Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent

Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent
LIV player Spain's David Puig with the trophy after winning the Malaysian Open at the Mines Resort and Golf Club in Seri Kembangan on Feb. 18, 2024. Puig is in Oman this week, meaning four straight weeks of playing. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent

Asian Tour begins its International Series with a strong LIV contingent
  • The series is funded by LIV Golf and features a $2 million purse, and this one comes a week before LIV goes to Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong
  • Some LIV players are under contract to play in occasional International Series events

LOS ANGELES: Joaquin Niemann, Matthew Wolff and Louis Oosthuizen will give the Asian Tour field in Oman a familiar look. Missing will be the uniforms and team scores.

They are among 21 players from Saudi-funded LIV Golf who are playing the first International Series events on the Asian Tour. The series is funded by LIV Golf and features a $2 million purse, and this one comes a week before LIV goes to Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.

Some LIV players are under contract to play in occasional International Series events. For others, it’s a rare chance to earn world ranking points. The Official World Golf Ranking doesn’t award points to the league that has the same 53 players for the entire season (13 four-man teams and Hudson Swafford as a singles player).

It’s still not enough to get any of them — particularly Lucas Herbert (No. 80) or Niemann (No. 81) — into the top 50 for the Masters. But the PGA Championship has a history of trying to get as many from the top 100 in the world ranking.

As for the other majors, David Puig earned a spot in the British Open last week when he won the Malaysian Open, part of the International Final Qualifying series. He is the third player to qualify for Royal Troon this summer through the series, following Niemann (Australian Open) and Dean Burmester (Joburg Open).

Puig and Sam Horsfield were the only players in Malaysia. Puig also is in Oman this week, meaning four straight weeks of playing. That’s not unusual for players on any circuit, so it raises questions about why more LIV golfers did not seize on the opportunity. That was their best option for those who are not European tour members. Otherwise, it’s final qualifying in the United Kingdom on July 2.

The US Open typically takes the top 60 in the world toward the end of May, and that will make the Masters and PGA Championship critical for Adrian Meronk (No. 49 and falling), along with Niemann and Burmester, along with however they fare in Oman.

RETURN OF CABRERA

The 78-man field at PGA Tour Champions event doesn’t change much from tournament to tournament, though one name stood out for the Trophy Hassan II this week in Morocco. Angel Cabrera plays for the first time since getting released from prison.

Cabrera was imprisoned for two years for threats and harassment of his partner, a case that was joined by another former partner. He was released on parole in August and has been playing in Argentina.

The PGA Tour notified Cabrera his suspension has been lifted, though he is required to comply with terms of his prison release. The 54-year-old Argentine also is welcome at the Masters as a past champion, provided he can get a visa to travel. That’s been a problem.

Morocco is one of only two PGA Tour Champions events held outside North America. The other is the Senior British Open.

BROADCAST NEWS

It’s safe to say two developments in golf’s TV world span generations.

CBS announced that Verne Lindquist will be at the Masters for the final time in April. Lundquist, 83, has had a long and distinguished career that includes being the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys and the lead announcer for SEC football.

He is best known for two calls at the Masters. “Yes, sir!” he proclaimed when Jack Nicklaus pulled ahead with a birdie on the 17th hole on his way to winning in 1986. And when Tiger Woods hit that pitch on the 16th green that rolled down the hill and hung on the cup before falling, Lundquist said, “In your life have you seen anything like that?”

Meanwhile, NBC is bringing in a new voice for the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Golfweek reports longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay will be the lead analyst for the final three rounds. He will be the first caddie to serve in that role.

AUGUSTA CHANGES

Augusta National has lengthened the course again — this time by a whopping 10 yards.

The club released its media guide for the 2024 Masters on Monday, and the only change to the course was a tee box on the par-5 second hole that is 10 yards back and to the left.

The hole now plays 585 yards. It ranked as the easiest hole last year, and cumulatively has been ranked the second-easiest hole behind the par-5 13th.

WALK AND TALK

The networks have gone to a “walk and talk” with players on the weekend dating to last year, and Jim Nantz at CBS knew which button to push when he got Mackenzie Hughes of Canada signed up for the chat on Saturday at Riviera.

Hughes delivered one of the most reasoned interviews of the year at Kapalua when he talked about how much golf has emphasized money. He also spoke during Pebble Beach at a private function, which prompted Nantz to ask Hughes to share his views:

“I just think that it’s kind of unfortunate where we are in the game right now, where it seems that it’s just all about the money, it’s all about, ‘How much money can I make?’ Kind of lost the spirit of the game in the process,” Hughes said. “The reason I play the PGA Tour wasn’t because I wanted to make a million dollars. I wanted to compete against the best players in the world, make an impact on the communities that we play. That’s been the dream since I was a kid. It seems that some guys have lost a little sight of that.

“Now we’re in a place where I think fans are just generally a little bit kind of fed up with it, to be honest. Those are the people that drive our sport. So I’d love to appeal to the masses a lot more and certainly the way we’re going right now to me isn’t quite it.”

MONEY MATTERS

The lucrative new PGA Tour already has had three $20 million tournaments and the other four tournaments have had an average purse of $8.6 million.

That translates into 12 players already at $2 million or more before the PGA Tour even gets to the Florida swing, and seven of them haven’t won yet. Through seven tournaments, 30 players already have cleared the $1 million mark.

Twenty-five years ago, only nine players surpassed $2 million for the entire season.


Francillonne, Aebersold victorious at junior fencing championships in Riyadh

Francillonne, Aebersold victorious at junior fencing championships in Riyadh
Updated 53 min 57 sec ago
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Francillonne, Aebersold victorious at junior fencing championships in Riyadh

Francillonne, Aebersold victorious at junior fencing championships in Riyadh

RIYADH: France’s Oceane Francillonne and Switzerland’s Alban Aebersold won gold medals in  solo junior epee contests on Monday, as young fencers meet in the Saudi capital Riyadh for the Junior and Cadet Fencing World Championships.

Francillonne overcame Canada’s Julia Yin 15-12 in the final of the women’s individual epee. Francillonne defeated US’ Leehi Machulsky 15-14 in the semis.
Machulsky won the bronze, and Italian Anita Corradino received the other bronze.

In the final of the men’s individual epee, Aebersold beat Britain’s Alec Brooke 15-13. The Swiss youngster overcame US’ Samuel Imrek 15-9 on his way to gold. Imrek and Italian Nicolo del Contrasto both claimed bronze.

President of the Saudi Fencing Federation, Ahmed Al-Sabban, and Vice President Mohammed Bou Ali, awarded the winners their medals on the fourth day of the international competition that runs until Apr. 20.

The contest, which is being held at the King Saud University Sports Arena, brings together 169 women and 214 men.

The Saudi team is being represented at the contest by Ahmed Hazazi, Youssef Al-Banali, Ali Al-Fuzai, Dania Al-Saeed, Yasmeen Al-Saleh, and Dana Al-Saeed.

On Tuesday, the youth epee competitions for men and women under 20 will be held.

Abd Almonem Al-Husseini, the vice president of the International Fencing Federation, praised the organization of the event. He also commended the remarkable efforts of all committees and the tremendous capabilities provided by the organizing committee.

Al-Husseini predicted a rapid and significant development for Saudi fencing in the coming years.


Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six

Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six
Updated 16 April 2024
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Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six

Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six
  • Palmer killed the game as a contest as he completed his hat-trick inside 30 minutes before Nicolas Jackson also struck before half-time

LONDON: Cole Palmer scored four goals to put Chelsea within touching distance of the Premier League’s top six after a 6-0 win over Everton on Monday.
The England international has been a shining light in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Blues and moved level with Manchester City striker Erling Haaland’s 20 Premier League goals in the race for the Golden Boot.
Palmer killed the game as a contest as he completed his hat-trick inside 30 minutes before Nicolas Jackson also struck before half-time.
A penalty from Palmer and Alfie Gilchrist’s first goal for his boyhood club rounded off the scoring in the second half.
Despite an eight-game unbeaten Premier League run, Chelsea remain in ninth but are now just three points adrift of sixth-placed Newcastle with a game in hand to come.
And they will head into Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against City confident they can end the holders’ quest for a second consecutive treble.
A demoralizing defeat leaves Everton still perilously placed just two points above the relegation zone.
The Toffees appealed against a two-point penalty for breaking Premier League sustainability rules on Monday, having also been docked a further six points for another charge this season.
How Everton could do with the boost of recovering some of those lost points as the battle for survival looks set to go down to the wire.
Nottingham Forest visit Goodison Park in a huge relegation six-pointer on Sunday and Sean Dyche’s men will need to improve at both ends of the field to prolong their 70-year stay in the top flight.
The visitors were dealt a blow before kick-off as Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed out due to a hamstring injury.
His deputy Beto spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring when he somehow turned over Seamus Coleman’s cross from point-blank range.
Palmer was not so forgiving at the other end as he made another case to be crowned as the Premier League’s player of the year.
City must regret letting the 21-year-old leave for what now looks like a bargain £40 million ($50 million) in September.
Palmer nutmegged Jarrad Branthwaite before exchanging a neat one-two with Jackson and curling home from the edge of the box to open the scoring.
With Enzo Fernandez absent due to injury, Mauricio Pochettino flanked Palmer and Jackson with Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk for the first time in his starting line-up.
Everton could not live with the sharpness of that front four and Palmer was left with an easy task to head in his second after Jordan Pickford denied Jackson from a Mudryk cross.
The England goalkeeper then had a moment to forget as he gifted possession to Palmer, who nonchalantly chipped his international teammate on his weaker right foot from midway inside the Everton half.
In contrast to Palmer, Jackson has had an inconsistent first season at Chelsea but produced an excellent touch and finish to fire in his 13th goal of the season on the stroke of half-time.
A routine night for Pochettino’s men was still not without drama when they were awarded a penalty on the hour mark.
Both Madueke and Jackson tried to take over penalty duties before they were forcibly removed by captain Conor Gallagher to hand Palmer the ball.
He duly made it nine out of nine successful spot-kicks this season to take his tally for the season in both Chelsea and City colors to 25.
Academy graduate Gilchrist had only been on the field a matter of seconds when he blasted in the sixth after Pickford parried Ben Chilwell’s effort.


Othman Almulla poised to impress at 2024 Saudi Open

Othman Almulla poised to impress at 2024 Saudi Open
Updated 15 April 2024
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Othman Almulla poised to impress at 2024 Saudi Open

Othman Almulla poised to impress at 2024 Saudi Open
  • Almulla, who turned professional in 2019, is one of seven Saudi golfers set to compete in the 2024 Saudi Open
  • Almulla facilitated media to a Walk With A Pro at Riyadh Golf Club ahead of the tournament from Apr. 17 to 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s first professional golfer Othman Almulla looked poised to impress at the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF, as he entertained media at Riyadh Golf Club ahead of the event.

Almulla, who turned professional in 2019, is one of seven Saudi golfers set to compete in the Asian Tour event, including fellow professionals Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif. He facilitated media to a Walk With A Pro at Riyadh Golf Club ahead of the tournament from Apr. 17 to 20.

The 37-year-old walked for three holes with journalists as he explained his thought process behind each shot and gave his views to the gathered media on the continued emergence of the game in the Kingdom, plus Golf Saudi’s exciting plans to grow golf further.

The gathered media were also given a professional coaching clinic by Golf Saudi coaches in the Saudi capital, where Golf & More will see an exciting array of onsite activities each day as the Eid-Al-Fitr celebrations continue, including live DJ sessions, the authentic Sajaah Bazaar and a dedicated kid zone.

Almulla highlighted the importance of giving both children and adults a gateway into golf by turning the tournament into a festival of activity, and admitted it would be a dream come true to lift the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF trophy on Saturday evening.

Almulla said: “The 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF is set to be another fantastic event here at Riyadh Golf Club and I am excited to compete in my national open once again. In addition to the world class golf on display, there will be attractions to keep fans of all ages entertained throughout each tournament day as the Eid celebrations are extended.

“It is vital that we use the Saudi Open as gateway to golf, and encourage more Saudis to start playing the sport. The sunset sessions put on at the end of the day’s play and the beautiful Sajaah Bazaar will attract more fans to Riyadh Golf Club to see our great sport.

“Spending time with the media today will help to drive increased participation in the sport through their understanding and knowledge of the game when they cover it. It was really interesting to be able to talk to them about some of the more intricate parts of the game. I hope that they enjoyed it as much as I did.”

Almulla is part of a field headlined by LIV Golf players Henrik Stenson, David Puig, Peter Uihlein and Andy Ogletree at Riyadh Golf Club, where thanks to collaboration with the Arab Golf Federation, 14 golfers from seven different countries in the Middle East and North African region have been invited to compete.

Meanwhile, each evening the fan zone will come alive at sunset as the Golf & More offering takes center stage. Spectators are set to flock to the authentic Sajah Bazaar and enjoy live music from local DJs, all complemented by stunning firework shows and food and beverage options for all the family.


Al-Hilal shifts focus to the Asian Champions League semifinals as it continues a four-title bid

Al-Hilal shifts focus to the Asian Champions League semifinals as it continues a four-title bid
Updated 16 April 2024
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Al-Hilal shifts focus to the Asian Champions League semifinals as it continues a four-title bid

Al-Hilal shifts focus to the Asian Champions League semifinals as it continues a four-title bid
  • Al-Hilal are in contention for an unprecedented collection of four titles

DUBAI: The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema haven’t been able to halt Al-Hilal’s dominant run in Saudi Arabia’s domestic football league. Now it’s the turn of Al-Ain of the UAE to come up against this seemingly unstoppable force in the semifinals of the Asian Champions League.

Al-Hilal are in contention for an unprecedented collection of four titles. The first trophy was secured last week when Malcom scored twice for the club in a 4-1 win over Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Super Cup final. With seven games in the Saudi Pro League remaining, the Blues are 12 points clear of Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr.

On April 30, the Riyadh-based club will meet Al-Ittihad of Jeddah in the semifinals of the King’s Cup, a domestic knockout competition.

Al-Hilal also have their sights set on a record fifth continental title, though is expecting a challenge Tuesday against the Hernan Crespo coached Al-Ain, the 2003 champions who ousted Al-Nassr in the Asian Champions League quarterfinals.

“We have only won one trophy and there are three more to go for,” defender Ali Al-Bulaihi told Saudi Arabian TV ahead of the continental semifinals. “Al-Hilal is a system and everyone at the club from the bottom to the top works hard and this is the reason for success. We are not afraid of any team and we are ready for any challenge.”

Despite being without injured striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, the joint leading scorer in this season’s Asian Champions League, and Brazilian superstar Neymar, Al-Hilal are still in great form. The Super Cup victory over Ittihad extended their world record winning streak for top tier teams to 34 games.

While Al-Hilal is strongly favored to overcome Al-Ain and progress to next month’s final, the meeting in the eastern zone — Asia’s top continental club tournament is divided into two geographic halves until the final — appears closer to call.

The eastern zone playoff is between last season’s champion of South Korea and Japan’s runner-up as Ulsan HD, Asian champions in 2012 and 2022, welcomes Yokohama F. Marinos.

Five-time Japanese champion Yokohama has never reached this stage in Asia before, even under successful coaches Ange Postecoglou and Kevin Muscat.

Harry Kewell is the third successive Australian coach at the club and is hoping to take Yokohama all the way.

“It’s important to understand when I first came into the job it was always going to be a quick turnaround for us because of the AFC Champions League games that were coming up,” Kewell, appointed in December, said. “The attitude of the players has been excellent — the willingness from them to learn a slightly new style.”

“It’s been quite easy to implement my ideas,” added Kewell, who won the UEFA Champions League as a player with Liverpool in 2005. “They’ve accepted it and they’ve worked very hard in perfecting them throughout the games.”

Yokohama will host Ulsan in the return leg of the semifinals on April 24, a day after Al-Hilal takes on Al-Ain in Saudi Arabia.


Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287

Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287
Updated 15 April 2024
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Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287

Records galore as Hyderabad beat Bengaluru after IPL best 287
  • Hyderabad went past the previous mark of 277 they made last month after a 41-ball 102 by Travis Head and Heinrich Klaasen’s explosive 67
  • Virat Kohli (42) and skipper Faf du Plessis (62) gave RCB a blazing start before Dinesh Karthik smashed 83 off 35 balls as Bengaluru ended on 262-7

BENGALURU: Sunrisers Hyderabad amassed 287-3 for the highest-ever Indian Premier League total and beat Royal Challengers Bengaluru by 25 runs on a Monday full of records and featuring a century by Travis Head.
Hyderabad, who were invited to bat first by hosts Bengaluru, went past the previous mark of 277 they made last month after a 41-ball 102 by Head and Heinrich Klaasen’s explosive 67.
The new high was the second best in a T20 match after Nepal bludgeoned 314-3 against Mongolia in last year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou.
The match produced the highest aggregate for a T20 game with a tally of 549 runs.
Virat Kohli (42) and skipper Faf du Plessis (62) gave RCB a blazing start before Dinesh Karthik smashed 83 off 35 balls as Bengaluru ended on 262-7.
Skipper Pat Cummins and spinner Mayank Markande broke the back of the Bengaluru chase with five wickets between them.
“Against Mumbai (Indians) a few weeks ago I thought it won’t happen again, but it has happened again,” Cummins said after his team’s third straight victory and fourth of the season.
Batters ruled at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium as Hyderabad smashed the most sixes in an IPL innings, with 22 hits flying over the fence.
Head reached his ton in 39 balls for the fourth-fastest hundred in the competition as he set the tone for the assault and named man of the match.
He put on a 108-run opening stand with Abhishek Sharma, who hit 34.
Head, who was Australia’s match winner in the final of the ODI World Cup in India last year, struck nine fours and eight sixes.
After his departure Klaasen took charge with his 31-ball blitz. The South African was nearly as punishing as Head as he smashed the ball to all parts of the ground before being dismissed by Lockie Ferguson.
Fellow South African Aiden Markram (32) and Indian hitter Abdul Samad (37) put together 59 off 19 balls for the final storm.
Samad smashed England left-arm fast bowler Reece Topley for three fours and two sixes in a 25-run 19th over before he and Markram finished off with 21 runs from the final over.
Hyderabad posted 277-3 against Mumbai Indians at their home ground on March 27 to go past the 263-5 by Bengaluru in 2013.
Earlier this month, Kolkata Knight Riders posted 272-7 in a crushing 106-run victory over Delhi Capitals.
In-form Kohli attempted to set up the chase with a powerful start as he struck six fours and two sixes in his 20-ball knock and Du Plessis kept up the charge till his departure.
The steep run chase made wickets tumble but Karthik once again came up with a late assault to reduce the losing margin for bottom-placed Bengaluru, who slumped to their fifth straight loss.
“One thing really important is to freshen your mind, it’s such a mental game,” said Du Plessis.
“Sometimes it feels like your mind is going to explode. A little bit of (an) uphill task for us at the moment.”