK: LeBron James scored a 28-point triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers dug deep to score a 129-123 overtime win against the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

James is now just 89 points away from surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading points scorer after another superb performance in his 20th season.

The 38-year-old passed two more milestones on Tuesday as he secured the third triple double of his career at Madison Square Garden.

James finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, moving him ahead of both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash into fourth on the all-time rankings for assists.

James’ first triple double of the 2022-2023 campaign also makes him the only player in history to score a triple-double in their 20th season.

The Lakers star was backed by Anthony Davis with 27 points and new signing Rui Hachimura, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Russell Westbrook added 17 points off the bench.

“We played good ball throughout 48 minutes tonight,” James said afterwards.

“We were in tune with the game plan throughout 48 minutes and we did a good job of executing offensively and defensively.”

James, meanwhile, insisted he was not burdened by chasing down Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record — stating bluntly that it was only a “matter of time” before he passed the mark of 38,387 points.

“No, it’s not getting heavier because I’m going to do it,” James said.

“I mean, it’s just a matter of time when I’m going to do it.”

James had looked to have done enough to secure victory for the Lakers after draining a 25-foot three-pointer with 1min 41sec remaining in the fourth to put Los Angeles ahead by 114-108.

But Knicks ace Jalen Brunson, who finished with 37 points, led a late rally to force overtime at 114-114.

The experience of James, Davis and Westbrook proved too much for New York in overtime however.

A three-pointer from Dennis Schroder put Los Angeles up 121-118 with 3:14 remaining, and then a superb assist by Westbrook set up Davis for a dunk to make it 123-118.

Hachimura then came up with a huge defensive block to deny Brunson before a Westbrook layup put the Lakers seven points clear at 125-118 with just over a minute remaining, a lead which proved too much for the Knicks to overhaul.

In other games on Tuesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points and 18 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks overpowered the Charlotte Hornets 125-115.

Khris Middleton added 18 off the bench while Jrue Holiday finished with 15 points as five Bucks players finished in double-digits.

Milwaukee improved to 34-17 with the win to remain in second place in the Eastern Conference. LaMelo Ball led the Charlotte scoring with 27 points.

In Cleveland, Jimmy Butler’s 23 points helped the Miami Heat score a hard-fought 100-97 win over the Cavaliers.

A game that saw the lead change hands 11 times also ended with three Miami players — Caleb Martin, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro — on 18 points each.

Miami playmaker Donovan Mitchell was restricted to 16 points, making just six of 17 from the field. Evan Mobley led Cleveland’s scoring with 19 points.

In Denver, Jamal Murray poured in 32 points and Nikola Jokic added 26 as the Western Conference-leading Nuggets sent the slumping New Orleans Pelicans crashing to their ninth straight defeat.

The Nuggets improved to 35-16 following their 122-113 win.

In Chicago, the Los Angeles Clippers improved to 29-25 to remain in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 108-103 win over the Bulls.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers scoring with 33 points while Norman Powell added 27 off the bench.