Monday, November 30, 2009

Italians take the Initative

Italy created golfing history by winning the Omega Mission Hills World Cup for the first time after a thrilling final round battle with Ireland and Sweden came down to the 72nd hole, where the Molinari brothers combined perfectly to get up and down from a greenside bunker to take the title by a single stroke. Standing on the last tee on the Olazábal Course with a one stroke lead over playing partners Ireland and Sweden who were approaching the 18th green, Franceso fired a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway to set up Italy’s victory charge. With Edoardo standing over his approach shot to the green, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson watched in agony as his 45 foot birdie putt to tie the Italians lipped out, leaving Italy needing a par four to create history – providing Ireland did not make birdie. Edoardo pushed his approach into the bunker before Rory McIlroy gave Ireland one last chance, but Graeme McDowell could only watch on as his birdie attempt stayed above ground giving Italy their chance to make history. “It’s been a tough day and we have been playing against some of the best golfers in the world. It was really tough until the last, but it feels even better when it is like that,” said Francesco “It’s really great for Italy. I think we deserved it as we attacked from the first day with every putt and every shot and we tried to make as many birdies as possible. “I was lucky to hole two big putts on 12 and 13 which were probably the key moment and we just had to hang in there and hope for the best.”
Edoardo, the European Challenge Tour Number One and winner of last week’s Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, echoed his brother’s joy, adding: “It was a very sweet feeling after holing the putt. When I saw the bull in the bunker, it was lying okay, and I just said, ‘Francesco, just knock it on the green anywhere, and I'm going to hole the putt.’ “It was I think a great way to finish, to win by one shot against some really good teams like Ireland and Sweden. I mean, all of the players involved in the other teams were Ryder Cup players, so I think we probably had not realised what we have done today. But I think it's going to be pretty good coming back home.” Irish duo McIlroy and McDowell had stretched their overnight lead to three shots on the front nine, but failed to further advance their score on the way home and a final round two under 70 was not enough to secure what would have been a wire-to-wire victory. Sweden produced a gallant title defence as World Number Seven Stenson and Karlsson, who was beaten in a play-off by Edoardo last week in Japan, carded a final round three under par 69. England finished fourth at 26 under par as an impressive bogey-free eight under 64 came just too late for Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher. Hiroyuki Fujita and Ryuji Imada claimed fifth for Japan a further four shots back after a 69 with Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby earning sixth for Australia. South Africa, Wales, Y E Yang’s Korea, Martin Kaymer’s Germany and USA, who shot a brilliant bogey-free final round ten under par 62, rounded out the top ten at 20 under par. But the day belonged to Italy who put their names in the history books with a brilliant performance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wood caps his First Pro Year

England’s Chris Wood has capped a tremendous debut season on The European Tour by being named the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year for 2009. Bristol-born Wood, 22 tomorrow (Thursday), who at 6ft 5in (196cms) stands alongside Swede Robert Karlsson as the tallest golfer on Tour, also enjoyed the highest finish of a talented group of contenders for the award in the inaugural Race to Dubai. By taking 44th place with earnings of €679,559, Wood secured the title ahead of Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin, who was 53rd in The Race to Dubai, England’s Danny Willett (58th) Sweden’s Oskar Henningsson, who was 68th and also claimed his maiden Tour title in the Czech Republic and another Englishman, David Horsey, who ended his first season in 76th place. However it was Wood’s remarkable performance in The 138th Open Championship which effectively sealed the Award, which is judged by The R&A, the Association of Golf Writers and The European Tour. A year after finishing tied fifth at Royal Birkdale as an amateur, Wood went even better at Turnberry in July, missing out on a play-off by only one shot as he finished alongside eventual Race to Dubai champion, Lee Westwood, in third place. That mature performance was one of five top ten finishes for Wood during his rookie season, while his liking for events with the word ‘Open’ saw him tie for fifth in The European Open and tie for sixth in the South African Open. He was also top scorer in the Vivendi Trophy with Seve Ballesteros, claiming 4 ½ points out of a possible five. Wood, who has climbed to 71st in the Official World Golf Ranking, is the 21st English golfer to win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award since its inception in 1960, when his fellow countryman Tommy Goodwin became the inaugural winner. He succeeds Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, who follows in a long and illustrious list of players who have graduated to great things after winning rookie honours, namely Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance, Sir Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, José Maria Olazábal, Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia. Wood admitted: “It is brilliant to win this award. Looking at the list of names who have won this title makes me appreciate that I am in good company, alongside people like Sir Nick Faldo, who is probably the greatest English golfer to play the game. It’s great to see my name on the same list as Sir Nick and some of the more recent winners like Paul Casey, Nick Dougherty and Ian Poulter. “I’ve had my eyes on winning the rookie crown all season, because it’s something you only ever get one chance to win. Fortunately I’ve been lucky enough to do it thanks to some good results like The Open and some pretty consistent finishes.”
Wood added: “I feel I’ve been able to step into the professional ranks quite easily. The experiences of Birkdale and Turnberry have helped and also getting my card at the Tour School at PGA Golf de Catalunya. Now I am closing in on the top 50 in the world and that must be a big goal in 2010. It opens a lot of doors to the Majors and the other top events where the best players are playing. “Look at Martin Kaymer. He was Rookie of the Year two years ago and has just finished third in The Race to Dubai and must be a contender for the next Ryder Cup. That’s where I want to see myself in a few years time.”

Super Swedes in World Cup Mission

Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson return to the Omega Mission Hills World Cup knowing they will have to raise their games against a 2009 field bursting with quality. The Swedish duo, who produced one of the greatest foursome displays in the tournament’s illustrious history last year with a stunning nine under par 63 that saw them charge to victory, are back at the Mission Hills Golf Club hoping to become the first country to retain the World Cup since Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara defended the title for the USA nine years ago. But with several of the world’s best players arriving at the magnificent Olazábal Course at Mission Hills, Team Sweden know they are in for a great battle to emerge victorious on Sunday night. “I think the tournament this year has a stronger field than ever before so it will be tough to defend,” said Karlsson, who returned to top form last week after his four-month summer injury lay-off at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan where he took second place to Edoardo Molinari after a sudden-death play-off.“It shows that the tournament is getting better, and it shows that they have done a good job at the Mission Hills Club and at OMEGA to get better players to come here. It’s all positive and we are looking forward to the Challenge.” Stenson agreed with Karlsson, but couldn’t help a cheeky reply to the Chinese Media when asked who he felt were Sweden’s biggest rivals for the title. “I can’t see past Sweden,” said Stenson before turning more serious. “It’s a stronger field for sure. It feels like you could find the winners among ten, 12, 14 teams, something like that, most likely, and I guess there’s a few more teams involved than before, and some other countries are also stronger than they have been before. “So it’s going to take some great play to win. Scoring has been quite low in the past and maybe the golf course plays a bit different this year since we play it a bit softer and a little bit longer, and also the greens can be a little bit tricky with all the grain. So yeah, we just have to wait and see what the scoring is like. It’s going to be low no matter what.” One of Sweden’s excepted challengers is Spain, led by World Number Eight Sergio Garcia and his partner, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. The Spanish duo will rely on their friendship and their experiences of playing alongside each other as amateurs as they bid to win the World Cup for Spain for the first time in 25 years. “We don’t have any records playing professionally in the World Cup, but we’ve played a lot of amateur golf together and, well, it’s good to play with a friend,” said Fernandez-Castaño. “So I think it’s going to be fun – I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really glad that Sergio picked me to be here, and I think that we combine very well together. As soon as he called me to be his partner I didn’t hesitate for a second.” Garcia, an Omega Ambassador, knows there is pressure on the Spaniards to perform, but feels the greatest pressure will come from the players themselves. “It’s not about the amount of good teams that you have. There’s always going to be good players playing no matter what. So I think that the ultimate pressure is about trying to win the tournament itself and that’s where you try your hardest,” said Garcia. “Like I said before, there’s a lot of good teams out there. But we also have a good team. We should be very proud of that and if we manage to use our talent, the talent we have, and the capabilities that we have, I think that we should be contenders to the title.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Combination of the two Macs

Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are ready to bring the Omega Mission Hills World Cup back to Ireland for the third time in the country’s history. The duo have arrived at the Olazábal Course at the Mission Hills Golf Club with one thing on their minds – to bring home the magnificent World Cup trophy. Not only are McDowell and McIlroy among the best players in the field this week, they also have one of the strongest friendships off the course of the 28 nations competing. “It would mean a lot to win this tournament and that’s what we are here to try and do,” said McDowell. “The World Cup is one of the special tournaments in golf. We play a lot of individual golf, but getting a chance to play with a partner and representing your country and some of the great champions that have won this tournament, it would be a special feeling. “Rory has said this before and I agree with him: we have a great chance to experience being in the hunt coming down the stretch with a partner and a friend, and sharing that experience will be pretty cool. There are a lot of great teams playing this week, and it would certainly mean a lot to us to take that trophy back to Ireland. McIlroy echoed McDowell’s comments, and also dismissed any notion that he would lack motivation at this week’s event after just missing out on The Race to Dubai title to Lee Westwood at the Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World. “It will be very easy for me to stay motivated,” said the 20 year old. “I want to play the best I can for my partner. I don’t want to let him down. We are playing for our country which is a huge honour, and I don’t think there would be any reason why I wouldn’t be motivated. “This is a new challenge for me. Graeme has played here before, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my first taste of the World Cup, and I don’t think there should be any reason why I shouldn’t be motivated. I’m going to go out there and give it my best shot, and it would be a great title to win.” While Ireland are looking to land the World Cup for the third time, the USA team of John Merrick and Nick Watney are looking to win the tournament for a record 24th time. The Americans, who last won the World Cup in 2000, have a formidable record in the event’s 55 year history. But Merrick and Watney are determined not to be overawed by the past deeds of their fellow countrymen. “It’s an honour to represent the USA in this team competition,” said Merrick. “I haven’t played much team golf, so I’m excited. I think we’re both playing well this year, and we’re looking to come and play well and compete for the championship here. I think our games match up nicely for this format. “We’re looking to play well, although I got an idea of how tough it will be when I was speaking to Fred Couples recently. I said to him: ‘Fred, how many did you play?’ Fred then tells me he played in five and won five and he says: ‘Yeah, good luck. You’ve got your work cut out for you!’”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Westwood Chips In for October

Lee Westwood’s brilliantly crafted chip at the 71st hole of the Portugal Masters has earned the English Ryder Cup player The European Tour Shot of the Month Award for October. Westwood went long and left at the 589 yard par five 17th hole at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura with the title on the line. He was able to take a free drop but still faced a treacherous shot over trees to a green guarded by water. He then produced a wonderfully deft stroke to within a few feet of the hole and tapped in for the birdie four which effectively clinched his first European Tour title for over three years. Westwood admitted: “I don’t think I've ever played a better chip and I don't ever want to play that one again! Looking through the trees, I could see water and it wasn't a very good lie because the crowd had been walking around there as well but obviously the ball came out perfectly.” Second place went to Angel Cabrera’s three wood to the 18th green in the semi-final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship against Ross Fisher, whose 50 foot eagle putt at the 334 yard fourth hole in the final against Anthony Kim was voted in third place. Winners of the Shot of the Month in 2009 have been: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (January and March), Paul Casey of England (February and May), three Argentine golfers in Angel Cabrera (April), Rafa Echenique (June), Ricardo Gonzalez (July), and Alexander Noren of Sweden (August and September). The Shot of the Month is awarded to the Tour Member for the shot judged to be the best played each month on The European Tour International Schedule. At the end of the season, the winning shot from each month will be nominated for The European Tour Shot of the Year Award.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mac is Back to Fight Setbacks

Former WBO World Cruiserweight king Enzo Maccarinelli is on his third and final mission to reclaim his world title. The big-hitting Welshman lost his crown last year to David Haye, but the Swansea puncher is aiming for a fresh start on December 5 in Newcastle when he fights in a six rounder on the undercard of Amir Khan's clash with Dmitriy Salita. And he reckons that by this time next year he's going to back in title contention."After my last fight against Denis Lebedev there was talk of me retiring," said Enzo. "I had a long think about where my career was going, but I've got my hunger back now. "Being a world champion meant a lot to me and it hurt so much losing my world title. "There's no way that I'll quit before I win it back, and the plan is to have a couple of warm up fights before stepping up to championship level in 2010. "There were a few things that weren't right in the ring against Lebedev and it wasn't a question of me not being good enough, I just didn't fight the right fight. "But I know that I've still got a lot left to offer and I've been really buzzing in the gym these last few months." Maccarinelli, 29, still has a formidable 29-4 (22) record and believes he'll be back to his old self in the north east. "I've had a nightmare 18 months or so, but it's time for a fresh start," he said. "My mind was getting too cluttered but people are going to be seeing an old school Enzo up in Newcastle and I'll be back to my knockout best."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Khan inspired by Pacquiao's Dazzling Display

Amir Khan says Manny Pacquiao's amazing victory over Miguel Cotto on Saturday night in Las Vegas has inspired him ahead of his clash with Dimitry Salita. Khan - who like Pacquiao is trained by Freddie Roach - tackles his mandatory challenger on December 5 at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. The fight marks the first defence of his WBA World Light-Welterweight title that he won against Andreas Kotelnik in July. And Khan says Roach and co are buzzing following Pacquiao's 12th round stoppage win against Cotto, a victory which strengthens his claim to be P4P number one. "I've worked with Manny for the last year or so and I have learnt so much from him," said Khan. "For me, he is definitely the best fighter in the world at the moment and just watching him in the gym, let alone when he is fighting, is an inspiration. "I was ringside at the MGM Grand on Saturday, and seeing Pacquiao's performance up close makes me want to train even harder and get to the level he is at right now. "Cotto is a tough, tough fighter but Manny made it look easy in there. He took everything that Miguel threw at him and came back with twice as many punches. "He's at the very top right now and I would like to congratulate him on all that he has achieved." Khan is currently fine-tuning his training camp before flying back to the UK and putting the final touches to his preparations for the Salita fight. Tickets are priced at £30, £40, £50, £85, £125, £200 and £300, and are available from: Metro Radio Arena
0844 248 5013 Sports Corporation 0845 163 0845 See Tickets 0871 220 0260

DeGale Fit for a King

Olympic Champion James DeGale will look to carry on his devastating run of KO performances against granite-jawed Welshman Nathan King in Newcastle. DeGale, who won gold in Beijing last year, has won his last three fights by stoppage and is eying his first title fight in 2010. But first he has to past King in a six rounder at the Metro Radio Arena on December 5, where he will form part of the under-card to Amir Khan's WBA World Light-Welterweight title defence against Dimitry Salita. And hot-shot DeGale, still only 23, has vowed to become only the third man to stop King, who has kept good company. "He's going to be dangerous because he's fought for titles before, including a version of the world super-middleweight crown," said DeGale. "The only people who have stopped him are (former British champion) Tony Quigley and (world-rated Frenchman) Jean Paul Mendy so that tells you that he's going to be tough. "If I can do a number on him then it is going to send out a big statement to the domestic division. "Back in March he fought Kenny Anderson up in Scotland for the Celtic title and I thought he won that fight quite easily, but he lost it on the scorecards. "This is the kind of fight I need though right now in my career. "I'm really buzzing in the gym at the moment and I want a challenge because I feel like I'm getting better every day. "People have only seen about 10 per cent of what I can do at the moment." King - a 28-year-old from Mountain Ash - won't be fazed by facing DeGale as for years he worked with Joe Calzaghe. And he's also gone the distance with the likes of Tony Oakey, Tony Dodson, Stevie McGuire, Eric Teymour and Anderson. "James is a great talent but I'll be far too experienced for him," said King. "He's still a baby in the pros and I'll give him a lesson he won't forget." Tickets are priced at £30, £40, £50, £85, £125, £200 and £300, and are available from: Metro Radio Arena 0844 248 5013 Sports Corporation 0845 163 0845 See Tickets 0871 220 0260

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harrison inspired by Haye

PRIZEFIGHTER Champion Audley Harrison believes David Haye will inspire him to win boxing titles in 2010. Haye claimed the WBA Heavyweight Championship on Saturday and Harrison believes the victory acts as an incentive for the rest of the British heavyweights. "I was motivated to achieve my goals already, but David's win and publicity has given me more fuel to get back to the top," said 38-year-old Harrison. "I'm ticking over in Los Angeles and can't wait to get going again. 2010 will be a beautiful thing as I shock the world." Harrison, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2000, was facing the end of his professional career after a defeat against Northern Ireland's Martin Rogan in December 2008. However, Harrison saved his career by winning Barry Hearn's Prizefighter Heavyweights 3 last month as victories over Scott Belshaw and undefeated duo Danny Hughes and Coleman Barrett saw him lift the trophy. "I really enjoyed the experience of Prizefighter," added Harrison. "The contests were all exciting and my three opponents all brought something different to the table. "The atmosphere was fantastic and I thought the whole production and media attention was spot on. "I was running out of opportunities to achieve my goal so it was important I came and produced the performances I did. Onwards and upwards." The next event in the Prizefighter Series takes place at the National Hall, Olympia, London, on Friday, December 4. It will be the first ever light-welterweight tournament and the eight-man line-up includes former World, European and British Champions. Harrison admits he finds it difficult to predict the winner, although he expects former WBA World Champion Gavin Rees to be a strong challenger. "David Barnes and Colin Lynes could meet in final, depending on the draw, but Gavin Rees will put up fierce resistance and could be the guy to win it," said Harrison. "But Michael Grant is my dark horse to make the final. Looking at the records and experience of the fighters, it's hard to pick a clear winner and I think these bouts will be evenly contested, which will make for a cracking night. "The tactic I used was to stay patient, wait for my opponents to make mistakes and make them pay. "Good fitness is required to be successful in this tournament format so it's no good having a war in your first bout. The ideal tactics are to control the bout, win without losing too much energy and then pick it up for the semis and final. "The favourites need to focus on each and every opponent they face and not underestimate their opponents as (current British Heavyweight Champion) Danny Williams did in our event. "Danny's punch resistance is totally gone, but probably would've beaten Carl Baker had he not been so obsessed with me."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fisher and Poulter Player Power

England’s golf fans were given every reason to expect Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter to bring home the Omega Mission Hills World Cup following the duo’s sensational successes on the world stage last week. Just hours after Poulter had outscored the likes of Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Adam Scott to lift the Barclays Singapore Open crown, Fisher added the final scalp of Anthony Kim to those of Jeev Milkha Singh, Camilo Villegas and Angel Cabrera to win the Volvo World Match Play title. Fisher and Poulter are now hoping that they can channel their individual brilliance into Team England as they prepare for a return to Mission Hills Golf Club to improve upon their sixth place finish 12 months ago. “My relationship with Ross is an excellent one,” said Poulter. “We played together last year and had a great time and to be honest, we were disappointed we didn’t do better than we did even though we recovered well after a shocking start. To end the week with 65 in foursomes was pretty impressive and I think showed what we can do. We are both in form at the moment as recent results have shown and we are looking forward to getting out there and having some fun. “I love playing with Ross. He has massive potential and I am excited to be his partner. He has been very impressive over the last 18 months and his golf is very, very good. He has contended in Major Championships and he is winning big tournaments. “I think it is time that England won the World Cup again. It is always time. I think when you have four English players in the top 20 of the World Rankings it shows how good English golf is at the moment so it is about time we stepped up to the mark on the world stage. One thing is for sure, we will try our hardest.” Fisher echoed the comments of his team-mate, saying: “I’m really looking forward to playing with Ian – we had a great time last year. He has just won, I have just won so we are going to China with high hopes and feel like we can really contend and we are one of the strongest teams there. “There will be some strong teams there but we are both really up for it and really looking forward to it. We have a very good friendship. I played a few practice rounds with Poults at the Majors this year and we get on really well. He’s just good to be around and we have a good laugh together. “His sheer levels of confidence are unbelievable. He’s so confident in his own ability and that really stands out. He’s just massively confident in what he can do, what he can achieve, which is great.”

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ross Fisher's Crowning Moment

Englishman Ross Fisher has been named The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month for October following his stunning victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship at the Finca Cortesin Golf Course in Spain. The 28 year old, who will receive a jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne along with an engraved alms dish in recognition of his achievement, beat American Ryder Cup player Anthony Kim 4 and 3 in the 36 hole final at the Caseras venue to move up to fourth in The Race to Dubai and 17th on the Official World Golf Ranking. Ironically, Fisher began the week with a defeat to his fellow countryman Lee Westwood but recovered magnificently, under the new round-robin group format, to dispatch Jeev Milkha Singh and Camilo Villegas in his next two matches to qualify for the semi-finals before accounting for Masters Tournament Champion Angel Cabrera on the 39th green of an epic last four clash. “It is a great thing to win the Golfer of the Month award – I was really thrilled when I was told about it,” said Fisher. “It is the icing on the cake after what was a fantastic win for me in Spain and it is a huge honour and a massive privilege for me to be voted for by the panel. It shows that people do take note when you produce good performances.” The judging panel – which comprised members of the Association of Golf Writers in addition to commentators from television and radio – commended several other players for their performances in October, most notably Sweden’s Michael Jonzon, who began the week of the CASTELLÓ Masters Costa Azahar harbouring fears about keeping his card for 2010, but ended it with a two year exemption after holding off Martin Kaymer and Christian Nilsson to win the tournament. In addition, Englishmen Simon Dyson, Ross McGowan, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were praised by the panel for their victories in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the Madrid Masters, the Barclays Singapore Open and the Portugal Masters respectively, as was Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang who won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters on the Asian Tour. But, in the end, the decision went to Fisher as Peter Dixon of The Times newspaper, and part of the judging panel, explained. “There were many wonderful showings by European Tour Members across October and the decision was not an easy one,” he said. “Michael Jonzon’s performance in particular, winning when he had to in Spain, was particularly impressive. “But it was felt that Ross Fisher’s overall performance throughout the week against top quality opposition saw him merit the award. To have the ability and endurance to beat Masters Champion Angel Cabrera in a classic semi-final before seeing off Anthony Kim, one of America’s biggest successes in last year’s Ryder Cup, in the final, was truly special.” Fisher joins Rory McIlroy (January), Geoff Ogilvy (February), Søren Kjeldsen (March), Angel Cabrera (April), Shane Lowry (May), Nick Dougherty (June), Martin Kaymer (July), Lee Westwood (August) and Rafael Cabrera-Bello (September) 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 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.