World No. 1 Rory McIlroy confirmed for 2023 Dubai Desert Classic

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy confirmed for 2023 Dubai Desert Classic
Rory McIlroy has won the Dubai Desert Classic on two occasions. (Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)
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Updated 08 November 2022

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy confirmed for 2023 Dubai Desert Classic

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy confirmed for 2023 Dubai Desert Classic
  • The event will take place from Jan. 26-29 at the Emirates Golf Club

DUBAI: Organizers of the Dubai Desert Classic have announced that world No. 1 and two-time champion Rory McIlroy will play in the 2023 Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy, a four-time Major champion, is the first player to be confirmed and will be among the top stars swinging into action when the Rolex Series event at Emirates Golf Club takes place from Jan. 26-29.

Having won the Dubai Desert Classic twice, in 2009 and 2015, McIlory will be bidding to clinch his third title.

The 33-year-old said: “I always look forward to playing the Dubai Desert Classic, having won the tournament twice in my career, and Majlis is a golf course that I love to play.

“Lifting the Dallah trophy for a third time is something I would like to achieve.”

Simon Corkill, executive tournament director of the Dubai Desert Classic, said: “Since the first ball teed off more than three decades ago in 1989, the Dubai Desert Classic has gone from strength to strength, attracting a wide array of top golfers from around the world, so to have Rory McIlroy confirm his participation exemplifies how highly regarded the tournament is.

“He is one of the greatest names not just in golf but also in sport in general, and we are delighted that he will be returning to Emirates Golf Club again. This is a fantastic opportunity for fans to see the world No. 1 in action on the Majlis course, a place he knows very well, in what will be another important year for him.

“With more household names and up-and-coming players set to join over the coming weeks, fans can be assured of a stellar playing field for January 2023.”


Ancer closes out unique victory at PIF Saudi International

Golf Saudi CEO Noah Alireza hands Abraham Ancer the trophy. (Golf Saudi)
Golf Saudi CEO Noah Alireza hands Abraham Ancer the trophy. (Golf Saudi)
Updated 05 February 2023

Ancer closes out unique victory at PIF Saudi International

Golf Saudi CEO Noah Alireza hands Abraham Ancer the trophy. (Golf Saudi)
  • Mexican matches 19-under tournament record in first ever pillar to post win
  • American Cameron Young finishes second ahead of Australian Lucas Herbert

JEDDAH: Abraham Ancer completed the first ever pillar to post victory in the $5 million PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers on Sunday, closing with a 68 to card a record equaling 19 under par for the tournament, two ahead of American Cameron Young.

The 31-year-old Mexican conducted a masterclass in front running at the Asian Tour’s season-opening event, adding the title to his WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational win in 2021.

“That was my first ever wire-to-wire win,” said Ancer, whose steadiness at the helm was made possible by a solid, repeatable golf swing and sound putting stroke.

“I just didn’t think about where I was on the leaderboard. I just felt like I just want to do that again. I played really good the first round, and I just felt like I wanted to keep that going.

“I kept telling myself, just imagine if I was in like 20th place and just got to go out there and shoot a low one. It worked out. I stayed in the moment, didn’t really think too much about the previous shots or what was coming after. So, I’m really happy with my frame of mind during these four rounds.”

Ancer led by two from Young at the start of the day and was caught by the American on the seventh. But by the turn he had moved one ahead.

A closely fought contest was expected over the closing holes but Young made a bogey on the par four 13th, where he found the water with his approach shot, then doubled the par four 15th, after chipping short and taking three on the green.

Although Young rallied with birdies on 16 and 18 it was not enough to stop Ancer becoming only the second ever Mexican winner on the Asian Tour, after Carlos Espinosa took the 1995 Canlubang Classic in the Philippines.

Remarkably, despite the windy conditions during the week at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, Ancer dropped just two shots over the four rounds: on the ninth on Sunday and 17th on Friday.

Young, who matched Ancer’s 68 on Sunday, said: “It’s always disappointing but I think I played pretty well, and I’m playing a bunch the next few weeks. I think I’m in a nice place moving forward.

“He (Ancer) played some really nice golf. He just didn’t make really any mistakes. I think he maybe made two bogeys this whole week, and with all the wind blowing as hard as it was, that’s, one, tremendous control of your golf ball, and two, I think just a lot of mental toughness.”

The result was Young’s eighth top-three finish since last year, following a second in The Open and joint third in the PGA Championship.

“I’m proud of all those finishes,” he said. “There’s nothing I’ve thrown away, I don’t think. If one or two of them was a four-shot lead that I didn’t finish off, that’s a bummer, but I’ve been beat a lot. I haven’t thrown any of them away.”

Australian Lucas Herbert carded a 65 on Sunday to finish third, with Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana shooting a 66 to secure fourth spot and cement his place as one of Asia’s rising stars.

It was also a significant week for Arab golfers, with nine taking part in the PIF Saudi International. Saudi Arabia’s Saud Al-Sharif and Faisal Salhab made their professional debuts at the event, where amateurs Issa Abou El-Ela from Egypt and El Mehdi Fakori from Morocco both made the cut.


Arab amateur golfers make their mark at PIF Saudi International

Arab amateur golfers make their mark at PIF Saudi International
Updated 05 February 2023

Arab amateur golfers make their mark at PIF Saudi International

Arab amateur golfers make their mark at PIF Saudi International
  • Egypt’s Issa Abou El-Ela, Morocco’s El Mehdi Fakori make cut at Asian Tour event
  • “Nothing’s out of reach,” Egyptian says after breakthrough

JEDDAH: It may be a battle at the top of the leaderboard between Abraham Ancer and Cameron Young, but two young Arabs also made their mark at the PIF Saudi International this week.

Amateurs Issa Abou El-Ela of Egypt and El Mehdi Fakori of Morocco both made the cut at the Asian Tour’s flagship event against some of the best golfers in the world.

“From my perspective, it hasn’t sunk in, but I think it’s just a great thing for confidence,” Abou El-Ela said.

“At the end of the day, it’s more about the whole Arab community. It’s not just me, it’s more of a sign that we can do it. We now have Faisal, Saud, Othman and Shergo who are all professionals competing out here too.

“I’m obviously over the moon to make the cut but it just shows that as Arabs we have a chance to shine on the global stage and it doesn’t have to be at football.

“Now we have a chance to show it, and with the support of Golf Saudi and the Arab Golf Federation, I don’t see why in five to 10 years, even past me, we see one of our juniors in the Arab community winning one of these.”

Fakori also finished the week on a high, shooting a four-under 66 in the final round on Sunday.

“I felt less pressure today and gave the course the proper respect that it deserved from the first hole. Unlike yesterday, I was playing for birdies,” he said.

Both men said they were grateful to the International Series for the opportunity to play against some of the world’s best golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and Bryson Dechambeau.

“I’m very happy to be playing with the world’s best players,” Fakori said. “I’m playing with them and getting the firsthand experience to learn what I need. But when I’m in the field I am only focusing on myself and my own game.”

Abou El-Ela, who birdied the last hole at Royal Greens to make the cut, said: “A bunch of the guys on the Asian tour I’ve known for a while since the International Series have been taking me under their wing, like Richard Lee and a lot of other guys, so I’ve just started to feel more comfortable on this tour. I’ve seen a lot of these players succeed before and it just made me thirstier to do better.”

The 28-year-old Egyptian added: “I’m just trying to help build a way just to prove that nothing’s out of reach … obviously we have a lot of young talented juniors from all the countries around the Middle East, I’ve seen it in Pan Arabs, I’ve seen it day in and day out.”

In a message to those aspiring to make the top grade, he said: “You have so many opportunities and I just think we have a chance, so don’t let any obstacles like not finding a college or you can’t find a coach get in your way. You are what you make yourself, so just keep fighting and one day we’ll see one of these juniors here and I can't wait to watch myself.”

Fakori added: “You need to respect the sport, you need to be disciplined and consistent. There’s no one better than the other, there’s just a player who’s more consistent.”

The other Arab golfers in the field this week were Faisal Salhab, Saud Alsharif and Othman Almulla of Saudi Arabia — the first two of whom were making their professional debuts — Baha Boulakmine of Tunisia, Jamal Allali and Adam Bresnu of Morocco, and Shergo Al-Kurdi of Jordan.

The next stop for Abou El-Ela and Fakori is the International Series Oman, which starts on Thursday, and where they will line up against the likes of Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Eugenio Chacarra and Carlos Ortiz.


Ancer leading the charge to glory in PIF Saudi International

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day
Updated 04 February 2023

Ancer leading the charge to glory in PIF Saudi International

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day

JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer holds the lead at the PIF Saudi International for the third consecutive day after following up a 63 and 66 with a flawless third round 64, progressing to 17-under-par and two shots clear of Cameron Young, who sits third place at five shots back.

Ancer, bidding to be the first player to win the Saudi tournament wire to wire, looked unstoppable at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club as he posted another bogey-free round with six birdies spread equally across the front and back nine.

“Another very solid round. Happy with no dropped shots. That’s always my goal. On a golf course like this where it’s blowing pretty good, I’m really, really happy,” he said.

“My ball striking has definitely been on, and I’ve been rolling it really nice all week. Extremely happy. Not really focused on what everybody else is doing. Just trying to play the same game I’ve been playing the past three days,” he added.

Young has now posted three straight rounds of five-under-par 65’s, enough to take sole place of second, two shots back.

“I think I’ve played really solidly,” he said. “Obviously, Abe’s playing some really nice golf. So, I think tomorrow will be fun. If the wind is similar to today, it will probably take a 62, 63 or 64 because I don’t see Abraham shooting anything bad.”

Making his intentions clear, Young ended with “I’ll hit a lot of drivers and try to make a bunch of birdies.”

A fascinating two horse race is set for Sunday between a pair who have completely contrasting styles, which was so clearly evident on the par-five 18th today.

Ancer laid up to about 100 yards but nailed his approach to five feet and holed out, while Young airmailed the green with his second shot, using an iron, but was only able to make par.

Young is a further five shots ahead of third place, where American Matthew Wolff (63), Australian Lucas Herbert (67), and Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana (68) all sit.

American Matthew Wolff made the most of moving day matching Ancer’s tournament low from round one of a 7-under-par 63, set up by a front nine six-under-par 29.

Following the round, the 23-year-old said: “It felt easy. It felt like I'm finally starting to hit my driver the way I'm looking to. It's such a weapon on this golf course when I'm hitting it where I want to. I'm having short clubs in and I can kind of attack these flags. I felt really good with every part of my game.”

He continued: “But I think it was the putting. I made quite a few putts out there today and didn't the first couple of days. I think that was definitely the difference. It seemed like it all came together nicely for me today.”

Jason Kokrak sits a further shot back alone in sixth, followed by Mito Pererira, Paul Casey, and Marc Leishman.


In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International

In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International
Updated 04 February 2023

In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International

In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International
  • American Cameron Young lurks just one shot behind at midway point as leaders benefit from calmer conditions
  • Thailand well represented on the leaderboard with Kaewkanjana in third and 15-year-old amateur Chantananuwat one shot further back

JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and American Cameron Young took advantage of the calmer afternoon conditions on Friday to top the leaderboard in first and second place at the midway point of the PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.

Ancer followed up his tournament low 63 on Thursday with a 4-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. It was another near-perfect round for the 31-year-old with five birdies and only his first blemish of the tournament coming on 17.

After the round, Ancer said: “I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been rolling it and hitting it off the tee. Also my iron play has been pretty dang good, so I’m happy with my game.

“Having that bogey on 17 from a very scorable spot kind of burns a little bit and dropping the first shot of the tournament, but extremely happy with my play and the way my body feels, the way my swing feels. Yeah, extremely happy.”

Young, sitting one shot behind at 10-under par, is enjoying his first appearance at Royal Greens with two bogey-free rounds of 65, “It’s been great. I think it’s been a lot of fun in the wind. We have to hit a bunch of shots, and I’ve played really nicely.”

Sadom Kaewkanjana and Ratchanon Chantananuwat showed why they are two of Asia’s most exciting young prospects when they climbed up the internationally loaded leaderboard.

Kaewkanjana, 24, shot a four-under-par 66, making the most of the morning’s calm conditions, in contrast to the blustery weather he played in on Thursday afternoon.

He said: “I’m happy. Yesterday afternoon was so windy, but I played solid. Today I’m happy to play in the morning in the second group. So, everything’s good. My tee shot, my iron, all good. I hope to do more tomorrow and the last days the same as the first two days."

Compatriot Chantananuwat, known as “TK,” showed maturity beyond his years after the first two rounds in the Asian Tour’s flagship event. The 15-year-old amateur sits in a tie for sixth place, alongside Lucas Herbert, with rounds of 67 and 66. It was a tale of two halves for the young star on Friday after going out on the front nine in an impressive six-under-par before battling the wind to return a one-over-par back-nine.

“I have to split it in two halves because I played phenomenal on the first seven, had five birdies. I was really happy with that. I actually played even better yesterday actually, I just couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities as well as I did today.

“The last 11 holes I’m actually very happy with, as well, because it was an all-out scramble, and to shoot 1-over in these conditions playing like that, I easily could have shot 4-over. I made so many clutch par putts and the birdie putt on the last. Overall, very happy with my round because I’ve improved in lots of aspects compared to two months ago.”

Marc Leishman shot the low round of the day with a 6-under-par 66 to sit two shots back alongside Kaewkanjana and Louis Oosthuizen, who closed the round in style with an eagle on the 18th.

Defending champion Harold Varner III from the US also made a strong move, carding a 66 to jump up into a tie for 11th, six shots behind the leader.

The midway cut was made with those on level-par making it through in the last spots. Lee Westwood, Joaquin Niemann, and Jazz Janewattananond are all notable names who made it through into the weekend on the mark and will look to climb the leaderboard on moving day.

 

 

 

 

 


Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead

Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead
Updated 03 February 2023

Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead

Lebioda fires sparkling 63 to take Pebble Beach first round lead
  • Lebioda said recent work on his putting was finally starting to pay off

SAN FRANCISCO: Hank Lebioda was firing on all cylinders on Thursday, firing nine birdies in an 8-under-par 63 to take the first round lead in the US PGA Tour Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Lebioda said it “felt like everything” was working for him at Monterey Peninsula, the par-71 course that is one of three in use over the first three rounds along with Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill — both par-72 layouts.

“I hit a lot of great iron shots. I made the putts when I was close. It was a really nice day,” added the 29-year-old American, who is ranked 420th in the world and in search of a first US PGA Tour title.

Lebioda, who hasn’t made a cut on Tour since the 3M Open in July, tied his career-low score and was a stroke clear of England’s Harry Hall and Americans Kurt Kitayama and Chad Ramey.

Hall and Kitayama both carded seven-under 64s at Monterey Peninsula while Ramey posted a seven-under 65 at Pebble Beach.

Lebioda said recent work on his putting was finally starting to pay off.

“For probably the last couple weeks or so I felt like my putting had really turned a corner,” he said. “Even though I may not have shown the results. But I felt more confident standing over the ball. I liked what I was looking at visually standing over it. I knew it was just a matter of time.

“So today, fortunately it was one of the days where quite a few of ‘em did go in. Not every day is like that. I was glad I was able to take advantage of it today.”

Hall teed off on 10 at Monterey Peninsula and his seven-under effort featured an eagle at the 16th hole and a string of five straight birdies from the third through the seventh, a run that ended with his second bogey of the day, at the eighth.

“Kept it in play off the tee,” Hall said. “Hit a lot fairways. Hit a lot of greens.”

after failing to take advantage of two early par-fives, he hit driver off the tee at 16 and a hybrid second shot that left him a 20-foot eagle putt.

“The birdie streak on the front was pretty cool because I think I went bogey and then had a par on the second hole and then had five in a row from three onwards. So it was really good,” he said.

Hall was especially pleased to find himself in the clubhouse one off the lead since “coming down the last two holes it started to blow 45 miles an hour.

“It was crazy,” he said, and more wind and possible rain was in the forecast for the rest of the week.

The blustery winds were just another challenge in the tournament that features not only the complication of three courses but the addition of amateurs playing alongside the pros.

The celebrities teeing it up this year include such sports stars as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and recently retired Wales captain Gareth Bale.

Bale admitted to some first-time nerves on the first tee.

“I think every amateur will tell you, even though we’re used to playing in front of 80,000 or more live on TV, it’s a completely different sport,” he said. “Outside your comfort zone and something that’s just different. It’s a cool experience. Lucky that I hit one of my best shots down the first fairway, which was nice.”

Defending champion Tom Hoge, who out-dueled Jordan Spieth last year to win his first PGA Tour title, carded a one-under 71 at Pebble Beach.

Spieth posted a one-under round at Spyglass Hill.