Saudi pro golfer takes cue from Tiger to hold nerve for big tournament

Othman Almulla during his debut at the Saudi International golf tournament last year. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Saudi pro golfer takes cue from Tiger to hold nerve for big tournament

  • Othman Almulla says ‘I have to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, and I’m ready for that’

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first and only professional golfer has been taking his cue from one of the game’s greatest players, Tiger Woods, when it comes to controlling tournament nerves.

Othman Almulla believes that getting his debut year under his belt has enabled him to cope with the kind of pressure he will face when he plays alongside his idols at this weekend’s Saudi International.

The 33-year-old, who will tee it up at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on Thursday in the tournament that kick-started his pro career 12 months ago, said: “Tiger Woods is the best golfer on the planet and he says the day he doesn’t feel nervous on the first tee is the day he’ll stop playing golf.

“I take respite in that – knowing that if he’s the best player in the world and he feels nervous, then it’s okay for me to maybe feel a bit of that too!”

Almulla’s breakout year as a member of the MENA Tour has taken him across the fairways of the Middle East and as far afield as the UK, allowing him to develop his game as he chases an ambition of earning a place alongside the household names of golf on the coveted European Tour — while also dreaming of one day competing at the Olympic Games.

He will play alongside the greatest golfers in the world at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers — including world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, US powerhouse and defending tournament champion Dustin Johnson, and a host of Ryder Cup stalwarts and major-winning golfers.

Such opposition for any golfer would represent a fairly intimidating homecoming, but Almulla is adamant that the lessons he has learned in his first year on tour will help him keep cool, calm, and in the zone, allowing him to perform to the level he knows he is capable.

He said: “It would be very, very easy to be put in an uncomfortable position playing alongside and against the best golfers in the world. But you have to be comfortable in that uncomfortable position, and that’s what I’ve learned in this last year.

“Yes, they are the best golfers in the world, but we’re all trying to make it; I’m trying to achieve my goals and so are they. I take it as a learning experience, and that’s the most important thing.

Overall, I think it’s all about reminding myself how great an opportunity this is, and that there’s people supporting me regardless of how I play this week. The big thing is to learn from the experience.

Othman Almulla

“These players are at a much higher level than I am, but that’s the level I want to get to. All I can do is go out there, do my best, and hope that the work I’ve put in this year will put me in a position to compete.

“Overall, I think it’s all about reminding myself how great an opportunity this is, and that there’s people supporting me regardless of how I play this week. The big thing is to learn from the experience,” Almulla added.

His first year as a professional has allowed him to fly the Saudi flag at tournaments in such countries as Morocco, Oman, the UAE, the UK, Bahrain and Jordan.

His on-course highlight was his final MENA Tour event of last season at Ras Al-Khaimah, in the UAE, where he birdied the last three holes to make the cut, then shot 65 on the final round to go from last place on the cut to 23rd — an experience he described as “unbelievable.”

“My game is feeling really good. It’s such an honor for me to represent Saudi internationally. Now it’s time for me to give back and hopefully start performing at a higher level.

“I’m 100 percent ready to push on to reach that. I’m putting things in place day-by-day, month-by-month, tournament-by-tournament that are going to let me show signs of what I can do in the game of golf and what I can really achieve,” said Almulla.

“That continues at the Saudi International, where I want to put in a couple of competitive rounds. If I do that and play how I know I can play, then hopefully I’ll make the weekend. That’s the goal.

“My aim is then to hopefully show a bit of form this year. I want to have a high finish on the MENA Tour Order of Merit, which will then give me opportunities of playing on some of the bigger tours.

“Within the next two years I would like to get either an Asian Tour card or a European Tour card, that’s the main-main goal, and, for the decade, what I really want to do is play in the Olympics. That’s a massive dream of mine,” he added.


Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

Updated 18 February 2020

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

  • Headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire ensured the win

LONDON: Manchester United threw open the race for the final Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League by beating fourth-place Chelsea 2-0 thanks to headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire on Monday.
With 12 games remaining, seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, with the team finishing fifth also set to earn a place in next season’s Champions League following UEFA’s decision to punish Man City for serious breaches of financial regulations by handing the English champions a two-year European ban.
Martial glanced in a header off a right-wing cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka to give United the lead in the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge, before Maguire planted home a corner from January signing Bruno Fernandes in the 66th.
Maguire, United’s captain, was perhaps fortunate to still be on the field, with the match officials opting not to punish the England defender for appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi after tumbling off the playing surface in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him but I felt like he was going to fall on me and the natural reaction was to straighten my leg so that if he was to fall on me, to hold him up,” Maguire said. “It probably looks worse than it was.
“I did catch him ... but I knew at the time I had no intent to hurt him or kick him.”
Chelsea was on the wrong end of two other decisions by VAR, firstly disallowing a volleyed goal by Kurt Zouma in the 56th because of a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on United left back Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta seemed to have been pushed a split-second earlier by Fred.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out by VAR for a tight offside, leaving Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looking thoroughly glum as he sat in his technical area.
Chelsea has long been in fourth place, but has only won three of its last 11 games in the league to give a slew of rivals clubs hope of catching up.
One of them is United, which climbed to seventh place with this win — three points behind Chelsea and two adrift of fifth-place Tottenham.
“This season, we have been far too inconsistent,” Maguire said. “We have won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool, but we have let ourselves down against the teams where the pressure is on to break them down.”
Injury problems are starting to bite at Chelsea, too. Top scorer Tammy Abraham and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi missed the game because of injury, while central midfielder N’Golo Kante lasted 11 minutes before hobbling off. Center back Andreas Christensen didn’t come out for the second half after sustaining a knock to the head late in the first period, just before Martial beat the Denmark defender to a header for the first goal.
Lampard’s main gripe, though, was his team’s failure to finish off chances once again. Batshuayi was the biggest culprit, spurning two great chances in the first half in his first start in the league this season.
“We are fourth because of some of the good stuff we’ve done and because of the nature of the league, everyone taking points off each other,” Lampard said. “But there’s a lot of work to do because you can see the problem — that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like a broken record. We have to put things to bed by scoring goals.”
Chelsea hosts Tottenham on Saturday and would finally get overtaken with another loss.
“The season starts here,” Lampard said.
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who signed for United on deadline day in the January transfer window, came on in second-half stoppage time for his debut and had a late chance saved by Willy Caballero, who again started in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Two players struck the post from free kicks in the second half, Fernandes for United and Mason Mount for Chelsea.