Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah

Special Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah
Brooks Koepka is aiming for a third successive win at LIV Golf Jeddah this week. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah

Six things to watch at LIV Golf Jeddah
  • With Brooks Koepka eyeing a ‘three-peat,’ John Rahm makes first appearance in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: It is not an exaggeration to say that all eyes in the world of golf will be on LIV Golf Jeddah in Saudi Arabia this week.

The Public Investment Fund-backed league has done more than enough in the recent past to become one of the strongest tours in the world, but enticing Anthony Kim to return to professional golf is probably the coolest thing it has done so far.

It remains to be seen what sort of form the 38-year-old American will be in after his 12-year hiatus from the sport. He might take some time to get back into the groove but be prepared for the internet to go nuts if he has a good opening round on Friday.

Kim is the mystery man of golf, an almost mythical figure. His talent and his skills were unreal when he played regularly on the PGA Tour, winning three titles before he turned 25, but then he said goodbye to the game at the age of just 26.

Some have described his return to professional golf as being like “the resurfacing of the Loch Ness Monster,” others as a sighting of the golfing world’s “Yeti.”

Kim’s return to competition will certainly be one of the biggest storylines to follow during LIV Golf Jeddah this weekend, but here are six others that could ramp up the excitement at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

Jon Rahm’s first time in Saudi Arabia

World No. 3 Jon Rahm is the biggest signing in LIV Golf history and the mercurial Spaniard, a two-time major champion, including victory at last year’s Masters, is set to make his first appearance in Saudi Arabia this week.

Given the wind and length of the course at Royal Greens, and the peculiarities associated with a desert course, the venue should play right into Rahm’s hands. A phenomenal striker of the ball, he has spent the past decade based in Arizona and so is used to such conditions. He is also a two-time DP World Tour Championship winner in the neighboring UAE, on a similar style of course.

Koepka’s ‘three-peat’ attempt

Brooks Koepka, a five-time major champion, faced tough challenges to the last putt in Jeddah in 2022 and 2023, but emerged victorious from playoffs both times. He beat teammate Peter Uihlein in the inaugural season of LIV Golf, then got better of Talor Gooch last October.

The 33-year-old resident of West Palm Beach, who was the only LIV Golf player on last year’s Ryder Cup team, will be going for an unprecedented “three-peat” this week. Should he succeed, which is very much within the realms of possibility, it will set a hard-to-beat record in the relatively short history of LIV Golf so far.

The Crushers aim to bounce back

The 2023 Team Championship winners, the Bryson DeChambeau-led Crushers GC, have a point to prove in Saudi Arabia. They were cruising toward a team victory last year at Royal Greens, and DeChambeau looked like a lock for his third individual title of the season, when the unthinkable happened. The Crushers juggernaut came to a grinding halt during Sunday’s final round, they dropped to fourth place and DeChambeau slipped up to finish tied for 16th.

They will be keen to prove that the final round last year was nothing more than an aberration.

Niemann’s time to shine

Chile’s Joaquin Niemann is the LIV man in the news, having recently received a special invitation to play at this year’s Masters. It is just reward for all the chasing he has been doing lately, including victory in the Australian Open in December, fourth place in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in January, and third in the International Series Oman last week. He also won LIV Golf Mayakoba this month, the season opener, which unfortunately did not earn him any world ranking points.

Niemann’s world-class talent is unquestionable and he is clearly fired up at the moment, which makes him a dangerous contender this week.

Saudi specialist DJ back in form

Koepka might be the flavor of the moment at Royal Greens thanks to his back-to-back LIV Golf wins there, but the original boss of the course is his close friend Dustin Johnson, two-time winner of the Saudi International there in 2019 and 2021, with a second place sandwiched between the victories. Even at the LIV Golf events in the past two years, his record is a respectable tie for fifth and a solo sixth place.

Now that the former world No. 1 has finally gotten over his short title drought with a win in Las Vegas this month, be prepared to perhaps see some fireworks once again from the big American.

The change of schedule

In 2022, Koepka won the tournament with a 12-under-par total, and finished on 14-under when he successfully defended his title last year.

A major change to the tournament this year, however, is that it is being played in the first week of March, when the conditions will much cooler compared with the October scheduling of previous years. Royal Greens will therefore feel like a different course, with changed wind directions and slightly softer greens. Expect the scores to be lower, therefore, unless the Red Sea has different ideas and starts blowing high winds towards the course.


Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney appointed Plymouth manager

Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney appointed Plymouth manager
Updated 17 sec ago
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Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney appointed Plymouth manager

Former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney appointed Plymouth manager
  • Move to Argyle is the fourth managerial role of Rooney’s coaching career
  • Former football star was sacked after just 83 days in charge of Birmingham earlier this year
LONDON: Former England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney was appointed as the new manager of Championship side Plymouth on Saturday.
A move to Argyle is the fourth managerial role of Rooney’s coaching career, which has so far failed to live up to his stellar playing days.
“Taking this role at Plymouth Argyle feels like the perfect next step in my career,” said Rooney in a club statement.
“This is an opportunity to be part of an exciting project. I look forward to helping to build a squad of players to play expansive football — and to entertain the Green Army.”
The 38-year-old was sacked after just 83 days in charge of Birmingham earlier this year.
Rooney won just two of his 15 matches in charge of the Blues, which contributed to their relegation to League One.
He previously had a short spell with former club DC United in Major League Soccer.
But United’s all-time record goalscorer did thrive in difficult circumstances during his first job at Derby as the club entered administration.
“Throughout the interview process, Wayne showed himself to be a passionate, intelligent, and knowledgeable candidate with an appetite to prove himself and develop his managerial career,” said Plymouth chairman Simon Hallett.
“His ambitions and aims match ours perfectly and we feel he is the perfect candidate to provide the exciting and attacking brand of football that we all like to see and help us achieve the club’s mission.”
Plymouth narrowly avoided relegation in their first season back in English football’s second tier for 14 years, finishing 21st in the Championship.

Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open

Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open
Updated 59 min 13 sec ago
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Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open

Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open
  • “There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open,” said the Spaniard
  • Nadal has 22 Grand Slam titles

PARIS: Rafael Nadal said Saturday that it is likely he is appearing at the French Open for the final time but cautioned it was “not 100 percent certain.”
“There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open, but I cannot say that I am 100 percent certain that it will be the last,” said the Spaniard.
Nadal, who has won the French Open 14 times and will celebrate his 38th birthday on June 3, faces world number four Alexander Zverev in the first round in Paris on Monday.
The Spanish legend has racked up 112 wins in 115 matches at the tournament since his title-winning 2005 debut when he was just 19.
He has 22 Grand Slam titles — second only to Novak Djokovic’s 24 on the all-time men’s list — but his career has been plagued by injuries.
Nadal has played just four tournaments since January last year after suffering a hip injury and then a muscle tear.
As a result, his ranking has slumped to 276 in the world and comes into the French Open unseeded.


Al-Hilal stars Mitrovic, Neves praise new Saudi lifestyles

Al-Hilal stars Mitrovic, Neves praise new Saudi lifestyles
Updated 25 May 2024
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Al-Hilal stars Mitrovic, Neves praise new Saudi lifestyles

Al-Hilal stars Mitrovic, Neves praise new Saudi lifestyles
  • Mitrovic: ‘I’m really happy. My family is happy. The club is amazing. So far, it’s a great experience’
  • ‘A lot of players from Europe call and ask how can they get here’

LONDON: Football stars Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves have praised their moves to the Saudi Pro League, speaking highly of their new lives in the Kingdom.

In an interview with Sky News, the two Al-Hilal players — who left Fulham and Wolves, respectively — discussed the lifestyle differences between England and Saudi Arabia.

Last year, more than 23 European players moved to the Kingdom’s top football league in a major coup for Saudi sporting administrators.

“After seven years in England I think the first thing was the sun. I never had summer sun in my life,” Mitrovic said.

“It’s been different you know, different culture, different football, the mentality of people as well, but so far I’m really happy.

“My family is happy. The club is amazing. So far, it’s a great experience and looking forward to more years.”

The Serbian international praised the privacy and laid-back way of life in Riyadh. “The people here are crazy about football but you have a bit more privacy here. We live on a compound, we’re a little bit more isolated, and people from Europe and around the world live there you know, the life is really nice,” he said. “You wake up, have breakfast, a little workout, then recovery in the pool in the sun.”

One difference from the European training standard is that clubs in the Kingdom train in the evening, avoiding the midday heat.

Neves told Sky News that Al-Hilal’s regime gives him more time to spend with his family. “It’s a bit different to the routine from Europe here because of the weather, of course,” he said.

Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves, center, says that Al-Hilal’s regime gives him more time to spend with his family. (AFP)

“We train most of the time after 6 p.m. I like it because I can spend the day at home relaxing. I can take the kids to school, I can pick them up from school, and I can be a little bit with them before I come to training. We have a lot of things to do here because it’s a big, massive city, so we are enjoying it.”

Though both players said the Premier League is the world’s best, they believe that the SPL is not far behind — and is on par with some European leagues.

Mitrovic expects more major European signings during the summer transfer window this year.

“Any of the big names is going to have a big impact and would be welcomed with open hands,” he said.

“A lot of players from Europe, you know they call and ask how can they get here. A lot (of calls), trust me.”

Neves hailed the dedication of Al-Hilal fans. “When you play at home the stadium is always full, 30,000 people. The difference I felt here from England is that when we go to play away the stadium is mainly our fans,” he said. “We have fans all around Saudi, so that feels really good for us.”


Rising Stars Arabia 4 looks to unearth boxing talent in region and beyond

Rising Stars Arabia 4 looks to unearth boxing talent in region and beyond
The first edition of Rising Stars Arabia took place in September 2023 in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
Updated 25 May 2024
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Rising Stars Arabia 4 looks to unearth boxing talent in region and beyond

Rising Stars Arabia 4 looks to unearth boxing talent in region and beyond
  • The fourth edition of the grassroots boxing competition takes place in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night

The fourth edition of Rising Stars Arabia is set to take place on Saturday, May 25, at the Space 42 Arena in Abu Dhabi, with the emerging grassroots boxing event once again aiming to raise the profile of fighters from the region.

This event, in association with the Abu Dhabi Department of Tourism and Culture, represents a vision that founder Ahmed Seddiqi has been nurturing from fight to fight.

“Our goal, and DCT’s goal, is to find the next champion from the region,” he said. “We’ve been going extremely strong. We’re getting good recognition in the boxing world, both globally and regionally.”

The Rising Stars platform, as Seddiqi describes, is continuously expanding.

“We have many requests coming from different parts of the world, not just the region.”

The initiative began with a focus on the Arab region but has since expanded to include markets such as India and beyond.

This growth in international interest is due in part to the global reach of the promotion’s broadcasting partners — DAZN and ESPN Knockout — and the fight card for Saturday’s event boasts a selection of top prospects from the region.

Moussa Gholam, a top 10-rated fighter globally, makes his return to the promotion, while Faizan Anwar, a UAE-based Indian fighter with an unblemished record across 17 fights, looks set to seize greater opportunities in the future. The event also features Tony “Lightning” Curtis, the youngest professional boxer from the UK, on the undercard.

“It’s a fully stacked card,” said Seddiqi. “If you have a fighter from India or Afghanistan who may not attract much interest in the American or European markets, what we are doing here in Abu Dhabi is offering a global platform for these fighters to show their talents. It’s all about giving a chance and an opportunity for fighters to prove themselves. They might end up on the global stage.”

Rising Stars Arabia’s growth from a regional event to a potentially global one is a testament to the platform’s success across the first three editions.

“In the next season starting in September, we aim to include prospects from around the world fighting on the platform,” Seddiqi said.

“It’s important in the boxing world to provide a platform specifically for upcoming stars — the kids who finish the Olympics with medals, world champions in the amateurs, or fighters from countries that haven’t been given attention. We want to give them a platform to showcase their talents.”

Looking ahead, Seddiqi is optimistic about both the future of the event and boxers from the region.

“In the next two years, or perhaps even sooner, we can see one of the fighters from the Rising Stars platform fighting for a world title, becoming a world title contender, or fighting for the world title eliminator.”


Davis Riley grabs two-shot lead at Colonial tournament

Davis Riley grabs two-shot lead at Colonial tournament
Updated 25 May 2024
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Davis Riley grabs two-shot lead at Colonial tournament

Davis Riley grabs two-shot lead at Colonial tournament
  • Riley is seeking his second PGA Tour title, having teamed with Nick Hardy to win the 2023 Zurich Classic two-man team event in New Orleans

LOS ANGELES: Davis Riley made six birdies in a 6-under par 64 on Friday to take a two-shot lead in the US PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The 27-year-old ranked 250th in the world was 10-under and in the lead but facing a par putt at his final hole when play was halted for more than an hour because of thunderstorms in the area.

“Luckily, it was a three-footer straight up the hill, so (there) wasn’t too much to stress about,” Riley said. “I knocked in about five three-footers before walking over there to cap off the round — hit it center cut and made it.

“It was nice to finish the day and made for a good, pretty stress-free six-under.”

Hayden Buckley returned from the delay to card the fifth of his five birdies at the sixth — his 15th hole of the day — posting a five-under par 65,

He was tied for second, two shots back on 8-under 132 alongside Pierceson Coody.

Coody had an eagle and six birdies in his 5-under 65, surging to his share of second with three straight birdies to end his round.

South Korea’s Im Sung-jae had seven birdies in his 6-under 64 to join a group sharing fourth on 134. He was joined by American Keegan Bradley and Austrian Sepp Straka, who both shot 66.

Riley is seeking his second PGA Tour title, having teamed with Nick Hardy to win the 2023 Zurich Classic two-man team event in New Orleans.

One off the lead to start the day, he teed off on 10 and rolled in birdies at 15 and 16 before launching a run of three straight birdies at the 18th.

He got up and down from bunkers for birdies at both the first and second, and rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at the sixth to reach 10-under.

Reigning Open champion Brian Harman headlined a group on 135 and former US Open champion Gary Woodland, back on tour this season after surgery for a brain lesion, was in a group on 136 after a six-under 64.

“I just put everything together,” said Woodland, who said he doesn’t have the same debilitating symptoms he had last year but is “still battling, still on medication.”

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was a further stroke back on 137 after a 5-under par 65 that featured five birdies — four in a row from the 18th through the third.

Scheffler was in danger of seeing his cuts made streak end at 36 after his two-over opening round.

But a week after his arrest in a traffic incident before the second round of the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, Scheffler turned things around.

Scheffler, who put together a run of four wins in five events — including a second Masters title in April — is still facing multiple charges in Louisville that include felony assault of a police officer after allegedly trying to go around a traffic jam as police investigated an earlier fatal road accident.

Scheffler has called the incident “a huge misunderstanding,” with his lawyer saying he “did not do anything wrong but was simply proceeding as directed.”