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

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.

Indian walks from Dubai to Riyadh hoping to meet hero Ronaldo

Updated 20 April 2024

Indian walks from Dubai to Riyadh hoping to meet hero Ronaldo

  • “I pray to God to make this dream come true and meet Ronaldo”

JEDDAH: A Cristiano Ronaldo superfan has arrived in Riyadh after a grueling walk from Dubai hoping to meet the Al-Nassr star.

After 1,200 km and 36 days of travel mostly across the arid landscape separating the cities, Civin KP arrived in the Saudi capital.

“Finally, I am here in front of Al-Awal Park where Al-Nassr plays (their) official games and I hope I can meet Ronaldo,” he said.

He posted images of himself on Instagram at the stadium where he managed to take a seat at the home team’s bench and walked pitch-side at the 25,000-capacity venue.

“I came all the way from Dubai on foot and crossed all this distance just to pay respect and show my love to the best player in the world,” said Civin, who is originally from the state of Kerala in India.

Ronaldo is one of the most recognizable faces of international football and has fans across the world who enjoy his skills and passion for the game. He signed for the Riyadh club in 2022 after years of playing in Europe’s top leagues.

Civin feels proud to have completed the journey but still awaits the biggest prize.

“The unexpected moment is always sweeter,” he wrote, “hopefully waiting for more.”

A photo with the Portuguese great and an autograph would be a moment of a lifetime, Civin told MBC as he visited the ground.

“I pray to God to make this dream come true and meet Ronaldo,” he said. “I will cherish this moment, if it happens, for the rest of my life.”

On Friday, Civin was able to secure a ticket to watch Al-Nassr beat Al-Fayha 3-1, but unfortunately his hero did not feature as he is serving a suspension.

KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL

Updated 20 April 2024

KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL

  • Innings played key role in pushing Lucknow past Chennai’s 176-6 with six balls to spare.

LUCKNOW: KL Rahul’s solid 82 runs off 53 balls helped Lucknow Super Giants comfortably beat Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets in the IPL on Friday.
Rahul’s time at the crease, which saw him smash nine fours and three sixes, played a key role in pushing Lucknow past Chennai’s 176-6 with six balls to spare.
“I felt that if we bat well, we could chase it down... when your partnership goes on, you can take a few more chances. Glad that it happened,” said Rahul.
Chennai got off to a slightly jittery start after being invited to bat first, losing Rachin Ravindra (zero) and skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad (17) in the first five overs. Ajinkya Rahane looked to steady the side, with the help of Ravindra Jadeja, but fell in the ninth over after racking up a respectable 36 runs off 24 balls.
Lucknow’s clinical bowling restricted Chennai in the middle overs, with Shivam Dube (three) not being able to pop off.
But Jadeja soldiered on for the rest of the game, getting his half-century in the seventeenth over.
Reliable warhorse M.S. Dhoni, who smacked 28 runs off 9 balls, helped Chennai turn up the heat in the last three overs and pushed the team to 176-6.
Lucknow openers Quinton de Kock and KL Rahul set up the chase with a superb 134-run partnership, before de Kock, who hit five fours in his 43-ball 54, fell in the fifteenth over.
Rahul went onto smash an incredible 82 runs off 53 balls before being dismissed in the eighteenth over. A final push by Nicholas Pooran (23) helped seal the victory for Lucknow.
“We lost wickets regularly and were 10-15 short,” said Gaikwad.
“Good to play them again soon, will come back with homework done.”

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament

Updated 19 April 2024

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament

  • Agreement is latest in wider partnership with the ATP

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced on Friday it had agreed a multi-year deal to sponsor the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament.

The deal is the latest in PIF’s wider tennis partnership with the Association of Tennis Professionals as a Platinum Partner and as the official naming partner of the PIF ATP Rankings.

The fund said the agreement marked its continued investment in growing tennis globally, along with a wider focus on its four sponsorship pillars: inclusivity, sustainability, youth, and technology.

As part of the partnership, PIF will develop a platform to allow tennis fans new and old to engage and train with legendary players and coaches on the ground in Madrid, and youth-focused fan zones.

A statement said: “PIF is committed to providing opportunities for young players across all levels of the game, inspiring participation, enhancing talent discovery and developing new pathways for future generations of tennis players around the world.

“As part of this priority, PIF is engaging local tennis academies in Spain and supporting future players through the PIF tennis bootcamp.”

PIF has also partnered with ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami and the Nitto ATP Finals, in addition to the Beijing ATP 500 event, and the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF, to be hosted in Jeddah until 2027.

John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2024

John Catlin sets himself up for victory going into final round of Saudi Open in Riyadh

  • American shoots men’s course-record 62

RIYADH: John Catlin continued his dominance at the 2024 Saudi Open on Friday as he shot a men’s course-record 62 to open up an eight-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard at Riyadh Golf Club.

The American began the third round one shot ahead of Scott Hend and Haotong Li and signaled his intentions early with two birdies in his first five holes.

It was a special back nine that saw him pull away from the field as six birdies, including two in his final two holes — which also earned him the PIF Moment of the Day — put him in the driving seat for a sixth Asian Tour victory.

Thai favorite Kiradech Aphibarnrat made the biggest move of the chasing pack and will head out with Catlin in the final group on Saturday.

His round of 67 moved him into second place with Wade Ormsby, David Puig, Hend and Li one further back.

If he is victorious on Saturday it will mark back-to-back wins on the Asian Tour for Catlin after he lifted the International Series Macau trophy in March, but the 33-year-old is taking nothing for granted ahead of the final round.

He said: “My game has felt in good shape. Today was just one of those days where the putter just gets hot and it’s like you can’t miss. I kept going and tried to make as many birdies as I could because there are so many good players out here and there are plenty of birdies to be made tomorrow. I knew I had to keep the pedal to the metal.

“Nothing changes tomorrow: the job is not finished. David (Puig) has shown he can shoot some really low numbers and there are a lot of other guys very capable of doing that here.”

It is Catlin’s second trip to Saudi Arabia but his first to Riyadh, and after his record-breaking day he admitted he will be back in the Kingdom whenever he gets the chance.

“I’ve loved it here. The people have been so friendly to me, the facilities are really good and I love the course. I will be back whenever there is a tournament here,” he said.

South African Jaco Ahlers produced the day’s second-best round with his 65 moving him to 7 under par, while LIV Golf star Peter Uihlein catapulted himself up the leaderboard after four birdies in four holes to start his back nine took him to the same score. Uihlein is looking forward to an attacking final round.

He said: “You’ve got to shoot 10 under tomorrow to win — I’m going to try. Hopefully my caddie will let me hit the driver on some holes where I probably shouldn’t, and just have a go.

“I played nicely on the front, but it was a different wind. I felt like the back nine, with the way the wind was, is easier than the first couple of days, so I thought I could make some birdies. I didn’t birdie the 15th or 18th hole, which is disappointing.”

Moroccans Othman Raouzi and Ayoub Lguirati, the two invited Arab golfers who managed to make the cut, endured difficult days and both sit over par heading into the final round.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem receives Arab and MENA backing

Updated 19 April 2024

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem receives Arab and MENA backing

  • Statement condemns “false allegations” of interference in sporting decisions during 2023 Formula One season

DUBAI: The FIA Members for Sport for MENA region and Arab Council of Touring and Automobile Clubs sub-region have released a statement of support for FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem against what they see as “false allegations” of interference in sporting decisions during the 2023 Formula One season.

“Knowing that Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been committed to promoting transparency within the FIA since he was elected president of the FIA, his full co-operation with the FIA Ethics Committee and the Compliance department during the 30 days of investigations is highly regarded,” the statement said.  

“The Ethics Committee were unanimous in their determination that there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of interference of any kind involving the FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee.” 

The statement said that the FIA president was cleared of any wrongdoing over allegations he interfered with the stewards’ decision at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023, and cleared of any wrongdoing regarding allegations that he attempted to interfere with the track certification process for the Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023.

The statement continued: “The FIA Members for Sport for MENA Region and ACTAC Sub-Region condemn, and at the same time are profoundly disappointed with the unjust and relentless attempt to undermine the integrity of the FIA Leadership by such unfaithful allegations to serve narrow personal agendas, and we strongly encourage the FIA administration to initiate legal actions against those responsible for those allegations against the FIA President. 

“We are confident that Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem will continue to serve the FIA and its Members in a transparent manner implementing the FIA Code of Ethics as top priority.

“We also would like to assert our support to Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s leadership of the FIA and will continue our co-operation with him in his efforts to serve and develop the FIA and its Members,” it said.