Karlsson runner-up in US Open warm up

Swedish golfer Robert Karlsson came second behind England's Lee Westwood in a dramatic playoff at the St. Jude Classic on Sunday, giving himself a boost days before the start of the US Open championship at Pebble Beach.

Karlsson runner-up in US Open warm up

Karlsson lost to Westwood, who became the first European to win the long-established tournament, on the fourth hole of sudden-death.

The Englishman claimed his second US PGA Tour victory, but his first since the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 1998.

“You try to do the right thing all the time,” Westwood said. “It doesn’t always work for you. I’ve been in contention a lot, especially this year, and I suppose I got a break today with other people’s misfortune but made the most of it and took a chance.”

American Robert Garrigus blew a three-stroke lead on the final hole of regulation with a triple bogey. He then bogeyed the first playoff hole to drop out of the race.

Westwood and Karlsson both went par-par-bogey until they returned again to the 18th at TPC Southwind.

Westwood landed his approach shot six feet from the pin, while Karlsson left himself a 43-footer for birdie. The Swede left that short while Westwood drained his birdie putt for the victory.

The trio all finished 72 holes on 270, Westwood after a 68, Karlsson a 69 and Garrigus a 71.

Westwood started the day three shots off the pace, but a burst of three birdies in a row from the second saw him take the lead.

Westwood drained a 30-footer at the second and holed out from nearly 34 feet on the third. At the fourth he rolled in a 19-footer.

He gave back a shot at 17 and with Garrigus up by three was ready to leave the course after his round until he was told to hang around.

That was when Garrigus, who had never led a US tour event on the final day, had put his tee shot at 18 into the lake alongside the fairway. He took a drop then hit his next shot into the trees. He ended up two-putting for a triple bogey to join the playoff.

Garrigus said he thought he had a two-stroke lead going into the final hole rather than three.

“It’s little things to win. I’ve got to learn that, and next time I’m in that position I’m going to do it,” Garrigus said.

Returning to 18, Garrigus stayed away from the lake, but his drive landed behind a tree so that he could only punch out into the fairway.

Westwood and Karlsson both safely parred, but Garrigus couldn’t make his 13-footer to save par and was out.

Karlsson had a chance to win at the third playoff hole with a par putt from inside six feet, but missed.

“I didn’t hit a good putt. You can’t take any chances with too many good players,” said Karlsson, who won his ninth European Tour victory at Qatar earlier this year but remains in search of a first US tour title.

“It’s amazing how things pan out,” said Westwood, who was playing on a sponsor’s exemption that allowed him to hone his game for the year’s second major, which starts Thursday at Pebble Beach, California.

“I like being competitive before a major championship, to be competitive with the tournament and boost my confidence,” Westwood said.

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Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”