Tuesday, September 28, 2010

McIlroy's mission in Hong Kong

After two successive second-place finishes at the UBS Hong Kong Open, Rory McIlroy will return to the Hong Kong Golf Club in an effort to complete “unfinished business” from November 18-21. One of the game’s fastest rising stars, McIlroy currently lies seventh in the Official Golf World Rankings and is preparing to make his Ryder Cup debut in Wales this week. The Northern Irishman is one of the biggest draws in world golf and has been a huge attraction during the last two editions of the UBS Hong Kong Open, finishing second after a thrilling play-off with Lin Wen-tang in 2008, and taking second spot behind Grégory Bourdy at Fanling last year.“I think it would be fair to say that I have some unfinished business in Hong Kong,” said McIlroy. “I’m looking forward to returning to Hong Kong and I won’t rest until I have the Hong Kong Open title in my bag.” With McIlroy committed to completing unfinished business in Hong Kong, golf fans from around the region are expected to flock to Fanling to see him take a third successive tilt at the title. “UBS puts on a brilliant event, and Hong Kong is one of the most exciting cities in the world. I love the city and the golf course at Fanling so it was an easy decision to come back this year and try to win the title.“It is a very important week in the Schedule. It is the last tournament before the Dubai World Championship so if you can perform well in Hong Kong it gives you great confidence for the final event of the season. “I hope to come to Hong Kong early this year to experience more of the city. We don’t always have time to enjoy some of the great destinations that we visit - and for me, Hong Kong ranks as one of the best cities in the world.” Kathryn Shih, CEO of UBS Wealth Management, Asia Pacific, commented: “The UBS Hong Kong Open has entered a new era and all of us at UBS are committed to ensuring that it remains one of the region’s top sporting events. Clearly, Rory’s return to Hong Kong for a third shot at the title will add an extra dimension to the excitement. “I am a great admirer of Rory’s attitude”, added Shih. “After coming so close with two thrilling finishes in recent years, his unrelenting pursuit of success is reminiscent of our corporate philosophy of constantly striving to achieve success for our clients. Rory will be a great addition to the tournament and I am sure that his presence will be welcomed by golf fans across the region.” McIlroy has enjoyed another fine season at the very highest level of the world game, the highlight of which came in America as he rampaged to his first PGA Tour victory with a final round 62 at the Quail Hollow Championship earlier in the year. Two joint third-place finishes in the final two Majors of the season – The Open Championship and US PGA Championship – have kept the 21 year old at the summit of the World Ranking as he looks forward to making his Ryder Cup debut for Europe versus the USA before heading for Hong Kong.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Khan to light up Las Vegas

With fans from the United States to England to Argentina clamoring for it for well over a year, super lightweight supremacy will finally be decided on Saturday, December 11, when British superstar Amir "King" Khan returns to the United States for his second consecutive bout to defend his World Boxing Association (WBA) 140-pound World Championship against ferocious Argentinean knockout artist and WBA Super Lightweight Interim World Champion Marcos Maidana at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The highly anticipated bout will be televised live in the United States on HBO's World Championship Boxing. "Maidana has been doing a lot of talking and he's talked his way into a fight now," said Khan. "Unfortunately for him, his mouth isn't going to help him in the ring and I'm going to prove to him that I'm on another level on December 11." Maidana responded by saying, "Khan's been running from me for a long time, but the running stops on December 11. I'll show him how a champion acts and fights when we get into the ring in Las Vegas." Oscar de la Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions said, "This is a fight the fans have asked for and we're giving it to them as an early holiday present. I believe these are the two of the top 140-pound fighters in the world and with Khan's speed and Maidana's power, this fight is going to be explosive." "Marcos has proven he is a force to be reckoned with in the 140-pound division and we are confident that he will expose Amir's flaws and come out with his hands raised in victory," Dietmar Poszwa, of Universum Box Promotion, Maidana's co-promoter. "December 11 is going to be an explosive night and you will not want to miss it." Khan vs. Maidana, a 12-round WBA Super Lightweight World Championship bout, is presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Khan Promotions and Universum Box Promotion. The HBO World Championship Boxing broadcast begins at 9:30pm ET / 6:30pm PT. Amir "King" Khan (23-1, 17 KOs), only 23 years old, already has sailed to the heights of the amateur and professional boxing world, however he is far from finished on his quest to becoming the best of his era. An accomplished amateur who earned a Silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics at just 17 years old, the Bolton, England native took the professional game by storm in 2005 and with the exception of a brief bump in the road in 2008 when he was upset by Breidis Prescott, Khan has since been unstoppable. A World Champion since 2009, when he defeated Andreas Kotelnik in July of that year, Khan has since defended his crown twice, stopping Dmitriy Salita (TKO1) and Paul Malignaggi (TKO11) in impressive fashion. Now he's ready for his greatest challenge in Maidana. A hard-hitting battler from Santa Fe, Argentina, 27-year-old Marcos Rene "Chino" Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs) paid his dues on the local circuit in Argentina before getting his shot at the big time in 2009 when he faced Kotelnik for the WBA Super Lightweight World title. After 12 hard-fought rounds, Maidana lost a controversial split decision, but just four months later, he scored an impressive technical knockout win over highly-touted contender "Vicious" Victor Ortiz for the interim WBA World title. Maidana has been even more impressive in his subsequent bouts as he has defended the interim crown against William Gonzalez (KO3), Victor Cayo (KO6) and DeMarcus Corley (W12). All of that is well and good, but all along he has said that what he really wants is to capture the WBA title with a win over Khan, and he'll get his chance on December 11.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brothers in arms in Portugal

Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, the first brothers to represent Europe in The Ryder Cup, have both confirmed their participation in the €3 million Portugal Masters at Oceanico Victoria Golf Course in the Algarve from October 14-17. Edoardo, 29, and Francesco, who will be 28 next month, have captured the imagination of the golfing world this year by gaining admittance into that most elusive of clubs – Ryder Cup Team Members – after a series of superb performances on The European Tour. In fact, it was Francesco’s runner-up finish at Oceanico victoria Golf Club last October, and the accompanying €333,330 prize, which propelled him on his way to one of the automatic qualifying places in Colin Montgomerie’s Team heading for Wales next week.
Only the last-day brilliance of England’s Lee Westwood halted Molinari in his tracks, after he had led for the first two days and went into the final round just one shot behind South African Retief Goosen. Westwood closed with a 66 to Molinari’s 70 to win by two strokes. Francesco, who has played in all three previous editions of the Portugal Masters, said: “I am looking forward to getting back to Portugal. Last year was a really good week for me and was probably the closest I have been to the second win of my career. “It was exciting going head to head with Lee Westwood over a great golf course. It is one of those courses that there are a lot of ways to play and I think it is a course that will always end up with a very good winner for the tournament.” “It is a great time of the year to go to Portugal because the weather is usually perfect and everything about the place is really good – the hotel, the food and the area are amazing and it is a very nice change from the Dunhill Links the week before because we usually spend the week there in jumpers, jackets and woollen hats! The Portugal Masters is one of the best weeks on Tour. “ Edoardo, one of Montgomerie’s wild cards for The Celtic Manor Resort showdown with the United States next week, endorsed his younger sibling’s views on the course and event, which he played in 2008.“Unfortunately I missed the cut, but I am very much looking forward to returning to Oceanico Victoria Golf Club this time with – hopefully – a much better chance of winning. I have improved quite a lot since I last played there.” He added: “I remember watching the final round on TV back in Italy and hoping that Francesco could pull off a big win, but on the day Lee just happened to play some great golf to pip him. Hopefully we will both be in contention this time around!”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Westwood in Portugese Defence

World Number Three Lee Westwood is relishing the opportunity to defend his Portugal Masters title, 12 months after the victory which ignited his ascent to the summit of European golf. The Englishman finished two strokes clear of Italian Francesco Molinari and four ahead of Padraig Harrington last year to capture his first European Tour victory in more than two years, during which time he had lost three play-offs and recorded an astonishing 26 top ten finishes. Westwood’s 19th visit to the winner’s enclosure as a European Tour champion lit the blue touch paper, and he promptly made it 20 when he captured the season ending Dubai World Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Westwood’s Portugal Masters victory and €500,000 first prize contributed towards the 37 year old winning the inaugural Race to Dubai ahead of Rory McIlroy and subsequently being named The 2009 European Tour Golfer of the Year. His return to Oceânico Victoria Golf Course,Vilamoura, as champion from October 14-17 will be his first appearance in stroke-play competition following his seventh Ryder Cup appearance for Europe at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. “I’m really looking forward to returning to Oceânico Victoria Golf Course and defending my title,” said Westwood. “It was a great venue to finally capture another victory after two years without one. I’d had a number of near misses in that time so it was special to finally get my hands on a trophy and to then go on to win the inaugural Race to Dubai on the back of that made it a year to remember.” Westwood fired successive weekend rounds of 66 at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course to capture the title last year. He had entered the final round three shots adrift of former US Open Champion Retief Goosen but birdied each of the first four holes and produced a magical escape through the trees on the par five 17th hole to then tap in for birdie and then par the last for victory. Westwood, who has finished runner up in both the Masters Tournament and Open Championship this season and won for the first time in 12years on the US PGA Tour, has missed all of August and September with a calf injury but retains aspirations of a successful double defence – of his Portugal Masters title and Race to Dubai crown. “It would mean a great deal to me to successfully defend my Portugal Masters title,” he said. “Last year I held off some great players in Francesco Molinari, Padraig Harrington and Retief and it will be just as tough this year with seven of my Ryder Cup Teammates in the field”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kaymer's hits the top in August

Martin Kaymer has won The Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month Award for August following his magnificent victory in the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. The 25 year old, who receives an engraved alms dish and magnum of Möet & Chandon champagne, produced a clinical and ultimately devastating performance to overcome Bubba Watson of the USA in a three-hole play-off to claim his first Major title and become only the second German to win one of golf’s Major prizes. Kaymer’s victory sealed an unprecedented season in the Majors for The European Tour as he followed Graeme McDowell (the US Open) and Louis Oosthuizen (The Open) as the third European Tour Member to win a Major in the same season.“It is always an honour to be named The European Tour Golfer of the Month but to get the award for winning a Major is even better,” said Kaymer, speaking at the KLM Open.“It’s great news that I have won it and my brother will be pretty pleased because he was saying to me recently that winning the PGA will mean I will win the Golfer of the Month and he was right. “This is the third time that I have won the award and it is always nice to be voted for awards like this because it is more recognition for a great achievement.” It comes as no surprise that Kaymer secured the August award but he did have some serious competition, especially from Swede Peter Hanson, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari – a trio that used the month of August to secure their places alongside Kaymer in Colin Montgomerie’s European Ryder Cup Team.Hanson’s outstanding victory in the Czech Open took him inside the automatic qualifiers for The Ryder Cup squad, before Molinari made himself an irresistible wild card choice for Montgomerie by winning the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles – the last counting event for Ryder Cup qualification. Jiménez, meanwhile, performed well to tie for seventh in the Czech Republic before cancelling his invitation to his nephew’s wedding in order to keep his place on the Team at Gleneagles, where a tie for third place ensured that he would make a fourth Ryder Cup appearance at the age of 46. Kaymer joins South Africans Charl Schwartzel (January) and Ernie Els (March), the English pair of Ian Poulter (February) and Luke Donald (May), the Northern Irish duo of Rory McIlroy (May) and McDowell (June) and Oosthuizen (July) among the candidates for The Race to Dubai Golfer of the Year on The European Tour, which will be decided at the end of the season.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Harrington warms up for Ryder Cup

Padraig Harrington has confirmed that he will play in the Vivendi Cup 2010, as he looks to hone his game ahead of taking his place in the European Team for The 2010 Ryder Cup. The three-time Major Champion will join fellow Ryder Cup teammates Peter Hanson and Edoardo Molinari, as well as Vice Captains Thomas Björn and Paul McGinley, in the field for the €1,250,000 tournament at Golf de Joyenval, in Paris, France, from September 23-26. It will be the Irishman’s first appearance on European soil since he finished second in the 3 Irish Open at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, where he carded a superb final round 64. Harrington will head to Paris hoping to capture his 15th European Tour title and first since his victory in the 2008 US PGA Championship – the third of his Major Championship wins after back-to-back Open Championships in 2007 and 2008. He said: "I am really looking forward to playing in the Vivendi Cup. Having heard many great things about the Golf de Joyenval, I am delighted to be playing there for the first time. “I enjoy the Pro Am format very much and I will be playing with my brother which should make for a very enjoyable week." Harrington was selected as one of Colin Montgomerie’s three Captain’s picks for The 2010 Ryder Cup, which will take place at The Celtic Manor Resort the week after the Vivendi Cup 2010. It will be his sixth Ryder Cup appearance after making his debut in the contest in 1999.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jimenez eyes Portugese Prize

Miguel Angel Jiménez, who captured his third title of a spectacular 2010 season in last weekend’s Omega European Masters, will aim to add the Portugal Masters to that impressive haul at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course on the Algarve next month. Jiménez, who climbed to eighth in The Race to Dubai with his three stroke victory in Switzerland, has confirmed that he will join a star-studded cast in the €3 million tournament from October 14-17. The new World Number 27 is seeking his first Portugal Masters crown, having played in all three previous editions from 2007. Jiménez played in all four rounds each time but is relishing the chance to contend for the title and €500,000 first prize this time around. Jiménez, an automatic qualifier for Europe’s Ryder Cup Team to face the United States at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales next month said: “The Portugal Masters is a great tournament. Coming from Spain, I appreciate the warm weather and the wonderful facilities at Oceanico Victoria Golf Course with the new Tivoli Victoria Hotel so close by.. “The Spanish and Portuguese are like brothers because we are next door neighbours and we appreciate the good things in life like the nice food and fine wine which we get on the Algarve.” Jiménez has racked up 11 of his 18 European Tour titles since he turned 40 in January 2004 and the cigar-smoking man from Malaga added with a laugh: “Maybe I am also like a good wine – I am getting better with age!” A third Ryder Cup appearance awaits the popular Spaniard, and he said: “I think everything is shaping up really well for Celtic Manor. Our Team members have won five times in the last month so I am looking forward to going to Portugal with The Ryder Cup back in Europe.”

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Jimenez's magical shot in July

Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain has won The European Tour Shot of the Month Award for July following an inspired piece of improvisation at the world famous ‘Road Hole’ at St Andrews. In the third round of The Open Championship over the Old Course, Jiménez found himself tucked in a near impossible position beneath the wall which forms the course boundary beyond the notorious road behind the 17th green. However, the Spanish Ryder Cup player opted to take the brave option of facing the wall with his back to the green and playing a miraculous shot against the stone dyke. The ball ricocheted off the wall over Jimenez’s head onto the putting surface. A truly brilliant stroke, worthy of the Shot of the Month Award. Jiménez recalled the moment as he prepared to compete in his 22nd consecutive Omega European Masters in Crans-sur-Sierre, saying: “I was less than six inches from the wall and I didn’t really have much option other than to play the ball.“There was no place to drop it. I took out my sand wedge and hoped to get a good break but I had no idea how it would turn out as you can’t practise that sort of shot! I was happy to see the ball bounce the right way over my head and onto the green.“ Second place went to Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa for the long eagle putt at the ninth hole in the final round of The Open which effectively sealed his first Major title, while St Andrews was also the venue for the third placed shot, a towering approach to three feet played by Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy at the 17th on his way to an opening-day 63 in The Open. 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. The monthly winners to date in 2010 have been Martin Kaymer of Germany (January), England’s Ian Poulter (February), Noh Seung-yul of Korea (March), Lee Westwood of England (April), England’s Luke Donald (May) and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (June).

McDowell to feature in Austria

US Open Champion Graeme McDowell is planning to fine-tune his game for The Ryder Cup by playing in the Austrian Golf Open presented by Botarin at Diamond Country Club near Vienna later this month. The €750,000 tournament, from September 16 – 19, is the penultimate European Tour event before Colin Montgomerie’s European Team takes on the USA at The Celtic Manor Resort, and after a few weeks’ rest McDowell is aiming to sharpen up over the 7,053 yard par 72 Diamond Course. The Northern Irishman sealed his place in Europe’s Team with his historic victory at Pebble Beach in June, a week after he clinched The Celtic Manor Wales Open over The Twenty Ten Course. Having also finished fourth at the Madrid Masters a week earlier, McDowell has enjoyed a well-deserved rest since playing in the US PGA Championship. “I have taken a few weeks’ break after the US PGA to focus on the rest of my season and to be fresh for The Ryder Cup,” said the 31 year old. “My next and only tournament before Celtic Manor will be the Austrian Golf Open. I have always enjoyed playing in Austria and I see this as a good opportunity to become sharp ahead of our match against the United States. “I have a good record in Austria, having finished ninth in 2007 and eighth in 2008, both at Fontana Golf Club. In 2008, which was also a Ryder Cup year, I had a great chance to win, or at least get a top three, in Austria which would have given me valuable Ryder Cup points. Unfortunately I played aggressively on the last, found water, and slumped to eighth. Thankfully a month later I had some great results, including a win at The Barclays Scottish Open, which secured my place on Sir Nick Faldo's team. “So it looks like Austria will have yet another indirect say in my preparations for a Ryder Cup, and I am looking forward to checking out the new venue at The Diamond Country Club.” Diamond Country club takes over the staging of the Austrian Golf Open – which was first played in 1990, when Germany’s Bernhard Langer took the title – from Fontana Golf Club, the host venue for the past seven seasons. The course, which opened in 2002, features water hazards on nine of the 18 holes, including the 192 yard 11th and 159 yard 15th holes, where both tee shots are played to island greens. McDowell will be joined in Austria by his Ryder Cup team-mate Miguel Angel Jiménez, Todd Hamilton, the 2004 Open Champion, Simon Khan, winner of this year’s BMW PGA Championship, and is defending champion Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who won in stunning style last year, shooting a sensational 60 in the final round to win by one shot from Benn Barham.