Scheffler builds three-shot World Challenge lead, mixed day for Woods

Scottie Scheffler, of the US, watches his fairway shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Scheffler builds three-shot World Challenge lead, mixed day for Woods

  • Scheffler: I played really well today, really solid the whole day
  • Woods said he’d been “pleasantly surprised” at how his body has held up, which was more of a concern than the state of his game

MIAMI: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler fired two eagles in his 7-under par 65 to build a three-shot lead at the Hero World Challenge on Saturday as Tiger Woods continued his comeback with a 1-under 71.

Fifteen-time Major winner Woods, playing his first tournament since ankle surgery in April that followed his withdrawal from the Masters, shook off a bogey-bogey start to card a 71 that left him at even par, 16 strokes behind Scheffler and tied for 16th in the 20-player event he hosts at the Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas.

Woods said he’d been “pleasantly surprised” at how his body has held up, which was more of a concern than the state of his game.

“I still have game,” he said. “It’s whether or not the body can do it.”

Woods, who turns 48 on Dec. 30, had ankle surgery in April on the same leg that was severely injured in a 2021 car crash. While his leg pain is gone, he said he still contends with chronic back pain, but said before the tournament he could play as much as once a month in 2024.

On Saturday he started 10 off the pace and got off to an inauspicious start with bogeys at the first and second.

He clawed back with birdies at the third, sixth eighth and ninth — where he got up and down from a greenside bunker — before two bogeys and a birdie coming in. That included a seven-foot par putt miss at the 18th.

“It could have been a little better than the score indicates,” Woods said. “I think I could have shot something in the high 60s. I think it was cleaner than it was yesterday.”

Most importantly, Woods said, he was “very excited” at how he has responded physically to the pace of competition.

“To be able to knock off some of the rust as I have this week, showed myself that I can recover each and every day, that was kind of an unknown,” he said. “I’m very excited how the week’s turned out.”

Scheffler, meanwhile, was in cruise control, starting the day tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth and seizing control with a 15-foot eagle at the third.

He added four birdies before he rolled in a 14-foot eagle at 15 to push his lead to four strokes over England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who also signed for a 65.

A bogey at 18, where Scheffler’s drive was in the right rough, cut that by one, giving him a 16-under par total of 200.

“I played really well today, really solid the whole day,” said Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion who has finished runner-up in this event the past two years.

“(It’s) nice to see some putts go in. These greens can be tough to putt at times, but I’m rolling it good.”

Fitzpatrick had climbed the leaderboard with four birdies on the front nine. After a double-bogey at the 11th he birdied 12 and 14 before draining a 47-foot eagle putt at 15.

He bogeyed 16, but closed with back-to-back birdies for a 13-under par total of 203.

“It was good for pretty much the whole round bar two holes,” Fitzpatrick said. “Drive on 11 was just what cost me, obviously, a double. Outside of that, everything was good today.”

American Justin Thomas was alone in third after a 4-under 68 for 205.

Spieth, who was playing catch-up after his bogey at the third dropped him three off the pace, finished with four birdies and three bogeys in his 71 for 206, tied for fourth with Australian Jason Day and Americans Tony Finau and Collin Morikawa.


Maryline Eon wins International Jockey Challenge on opening night of Saudi Cup

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Maryline Eon wins International Jockey Challenge on opening night of Saudi Cup

  • The world’s most valuable race meet, with total prize money of $37m, got underway with eight races at King Abdulaziz Racecourse

RIYADH: The Saudi Cup, the world’s most valuable race meet, got underway on Friday at Riyadh's King Abdulaziz Racecourse, with total prize money of more than $37 million up for grabs over the weekend.

Fourteen jockeys, seven women and seven men, competed in the Invest Saudi International Jockey Challenge across four of the opening day’s eight races, with French rider Maryline Eon emerging victorious with 25 points.

Reigning champion Camilo Ospina, a Colombian jockey who races out of Saudi Arabia, was runner-up on 17 points, with Victoria Mota of Brazil in third.

“It was very emotional to win this … and I can only thank the Saudi Cup for having invited me here today. Obviously it was going to be an emotional moment,” Eon told Arab News.

“I am really impressed with the track here in Saudi Arabia. It was my first time riding on the dirt and I wasn’t used to getting dirt in my face and everything. Everything is in really good condition.

“I was told when I was coming that the horses that I am going to ride would need a bit of work and that they would be outpaced in the early stages of the race. The handicappers showed me the races of the horse that I was riding and that was really helpful.”

Despite the unfamiliar ground conditions, Eon said she did not alter her approach to the races or her technique.

“I didn’t really change anything in the style of my riding and I just followed instructions,” she said.

“I would like to thank the country for making such an effort to bring women here and obviously I’m very lucky to win this championship, which is something I would have never imagined.”

In the other events, 16 riders competed in the 1,600-meter Mosef First Fillies Mile, the first race of the day, in which Ospina, riding Istita’aeh, took the lead with 300 meters to go and romped home for the win. First across the line in the 1,200-meter Saudia Sarawat Cup was Aezm Al-Riyadh, ridden by Tariq Almansour. Adel Alfarid, on Badr, was the winner of the 1,800-meter Lucid Tuwaiq Cup.

In the final race of the night, the Group 1 $1.5 million Ministry of Culture Al-Mneefah Cup, Tilal Al-Khalediah, the 2023 Obaiya Arabian Classic winner, was victorious.

Day 2 of the fifth Saudi Cup on Saturday will again feature eight races: the Ministry of Culture Jockey Club Local Handicap, the Group 1 Diriyah Gate Development Authority Obaiya Arabian Classic, the NHC Saudi International Handicap, the G3 Boutique Group Saudi Derby, the G3 Sports Boulevard Riyadh Dirt Sprint, the G2 Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint, the $2 million G2 Howden Neom Turf Cup, and the $2.5 million G3 Longines Red Sea Turf Handicap.


Italy, bad weather hand Saudi Arabia’s cricketers first defeat of 2024 in CWC Challenge League playoff

Updated 24 February 2024
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Italy, bad weather hand Saudi Arabia’s cricketers first defeat of 2024 in CWC Challenge League playoff

  • A top-three finish and qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament is still within Saudi Arabia’s grasp

LONDON: Saudi Arabia suffered their first defeat of 2024 on Friday as they fell to Italy in a weather-affected match in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League playoff in Kuala Lumpur.

The 50-over competition is a step on the qualification route for the World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.

The Greens, who recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand as well as a quadrangular T20 series in Bangkok against the hosts, had notched up a win in their first match against Kuwait on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia were chasing a total of 285 for victory after the Italians had notched up 284 runs for the loss of seven wickets from their 50 overs.

South African-born Wayne Madsen high-scored with the bat for Italy, bringing up 103 runs from 92 deliveries.

The Saudi bowling attack shared the load and six players grabbed wickets, while Usman Najeeb ended up with the best figures with two wickets for 40 runs.

Saudi Arabia were hampered by inclement weather, which cut short their innings with just over 12 overs left to bowl.

Despite the best efforts of captain Hisham Shaikh, who scored an unbeaten 60, and lower-order batsman Waji-ul-Hassan, who contributed 43 runs from 38 balls, the Greens were well behind the run-rate when the match fell victim to the weather, and lost the match by 52 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.

A top-three finish and qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament is still within Saudi Arabia’s grasp, especially if they can get a positive result in their final group match against Bermuda on Sunday.


Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi Arabia in professional golf

Updated 24 February 2024
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Amateur Attieh creates history for Saudi Arabia in professional golf

MUSCAT: Khalid Walid Attieh made history for Saudi Arabia on Friday when he became the first amateur player from the country to make the cut in an elite professional tournament.

The 28-year-old from Riyadh shot a commendable round of one-under par 71 in the second round of the $2 million International Series Oman after an opening 73, and his two-day effort of even-par 144 was enough to qualify for the weekend in the Asian Tour event.

Playing in the last group of the day, Attieh finished with a bogey in near darkness, but that could not dampen his spirit.

“It is a very proud moment for me and a very proud moment for my country,” said Attieh, who qualified for the tournament that features 21 LIV Golf stars by winning last week’s Oman Masters.

“Saudi Arabia has done so much in golf over the past few years and we players have benefitted immensely from it. The best way I can acknowledge and thank Golf Saudi for all the support is by performing well for my country. And that’s why this is extremely satisfying.”

Attieh started the day from the 10th tee and quickly picked up a shot on the par-five 12th hole. However, he gave up that advantage on the other par-five on the back nine, the 16th. That hole was playing one of the toughest throughout the day.

On his back nine, the Saudi National Team member made a birdie on the par-five third and then made a stunning 25-footer downhill putt for his third birdie on the par-three eighth hole. On the ninth, Attieh was slightly distracted by his playing partner taking a long time after a wayward drive, and in failing daylight, he three-putted for a bogey from a long range.

The University of South California graduate, who has his own software business in Saudi Arabia, said: “I’ve been playing well over the last few months. And finally, I got some things rolling my way today and put in a good round, which honestly could have been even lower.

“But I am very happy with my score today. To be able to qualify for the event last week by winning the Oman Masters was very satisfying, but this is even better. I hope to keep the momentum and hopefully, more good rounds are coming on the weekend.”

Attieh, who made a comeback to golf after taking nearly two years off to complete his studies and then focus on setting up his business, said he plans to turn professional soon.

“I also had a small back injury, and I wanted to complete my studies. I started playing again about eight or nine months ago, and I found that I was playing just as good, if not better after my big break. So, I decided to get serious and worked hard on my game. Started working with a mental coach to get stronger mentally, and all of it seems to be paying dividends,” said Attieh.

“I’m very much looking forward to keep on raising the bar for myself and the flag for Saudi. I plan to turn pro soon, maybe by the end of summer this year. I want to try out the Qualifying Schools in both (the) Asian (Tour) and the DP World Tour. It should be (an) exciting few months ahead.”


Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

Updated 23 February 2024
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Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

  • Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi ended Multan Sultans’ winning streak in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament on Friday by clinching a five-run victory in a closely fought contest that was decided on the last ball of the match.

Batting first, Zalmi finished with a respectable total of 179/8 at the end of the first 20 overs.

None of Peshawar’s batters were able to score a half-century, with Haseebullah Khan top-scoring with 37 runs from 18 balls while skipper Babar Azam hitting 31 runs off 26 balls.

Rovman Powell scored a quickfire 23 from 11 balls while Luke Wood contributed with 17 runs off 12 deliveries.

Sultan bowlers David Willey, Mohammad Ali and Usama Mir took two wickets each while Shahnawaz Dahani and Abbas Afridi only got one.

When they came to bat, the Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0 but opening batter Yasir Khan and Reeza Hendricks contributed with 43 and 28 respectively to give the Sultans some support.

Dawid Malan smashed a 25-ball 52 runs knock but after his dismissal, the Sultans buckled.

Khushdil Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed and Usama Mir failed to hold on to their nerves, scoring only 5, 16, and 12 runs respectively, as Zalmi bowled out Multan for 174 runs on the last ball of the match.

Zalmi’s Arif Yaqoob returned figures of 3/43 while Salman Irshad, Naveen-ul-Haq and Luke Wood finished with figures of 2/39, 2/44 and 2/13 respectively.

“Catches win matches,” the team exclaimed on its social media account after displaying brilliant fielding performance.


’Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

Updated 23 February 2024
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’Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

  • Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek’s seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one’s bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double
  • “I didn’t have power anymore to give even more, which doesn’t happen often,” admitted 22-year-old Swiatek

DUBAI: Iga Swiatek blamed fatigue for her semifinal defeat to Anna Kalinskaya in the Dubai semifinals on Friday, admitting: “I didn’t have power anymore” to up her level during the match.
Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek’s seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one’s bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double with a commanding 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“I didn’t have power anymore to give even more, which doesn’t happen often,” admitted 22-year-old Swiatek.
“I just felt out of control a little bit because of that. Usually when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game. Today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t.”
The 40th-ranked Kalinskaya was contesting her first WTA 1000 semifinal, and is into the first tour-level final of her career, where she faces Italian Jasmine Paolini.
Kalinskaya defeated Paolini last month at the Australian Open to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final. They will square off once again on Saturday in another career-defining showdown.
Top seed Swiatek came into the semifinals having won 25 of her last 26 matches and looking to follow up her title run in Doha last week with a first-time triumph in Dubai.
Kalinskaya had to battle through the qualifying rounds and has won seven matches in total this week in the emirate, including three top-10 victories over Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and now Swiatek.
“She’s a great player. I knew if I didn’t stay calm and I didn’t stay aggressive she is going to destroy me. So that was my plan, to stay aggressive, to move her a lot,” said the 25-year-old Kalinskaya.
From 2-4 down, Kalinskaya won four games in a row to snatch in 53 minutes.
The Russian saved six of seven break points during that set, drawing 11 unforced errors off Swiatek’s racquet.
Swiatek took a toilet break between sets but it didn’t change the momentum as Kalinskaya clinched a fifth consecutive game on a loose forehand from her opponent.
Swiatek threw her racquet in frustration as she lost a sixth game in a row, falling behind 0-2 early in the second set.
Kalinskaya claimed a second break of serve in game seven and served for the match at 5-2 but Swiatek wasn’t ready to fold just yet and put pressure on the Russian by narrowing her deficit.
But even when she was staring down two break points while serving for the match for a second time, Kalinskaya didn’t flinch, saving both and completing a milestone victory on the one-hour 41-minute mark.
Earlier on Center Court, Paolini overcame Romanian big-hitter Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to reach her first WTA 1000 final and become just the fourth Italian to make it that far at a tournament of this calibre on the women’s tour.
The 28-year-old has pulled off some impressive wins this week in Dubai, knocking out 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, eight seed Maria Sakkari before Friday.
Paolini’s reward is a place in the world’s top-20 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“I’m really happy. It’s something that if somebody would have told me before this week, I wouldn’t believe maybe. But yeah, now I’m in the final, so let’s enjoy,” said Paolini.
On Friday, two breaks of serve were enough for Paolini to take a one-set lead in 41 minutes.
But things got more complicated in the second set as Cirstea kept striking back each time Paolini inched ahead.
Cirstea had come back from 2-6, 1-5 down in her previous round against Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, saving six match points along the way.
When she wiped a 2-4 deficit against Paolini, saved a match point in the 10th game, and served for the second set at 6-5, it looked like Cirstea was on her way to another come-from-behind victory.
Paolini held her nerve though, saving five set points to force a tiebreak, and she closed out the win on her second opportunity in just under two hours.