Jon Rahm outlasts rookie Davis Thompson to win AmEx by 1 stroke

Jon Rahm outlasts rookie Davis Thompson to win AmEx by 1 stroke
Jon Rahm celebrates with his wife Kelley, left, and sons Eneko, left, and Kepa after winning the American Express golf tournament on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West Sunday in La Quinta, Calif. (AP)
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Updated 24 January 2023

Jon Rahm outlasts rookie Davis Thompson to win AmEx by 1 stroke

Jon Rahm outlasts rookie Davis Thompson to win AmEx by 1 stroke
  • The Spanish star finished 27-under 261 and won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour

LA QUINTA, California: While Jon Rahm had plenty of chances to pump his right fist after nice shots on Sunday, the look of relief on his face after holding off rookie Davis Thompson put into perspective his victory at The American Express.

The Spanish star took advantage of mistakes by Thompson over the adventuresome final three holes and closed with a 4-under 68 to win by one stroke, his second PGA Tour win in as many starts this year.

“I’m, in a weird way, glad that today went the way it went,” Rahm said. “I’ve enjoyed some runaway victories, I’ve enjoyed some comebacks, but today was certainly a struggle. Out of the five birdies I made, what is it, one, two, three of them were tap-ins and the other two were basically 6-footers. So that tells you the story.”

Rahm pumped his fist a final time after tapping in for a two-putt par on No. 18 at PGA West’s Stadium Course.

Rahm and Thompson were tied with three holes to play when Thompson, who led through 36 holes and shared the lead with Rahm going into Sunday, pulled his drive into a deep fairway bunker on the par-5 16th and wound up with par. Rahm made birdie to take the lead.

On the par-3 17th, Thompson chose to leave the pin in for his 50-foot birdie putt on the island green, and the ball squarely hit the pin and rolled away. The 23-year-old from Georgia dropped his putter and put his hands to his face. As he walked to the 18th tee after tapping in for par, he pulled his shirt up over his mouth in frustration.

“I usually always leave the stick in from a long distance,” Thompson said. “I feel like it helps me with my speed. I’ll probably play the ‘what if’ game in my head for a long time, unfortunately. I had a great read. I probably hit it too firm. If it had great speed it would have just hit the flag and dropped. But we’ll never know. I’m proud of myself for this week.”

Rahm hit his tee shot into a bunker on 18 but recovered nicely with a shot to 15 feet and pumped his fist. Thompson’s drive found the fairway but his approach bounced on the green and ran down the slope behind it. The rookie hit a bold flop shop that settled a foot to the right of the hole. He shot 69.

“I had a great week,” said Thompson, who made five eagles through the first two rounds, tying the PGA Tour record for eagles in a 72-hole event. “Competing against the best in the world is my dream and I did that today and proved that I can hang with ‘em. It was a lot of fun. A lot of nerves and I hit a lot of quality golf shots under pressure, which was really cool.”

Rahm finished 27-under 261 and won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour. He moves up one spot to No. 3 in the world. He is playing next week at Torrey Pines, while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy makes his 2023 debut in Dubai on the European tour.

“Heck of a start,” said Rahm, who won the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago at Kapalua. “Obviously Sentry and this one are very, very different golf courses and very different golf. You still have to go low in both of them. So luckily the mentality is the same.

“Body’s been feeling great. My swing’s been feeling really, really good. And it shows, right?” he added. “Even when I’m saying I may not be as comfortable as I would like, I’m shooting 64s because everything is just firing when it needs to.”

Rahm opened with two birdies to take the lead, but Thompson eventually caught up to him when Rahm’s par putt lipped out on No. 13.

Rahm got his share of breaks. From the middle of the fairway on the 16th, Rahm had his hands on his hips as he watched his second shot head toward the deep bunker down the left side. It hit in the dormant rough and stayed in the fairway. That left a pitch to just inside 10 feet, and his birdie putt for the lead swirled into the cup.

Rahm now has won four of his last six starts — he won twice on the European tour at end of last year. This was his seventh straight top 10 worldwide, a streak that began after the Tour Championship in late August.

Xander Schauffele, two weeks after he withdrew because of back pain, closed with a 62 and finished two behind with Chris Kirk (64).

Taylor Montgomery was challenging Rahm and Thompson until he put his tee shot into the water on the 17th. He closed with a 66 and finished fifth.

Scottie Scheffler closed with a 67 and tied for 11th. He narrowly missed a birdie putt on the final hole that would have allowed him to return to No. 1 by a fraction of a point over McIlroy. Scheffler is not playing next week.


FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

Updated 6 sec ago

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code
LAUSANNE: FIFA has toughened its disciplinary proceedings for cases of sexual assault or harassment in a revised Code of Ethics that was announced and came into force on Wednesday.
The code, said the governing body of world football in a press release, is intended “to enhance protection of football integrity.”
It also targets match fixing and clubs that fail to pay transfer fees.
“The changes are aimed at improving the protection of certain parties to proceedings before FIFA’s judicial bodies, while providing FIFA with further instruments against illegal, immoral or unethical methods and practices,” said the release.
The revised code removes the 10-year limitation period on prosecuting sexual offenses.
The changes make the possible victims “parties to the relevant proceedings, who enjoy all procedural rights, such as that of being notified of the relevant decision and being entitled to appeal it.”
The code also obliges “member associations and confederations to notify FIFA of any decisions rendered on sexual abuse and match-fixing.”
A series of sexual assault scandals in recent years, notably in Gabon, Haiti, the United States and Afghanistan, forced FIFA into disciplinary proceedings, particularly in cases where the local authorities refused to act.
FIFA said it would appoint an independent integrity expert to investigate match fixing and coordinate with the public authorities in assessing potential offenses, and propose “appropriate disciplinary measures.”
FIFA said it was extending transfer bans on debtor clubs that do not comply with decisions by its Football Tribunal and could charge 18 percent interest on unpaid debts.

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come
Saudi Arabia has been named as host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come
  • With thriving domestic league, successful national teams and clubs, Kingdom will finally host continent’s biggest international competition

Saudi Arabia has been named as host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, and incredibly, will hold the continent’s biggest international for the first time.

Less than a month after Cristiano Ronaldo arrived to play for Al-Nassr, and two since the Saudi national team’s fine performances at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the news cements the country’s status as a major hub of the world’s most popular game on the largest continent.

It was always likely that Saudi would get the official nod as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted its congress in Bahrain’s capital of Manama.

Five countries initially threw hats into the ring. Iran and Uzbekistan withdrew and then, after China — still in lockdown and pursuing a zero-COVID-19 policy — relinquished hosting rights from the 2023 tournament, Qatar stepped in as a substitute.

That meant India was the only remaining rival and when New Delhi bowed out in December, it cleared the way for Saudi Arabia to host the tournament for the first time in its history.

It is an idea whose time has finally come.

The pandemic played a wider part, too. With the disruption caused to competitions, both of the club and country variety, during the outbreak, Saudi Arabia proved to be a competent, flexible and reliable host whether the games were World Cup qualifiers or AFC Champions Leagues matches.

The work done, often at short notice, was appreciated by the AFC. After the confederation got its fingers burnt by the situation in China, it is not a surprise that cities such as Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam are seen as safe choices as well as places that deserved a first chance to host Asia’s biggest sporting event.

There is more to it than that, however. The reputation of Saudi Arabian football is higher now than it has maybe ever been. The national team is still basking in the warmth of the global sensation produced with November’s World Cup win over eventual champions Argentina. It was a stunning victory. With a little more luck then Herve Renard’s men could easily have found themselves in the last 16 especially if Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty had been converted against Poland.

The performances showed that there is talent in the country with the likes of Saud Abdulhamid linked to big moves in Italy and elsewhere.

The Saudi Professional League has long been one of the strongest in Asia but in recent years has grown in strength, depth and stature. There is regularly more than one representative in the latter stages of the Asian Champions League. Al-Hilal are the defending champions — and have won two of the last three — and now have a record number of four continental titles as well as international stars such as Odion Ighalo and Moussa Marega. On Saturday, the Blues kick off a third FIFA Club World Cup campaign in the space of three years.

While there is a growing core of talent in the country, as the World Cup exploits and last June’s U23 Asian Championships triumph have shown, the league is home to some of the best foreign players and coaches in Asian football.

Al-Ittihad have former Tottenham Hotspur boss Nuno Santo in charge and a whole host of talented foreign players including Moroccan marksman Abderrazzak Hamdallah, Egyptian rock Ahmed Hegazi and talented Brazilians such as Igor Coronado and Romarinho.

Al-Shabab tore up the group stage of the Champions League and even second tier Al-Ahli have Pitso Mosimane in charge, the man who has won three African Champions League crowns with Mamelodi Sundowns in his native South Africa and twice with Egyptian giants Al-Ahly. At the moment, the SPL is the most exciting and high-profile domestic competition on the continent.

And that was the case before Ronaldo signed with Al-Nassr. The Portuguese star is one of the best players in the history of the game with five Ballon d’Or awards and the same number of UEFA Champions League titles. It is not just about the talent of the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus legend, but the fact that he among the most recognizable people on the planet. His presence has just increased the spotlight shining on Saudi Arabian football.

It all means that the Asian Cup announcement is not only a natural decision, as Saudi Arabian football is in a great place at the moment on the pitch, but also confirms what is happening off the field. The tournament will be the biggest football event ever to take place in the country but there is a sense that there is more to come. The waiting is over and now, preparations can begin.


President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member
President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, Yasser Al-Misehal.
Updated 01 February 2023

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member
  • Yasser Al-Misehal joins the FIFA team on the day Saudi Arabia are confirmed as hosts of 2027 AFC Asian Cup

Riyadh: Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal has been elected as a Member of the FIFA Council at the 33rd AFC Congress 2023 held in Manama, Bahrain today. 

This marks a new milestone for football in the Kingdom as Al-Mishal becomes only the second Saudi elected Member to the prestigious FIFA Council, which is the main governing body of the FIFA organization.

The announcement was made on the same day that Saudi Arabia was confirmed as the host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

The term will run for four years and this election expected to bring with it new opportunities to the football sphere not only in Saudi Arabia but the Middle East and Asia.


Trio of Arab clubs looking to carry feel-good factor of Qatar 2022 into FIFA Club World Cup

Trio of Arab clubs looking to carry feel-good factor of Qatar 2022 into FIFA Club World Cup
Updated 01 February 2023

Trio of Arab clubs looking to carry feel-good factor of Qatar 2022 into FIFA Club World Cup

Trio of Arab clubs looking to carry feel-good factor of Qatar 2022 into FIFA Club World Cup
  • Wydad of host nation Morocco, Saudi’s Al-Hilal and Egyptian giants Al-Ahly will look to emulate the fine performances of Arab nations in football’s premier event

As Morocco looks to launch the FIFA Club World Cup on Wednesday night, it will be almost impossible for Arab fans not to cast their minds back to that golden month of football that was the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

That the intercontinental club tournament is taking place in the very nation that gave us the first Arab or African team to reach the semifinal of World Cup just six weeks ago seems a little too good to be true.

The trio of Arab clubs in Morocco — home club Wydad AC, Saudi’s Al-Hilal and Egypt’s Al-Ahly — will now hope to carry Qatar 2022’s feel-good factor into the next two weeks.

As always for the African and Asian representatives at the Club World Cup, it won’t be easy. Standing in their way are European champions Real Madrid, Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo of Brazil, CONCACAF’s Seattle Sounders FC from the US and Oceana’s Auckland City of New Zealand.

But thanks to the heroes of the Arab national teams in Doha, these obstacles are no longer ones to be dreaded, more one to be attacked.

For a start, African champions Wydad will have high hopes of emulating their national heroes in front of their own fans.

Keep an eye out for Ayman El-Hassouni, one of the team’s most influential stars and its attacking mastermind.

The 27-year-old is having an excellent season, forming a strong midfield partnership with Yahya Gebran and contributing six goals in 14 matches.

Wydad will kick off their Club World Cup campaign against Al-Hilal on Saturday, guaranteeing at least one Arab team in the semifinals.

Ramon Diaz’s Saudi and Asian champions have a big act to follow.

It’s been less than two months since the Saudi national team was shining at the World Cup with a historic 2-1 victory over eventual champions Argentina.

On an unforgettable night at Lusail Stadium in Doha, it was star player Salem Al-Dawsari who scored the historic winner to secure a place in the hearts of Arab football fans.

The 31-year-old — with three goals from 11 matches this season — will once again carry the bulk of his team’s hopes at the Club World Cup, particularly as fellow Saudi internationals Salman Al-Faraj and Yasser Al-Shahrani are still out due to serious injuries picked up in Qatar.

However, this is a Hilal team that is becoming very familiar with the Cub World Cup, with another seven players participating in it for the third time. Abdullah Al-Mayouf, Andre Carrillo, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Kanno, Jang Hyun-soo, Mohammed Jahfali and Gustavo Cuellar all took part in the 2019 and 2021 editions.

However, to surpass their previous finish of fourth place, improvement is needed at both ends of the field. The team has been inconsistent in front of goal while conceding 12 goals in 15 league matches this season; not a disaster by any means, but more than what Diaz expected from his title-challenging team.

But it’s Al-Ahly who kick off proceedings on Wednesday night when they take on Auckland City at Tangier Stadium.

Egypt may have missed the party in Qatar, but the Cairo giants, in their eighth participation, have a storied history in this tournament. Indeed they are the only team from the country to have ever played in it, and have finished a creditable third on three occasions, in 2006, 2020 and 2021.

Expect attacking midfielder Ahmed Abdel Kader to play an influential role for Al-Ahly in Morocco. The 23-year-old is considered one of the pillars of the squad over the last two seasons, having scored 11 and assisted seven goals in 60 matches. Coach Marcel Kohler will look for him to be the inspiration in attack, particularly with his ability to deal with defensive blocs and his partnership with left-back Ali Maaloul.

The three Arab clubs, with their three leading stars, have a chance to write their names in history. And if any inspiration is needed, all they have to do is look back at Qatar 2022.


Saudi Arabia confirmed as host of 2027 AFC Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia confirmed as host of 2027 AFC Asian Cup
The announcement was made at the 33rd AFC Congress in Manama.
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi Arabia confirmed as host of 2027 AFC Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia confirmed as host of 2027 AFC Asian Cup
  • The announcement was made at the 33rd AFC Congress in Manama

Saudi Arabia has been confirmed as the host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup at the 33rd Asian Football Federation Congress in Manama on Wednesday afternoon.

It will be the first time that the tournament will be held in the Kingdom, with the Green Falcons having won the competitions three times previously (1984, 1988, 1996).

Four other nations had initially bid to host the tournament, including Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar.  

Iran and Uzbekistan were the first to withdraw, with Qatar following as it filled in the vacancy left by China for the 2023 edition.

When India withdrew in December, Saudi Arabia were left unopposed to win the vote.

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