Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Masters Mickelson at Scottish Open

Masters Champion Phil Mickelson has confirmed his entry to The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond Golf Club from July 8-11. The American left-hander once again proved himself one of golf’s most gifted shot-makers during his unforgettable victory at Augusta National recently as he picked up the third Green Jacket, and fourth Major title, of his glittering career. Mickelson, a winner of 44 titles around the world, will return to the banks of Loch Lomond hoping to improve upon his second place finish of 2007 when he lost out to Frenchman Grégory Havret in a sudden-death play-off. “Returning to Loch Lomond for The Barclays Scottish Open is always a special week for me,” said Mickelson, who last played at Loch Lomond in 2008.“Everything about the tournament, from the sponsors, to the golf course and the stunning setting at Loch Lomond is as good as it gets in golf and I am proud to be associated with the event. “I would love to add The Barclays Scottish Open to my list of career wins: to be successful in Scotland, the home of golf, is something that every player would love to have on his resume and I am no different. “I have been close to winning The Barclays Scottish Open in the past, and it would be great to go one better than in 2007 when I narrowly missed out on the trophy in a play-off.” Mickelson is the first of the game’s elite players to commit to The Barclays Scottish Open, with other star names to be announced in the coming weeks. Event organisers are anticipating one of the strongest fields in the tournament’s history, one week before The 150th Anniversary Open Championship at St Andrews. There are few more exciting draws in golf than Mickelson, a point he proved emphatically at Augusta earlier this month. The 39 year old produced some mesmeric shot-making over the final two rounds, with his unbelievable eagle-eagle-birdie run on the Saturday afternoon helping him to a third round 67 that hauled him into contention and a final round showdown with Englishman Lee Westwood. Mickelson followed up his Saturday heroics with a sterling , bogey free 67 in the final round, and his miraculous approach to the par five 13th – a six iron from the Augusta pine needles that flew through a gap between two trees and soared over Rae’s Creek to just four feet – was the perfect summation of his powers as he captured his third Masters title.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Westwood & Co. at Wentworth

World Number Four Lee Westwood has confirmed he will play in the BMW PGA Championship next month, completing a powerful trio of Englishmen in the world’s top ten who are chasing victory at Wentworth Club. Ian Poulter, the 2010 WGC – Accenture Match Play champion and World Number Six, has also confirmed his participation in The European Tour’s flagship event from May 20-23 after an absence of two years while World Number Eight, Paul Casey, returns to defend the title he won in dramatic fashion last May.Westwood, who was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the Masters Tournament earlier this month, had his best performance at Wentworth Club in 2000, when he was tied second behind Colin Montgomerie on his way to becoming European Number One for the first time. He has been in a rich vein of form in the past 12 months, winning the inaugural Dubai World Championship in November to be crowned Europe’s Number One for 2009. He also finished third in The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship last year, before going one better in the first Major of 2010after a brilliant performance at Augusta National. Westwood, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, is relishing seeing the extensive redevelopment to Wentworth Club’s iconic West Course, which has undergone major work over the last year following a redesign of all 18 greens by three-time Major Champion Ernie Els. “They have changed it dramatically and to be honest I welcome the changes because the way I usually play on the course has meant that I have never really had a chance around Wentworth. Any change is a good change for me,” said Westwood. “I think that we will now have an even stronger field for what is our flagship event and that can only be good for the tournament. I would love to win it – the world ranking points on offer are great and the prize fund is one of the biggest in the world and it is The European Tour’s most prestigious event.” Poulter returns to the West Course for the first time since 2007, having enjoyed a tremendous start to the year, finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January before going on to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February and finishing tied tenth in the Masters Tournament earlier this month. Those outstanding results have helped propel Poulter to the top of The Race to Dubai Rankings and he said: “I am delighted to be playing in the BMW PGA Championship again. It is a great Championship and I am looking forward to checking out the modifications to the West Course which Ernie has undertaken and I am sure the changes will be for the better.” Casey, who was beaten by Poulter for the the WGC – Accenture Match Play title in the first all-English final, is excited about returning to Wentworth Club as defending champion, having finally shaken off the rib injury which marred the second half of last season. “I know I’m going to have a good attitude about defending my title,” he said. “I’m intrigued to see what Ernie’s done and how the greens perform, but I know with these two par fives to finish we are going to have fun and excitement. Anything can happen, and that’s the beauty of Wentworth. “From the history, to the course, the clubhouse, the players…that is why everyone one of us playing on The European Tour wants to win. Just stand in the middle of the first fairway and look back at the tee and that famous clubhouse and it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.” Another Englishman in the World top 20 – Luke Donald – has also entered for the sixth successive season. The 32 year old from High Wycombe, who has twice finished in the top three in the past three years, makes his first appearance on European soil since last November. However the World Number 19 has shown outstanding form in America this year and will be keen to add the BMW PGA title to his list of achievements. Ross Fisher, who played at Surrey’s Wentworth Club as a junior, is also in the field and hoping to improve on the second place he achieved in 2009 following a compelling final-round duel with Casey. Their compatriot Oliver Wilson, another who grew up in Surrey, will also play, and the 29 year old will hope to build on a promising start to the 2010 season which has yielded fifth place finishes at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and the WGC – Accenture Match Play. Fisher said: “There is a sentimental element for me as well because I grew up there and it was a classic Harry Colt course so it will be quite strange for me. “Behind the Majors and WGCs the BMW PGA is the one that I would most like to win. You just have to look at the history of the course, the past champions and then, of course, my own history of growing up there. It would be a very nice title to win.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Els gets March Momento

Ernie Els has been named The Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month for March following his back-to-back victories in the WGC – CA Championship on The European Tour and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard on the US PGA Tour. The South African, who wins a jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne and an engraved alms dish in recognition of his achievement, ended two years without a win in superb style at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, and became The European Tour's all-time leading money winner in the process. Els’s four shot win over his fellow South African Charl Schwartzel was the 63rd of his professional career and moved him back into the top ten in the Official World Golf Ranking. It did not take long for him to add title number 64 to his CV, just 14 days in fact, as he strode to a two shot win over Edoardo Molinari and Kevin Na at Bay Hill to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Those two victories made Els the unanimous choice of the judging the panel which comprised members of the Association of Golf Writers, plus commentators from radio and television. It was also Els’s first Golfer of the Month Award since February 2004. “I’m delighted and honoured to have won The Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month,” said Els. “It has been too long since I last won this award and it is a great indication of how well I played to win the events at Doral and Bay Hill. Those two wins were definitely special and it was an amazing feeling.” Els won the March award ahead of Maybank Malaysian Open champion Noh Seung-yul of Korea; Rhys Davies of Wales, who finished second in Malaysia before winning the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco; Louis Oosthuizen, who finished second to Davies in Morocco before winning the Open de Andalucia de Golf, and Honda Classic champion Camilo Villegas.Els will now join Schwartzel (The Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month for January) and Ian Poulter (February) as a candidate for The 2010 European Tour Golfer of the Year Award at the end of the season.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Harrison's One Handed Assault

HEROIC Audley Harrison has saved his boxing career with a sensational last-round knockout to win the vacant European heavyweight title. Harrison, who suffered a ripped tendon in his right shoulder in the second round, fought most of his fight against Michael Sprott using only one hand.Despite trailing and being two minutes away from a career-ending defeat, Harrison knocked out Sprott with a sensational left hook. “I had an operation in 2002 when I ripped a tendon and I think I did the same thing again,” said 38-year-old Harrison. “The pain was excruciating but there was absolutely no way I was going to quit. Not once did I think about quitting. “You open people up with the jab but because of my injury I didn’t have a jab but luckily I’m a quick learner. “It was hard for me to pick up any rounds and I’ve never boxed on the orthodox side before. “I felt so hampered but I never lost hope. In the sixth I hurt him with an uppercut and a hook but it was hard to get going. “My career was on the line so losing wasn’t an option. I had to find a way to win and I knew the left would be the one that gets him. “When it landed I just walked away because I knew it was over. “It’s definitely the best punch I’ve ever thrown, especially in those circumstances, but it would’ve knocked out anyone – including the Klitschkos. It was championship-winning material. “It was a hell-mary of a punch that would’ve taken out any heavyweight in the world.” After winning Olympic gold in 2000, Harrison’s professional career had, before this win, failed to live up to its early promise. He admitted he was in ‘the last-chance saloon’ ahead of this Matchroom Sport-promoted contest at Alexandra Palace in north London. In the build-up, Sprott, 35, claimed Harrison did not have the heart to beat him but Harrison believed the manner of this victory would silence his critics. “I would like someone to ask Michael if he still thinks I have no heart,” added an emotional Harrison, who is expected to be out of action for at least six weeks. “I showed a lot of courage to fight with one hand and I showed the heart and desire that I wanted to become the European champion. “Winning the gold medal is something no one can take away but this is sweet and has brought tears to my eyes. “People have said a lot of bad things about me and I’m crying because I’m proud of what I’ve done in these circumstances. “When you work hard you get your rewards and I work hard every day in the gym. Some people do not understand but I’m real and I don’t make any apologies for who I am. “For me to find that shot when I needed it most says something about me. I said it would be something special and no one can say that wasn’t special. “I have a tick next to determination, a tick next to pride, a tick next to heart and a tick next to punching power. I did 12 gruelling rounds, most of them with one hand. “I showed plenty of bottle, plenty of desire, plenty of spirit and plenty of heart – any boxer could see that. “The battle was hard and I wanted it to be hard. Now people can see how much I want to be a world champion and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be one before I retire, no matter what people say about me.” Darren Barker claimed the vacant European Middleweight Championship with a hard-fought unanimous points win over Frenchman Affif Belghecham.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Poulter's Perfect Pitch

Ian Poulter has been awarded The European Tour Shot of the Month for February to complete a memorable month for the Englishman. The World Number Eight can now place his Shot of the Month trophy alongside the one he received for being named The European Tour Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month for February, awarded after his superb display at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The shot which virtually assured Poulter of victory over his compatriot Paul Casey and with it his first WGC title came at the 15th hole at Ritz-Carlton GC in Arizona, America. Poulter was two holes up with four left to play of the 36-hole final, but missed the green with his approach shot to the 15th to leave himself with a testing chip. Casey must have sensed an opportunity to half the deficit, but instead found himself three down with three left to play after Poulter produced a masterful recovery to win the hole, before wrapping up his 4&2 victory at the next hole. The win saw Poulter rise to a career-high of fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking, and also saw him climb temporarily to the top of The Race to Dubai. Runner-up was Colombian Camilo Villegas’ second shot to the ninth hole on the fifth day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, with third place going to England’s Luke Donald for his huge putt on the 18th green on day three of the same event. Poulter follows Germany’s Martin Kaymer (January) in winning the Shot of the Month, which 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.