Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ryder Cup countdown with McGinley and Watson

Both European Captain Paul McGinley and his US counterpart Tom Watson predicted another close contest for The 2014 Ryder Cup to a packed conference at the Gleneagles Hotel at the end of the 2014 Ryder Cup Year to Go celebrations. McGinley and Watson were giving their first joint conference to mark the end of two days of events which swept from the historic heart of Edinburgh Castle and onto Gleneagles, via steam train, bringing together the past, present and future. Europe have won seven of the last nine biennial contests, including the 'Miracle of Medinah' comeback from 10-6 down last year, causing the PGA of America to ask Tom Watson to reprise his role as captain at The Belfry in 1993, the last time the USA tasted success on European soil. But although McGinley accepts Watson's assertion that the home side will be favourites at Gleneagles, he is not expecting a repeat of the record nine-point wins he was part of as a player in 2004 and 2006. The reality is there is very little to separate the two teams, a point here or there with both captains drawing comparisons with boxing heavyweight contests. “The margin between the two teams is so slight,” said McGinley. “It has been for a number of years. And Lady Luck has shone on us at the right times in the last two Ryder Cups, and we have been fortunate to come out on the right side. “There has been some wonderful play and great heart from our team at the right moments in time, but Lady Luck has always played a factor and we have been on the right side of Lady Luck. “I think it's going to be a very closely‑fought contest, and that's what makes The Ryder Cup so special. We know it's going to be, in boxing terms, a heavyweight contest toe‑to‑toe from start to finish.” Watson feels that the US team will however be the underdogs: “The way I'm looking at it, we have an away game. Traditional sport, the home team has an advantage from a crowd standpoint and familiarity standpoint. I think we are going to go in as the underdogs, because of the past records of The Ryder Cup. “But don't tell that to my players. I said in 1993, I hope the players are all playing well going into the matches. If you're lucky enough to be a captain on a team like that, then you have no worries at all. Where you have worries are where some of the players are not playing very well. “You know, The Ryder Cup pressure does a lot of things to players and their ability sometimes. That's where picking the right players for the team comes into play for me. I've said a number of times, I want players with heart. I want people who can make that 5‑footer when they have to make that 5‑footer. That's what I'll be looking for and those are the types of players that win Ryder Cups.” The conference was the final act in two days of activities that started with breakfast in Edinburgh Castle, hosted by the First Minister, before a steam train journey on a 1927 Scots Guardsman, built in the year of the first Ryder Cup, took the Captains and VIPs to Gleneagles. There the captains took part in a challenge match with 16 juniors who have come though the ClubGolf scheme and the evening was rounded off with a Q&A in front of a packed audience at the Perth Concert Hall. This morning the captains launched a ground-breaking Ryder Cup educational resource at the Community School of Auchterarder. Looking back on the two days, Watson said: “It was wonderful experience to be part of the ClubGolf junior golf programme and that culminated in 16 of them playing with Paul and myself yesterday. Added to that the Auchterader School and their programme of getting kids involved in the Ryder Cup in all sorts of ways, I was very, very impressed by what I saw over there with the young people and the people who are teaching them.” McGinley added: “We are here in the home of golf in Scotland. It is an honour to be Ryder Cup captain anywhere but especially here in the home of golf. It has been a wonderful two days, starting in Edinburgh Castle and then the steam strain, seeing the history of Scotland then the future through the wonderful programme of ClubGolf and the launch of the education resource at the school in Auchterader today. As much as we want to see the most magnificent golf tournament every staged next year we also want to leave a legacy behind us and that has been very much part of the last few days.”

Haye re-arranges with Fury for February

Former WBA world heavyweight champion David Haye will now face unbeaten Tyson Fury on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at Manchester's Phones 4u Arena, following the postponement of their original date in September. The outspoken heavyweight pair were scheduled to box at the same venue this Saturday (September 28), in what was billed as the British fight of the year, but a cut to Haye's left eye, picked up in sparring last Friday, scuppered the fight and the entire event. Nevertheless, after working hard to secure a second date, Hayemaker Boxing and Hennessy Sports are delighted to have been able to reschedule the highly-anticipated encounter and give the fans what they want – and deserve. “News of the date in February is music to my ears,” said Haye. “I was absolutely devastated this weekend, and felt as though I'd let a lot of people down. But now, with this new date, I couldn't be happier. “My fans will still get the chance to see what they all wanted to see this weekend - they'll get to see Tyson Fury sparked out in a spectacular fashion. Since news of the pull-out broke, Haye has faced criticism from sceptics, including Fury and his team, curious as to why he chose to spar just eight days before a blockbuster pay-per-view event. Yet the former two-weight world champion insists all was on schedule. “Sparring eight days before a fight is nothing new or unusual,” said the Londoner. “I've done this before fights in the past and never had an issue. “Also, look at the history books. George Foreman sparred and got cut eight days before his 'Rumble in the Jungle' with Muhammad Ali – causing a six-week postponement - and Sugar Ray Leonard sparred and got knocked down five days before his fight with Marvin Hagler, but still managed to go on and win.“Foreman and Leonard are two of the greatest fighters of all-time, so if it was good enough for them, it's certainly good enough for little old me. Not only that, those guys were preparing to face the likes of Ali and Hagler, while I was preparing to fight Tyson Fury, a man whose greatest triumph to date is shedding a few stone on Belgium's Biggest Loser fat camp. “These things sometimes happen in training, and to suggest I decided against wearing a head-guard, or that the cut was premeditated, shows a clear lack of knowledge and understanding. This camp was no different to any other, aside from the fact it ended on an unlucky and sour note.” Unlucky and sour, the trickle of blood from his left eye couldn't have come at a worse time for Haye. However, with a new date of February 8 to look forward to, he's ready to move on and come back better than ever. “Tyson Fury might start to get brave now that he's received a stay of execution – and he might call me names and accuse me of ducking him – but that will all be short-lived, I can promise you,” said Haye. “After hearing the nonsense he has come out with in the last few days, I'm even more determined to expose him in front of millions. And only the possibility of getting another chance to land punches on his massive head and doughy gut has helped cheer me up. “The cut will heal, the fight will happen next year, and the fans will go home happy. The only difference now is that Tyson Fury gets an even nastier beat-down than he would have received first time round. “Once again, I'd like to apologise to the fans for the inconvenience caused by the postponement, and also because they will now have to endure a few more months of rubbish spewing from the mouth of Tyson Fury. I had hoped to silence him for good on Saturday night.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Groves replaces Booth with Fitzpatrick

World-ranked super-middleweight contender 'Saint' George Groves is delighted to announce that Ireland's Paddy Fitzpatrick will take over training duties ahead of his WBA and IBF world title tilt against Carl 'The Cobra' Froch on November 23. The announcement comes days after Groves and trainer Adam Booth parted ways following a five-year working relationship and marks the next chapter in the 25-year-old's promising ring career. "I am extremely happy to name Paddy Fitzpatrick as my new trainer going into what is the biggest fight of my life," said Groves, the former British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion. "Paddy and I have worked closely together in the past and already have a very good relationship, one built over many years. Not only has he worked my corner for important fights, we have also spent a lot of time together when abroad on training camps, where Paddy has overseen a number of significant sessions. "Although this is a fresh change for me, I'm working with someone I know and respect, and someone who knows my game inside out. We both know how the other works, so it won't take long to hit the ground running." A one-time mainstay of gyms in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, including the legendary Wild Card, Fitzpatrick has trained the likes of Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Virgil Hill, Michael Grant, Justin Juuko and Kid Diamond, and worked alongside coaches Freddie Roach and James ‘Buddy’ McGirt. In recent years he has cornered both Groves and David Haye for some of their most crucial fights, offering valued advice and a sense of calm whenever called upon. "His experience and knowledge of the game is world-class and he is, without doubt, the perfect trainer to help me prepare for my next fight," added 'The Saint'. "He has a great energy, both in the gym and on fight night, and I feel totally comfortable in his presence. "I'm looking forward to working with Paddy on a full-time basis and I'm excited to start adding many more tools to my arsenal. By the time November 23 arrives, I'll be better than ever. And more than capable of dethroning Carl Froch."

Haye's cut cancels Fury fight

Hayemaker Boxing regret to inform that David Haye has been forced to postpone his September 28 bout with Tyson Fury due to a deep cut suffered during the final spar of training camp. The cut above his left eyebrow occurred in round two of sparring on Friday night (September 19) and required six stitches by a plastic surgeon at St. Thomas' hospital. Because of the gravity of the cut, these stitches will now remain in place for five to seven days. Unfortunately, after being properly assessed, Haye was left with no choice but to postpone his fight with Fury, scheduled for next Saturday night in Manchester. He is currently waiting on further medical assessment to determine the extent of the postponement. “Gutted isn't even the word,” said a crestfallen Haye. “Mentally, I'm on the floor at the moment. I'm devastated most of all for my loyal fans, my family and my team, as well as Tyson Fury and his team. “I know injuries and cuts are part and parcel of our sport, but this doesn't change the feeling of disappointment and sadness I'm experiencing right now. To everyone who has bought tickets, booked hotels, and followed this fight since it was announced, there is absolutely nothing I can do except apologise from the very bottom of my heart. “Even when everything seems to be right on track, sometimes life throws you a curveball. I will somehow have to try and make the best of this horrible situation. But, right now, I'm in bits about what has happened.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dutch delight for Luiten

Joost Luiten set the seal on an historic day for Dutch golf by winning the KLM Open after a sudden death play-off with Miguel Angel Jiménez. Shortly after his compatriot Daan Huizing had won the Kharkov Superior Cup on the Challenge Tour, Luiten delighted the huge crowds at Kennemer Golf and Country Club by beating Jiménez with a par at the first extra hole. That sparked scenes of wild celebration not seen since Maarten Lafeber won his national Open in 2003. After both players had parred the last hole in regulation play to finish tied on 12 under par – Jiménez courtesy of a round of 67 and Luiten a 68 – they returned to the 18th tee for the play-off. Having leaked his tee shot right on the 400 yard par four, Jimenez needed a fairway wood for his approach into a strong wind, but managed to find the front edge of the green. However, the 19-time European Tour champion charged his birdie putt six feet past the hole and then missed the return, leaving Luiten to hole from three feet for a par four and a victory which earned him €300,000. That moved Luiten to 11th in The Race to Dubai and also saw him climb into the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.He said: “I’ll never forget this day, that’s for sure. I came second here in 2007, which was a pretty special week. But this has topped that by quite a way. To win your national Open is an unbelievable feeling, I’m so proud.  “There were a lot of nerves jangling inside. I tried to stay calm and focus on my game, but it was very tough in the wind. As soon as you lose your focus in those conditions you know you’re going to make some mistakes, so I stayed patient and waited for my chances to come along, and luckily they did on the back nine. “I have to say the crowd were unbelievable all week. Even when it rained all day yesterday, they still came out to support me, and I’ll never forget that. It makes it so much more enjoyable when you’re playing in front of large crowds, because you know it means something and you want to do well for them. I’m just so pleased I was able to give them this win.” For his part, Jiménez was left to rue his costly bogey in the play-off, but the Spaniard was typically magnanimous and philosophical in defeat. He said: “I was very solid all day but made a couple of mistakes in the play-off, and got punished. But Joost played very well, so credit to him. He’s a deserving winner. “The gusts made it very tough, with club selection especially. But for the most part I coped quite well, so I was pleased. In the end it wasn’t meant to be, but you can’t win them all. I still had a very good week – I have no complaints. I gave it my best shot – and I’m still alive!” Third place was shared between the English duo of Simon Dyson (68) and Ross Fisher (66), France’s Grégory Havret (66) and Ireland’s Damien McGrane (69).

Haye sizes up to Fury

Former WBA world heavyweight champion David Haye has shot down Tyson Fury's claims that his edge in size will be too much for the Londoner when the pair meet in Manchester on September 28.
The 32-year-old is six inches shorter and 40-pounds lighter than Fury, but, no stranger to facing big opponents, is relishing the chance to once again play David versus Goliath. “If Fury is relying on size and strength to win this fight, he's in for a rude awakening,” said 'The Hayemaker', clocking in at 6'3 and 215-pounds. “Fury might be taller and heavier, but that doesn't mean he's stronger than me. And it certainly doesn't mean he hits harder than me. In fact, I'm pretty sure, based on our track records, that one of my shots will do twice the damage of one of his. “Also, I'm used to fighting taller opponents at heavyweight. I've been in there with a few of them in my time, including Wladimir Klitschko, the number one in the world, so I know what I'm up against. How many little guys with quick hands, quick feet and fight-ending power has Fury faced in his career? It doesn't take a maths genius to figure out the answer.” Despite suffering defeat to Klitschko in 2011, Haye's record against the giants of the heavyweight division makes for impressive reading. A decision win over 7'2 Russian Nikolay Valuev scooped him the WBA world heavyweight crown in 2009, and a three-round destruction of 6'6 southpaw Audley Harrison saw him successfully defend the belt a year later. Even so, Haye believes his September 28 showdown with Fury will mark his most memorable giant-slaying to date. “Fury is the ideal big man for me, because he doesn't use his dimensions the way he probably should,” explained Haye. “He's not long, cautious and technical like Wladimir and Audley, and he's not granite-jawed and hairy like Valuev. What you get with Fury is a game and hittable heavyweight who loves a tear-up. That means he gives you loads of opportunities to bounce punches off his jaw and fleshy body. “Some people may have wanted more excitement in my fights against Wladimir, Valuev and Audley, but the way those fights played out had a lot to do with a clash of styles. All of those guys were wary of closing the range on me, as they knew I was ready to unleash quick and sneaky counterpunches on them. Fury isn't like that, though. He's not scared and he's not worried about being sparked out. Once he climbs into the ring, he wants to do damage and he wants to feel like he's in a proper tear-up.“If he boxes me at long range it won't work, because he's not good enough, technically, to do that. But if he comes to fight, and uses every ounce of his weight on me, we're in for one hell of a fun ride. And he's in for one hell of a headache the next morning.”

Monday, September 09, 2013

Björn again in Switzerland

Thomas Björn was crowned King of the Mountains for the second time in three years after defeating Scotland’s Craig Lee in a play-off in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. The Dane holed a 12ft birdie putt on the first extra hole after Lee had earlier agonisingly lipped out with a birdie chance on the same hole in regulation play. Lee’s miss meant they tied on 20 under par after Björn’s six under par 65 and Lee’s 67, with Björn sinking that superb putt in the play-off to claim his 14th European Tour title. It was also his second success at Crans-sur-Sierre having won the title in 2011, when he carded a final round 62 to finish ahead of Martin Kaymer, a week after winning the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. This time his success owe more to experience and patience than form, but that combination proved to be a potent one for Björn, who now moves up to eighth in The Race to Dubai and back into the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking. “I came into this not feeling particularly great about my golf,” he said. “I played pretty poorly over the last couple of weeks, but I’ve got a long standing love relationship with this course. I’ve finished runner up here twice and now won twice “It is a golf course that suits me. I came in and I knew the one good thing about my game was my wedge game and you need that this week. I just stuck to everything I had and I never really let myself down this week. I had that bit between my teeth that made me go that little bit extra.” Björn described his performance across the week as ‘mature’ and it needed to be to hold off a determined challenge from Lee, who fired himself into a two shot overnight lead with a scintillating 61 on Saturday. Lee opened with a birdie on the first, but had to wait 11 more holes for his next, during which time Björn hit the front after a superb front nine 31, that included four birdies in five holes. Björn could only manage one by comparison on the back nine, on the 15th, while Lee managed to rediscover his touch on the greens with birdies on the 12th, 14th and 15th. But when he required just one more to capture his maiden European Tour title, his putt shaved the hole on the last, opening the door for Björn who duly took advantage in the play-off. “It was a lot down to experience today, especially in knowing that it was going all the way to the end on this course,” said Björn. “The last time I won here I was five under for the last five holes. “Today was a completely different story as those holes played quite tricky. I just knew that I needed to make sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes. I knew if I could make par and knock off one or two birdies at the end it could be enough. It was a very experienced day, but the whole week, the way I played was very experienced. “This year I have come up short a couple of times and it hurt losing to Ernie in Munich because I played really well. I came into this week desperate to win a golf tournament, so this win is very sweet for me. I really wanted to get over the line. I’m 42 and you start thinking when is it going to be the last one. “ After starting the week 108th on The Race to Dubai, Lee can seek consolation in the fact that his €244,440 cheque not only secured his playing rights for 2014, but also moved him into 55th position on the rankings, and inside the top 60 qualification spots for the end of season DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. “I would certainly have taken second place before the week started,” he said. “Even after the first round when I was level par and border cut line. So I’m delighted with my performance. “The putter was pretty cold the first nine but nobody was running away from it. Thomas made a charge but didn’t capitalise on the two par fives. That let me back in and I dug deep and managed to birdie the two par fives myself and gave myself a chance coming down the last and just lipped out on the last. Then Thomas made a brilliant three in the play off.  “I couldn’t have hit the putt any better in regulation. I was delighted when it left the putter and it was tracking all the way. Maybe a little more pace would have held it on line but it wasn’t to be. “ Frenchman Victor Dubuisson finished third on 19 under par after his second consecutive round of 66, with Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares fourth on 18 under par following a 67. Ryder Cup players Ross Fisher and Miguel Angel Jiménez, the 2010 champion, finished in a share of fifth position after rounds of 66 and 67 respectively

Friday, September 06, 2013

Stenson gets the vote in August

Henrik Stenson has been named The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month for August following a phenomenal sequence of results with which he climbed to Number One on The 2013 Race to Dubai and Number Six in the Official World Golf Ranking. Stenson, who receives an engraved alms dish and a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne, laid the foundation to leading The 2013 Race to Dubai ahead of Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose by finishing tied third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and runner-up in The 142nd Open Championship before launching August by being tied second in the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational. Then the 37-year-old Swede claimed third place in the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill before compiling rounds of 67, 63, 66 and 66 for a 22 under par winning total of 262 in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Stenson, who won the European Challenge Tour Rankings in 2000 before launching his career on The European Tour on which he has captured seven titles, said: “I think mentally I've been as good as I've ever been throughout this summer and that started in my preparations for the US Open. “You've got to be able to take the hits there and keep on going and I did that pretty good that week. But I knew I could be better. I’ve jumped up a notch in that department and just kept at it all summer. That’s the big reason why I've been able to have so many good weeks in big tournaments. “I’m delighted this has been recognised by the golfing media with this award.” The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year Panel, comprising members of the Association of Golf Writers as well as commentators from television and radio, also considered the achievements of England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who gained his maiden win in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, and France’s Grégory Bourdy, who captured the ISPS Handa Wales Open, on The 2013 European Tour International Schedule. Derek Lawrenson, Golf Correspondent of the Daily Mail, said: “How good to see Tommy Fleetwood break through at the Johnnie Walker Championship and claim his first win while Grégory Bourdy’s stunning finish to win the ISPS Handa Wales Open will linger in the memory. Henrik Stenson, though, has arguably been the golfer of the summer and so is a thoroughly deserving European Tour Golfer of the Month for August. His stirring recovery from the depths of 230th in the World Ranking after missing the cut in the 2012 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is an example to all.” Stenson will now be considered – along with previous winners Chris Wood (January), Darren Fichardt (February), Marcel Siem (March), Raphaël Jacquelin (April), Matteo Manassero (May), Justin Rose (June) and Graeme McDowell (July) – 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.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Monty tames the Duke's Course

Six years and 55 days after his last professional victory, Colin Montgomerie returned to the winner’s circle with a magnificent six shot triumph at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters. The Scot tamed the Duke’s Course at Woburn Golf Club this week as a professional two under par 70 on Sunday sealed an aggregate total of ten under par 206, a cheque for €52,299 and a first title in just his third start on the European Senior Tour since turning 50 in June. Montgomerie’s brilliance relegated Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin to a distant runner-up alongside England’s Paul Wesselingh, who surged up the leaderboard with a best-of-the-week 66, on four under par. Englishman Carl Mason, who was bidding for a third Senior Masters title this week, signed for a two over par 74 to finish in a tie for fourth alongside Scotland’s Ross Drummond. Montgomerie’s ascent to the Senior Tour had been much-anticipated after a prolific career on The European Tour which yielded 31 titles and a record eight Order of Merits, and he has not taken long to rediscover the form that saw him dominate European golf during the 1990s and early 2000s. After beginning the day three clear of his nearest challenger Mason, Montgomerie got off to the perfect start when he got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie at the long first before delivering the coup de grâce at the par five fifth, where a stunning four iron to six feet set up an eagle three and a lead that was never challenged. A third gain of the day followed at the tenth and despite a pair of bogeys on the home straight Montgomerie completed a highly impressive 41st professional victory in front of record Woburn crowds that numbered more than 23,000 across the week. “It feels great,” said an elated Montgomerie. “Anybody with any competitive blood in them knows that it is nice to win, to come out on top. “This course has suited me down to the ground for years. I had a couple of great finishes on the main Tour – the Junior Tour, as I now call it – so it’s nice to come back here and finally win.”It is Montgomerie’s first professional win since the 2007 European Open at the K Club and sees him become the third rookie in a row to win in 2013 after Denmark’s Steen Tinning captured the Berenberg Masters and Spaniard Santiago Luna returned victorious at the SSE Scottish Senior Open two weeks ago. “I’ve said it before but it is like a new lease of life turning 50 in golf,” he continued. “I can’t think of any other sports where you take a new step on in your career at such an age and to have such a fine Tour, such an excellent brand, as the Senior Tour as part of that is brilliant so all credit to them for that.” After starting the day tied for 18th place, 2012 Rookie of the Year Wesselingh vaulted 16 places on Sunday thanks to a fine 66 that saw the 51 year old Liverpudlian find four birdies in six holes from the fifth hole followed by an eagle at the long 11th. “I’ve nailed it today, I’ve just played really well,” said Wesselingh, whose fine finish bolstered his standing of second in the Order of Merit. “My son Ryan caddied for me this week and I think we finally sussed the greens out today. I’ve got three boys and they all take it in turns but I think he’s enjoyed it this week – especially the first round playing with Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam. “I’m not really trying to think about winning the Order of Merit yet, there are a lot more events to come,” he continued. “But what I am really concentrating on is being top six to try to get into the US Senior Open again so today was massive in terms of that goal.” It was not the day that two-time Senior Masters winner Mason had wished for, meanwhile, as he had to wait until the final hole of the day for his first birdie after a round featuring three bogeys left him in a tie for fourth place alongside Drummond. Mason could, though, take the consolation of securing his 90th top ten finish in what has been a staggering Senior Tour career thus far.