Strong field assembled for 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF

Haotong Li, Denwit Boriboonsub, Othman Almulla and Peter Uihlien. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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Strong field assembled for 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF

  • Peter Uihlein, who plays for LIV Golf team RangeGoats GC, is making his first visit to Riyadh and expressed his excitement at playing in the Saudi capital
  • Haotong Li: I want to see different golf courses to the ones I have played previously and to visit new parts of the world

RIYADH: A strong field has assembled for the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF, commencing tomorrow, April 17, with Asian Tour, LIV Golf and DP World Tour stars teeing off at Riyadh Golf Club.

Thai star Denwit Boriboonsub won the 2023 Saudi Open in December in stunning fashion, but Henrik Stenson, Peter Uihlien and Haotong Li are the standout names hoping to dethrone him, as 144 players from 33 different countries fight for glory from 17-20 April.

There are 20 Arab golfers from eight nations in the field, including seven from Saudi Arabia, who have all been handed the opportunity to compete alongside some of the world’s best players as golf continues to develop in the region. Golf&More will be on display at the course throughout the week with live DJ sessions at sunset, special activities for children and the authentic Sajah Bazaar giving fans the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture.

Peter Uihlein, who plays for LIV Golf team RangeGoats GC, is making his first visit to Riyadh and expressed his excitement at playing in the Saudi capital. The American believes it will be an action-packed four rounds, filled with low scores and plenty of birdies.

Uihlein said: “I watched the 2023 Saudi Open on TV in December and the Aramco Series Ladies International recently and I saw a lot of low scores, so I am hoping for a tournament full of birdies. It does depend how much the wind blows, but hopefully it dies down later in the week. 

“It’s my first time in Riyadh, having been to Jeddah a few times, and I’m excited about it. I spoke to Othman [Almulla] about how many courses are planned and the ones they are already building around the Kingdom. It is really cool to be here.

“I feel like the stuff I am working on is getting better and better, and I feel a little bit sharper as the weeks go on. It is why I’m here - to carry on working on my game ahead of LIV Adelaide and LIV Singapore.”

Chinese sensation Haotong Li is a four-time DP World Tour winner and has chosen to play in the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF to experience the continued growth of the game in the Kingdom.

Li said: “I want to see different golf courses to the ones I have played previously and to visit new parts of the world. It’s extremely exciting to play this week and do something special. I am truly honoured to be here and be a part of growing the game as big as possible. Hopefully everybody starts to fall in love with golf.

Golf Saudi CEO Noah Alireza spoke to gathered media ahead of the tournament and he stressed the importance of the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF’s commitment to handing opportunities to national and regional players.

Alireza said: “We are delighted to welcome a strong field to the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF following its first staging on the Asian Tour last year and I am certain that this week will prove a success with exciting golf on show at Riyadh Golf Club.

“The opportunity that the Saudi Open presents to all of the competitors, but particularly to the seven Saudi nationals and the 13 other Arab golfers in the field, is one of the main driving forces behind our desire to host this tournament in Riyadh. Playing alongside the best Asian Tour players, plus a number of LIV Golf and DP World Tour members, helps them understand what it takes to reach this level and is a vital part of their golf education. It is a key part of Golf Saudi’s commitment to golf in our country.”


Ten Hag vows to save Man Utd project by winning FA Cup

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Ten Hag vows to save Man Utd project by winning FA Cup

Ten Hag is battling to save his job amid mounting speculation that United’s new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe plans to axe him after a turbulent season
Asked on Thursday if the final could be his last match as United manager, Ten Hag laughed and told reporters: “I have nothing to say. I’m just focusing on the job I have to do”

LONDON: Erik ten Hag has vowed to win the FA Cup and carry on with his Manchester United project as the under-fire boss prepares for Saturday’s final against Manchester City.
Ten Hag is battling to save his job amid mounting speculation that United’s new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe plans to axe him after a turbulent season.
United finished eighth in the Premier League — their lowest final position since 1990 — and crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage.
The Dutch coach, who led United to their first trophy in six years when they won the League Cup last season, also clashed with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, reportedly creating a rift in the dressing room.
United have been linked with England boss Gareth Southgate, former Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino, departing Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel and Ipswich chief Kieran McKenna.
But Ten Hag is convinced he can turn the tide by securing United’s first FA Cup triumph since 2016, in the process avenging last season’s loss to City at the same stage of the competition and ensuring his club qualify for Europe.
Asked on Thursday if the final could be his last match as United manager, Ten Hag laughed and told reporters: “I have nothing to say. I’m just focusing on the job I have to do.
“That is first to win the game on Saturday and then we are in the project. Keep going in the project.
“After every season you review it and see where you are in the project and what things may need to change.
“We spoke lately about it. There are players developing and values going up.”
City were crowned Premier League champions for an unprecedented fourth successive season last weekend, giving them six titles in seven years.
Pep Guardiola’s men have beaten United twice already this season and Ten Hag knows a surprise win for underdogs United would be a well-timed feather in his cap.
“It’s all about trophies. We have a huge opportunity to win a trophy. In the last 10 years there has not been so many trophies at the club but we have the opportunity to win two in two years,” he said.
“The FA Cup final, it’s a big event. Even in a season that is not in our way, we are there. We know we have an opportunity.
“It won’t be easy but we must go for it. We have to believe it. We know often against good opposition we play our best football and that must be the same on Saturday.”
Ten Hag has been hampered by injuries to key players throughout the season, but his fitness issues have eased ahead of the final.
Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane have returned, with Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount and Anthony Martial pictured in training this week, although Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw will be sidelined.
Ten Hag insisted Maguire, who has been named in England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad despite his muscle injury, had not suffered a setback.
“I don’t think so, no. It’s just he didn’t make it, didn’t heal as we expected,” he said.
Marcus Rashford was left out of England’s Euro squad after a poor campaign and Ten Hag challenged the United forward to prove his worth in the final.
“He looks good and that is a career, ups and downs,” Ten Hag said.
“So, a down can also be fuel, that is what I see in training. He will be highly motivated. Speak with your feet, he is highly talented.”

West Ham’s Paqueta charged over alleged betting breaches

Updated 23 May 2024
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West Ham’s Paqueta charged over alleged betting breaches

  • Paqueta has been charged with four breaches of FA rules in relation to his conduct in West Ham’s Premier League matches
  • The 26-year-old has also been charged with two further breaches in respect of alleged failures to “comply pursuant to FA Rule F2“

LONDON: West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta has been charged with alleged breaches of Football Association betting rules after a probe into claims the Brazilian deliberately earned yellow cards.
Paqueta has been charged with four breaches of FA rules in relation to his conduct in West Ham’s Premier League matches against Leicester in November 2022, Aston Villa in March 2023, Leeds in May 2023 and Bournemouth in August 2023.
The 26-year-old has also been charged with two further breaches in respect of alleged failures to “comply pursuant to FA Rule F2.”
Paqueta was interviewed by the FA in September and gave the English game’s governing body access to his phone.
The FA investigation started after suspicious betting patterns surrounding Paqueta’s booking for shoving Bournemouth’s Illia Zabarnyi in the closing minutes of a 1-1 draw on the opening day of this season.
“West Ham United’s Lucas Paqueta has been charged with misconduct in relation to alleged breaches of FA Rules E5 and F3,” an FA statement said on Thursday.
“It’s alleged that he directly sought to influence the progress, conduct, or any other aspect of, or occurrence in these matches by intentionally seeking to receive a card from the referee for the improper purpose of affecting the betting market in order for one or more persons to profit from betting.”
Paqueta has until June 3 to respond to the charges, subject to any request for an extension to the deadline.
Writing on his Instagram page, Paqueta was quick to deny the charges.
“I am extremely surprised and upset that the FA has decided to charge me,” he said.
“For nine months, I have co-operated with every step of their investigation and provided all the information I can.
“I deny all the charges in their entirety and will fight with every breath to clear my name. Due to the ongoing process, I will not be providing any further comment.”
In their own statement, West Ham said: “The club acknowledges receipt of the FA charge received by Lucas Paqueta for alleged breaches of their Rules.
“Lucas categorically denies the breach and will continue to robustly defend his position.
“The club will continue to stand by and support the Player throughout the process and will make no further comment until the matter is concluded.”


French Open: Nadal faces Zverev in first round

Updated 23 May 2024
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French Open: Nadal faces Zverev in first round

  • Nadal had been coy about whether he would compete Roland Garros after two seasons of off-and-on action because of injuries

PARIS: Rafael Nadal is in the French Open field, after all, and the 14-time champion was set up for a challenging first-round matchup against Alexander Zverev from Thursday’s draw.
Nadal had been coy about whether he would compete Roland Garros after two seasons of off-and-on action because of injuries, including a surgically repaired hip that forced him to miss his favorite tournament a year ago.
After a loss at the Italian Open this month, Nadal said he needed to think about whether to play in Paris. But he has been practicing on the red clay at Roland Garros this week and his name was officially in the bracket.
Unseeded.
His matchup against the No. 4-ranked Zverev is a rematch of their 2022 semifinal that ended when Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle.
The French Open begins on Sunday.


T20, cricket’s fast and furious format, in spotlight as World Cup looms

Updated 23 May 2024
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T20, cricket’s fast and furious format, in spotlight as World Cup looms

  • First cricket World Cup to be hosted on US soil starts June 1
  • T20 cricket is completed in just over three hours, unlike Tests or ODIs

The first cricket World Cup to be hosted on US soil starts June 1 and will be shared with countries in the Caribbean, represented by the two-time champion West Indies.

Fear not. It won’t drag on.

This World Cup is in the Twenty20 format, the fastest and most action-packed version of cricket.

Unlike test cricket matches, which started out as timeless before being shortened to five days, T20 doesn’t require any breaks for tea or lunch and is completed in just over three hours — roughly the same as a Major League Baseball game.

Players wear colorful uniforms, unlike the all-white test cricket kits, and venues have a party vibe.

The 20 competing teams have been divided into four groups in the league stage, which kicks off with the US against Canada in Dallas. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout rounds. The final is set for Bridgetown, Barbados on June 29.

WHEN DID TWENTY20 CRICKET START?

T20 was first played at franchise level in England in 2003. That makes it a baby in terms of cricket, which has been played in one form or another for at least 400 years.

Within four years, T20 had its own World Cup and it has spawned far-flung leagues in traditional and new cricket markets. The most lucrative franchise cricket competition by far is the Indian Premier League.

Major League Cricket, which attracts players from around the world, made its debut in the US last year. Season 2 will launch July 4.

SPEED AND ENTERTAINMENT

The two important factors with the T20 format: It hurries the game up, meaning, generally, much more excitement. The game is also shortened time-wise and is easier to consume for young or new fans or — and this is key — TV programming.

While the format leads to high-tempo action on the field, T20 has also sparked an evolution in off-field entertainment in cricket. Cheerleaders dancing on podiums, DJs sitting behind decks spinning tunes and fancy dress themes are all part of the T20 game for crowds, bringing a colorful new twist for those at the stadium and broadcast viewers.

RULES

Cricket’s main rules still apply in T20 games, meaning there might still be a steep learning curve for new fans unfamiliar with the leg before wicket law, or “lbw” for short — when a batter is called out for using his protective leg pads to block a delivery from hitting the stumps.

At least there will be no ties. Test cricket has two ways for a game to have no winner, even if it’s been going on for five days.

But in T20, even if the teams get exactly the same number of runs — 150 runs is an average score and more than 200 is a good score — then there is a “Super Over” to decide the game. That means each team faces one over of six balls to smash as many runs as it can and whoever wins that tie-breaker wins the game.

THE FINER DETAILS

Like test and one-day international cricket, it’s a game between two teams of 11. Each team gets to bat for 20 overs (a series of six deliveries from the same bowler) which translates to 120 deliveries, excluding extras, per inning. Hence the name Twenty20.

The leather ball is white and similar in appearance to a baseball.

Bowlers run to the crease and use a rotating arm action to bowl the ball and try to knock the bails off three 28-inch stumps from the opposite end of the 22-yard pitch. Batters try to protect the stumps while scoring runs as quickly as possible by hitting the ball over or between fielders.

And so, at least in the T20 format, they regularly hit the ball out of the ground, not unlike a home run.

PAST WINNERS

Unlike the traditional Cricket World Cup, which was first contested in 1975, has been played mostly in the 50-over format, and has been dominated by six-time champion Australia, success in the global T20 tournament has been more evenly shared.

Only West Indies, representing the Caribbean nations, and England have won it twice. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia have one T20 title each.

THE STARS

Virat Kohli, India: A feisty and formidable batter who has set records in the Indian Premier League and over a long career with the national team. There’s an array of high-profile stars in the India squad but none has a bigger following than the 35-year-old former captain.

Rashid Khan, Afghanistan: The 25-year-old leg-spinner has been the top-ranked T20 bowler in international cricket and is still very much in the Top 10. He’s a star in the IPL and for the Afghan national team.

Jofra Archer, England: If he’s fit, he’s super fast. The Barbados-born paceman hasn’t played a lot of cricket in the last few years because of injury but has been rushed back into the squad for the defending champions because of his intimidating bowling and experience in Caribbean conditions.

Mitch Marsh, Australia: A big, burley “allrounder” — meaning he bats and bowls — Marsh can get an innings away to a blazing start and also bowl with pace. He has been recovering from a hamstring problem which curtailed his IPL season and isn’t likely to bowl at the start of the World Cup but will play as captain regardless. He was the player of the final when Australia clinched its first T20 world title in 2021.


West Ham name Julen Lopetegui as new boss

Updated 23 May 2024
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West Ham name Julen Lopetegui as new boss

LONDON: West Ham named former Real Madrid and Spain boss Julen Lopetegui as their new manager on Thursday after David Moyes’ departure from the London Stadium.
The 57-year-old Spaniard had been out of work since leaving Wolves on the eve of the just-concluded Premier League season.
Lopetegui will officially begin work with the Hammers on July 1, replacing Moyes after the Scot’s exit at the end of this season.
“We came here with the idea and the thought to make a big, big noise,” he said. “That’s why we came here, and we are excited by this challenge.
“Of course, we are going to do our best to help the club and the team to achieve the best level and to achieve our aims.
“I assure the fans that they are going to be key in all our achievements.”
West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan said Lopetegui’s appointment would “ensure a strong opportunity to build on the positive progress made in recent seasons.”
The Hammers finished ninth in the Premier League in the 2023/24 season.