Rory McIlroy is brimming with confidence as he sets out to complete career Grand Slam at Masters

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland on the 11th tee during a practice round prior to the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, Apr. 09, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 09 April 2024

Rory McIlroy is brimming with confidence as he sets out to complete career Grand Slam at Masters

  • Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are the only players to have completed the modern slam
  • Tiger Woods: ‘He (McIlroy) will get it done. It’s just a matter of when’

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Rory McIlroy made that familiar turn off Washington Road and onto Magnolia Lane a year ago, the one that seems to suck in those fortunate enough to make it back in time, and felt as certain as ever that it was his time to win the Masters.
After all, McIlroy had been playing well. His confidence was soaring. He had a belief in himself that was more than just a hunch.
More like a premonition.
Yet by Friday afternoon, when storms would fell three towering Georgia pines and cause the second round to push into the weekend, all those positive vibes had disappeared. After opening with an even-par 72, and still believing he was oh-so-close to stringing it all together, McIlroy shot a second-round 77 and missed the cut.
His wait to win the green jacket, and complete the career Grand Slam, had stretched to a full decade.
“No question, he’ll do it at some point. He’s just — Rory’s too talented, too good,” said Tiger Woods, who along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are the only players to have completed the modern slam.
“He’s going to be playing this event for a very long time,” Woods added. “He’ll get it done. It’s just a matter of when.”
Might be this week.
Much like last year, McIlroy drove down Magnolia Lane on Tuesday feeling good about his game. He had played well at PGA National and Bay Hill earlier this year, finished in the top 20 at The Players Championship and recently spent time in Las Vegas with renowned coach Butch Harmon, which paid dividends with a third-place finish last week at the Texas Open.
That’s not an event McIlroy typically plays before the Masters, but it was part of a plan put in place months ago. The idea was to play more often earlier in the year, getting his game sharp not only for Augusta National but the rest of the majors as well.
“This is my 16th start in the Masters, so I feel like I’ve done it quite a few different ways,” McIlroy explained, “and I guess just trying to bring a little bit of normalcy into what I sort of try to do week in, week out. I play 25 weeks a year, and there’s no point in doing anything different this week compared to other weeks, I guess.”
Even if the Masters is a week unlike any other.
Rather than arriving early and laboring through practice rounds, McIlroy instead popped into Augusta National last week for a two-day scouting trip before heading to Texas. In fact, he skipped Monday’s practice round altogether — even Woods played nine that day — and was planning to play just nine holes by himself on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I feel like I’ve already got most of my prep work done. So it’s just about going out there and being relaxed and being in the right frame of mind,” McIlroy said, “and the more I can do that, the more I’ll be able to execute on the golf course.”
He’s come so close so often that nobody would fault McIlroy if his frame of mind these days was as skewed as a snap hook into Rae’s Creek. He had a four-year streak of finishing in the top 10 beginning in 2014, the year he won the British Open and PGA Championship. He was fifth on an eerily empty course in 2020, when the pandemic pushed the Masters into the fall. Two years ago, a blistering final-round 64 still left him three shots back of Scottie Scheffler.
Over time, the 18-year-old Northern Irishman with the cherubic face and limitless potential, who ticked off those first four major championships in a four-year span, has grown up. McIlroy is 34 now, leaner and stronger but also wiser, and it’s almost hard to believe he has spent spent nearly a third of his life chasing the only major to elude him so far.
“If I cast my mind back to 18-year-old Rory and I’m driving down Magnolia Lane for the first time, how would I feel and I think? It’s just always trying to go back to being grateful and feeling incredibly lucky that you can be a part of this tournament,” he said Tuesday. “Thankfully, I’ve improved a bit since my first start here, and I feel like I’ve got all the tools to do well this week.
“But, again, to bring those tools out, I think one of the most important things is to enjoy it,” McIlroy added with a smile, “and smell the — I guess not the roses, the azaleas along the way.”

Al-Shabab crowned winners of Women’s Futsal Tournament 2024 in Riyadh

Updated 22 May 2024

Al-Shabab crowned winners of Women’s Futsal Tournament 2024 in Riyadh

  • Al-Shabab defeated Najmat Jeddah in the final to earn their second futsal title
  • The national tournament featured 18 women’s teams from across the Kingdom in the knock-out tournament from May 8-20

RIYADH: After a sensational 25-match tournament that saw 339 goals, Al-Shabab FC captured their second women’s futsal title on Monday in thrilling fashion to conclude the 2024 edition of the Women’s Futsal Tournament.

With 18 of Saudi Arabia’s top women’s futsal sides competing in the second edition of the tournament, the final saw goals galore as Al-Shabab ran out winners, beating Najmat Jeddah 22-2 in the final to earn their second domestic honor.

The competition aims to inspire the growth of women’s futsal in the Kingdom, with the Saudi National Women’s Futsal team set to meet later this month in Bosnia for a training camp until June 15.

Aalia Al-Rasheed, head of the Women’s Football Department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said: “The Women’s Futsal Tournament has demonstrated the incredible talent that lies within the women’s game in Saudi Arabia. The skill on display has been remarkable, and we congratulate all clubs for their participation in the competition.

“The unprecedented growth we are seeing in the women’s game across all levels is exciting, and we look forward to seeing how this supports our national program to continue to develop in the coming months.”

Babar holds key for success as unpredictable Pakistan gear up for World Cup

Updated 38 min 51 sec ago

Babar holds key for success as unpredictable Pakistan gear up for World Cup

  • Pakistan has experienced massive changes in its cricket board since T20 World Cup 2022
  • Pakistani batter will be first person to lead a team for first time in three successive World Cups

ISLAMABAD: The return of tried and tested Babar Azam as captain for the Twenty20 World Cup belies the massive changes in Pakistan cricket over the last 18 months.

Since Babar’s team lost the T20 World Cup final to England in November 2022, the Pakistan Cricket Board has had four chairmen, the selection panel has been overhauled, and the experiment with Shaheen Shah Afridi as skipper was quickly aborted.

A new head coach for the limited-overs formats joined the squad in England just weeks ahead of the June 1-29 World Cup in the US and Caribbean.

And to top it off, Pakistan will be the last team to confirm its 15-member World Cup squad as it continues to experiment with various combinations.

Babar is urging supporters to be patient, and there’s a plan in place for success.

Babar stepped down from all-formats captaincy during the tenure of Zaka Ashraf as head of the PCB after Pakistan failed to qualify for the semifinals of the 50-over World Cup in India last year.

But he was reinstated as T20 captain by Mohsin Naqvi — the fourth PCB chairman in less than 14 months — ahead of home series against New Zealand in April after Afridi lost the series in New Zealand 4-1.

Allrounder Imad Wasim and fast bowler Mohammad Amir came out of international retirement in the hope that their experience of playing in the Caribbean Premier League will benefit Pakistan in the West Indies.

South African Gary Kirsten, who was appointed last month as head coach, will gain some first-hand knowledge of the Pakistan squad during a four-match series in England that both teams are using to rehearse for the World Cup.

All these off-the-field happenings have impacted Pakistan’s preparations for the tournament.

It badly lost the away series to New Zealand, scraped to a drawn 2-2 series at home against the Black Caps and lost a T20 series against Afghanistan 2-1. A shock loss to Ireland in Dublin preceded back-to-back wins and 2-1 series result.

And so unpredictable Pakistan enters another world tournament as a team to watch because of its rich history in the T20 World Cup. It has featured in three finals, winning the title in 2009, and also reached the semifinals three other times.

One of Kirsten’s coaching tips has already resonated with the players.

“Gary told us, don’t play for the name on the back of your jersey but for the badge in front of your shirt,” Afridi told a PCB podcast. “And that stayed with me.”

The depth in its pace bowling, with the likes of Afridi, fit-again Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah and Amir, can pose a threat to any team. But Pakistan’s top-order batting was still unsettled going into the series in England. Left-hander Saim Ayub is yet to fire in his role after selectors decided to separate the successful T20 opening pair of Babar and Mohammad Rizwan.

Babar has faced criticism for not pushing the scoring rate in the T20 power play, particularly while batting first. Pakistan has mostly aimed for totals in the 170-180 range while other teams have crossed 200 on regular basis.

Political tensions between Pakistan and India means there hasn’t been a bilateral series for over a decade, but the ICC tournaments always attracts a huge TV audience when the archrivals meet.

Pakistan and India will play a group game on June 9 at a newly built 34,000-capacity Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York that will be the center of attention for South Asian communities.

Both teams are expected to advance to the Super 8 stage from a group that also contains tournament co-host US, Canada and Ireland.

Babar has twice gone close to lifting the trophy as captain, losing to eventual champion Australia in the 2021 semifinals and to England in the final in the Melbourne final the following year.

And for that, he’ll get the distinction of becoming the first player to lead a country in three successive T20 World Cups and will be aiming for third time lucky if his Pakistan lineup can reach the June 29 decider in Barbados.

Jeddah Superdome to host return of WWE King and Queen of the Ring

Updated 22 May 2024

Jeddah Superdome to host return of WWE King and Queen of the Ring

  • Likes of Cody Rhodes, Logan Paul and Becky Lynch will take part in the action this weekend

JEDDAH: WWE is set to return to Saudi Arabia with the double-header of SmackDown and King and Queen of the Ring this weekend at Jeddah’s Superdome.

The action will kick off on May 24 with the Kingdom’s inaugural SmackDown event, which will be broadcast live globally.

WWE superstars will battle it out in the semifinals of the the King and Queen of the Ring, with the finals taking place on May 25.

The Superdome, the world’s largest pillarless structure of its kind, will host the first King of The Ring event to take place since 2015, and the first crowning of a Queen of The Ring since the inaugural Queen’s Crown Tournament, which took place at WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh in 2021.

The match card for this weekend includes:

Undisputed WWE Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs. Logan Paul

WWE King and Queen of the Ring is set to be headlined by Cody Rhodes and Logan Paul in a Championship vs. Championship match. Rhodes will be mounting a defense of his new Undisputed WWE Championship after he solidified his reign at WWE Backlash: France.

WWE Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Liv Morgan

Women’s World Champion Becky Lynch will put her title on the line against Liv Morgan. Lynch won the title in a battle royal after Rhea Ripley was forced to vacate the title after suffering an injury from Morgan backstage. Lynch last eliminated Morgan in the battle royal, but The Liv Morgan Revenge Tour continues with her latest shot at dethroning the champion.

Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn vs. Chad Gable vs. Bronson Reed (Triple Threat Match)

Sami Zayn will put the Intercontinental Title on the line in a Triple Threat Match against Chad Gable and “Big” Bronson Reed at WWE King and Queen of the Ring. After ending Gunther’s historic title reign at Wrestlemania 40, Zayn was challenged by Gable despite his help in ending the longest Intercontinental Title reign in WWE history. Reed also attacked Zayn and Gable to set his own claim to the title. As a result, all three will battle for the championship.

Queen of the Ring final

There is just one match left until the Queen of the Ring Final, and Bianca Belair and Nia Jax will battle it out to make it there. Belair bested Candice LeRae and Tiffany Stratton, setting up a meeting with Jax, who took out Naomi and Jade Cargill in the tournament.

Belair and Jax have never faced each other one-on-one and with the crown just inches away, each Superstar will be out to prove herself. The winner will face Lyra Valkyria, who won her place in the final after Monday Night Raw this week, in a match against Iyo Sky.

King of the Ring final

On Friday Night SmackDown, Randy Orton and Tama Tonga will compete for a position in the King of the Ring final against Gunther, who defeated Jey Uso in the semifinal match on Monday Night Raw.

Orton made his way into the semifinal after taking out AJ Styles and Carmelo Hayes, while Tama Tonga bested Angelo Dawkins and LA Knight. Before this year, Orton had not yet won a single King of the Ring Match in his career. Now he is set on making his promise to eliminate The Bloodline to advance to the final match on Saturday night.

Saudi Arabia gears up for first Esports World Cup

Updated 22 May 2024

Saudi Arabia gears up for first Esports World Cup

  • The competition will bring together more than 2,500 gamers
  • The tournament will support the Kingdom’s efforts to elevate the world of esports and highlight its positive impact on society

RIYADH: Riyadh is set to host the first-ever Esports World Cup.

The competition, which will take place at Boulevard Riyadh City from July 4 to Aug. 25, will bring together more than 2,500 gamers representing elite teams and clubs. The event features a prize pool of $60 million, the largest in esports history.

Powered by the Esports World Cup Foundation, the tournament aims to propel the e-gaming industry forward while creating promising opportunities for players and multi-team clubs.

The largest event in esports history, it will unite a global community that includes players, fans, game producers and publishers, with a focus on fostering connections and collaborations.

The unprecedented size of the prize pool means the cup is poised to become a milestone for the EWCF, which seeks to attract top talent and celebrate the popularity of esports.

The tournament will support the Kingdom’s efforts to elevate the world of esports and highlight its positive impact on society.

It will play a vital role in promoting cultural exchange and encouraging brands and companies to invest in the sector.

FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman

Updated 22 May 2024

FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman

  • Mohammed Ben Sulayem held talks with senior government officials during visit

MUSCAT: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has held talks with senior government officials in Oman to discuss the growth of motorsports and efforts to bring sustainable mobility initiatives to the country.

Ben Sulayem reaffirmed the FIA’s support for Oman’s development projects and said: “I was delighted to learn more about the growth of motorsport in Oman during the various meetings. The government is supporting grassroots development plans to ensure that motor sport will thrive in the years to come.”

He added: “I applaud the excellent work that is being undertaken by the Oman Automobile Association under the direction of Chairman Brigadier Salem Al-Maskiry in the areas of both sport and mobility.”

The president’s visit was hosted by the Oman Automobile Association, which was founded in 1979 and currently has over 10,500 members.

During the trip, he met with Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Sayyid Theyazin Bin Haitham Al-Said, Secretary General Royal Court Affairs Nasr Hamoud Al-Kindi, and Minister of Housing and Urban Planning Khalfan Bin Saeed Al-Shueili.

He also enjoyed a visit to the Royal Opera House and shared a convivial dinner with Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Zubair, president of the Oman Olympic Committee.

Later this year, the OAA will host the iRracing FIA F4 Esports tournament, which will feature the Middle East and North Africa International Karting Trophy.

Drifting and remote-control racing are also thriving sports in Oman. The country has benefited from FIA grant funding in recent years, including for safety training for both baja and cross country competitions.

On the mobility side, the FIA and OAA co-hosted an environmental seminar which featured more than 30 participants from 14 regional sport and mobility clubs. The event provided a unique opportunity for the FIA and its members to share knowledge and experiences about environmental challenges in MENA countries.

Presentations and discussions focused on the FIA’s environmental strategy and the tools available to support clubs in organizing more sustainable events.

Club representatives also took part in a session aimed at furthering understanding of climate change, empowering them to become proactive contributors to taking action.