Matt Wallace hits career-best 12-under round to lead DP World Tour Championship

The 33-year-old Englishman Matt Wallace in line to win the $3 million first prize at DP World Tour Championship. (DP World)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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Matt Wallace hits career-best 12-under round to lead DP World Tour Championship

  • England’s world No. 15 Tommy Fleetwood and Norway’s world No. 4 Viktor Hovland are just one behind after day 3

DUBAI: Matt Wallace needed to shoot a bogey-free five-under par in tough conditions in the final round of Nedbank Challenge in South Africa last week just to get into the field for this week’s $10.5 million DP World Tour Championship.

On Saturday, he added another incredible chapter to his late surge, shooting a 12-under par 60 — the lowest round in the history of the tournament — to sensationally move to the top of the leaderboard.

The 33-year-old Englishman now has a chance to win the $3 million first prize, even though his 60 will not count as an official record because preferred lies was in play after Friday’s heavy rains in Dubai.

The leader was being chased by two of Europe’s biggest stars. England’s world No. 15 Tommy Fleetwood, who now lives and practices in Jumeirah Golf Estates, and Norway’s world No. 4 Viktor Hovland, were just one behind at 15-under par. Both shot rounds of 66.

Wallace, winner of this year’s Corales Puntacana Championship on the PGA Tour, was seething after missing a short birdie putt on the seventh hole, but he channeled it in the best possible manner.

After a birdie on the eighth hole and a par on the ninth, he made the turn at three-under, before going on his birdie blitz.

On the par-4 10th hole, the world No. 87 made a long 30-footer for birdie, and never took his foot off the accelerator after that. He had a chance to shoot a rare 59, but his second shot on the par-5 18th hole went just right into the greenside bunker and he could only salvage a birdie from there. An eagle would have given him only the second 59 on the DP World Tour after Oliver Fisher’s in the 2019 Portugal Masters.

Wallace said the thought of a possible 59 never entered his head, and that he realized how close he was to making history when playing partner, Dan Bradbury, reminded him after the penultimate bunker shot.

“Kind of gutted now. It was a great opportunity to do it. I’ve done it at Moorpark on the West Course, which is only a par 68, but to do it out there would have been really special,” said Wallace. “And then I was told that someone has already made nine successive birdies (Bernd Wiesberger in the 2017 Maybank Championship). Well, I have a chance to make one on the first hole tomorrow and make it 10-in-a-row.”

Bradbury, who shot a 68 and was four-under par on the back nine, said shaking his head: “I shot a four-under, but it felt like a five-over! Incredible round by Matt. When they say ‘did not miss a shot,’ his back nine was just that.”

Wallace said it was fantastic that he now had a chance to win the tournament, for which he was in doubt of qualifying earlier in the year as he focused on playing on the PGA Tour in the US.

“Not to make any bogeys in the last two rounds is nice. I’m playing solid. I felt like my game was right there. And this proved that. I played in the Czech Republic (in August) and I was just kind of playing to keep my card on the DP World Tour as I played mostly on the PGA Tour this year. So, once I came second there, it kind of boosted me and then I wanted to make it to the DP World and now I’m here and we’ve got a chance to win tomorrow, which is fabulous.

“Money doesn’t drive me. It inspires me a little bit, but the bigger the tournament, I want to compete in them against the best players. I am happy we’re doing that this week.”

Both Fleetwood and Hovland have a point to prove in Sunday’s final round. World No. 15 Fleetwood has not won any title this year despite his consistent displays. And Hovland could become only the second player after Henrik Stenson in 2013 to win the Tour Championships on both sides of the Atlantic.

Fleetwood said: “It would be great. I’m very happy that I get to the final day of the year and I’m still playing well, still feeling fresh, still motivated and in contention. I take a lot of pleasure out of that.”

On the possibility of a Tour Championship double, Hovland said: “It would be cool. It’s been a crazy year. This is another big one and would be really nice to have it on the resume.”

Denmark’s Jeff Winther, assisted by two eagles on the back nine, moved into solo fourth place at 14-under after a round of 64.

Defending champion and world No. 3 Jon Rahm moved to tied ninth place with a bogey-free 67, while world No. 2 Rory McIlroy finally came into his own with a 65 that elevated him to tied 19th place.


First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1

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First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1

  • The U-14 tournament, hosted at Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, will feature 8 La Liga and 4 international teams

MADRID: La Liga FC Futures U-14, a flagship tournament featuring the youth academies of top-tier Spanish clubs, and being held in Saudi Arabia for the first time, kicks off on March 1.

The matches, to be played at Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, has been organized in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports. For the first time, the players making up the competing sides will be in the under-14 category and will play 11-a-side matches.

The tournament will feature 12 clubs, eight EA Sports La Liga teams, plus AS Roma (Italy), SL Benfica (Portugal), Olympique de Marseille (France) and Mahd Academy (Saudi Arabia).

La Liga’s leadership chose Saudi Arabia as the host because of the country’s emergence as a hub for sporting and cultural activities in recent years. The most popular sport in the Kingdom is football, with the highest level of participation among those under the age of 30.

For the past 15 years, La Liga matches have been followed by millions of football fans across the Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia now has six official supporter clubs.

The 12 teams will be divided into three groups: Mahd Academy, FC Barcelona, AS Roma and Cadiz CF (Group A); Atletico de Madrid, Olympique de Marseille, Sevilla FC and Villarreal CF (Group B); and Real Betis, Valencia CF, SL Benfica and CA Osasuna (Group C).

Matches will kick off on March 1 at 9:30 a.m. (Saudi Arabia time) and March 2 at 10 a.m., with the quarterfinals being played on Saturday at 5 p.m. The semifinals will kick off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, with the final at 5 p.m.


Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship

Updated 14 min 43 sec ago
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Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship

  • Reigning champion Medvedev recovers from losing opening set to beat Sonego in tight encounter on center court
  • Hurkacz and Korda through to quarterfinals in straight sets, Qatar Open finalist Mensik forced to retire

DUBAI: Reigning champion Daniil Medvedev overcame a spirited Lorenzo Sonego on Wednesday to secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

The world No. 4 looked shaky during the opening exchanges, winning just 53 percent (10/19) of points behind his first delivery as Sonego took full advantage and deservedly won the first set. Medvedev, to his credit, recovered quickly and served with far more aggression in the second and third sets, firing off both wings and hitting pinpoint serves.

The decisive moment came during a tense fifth game in the final set as the No. 1 seed broke Sonego’s serve with a running forehand winner and safely saw out the match thereafter. Medvedev will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after Qatar Open finalist Jakub Mensik was forced to retire through injury early in the second set of their clash.

Hubert Hurkacz will join Medvedev in the last eight after a battling 7-6, 6-4 victory over Australian Christopher O’Connell. The world No. 8 will make his fourth quarterfinal appearance in Dubai when he takes to the court to face Ugo Humbert, the French No. 1, on Thursday evening.

One man who will not be competing in the quarterfinals is Karan Khachanov after the No. 4 seed was sent crashing out of the tournament following Jiri Lehecka’s stunning comeback victory (6-7, 7-6, 6-4).

Lehecka, the world’s No. 36, fell to his knees in elation after securing a spot in the last eight at the expense of in-form Khachanov, who had come into the match on the back of five straight wins. The 27-year-old won his sixth career title in Doha last week and looked on course to continue that momentum after clinching the first set against Lehecka.

Lehecka had other ideas, though, saving five points during a tense second set, coming back from 0-3 in the tiebreak that later followed, and from 2-4 in the third set to secure a second top-20 win of the season — after a mammoth three-hour clash on court one.

Meanwhile. Sebastian Korda continues to enjoy his maiden Dubai tournament, needing just 43 minutes to breeze past Botic van de Zandschulp and set up a quarterfinal meeting against 2022 winner Andrey Rublev.

Korda dropped just one game in an emphatic straight sets victory (6-1, 6-0) over the Dutch No. 2.


World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final

Updated 29 February 2024
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World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final

  • Bonmati, named the player of the match, volleyed in a low cross in the first half and Caldentey doubled the lead shortly after the break in a dominant performance by the hosts
  • Spain also hold the men’s Nations League title, having beaten Croatia in the final in June

SEVILLE, Spain: Spain have not lost momentum since winning their first World Cup title, defeating France 2-0 on Wednesday to also win the inaugural edition of the Women’s Nations League.

Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey scored a goal each for Spain in front of 32,657 fans at La Cartuja Stadium in southern Spain. It was a record crowd for Spain’s women’s team in the country.

Spain also hold the men’s Nations League title, having beaten Croatia in the final in June.

“We have a very good present and a very good future,” women’s team coach Montse Tome said. “I have a group with very experienced players and with new young players coming up. It’s a very positive mix. They have a winning mentality. France haven’t had a shot on goal and that’s also a credit to all of the players.”

Bonmati, named the player of the match, volleyed in a low cross in the first half and Caldentey doubled the lead shortly after the break in a dominant performance by the hosts.

“Happy to win another title,” Bonmati said. “It may seem that what we have achieved is easy, that we have an obligation to win everything, but this is not something easy. And here we are lifting another trophy.”

It was Spain’s first victory over France.

“They’ll be the team to beat at the Olympics, it won’t be easy,” France coach Herve Renard said. “We are going to have to keep improving, learn lessons and keep moving forward. Let’s say we have taken one step but we haven’t taken the second. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

Spain had their breakthrough tournament at the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, winning the title in their third appearance.

The celebrations were marred by one of the country’s worst crises, though, as the then-president of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony to spark an outrage in soccer and Spanish society in general. Rubiales eventually resigned, and prosecutors later accused him of sexual assault.

“Today we get to celebrate again. We deserve it,” Hermoso said. “We try to enjoy ourselves but we also have the responsibility that there are so many people behind us who want to follow in our footsteps. We are so proud that there are so many girls who want to be champions in the future.”

Spain defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in last week’s semifinal, a result that also secured the team a place in the Paris Olympics.

France were already qualified for the Olympics as the host country.

“We didn’t play a good game against a team that are world champions and flying high in women’s football,” Renard said. “You have to be aggressive and keep the ball when you get it, but we lost it again straight away.”

Spain scored a competition-high 28 goals, seven more than any other team. It also had the most total attempts at 131.

Alexia Putellas, the former Ballon d’Or winner, did not enter the match for Spain. She hasn’t played for club or country since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee last year.


Man United and Chelsea grab late winners in FA Cup. Youngsters deliver again for Liverpool

Updated 29 February 2024
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Man United and Chelsea grab late winners in FA Cup. Youngsters deliver again for Liverpool

  • Casemiro stooped to head in an 89th-minute goal to seal United a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest and a last-eight meeting with great rival Liverpool
  • Wolverhampton beat Brighton 1-0 in an all-Premier League matchup and will be at home to Championship team Coventry in the quarterfinals

LONDON: Manchester United and Chelsea kept alive their hopes of silverware this season by scoring late winners in the FA Cup on Wednesday.

Liverpool also advanced to the quarterfinals, with their youngsters coming through big again for Jurgen Klopp.

Casemiro stooped to head in an 89th-minute goal to seal United a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest and a last-eight meeting with great rival Liverpool, whose youthful team beat second-tier Southampton 3-0 thanks to goals by 18-year-olds Lewis Koumas and Jayden Danns.

Chelsea — fresh off a loss to Liverpool in the English League Cup final — left it even later than United to secure their progress, with Conor Gallagher coming off the bench to score in the 90th minute for a 3-2 victory over Leeds. Chelsea will play another second-tier team, Leicester, in the last eight.

Wolverhampton beat Brighton 1-0 in an all-Premier League matchup and will be at home to Championship team Coventry in the quarterfinals.

PRESSURE OFF

Winning the FA Cup could salvage disappointing seasons for United and Chelsea. Who knows, it could also keep their under-pressure managers in their jobs.

Neither team put in a convincing display in the fifth round, but they are still alive in the famous old competition and have home draws to look forward to after late winners from midfielders.

Casemiro got between two defenders and stuck out his head to divert a low free kick that had been whipped in from the left wing by Bruno Fernandes. The Brazil international got a kick in the face for his efforts — blood was seen pouring down his cheek afterward — but, more importantly, a crucial goal.

After a morale-sapping loss to Fulham in the league on Saturday, another defeat would have left United in a mess heading into Sunday’s Manchester derby against City. Instead, United manager Erik ten Hag was quick to point out that his team has now won seven of its nine games in all competitions in 2024.

“This team, what they showed today, they have to show it every game,” Ten Hag said. “We found a way to win.”

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has come under renewed pressure in the wake of his expensively assembled team’s loss in the League Cup final. Now he is one game away from a return to Wembley Stadium, this time for the FA Cup semifinals.

Gallagher ran onto Enzo Fernandez’s pass, span his marker and converted a rising shot to put out a spirited effort from a Leeds team whose priority this season is securing an immediate return to the Premier League.

Despite fielding a weakened starting team, Leeds took the lead in the eighth minute at Stamford Bridge through Mateo Joseph, who also equalized to make it 2-2 after goals for Chelsea by Nicolas Jackson and Mykhailo Mudryk.

“In the context of the week, I am happy,” Pochettino said. “It is about building our confidence again.”

KLOPP’S KIDS

Jurgen Klopp’s kids have done it again.

Amid an injury crisis, the Liverpool manager turned to a bunch of academy products to help beat Chelsea in the League Cup final and he kept faith in them for the match against Southampton three days later at Anfield.

The average age of Liverpool’s team on Wednesday was 23 years, 128 days after Klopp made six changes to the lineup, including giving a debut to Koumas and starting 19-year-old midfielders James McConnell and Bobby Clark after their starring roles off the bench at Wembley. There were six players aged 21 or younger in the team.

Koumas squeezed home a shot in the 44th minute to mark the biggest game of his fledging professional career and make it 1-0. Danns came off the bench, like he did in the League Cup final, and scored in the 73rd and 88th minutes for his first senior goals.

Liverpool, who lead the Premier League and are into the round of 16 in the Europa League, stayed on course for a quadruple of trophies in Klopp’s final season.


Cristiano Ronaldo handed one match ban, fine after obscene gesture

Updated 29 February 2024
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Cristiano Ronaldo handed one match ban, fine after obscene gesture

  • The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s Ethics and Discipline Committee also ordered the Portuguese star to pay an additional SR20,000 to Al-Shabab, as compensation for the Riyadh club’s complaint filing fees

RIYADH: Al-Nassr striker Cristiano Ronaldo has been suspended for one match and fined SR10,000 ($2,666) after making an offensive gesture following his team’s victory over Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s Ethics and Discipline Committee also ordered the Portuguese star to pay an additional SR20,000 to Al-Shabab, as compensation for the Riyadh club’s complaint filing fees.

Following the game on Sunday, videos posted on social media showed Ronaldo cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, seemingly aimed at rival Al-Shabab supporters.

In the background, chants of “Messi” could be heard, referring to Ronaldo’s longstanding football rival from Argentina.

The committee called in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to hear his response to the complaint filed by Al-Shabab, and asked the official broadcaster to provide footage of the incident in question.

The committee said in a statement that the decision is non-appealable.

This is not the first time that the Portuguese legend has been at the heart of fan controversy.

Earlier this month, the star was seen putting a scarf down his shorts before throwing it back at Al-Hilal fans after Al-Nassr loss in the Riyadh Season Cup. In the same game, the striker reacted angrily to Al-Hilal fans chanting the name of Lionel Messi.

Last year, the 39-year-old attacker grabbed his crotch after Al-Hilal fans taunted him by again invoking the name of the Argentine World Cup winner.