World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka shared his thoughts about his chances ahead of the European Tour event at Royal Greens & Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City. (Supplied: Saudi International)
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Updated 25 January 2020

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka in defiant mood ahead of return to Saudi International at KAEC

  • Saudi International is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week
  • Second edition of the tournament, which is part of the European Tour

JEDDAH: The Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers is returning to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) next week from Jan. 30 — Feb. 2.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka shared his thoughts about his chances ahead of the European Tour event at Royal Greens & Country Club.

Q. You’re currently on the verge of breaking into the top 10 players to have spent longest at world #1. What does that mean to you and are records something you’re driven by?
Brooks Koepka: It’s great to be world number one, and I want to stay there but being number one is really a by-product of playing well, which is my first aim. There are lots of other world-class golfers playing well at the moment and this week is a good chance to win some valuable points to keep me at the top.

Q. Your often-discussed record in majors proves that you are a golfer who can play arguably his best golf under the greatest of pressures. Where do you think this coolness on the big stage comes from?
BK: I think it’s just because I am very competitive, and I love to win. No athlete plays a sport just to take part: everyone wants to win. That drives me to play my best golf when it really matters. I also work hard off the course so that I am as prepared as I can be when I get into the heat of competition.

Q. The Saudi International marks your second tournament back from injury (knee). How are you feeling heading into it?
BK: I’m feeling really good. It’s going to be my second tournament since October, so I am excited to get back on the course and compete against some of the world’s best players. It’s never a good thing being injured but I’ve come back from injury well before. In some ways it gives you a chance to recharge and start the new year fresh.

Q. Does an injury like the one you’ve experienced change your mindset when you return?
BK: I’m playing to win. Once I’m on the course, I forget everything else and just play golf. I didn’t play my best golf here last year so I’m ready for a strong finish in Saudi.

Q. How important is it for golf to be coming to Saudi Arabia and bringing the game into a new market?
BK: It’s great to see the game growing worldwide and having played in Saudi Arabia last year, I know the positive effect the tournament had on the country.

Q. What do you hope to learn from Saudi Arabia during your time competing and how excited are you about playing in the tournament?
BK: I am really looking forward to playing at Royal Greens again as I thought the layout was really impressive. I hope my experience playing in this event last year will allow me to contend for this year’s title.

Q. More young people in Saudi Arabia are watching sport or taking up sport. What would you say to encourage them to take up golf and what can they learn from the sport?
BK:
It’s great to see so many young people wanting to get into the game. If you enjoy watching it, you will certainly love playing it.

Q. What’s the ambition for 2020 after such strong seasons in 2018 and 2019?
BK:
Right now, I just want to get back playing. I’m looking forward to a strong season and being in contention in all of the tournaments I play in, which come September will put me in a strong position for the Ryder Cup. As far as I am concerned, the Saudi International is the most important tournament in front of me right now.

Q. Many people in Saudi Arabia will not have attended a golf championship. What can they expect, and what do fans get from watching the golf live and up close that is just impossible to experience through the TV?
BK:
I think coming to a golf event is the best way to watch the game. You are part of the event, you can see exactly what the players are going through at any point. You can also follow your favorite golfers around the course all day, which sometimes the TV doesn’t do depending on who you want to follow.


Russian GP likely to be season’s first racing with fans

Updated 11 July 2020

Russian GP likely to be season’s first racing with fans

SPIELBERG, Austria: The first Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello will be held on Sept. 13, and the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi two weeks later could be the first Formula One race this season with fans.

The F1 season started last weekend in Austria with no fans at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said he hopes spectators can attend the race in Sochi later this year.

“Russia is ready to receive the Formula 1 teams and spectators. The government will provide all the assistance required during the preparation and delivery of the competition,” Chernyshenko said Friday. “It will be an important event for Russian sport.”

It was not immediately clear how many fans Russian authorities hope to allow inside the 55,000-capacity Sochi Autodrom.

“This will be an incredible festival for the widest audience possible,” said Alexey Titov, the CEO of state-backed race promoter Rosgonki. “We are confident that the difficulties of this year will not become a special obstacle for motorsport fans. We are meticulously preparing to receive spectators safely and looking forward to seeing everyone.”

Both races were added to the calendar by F1 organizers on Friday, taking the number of scheduled races so far this season to 10 — all of them in Europe.

“Everybody has done an extraordinary job to bring back racing. To hear that more races have been put on the calendar is great news,” Williams team principal Claire Williams said. “Mugello is an unknown. We used to go testing there many, many moons ago. It will give the engineers a test.”

It will be the first time since 2006 that two races will be held in Italy.

F1 still hopes to have 15-18 races and to finish the season in December with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

“We had great start to our season in Austria last weekend and we are increasingly confident in our plans to race throughout the remainder of 2020,” F1 chairman Chase Carey said. “We are equally excited to see Formula 1 race for the first time at Mugello, an occasion that will mark Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix.”

Mugello is about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Florence. It has never staged an F1 race but has hosted F2 and MotoGP races, as well as previously being a Ferrari test track.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel did a test drive there last month.