Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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.

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