Victor Perez grabs lead after back-to-back 65s in Saudi International

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Victor Perez in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images)
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Gavin Green in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images)
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Faisal Salhab in action at the Saudi International. (Courtesy: Noel A. Alipuyo/OR Media)
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Martin Kaymer in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images
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Graeme McDowell in action in round two of the Saudi International. (Getty Images)
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Updated 01 February 2020

Victor Perez grabs lead after back-to-back 65s in Saudi International

  • Frenchman Perez, who came second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last month, moved to 10-under par at the halfway stage
  • Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a former world number one, had the best card of the day, a six-under par 64

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia: Victor Perez put together another solid 5-under 65 during Friday’s second round to surge into the lead heading into the weekend at the Saudi International golf tournament.

Taking advantage of benign conditions in the morning at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, the 27-year-old Frenchman posted a 36-hole total of 10 under 130, making clutch putts along the way during a seven-birdie round, along with bogeys on the third and sixth.

First round co-leader Gavin Green, from Malaysia, had shared the lead with Perez until a three-putt bogey on the eighth — the penultimate hole of his round, having started on the 10th — left him a shot behind at 9 under, despite not missing a green in a 3-under-par round of 67.

Veteran Tour campaigner Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland, who was tied for the lead at the start of the day, finished one stroke further back on 8 under after shooting a 2-under 68 on the 7,010-yard, par-70 course on the scenic Red Sea coast.

“Obviously (I am) very pleased with the second round,” Perez said of his performance on Friday. “I think it was important to keep the hammer down after an obviously unexpected 65 in the wind yesterday. 

"I think they were definitely the tougher conditions, and it’s one of those days where you hope to stay a couple under. I feel like I’ve been able to hole some key putts, and it also frees you up."

He added that it is important to take advantage of opportunities “and that’s what I’ve done really well so far.”

Green, who will tee off with with college teammate Perez in the last group out for Saturday’s third round, said: “I’m excited to be in the mix. I’ve been there a couple of times and just try to put myself in the position a couple more times and see what happens.

“I think I’ve done pretty well so far ... I’ve no complaints. I’ve been hitting it solid and putting the balls in the right position,” added Green, who is looking for his breakthrough win on the European Tour.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a former world number one, recorded the day’s best round, a six-under par 64 that helped him climb 76 places to tied 18th.

China’s Li Haotong, the runner-up to American Dustin Johnson in the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, and South African veteran Ernie Els just made the cut on 1-over.

Overnight co-leader Graeme McDowell could not take advantage of playing early in calm conditions, adding a 68 to his first round 64 to sit eight under, one ahead of Italian Renato Paratore who shot 65.

Northern Irishman McDowell said a slow-play warning after he gave an interview to one of the tournament broadcasters while walking down the fairway distracted him.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson was five back after shooting 68, while world number one Brooks Koepka sits back in 38th at one-under following his 69.

Saudi amateur Faisal Salhab was apparently overwhelmed by the experience of making his debut on such a big stage. He failed to play to his full potential and missed the cut, as did professional Othman Almulla and leading amateur Saud Alsharief, the other two members of the Saudi trio who competed in the blue-ribbon competition, which has a prize pot of $3.5 million.

Among those who missed the cut in the $3.5 million event were world number 12 Patrick Reed and England’s Lee Westwood, who recently won in Abu Dhabi.

 

 

 

 


F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, was felt.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.