Thursday, December 23, 2010

DeGale makes the top Ten

James DeGale has gate-crashed the WBO's top 10 rankings after his stunning win over Paul Smith. The new British super-middleweight champion is now rated number five by the governing body and he will aim to rise to the top of the pile by the end of 2011.
"I've always said that I want to be a world champion by 2012," said Olympic Champion DeGale. "At the moment, I might get there a bit earlier, but whatever happens, I just want to keep on winning over the next 12 months and keep going up in those rankings. "I always knew that if I beat Smith I'd get a decent ranking with the WBO, but this is the perfect end a good year as British Champion." DeGale, 24, picked up the British title with a ninth round stoppage in just his ninth pro fight. And it lead promoter Frank Warren to say that he is ahead of other British fighters he has worked with at the same stage of their careers. Ahead of DeGale in the rankings are WBO champion Robert Stieglitz, as well as contenders Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham, Jean Paul Mendy and Renan St. Juste. "I'd happily take on any of those fighters next year," said DeGale. "I've been talking to Frank and we've got some big plans for the next 12 months. "Obviously the fight I really want is against the Ugly Kid (George Groves), but if he says no for a second time, then I might even leave the domestic scene behind and crack straight on with European level opposition.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Swede hits the sweet spot

Robert Karlsson’s pitch perfect approach to the 18th hole on the final day of the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World has won the Swede The European Tour Shot of the Month Award for November. Karlsson piled the pressure on leader Ian Poulter of England with a wedge to within two feet to set up a birdie chance, which he duly took to set the clubhouse target on 14 under par. After Poulter had finished on the same mark, Karlsson saw off the Englishman at the second extra hole to take the €910,349 first prize. Poulter took second place in the November Shot of the Month competition with his bunker shot during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions, with Karlsson also taking third place for his second shot to the third hole at the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World, which tracked perfectly into the cup for an eagle. The Shot of the Month is awarded to the Tour Member for the stroke judged to be the best played each month on The European Tour International Schedule. The monthly winners in 2010 were Martin Kaymer of Germany (January and August), England’s Ian Poulter (February), Noh Seung-yul of Korea (March), Lee Westwood of England (April), England’s Luke Donald (May), Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (June and October), Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain (July), Edoardo Molinari (September) and Karlsson (November). All were considered for The European Tour Shot of the Year, with the panel of golfing media selecting a top three of Ian Poulter’s chip at the WGC – Accenture Match Play in February, Martin Kaymer’s putt to get into a play-off for the US PGA Championship in August, and Graeme McDowell’s putt on the 16th hole on the final day of The Ryder Cup in October as the stand out shots.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Joint winners of Race to Dubai

Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell spent most of the 2010 season making golfing history and, fittingly, they ended the year in a similar vein when, for the first time since the award was initiated in 1985, they were voted as joint winners of The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year. A respected judging panel featuring all sectors of the golfing media – newspapers, magazines, radio and television – debated the many merits of both men but when it came to the vote the result was split right down the middle, leading to the historic decision. It was an appropriate conclusion to a groundbreaking season for European Tour Members in tournaments across the globe; a year which saw three – Louis Oosthuizen, Kaymer and McDowell – win Major Championships for the first time; a further trio – Ernie Els, Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter – lift World Golf Championships; and the 2009 Golfer of the Year Lee Westwood displace Tiger Woods as World Number One before ensuring he would begin 2011 in that position following his success in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. On The European Tour International Schedule, Miguel Angel Jiménez became, at the age of 46 years and 243 days, the oldest player to win three times in one season while at a mere 17 years and 188 days, Matteo Manassero became the youngest Tour winner in history. Furthermore Bernhard Langer, the winner of the inaugural Golfer of the Year award in 1985, claimed two Senior Major titles in consecutive weeks on his way to winning the US Champions Tour Player of the Year and Money List for the third consecutive season, while on the regular US PGA Tour, European Tour Members dominated the mid-season with seven victories in 11 weeks. All of the above players were commended by the panel for their achievements but, in terms of the Golfer of the Year, it was the respective feats of Kaymer and McDowell which stood out. Kaymer, 25, won four times on The European Tour International Schedule, capturing the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship at the start of the season and three tournaments in a row during a sensational autumn spell, a run which began with his first Major Championship victory when he came from behind in a three-hole play-off at Whistling Straits to beat American Bubba Watson to the US PGA Championship title. He then followed that with a win on his return to competitive stroke play action in the KLM Open in the Netherlands before triumphing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. It was a run which provided the platform for him to also finish Number One on The Race to Dubai with record season earnings of €4,461,011. In the midst of his triumphant autumn, he also made his Ryder Cup debut at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, returning two and a half points from his four matches including a vital fourball victory in the first match of the entire contest, in partnership with Lee Westwood, against Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. Kaymer said: “This has been a truly great year for me and winning this award is the perfect ending. It is recognition for my performances in 2010 and to be voted for by the golfing media, the people who watch and report on our sport throughout the year, makes me feel very proud. “I am always trying to follow in Bernhard Langer’s footsteps and to see that I have now won an award that he was the first to win back in 1985 is very satisfying indeed. I followed in his footsteps earlier this season by winning a Major Championship, playing in a winning Ryder Cup Team and being given Honorary Membership of The European Tour and now I have taken another step by winning the Golfer of the Year Award. But he is still many steps ahead of me! “Graeme and I had pretty much the same level of success this season in terms of the Majors and on The European Tour and he deserves this recognition as much as I do. His winning match in The Ryder Cup was huge for all of Europe and for both of us to now make history in terms of sharing this award for the first time, represents a very proud moment for both our families and also shows how strong European golf is right now.” McDowell, 31, won three times on The European Tour International Schedule, beginning with victory in The Celtic Manor Wales Open in June on The Twenty Ten Course where he would play such a pivotal role in Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph a mere four months later. Like Kaymer, he then went on to pick up his first Major Championship victory in the United States, an emotional success in the US Open Championship at Pebble Beach where his dad Kenny was on hand, on Fathers’ Day, to see his son become the first European golfer to win the US Open in 40 years, since Tony Jacklin triumphed at Hazeltine National in 1970. His third victory came in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters at the end of October, a win which helped reignite The Race to Dubai and he chased Kaymer all the way to the final event – the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates – eventually having to settle for a career high of second place with season earnings of €3,896,995. Sandwiched between his victories in the United States and Spain was his second Ryder Cup appearance and one which ended in nail-biting fashion as, in the last singles out on the course, he was handed the task of getting Europe over the winning line which he achieved with a thrilling 3 and 1 victory over Hunter Mahan which saw Colin Montgomerie’s Team win 14 ½ - 13 ½. Like Kaymer, he too contributed two and a half points overall to the European cause. McDowell, who climbed to a career-high seventh on the Official World Golf Ranking following his victory in the Chevron World Challenge, said: “I am truly humbled to accept this coveted award. It is the icing on the cake on what has been a very special year for myself, Martin and everyone involved in European golf. It is an honour to share this award with a player of Martin’s calibre. He is one of the best players of our generation and I am sure will enjoy many more successes in the years to come. “We have both enjoyed superb seasons, winning our first Major Championships and numerous other tournaments across the world. However, to be jointly voted European Tour Golfer of the Year by the members of the media makes me very proud. I would like to thank everyone involved with The European Tour and the wider golf media for their hard work in promoting our sport around the world. “I achieved many of my dreams this season and feel fortunate to have enjoyed some very special moments. However, the highlight of the year for me was being a part of the winning European Ryder Cup Team at Celtic Manor. There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of The Ryder Cup and the experience of playing for both your team-mates and the European fans under the most extreme pressure. I hope that I am lucky enough to play in many more successful teams in the future.” Iain Carter, Golf Correspondent of BBC Radio Five Live and a member of the judging panel, explained the reason why the historic verdict to give the award jointly had been taken. “Like Colin Montgomerie when he was faced with the decision of who to select for his wild cards for The Ryder Cup, I think the panel faced the most difficult judgement call in the history of this award,” he said. “It is an extraordinary move I know but one which we felt reflected an extraordinarily successful year for The European Tour and one which also properly honoured two men who are not only exceptional golfers, but who are also exceptional people and who both promoted European golf superbly in 2010. “Both won their first Major Championships in 2010 and were part of a winning European Ryder Cup Team and, wherever you looked during the season they always seemed to be together at the head of affairs. Even their statistics show that while Martin narrowly shaded the Stroke Average Category by 70.04 to 70.07, in the Putts per Greens in Regulation Category, Graeme had the edge by 1.755 to 1.756. “These margins are too close to differentiate one of these great golfers from another and it was fitting to see that they ended their season tied together in 13th place in the Dubai World Championship. They were side by side in the desert and the panel could not separate them so therefore they will stand side by side in the history books as winners of this prestigious award.”

Friday, December 03, 2010

Poulter posts the numbers in November

Ian Poulter has won The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month award for November following his victory in the UBS Hong Kong Open and two other top ten finishes in a superb end to the season. The Englishman, who receives an engraved alms dish and a jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne in recognition of his achievement, triumphed at Hong Kong Golf Club by one shot from Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, posting an impressive 22 under par 258 which included a stunning ten under par 60 in the second round. The victory was sandwiched between a tie for sixth place in the Barclays Singapore Open in defence of the title he won the previous year, and the runners-up spot at the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World. Having tied at 14 under par 274 with Sweden’s Robert Karlsson after four rounds over the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the pair traded birdies at the first play-off hole before Poulter dropped his ball on his marker on the green of the second extra hole. The marker moved, initiating a one shot penalty, which was enough for Karlsson, who birdied the hole anyway, to clinch the title. It was an unfortunate finish for Poulter, but he was widely praised not only for the fact he alerted the rules officials to the incident, but for the way he graciously accepted the situation and the subsequent defeat. His prize money for second place, however, took him to a career-high fourth in The Race to Dubai, with earnings of €3,027,008 for 2010. Veteran television commentator Renton Laidlaw, a member of the judging panel, said: “Ian has been in tremendous form over the last month and he was thoroughly deserving of his victory in Hong Kong. Not only does he produce some fantastic golf, he entertains the crowds with his flair and colourful character. “He was just outside the top ten in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and ran Adam Scott close to put up a wonderful defence of his title in Singapore before winning in style in Hong Kong. To then also play as well as he did once again in Dubai before showing sportsmanship at the end of the tournament, means he is not only a worthy winner of the award this month, but also a credit to the game.” It was a difficult decision for the judging panel, comprising a cross section of the golfing media, who considered yet another month on The European Tour where each and every victory had strong merits. The panel commended Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who went head to head with World Number One Lee Westwood to win the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai; Robert Karlsson, who claimed his second European Tour title of the season in Dubai, and Adam Scott, who won the Barclays Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club for the third time in six years. However the decision went to Poulter who now has the honour of being the only player to have won a monthly award twice in 2010 having picked up February nomination following his victory in the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona.Other winners of the award in 2010 are South Africans Charl Schwartzel (January), Ernie Els (March) and Louis Oosthuizen (July); the English duo of Luke Donald (May) and John Parry (September); the Northern Irish pair of Rory McIlroy (April) and Graeme McDowell (June), Germany’s Martin Kaymer (August) and Italian Matteo Manassero (October). The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year will be decided next week.