Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Olazabal to captain European Team

José Maria Olazábal has accepted an invitation from the Tournament Committee of The European Tour, ratified by The European Ryder Cup Players and Stakeholders Board, to captain the European team in The 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois, United States of America, from September 28-30, 2012. Olazábal, who was born in Fuenterrabia, Spain, on February 5, 1966, becomes the 23rd golfer to captain a Ryder Cup team against the United States and the second Spaniard following Seve Ballesteros, the winning captain in 1997 when Europe triumphed 14 ½ - 13 ½ at Club de Golf Valderrama, Sotogrande, Spain. Olazábal made the first of seven Ryder Cup appearances in 1987 when Europe created history by winning on American soil for the first time and he was also on the winning European team in 1997 and 2006 in a Ryder Cup playing career that spanned 19 years. Olazábal and Ballesteros formed the most successful partnership in Ryder Cup history in the fourballs and foursomes with 11 wins and two halved matches from 15 played, and with 18 wins and 20½ points, Olazábal stands fifth in the European lists for most matches won and most points won respectively. Following Europe’s 14 ½ - 13 ½ win at The Celtic Manor Resort, City of Newport, Wales, Olazábal succeeds Colin Montgomerie as captain with the aim of retaining The Ryder Cup which Europe has won eight times and the United States seven times with one match tied since players from the Continent of Europe became eligible in 1979. Europe’s victories were achieved under the captaincies of Tony Jacklin (1985, 1987), Bernard Gallacher (1995), Ballesteros (1997), Sam Torrance (2002), Bernhard Langer (2004), Ian Woosnam (2006) and Montgomerie (2010) with Jacklin being the captain when the match was tied in 1989. Olazábal said: “The two Masters wins at Augusta National are the highlight of my playing career but this is my proudest moment. Golf has been my life and representing Europe in The Ryder Cup has given me so much enjoyment. So to be named the European Ryder Cup captain is something very special and I am looking forward to the next 20 months before we reach Medinah. “Without question The Ryder Cup has given me many memorable times especially with Seve from the moment we were first partners in 1987 and Europe won in America for the first time. We were unbeaten in 1989 and 1991 and we won our last match together in 1993. “Seve was also our Captain at Valderrama in 1997 and that was especially significant because the match was played in Spain and on the Continent for the first time and, of course, we won. In all I’ve played under five Captains – Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Mark James, Ian Woosnam and Seve – and the last in 2006 with Woosie was one to remember because we won 18 ½ - 9½. I played two fourball matches with Sergio (Garcia) and we won both and then I beat Phil Mickelson in the singles which was the last match I played. “It was also a wonderful experience to be involved as a vice captain with Nick Faldo in 2008 and then again with Colin Montgomerie when we regained the Cup at Celtic Manor last year. I’ve learned a lot along the way and linked to my own experiences I look forward to drawing on all that knowledge with the aim, of course, to keeping the Cup in our possession. We all know The Ryder Cup is one of the most exciting and important competitions in the golfing calendar, and that it always inspires team members and spectators alike, but there is nothing like holding that trophy at the end of the week. “I have spent a lot of my career in America and the fans there have always been fair to me. We want to keep the Cup, and that will be our priority, but I know that the American team will share with us the desire for this match to continue the fabulous tradition of The Ryder Cup with fair play and good sportsmanship the vital ingredients. “I have accepted the captaincy but I think my desire to keep playing is known by everyone. This is the first of four tournaments in succession I am playing on the Desert Swing of The European Tour International Schedule. I am looking forward to competing again and giving myself the chance to win. “But I want to stress it is a great honour to become the European Ryder Cup captain and I will be committed to getting everything right in the build-up to the 2012 match.” Olazábal, who won the Masters Tournament in 1994 and again in 1999 after recovering from rheumatoid polyarthritis in three joints of his right foot and two in his left, struck his first shots at the age of two at the Real Golf de San Sebastian, set in the lush foothills of the Pyrenees. He was drawn to the golf course because it was where his father, Gaspar, worked as the greenkeeper and his mother, Julia, as wardrobe mistress. It was on the practice range at Real Golf de San Sebastian in 1979that Olazábal also met Sergio Gomez, who would go on to become his long-time friend and manager. Aged seven, Olazábal won the Spanish Championship for under nines. Soon afterwards, Ballesteros broke through on The European Tour and Olazábal, although committed to studying at the public school in Fuenterrabia, knew that he wanted to aspire to such heights especially when three years later Ballesteros returned to his own home further along the Spanish coast with the famous silver claret jug following his 1979 Open Championship triumph. Jesus Arruti, the club professional who spent marathon session after marathon session with Olazábal on the practice range, and Gomez, guided him through a meteoric amateur career during which he won the ‘triple crown’ of British Boys’ Championship, British Amateur Championship and British Youths’ Championship. He also captured the Spanish Amateur Open Championship in 1983 and 1984, the Italian Amateur Open Championship in 1983 and the Belgian International Youths’ Championship in 1984. Olazábal turned professional in 1985 when he led from start to finish to win The European Tour Qualifying School at La Manga in his native Spain and he made an immediate impact by becoming The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 1986 when he finished runner-up to Ballesteros in the then Order of Merit. He set new records with two wins on the way to earning three times what any other first-time Tour professional had earned with a stroke average of 70.69. Olazábal has won 23 times on The European Tour International Schedule with 30 wins in all worldwide and he became the second Spaniard to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame when he joined his great friend Seve Ballesteros (inducted in 1999) in that illustrious group during a moving ceremony at St Augustine, Florida, in November, 2009. Medinah Country Club’s Number 3 Championship Course, close to Chicago, has hosted three Major Championships – the US Open in 1949, 1975 and in 1990 when Olazábal finished tied eighth and the US PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006. It has also staged a US Senior Open. The course was designed by Scotsman Tom Bendelow and carved out of an oak tree forest in rolling terrain and opened in 1928. After the 1999 US PGA Championship Rees Jones, the renowned architect, undertook a modification project and the course played to more than 7,500 yards from the championship tees in the 2006 US PGA Championship.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

McDowell's crowning Glory

Graeme McDowell’s crucial birdie putt on the 16th hole on the final day of The Ryder Cup has been voted The European Tour Shot of the Year for 2010, adding to the Northern Irishman’s remarkable haul of awards following his career-defining season. The 31 year old’s achievements throughout 2010 have been recognised around the world with a host of deserved awards and accolades, and among the many great shots he played in a phenomenal season it was the 15 foot putt on the 16th green at The Celtic Manor Resort during his singles tie against Hunter Mahan which stood head and shoulders above the rest. Knowing that the outcome of The Ryder Cup rested firmly on his shoulders, McDowell held his nerve in front of the tens of thousands of spectators gathered around the green – and millions glued to television sets - to stroke the ball home. For many observers it was the sporting moment of the year, and for the judging panel of golf commentators it was certainly The European Tour Shot of the Year. McDowell went on to beat Mahan at the next hole to secure the winning point in Europe’s 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory over the United States, the narrowest margin of victory since 1991. McDowell said: “That putt on the 16th was the best I’ve hit in my life. It was just 15 feet but it was above the hole and very fast. I knew I just had to get the ball going and thankfully it caught an edge and dropped in because I wouldn’t have fancied the one back if it had missed! “In the context of The Ryder Cup, that 16th hole was massive as I was aware that everything was riding on the outcome of my singles match with Hunter. I knew that a half point was still not good enough to regain the cup. “However everything went according to plan at the 16th and the rest is history. I will never forget the feeling standing over that putt and appreciating its importance. It was as important as any stroke I will ever play in my career and I am delighted it has been voted as The European Tour Shot of the Year.” The Shot of the Year award gives McDowell a famous double, as he was also named the joint recipient of The 2010 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year award along with Germany’s Martin Kaymer, as well as the winner of the annual awards from the Association of Golf Writers, the Golf Writers’ Association of America and the Irish Golf Writers while he was also named RTE Sportsperson of the Year. McDowell, who in addition to securing the winning point in The Ryder Cup became the first European to win The US Open in 40 years and won three other titles during the year, was also named RTE Sportsperson of the Year in Ireland and received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List. The European Tour Shot of the Year competition ran on europeantour.com over the festive period with one lucky entrant winning a fantastic golf break to the outstanding London Golf Club, the first European Tour Destination in the European Tour Properties portfolio. Second place in the Shot of the Year competition went to Kaymer, The 2010 Race to Dubai winner, for his fearless putt on the 18th green at Whistling Straits to force a play-off with American Bubba Watson in the US PGA Championship, which the German went on to win. In third place was Ian Poulter’s superb chip on the 15th green in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship against fellow Englishman Paul Casey. The European Tour Shot of the Month Award is presented to the Tour Member for the shot judged to be the most outstanding played during each calendar month on The European Tour International Schedule. The winning shots from each month are entered into The European Tour Shot of the Year Award. The full list of monthly winners in 2010 was: Martin Kaymer (January and August) Ian Poulter (February), Noh Seung-yul (March), Lee Westwood (April), Luke Donald (May), Graeme McDowell (June and October), Miguel Angel Jiménez (July), Edoardo Molinari (September), Robert Karlsson (November).

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Chisora's back in with Klitchsko

Dereck Chisora was celebrating tonight after it was confirmed he will fight Wladimir Klitschko in Germany on April 30. The British and Commonwealth champion was left devastated when Klitschko pulled out of their December 11 clash after tearing an abdominal muscle in training. But Del Boy never gave up hope that he would earn a second chance against the IBF and WBO world champion. And today the fight was sealed for the end of April. "This news is a fantastic late Christmas present," said the north Londoner. "I always believed that I would fight Klitschko, and my faith has been repaid. "I was a bit worried that he might try and fight an easier touch, but I think I've earned my opportunity. "I was gutted when Wladimir pulled out of our fight just a couple of days beforehand. "But now I've got another chance to take his titles away. "He's a great world champion, but his time at the top is well and truly up. "My promoter Frank Warren has done a great job in getting me this opportunity because there was no guarantee Wladimir would fight me again after he got injured.