Scheffler builds three-shot World Challenge lead, mixed day for Woods

Scheffler builds three-shot World Challenge lead, mixed day for Woods
Scottie Scheffler, of the US, watches his fairway shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Scheffler builds three-shot World Challenge lead, mixed day for Woods

Scheffler builds three-shot World Challenge lead, mixed day for Woods
  • Scheffler: I played really well today, really solid the whole day
  • Woods said he’d been “pleasantly surprised” at how his body has held up, which was more of a concern than the state of his game

MIAMI: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler fired two eagles in his 7-under par 65 to build a three-shot lead at the Hero World Challenge on Saturday as Tiger Woods continued his comeback with a 1-under 71.

Fifteen-time Major winner Woods, playing his first tournament since ankle surgery in April that followed his withdrawal from the Masters, shook off a bogey-bogey start to card a 71 that left him at even par, 16 strokes behind Scheffler and tied for 16th in the 20-player event he hosts at the Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas.

Woods said he’d been “pleasantly surprised” at how his body has held up, which was more of a concern than the state of his game.

“I still have game,” he said. “It’s whether or not the body can do it.”

Woods, who turns 48 on Dec. 30, had ankle surgery in April on the same leg that was severely injured in a 2021 car crash. While his leg pain is gone, he said he still contends with chronic back pain, but said before the tournament he could play as much as once a month in 2024.

On Saturday he started 10 off the pace and got off to an inauspicious start with bogeys at the first and second.

He clawed back with birdies at the third, sixth eighth and ninth — where he got up and down from a greenside bunker — before two bogeys and a birdie coming in. That included a seven-foot par putt miss at the 18th.

“It could have been a little better than the score indicates,” Woods said. “I think I could have shot something in the high 60s. I think it was cleaner than it was yesterday.”

Most importantly, Woods said, he was “very excited” at how he has responded physically to the pace of competition.

“To be able to knock off some of the rust as I have this week, showed myself that I can recover each and every day, that was kind of an unknown,” he said. “I’m very excited how the week’s turned out.”

Scheffler, meanwhile, was in cruise control, starting the day tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth and seizing control with a 15-foot eagle at the third.

He added four birdies before he rolled in a 14-foot eagle at 15 to push his lead to four strokes over England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who also signed for a 65.

A bogey at 18, where Scheffler’s drive was in the right rough, cut that by one, giving him a 16-under par total of 200.

“I played really well today, really solid the whole day,” said Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion who has finished runner-up in this event the past two years.

“(It’s) nice to see some putts go in. These greens can be tough to putt at times, but I’m rolling it good.”

Fitzpatrick had climbed the leaderboard with four birdies on the front nine. After a double-bogey at the 11th he birdied 12 and 14 before draining a 47-foot eagle putt at 15.

He bogeyed 16, but closed with back-to-back birdies for a 13-under par total of 203.

“It was good for pretty much the whole round bar two holes,” Fitzpatrick said. “Drive on 11 was just what cost me, obviously, a double. Outside of that, everything was good today.”

American Justin Thomas was alone in third after a 4-under 68 for 205.

Spieth, who was playing catch-up after his bogey at the third dropped him three off the pace, finished with four birdies and three bogeys in his 71 for 206, tied for fourth with Australian Jason Day and Americans Tony Finau and Collin Morikawa.


Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests

Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests
Updated 3 sec ago
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Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests

Bundesliga investor deal collapses after fan protests
FRANKFURT, Germany: The German Football League (DFL) on Wednesday dropped a huge cash injection deal with investors for a share of Bundesliga media revenues after widespread fan protests, a U-turn hailed by fanclubs as a “success” for supporters.
“Given current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer seems possible,” Hans-Joachim Watzke said in a statement on behalf of the DFL’s board.
Fans had littered pitches with tennis balls and chocolate coins, attached bike locks to the goals and released toy cars onto the field to signal their opposition to the deal.
The protests interrupted matches over the last weeks, leading referees to even threaten to abandon games.
In December, German clubs voted by a two-thirds majority in favor of the plan to “secure long-term and sustainable success.”
In exchange for eight percent of future TV rights, the league would receive an immediate investment, said to be close to one billion euros ($1.1 billion), to help market and promote the Bundesliga internationally.
Despite excellent stadium attendances and a lucrative domestic TV deal, international interest in the Bundesliga lags behind that of England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga.
But Germany’s powerful fan clubs say the investor process lacked transparency and ignored supporters’ wishes.
German football has a notable commitment to fan control and involvement via a “50+1” rule which restricts the degree of influence an external investor can have over a club.
The rule is incredibly popular among German fans, many of whom value it more than success on the field.
Hailing Wednesday’s decision, fan group Unsere Kurve said the “comprehensive, but very peaceful and very creative protests were ultimately the key to success.”
German football was being tested by the protests, “even if a large majority are in favor of the necessity of the strategic partnership,” Watzke said.
“Fan groups are causing major clashes, which are increasingly jeopardizing game operations... and thus the integrity of the competition,” said Watzke, who also serves as CEO of Borussia Dortmund.
Under the circumstances, the completion of the deal “cannot be guaranteed,” he said, adding that the decision to drop the investor tie-up was unanimous.
A similar proposal which sought to sell off a higher percentage of the TV revenue for a larger fee failed to get the necessary majority when put to a vote in May last year.

Excitement grows in runup to PFL versus Bellator champions MMA clash in Riyadh

Excitement grows in runup to PFL versus Bellator champions MMA clash in Riyadh
Updated 21 February 2024
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Excitement grows in runup to PFL versus Bellator champions MMA clash in Riyadh

Excitement grows in runup to PFL versus Bellator champions MMA clash in Riyadh
  • Title-holding champions from two different MMA organizations will battle it out in the Octagon
  • Two Saudi fighters, Abdullah Al-Qahtani and Malik Basahel, will feature on the roster

RIYADH: Excitement was growing among mixed martial arts fans in Saudi Arabia in the runup to the Professional Fighters League versus Bellator champions event at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on Feb. 24.

As the Kingdom continued to cement its position as a hub for world-class sporting events, the MMA meeting has generated a regional and global buzz.

CEO of the PFL, Peter Murray, recently said: “Saudi Arabia is the new fight capital of the world.”

Event organizers have a diverse line-up of top fighters set to compete.

Sports sector adviser Yousef Mufti told Arab News that the event would be an opportunity to witness title-holding champions from two different MMA organizations battle in an unforeseen format.

He said: “I have been a lifelong sports fanatic, and what excites me is the Kingdom’s investments are paving the way for varied sports being introduced to new audiences.”

Mufti added that it was particularly evident in boxing as Saudi Arabia had now become the global stage for some of the biggest fight cards.

“It has been satisfying to see all these different sporting events taking place around the corner without having to fly many hours abroad,” he said.

Two Saudi fighters, Abdullah Al-Qahtani and Malik Basahel, will feature on the roster.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for younger athletes to feel inspired and see that it is, in fact, possible to become professional in their respective sports,” Mufti added.


Kublers living the dream with Astro King as they eye success at Saudi Cup

Kublers living the dream with Astro King as they eye success at Saudi Cup
Updated 21 February 2024
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Kublers living the dream with Astro King as they eye success at Saudi Cup

Kublers living the dream with Astro King as they eye success at Saudi Cup
  • Astro King was last seen finishing sixth in the Bahrain International Trophy in Nov., although connections felt he was unlucky in the closing stages of the race
  • Kublers picked up Astro King for a relatively light transfer fee of around $48,000 out of Michael Stoute’s stable at the Tattersalls Autumn Sale in 2022

It took until just short of his seventh birthday for Astro King (IRE) to contest a Group race, but British trainers Daniel and Claire Kubler believe their stable star can become a regular in the world’s elite races over the year ahead, starting with the $2 million Howden Neom Turf Cup on Saturday.

Astro King was last seen finishing sixth in the Bahrain International Trophy in November, although connections felt he was unlucky in the closing stages of the race. That effort has prompted the sense he belongs at the highest level.

“With a little more luck, he might well have placed second or third,” Claire recalled at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, just off the plane from the UK, on Wednesday morning.

“He was on the rail in Bahrain and ran into traffic. It was frustrating, but we had to notice that it was established horses like Point Lonsdale and (triple Group 1 winner) Nations Pride that were in his path and he was finishing stronger than them.”

The Kublers picked up Astro King for a relatively light transfer fee of around $48,000 out of the legendary Sir Michael Stoute’s stable at the Tattersalls Autumn Sale at the end of 2022. He has won two of his six starts since then and many times that auction spend, latterly when carrying a record weight to success in the Cambridgeshire, the famous old handicap over 1800m on fast ground at Newmarket. 

That performance opened doors to international participation and rather than tackle the alternative of the Winter Derby at Southwell on the same day, Astro King has a legitimate shot of featuring at the sharp end of one of the world’s richest races.

“He looked great working on the dirt track,” Claire continued. “It’s amazing for our team and his owners to be a part of this occasion. It’s so exciting and we feel he can run well.”


Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain

Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain
Updated 21 February 2024
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Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain

Atletico’s Griezmann suffers ‘moderate’ ankle sprain
  • The French forward was hurt during Atletico’s 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan in the Champions League

MADRID: Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann is out injured after sustaining a “moderate” ankle sprain, the Spanish club said Wednesday.
The French forward was hurt during Atletico’s 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan in the Champions League last 16 first leg clash Tuesday and Diego Simeone replaced him after 78 minutes.
Spanish reports say the forward will miss Saturday’s visit to Almeria in La Liga and is a doubt for the Copa del Rey semifinal second leg against Athletic Bilbao on February 29.
Griezmann is expected to be fit for the second leg against Inter Milan on March 13.
The 32-year-old has been Atletico’s key player this season and has 18 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions.


Saudi-born record breaker set to tackle Tough Mudder Infinity in AlUla

Saudi-born record breaker set to tackle Tough Mudder Infinity in AlUla
Updated 21 February 2024
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Saudi-born record breaker set to tackle Tough Mudder Infinity in AlUla

Saudi-born record breaker set to tackle Tough Mudder Infinity in AlUla
  • Nelly Attar became the first Arab woman to scale K2, having already reached the pinnacles of Everest, Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya

When it comes to completing significant sporting challenges, Nelly Attar has achieved more than most.

In 2022, the Saudi Arabia-born Lebanese climber became the first Arab woman to scale K2, widely regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous mountains, having already completed her ascent to the pinnacle of Everest, Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, to name just a few.

This weekend, Attar takes on a different kind of challenge as one of the participants in Tough Mudder Infinity, an eight-hour endurance race in AlUla, located in the northwest of the Kingdom.

While the race is the first of its kind in the region, and one which promises to test both the physical and mental capabilities of those taking part, Attar has her own way of approaching the task at hand.

“The way I’m going into this is by thinking of it as a summit, because when we climb, our summit days are very long,” she said.

“You use every part of your body and it takes everything out of you, so yes, I want to pace myself in order to stay strong throughout, but I’m also trying to see it as a summit day in the sense it’s going to be long and it requires a lot of teamwork.

“When I read that Tough Mudder Infinity is one of the most challenging races in the Middle East, I wanted to get involved because I thought it sounded interesting and exciting.

“I love obstacle-course challenges. I’m quite a dynamic athlete. I do a bit of everything; I run, I climb, I do calisthenics, so obstacle-course races are like my playground.”

There is no doubt Attar is well-placed to overcome the toughest of challenges given her previous experiences.

Having scaled Mount Kenya in 2007, she went on to climb Kilimanjaro twice, Elbrus, Mount Stanley and Mount Speke, before ascending Everest in 2016.

Attar then entered the history books when she became the first Arab female to climb K2 two years ago, an achievement she understandably reflects on with huge pride, particularly given the difficulties she faced.

“K2 is one of the most dangerous mountains in the world,” she said. “Situated in Pakistan, it’s the second-highest peak in the world. The idea came into my mind as I was descending Everest, but I needed a couple more years of climbing and technical experience before I could attempt it.

“I was going through a really hard period in my life. I had lost my father, which is what inspired me to take on the challenge because he was the reason I started climbing. The training was very difficult, I was doing 30 hours a week at times, and it was a very different environment compared to the desert and heat.

“The climb itself was one of the best experiences I’ve gone through, but it was very challenging. It was really scary. You have to watch out for rockfall, because that can kill you, and then there are avalanches. Storms can break out at any second and the terrain is very exposed, so you have to be careful with your steps.

“You’re continuously changing between snow and rock for a month-and-a-half, so it felt like a very prolonged Tough Mudder at altitude, but the experience was everything I hoped for and more, which was amazing. If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen.”

Having successfully taken on some of the most difficult mountain climbs in the world, and ahead of Tough Mudder Infinity, Attar provides some insight into her mindset ahead of such challenges.

“Just like you train your body, you have to train your mind,” she said. “There are so many times when I don’t want to train, or I’m super tired and I want to give up, but overcoming those difficulties 80 percent of the time really helps you build that mental strength, perseverance and mindset.”

“It took me many years to be able to do K2, not just physically but mentally,” Attar added. “You need to develop the endurance to face these challenges and the uncertainty on the mountains. I love sport because of what it does for me physically, but also mentally.”

Switching attention back to her impending Tough Mudder Infinity challenge in AlUla this coming Saturday, Attar will be competing in a team of four, which she admits will be a welcome change for many reasons.

“I think it will be more enjoyable because my success is their success, and their success is my success. It’s nice to have to share tasks between each other, think creatively and put a strategy in place.

“AlUla is insanely beautiful and to be outside for so long, competing with my friends, is very exciting. Many of my friends have never been to AlUla, it’s so scenic which I think will keep us going.”

The event is further indication of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sport and hosting largescale events.

Attar, who was born in Riyadh, expects to see the current trend continue long-term.

“A couple of years ago, I don’t think people would have travelled to Saudi for sport, but that narrative and perspective is changing,” she said.

“I never thought I would be travelling to Saudi with my friends from abroad to compete in a race. It’s so amazing and it’s happened in a short space of time. It goes to show where Saudi is putting its efforts and how seriously Saudi is when it comes to sport. This is just the start.”

Tough Mudder Infinity AlUla takes place on Saturday Feb. 24.