Friday, May 29, 2009

Khan craves career in Hollywood

Amir Khan loves Tinseltown so much that he says he may move there permanently after his boxing career has ended - to become an actor. Khan is spending his third stint at Freddie Roach's Wild Card gym in LA, preparing for a WBA light-welterweight title fight against Andreas Kotelnik on June 27 at London's O2 Arena. And he admits that even though he's training harder than ever, there's no escaping the allure of Hollywood. That's because Roach is good pals with Mickey Rourke after training him for years, and film stars are familiar faces at the Wild Card.Actor and singer Donnie Wahlberg watched Manny Pacquiao's preparations for his explosive KO victory over Ricky Hatton. "I'm here to box and I've never been so focussed in my life, but Hollywood is the centre of the film world and you can't help but get drawn in," said 22-year-old Khan. "Every time I go out running I see that big Hollywood sign up in the hills and think 'I fancy some of that when I'm done with boxing'. "I've always wanted to be an actor later on in life, and being here in Hollywood has given me even more motivation to go and do it. "After I'm done with boxing, I'm going to treat myself to some acting lessons to help my dream become a reality. I want to become a world champion and an Oscar winner. "There's some great acting coaches here in Hollywood and I'm sure it wouldn't take long before I land a few movie roles." However Khan says any acting ambitions will have to play second fiddle to boxing. "I'm fighting for a world title against Kotelnik, but that's just the start of my journey, not the end," he said. "I want to win world titles at three different weights and become one of the best P4P boxers in the world, and I can't cut any corners to get there."

Barker chases fight with Macklin

Darren Barker wants to prove beyond doubt that he’s the best Middleweight in Britain by adding Matthew Macklin’s British title to his Commonwealth crown. The undefeated Barnet man was punch perfect in defending his Commonwealth title at the Watford Colosseum last weekend as he scored a one punch stoppage win over Darren McDermott in a fight which doubled as a final eliminator for the British title. Barker believes his clinical fourth round victory over McDermott sent out a real statement ahead of a major domestic showdown with Macklin. “I think I proved a lot of doubters wrong on Saturday night,” said Barker. “I know there were some people tipping McDermott to ‘expose’ me but I knew all along that I was on a different level to him and I think I answered a lot of questions with that win. McDermott’s a tough man, he’s a big middleweight, he’s physically strong and has a great chin but I think that final right hand would have put any middleweight in the world over.” Now Barker has his sights set on Macklin who won the British title in March by stopping Wayne Elcock. “I take my hat off to Macklin, he did well against Elcock and full credit to him but it will be a whole different ball game when he fights me. “Macklin said that his fight with Elcock was all about levels and I believe our fight will be all about levels as well. I truly believe that I’m World class and in a different league to Macklin. Our records in the amateurs and the pro’s prove that.” Barker was a Commonwealth Gold medallist in the unpaid ranks and a vastly experienced international competitor. “Macklin says he’s mixed at a higher level but I was in a whole other league as an amateur,” explained the 27-year-old. “I’m the better boxer, I’m much bigger at the weight and I proved on Saturday night that I have the power to take people out with one punch.” The Chelsea fanatic went on to say, “Ultimately I believe I’m a premier league fighter and I don’t think Macklin can say that.”While Barker wants a showdown with Macklin as soon as possible he’s concerned that the fight may not happen. “I just hope that we can get the fight on now. You get people saying that we should wait another 12 or 18 months and build it into a bigger fight but what’s the point in waiting. That’s why most of the fights that people want to see in boxing never end up happening. It’s a massive clash as it is, a British and Commonwealth title fight with both belts on the line so hopefully the Board will force the fight and we can get it on around September or October.” With plans already in place to establish domestic superiority before the end of 2009 Barker hopes to move on to the World stage next year. “You never want to look too far ahead but I believe the middleweight division at world level is going to be wide open in the next 12 months or so and I believe I’ll be peaking at just the right time to take advantage of that. “Boxing is my life and I’ve dedicated myself to it and I truly believe I can compete at the very highest level in the sport. I’ve watched Carl Froch go to the U.S. and beat the likes of Jermain Taylor and they are the kind of occasions I aspire to and hopefully nights like those are not too far away for me either.”

Kotelnik attracts London Fan Base

Andreas Kotelnik says he will be fighting for his fellow countrymen when he takes on Amir Khan on June 27 at London's O2 Arena. The Ukrainian drew inspiration from a visit to his nation's embassy in Holland Park, London, during a whistle-stop tour of the capital yesterday. After meeting the ambassador and signing autographs for star-struck embassy staff who posed with his WBA world title, the 31-year-old warned Khan that he would retain his light-welterweight crown in a month's time. "There is pressure on me because so many people back home want me to win, but it's an inspiration as well," said former Olympic silver medallist Kotelnik. "There is a big Ukrainian population in London, and I know they will be coming to support me at the O2 Arena, while millions will be watching back home. "Amir Khan is a good young fighter, but he has bitten off more than he can chew. "I have very fond memories of the UK, and it was here that I won my WBA title when I knocked out Gavin Rees last year. "I have got no problems in coming back to defend it, and I am looking forward to the fight against Khan. "People keep asking me if I am going to lose, but my answer to them is come to the fight on June 27, and at the end of the night we will see who will be going home with the world title, and it won't be Amir Khan."Ambassador Ihor Kharchenko said: "We are very proud to have such a wonderful world champion in Andreas Kotelnik. "I haven't been to a boxing show for 30 years, but I think June 27 is a good time to start going again!" Kotelnik, who was also in the west end to help promote the fight, added: "I have prepared for 12 hard rounds, and Amir Khan is going to be in for a nasty surprise."

Small task for Hall

Matthew Hall says he'll make his childhood dreams come true by winning a Lonsdale belt against Anthony Small on June 27. And the hard-hitting Mancunian says he'll keep up his run of recent KO wins by halting his London rival inside 10 rounds. Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Hall will put his title on line against Hall at the O2 Arena, with the British title up for grabs as well. The mouth-watering fight is part of the supporting card to Amir Khan's WBA light-welterweight title challenge against Andreas Kotelnik. And it promises to be explosive with the two prospects sharing a combined record of 43-2 with 30 KOs. "As a kid growing up it was always my dream to fight and win a Lonsdale belt," said 24-year-old Hall. "It's the best belt in boxing and I want to bring it home and put it on my mantlepiece. "To get an opportunity like this in front of a sell-out crowd at the O2 Arena is absolutely fantastic, and I can't wait." Small has a reputation for running his mouth, but Hall says he won't let the jibes get under his skin."Talk doesn't win you the fight, it's just cheap," said Hall. "I'd rather be a man of action rather than words. "People don't want to hear all the bravado beforehand. I'd rather keep my mouth shut and keep my mind on the job in hand. "I'll give him nine or 10 rounds. He can run early, he might pick a few rounds here and there, but I'll break him by the ninth or 10th."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Macklin ready to face World Beaters

British middleweight champion Matt Macklin says he'll be ready to take on the best in the world by the end of 2009. "The Mack" underlined his potential earlier this year with a stunning stoppage win over former world title challenger Wayne Elcock. And he'll be looking to make another major statement when he defends his title as part of the undercard to Amir Khan's WBA light-welterweight title challenge against Andreas Kotelnik on June 27 at London's O2 Arena."Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham are very good fighters, but both are beatable, they are no Floyd Mayweathers" said Macklin of the two best talents at 160 pounds. "Pavlik is big at the weight, has got a great chin and punches hard, but if you use your jab and sit in the pocket you can beat him, although it wouldn't be an easy night's work. "You would struggle to find anyone at the moment who would say that I could beat him and rightly so, but by the time a fight like that happens, if I can step up a level or two then I will be ready. "By this time next year they are the type of fights I want to be having." Meanwhile Macklin, 27, says he is benefiting from being a professional for nearly a decade, after joining the paid ranks as a teenager in 2001. "A lot of great Mexican fighters have been a professional for a long time before they hit the top," said the Brummie. "I have had my problems with injuries and various other things, but I've learned from everything and I feel close to my best right now. "I still don't think I've lost to a fighter who was better than me. Jamie Moore was fantastic when he stopped me, but I fought the wrong fight. "I took on Andrew Facey when I was very inexperienced and it was my first 10 rounder, and I think the timing was probably wrong in retrospect. "But someone like Naseem Hamed was a world champion at 21 and then finished by 27. "Different fighters mature at different rates, and I'm coming into my own right now, and I'm about to have a very big 12 months."

Hamilton attempts a different Drive

Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, two of the world’s top five players, occupy the front row of the grid for The European Open at The London Club, Ash, Kent, from May 28-31, a tournament which also features Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton in tomorrow’s curtain-raising Pro-Am. Hamilton will drive into the North Kent venue, close to Brands Hatch, to tee up alongside World Number Five Stenson, winner of The Players Championship on the US PGA Tour last month, in the Pro-Am at 1pm on Wednesday May 27. Stenson became only the third European to win The Players Championship, following the previous year’s champion Garcia, and Sandy Lyle in 1987. The Ryder Cup player will be looking to regain that kind of form when The European Open gets underway on Thursday, with Masters Tournament Champion Angel Cabrera also in the field. Garcia is in Kent looking to go one better than last year when he finished second to England’s Ross Fisher, despite a brilliant final round of six under par 66. He will also be keen to regain the World Number Three spot after being overtaken by Paul Casey at the weekend. Cabrera, of course, captivated the world of golf when he followed his 2007 US Open Championship victory with success at Augusta National Golf Club last month. The tens of thousands of spectators who have taken up the offer of free advance tickets are in for a treat this week with an outstanding international field assembled in Kent. Defending champion Fisher will travel to The London Golf Club with confidence soaring after his duel with Casey at Wentworth Club on Sunday. Fisher made a bold bid for the title with a final round of eight under par 64 and his fondness for the Heritage Course will make him a hard man to beat. “It’s going to be tremendous to go back to The London Club to defend my title,” said Fisher, who will attempt to become the first player since Lee Westwood in 2000 to retain the trophy. “Hopefully I can put in a strong performance and make a good defence. It would be great to follow in the footsteps of someone like Lee and successfully defend the title but to do so I will need to play really well because it will be another very strong field. I will have to be on top of my game. “The course suits my eye though. To shoot a 63 in the first round, having not seen the course before, shows that. I had a lot of family and friends there last year and I think quite a few more will be coming down again so I’m really looking forward to it.” Another player arriving with a spring in his step will be Ben Curtis, after the American’s grandstand finish at Wentworth Club when he closed with five threes. Last time Curtis played in Kent, in 2005, he captured the greatest trophy of them all when he won The Open Championship at Royal St George’s. As an unknown at the start of that week, he soon became a firm favourite with the Kent crowds and since then he has climbed into the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, came close to winning a second Major Championship, when he finished tied second in the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills last August, and made his Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky last September. The European Open will also mark the professional debut of Ireland’s Shane Lowry just two weeks after he captured The 3 Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club. His victory, only the third victory by an amateur in European Tour history, reverberated around the world and this week he takes his first steps in the paid ranks. Australian Scott Arnold, the former World Number One amateur, has followed Lowry into the professional ranks and his first challenge will be the acclaimed Jack Nicklaus-designed Heritage course too. The field boasts no fewer than 14 of the World’s Top 50 players, including last year’s Harry Vardon Trophy winner Robert Karlsson of Sweden, two-time European Open Champion Lee Westwood, and one of the world’s most exciting young talents in Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlory. The European Open kicks off with tomorrow’s Pro-Am, featuring a shotgun start at 1pm, before the tournament proper gets underway on Thursday morning.

Murray fighting for New Found Glory

British Lightweight Champion John Murray has set himself a timetable that he hopes will see him in contention for a World title by this time next year. The undefeated Manchester talent makes the second defence of his title against Scott Lawton at the Robin Park Arena in Wigan on Saturday, June 13th. The fight headlines a Hennessy Sports event which will be live on ITV4 and Murray hopes the fight will take him a step closer to keeping permanent possession of the famous Lonsdale belt and set up a mouth watering showdown with domestic rival Jon Thaxton for later in the year. “This is a good chance for me to shine and it’s great to be back at the Robin Park Arena again,” said the 24-year-old. “I won the title against Lee Meager there last year and made my first defence there in January against Lee McAllister so I’ll be hoping for a hat trick of wins there against Lawton. “It’s only down the road for me and I know my routine now going there so it’s been a good venue for me and hopefully it will stay that way.” While there is talk of a fight with Thaxton and a possible European title tilt before the end of the year Murray insists he’s not looking past Lawton. “I know Scott well, we sparred together a few years back so I know just how good he is and he’s probably improved since then,” warned Murray. “He’s a very good fighter and I know it’s a potential banana skin for me so I certainly won’t be taking him lightly and I’m focusing all my attention on him at the moment.” Murray though doesn’t hide his desire to get in the ring with former European champ Thaxton in what would be a mouth watering domestic showdown. “That’s a fight I’ve wanted for a few years now so hopefully once I take care of Lawton we can finally get that one on. Hopefully the Lawton fight will really sharpen me up for that one because I know if I can get past him then the Thaxton fight will be on the doorstep.” Murray believes that wins over Lawton and Thaxton would leave him in pole position for a crack at the European title. That belt is currently the property of France’s Anthony Mezaache courtesy of his points win over Jon Thaxton in February. “To be honest when Mezzache beat Thaxton I didn’t want to let him out of the country because I’m desperate to have a crack at him,” said Murray. “I’d love a shot at the European title because winning that can open so many doors for you at World level. “I’d be very confident of beating Mezzache and if I could finish the year as European Champ then I could start looking at a possible World title fight next year. None of that means anything though unless I get past Lawton so this really is a big fight for me next month.” The undercard at the Robin Park Arena in Wigan on Saturday, June 13th will feature heavyweight sensation Tyson Fury, fresh from his second round destruction of Scott Belshaw at the weekend. Joining Fury on the undercard will be his cousin Phill Fury (who made a successful pro debut on Saturday night) alongside the return of Light Welterweight contender Nadeem Siddique, hot Featherweight prospect Steve “Super Bad” Barnes and exciting Canadian puncher Andrew Singh Kooner.

Olazabal inducted to World Golf Hall of Fame

The World Golf Hall of Fame announced today at the BMW PGA Championship that two-time Masters Champion José Maria Olazábal will be part of the 2009 Class of Inductees. Elected on the International Ballot, Olazábal will enter the Hall of Fame along with previously announced inductees Lanny Wadkins and Christy O’Connor at the annual Induction Ceremony on Monday, November 2 in St. Augustine, Florida. José Maria Olazábal said: “I am delighted with this news. Only a small group of people are privileged to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame and I have a huge respect for all the players already there. “They are all great players who have achieved so much, and to have a little square plaque there with my name on it makes me feel very special. I am particularly happy to follow Seve’s footsteps into the Hall of Fame. He opened so many doors for us and we owe him a huge debt. “There are huge, huge players in the Hall of Fame, legends such as Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and many, many other greats. I am just thrilled that I am going to be just a little part of this.” Olazábal will become the second Spaniard in the Hall of Fame, joining his friend Seve Ballesteros, who was inducted in 1999. Ninety-one percent of the International Ballots mailed out were returned and Olazábal was chosen on 56 percent of the returned ballots. A complete list of percentages for the 2009 International Ballot Candidates is below. George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Two words spring immediately to mind when reflecting on the wonderful career of José Maria Olazábal…courage and determination. “On the world’s fairways, José Maria has exhibited both those attributes under pressure on his way to winning two Masters Tournaments and 23 European Tour titles, while on a personal level, he displayed remarkable fortitude in battling back from a grave illness to capture that second Green Jacket in 1999. “Among José Maria’s many other qualities we can add panache and flair, allied to a deep understanding of the history and traditions of the game. His arrival on the golfing scene was a breath of fresh air, displaying a Spanish passion and love for the sport, which was exemplified by his spontaneous victory jig on the 18th green at Muirfield Village in 1987 after Europe’s first Ryder Cup success on American soil. “That year represented the start of a momentous Ryder Cup partnership with Seve Ballesteros which is still the most successful in the event’s history – played 15, won 11, halved 2. José Maria’s induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame is richly deserved and all of us at The European Tour convey our congratulations and best wishes to one of our most outstanding champions.” Since turning professional in 1985, Olazábal has enjoyed much international success, winning the 1994 and 1999 Masters Tournaments, plus 21 European Tour and four additional PGA TOUR titles. He also won in Japan twice. Olazábal has represented Europe on seven Ryder Cup teams: 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1999 and 2006, and served as assistant captain to Hall of Fame member Nick Faldo in 2008. He played on the 1989 and 2000 World Cup teams. In his rookie season, Olazábal finished second on The European Tour Order of Merit and became the first Spaniard to receive the Tour’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award in 1986. His impressive amateur career included defeating Colin Montgomerie to win the 1984 Amateur Championship at the age of 18. “We are extremely pleased to welcome José Maria into the World Golf Hall of Fame,” said Jack Peter, Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame. “His tremendous achievements on the course, his flair and passion for the game represent the hallmarks of a true champion. He also is one of the game's greatest gentlemen and ambassadors. We look forward to his Induction this coming November.” The final announcement for the 2009 Class of Inductees will be scheduled in the coming weeks. The 2009 World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. on Monday, November 2.

England prepare for Summer Tour

England Team Manager, Martin Johnson has announced a strong 34 man squad for England's 2009 summer tour, which includes matches against the Barbarians at Twickenham stadium on May 30 (kick off 4.15pm), Argentina at Old Trafford June 6 (kick off 4.00pm) and a return match with the Puma's in Salta on June 13.The three game series sees the return of RWC 2003 winners Steve Thompson (CA Brive) and Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers) and the inclusion of six uncapped players, David Wilson and Tom May, Newcastle Falcons, Jordan Turner-Hall and Chris Robshaw, Harlequins, Sam Vesty (Leicester Tigers) and Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby). The England summer tour squad will be captained by Steve Borthwick (Saracens).England Team Manager Martin Johnson said "This is a very strong squad full of a mixture of experience and young talent. I'm sure that any of the uncapped players will take the step up from the Saxons to the senior test arena if they are given the opportunity. "I'm looking forward to all the games and the three day training camp this week, which will give us further invaluable time with the squad."Also confirmed today was the 26 man England Saxons squad who will be defending their Churchill Cup crown in Denver, Colorado. The squad features eight capped players including Luke Narraway, Danny Cipriani and Tom Varndell. England Saxons Head Coach, Stuart Lancaster said "We have a great balance of players in the squad with youth and experience. All of the players are looking forward to challenging themselves in Denver."The Churchill Cup is a massive stepping stone for players and we want to create an environment that encourages them to push for senior selection."There is no bigger honour than playing for your country and I know this group of players will embrace that and enjoy every minute."

Enzo Maccarinelli on the Comeback Trail

Enzo Maccarinelli and Denis Lebedev will clash in a mouth-watering crossroads fight for the Vacant WBO Intercontinental Cruiserweight title on June 27 at the O2 Arena. Both boxers are hoping that victory will lead to a world title opportunity - while neither man wants to contemplate the consequences of defeat. The fight will be part of a huge undercard to Amir Khan's WBA World Light-Welterweight title challenge against Andreas Kotelnik. Maccarinelli, who has split with former trainer Enzo Calzaghe and is now working with Karl Ince in the north west, is gunning to get his career back on track following a shock loss to Ola Afolabi in his last fight. Macca was knocked out in the ninth round in an interim WBO title fight, but has vowed to come back stronger. "I was gutted when I lost, but anyone who has followed my career knows that wasn't the real me in there," said the 28-year-old Welshman. "I've been a world champion once before and I want to become a world champion again. "This is a great chance for me to prove myself against an undefeated fighter, and I can't wait for June 27. "Working with Karl Ince has been fantastic and I've got my hunger back. Things weren't going well in the gym before the Afolabi fight, but this time around there will be no mistakes. "I'm going to knock out Lebedev and then I'm going after Afolabi for a rematch." But Moscow-based Lebedev, who like Maccarinelli is promoted by Frank Warren, was equally as confident. "I've seen Maccarinelli's fights and he is a good boxer," said the 29-year-old, who was won all 17 of his professional fights, 12 by stoppage. "I know that he wasn't himself against Afolabi, and I have to prepare for a world class opponent. "But I am so confident of winning this fight. "Last time out I boxed a very dangerous puncher in Eliseo Castillo and I stopped him in five rounds, and I believe that I will do the same against Maccarinelli. "Ever since I was a little boy I have wanted to be a world champion, and I am just a couple of fights away from fulfiling my dream." Warren added: "This is a real crossroads fight for both men, and I know they are going to come out and give it there all because there is so much on the line. "I'm confident that whoever wins will find themselves fighting for a world title before too long."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Barker's Fight Night in Watford

“Dazzling” Darren Barker will aim to improve his already impressive CV at the Watford Colosseum on May 23rd when he makes the third defence of his Commonwealth Middleweight title against Darren McDermott. The Hennessy Sports event will be live on ITV4 providing fight fans with another opportunity to track the progress of one of British boxing’s most exciting talents. Barker lifted Commonwealth honours in the amateur ranks winning Gold in Manchester in 2002 and has since gone on to win the Commonwealth professional title as well compiling a 19 fight unbeaten record in the process. Aside from those achievements his CV also includes glowing references from World Super Middleweight champions, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler. Both men have shared the ring with Barker in sparring and believe that the Barnet stylist might just have what it takes to join them on the World stage. Barker is plotting a route to World title glory starting with his Commonwealth title defence against McDermott which will also double as a final eliminator for Matthew Macklin’s British title. Barker hopes that eliminating his two leading domestic rivals will leave him free to broaden his horizons by the end of this year. “Obviously after I get my hands on the British title I’d love to move on to the European and World scene but first things first and I’ve got two potentially dangerous domestic fights to take care of before I can leave the British scene behind.” While not looking beyond his assignment with McDermott on Saturday week Barker believes he can make a serious impact on the World stage. “The middleweight division at world level is very open right now and I don’t see anything out there to worry me,” said the 26-year-old. “When you spar guys like Froch and Kessler it shows you just what you need to compete at the highest level and I honestly believe I’m capable of that. “I travelled to Denmark to spar with Kessler a couple of years back and he’s a wonderful fighter but I felt I held my own with him. I’ve also sparred Carl on a regular basis and it does wonders for you because it keeps you very sharp and it’s a real confidence booster because you know you’re in there with a World Champ. “You have to be very focused when you’re in there with Carl because he’s a big, strong Super Middleweight and he can punish you every time you make a mistake so you’re always switched on in the spars.” Having traded punches with both men Barker is in the perfect position to evaluate a possible Super middleweight unification matchup between WBC kingpin, Froch and WBA Champ, Kessler. “I think it would be a fantastic fight,” predicted Barker. “They are both amazing fighters and the two best guys I’ve ever shared a ring with. It would be a fantastic one to watch but I’d fancy Carl to prevail if it ever comes off. He proved against Jermain Taylor that he’s never beaten and he always finds a way to win so it’s very hard to pick against him even against somebody as good as Kessler is.” Baker V McDermott headlines an exciting night of boxing at the Watford Colosseum on May 23rd. In the chief support bout Matthew Thirlwall battles it out with George Hillyard in a scheduled 10 round contest while the undercard also features unbeaten Heavyweight sensation Tyson Fury alongside hot prospects Bradley Evans, Steve O’Meara, Steve Barnes and the pro debut of Phill Fury (subject to Board approval).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pride of place for Senior Tour in Mauritius

The 2010 European Senior Tour season will begin with an inaugural trip to the beautiful island of Mauritius when the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open, hosted by Constance Belle Mare Plage, takes place from December 11-13, 2009. Lying along two kilometres of white sandy beach on the eastern coast of Mauritius, Constance Belle Mare Plage is set in a 15 hectares tropical garden and will provide a spectacular backdrop for some of the leading Senior players. The €230,000 tournament succeeds the Mauritius Open which has been played at the spectacular resort since 1994 and which was won in 2008 by European Tour player Jamie Donaldson. Constance Belle Mare Plage, which founded the Mauritius Open 15 years ago, will promote the tournament, with the support of title sponsor Mauritius Commercial Bank, and it will be the first event to count towards the 2010 European Senior Tour Order of Merit. The 54 hole event will be played over Constance Belle Mare Plage’s Legend Course. Preceding the professional tournament, a field of international amateurs will contest a Pro-Am over the Legend and Links courses on December 8 and 9 and then move on to the Links course on December 10 and 11. Patrice Binet Décamps, Managing Director, Constance Hotels Experience, said: “Constance Belle Mare Plage is proud to welcome the European Senior Tour for the first time to Mauritius and we hope this is the start of a long relationship. “After 15 years promoting golf through the Mauritius Open, this is the recognition that our country is now a real golf destination and that Constance Belle Mare Plage is the home of golf on the island.” European Senior Tour professional Marc Farry, an ambassador for Constance, helped to bring the tournament to the island. He said: “I’ve been a consultant for Constance for the past ten years and I am very excited that my idea to have a Senior Tour event in Mauritius has now become reality.” The Mauritius Commercial Bank Open also represents a new association for the Senior Tour with sponsors Mauritius Commercial Bank, the 88th largest bank in the world and the largest in terms of customer base on Mauritius. Antony R. Withers, Chief Executive, Banking, The Mauritius Commercial Bank Limited, said: “The MCB Group, together with the European Senior Tour and Constance Hotels, is delighted to be associated with the inaugural European Senior Tour golf tournament to be held in Mauritius. “The Mauritius Commercial Bank Open will be an exceptional event and will place Mauritius firmly on the international golf calendar as regards the hosting of such a prestigious golf tournament. “As well as supporting the first Senior Tour golf tournament to be held in Mauritius, The MCB Group’s sponsorship will help boost tourism and foreign investment and contribute to the promotion of golf in Mauritius. This event will also allow the MCB Group to demonstrate its international credentials to a wide audience.”Charles Perring, Deputy Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, said: “The Mauritius Commercial Bank Open is a wonderful initiative for the island and we are delighted to be hosted by the Constance Belle Mare Plage where so many of our Members have played in the Mauritius Open over the last 15 years. “With the extensive television coverage the European Senior Tour has around the world, this tournament will reinforce both the island of Mauritius and Constance Belle Mare Plage as a golfing tourist destination and I’m sure all of our Members are looking forward to experiencing a little “slice of paradise”. “I’d like to personally thank Patrice Binet Décamps and Marc Farry for their foresight in bringing the Senior Tour to Mauritius, for what I’m sure will be a highlight of our golfing year.”

McDowell bids to reclaim Scottish Open Title

Graeme McDowell will attempt to carve a niche for himself in Scottish golfing folklore this summer when he bids to become the first player in history to win The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond Golf Club in successive years but, to do so, he will have to overcome an impressive list of former champions all determined to stand in his way. Three time Major Champion Ernie Els has enjoyed two victories in the tournament but not in consecutive seasons, which gives the 29 year old from Northern Ireland the opportunity to claim a notable first for his already burgeoning CV. McDowell, who made a highly impressive Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky last September, is one of no fewer than ten former champions who will return to Loch Lomond from July 9-12, taking their place amongst a galaxy of international stars who will ensure the tournament’s continued prominence as one of the most eagerly anticipated weeks on The European Tour International Schedule. The group of former champions competing alongside McDowell is led by Thomas Björn, who won the title in 1996 – the year the tournament took up permanent residence at Loch Lomond – and is completed by Lee Westwood (winner in 1998), Colin Montgomerie (1999), Els (2000 and 2003), Retief Goosen (2001), Thomas Levet (2004), Tim Clark (2005), Johan Edfors (2006) and Grégory Havret (2007). Last season, McDowell put together rounds of 67-70-66-68 for a 13 under par total of 271 to finish two shots ahead of the fast finishing James Kingston of South Africa and admitted he is already excited at the prospect of returning to Scotland. “I can’t wait to get back to Loch Lomond again this year,” he said. “Winning The 2008 Barclays Scottish Open was a fantastic moment in my life that elevated my career to a whole new level. It was also a proud moment for me as I had my parents there to witness it – it is a win I will treasure for a very, very long time.” “It’s such a great week and to return as defending champion is a real buzz. I like the way the past champions are displayed on the driveway leading up to the clubhouse and, this year, when I see myself up there; it is going to bring all the emotion of last year flooding back. I can’t wait.” Thomas Levet is another former champion who loves the annual visit to Loch Lomond and the Frenchman gave credence to the belief that life truly begins at 40 after winning the Open de España over the Stadium Course at PGA Golf Catalunya, his fifth European Tour title, two weeks ago. “I am excited about returning to Loch Lomond and participating in The 2009 Barclays Scottish Open,” he said. “I held the trophy there in 2004 and it was a great moment for me. I would love to do it again and, after my win in Spain. I’m feeling great about my game.” Thomas Björn is also starting to display the form that helped him to win nine European Tour titles between 1996 and 2006 – having finished in the top six in his last two outings – and the 38 year old Dane made no secret of what the tournament and its venue meant to him. “The Barclays Scottish Open will always be a very special event for me as it was at Loch Lomond where I won my first European Tour title,” he said. “It was only my rookie year after qualifying through the Challenge Tour. I enjoy the beautiful surroundings that Loch Lomond offers and the memories that it holds.” Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie, will be hoping that home advantage will help him to rekindle the form that saw him win in 1999 and claim eight Order of Merit titles in total between 1993 and 2005. The 2010 European Ryder Cup Captain said: “Loch Lomond Golf Club holds great memories for me and I’m very much looking forward to returning for The 2009 Barclays Scottish Open. It is such a pleasure to play in front of my home crowd and I really enjoy the week.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jimenez aiming for success in Wales

Former winner Miguel Angel Jiménez will bid to reclaim The Celtic Manor Wales Open trophy when he tees up in this year’s tournament from June 4-7. Jiménez, who defends his BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club next week, joins Ryder Cup captains Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin in the starting field for the £1.8m event at Celtic Manor. The amiable Spaniard has been a popular competitor in Wales since winning on his debut in 2005, one of 15 European titles he has collected in a career which also includes three Ryder Cup appearances – in 1999, 2004 and 2008. Fellow former Celtic Manor Wales Open champions Robert Karlsson, Paul McGinley, Paul Lawrie and Simon Khan have also confirmed their entries into the tournament as well as last year’s impressive winner Scott Strange, who recently claimed his second European Tour victory at the Volvo China Open. All will be aiming to become the first repeat winner of the tournament as it celebrates its 10th staging this summer. Celtic Manor Resort Chief Executive Dylan Matthews said: “We are delighted that Miguel Angel Jiménez will be playing once again in The Celtic Manor Wales Open. “He was a fantastic champion in 2005 and is always a tremendous draw for our galleries. With his big cigars and his even broader smile, Miguel is one of the game’s true characters as well as a very talented golfer. “I’m sure he’ll put up a great challenge to claim another victory but he will face strong competition from what is shaping up to be an excellent field for this year’s tournament.” Ryder Cup stars Thomas Bjorn, David Howell, Niclas Fasth, Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen are also included in the field along with many more players who will be hoping to impress Captain Montgomerie and break into his team at Celtic Manor in 2010. They include England’s Nick Dougherty, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Volvo Masters champion Soren Kjeldsen from Denmark and French duo Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Havret. With children under 16 enjoying free entry if accompanied by an adult, The Celtic Manor Wales Open offers a great family day out with the opportunity for youngsters to take their first swings at the game under the supervision of Golf Development Wales. Previous winners of The Celtic Wales Open: 2008 Scott Strange 2007 Richard Sterne 2006 Robert Karlsson 2005 Miguel Angel Jiménez 2004 Simon Khan 2003 Ian Poulter 2002 Paul Lawrie 2001 Paul McGinley 2000 Steen Tinning. The Celtic Manor Wales Open was the first European Tour event to be staged in Wales for a decade when Steen Tinning won the inaugural event in 2000. Prize money has more than doubled in the nine years since with a roll of champions which includes Ryder Cup stars Paul McGinley, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Robert Karlsson. The championship was held on the Wentwood Hills course from 2000-2004 before switching to The Celtic Manor Resort’s Roman Road course from 2005 to 2007 as work was carried out on the new Twenty Ten Course. The Twenty Ten, the first course ever to be purpose built to host The Ryder Cup, took over the staging of The Celtic Manor Wales Open from 2008. The Celtic Manor Wales Open strives to offer visitors more than just a golf tournament and sumptuous hospitality provision has been complemented by innovations such as Ladies Day and a family tented village complete with KidzZone.

Lawton backs Edwards against Ahmed

SCOTT LAWTON predicts Impact Boxing stable mate Chris Edwards will topple Usman Ahmed in eight rounds later this month. Edwards (12-13-3) risks his British and Commonwealth flyweight title against Britain's tiniest fight in his hometown at Stoke-on-Trent's Fenton Manor Sports Complex on May 29. Lawton said: "It's a hard fight, but one I fully expect Chris to win.
"He's in good shape and has got his weight down. He's been sparring hard and fully expects Ahmed to come at him. I predict Chris will win in the eighth round." Edwards, 33, outpointed Ahmed (5-1-1) on his Derby rival's debut in September 2006 but the challenger has remained unbeaten ever since. Lawton (26-4-1) is one of the show's co-promoters and faces Welshman Gary Buckland (15-1) in an eliminator for the British light-welterweight title. And he is delighted to get another chance to impress in Stoke when Sky Sports visit the Potteries and broadcasy the card live. Lawton, 32, is backing the crowd to roar him towards a crack at domestic champion Paul McCloskey and added: "All of us Stoke boxers love fighting here because the crowd is always behind you. "They always give you that extra push, especially in the late rounds when your body is tired and create a massive atmosphere." Fighting on home soil certainly lifts Edwards. He has boxed eight times in his hometown and won on seven occasions. An eliminator for the British super-featherweight title on the same bill sees Dewsbury's Gary Sykes (11-0) square off with Manchester's big ticket seller Anthony Crolla (13-1), in what promise to be a fierce ten rounder. Ireland's Olympic bronze medallist Darren Sutherland (2-0) continues his march to the top of the super-middleweight division on the same bill.

Burns to battle with Foster Jnr

Ricky Burns and Steve Foster Jnr will meet for the Commonwealth super-featherweight title at the Bellahouston Sports Centre, Glasgow, on June 19. The fight pitches two of the country's hottest talents at 9'4 against each other, with the winner looking to press on and tackle British champion Kevin Mitchell. Sky Sports televise live, with former WBO World Super Featherweight champion Alex Arthur returning to action on the undercard in an eight rounder as he looks to make an immediate impact at lightweight. "I'm gradually cleaning up domestically," said 26-year-old Burns, who makes the third defence of his Commonwealth strap. "I beat Michael Gomez in my last fight, and after I've done the business against Steve Foster Jnr I'm going after Mitchell, who has been running from me for years, and Nicky Cook. "This time last year people were telling me that I'm not a puncher, but I've won my last two inside the distance and I'm going to be handing out some more pain to Foster on June 19. "I'm aiming to send out a mesage to Mitchell, and to do that I need to knock Foster out, and that's what is going to happen." But former WBO world title challenger Foster, 28, hit back by saying: "Burns got lucky by beating up on a faded Michael Gomez. "But I feel really fresh and I'm punching harder than ever. "Last time I came to Scotland I nearly knocked out Alex Arthur - this time around there will be no mistake. "I'm going after Burns from the start, and his style won't hurt me. I'm going to take that title away from him to make up for the disappointment against Arthur." Meanwhile Arthur tops an action-packed undercard loaded with local talent including Gary McMillan, Santino Caruana, Craig Windsor, Paddy Pollock, Tobias Webb and Kris Hughes.

Stenson joins Cabrera at Wentworth

The ability of the BMW PGA Championship to attract the ‘men of the moment’ in the world of golf will be emphasised once again this year when Swede Henrik Stenson joins Angel Cabrera of Argentina to headline a truly world class field at Wentworth Club from May 21-24. Both men possess exciting and explosive talents as they have shown over the past four weeks; Cabrera leading the way last month with his thrilling victory in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National, while Stenson followed suit last weekend with an electrifying victory in The Players Championship in America. Now Cabrera, the man with the Green Jacket in his locker, and Stenson – whose stunning victory propelled him to World Number Five - will aim to add one of golf’s most prestigious titles to their already impressive respective CVs when they line up in The European Tour’s flagship event with an eye on the first prize of €750,000 from a total prize fund of €4,500,000. To do that, they will both have to be at their very best in view of the calibre of the field which includes ten of the top 25 players in the world today, including Paul Casey of England, currently ranked seventh, who attempts to become the first ‘home’ winner at Wentworth Club since David Howell in 2006. Cabrera returns to the scene of his success four years ago aiming to follow in the footsteps of Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and José Maria Olazábal, who all captured the Masters title and went on to further glory at Wentworth Club the following month. He said: “The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is always one of the highlights of the year and I have enjoyed some good results there. The West Course is one of my favourites while the atmosphere surrounding the Championship gives it the feel of a Major event. I am looking forward enormously to trying to repeat my win of 2005.” Casey, who recently won the Shell Houston Open, also captured his ninth European Tour title in January by winning the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, and was runner up to Geoff Ogilvy in the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play at the beginning of March. While the achievements of Cabrera and Stenson have caught the public imagination over the past few weeks, there is no shortage of players aiming to shoot them down; from defending champion Jiménez to the English contingent of Casey, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and last year’s runner-up, Oliver Wilson, who all have their eyes on the prize on home soil. Casey said: “BMW are one of our best sponsors and the Championship is at Wentworth, the home of The European Tour, so I am really looking forward to it,” said Casey. “I’ll be returning home and I’ll have family and friends around. “I have obviously had success on the golf course (winning the 2006 World Match Play) and we are playing for big prize money so it will be very important for The Race to Dubai.
“I am looking forward to coming back to Europe to support BMW and The European Tour. There are few finer places in the world than this part of Surrey on a nice Spring day. I will arrive early to get my practice done because I want to play well there. “The BMW PGA Championship is extremely important for me as my next appearance after that in Europe will be The Open Championship. They are two events I always look forward to. We play all over the world now but there is always a special feeling when we arrive at Wentworth as this particular week heralds the start of a big part of the golfing season. It is a very important event.” In-form Casey, who finished in a tie for tenth over Wentworth Club’s famous West Course in 2008, will be joined by compatriots Rose – who lost a play-off to Anders Hansen of Denmark in 2007 - and Wilson, who narrowly missed out on claiming his maiden European Tour title in the BMW PGA Championship in 2008. Wilson also came off second best in a play-off, losing to Jiménez on the second play-off hole last year having tied with the Spaniard on 11 under par 277 in regulation play. Wilson said: “I have fond memories of the BMW PGA Championship and what it did for my career. In one week I moved from 11th to second on the Order of Merit and into the top 50 in the world at Number 45. I achieved some big objectives there. “BMW know how to put on awesome tournaments and with the combination of the Tour’s Flagship event on their own doorstep, great TV coverage and big crowds, it generates an aura and excitement which isn’t replicated at many other events.” Having recovered from the hand injury he sustained at the US Open Championship which ended his 2008 season and ruled him out of a place in Nick Faldo’s Team in Valhalla, a revitalised Donald also returns to Wentworth Club hoping to improve on his tied third place at last year’s Championship. Donald fired a superb final round 65 to finish level with Robert Karlsson last May, two strokes behind Jiménez and Wilson, for his second consecutive top ten finish after his seventh place in 2007. Two-time Masters Champion José Maria Olazábal adds his considerable flair to the 2009 Championship while the field is enhanced considerably by the presence of others in the world’s top 25, namely Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, Lee Westwood of England, South African Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Retief Goosen of South Africa and Germany’s Martin Kaymer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fury looks to take Command

Unbeaten heavyweight sensation Tyson Fury has hit out at his British Heavyweight rivals and says he wants to bring the lustre back to the British Heavyweight title. Fury will have his sixth professional outing at the Watford Colosseum on May 23rd on the undercard of Darren Barker’s third defence of his Commonwealth Middleweight title against Darren McDermott. The Hennessy Sports event will be live on ITV4 and Fury is relishing an opportunity to show the British public that they have at least one heavyweight worth tuning into. Fury watched Danny Williams recent British title defence against John McDermott and he was distinctly unimpressed. “It was rubbish,” slammed Fury. “It was like watching two women fighting in the street with all the slapping and hugging, all they were missing were a pair of handbags. It’s a shame because in his day Danny Williams has been a good fighter and been in some big fights but the British Heavyweight title is a prestigious title and fights like that last one don’t do anything for it. How can you expect the public to be bothered about it with fights like that?” “Hopefully I can bring it some respect again. I’m trying to do things the right way and I want to earn my shot at it. You have a guy like Derek Chisora calling out Williams for a fight in June. What has he done to earn a British title fight? His last fight was a points win over Daniel Peret while I stopped Peret in two rounds in my third fight so that hardly qualifies him. “I’ll be out again in June and I’d love to fight John McDermott on that one. He’s not in my league but unfortunately that’s the level the British heavyweight division is at these days. I think a win over him would earn me a British title shot but if after that Chisora wants to take me on in a final eliminator then I’d be happy to sort him out as well. “All the British heavyweights are useless. The only one I rate is Martin Rogan, at least he comes to have a fight, he’s a real fighting man, the rest of them just want to hug and hold their way to points decisions. I go out there looking for an early night every, single time because that’s what people want to see when they watch a heavyweight fight.” One man who won’t be in the opposite corner to Fury anytime soon is Dave Ferguson. The Newcastle fighter said he would fight Fury with a months notice but when offered exactly that for May 23rd he turned the fight down. “Ferguson claimed in the Boxing News that he would have the fight at the drop of a hat if he got enough notice so we gave him that and he still didn’t want to know so what does that tell you?” questioned Fury. Another man unlikely to be featuring on Fury’s radar is the so called, “War Machine”, Larry Olubamiwo. “His promoter Frank Maloney was calling me out earlier in the year,” recalled Fury. “He was running around the ring shouting ‘Bring on Tyson Fury’ then when Olubamiwo was offered the fight Maloney said to wait because it would be a massive fight in 18 months time. “It’s not looking too massive now, Olubamiwo just got beat by Daniel Peret who with the greatest respect to him is rubbish. I said all along if you can’t beat the likes of Peret you have no business calling yourself a pro fighter and any prospect worth their salt should be stopping the likes of him. “That’s two of Maloney’s big prospects who have been beaten by Peret now because Scott Belshaw lost to him as well but in my opinion what Frank Maloney knows about heavyweight boxing could be tattooed on the back of my big toe. Maybe Frank will give them another 18 months, I’m sure a rematch with Peret would be massive by then!” Fury’s sixth pro outing at the Watford Colosseum on May 23rd is on the undercard of the Darren Barker – Darren McDermott Commonwealth Middleweight title fight. In the chief support bout Matthew Thirwall and George Hillyard will battle it out in what promises to be a thrilling Southern Area Middleweight title clash (subject to Board approval). Hot prospects Bradley Evans, Steve O’Meara and Steve Barnes also feature alongside the pro debut of Phill Fury (subject to Board approval).

Sutherland wants Tougher Tests

DARREN SUTHERLAND is at loggerheads with promoter Frank Maloney over the quality of his opponents. Ireland's Olympic bronze medallist believes he is ready to step up in class after impressive KO wins against Georgi Iliev and Siarhei Navarka in his first two professional fights.The pair failed to last ten minutes between them and Sutherland is hoping for a tougher test at Stoke-on-Trent's Fenton Manor Sports Complex on May 29. Maloney said: "Darren is driving me mad to give him some real tests, but it is about developing him in the gym as well as the ring. "I have an opponent is mind who I hope to name early next week and if records are anything to go by I think I have decent test for him. "Darren is an immense prospect, but it is all about the right fights at the right time even for the very best and I have explained this to him. "My track record with upcoming fighters in good and when Darren is ready he'll be unleashed against the very best, and I bet he'll be there standing at the end." Top of the talent crammed card is local hero Chris Edwards (12-13-3) who defends his British and Commonwealth flyweight title against Derby's Usman Ahmed (5-1-1) Also on the top class bill, local hero Scott Lawton (26-4-1) faces Welshman Gary Buckland (15-1) in an eliminator for the British light-welterweight title. An eliminator for the British super-featherweight title sees Dewsbury's Gary Sykes (11-0) square off with Manchester's big ticket seller Anthony Crolla (13-1), in what promise to be a fierce ten rounder.

Seniors Success for Mark James

Mark James defeated former Ryder Cup teammate Eamonn Darcy in a play-off to win the Son Gual Mallorca Senior Open and clinch his second European Senior Tour victory after a thrilling final day in Palma. The 55 year old Englishman birdied the third extra hole after the pair tied on ten under par 206 to make it back-to-back wins for former Ryder Cup Captains on the Senior Tour, following Sam Torrance’s victory in the DGM Barbados Open. His €45,000 first prize also means James replaces Torrance at the top of the Senior Tour Order of Merit, while Darcy once again missed out on his maiden Senior Tour title, finishing runner up for the eighth time. James and Darcy, who were Ryder Cup teammates in 1977 and 1981, both produced magnificent final rounds to deny overnight leader Roger Chapman a dream debut victory and the chance to become the joint youngster Senior Tour winner at 50 years and nine days. Irishman Darcy had set the clubhouse target after a flawless final round 65 at Son Gual Golf but James was in equally scintillating form, carding a 66 to take the contest to a play-off. Both players parred the replayed 18th twice before James produced a fine approach shot to within five foot for a birdie on the third extra hole, while Darcy could once again only manage par as his 15ft putt shaved the hole. That meant James, the 1999 Ryder Cup Captain at Brookline, captured his first Senior Tour title since the European Senior Masters in 2005. “It’s great to win and I’m delighted,” said the 18 time European Tour champion. “I’ve been playing a lot better recently and to win is just great. “I played well down the stretch and to hole that putt well give me a lot of confidence going to America for the US Senior PGA Championship in a week. You aren’t going to hole too many putts on this course so I hit it really close. “Myself and Eamonn go back donkey’s years so it was great to be in a play-off together. I remember playing together in The 1977 Ryder Cup because Darcy kept on taking me and Ken Brown off to a nightclub in the days before anyone noticed those sort of things! If he had won I would have been delighted for him. “I don’t know why Eamonn hasn’t won on this Tour – he did nothing wrong at all today and shot a very low score and he made pars in the play-off so I’m sure the future is rosy. “You never know in a play-off – it could go either way. I’ve been playing well lately though. I played great in the Legends with Des Smyth a couple of weeks ago when we finished fifth. This win on a different type of course has given me great confidence that I can go anywhere and pick up my swing and play well.”James added that he wanted to play more in Europe this season, as well as continue on the US Champions Tour where he won the Senior Players Championship in 2004. “I’m hoping to play a full season in America but I want to play here whenever I can. The atmosphere is great and it has been great to see the guys again. It’s been fantastic this week.” Darcy’s second place was his best finish on the Senior Tour since 2006 but he admitted he was disappointed not to break his duck after a stunning final round in which he carded seven birdies. “I thought ten under par was going to be enough but credit to Mark for shooting a low round,” said the 56 year old. “My putter was hot. It was like the old days! I never looked at the leaderboard all day and I hoped it was going to be enough walking off but it wasn’t to be.” Chapman, who had a two stroke overnight lead, bogeyed the first hole but rallied around the turn before he found the water on the 12th hole to finally put pay to his chances of a record equalling debut win. He said: “I’m disappointed but if you said to me before the tournament you’d finish third on your own I would have taken it. I probably played better today than the first two days but couldn’t hole anything. Overall I’m delighted though with my start on the Senior Tour.” Mike Cunning, winner of the season opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum on his own Senior Tour debut, carded a superb 65 to join Darcy as the holder of the joint course record and finish fourth.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Flyweight action in Stoke-on-Trent

BRITAIN'S tiniest fighter Usman Ahmed will be thinking big when he challenges Chris Edwards for his British and Commonwealth flyweight title later this month.'Ussie', 27, who weighs just 7st 7lb travels into the hometown of battle-hardened Edwards (12-13-3) at Fenton Manor Sports Complex, Stoke-on-Trent on Friday May 29. Ahmed (5-1-1) faced Edwards on his professional debut in September 2006 and although he went down on points has improved and remained unbeaten since. The Derby boxer's manager Mike Shinfield said: "Ussie went to Edwards' back yard in Stoke and gave him a really close fight that night. "To say he was making his debut, it was a great performance and has gone from strength to strength since. I fancy Ussie's chances in the rematch." Also on the top class bill, local hero Scott Lawton (26-4-1) face Welshman Gary Buckland (15-1) in an eliminator for the British light-welterweight title. An eliminator for the British super-featherweight title sees Dewsbury's Gary Sykes (11-0) square off with Manchester's big ticket seller Anthony Crolla (13-1), in what promise to be a fierce ten rounder.Darren Sutherland, Ireland's Olympic bronze medallist Darren Sutherland (2-0) is one of the world's hottest prospects and features in a six rounder. The show sees promoter Frank Maloney keep his vow to bring big time boxing back to The Potteries. He said: "Stoke City are staying in the Premier League and and Chris Edwards wants to keep top flight boxing in the area."It is great to be working with Scott Lawton and his partners at Impact Boxing once again. "They told me boxing was a sleeping giant in the region and they proved that with the great night we put on in January. "No British flyweight has dominated the division for years, but Chris is doing a good job holding off all these young kids. "As well as Usman there is Paul Edwards and Ashley Sexton also chomping at the bit to get at him."

Countdown to Dubai World Golf Championship

With less than 200 days to go until the eagerly-anticipated Dubai World Championship tees off on 19th November, Leisurecorp and sporting legend Greg Norman today announced that tickets to one of the hottest events on golf’s calendar will be free to all. The move ensures that golf fans and those new to the game alike will now be able to see the climax to the inaugural Race to Dubai take place on what has been called ‘the world’s most anticipated golf course development’, for free. For those who want to experience the Dubai World Championship in luxury, two outstanding hospitality packages have also been announced. Greg Norman, designer of the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where the Dubai World Championship will take place this November, visited the course this week to oversee some of the finishing touches to the course, ahead of the tournament. Norman commented: “The Dubai World Championship promises to be a new highlight on the golf and sporting calendars. The course is looking spectacular and I am thrilled that when we open the doors on November 19th, everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament for free. This course deserves a special tournament and what could be more special than having 60 of the world’s top players battle it out in front of a huge crowd”. Fans are encouraged to register early for the free tickets at, the tournament’s website which was launched today. The website also provides details and sales information on the two hospitality packages that have been announced – both offering five-star facilities overlooking the 18th green, and one offering the unique experience of being amongst the first to play the Earth course, following the Championship. Abdul Wahid Al Ulama, Vice Chairman, Leisurecorp, said: "When we conceived the Dubai World Championship with our partners at The European Tour, we established a set of founding principles which would ensure that we created new experiences for a number of audiences – the players, sponsors, media and, of course, spectators. “In line with the shared vision of The European Tour and Leisurecorp, the move to offer free entry for all is a gesture in the tournament’s first year to encourage all golf fans from both the region and overseas to descend on Jumeirah Golf Estates in November and watch what promises to be a thrilling crescendo to the inaugural Race to Dubai. Hopefully, it will also encourage those new to the game to come to the Championship and experience what this great sport has to offer. Whether you are a pro golfer or a novice, seeing the world’s top 60 players battle it out at the magnificent Earth course is something not to be missed.” The Hospitality Pavilion overlooking the 18th green of the Earth course, places spectators at the heart of the action. With gourmet catering in a dedicated dining and lounge area, an open-air balcony and a wide range of other benefits, The Hospitality Pavilion is ideal for client entertaining and networking opportunities with Dubai’s business leaders, or simply enjoying the golf in style. The Ultimate Golf Package includes two day’s hospitality admission and the opportunity to play on the Earth course, in Championship conditions, in the week following the tournament. Abdul Wahid Al Ulama added: “The hospitality options we are offering include a range of benefits, not least some of the best seats in the house, overlooking the 18th green. The Ultimate Golf Package will tempt those ‘golf fanatics’ who are looking for a unique experience – walking in the footsteps of the legends that they have just been watching battle it out for the Championship. It is a rare treat to have the opportunity to be amongst the first to play on a course designed by Greg Norman and inaugurated by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Rory McIllroy. This is a ‘must-do’ for any keen golfer”.

Daly drops in on The London Golf Club

American John Daly will bring the curtain down on his European adventure when he tees up in The European Open at The London Golf Club from May 28-31. After his tied 31st finish in last week’s Open de España and his appearance in this week’s BMW Italian Open, Daly will take in The 3 Irish Open and the BMW PGA Championship before making the short journey to Ash in Kent for the 32nd edition of the £1.8million event. It will be a first appearance in The European Open for Daly, who is known affectionately as the “Wild Thing” by his legions of fans. The two-time Major winner will tee up alongside some of the game’s greats, including South African Ernie Els, Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Northern Irish starlet Rory McIlroy and England’s Lee Westwood, all of whom are currently in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Daly said: “Yesterday I committed to The European Open, and I’m really looking forward to teeing it up. I love playing in Europe because it suits my attacking style more, and it will be my fifth European Tour event in a row. “In the past, I’ve always played a lot of events in a row to get some rhythm going, because that helps me to play well. It’ll be good to get some consistency – the more I play, the better I feel I will do. I like the way I played in Spain last week. I’m nice and fresh, and it really does feel great to be playing again.”

Chelsea's search for an Asian Star

Three days of a ground-breaking new initiative by Chelsea drew to a close with three young Asian players joining the club this summer for trials at the Chelsea Academy. Search for an Asian Soccer Star is designed to give a much needed kick-start to greater Asian representation within the sport by uncovering potential future professional footballers from a so far under-represented community. Launched by Chief Executive Peter Kenyon on Saturday 2 May over 350 young players battled it out over three days of tests, matches and competitions and were joined by a host of Chelsea first team stars keen to lend their support including Nicolas Anelka, Petr Cech, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou and Deco. Assistant Manager Ray Wilkins also visited the scheme and led a couple of training sessions for the players. Petr Cech greeted the crowd before saying: “You can see the smiles on the faces and they deserve to have their chance to show people what they can do. It may only be a few kids that will get a trial, but this experience will give the other ones enough to join other clubs or add another dimension to their football. They have talent and passion about sport and it is good for there to be an opportunity in football.” Kalou praised the project: “It's a good initiative and I think it reflects how open Chelsea are. This has shown just how much these kids love to get involved in football and if Chelsea can be the first club to start this sort of project, then it's a great opportunity to other teams to follow suit.”“This reminds me when I was a kid, going through these kinds of tests. It's good opportunity for them to show they can be at Chelsea and become professional players. I remember when I had football trials when I was younger and I was happy and really excited. It's not every day you have this sort of opportunity and I hope the ones who are chosen will have a good career and become great players.” “They are living a dream to become professional footballers,’ added Nicolas Anelka as he looked on. ‘To play at the Chelsea training ground and to enjoy it is a good feeling. Football is international and we should see it everywhere. Chelsea had a good idea and hopefully one day someone here at the trials will become a professional footballer for Chelsea and maybe for England.” The timetable for the three days involved a series of individual tests developed by the Chelsea Academy to evaluate core skill levels and allowed trialists to be measured against boys already in the Academy. They were followed by coaching sessions with Academy staff and competitive matches in the afternoon. The eventual three winners were Jhai Singh Dhillon from Hitchin in the U14s, Jordan Sadhu from Ilford in the U13s and London’s Aameer Kstantin Murphy who won the U12 competition. Each will join the Academy for trials in August. Monday’s winner Jhai Singh Dhillon said “I’d tell anyone who is thinking about taking part to try it even if you don’t think you are the best player. It is good fun.” Invitations were also sent out to other clubs to send down coaches to Cobham. A number of a Premier and Football League scouts were in attendance alongside grass roots coaches from across the country. A change is already beginning according to Jas Jassal, who brought seven youngsters he works with to Cobham over the weekend, including his own son Amandeep for the Under 14s trials. Jassal is much-involved in running Concorde FC Juniors, providing grassroots football for kids from all backgrounds in west London. “Ten years ago when I was playing I couldn’t see an Asian football star coming through, but now in the next 10 years I can,” he said.“Chelsea is the first big club to promote grassroots football among the Asian community. It is important to find that talent and nurture it. This has been a great three days for the boys and for us to network.” Search for an Asian Star will return next year but Chelsea’s work encouraging Asian participation will continue throughout the summer as coaches and staff embark on a community tour providing free coaching for schools and Asian community groups in London and the South East. The club will also be hosting the Community Cup Final at Stamford Bridge in June.

Irish contingent at Wentworth

Rory McIlroy left his teenage years behind him today, safe in the knowledge that the next phase of his life promises to elevate him to the highest echelons of professional golf. McIlroy, who celebrated his 20th birthday far from home in the United States, will spearhead a formidable quartet of European Tour champions bidding to become the first player from Northern Ireland to capture the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Surrey from May 21-24. The ‘birthday boy’ is joined in the 150-strong field to compete over the famous West Course by compatriots and fellow Tour winners Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey and Graeme McDowell. The fact that McIlroy enters the Championship in the top 20 on the Official World Golf Ranking – he is currently Number 18 – indicates the rapid progress which he has made since making his first appearance in the BMW PGA Championship last year. McIlroy went into the Championship ranked 175th in the world and missed the cut with rounds of 74 and 77. However, since then he has become the youngest qualifier for the Masters Tournament at the age of 19 and claimed his first European Tour title in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic in February to alert the golfing world to his talent. Clarke will be appearing in his 18th consecutive BMW PGA Championship, aiming to go one better than his pair of second place finishes behind Ian Woosnam in 1997 and Colin Montgomerie in 2000. The five-time Ryder Cup player, a winner of 12 European Tour titles, returns to the familiar surroundings of Wentworth Club alongside a player who made his Ryder Cup debut last September in McDowell, who earned his place at Valhalla Golf Club on the strength of two impressive victories last season. Hoey is the most recent champion among the quartet, having beaten Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño in a play-off for the Estoril Open de Portugal last month. To complete the strong Northern Irish line-up, Belfast’s Gareth Maybin is also in the field chasing the first prize of €750,000.

McDermott aims for Three in a Row

Darren McDermott is aiming for a title hat trick in 2009. The man known as the “Black Country Body Snatcher” started the year by winning the English Middleweight title and he’s set his sights on winning the Commonwealth and British titles before the end of the year. First up for McDermott is a shot at “Dazzling” Darren Barker’s Commonwealth title at the Watford Colosseum on May 23rd. The clash is live on ITV4 on the next Hennessy Sports event and will double as a final eliminator for the British Middleweight title. McDermott is planning on ending Barker’s unbeaten run and then heading into an all Midlands clash with newly crowned British Champ, Matthew Macklin later in the year. “There’s only going to be one winner when I meet Barker and that’s me,” predicted the Dudley native. “I’ve watched quite a bit of him. I saw him win the Commonwealth title in Manchester as an amateur and then I saw him win the Commonwealth belt as a pro as well against Ben Crampton. He’s a good technical boxer but I just think I’ve that bit more grit and strength and I think that will make the difference.” Despite his prediction McDermott believes that Barker represents a much tougher challenge than Midlands rival and current British title holder Macklin. “I rate Barker and I believe he’s the next best middleweight in the country after me. We’re proper middleweights but I think Macklin in all honesty isn’t a very big middleweight and I don’t read too much into his last win over Wayne Elcock.” Macklin’s win over Elcock was a bitter pill for McDermott to swallow. The 30-year-old challenged Elcock for the British title last year only to lose out on a cuts stoppage in just the second round. It remains the only defeat of McDermott’s 18 fight pro career and is still a sore point. “If you watch the first round you could see that I was already getting to Elcock, then I got cut and that was it. It was very frustrating and I should have got an immediate rematch. I knew whoever got in there with Elcock next was going to do a job on him and fair play to Macklin he did just that but it should have been me in there. Our fight only lasted two rounds but I could feel it in there that I was just going to be too big and too strong for him.” McDermott’s doomed British title challenge proved to be his only outing in 2008 but he’s determined to put things right this year. “Last year was one to forget, I only had those two rounds against Elcock and I made a New Years resolution to be a lot more active this year. I’d a good win to take the English title in February and I’d a good little warm up for Barker last month so I’m really sharp now at the moment. Training’s gone brilliant so there are no excuses. I’m feeling fantastic, my sparring’s gone well and I’m right where I want to be with my weight right now. “I’ve been made to wait for my chance but that has only made me more determined. This is my time to shine and this is going to be a big year for me. I’m going to take the Commonwealth title from Barker on the 23rd and then I’ll beat Macklin to take the British title.” Barker - McDermott headlines a fantastic night of championship boxing at the Watford Colosseum. In the chief support bout Matthew Thirwall and George Hillyard will battle it out in what promises to be a thrilling Southern Area Middleweight title clash (subject to Board approval) while undefeated heavyweight sensation Tyson Fury will have his sixth pro fight.

Barker at the Colosseum

“Dazzling” Darren Barker believes he’ll prove his Gladiator status at the Watford Colosseum on May 23rd when he defends his Commonwealth Middleweight title against Darren McDermott.
The unbeaten Barnet man will make the fourth defence of his title on what is practically home ground live on ITV4 on the next Hennessy Sports event. McDermott, the “Black Country Body snatcher” believes he’ll prove too strong for the champion but Barker has shrugged off that prediction. “It makes me laugh when people say they’re stronger than me because they get a big shock when they actually get in there,” said Barker. “People think that because of my amateur pedigree and my boxing ability that I’m primarily a boxer and I don’t like to fight. They assume that I’m not physically strong but once they get in there with me they find out just how strong I am. “I’ve sparred big strong Super Middleweight World Champs like Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler and had no problems with them so how is McDermott’s strength going to be an issue. I can guarantee him that I certainly won’t be backing off in that ring.” McDermott has just one defeat on his 18 fight professional record. That came when he was stopped on a cut in an unsuccessful challenge for the British title last year and the Dudley native is considered by some to be the dark horse of the middleweight division. Barker though says he hasn’t seen anything to concern him. “I’ve watched McDermott’s last three fights and no disrespect to him but I don’t believe he’s boxed in the same class as me. I’ve always believed that sport is all about leagues and I’m in a much higher league to him. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect him because I do and I’m training hard for the fight but I simply believe I’m a level above him. “He’s a solid fighter and I’m not underestimating him but I see myself winning either by a wide unanimous decision or a late stoppage.” The fight is doubling as a final eliminator for Matthew Macklin’s British title but Barker believes his status as Commonwealth Champ should have secured him a shot at the Lonsdale belt already. “It’s been frustrating because I won the Commonwealth title in 2007 and I’ve made a couple of straight defences so I think that should have merited a straight shot at the British title. McDermott’s already had his shot and ok, he had a bit of bad luck getting cut but I believe that as Commonwealth Champion I deserved to be the mandatory for the British title without having to go through an eliminator. “In fact I should have had one long before now because if you ask me Macklin’s jumped the queue as well. What’s done is done though so now that the fight’s been made I’m well up for it. It’s a good chance for me to fight near home and I’m 100% going to take care of McDermott.” A win over McDermott would finally secure Barker a shot at the British title and he says he’s desperate to get his hands on a Lonsdale belt. “I think a fight with Macklin would be massive and it’s one that the public really want to see. Boxing fans are already talking about it and I can’t wait for that one to come around but I have to focus on getting past McDermott first.” Barker is expecting his fan club to turn up in numbers on the 23rd and with the venue fast approaching a sell-out he’s looking forward to putting on a real show. “It’s pretty much a local venue for me so I know I’ll have great support there and I’ll be looking to send them all home happy.” Barker’s clash with McDermott headlines a fantastic night of championship boxing at the Watford Colosseum. In the chief support bout Matthew Thirwall and George Hillyard will battle it out in what promises to be a thrilling Southern Area Middleweight title clash (subject to Board approval) while undefeated heavyweight sensation Tyson Fury will have his sixth pro fight. Light welterweight contender Nadeem Siddique also features alongside hot prospects Bradley Evans, Steve O’Meara, Steve Barnes and the pro debut of Phill Fury.

Dutch Delight for Challenge Tour

An increased prize fund of €150,000 will be on offer to the field in the third edition of The Dutch Futures on the European Challenge Tour, which will return to Houtrak Golf Club in Halfweg, the Netherlands, from September 10-13. The Royal Bank of Scotland will again sponsor the event, which was won last year in dramatic fashion by home favourite Taco Remkes, who claimed his third Challenge Tour title after prevailing in a play-off with Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl. Like his compatriots Wil Besseling and Inder van Weerelt, Remkes subsequently graduated to The European Tour, where he is now playing alongside fellow Challenge Tour graduates Robert-Jan Derksen, Maarten Lafeber and Joost Luiten. Those hoping to make it a Dutch double this year include Rolf Muntz, who triumphed in the Qatar Masters on The European Tour in 2000, ten years after becoming the first Dutchman to capture The Amateur Championship – an achievement matched last year by his compatriot Reinier Saxton. Since its inception in 2007 – when Scotland’s Peter Whiteford took the title – The Dutch Futures has traditionally attracted a strong field, and this year’s event should be no different as it falls the week before the Kazakhstan Open, which carries the largest prize fund on the regular Challenge Tour Schedule.Alain de Soultrait, Director of the European Challenge Tour, said: “We’re delighted to be returning to Houtrak Golf Club, where the quality of the course always guarantees a tremendous competition. Last year’s tournament was memorable for Taco’s third Challenge Tour win, and with another strong challenge expected from our growing Dutch contingent, I would again expect the home crowds to turn out in force. “It is important for us to have a strong and well-established event the week before the Kazakhstan Open, and with The Royal Bank of Scotland’s support, this year’s Dutch Futures will be stronger than ever. As well as The Royal Bank of Scotland, we should also thank the tournament promoters Made in Scotland, and everyone involved at the club for their continuous support.” Jan de Ruiter, CEO Netherlands of The Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “The Dutch Futures is a fantastic national event, which combines a personal touch. We at the bank feel that this makes for a perfect match.” Niels Boysen, Director of Made in Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to announce that the prize fund has been increased by €10,000 to €150,000, meaning the winner will now collect €25,000. With The Dutch Futures being the sixth last tournament to be held this season, the prize money at that time of the year is extremely important as the players fight to improve their final Ranking positions. “I’m sure the players will be as delighted as we are that the tournament is returning to Houtrak Golf Club, and we all look forward to another successful week. It would be great to have Taco back as defending champion. Of course it will depend on his European Tour schedule, but we will have a place reserved for him if he can make it.”

Cabrera scoops Top Award

Angel Cabrera’s unforgettable Masters Tournament victory, which saw the Argentine collect the second Major Championship of his career, has led him to be named The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month for April. The 39 year old from Cordoba, who receives a jeroboam of Moët and Chandon champagne along with an engraved Alms Dish in recognition of his success, was the unanimous choice of the panel which comprised members of the Association of Golf Writers as well as television and radio commentators. The Tour Award - which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2009 – is now under the sponsorship banner of Leisurecorp, the company whose groundbreaking agreement with The European Tour has created The Race to Dubai, which culminates in the $10 million Dubai World Championship in November. Cabrera’s sudden-death victory over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry at Augusta National saw him become the first Argentine winner of the Green Jacket and propelled him to third position in The Race to Dubai. Cabrera’s Masterful performance at Augusta made his claim for April’s Race to Dubai European Tour golfer of the Month Award impossible to ignore, but the panel did recognise the many outstanding achievements of The Tour Membership after another successful month on the world’s fairways. Michael Hoey secured his maiden European Tour title with victory at the Estoril Open de Portugal, Scott Strange and Thongchai Jaidee respectively won the Volvo China Open and the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea, Thomas Levet took the Open de España, while Paul Casey won his first PGA Tour event at the Shell Houston Open and Bernhard Langer continued to dominate Seniors golf by securing the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on the US Champions Tour. Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño did not manage a victory in April but notched three successive second place finishes in Portugal, China and Korea, missing out in sudden-death play-offs in two of those three valiant performances. But the outstanding candidate for April was Cabrera, who delighted golf fans around the world with his victory at Augusta National. Cabrera joins Rory McIlroy (January), Geoff Ogilvy (February) and Søren Kjeldsen (March) as a winner of The 2009 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month Award. The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year will be selected from a panel from the Association of Golf Writers, Radio and Television following the Dubai World Championship at the Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, from November 19-22, 2009, where the winner of The Race to Dubai will be confirmed.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Els features in the European Open

Ernie Els will make his first appearance in The European Open for 15 years when he lines up at The London Golf Club against a world-class field including World Number Three Sergio Garcia, Ryder Cup stars Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, teenage sensation Rory McIlroy and India’s greatest golfer, Jeev Milkha Singh. Els has won 24 European Tour titles and over 60 worldwide and the 39 year old would dearly love to add The European Open title to his extensive CV of wins from all around the globe. With spectators having the chance to watch the world’s leading players free of charge when the tournament takes place from May 28-31, the atmosphere is sure to be electric. Els last played in The European Open in 1994 - the year he also won the first of his three Major Championships with victory in the US Open Championship at Oakmont– and will be aiming to become only the second South African champion after Retief Goosen in 2004.“It’s been a while since I last played in The European Open so I am very much looking forward playing in Kent and getting my first taste of The London Golf Club,” he said. “I heard great things about the set up and the wonderful atmosphere last year and I’m looking forward to having a crack at the title.” Garcia made a bold bid for the trophy last year when he closed with a six under par 66 but was unable to catch England’s Ross Fisher, who romped to a seven stroke victory, and the Spaniard will be hoping to go one better this year when the tournament returns to the North Kent venue, close to Brands Hatch. Garcia said: “I am pleased to be returning to The London Golf Club for the European Open again this year. At last year’s tournament I played four days of solid golf and just missed out to Ross (Fisher) who played a fantastic weekend of golf. “The course was in great shape last year and it suits the way I play, it’s a tournament I enjoy being part of! There are some big names heading over there again this year with the likes of Ernie (Els), Rory (McIlroy), Lee (Westwood) and, of course, Ross, all set to play, so it should make for another exciting weekend of golf” McIlroy has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in world golf, the young man from Northern Ireland who turns 20 next week having made his winning breakthrough with a sensational win in the Dubai Desert Classic in January, a victory which helped him to his current position of fourth in The Race to Dubai. Fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke, a former winner of the event, having captured the title in 2001 at The K Club in Ireland, is also in the field. Two victories last year heralded his return to form and the five time Ryder Cup player will be looking to add to his 12 European Tour titles. Westwood is another former European Open champion, having won back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000, and always attracts plenty of home support. Singh has established himself as India’s finest golfer with three European Tour titles and nine other titles worldwide, including three victories last year, and he has continued to impress on the world stage this season. They will all attempt to succeed Fisher as champion following the Englishman’s superb performance on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Heritage Course in 2008, which included an opening round, course record 63.

McIlroy returns to Irish Links Course

After thrilling golfing galleries across America in the last two months, Rory McIlroy cannot wait to get back to his first love of links golf at The 3 Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club, Baltray, from May 14-17. The Northern Irishman has taken the golfing world by storm since his maiden European Tour victory at the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of the year, and has since gone on to make a huge impression across America with outstanding performances at the Masters, finishing tied 20th, and the WGC – Accenture Match Play, where he made it through to the quarter-finals before losing to World Number Four Geoff Ogilvy. But McIlroy is keen to get back to business on The European Tour, and where better to do so than on the classic links at Baltray, where he will surely be afforded a hero’s welcome alongside three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington. “We don’t play that much links golf on The European Tour so it’s great that The 3 Irish Open is returning to Baltray,” said McIlroy.“I am looking forward to playing it so much because I love links golf. The 3 Irish Open is one of the oldest tournaments on The European Tour and I would love to win at Baltray. Returning to links golf after a couple of months in America where I played courses like Augusta and Doral will be a test but it’s a test I’m relishing.” McIlroy, who turns 20 this coming Monday, will return to his homeland after The PLAYERS Championship next week in search of a second European Tour victory of the season that would, given the impressive €3 million prize fund on offer at The 3 Irish Open, see him make significant strides in his quest to win the inaugural Race to Dubai. McIlroy is currently fourth in The Race to Dubai standings, but victory at Baltray would see him make up significant ground on current Number One Ogilvy. “There’s no doubt it would be great to get back to Dubai and have a chance of winning The Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship – but first of all I have to concentrate on getting a good result at The 3 Irish Open because that would be a good catalyst for the rest of the year. “It would be a nice to do a Dubai double, that’s for sure! But it’s a long way off and I’m concentrating on the rest of the season, starting at Baltray in a couple of weeks.” Robert Finnegan, Chief Executive of 3, said: “I’m delighted to announce Rory’s entrance to The 3 Irish Open. Its superb news that one of the best young talents not just in Ireland but in the game, will be playing at Baltray, one of our finest links courses. With his recent top 20 finish in the Masters at Augusta he has already arrived on the world stage and ranks amongst the best, everyone is expecting a great performance from him. The 3 Irish Open is shaping up to be very exciting with all the recent high profile player announcements and with more to come. It really is going to be an event that all Irish golfing fans should not miss.”Martin Cullen TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism said: "Rory McIlroy is a talented, committed sportsman and his first professional title was secured last February at the Emirates Golf Club was well deserved. Since then he has gone on to excite the crowds with his thrilling and superb golf game. I am delighted that this one of the most exciting young players in world golf will be playing in The 3 Irish Open next month at the Baltray Links. His participation will ensure worldwide crowds will be avidly watching to see golf’s newest talent in action. With a new international title sponsor 3, The 3 Irish Open, also supported by Fáilte Ireland will be one of the most prestigious events on the European Tour. "