Friday, December 21, 2007

Europeans line up for The Royal Trophy

Europe has assembled a team packed with match play experience in their attempt to defeat Asia and win The Royal Trophy for the third successive year when the 2008 contest takes place at Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand from January 11-13. Of the nine players in Captain Seve Ballesteros’s team, five - Darren Clarke, Niclas Fasth, David Howell, Robert Karlsson, Paul McGinley - have previously played in this international team match play with Anders Hansen, the reigning BMW PGA Champion, Grégory Havret, Raphaël Jacquelin and Graeme Storm making their debuts in the match. Indeed Clarke, Fasth, Karlsson and McGinley were all in the European team which retained The Royal Trophy with a comprehensive 12 ½ - 3 ½ victory at Amata Spring in January this year, a victory which followed a 9-7 success in the inaugural contest at the Bangkok course in January 2006. The talented quartet have also all played in successful Ryder Cup and Seve Trophy teams. Clarke, Howell, Karlsson and McGinley were Captain’s picks for the contest while Fasth qualified automatically from The European Tour Order of Merit. Joining the Swede from the Order of Merit is his fellow Scandinavian Hansen, Englishman Storm and the French duo of Havret and Jacquelin. Storm made his professional match play debut in September, winning twice as part of the successful Great Britain and Ireland team in The Seve Trophy, while the trip to Bangkok will give Havret and Jacquelin an opportunity to rekindle their sensational Seve Trophy partnership which saw them win three matches out of four for the Continental European cause in Ireland. As with the 2007 match in January, the format of the contest will see four foursomes matches open proceedings on Friday January 11 with four fourball matches following on Saturday January 12. The contest will close with nine singles matches on Sunday January 13, a team requiring nine points for an outright victory. As well as battling for the beautiful Royal Trophy, donated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, each member of the winning team will pick up US$106,250, while each member of the losing team will receive US$53,125. Seve Ballesteros will lead the European team for the third successive year while the Asian team will be captained for the second time by Japan’s Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki, who took over from his fellow countryman Masahiro Kuramoto, the captain for the inaugural contest in 2006.

European Team:
Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland)
Raphaël Jacquelin (France)
Niclas Fasth (Sweden)
Robert Karlsson (Sweden)
Anders Hansen (Denmark)
Paul McGinley (Ireland)
Grégory Havret (France)
Graeme Storm (England)
David Howell (England)

Cabrera's shot of the Year

Angel Cabrera’s spectacular approach to the 15th hole at Oakmont Country Club, which helped secure the Argentine’s first Major victory in the US Open Championship, has been voted The European Tour Shot of the Year for 2007. The superb nine iron from 169 yards in the final round finished just 18 inches behind the hole for a vital birdie, and was considered the best shot of the year by a panel comprising TV, Radio, media and The European Tour. That shot gave Cabrera the lead at a crucial time and enabled him to become the first golfer from Argentina in 40 years to win a Major Championship. Cabrera said: "I had the perfect yardage for a nine iron and was able to attack the pin with a little fade and you can tell from my reaction immediately afterwards that I knew I had almost holed it. I was delighted to be left with a tap-in for a birdie, which put me three shots clear with three holes to play. Looking back, that shot was possibly the most important I played in that final round." In second place was the November winner, the magnificent albatross by Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland on the 17th hole at Club de Golf Valderrama in the final round of the 2007 Volvo Masters. Lying three shots off the lead with only two holes remaining, McDowell took on the green at the demanding par five and produced a shot he later described as “one of those magic moments”. Faced with 186 yards to a pin guarded by water, the Ulsterman hit a seven iron which took the perfect bounce before rolling into the cup for that rarest of golfing birds. Steve Webster’s magnificent second shot to the 12th hole in the final round on his way to victory in the inaugural Portugal Masters in October at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Club took third place in the annual vote. Looking for his first European Tour success in over two years, the Englishman knew a significant move at the testing par five would give him a cushion over the chasing Robert Karlsson and he achieved just that, a superbly struck, adrenalin fuelled four iron over water to ten feet, set up the crucial eagle three which put him on his way to victory. The European Tour Shot of the Month Award is presented to the Tour Member for the shot judged to be the most outstanding played during each calendar month on The European Tour International Schedule. The winning shots each month are entered into The European Tour Shot of the Year Award. The fill list of winners in 2007 were: Retief Goosen of South Africa (January), Mikko Ilonen of Finland (February and August), South Africans Anton Haig (March) and Charl Schwartzel (April), Justin Rose of England (May), Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (June), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (July), Australia’s Brett Rumford (September), England’s Steve Webster (October) and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (November).

BMW PGA remains at Wentworth

The BMW PGA Championship will continue in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to be held at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, where it has taken place since 1984. The 2008 BMW PGA Championship, which will take place on May 22-25, will be the 25th successive time that The European Tour’s flagship event has been played on the West Course and the 28th time in all as Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis and Maurice Bembridge won on the Harry Colt layout in 1972, 1973 and 1974 respectively. Denmark’s Anders Hansen won the 53rd edition in May, 2007, when he beat England’s Justin Rose in a play-off. The BMW PGA Championship has been won by players from 12 different countries including Major Championship winners Severiano Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Arnold Palmer and Ian Woosnam and, of course, eight times European Tour Order of Merit Number One Colin Montgomerie, who won three times in succession from 1998. Richard Caring, Chairman of Wentworth Club, said: “I am delighted that the BMW PGA Championship is going to remain at Wentworth. This flagship tournament of The European Tour is a classic event in the British sporting calendar. “We continue to invest in the course and all the facilities at Wentworth so to ensure we play our part alongside BMW and The European Tour in ensuring the quality of this historic and prestigious Championship continues to improve. “We wish to focus on our West Course Championships – the World Match Play has been played every year since 1964 and we look forward to the 45th edition next October – and therefore we have decided after 11 years to no longer host the Wentworth Senior Masters.” George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “I would like to express our thanks to our hosts, Richard Caring and Wentworth Club, for all the effort and commitment they continue to make. The BMW PGA Championship in the most significant event outside The Open Championship on The European Tour International Schedule, and we remain determined along with everyone at BMW and Wentworth to providing the finest facilities for the spectators as we again look forward to seeing the leading players in the world compete on the famed West Course.”

Golf Channel to cover European Tour

GOLF CHANNEL President Page H. Thompson and George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, today announced an agreement that will make GOLF CHANNEL the exclusive home of European Tour events telecast in the United States, Canada and Japan through 2014.GOLF CHANNEL, which featured a European Tour event (Dubai Desert Classic) as its first-ever tournament telecast in 1995 and has played a major role in bringing the Tour to prominence in the United States, will continue to televise a minimum of 32 European Tour events each year under the new agreement, which commences immediately. For 2007 the players will compete for annual prize money that exceeds $190 million, and with the recently announced “Race to Dubai” - commencing in November 2008 and its $10,000,000 Bonus Pool, – The European Tour is creating an entirely new and exciting way to watch golf. “We’re extremely pleased to be continuing our great relationship with The European Tour,” said Thompson. “Our viewers love the top-quality golf, the exotic locales, and the distinctive announcing style of Renton Laidlaw and the rest of The European Tour team. Whatever hour you want to watch, you can find it on ‘Golf’s home’.” Viewers also love that European Tour events on GOLF CHANNEL typically air in the morning, giving them more golf without conflicting with the PGA TOUR, the LPGA Tour or any other tour telecasts. George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “These are exciting times for The European Tour and this announcement further endorses our desire to work with an outstanding partner who shares our appetite for broadening the global appeal of the game. We launched our partnership in 1995 with Joe Gibbs, the co-founder of The Golf Channel, and Bob Greenway; continued the strong relationship with David Manougian and today we are delighted to congratulate Page Thompson and all members of his staff for their continued commitment.” The 2008 European Tour schedule features no less than 52 events, which will be played in 25 countries on some of the most famous and picturesque golf courses in the world, including Scotland’s Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Loch Lomond; Dubai’s Emirates Golf Club; England’s The Belfry, Wentworth Club and Royal Birkdale where The 137th Open Championship will be played, Le Golf National in France, spectacular Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland; Spain’s Club de Golf Valderrama, and Wales’ Celtic Manor Resort, site of The 2010 Ryder Cup. The Tour in 2008 will also host tournaments for the first time in India and Korea. The Tour’s popularity in the US has blossomed in recent years while its tournaments regularly attract some of golf’s biggest international names, including Argentina’s 2007 US Open Champion Angel Cabrera and Andres Romero, Irishman and 2007 Open Championship winner Padraig Harrington, England’s 2007 European Tour Order of Merit winner Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, Fiji’s Vijay Singh, South Africa’s Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, Spain’s Sergio Garcia, and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth. The new partnership also gives GOLF CHANNEL additional European Tour content rights for Internet and wireless applications, as well as exclusive broadcast rights in Japan to the 2010 and 2014 Ryder Cups. GOLF CHANNEL also has the option to air the popular magazine-style show, European Tour Weekly. GOLF CHANNEL(, co-founded by Arnold Palmer and a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMSK), is available in more than 110 million homes worldwide through cable, satellite and wireless companies. It features a programming schedule that includes more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, as well as news, instruction and original productions, such as the popular Big Break. GOLF CHANNEL became the exclusive cable home of the PGA TOUR in 2007, and televises part or all of every PGA TOUR event. In addition, the network is exclusive television home of the Nationwide Tour and Canadian Tour, and the exclusive cable home of the Champions Tour. Also featured is a generous mix of other competition from the LPGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America, Asian Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour of Southern Africa.

Seniors to visit Atlantic islands of the Azores

The European Seniors Tour will make an early season visit to the Atlantic islands of the Azores for the first time with the announcement that the Azores Seniors Open 2008 will take place at the Batalha Golf Course from March 28-30, 2008. The Azores, located about two hours flying time and 930 miles from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, will host the Seniors Tour a week after another Portuguese archipelago, Madeira, hosts The European Tour. The Azores Seniors Open 2008 will carry a prize fund of €325,000 with the winner securing €48,750. Batalha Golf Course is situated on the island of São Miguel, the largest of the nine islands which form the Azores, and is one of only three courses in the region. The course is noted for its breathtaking sea views and fascinating scenery though woodland. Dra. Isabel Barata, Azores Tourism Minister, expressed. “Golf is certainly a sport which describes the Azores, quality, nature and hospitality. We are very proud to somehow honour the great stars that currently play on the Senior Tour and have developed golf throughout the years. We hope, just like those players, that the Azores become a star destination in the world of golf”. Carlos Martins, President of Verde Golfe, said: “We are very enthusiastic about hosting the European Senior Tour at our Batalha Golf Course which together with Furnas Golf Club offers a fantastic golf experience for all visitors. The professionals will really enjoy the Batalha design and we look forward to welcoming the great champions of golf” Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of The European Seniors Tour, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for our members to experience the beautiful islands of the Azores. This event is another early season chance for those players looking for a fast start in the race to the Order of Merit title and the European Seniors Tour would like to thank the Azores Government and Verde Golfe for their support in making this early season event possible.” The Azores Seniors Open 2008 will be promoted by Matchgolf. Javier Gervas, General Manager, commented: “We are very honoured to have the opportunity to collaborate with Verde Golfe and the Tourism Board of the Azores in developing another golf destination within Portugal. We are sure that with the help of the European Senior Tour, the Azores Seniors Open 2008 will soon become a reference on the Senior Tour”. The Azores Seniors Open 2008 is the latest exciting new destination for the 2008 European Seniors Tour schedule following recent announcements of new events in Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic.

Al Bangura battles to stay at Watford

WATFORD Football Club have today completed their application for Al Bangura's work permit, following yesterday's private meeting with the Minister of State with responsibility for the Borders and Immigration Agency, Liam Byrne. At that meeting the Minister gave Al Bangura an undertaking that The Home Office would make a concession for the 19-year-old to apply for a work permit, which he would not ordinarily be able to do through conventional channels. Iain Moody, Head of Football Operations at Vicarage Road, along with Bangura's legal team, have this evening couriered all of the relevant documentation to the Borders and Immigration Agency, who are part of the Home Office. With the work permit application lodged, Watford can look forward to a personal hearing with an independent panel, which is likely to happen in early January 2008. At that hearing, Al Bangura and Watford Football Club will be given a decision on whether the application has been successful or not.The news follows the hard work and petitioning from local MP Claire Ward who has supported Bangura’s fight to stay in the UK every step of the way.

Blues Go Green for Climate Change

Chelsea Football Club helped launch a major campaign to tackle climate change for London. It was announced at a ceremony at City Hall that Chelsea FC was one of the first companies to sign up to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone’s, Green500 scheme. The initiative welcomes any big business who wants to make a genuine commitment to helping the environment by reducing their carbon emissions, irrespective of their starting point Livingstone said: “‘The London green organisations programme will motivate, support and reward organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. “This is a world first, and places London at the forefront of government and business working together to cut carbon emissions. The impressive range of companies who have already signed up to the Green500 shows that leading businesses want to take a lead in helping to prevent climate change, and recognise that it increasingly makes commercial sense to do so. “These programmes are open to all, with the only requirement being a genuine commitment to stop climate change before it is too late.” Each company will be assessed and given realistic agreed targets within the day to day needs of their business. Chelsea’s Communications and Public Affairs Director, Simon Greenberg, said: “As a responsible business, Chelsea wants to make a genuine contribution to the environment as it is such an important issue for the future and that is why this scheme is ideal. “It will take into account everyday requirements of our business but identify areas where we can make changes. We are not going to stop flying by plane, or travel by coach to matches, or tell individuals to stop driving a particular car. That is just unrealistic, not just for us, but for many businesses. “However that does not mean we cannot make a contribution in other areas. If we all do that it could have a real impact collectively.” Under the scheme each company’s carbon use will be assessed by a leading company in the field of energy efficiency. An agreed action plan and annual targets to reduce carbon footprint will follow the assessment with awards being given for meeting those targets. Other companies who helped launch the scheme were Marks & Spencer, Ikea, Tesco, John Lewis and BSkyB.

Jakarta's Big Prize Fund in Indonesia

The Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open will return to Indonesia’s Capital City from February 14-17, 2008, with a prize fund of US$ 1,200,000. The 2008 edition of the tournament, co-sanctioned between The European and Asian Tours, will be played over the Cengkareng Golf Club in Jakarta, where Thaworn Wiratchant won the inaugural Indonesia Open in 2005. Mr John Eu, the Chief Executive Officer of tournament promoters GlobalOne, said: “It is great news to be returning to the Cengkareng Golf Club for next year’s Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open. The fact that the Cengkareng Golf Club has hosted the tournament in the past will ensure a superb 2008 edition of the tournament.” Mr Kyi Hla Han, Chairman of the Asian Tour, said: “The Asian Tour players are delighted to return to play in the 2008 edition of the Indonesia Open in Jakarta, at the Cengkareng Golf Club. The venue hosted the inaugural Indonesia Open in 2005 and we are confident of the international standards which will be adhered to ensure that the tournament will be one of resounding success.” Keith Waters, Director of International Policy for The European Tour, said: “Indonesia is continuing to grow in stature as a golf destination and, by hosting both The European and Asian Tours at the Cengkareng Golf Club, will continue to develop.”

Pole position for Golf's future stars

The future stars of The European Tour will visit Poland in 2008 with the announcement of the Wroclaw Open, to be played on the Challenge Tour from May 22-25, 2008, at the outstanding Toya Golf & Country Club in Wroclaw. The last time the Challenge Tour visited Poland, Markus Brier, Niclas Fasth, José Manuel Lara, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Carl Suneson all featured in the 1999 Warsaw Open, which was won by Fasth. Those six men have all gone on to win European Tour titles, with Rose, Fasth and Poulter now firmly ensconced among the world’s elite group of golfers with respective World Rankings of sixth, 20th and 22nd. The €150,000 Wroclaw Open has signed a three year agreement with the Challenge Tour and will be promoted and staged by Golf24, the long term promotions and staging partner to the PGA of Poland. Marek W. Podstolski, President of the PGA of Poland, said: “Nearly nine years ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming Challenge Tour players such as Niclas Fasth, Carl Suneson, José Manuel Lara, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Markus Brier and many others in Warsaw. “Today, they are the stars of European and world golf. I am happy that the Challenge Tour is back in Poland and I am certain that we will see another elite group of future champions. Ryszard Kozieras, Director of Golf for the Toya Golf & Country Club, said: “Toya Golf & Country Club Wroclaw is extremely happy to be hosting the Wroclaw Open. I hope that all players and officials will enjoy their time in Wroclaw and remember golf course and our beautiful city as a great place for future visits.” Alain de Soultrait, Director of the European Challenge Tour, said: “The Challenge Tour is proud to be returning to Poland, and to such a fine golf course at the Toya Golf & Country Club in Wroclaw. “We believe that hosting events in European countries like Poland can play a key role in the golfing development of these countries and we hope to see many exciting Polish golfers emerging over the next three years.”

Challenge Tour check out Czech Republic

The 2008 season will see the European Challenge Tour return to the Czech Republic for the €180,000 Ypsilon Golf Challenge, to be played at the Ypsilon Golf Resort Liberec, from August 21-24. The Challenge Tour was the first international golf tour to visit the Czech Republic in 1992, when Austria’s Lucien Tinkler won the Playboy Charity Challenge. With golf development gathering pace in the Czech Republic, the Challenge Tour will return in 2009 and 2010 having signed a three year agreement to stage the Ypsilon Golf Challenge. Petr Kupf, the Club President of the Ypsilon Golf Resort Liberec, said: “We are glad to be hosting the European Challenge Tour for the next three years on our golf course. “It means a lot for us, our golf club and also for the Czech golfing public. We will do our best to prepare a true test for the players on our golf course, and we hope they have an unforgettable experience of playing golf in what is a pure Czech environment.” Alain de Soultrait, Director of the European Challenge Tour, said: “The Challenge Tour is delighted to able to return to the Czech Republic and we hope that this three year deal will allow us the time and experience to play a key role in the development of golf in this great country.” The Ypsilon Golf Resort Liberec lies within the beautiful, natural surroundings near the Fojtka Dam of Liberec. Designed by Englishman, Keith Preston, the 6102 metre championship lay-out was voted ‘Golf Course of the Year 2006’ by Czech Golf Digest.

Irish Seniors to play at Ballyliffin

The Irish Seniors Open will be played over one of Ireland’s finest links courses with the announcement that the 2008 edition will be played at Ballyliffin Golf Club in the North West of Ireland, from June 20-22. It will be the first time the Irish Seniors Open has been hosted by a links course in its 12 year history with the tournament being played over The Old Links. The Irish Seniors Open will continue to receive support from Failte Ireland as part of their continued commitment to the European Tour Group and AIB as Associate Sponsors. Ballyliffin Golf Club, perched on the stunning Inishowen Peninsula, is one of the world’s finest links resorts with two outstanding courses. The Old Links, which has recently been refined by Faldo Design, the design company of The 2008 Ryder Cup Captain Nick Faldo who joined the senior ranks in July 2007, undulates in the glory of its natural terrain. The new Glashedy Links is fashioned around the incredible dunes, and is notorious for its peat riveted bunkers and its three challenging opening par fours. These magnificent links offer expansive panoramic views of countryside, coastline and ocean. Ballyliffin Golf Club is no stranger to The PGA European Tour Group having previously hosted the 2002 North West of Ireland Open, a dual ranking event which counted for both The European Tour and the Challenge Tour, won by Sweden’s Adam Mednick. Seamus Brennan T.D., Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, said: “I am delighted that once again the Irish Seniors Open will be supported through the Fáilte Ireland International Sports Tourism Initiative. The event provides a great opportunity for us to showcase Ireland as a world class golf and holiday destination and for visitors to enjoy the unique and beautiful surroundings of the North West.” Ballyliffin Golf Club General Manager, John Farren, commented: “Ballyliffin Golf Club and its 1400 members are delighted to welcome the European Seniors Tour to the North West of Ireland. “The staging of the prestigious Irish Seniors Open on The Old Links is testament to the significant investment by the club in recent years in the original Ballyliffin Links which has been substantially improved by Faldo Design. “Both links are now regarded as being amongst the best in world and Ballyliffin is one of the premier destinations for golf visitors to Ireland. Ireland has a third of all links courses in the world and this will be an important showcase for links golf in Ireland.” Billy Andrews, General Manager of AIB Bank, said: “Our association with the Seniors Tour provides us with an opportunity to travel the Seniors Open to prominent venues around Ireland. Ballyliffin’s links course in Donegal is a good example of this. Bringing the tournament to thousands of golf fans and our customers around the country is in line with our ‘supporting clubs, supporting communities’ sponsorship strategy.” Ballyliffin is one of 12 member clubs who form North & West Coast Links, a marketing company which has been instrumental in the increasing awareness and popularity of golf in this region, aided also thanks to convenient air access via City of Derry and Belfast Airports. Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of The European Seniors Tour, said: “The Irish Seniors Open has always been one of the most popular events on our schedule and we are excited to be taking it to what is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s greatest links courses at Ballyliffin Golf Club. Our thanks go to Faílte Ireland and AIB for their continued support and commitment to the European Seniors Tour.” The Irish Seniors Open has always provided great drama and worthy champions including the two most recent winners. In 2006 Scot Sam Torrance won the title to become the first player to win both the regular and senior versions of the Irish Open, while last year another Ryder Cup player, Costantino Rocca of Italy, won his maiden Seniors Tour title.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Harrington voted Top European Golfer

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington has been named The 2007 European Tour Golfer of the Year following an outstanding season in which the highlight was his victory in The 136th Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland. The 36 year old receives the accolade for the first time in his career after earning the majority vote of a panel comprising representatives of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW), Television, Radio and The European Tour, who also seriously considered the claims of Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, winner of the 2007 US Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club, and England’s Justin Rose, Number One on The European Tour Order of Merit. Harrington, whose success meant that European Tour Members completed an historic US Open – Open Championship summer double following Cabrera’s victory, said: “There are obviously lots of things that happened this year that made it very special, starting with the birth of my second son, Ciaran, but following not too far behind was winning The Open Championship. “Winning The Irish Open was another big one too, and there were a couple of other wins in there, so it is really nice for it all to be recognised at the end of the season by being named The European Tour Golfer of the Year, an award I will treasure. Accolades like this are very rewarding, especially as time passes, and it is a great reminder of what a great year 2007 was. “Undoubtedly Angel had a great year, too. He played some great golf at the US Open and his triumph there was probably one of the most spectacular wins of the year. In terms of being flamboyant he hit some great shots in that final round. “I remember watching it and I suppose it was all summed up by him sitting in the Oakmont locker room waiting for the guys to finish the last couple of holes. I think there can be no better picture than of him sitting there so relaxed – well reasonably relaxed anyway!” Like Harrington, it was Cabrera’s first Major Championship success, the 38 year old winning in the end by one shot from Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods, and in all he captured four titles around the world in 2007. Rose secured Number One honours on The 2007 European Tour Order of Merit with his win in the season-ending Volvo Masters, which followed his early season success in the MasterCard Masters, while others with multiple victories included South Africa’s Ernie Els, who won the HSBC World Match Play Championship for a record seventh time in addition to the South African Airways Open, and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who won the WGC – Accenture Match Play and the Dubai Desert Classic. George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “In fewer than 40 days in the summer of 2007 Angel and Padraig earned global recognition by completing a Major Championship double not achieved by European Tour Members since The European Tour was born in 1971. Both players are outstanding role models for The European Tour. We congratulate them both and recognise Padraig as a most deserving recipient in this the 23rd year of this prestigious Award.” Harrington, winner of 21 events worldwide including 12 on The European Tour International Schedule, became the first golfer from Ireland in 60 years to lift the Claret Jug after his four hole play-off victory over Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie. Harrington started the last day sharing third place on three under par – six shots behind Garcia – and shot 67 to the Spaniard’s 73 to tie with a seven under par total of 277 on a final leaderboard on which all of the top five places were occupied by European Tour Members. He recalled: “I was talking to a few people and we certainly had in mind that I would have to shoot two 67s on the weekend. I shot 68 on the Saturday and played very solidly for that. Going out on the Sunday I was six shots behind, but I knew second place was six under par and I had to get past that to give myself a chance. I knew one or two of us on three under par would go out and play well that day. I think Sergio probably went out with the same thing in mind, to stay ahead of six under. I think both of us succeeded in that goal as we finished at seven under. “When I birdied the 11th I got the feeling from the crowd that something was happening. I don’t look at leaderboards but when my caddie got me to lay up off the tee on the 14th I knew that meant I was right in contention, because he would have got me to hit driver if I was chasing a bit more. Then, when I eagled the 14th, that was the first time in the whole round that I really had to calm down. When I knocked the putt in I casually raised my hand to acknowledge the crowd, but inside I was flying and it was a big effort to just calm down. “Then, of course, I was in the water twice on the 18th. I felt really embarrassed at the time but I don’t feel so bad about it now because I can look back at all the circumstances of the shots. It was nice that I recovered afterwards and don’t have to beat up myself too much about it. It would have done me a lot of harm if I hadn’t won, but that’s not the case, and there is a positive there that next time in a similar situation I will have memories that I can play the final hole not perfectly and still win.” Similarly Harrington required a play-off to win The Irish Open when he overcame Bradley Dredge of Wales at the first extra hole at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in County Limerick. Harrington said: “In my eyes The Irish Open is the fifth Major. It’s my national event and when I get there it’s incredibly hyped up and there’s loads of expectation and pressure. So it mimics a Major for me. Having come through The Irish Open this year it did give me confidence because of the similarities in my approach to that event and my approach to Majors. “Overall in both of them – The Irish Open and The Open – I was doing my own thing, remaining focused on myself and very convinced within myself that I was going to win. In neither case did I doubt what was happening, I was always focused on a win and not wondering what a loss would mean. “The course at Adare was set up tough and definitely that suits my game nowadays. I seem to do better when it is single figures under par that wins, where it’s about being disciplined and playing solid golf, whereas when I was a younger player I was definitely more erratic and tended to shoot more low scores and then a few more higher ones. So I do prefer going into the bigger occasions, the Major-type tests where it is going to be more like a marathon than a sprint.” Ultimately Harrington, who finished Number One in The European Tour Order of Merit in 2006, claimed third place in the 2007 Order of Merit with winnings of €2,463,742 (£1,728,250) behind Rose (€2,944,945; £2,065,801) and South Africa’s Ernie Els (€2,496,237; £1,751,045). Harrington concluded: “It was a great year for golf and for The European Tour, ending with the announcement of The Race to Dubai and The Dubai World Championship. I’m very happy with it. They knew they had to come up with something to challenge the PGA Tour so it does seem like the right move. They’ve picked the time of the year where they can dominate and they're putting on the biggest event financially on any Tour. You’re going to a place that has fantastic weather, fantastic facilities and a great place to run a big event at that time of the year. Other tournaments are going to have to compete and it’s going to bring the whole standard of the Tour up. “Now we can look forward to 2008 including The Ryder Cup. I think you’ll see the old guard getting out there and playing a few extra events to try to force themselves into the Team, but there will be some fresh new faces in there as well. “That’s what The Ryder Cup needs, a mixture of both. That’s why Europe has done so well in the past, because we maximise the team effort. The only thing is I’ve got to make sure of is that I’m in there as one of the elder statesmen in the team. There’s plenty of work still to be done to get into that Team and like any player, I’ll be anxious to get myself in early rather than late. You don’t want to be sweating about it.”

Trinidad and Jones Talk the Talk

Eight-time world champion Roy Jones Jr. visited the home of five-time world champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad for a press conference at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Thursday (Dec. 6). While both boxers have been good sportsmen at previous media tour stops in New York and Los Angeles, the emotion of being on his native island caused Trinidad to sharpen his words towards Jones concerning their Jan. 19 showdown at Madison Square Garden and on HBO Pay-Per-View. Trinidad became very serious at the end of the media-packed press conference, striking the podium and telling his interpreter to translate what he had to say in English because he wanted to make sure Jones would hear him. “Roy, I am telling you this and I am serious this time,” Trinidad said. “Every time I hit you it’s going to hurt. I think Roy has a bad memory when he says he’s going to win in four rounds. What are you going to do when I knock you out in the second round, Roy?” Jones responded, “Tito’s got to go in fo. He’s doing a lot of talking now. He’s got a big mouth. That’s a bad sign.” Roy Jones Jr.: “I love Puerto Rico. It’s a great place. I’ve got to give credit to Miguel Cotto for his performance against Shane Mosley. He came out and out-boxed the boxer. Watching the Cotto-Mosley fight caused me to go home and tighten up all of my bolts and screws because Tito comes from the same place Cotto does so I’ve got to be on the top of my game. “I love to fight. Tito is a great world champion who loves to fight. We are going to both come to fight on January 19 at Madison Square Garden. Fans don’t want to see a boring fight. They want to see somebody’s ass hit the grass. “I’m going to take Tito down in four. He must go in fo.” Felix “Tito” Trinidad: “It’s great to be on my island. Roy Jones and I are donating money from our purses to help fight breast cancer and that is a good thing. “I want all of my friends and fans who know I have been out of the ring for over two years to know that I am a clean person. I don’t smoke or drink so my body has been responding well to the conditioning for my return to the ring. I am very happy with my performance in training. I want to tell my fans once again that I am fine. I am ready. And I will do fine on January 19. “Roy Jones is a great eight-time champion of the world. He’s been a great champion and was undefeated for many years. He stepped up to heavyweight and beat John Ruiz. All of this is true but on Jan. 19, Roy Jones, you will have the toughest fight of your life. Every time I come into the ring I come to fight. I come with only one bag into the ring, the bag of hitting you. The bag of getting hit I left at home. “I’m very sure Madison Square Garden will be sold out. You [Roy] will see a Boriqua Tito punching Roy Jones around the ring. I want you to be prepared Roy because every time I hit you, you’re going to feel it. I want my translator to say this in English because I want him to understand what I am about to say. Roy, I’m telling you this and I am serious this time. Every time I hit you it’s going to hurt. “I think Roy has a bad memory when he says he’s going to win in four rounds. What are you going to do when I knock you out in the second round, Roy?” Roy Jones Jr.: “Tito’s got to go in fo. He’s doing a lot of talking now. He’s got a big mouth. That’s a bad sign.”

Calzaghe Targets Hopkins in 2008

After being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year and unifying the super-middleweight division, Joe Calzaghe's year could get even better as hopes rise that he can finally nail down a fight against Bernard Hopkins. Frank Warren and Golden Boy Promotions, Hopkins handlers, are in on-going talks about staging the fight in 2008. It would give Calzaghe the opportunity to avenge Ricky Hatton's defeat at the weekend - against Floyd Mayweather - in a second great battle between Britain and America. And if he defeated Hopkins, it would confirm his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time. Calzaghe was in Las Vegas over the weekend to support Hatton, and became involved in a slanging match with the former middleweight king and current light-heavyweight number one at the MGM Grand. But if Warren has his way, Calzaghe and Hopkins will get it on for real next year. "Both boxers want the fight, I want the fight, the fans want the fight and HBO want the fight, so there's no reason for it not to happen." Said Warren. "Joe is flying back this week and I'll be sitting down with him to discuss things, and we'll move on from there." Calzaghe added: "Coming face to face with Hopkins over the weekend made me want the fight even more. He can talk a good fight but he can't beat me. "I'll go to America and take the fight, no problem at all. Bernard's a great fighter, but he's not as good as me. "2007 has been a fantastic year for me, what with beating Kessler and then winning the BBC award on Sunday night. "I've got my fingers crossed that 2008 will be even better, with a fight against Hopkins, and a win that will finally show everyone in America that I deserve all the praise I get."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Francis returns for Boxing Glory

Commonwealth Light-Heavyweight champion Dean Francis has re-signed with Frank Warren - and is targeting a showdown with IBF World Champion Clinton Woods. Francis, who has also held the British, European and WBO Intercontinental super-middleweight crowns under Warren's guidance, will defend his Commonwealth belt at the Bolton Arena on December 8. The 33-year-old power-puncher had also been considered as a possible opponent for Antonio Tarver in the States but the American turned him down. Advised by Jonathan Feld at the World Sports Organisation, Francis, 33, boasts a 28-3 (23) record, and is getting back to his best and looking forward to the future after legal, contractual and injury problems kept him away from the ring. "It's great news that I'm back with Frank Warren, the promoter who helped me to some of my greatest wins," said Francis. "And it will be incredible to defend my title at the Bolton Arena in front of a sell out crowd next month. "Being away from the sport I love made me realise how much it means to me, and how much more I want to acheive. "I've never given up my dream of becoming a world champion, and winning a world title is a realistic goal. "Obviously Clinton Woods is number one in the UK at the moment at 175 pounds, but given a couple more fights, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be up there challenging him." Promoter Frank Warren added: "I'm delighted to sign Dean again, and I'm confident he is still has what it takes. A few years ago, he was one of the biggest punchers in the super-middleweight division, and from what I've seen he has carried that form over to the light-heavyweights."

Wladimir Klitschko Fights for Laureus

It will be a great night in the history of boxing on February 23 when IBF/IBO Champion Wladimir Klitschko takes on WBO Champion Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden in New York City – the first unification fight in heavyweight boxing since the two bouts between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis in 1999. Laureus Ambassador Wladimir Klitschko has announced that he is to dedicate the fight to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA. Wladimir Klitschko said: “Since the fight takes place in New York, I want the youngsters from this city to benefit from it. Together with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, we will start a social project in New York using boxing as the focus. We have had very positive experiences with a boxing project in Berlin, where boys and girls can learn skills in the gym which can help them in their daily life in terms of boosting their self-esteem and helping them to channel aggression into positive energy.” The funds for the new project in New York will be raised with a special offer to Wladimir Klitschko fans. Up to 10,000 names can be placed on the boxing robe, which Klitschko will wear when he enters Madison Square Garden Arena on February 23. >From today, fans from all over the world can support this charity initiative by logging on to and booking a space on the robe. The price is US$199.00 and each fan who participates will get a personal certificate signed by Wladimir Klitschko and Edwin Moses, the Chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. In addition to the funds raised directly from fans, the Klitschko robe will be auctioned later in the year with the proceeds going to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA. During the week before the fight, Wladimir Klitschko, together with members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, will launch the new boxing project in New York, details of which will be announced shortly. Edwin Moses, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, said: “On behalf of the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy I express our deep appreciation of Wladimir’s initiative. This is an amazing gesture which will help young people in New York and a classic example of how sport today can have a positive impact on society. We already have three Laureus projects in New York and we think this will be a great addition. All our efforts in this community and our other programmes around the world can benefit from this remarkable co-operation.” Wladimir Klitschko, and his brother Vitali, became members of the Laureus Friends & Ambassadors programme two years ago. They are great supporters of the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Laureus Friends & Ambassadors is an initiative aimed at encouraging the involvement of sport stars and friends in the work of the Laureus Foundation. The personalities have volunteered their time to act as global ambassadors by using their influence to highlight the plight of underprivileged children. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation addresses a broad range of social problems through a worldwide programme of sports related community development initiatives. Laureus improves the lives of over 150,000 young people. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA supports four projects - CampInteractive, Fight Back!, I Challenge Myself and Midnight Basketball League.

Meager and Murray in Vegas Showdown

The British invasion of Las Vegas begins on Friday (December 7) when Hennessy Sports duo John Murray and Lee Meager feature on a Golden Boy promotion at the MGM Grand Conference Center. “BRITISH INVASION – THE U.K. VS. THE WORLD” is a night of world-class professional boxing presented by Golden Boy Promotions. Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo will broadcast the event beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Murray 22-0 (12 KOs) and Meager 21-2-1 (8 KOs) both face Mexicans the night before their fellow Manchester boxer Ricky Hatton faces American Floyd Mayweather for the WBC Welterweight Title. It will be a chance for many of the thousands of fans from Manchester and Britain who will make the trip to Vegas to see two more of their countryman in action. Newly-crowned English Lightweight Champion Murray faces Miguel Angel Mungui 16-9 (13 KOs) while former British Lightweight Champion Meager is up against Jose Alberto Gonzalez 14-4 (6 KOs). The Hennessy Sports team arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday. Murray, 22, is delighted to get the chance to show the travelling British fight fans and an American audience what he can do. Last year’s British Boxing Writers’ Young Boxer of the Year fought on the undercard of Oscar de la Hoya against Floyd Mayweather in May, when he stopped Lorenzo Bethea in the seventh round. He then stopped Dean Hickman for the English Title in four rounds in a career-best display on November 9. John Murray said: “It’s a dream to be fighting in Las Vegas again and is great experience for me. It will be a good chance for me to put on a good show in front of a lot of British fight fans who might not have seen me before, especially Manchester fight fans. “There’s 25,000 Brits coming out to Vegas to see Ricky, so hopefully a few will come down to watch some more boxing the night before. Not everyone could get tickets for Ricky’s fight, but they’ve got the chance to see two other Manchester fighters the night before. It’s a great chance to show my talent to the American audience again and I feel great after my last performance. “I’ve been sparring with Ricky Hatton and what he has achieved is something that I am aiming for. I want to be fighting in Las Vegas as the main event one day.” Lee Meager said: “It’s very exciting to have the chance to be fighting in front of a lot of Manchester fans on such a big weekend for British boxing. It’s great to be part of it and I intend to get the weekend off to a good start.” Murray and Meager’s promoter Mick Hennessy said: “This is an incredible event taking place before the Hatton fight for British boxing fans in Las Vegas. It’s a chance for fight fans to see two absolutely class Manchester boxers. John Murray is unbeaten and headlines the British side of the show. We’re also hoping to get it on British TV.” Other British boxers on the bill include middleweight Craig McEwan (Edinburgh) 8-0, middleweight Jimmy Campbell (London/Indianapolis) 10-1, lightweight Martin Gethin (Walsall) 10-0 and welterweight Dean Harrison (9-0). Former world title challenger Bronco McKart (USA) 51-7 faces Enrique Ornelas (Mexico) in the main event.

McDowell's Magic Moment

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland has won The European Tour Shot of the Month for November for his magnificent albatross on the 17th hole at Club de Golf Valderrama in the final round of the 2007 Volvo Masters. Lying three shots off the lead with only two holes remaining, McDowell took on the green at the demanding par five and produced a shot he later described as “one of those magic moments”. Faced with 186 yards to a pin guarded by water, the Ulsterman hit a seven iron which took the perfect bounce before rolling into the cup for that rarest of golfing birds. "It was unbelievable, I have never felt anything like it and it is a memory that will stay with me for a long time," he said. "To do that on the final day at Valderrama, in the sunshine and in front of a huge crowd, was something truly special." The albatross two catapulted McDowell into a share of the lead before a double bogey on the final hole saw him finish joint fourth. Runner-up in November was England’s Simon Dyson for another superb shot in the closing stages at Valderrama. With the Volvo Masters nearing its conclusion, Dyson hit his second shot to the 16th hole to within inches of the cup to set up his third birdie of the back nine. He went on to birdie the 17th and put himself into a three-way play-off for the title, ultimately won by England’s Justin Rose. Germany’s Martin Kaymer claimed third place for a sublime chip shot on the fourth hole at Valderrama during the final round. Kaymer, who went on to win The 2007 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award, narrowly missed the green on the par five with an aggressive second shot which finished in the trees behind the putting surface. After much deliberation, he played an outstanding chip through the trees to enable him to walk away with a par. Other winners this year have been: Retief Goosen of South Africa (January), Mikko Ilonen of Finland (February and August), South Africans Anton Haig (March) and Charl Schwartzel (April), Justin Rose of England (May), Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (June), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (July), Australia’s Brett Rumford (September) and England’s Steve Webster (October). The winning shots from each month are entered towards The European Tour Shot of the Year which will be announced in December.

Drogba and Cech Scoop Awards

The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) has announced Didier Drogba and Petr Cech as the winners of the World Striker of the Year and World Goalkeeper of the Year 2007. The trophies were presented to the two players at the Chelsea FC training ground. Didier Drogba was delighted to receive his award and commented, “This is fantastic! To be recognised by the world’s media really is an honour, especially as they can be the hardest to please and the toughest critics.” Petr Cech added, “It’s always nice to receive awards, but this one is really special as it shows that our performances here at Chelsea, both in the Premier League and Champions League, are having a global impact.” The World Football Awards 2007 were decided from votes cast by the 9,100 strong membership of the AIPS from over 150 countries across the world. Gianni Merlo, President of the AIPS stated, “These awards are unique in football, as they take into account the views of professional football media across the globe, and not just one country.” Merlo continued, “The journalist members of the AIPS report on world football 365 days a year, and as such, are best placed to objectively analyse outstanding performance.”