Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tommy top at Gleneagles

Tommy Fleetwood claimed his maiden European Tour title in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, prevailing in a play-off with home favourite Stephen Gallacher and Ricardo Gonzalez on an action packed final day in Scotland. The 18th hole at Gleneagles, which could be the decisive setting at next year’s Ryder Cup, provided plenty of drama, with Gallacher holing a 15ft eagle putt in regulation play to finish on 18 under par, moments after compatriot Scott Henry had done the same in front of the packed home galleries to set the previous clubhouse target of 17 under par. Gallacher, who had made a remarkable recovery from a treble bogey seven on the 11th hole, then watched as joint overnight leaders Fleetwood and Gonzalez both birdied the closing hole to match his total and take the tournament into a play-off for the fourth time in its 15 year history. It was 22 year old Fleetwood who managed to make birdie again at the first extra hole, two putting from the back edge of the green after Gallacher failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker and Argentine Gonzalez three-putted from over the back of the green. For Fleetwood, the transition was complete from the youngest winner of the European Challenge Tour Rankings in 2011 to European Tour champion two years later.  “It is unbelievable,” he said. “I've been out here on Tour a while and I haven't even had a top five the last two years. And then all of a sudden you come out with a win. “I don't know how it happened, but it just seemed to come a bit easier this week. I was nervous as hell on the first green today, and after that, I felt pretty calm and I felt fine within myself. It was so tight, you couldn't really do much. It was a bit claustrophobic on the leaderboard. “To win is just absolutely amazing. You look at all the winners on Tour, and I'll admit, I'm so jealous when somebody wins, but finally it's my turn.” Fleetwood had gone into the final round leading a European Tour event for the first time and he made a steady if unspectacular start, birdieing the second hole before a run of seven straight pars. He then bogeyed the tenth and 15th holes to slip back, before a superb eagle on the 16th hole propelled him right back into contention. With Gallacher leading in the clubhouse after a superb 67, Fleetwood produced only the second birdie of his round to sign for a two under par 70, the same as Gonzelez, before prevailing in the play-off to collect the €272,272 first prize, with his parents and, heart-warmingly, the family dog Maisy on hand to celebrate. “She (Maisy) comes to every event in Scotland, because dogs can do what they want in Scotland, can't they?” he said. “She came to any amateur event I've played in Scotland and at county level. She was always the one supporting.” It is only 13 months until Gleneagles hosts The 2014 Ryder Cup, and Fleetwood’s performance outlined his potential, with European Captain among the interested observers in Perth. “I wish the points started a week earlier, but there are a lot of players that are a long way ahead of me in the running for a Ryder Cup spot,” said Fleetwood. “All I can do is keep trying to improve every week and keep playing as good as I can. I finished the season off well last year, and I like the couple of courses that are coming next.  “The Ryder Cup is a long way off. It's obviously a lifetime goal and something I want to do, but whether that's next year or in three years' time or five years' time, it doesn't really matter as long as I can play and achieve a goal. Next year would be lovely, that's for sure.” While Gallacher, winner earlier in the season at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and four-time European Tour champion Gonzalez shared second place, rising Scot Henry carded a closing 67 for his first top five finish on The European Tour, sharing fourth place with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who signed for 68 after missing a birdie chance on the last to make the play-off.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Haye gets ready for Fury

For much of his professional career David 'The Hayemaker' Haye has cut a solitary figure, training alone in London or North Cyprus under the watchful eye of coach Adam Booth. But now, in the lead-up to his September 28 clash with Tyson Fury, the hard-hitting heavyweight finds himself flanked by a number of gym-mates, all of whom train alongside him on a daily basis. In addition to his heavyweight sparring partners, Haye currently shares his Vauxhall gymnasium with super-middleweight 'Saint' George Groves, middleweight Andy Lee and cruiserweight Deion Jumah, as well as Gary Logan-trained up-and-comers Liam Shinkwin and Joey Taylor. Alas, the gym, once cold and lonely, is now as busy as it has ever been. “It took some getting used to because I was so accustomed to being on my own and having empty space around me,” said Haye. “But, in the end, I really liked the feeling of having so many young boxers working out alongside me. “I'm 32 now – ten years older than a lot of them – and the sight of hungry fighters in the gym gets me even more motivated. If you see your gym-mates working hard and pushing through the pain barrier, it makes you want to do the same. It forces you to go one better than them. You want to beat the scores of these younger and lighter boxers. “I can relate to all of the boxers in the gym. I can relate to the youngsters just starting out - especially Deion, who is beginning his career in the same division I did - and I can also relate to guys like Andy and George, who are both on the cusp of world titles. George, in particular, has been with us since he turned pro in 2008, and I've worked with him all the way. He's now preparing to win his first world title later this year.” Stablemates Lee and Jumah will both appear alongside Haye in Manchester on September 28, while Groves has to wait a little longer to challenge Carl Froch for his IBF and WBA world super-middleweight titles. But each of them will be on hand to support the leader of the pack in his quest to defeat Fury at the Phones 4U Arena. “There's a great team spirit in the gym at the moment and we're all helping each other out in different ways,” added Haye. “The guys who have helped me with sparring, Richard Towers and Alexander Dimitrenko, have both provided me with excellent work so far. Dimitrenko is an upright, long-range boxer who is technically correct, whereas Towers is your typical Ingle-fighter, awkward, tough and game. They are a good combination and both are pushing me hard. “We've also got a couple of big punchers coming over very soon and they will help take my preparation to that next level. Right now I couldn't be happier with the way it's all going.”

Monday, August 05, 2013

Steady Stenson in Tiger's Shadow

Henrik Stenson took a share of second place in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a level par 70 in the last round, as Tiger Woods cruised to his eighth victory in the event. The Swede was faced with a daunting task as Woods went into the final day seven shots clear of the field, and his endeavours were not helped by a bogey at the third hole, but he hung in with 13 straight pars before the gain at the penultimate hole ensured he finished on eight under alongside defending champion Keegan Bradley. Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez took a share of fourth spot with a final round of 69, while Englishman Chris Wood signed for a 71 to finish tied seventh on his debut at Firestone Country Club. “I played nicely today,” said Stenson. “I had a bad break on the third – my drive was on the fairway but I was stymied, so I chipped forward and then hit a lovely pitch into the green that came back down into the rough. Then I made a lovely chip and thought I’d holed it, but I ended up with a bogey. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens and eventually managed to snap the par streak with a solid birdie on the 17th and made a lovely two-putt on the last to stay in second place.  “I’m very pleased with the week. Tiger punctured this tournament on Friday with his 61, but I did what I needed to do today and I’m very happy.” Wood was delighted with his first outing to Akron, Ohio, having opened with rounds of 66 and 68 to earn a third round pairing with Woods. “This week has been a great experience and I can’t be too disappointed with today,” said the Bristol man. “Yesterday was a massive learning curve for me, playing with Tiger. I tried not to watch, but I wanted to learn from him and the way he scores.  “It was probably the best experience I’ve had on a golf course. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from this week.”

McDowell gets awarded in July

Graeme McDowell has been named The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month for July after becoming the second multiple winner on The 2013 European Tour International Schedule with his triumph in the Alstom Open de France. McDowell, who receives an engraved alms dish and a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne, claimed a four shot victory at Le Golf National – venue for The 2018 Ryder Cup – on the outskirts of Paris in Continental Europe’s oldest National Open Championship to follow his victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in May. The 2010 US Open Champion, who is currently second behind Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, in The 2013 Race to Dubai, became the first Northern Irishman to win the Alstom Open de France – first played in 1906 – and claimed his third success of a momentous season following another win on the US PGA Tour. McDowell, who celebrated his 34th birthday on Tuesday, said: “It’s nice to have another reason to celebrate, in addition to my birthday, this week. It was obviously a great win at the French Open. It’s a golf course I’ve always felt I can do well on. “It was a special win at a prestigious venue. I’m delighted it has been recognised with this award. It’s always nice when it’s recognised that you’re playing well, especially against such a high quality field with some top, top players and in Major season too.” The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month Panel, comprising members of the Association of Golf Writers as well as commentators from television and radio, also considered the winning performances of another Northern Irishman, Michael Hoey, in the M2M Russian Open and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt on the US PGA Tour, in addition to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson’s back-to-back performances in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and The 142nd Open Championship. Stenson included brilliant rounds of 64 and 66 at Castle Stuart Golf Links to finish tied third behind Phil Mickelson, then seven days later demonstrated his brilliance again on the links by taking the runners-up berth behind Mickelson at Muirfield to move to fourth in The 2013 Race to Dubai and re-enter the Official World Golf Ranking top 20. Derek Lawrenson, Golf Correspondent of The Daily Mail, said: “Henrik Stenson’s rise from the depths of the middle 200s in the Official World Ranking is a heart-warming example of the old adage about class being permanent. “Nevertheless the Open de France is one of the most historic and best tournaments on The European Tour, played on a top-class course that was presented in perfect shape, and to come out on top Graeme McDowell demonstrated not only great craft and skill but all the combative qualities that make him such a wonderful competitor. He is a most worthy European Tour Golfer of the Month.” McDowell will now be considered – along with previous winners Chris Wood (January), Darren Fichardt (February), Marcel Siem (March), Raphaël Jacquelin (April), Matteo Manassero (May) and Justin Rose (June) – for The 2013 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year Award, and all will be seeking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Rory McIlroy.