Monday, December 19, 2011

Lewis in the Limelight

Tom Lewis, who made history in October by winning on his third professional start on The European Tour, today followed in the footsteps of his home club’s most famous figure, Sir Nick Faldo, by being named as The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year for 2011. The 20 year old Englishman from Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire claimed the prestigious award 34 years after six-time Major Champion Faldo also received the accolade before going on to become the most successful English golfer of all time. “I appreciate this honour very much. It certainly tops off what has been an amazing year,” said Lewis, speaking from the sunshine island of Mauritius where he took part in the Mauritius Open. “I think my dad is more excited about me winning this award than my first Tour victory in October! I am very proud to be named The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year and I feel very fortunate as there were some strong contenders for this title who played consistently well all season.”Lewis, who shot to prominence with his opening 65 in this year’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s – the lowest round by an amateur in The Open’s history and one which gave him a share of the lead – produced the same score in the final round of the Portugal Masters three months later to win on his third professional outing, the quickest victory by an Affiliate Member in Tour history. In between those historic rounds, Lewis played his part of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup side’s victory over the United States at Royal Aberdeen before joining the professional ranks and producing a top-ten finish in his first event, the Austrian GolfOpen presented by Lyoness. He then finished 70th in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship before going on to record his maiden success in Portugal which set up the platform for a final placing of 66th in The Race to Dubai with earnings of €459,266. To put the achievement in perspective, Tiger Woods required five tournaments to land his first professional title, while Rory McIlroy did not taste success until his 38th European Tour event. Lewis paid tribute to his father and coach, Brian, a former Tour professional, who has been an influential presence during his son’s rise through the amateur game into the professional ranks. “I might not even have been a golfer if it wasn’t for dad, but he has definitely made me into the golfer I’ve become. He is really the person who made this possible. “It’s been a rollercoaster year. I didn’t perform very well in the first half then had the honour of playing with Tom Watson in the first two rounds of The Open, managing to share the first round lead. It was wonderful to win the Silver Medal and shoot 65 in the first round, but I think people will remember the 65 in Portugal because it secured my first professional win. “It only really hit me when I arrived at the airport to fly home when everybody was saying ‘well done’. It was something I could scarcely have believed at the start of the season. It was a great year and a privilege to be part of the winning Walker Cup team in my final amateur event. But now I have a two year exemption on The European Tour and can’t wait to get started in 2012.” Lewis was the choice of a panel comprising The R&A, The European Tour and the Association of Golf Writers, ahead of several strong candidates from the 2010 Challenge Tour including Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen and Scott Jamieson of Scotland, who both finished ahead of Lewis in The Race to Dubai having qualified for the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by DP World. Olesen enjoyed three joint second place finishes in accumulating €637,703 to finish 48th in The Race to Dubai, while Jamieson shared third place on three occasions to finish the year with earnings of €523,754 and 59th place in The Race to Dubai. Lewis is the 47th recipient of The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award, stretching back to 1960, and the 22nd Englishman, following several illustrious fellow countrymen including the aforementioned Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis, Mark James, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey. Chris Wood was the last English winner in 2009 while Lewis succeeds 2010 winner, Italian teenager Matteo Manassero.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Donald voted Golfer of the Year

Luke Donald has been named The 2011 European Tour Race to Dubai Golfer of the Year after a truly remarkable and record-breaking year on both sides of the Atlantic. The 34 year old Englishman not only ended 2011 as the undisputed Number One on the Official World Golf Ranking, he also became the first player to officially top both The Race to Dubai and the US PGA Tour Money List in the same year. The judging panel, which featured golf journalists from newspapers and magazines as well as commentators from radio and television, were fulsome in their praise of several other worthy candidates, specifically Major Champions Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel. But it was Donald’s historic achievement, allied to the consistently high standard of his golf throughout 2011, that saw him voted the unanimous winner. “To have the accolade of European Tour Golfer of the Year means an awful lot to me and I will certainly look back on this year with a lot of fond memories,” said Donald. “It is always nice to be appreciated, especially from the people in the sport who know the game inside out. They have recognised what I have done this year and it is very gratifying to have that validation. “As a professional golfer you are always trying to do your best and it was good to see all the hard work I have put in coming to fruition. I was delighted with my game this year and it is rewarding to feel that, sometimes, consistency does pay off. Everyone dreams of having a year like this and I am very excited and feel fortunate that it happened to me. “Rory’s win at Congressional was amazing as was Darren’s success in The Open while Charl birdieing the final four holes to win the Masters was a truly magical moment in golf. Therefore, to be given the vote ahead of these great players who also had great years is very special indeed.” Donald won three times on The 2011 European Tour International Schedule; the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play in Arizona, the Barclays Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and the Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club where he beat fellow countryman Lee Westwood in a play-off. The latter success, at the end of May, saw him climb to World Number One for the first time – a position he still holds. Coming to the final event – the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates – his coronation as European Number One was not certain however, knowing he had to finish inside the top nine to finally extinguish any hopes McIlroy had of pipping him at the post. An opening level par 72 left him well down the field but he showed his class with closing rounds of 68-66-66 to finish the tournament in third place overall. Equally as impressive was his finish in the final counting event of the US PGA Tour season, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Knowing he had to finish inside the top two to deny Webb Simpson in the race for the US PGA Tour Money List, Donald produced a stunning closing 64 – which featured six birdies in a row on the back nine – to win the tournament outright. “The manner in which I came through to win both money lists was, I think, the thing that pleased me the most about the season,” he said. “Going to Florida and winning that tournament when I had to was very important as it gave me the incentive to go on and succeed in Dubai.“There was a lot of pressure on me to come through that week and so, after my first round, to shoot 16 under par over three rounds to get the job done was the icing on the cake and something which gave me a huge amount of satisfaction and confidence to take forward into next year. This game always gives you the opportunity to improve and hopefully I can continue this form into 2012and find some way of getting even better.” In total, Donald finished a cumulative 90 under par for the season on The European Tour and 116 under par on the US PGA Tour, not taking into account the two match play events he contested – the WGC-Accenture Match Play, which he won, and the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain where he was runner-up. He won The Race to Dubai despite playing six fewer events than runner-up McIlroy and topped the US PGA Tour Money List despite playing seven fewer events than second placed Simpson. In total, in prize money alone in 2011, he banked a mere €33,564 short of €10 million. Bill Elliott, Golf Monthly contributor and Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “When we considered the candidates for this award 12 months ago, after the success that European Tour Members had enjoyed on the world stage in 2010, we all thought it could not get any better than that – but, amazingly, it has. “These are truly extraordinary times and while the Major Championship victories of Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke this year were momentous occasions and ones which all of us who love this game celebrated royally, the overriding achievements of Luke Donald throughout the season stand at the very pinnacle. “Any one of the four players mentioned would be worthy winners of the award but while perhaps Rory’s eight shot win in the US Open Championship was the single best performance of the year, Luke was unquestionably the overall golfer of the year. He is a credit to himself, to his family and to The European Tour, and he is a true ambassador for the game.” Derek Lawrenson, golf correspondent of The Daily Mail and Vice Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “Luke Donald’s golf this year has been, on occasion, sublime, but most of the time, simply superb. “He is not the type of person to shout from the rooftops about his many achievements but all of us who comment on golf should do precisely that because, in many ways, he has redefined the way we think about the game. He is, therefore, a most worthy winner of the Golfer of the Year.” James Haddock, Sky Sports News golf reporter, said: “When you are at the pinnacle of any sport you are there to be shot at but, week in week out, Luke Donald performed at the very top of his game with a level of consistency and mental strength which was almost unbelievable. “Not only that, every time he needed to do something – like produce a shot to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club; produce a low round to win the final event of the US PGA Tour season; or produce a four round performance to cement his position as winner of The Race to Dubai – he did just that.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kaymer ends the year in Style

Martin Kaymer’s thrilling victory in last month’s WGC-HSBC Champions has earned him The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month Award for November/December. Kaymer started the final day of the World Golf Championship event five shots adrift of leader Fredrik Jacobson before producing a sensational back nine of 29 to cut through the field and take the title by three shots. The 2010 Race to Dubai champion’s faultless nine under par 63 was the lowest final round by a winner in any WGC stroke play event, and helped elevate the German to fourth place in the Official Golf World Ranking. Iain Carter, Golf Correspondent of BBC Radio Five Live, said: “Although there have been many superb performances over the last six weeks, including Rory McIlroy’s majestic victory in Hong Kong, Alvaro Quiros’ superb triumph in the Dubai World Championship and Luke Donald’s clinching of an historic money list double by winning The 2011 Race to Dubai, it was Martin Kaymer’s stunning triumph in Shanghai – and the manner in which it was achieved with nine birdies in his last 12 holes – that made it so special.” McIlroy was a strong contender for the monthly award after taking The 2011 Race to Dubai to the wire with an impressive victory at the UBS Hong Kong Open, while Donald’s third place finish at the Dubai World Championship meant the Englishman held off his Ryder Cup team-mate to make history as the first player to top the Money Lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season. Quiros also earned the plaudits of the judging panel which featured golf journalists, radio and television commentators but in the end it was Kaymer who topped the November/December poll giving the German his second monthly award of the year after having taken the January honour following his successful defence of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Kaymer joins an illustrious list of Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month winners in 2011 which features Luke Donald (February and May), Paul Lawrie (March), Charl Schwartzel (April), Rory McIlroy (June), Darren Clarke (July), Thomas Björn (August), Michael Hoey (September) and Sergio Garcia (October), all of whom will be considered for The 2011 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year Award, won jointly by Kaymer himself and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell in 2010.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Arsenal honour Time and Tradition

Arsenal Football Club has today honoured a trio of Club legends by unveiling three statues outside Emirates Stadium. Innovative 1930s manager Herbert Chapman; defensive stalwart Tony Adams and goal scoring hero Thierry Henry have all been commemorated in bronze statues, which were today unveiled at Emirates Stadium by Arsenal Chairman, Peter Hill-Wood. The unveiling forms part of Arsenal’s 125th anniversary celebrations, ahead of the Gunners’ home match with Everton on Saturday, which is the closest date to the Club’s first ever match. This was reportedly on 11th December 1886 when the Club, then known as Dial Square, played against Eastern Wanderers on the Isle of Dogs – a game that ended in a 6-0 victory for the new side.
A large crowd, including many specially invited Arsenal supporters and Thierry Henry himself, witnessed the unveiling of the three statues, which are located in prominent positions around Emirates Stadium. The first statue to be unveiled was that of Herbert Chapman, who was Arsenal manager between 1925 and 1934. Chapman’s team won the league four times in five years, and his development of advanced dietary, fitness and tactical approaches was revolutionary. The direct, attacking style of players like Alex James, Cliff Bastin and David Jack, who featured in Chapman’s ground-breaking WM formation brought great success to the Club before his untimely death in January 1934 at the age of just 55. The statue of Chapman is located underneath the clock close to the Danny Fiszman Bridge and sees him looking towards the Stadium as a symbol of the Club’s progressiveness since he revolutionised the Club. The statue of Tony Adams, which is located outside the North Bank at Emirates Stadium, is commemorating an Arsenal legend who enjoyed a 19-year career at his only club. Adams joined Arsenal as a trainee in April 1983 and quickly progressed through the ranks to become the Club’s captain in 1988 at the age of just 22. During his Arsenal career, Adams made a total of 669 appearances placing him second in Arsenal’s all time appearance records after David O’Leary. He is the most successful captain in the Club’s history, leading Arsenal to ten major honours.The afternoon’s proceedings were concluded with Hill-Wood unveiling a statue of Thierry Henry, depicted in his famous celebration after scoring his wonder goal against Tottenham Hotspur at Highbury in November 2002. The statue of Henry is located in the south east corner of Emirates Stadium, by the Spirit of Highbury mural. Henry is Arsenal’s all-time leading goal scorer with 226 goals. During his eight years at the Club between 1999 and 2007 he won two Premier League championships, two FA Cups, the Premier League ‘Golden Boot’ on four occasions and the PFA Player of the Year twice. Fittingly, on 7th May 2006, he scored the last ever goal at Highbury. Peter Hill-Wood, who was joined by Arsène Wenger at today’s ceremony, said: “This year is very special in the history of Arsenal Football Club, when we are celebrating our 125th anniversary. This is not only a good moment to look forward to an exciting future, but also to look back and celebrate great figures in the history of our Club. “Today is a celebration of three hugely influential figures in the history of Arsenal Football Club. Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry are three Arsenal Legends who have all contributed so much to the successes of this football club.” The Chairman concluded: “These legends are now proudly on display outside Emirates Stadium for all to see, and will provide a way for Arsenal supporters, and indeed any visitors to the stadium, to remember them and pay their own tributes to these three great men.” Designed and created by MDM, the statues have been cast in bronze and are all life size and a half of the individuals. Having taken roughly 625 hours to create and weighing in at approximately 200kg each, the figures were painstakingly lifted into place on Wednesday, ahead of Friday’s ceremony. On Saturday, Arsenal Football Club will be celebrating its 125th anniversary at its home match with Everton. Activities will be taking place during the afternoon including the return of many Arsenal Legends, who will be introduced to the crowd before the match.