Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stenson tops a memorable Year

Henrik Stenson has been named The 2013 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year after an astonishing season. The 37 year old from Gothenburg became the first player from Sweden to win the coveted award after creating history by completing an unprecedented transatlantic double by capturing the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai and The Race to Dubai on The European Tour International Schedule following his success in the Tour Championship and FedExCup on the PGA TOUR. George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that Henrik Stenson is a fully deserving winner of The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year award. Henrik’s unprecedented success was the result of the most tremendous consistency and hard work, and to finish it all off in such style at the DP World Tour Championship to secure The Race to Dubai was quite remarkable.” Stenson’s commanding six-shot victory in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship offered a perfect microcosm of his season as he tamed the immaculate 7,675 yards Earth Course by missing only five fairways and four greens in compiling rounds of 68, 64, 67 and 64 for a tournament record 25 under par total of 263. After winning the South African Open Championship at the end of last year, Stenson embarked on a “dream season” which saw him produce a remarkable level of consistency in golf’s biggest events. A tie for second place in the Shell Houston Open earned Stenson a place in The Masters Tournament where he finished in a tie for 18th place. “I took a lot of confidence from winning in South Africa and then the performance in Houston which got me in the Masters was another big one in terms of the way the season was shaping up,” said Stenson. More consistent play – including being tied fifth in The Players Championship in Florida – took Stenson into the summer and a tie for third place in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open set the tone for an incredible run of results that would see him become the best player on the planet for the rest of the year.Stenson finished second at The 142nd Open Championship, quickly followed that up with a tie for second at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational then a third place finish at the US PGA Championship with which he led The 2013 Race to Dubai. Then came the start of that transatlantic double which would earn him a place in golf’s record books. Stenson charged to victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship then two weeks later claimed the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola to win the FedExCup. Next on the agenda came The European Tour and The Race to Dubai’s inaugural Final Series. A tie for seventh at the Turkish Airlines Open by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was followed by one of the greatest performances in European Tour history in Dubai, where he claimed Number One honours and earned the Harry Vardon Trophy. “It’s a big honour to be voted The European Tour Golfer of the Year,” said Stenson. “It just reflects the stellar year I have had. You can call it a dream season, year of my life, whatever you want. It has been an unbelievable year and I am delighted to win this award, especially as I am the first Swede to do so.“You look at the past winners of this award and most of the greats of European golf are on there, which just adds to the prestige of winning it. To win the FedExCup and the American Tour Championship in some style and then follow that by taking The Race to Dubai was very special.“Winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, where I had made my home for ten years, in the style I won it, in front of so many family and friends, was something I will never forget. I’m not sure how I top it to be honest. I am not sure many people will get the chance to do what I did this year but I just need to keep working hard and pushing forward. “The Majors are the biggest goal for me now and if I can continue to play at the level I have been then I feel I can have a pretty good shot at them.”  The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year panel, which featured golf journalists from newspapers and magazines as well as commentators from radio and television, also reserved praise for several other worthy candidates, specifically Justin Rose, who became the first Englishman for 43 years to win the US Open Championship after his unforgettable performance at Merion in June. But Stenson, who was announced as the winner at the annual Golfer of the Year Luncheon at the Lancaster London Hotel, received the unanimous vote from the panel to succeed Rory McIlroy. Derek Lawrenson, Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers and Golf Correspondent of The Daily Mail, said: “The 2013 season was another remarkable one for European Tour golf and quite simply a dream year for Henrik Stenson. To be the unanimous winner of The European Tour Golfer of the Year in a season which saw Justin Rose win his first Major Championship really speaks volumes to Henrik’s frightening level of consistency.  “I cannot recall a more devastating performance in a European Tour event than Henrik’s at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. He was playing at a different level to the rest of what was a truly world-class field and is unquestionably The 2013 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year.” Iain Carter, Golf Correspondent for BBC Radio Five Live, added: “When Justin Rose won the US Open so brilliantly at Merion I thought well that’s one thing sorted – The European Tour’s Golfer of the Year. Little did we know the quite astonishing run of form that Henrik was about to embark on! So while Justin’s was the greatest single achievement of the year there can be no question that Henrik Stenson was The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year.”

Monday, December 16, 2013

San Antonio Slinger Maidana rocks Broner

Argentine slugger Marcos "El Chino" Maidana stole the show-and the WBA Welterweight World Championship-on an action-packed night of world championship boxing on SHOWTIME Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The 30-year-old former 140-pound world champion was supposed to be a "test" for rising star Adrien "The Problem" Broner's budding career. And test him he did, right from the opening bell. Broner was stunned in the first exchange and Maidana poured it on. He overwhelmed the champion for two straight rounds, scoring a knockdown in the second and forcing Broner back on unsteady legs. By the third, Broner settled into his game and the fight was on.  "High drama in the Lone Star State," bellowed SHOWTIME Sports play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo in the middle rounds of what is sure to be a late entry for Fight of the Year.Broner had his moments in the fight, but Maidana won the day by throwing from tricky angles and consistently landing a punishing left hook. "Maidana's awkward ways are working in his favor," said ringside analyst, and world-class welterweight, Paul Malignaggi during the bout. "Broner is getting hit with shots from different angles. Shots that he would not normally get hit with."  In a thrilling eighth, Maidana landed a series of lethal blows including a final left hook that sent Broner wobbling to the canvas for a second time. In the next exchange, Broner tied up Maidana for a few moments before Maidana uncorked a head butt into the chin of the champion." Referee Lawrence Cole deducted a point for the foul negating Maidana's knockdown adding an additional layer of drama to the close fight. But in the end, Maidana had distanced himself on all three scorecards to win a unanimous decision and wrest the crown from Broner. After the scores were announced, 117-109, 116-109 and 115-110, Broner immediately vacated the ring and made his way back to his dressing room. After the bout, ringside reporter Barry Tompkins asked Maidana about comments earlier in the week, that Broner had never faced anyone like him. "The truth is, I've never fought someone like [Broner]," said the new two-division champion via SHOWTIME Sports translator Felix De Jesus. "And the truth is it was a great fight." Regarding the game plan coming in, Maidana said, "The plan was to fight any which way we can do it and we won." Regarding the rematch: "Yes. No problem."Maidana improved his record to 35-3 (31 KOs) and is now 2-2 in world championship fights and can now lay claim as the world's best welterweight not named Floyd Mayweather.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Bjorn shines bright in Sun City

Two back nine eagles laid the foundations for the stunning final round 65 which saw Thomas Björn storm to victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge after a thrilling final round at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City.  The Dane, who began the final round three shots behind Jamie Donaldson, had to be at his imperious best to hold off the challenge of a charging Sergio Garcia, who matched the 42 year old’s seven under par effort on a brilliant final day at Sun City. Donaldson carded a two under 70 to finish in a tie for second place alongside Garcia, but the day belonged to Björn and Garcia whose titanic battle took the US$6.5 million tournament to the wire. In the end, it was Björn’s two back nine eagles – on the tenth and 14th holes – which made the difference as he collected his 15th European Tour victory and charged to the top of the 2014 Race to Dubai with a 20 under par winning total for a two shot victory margin. “This is right up there with the best days of my career,” said Björn, who took home the biggest cheque of his career worth US$1.25 million.  “You never forget your first victory, and then my win against Tiger in Dubai when I went toe-to-toe with him for four days and came out top was special, but winning here in the way that I did against a field of this quality is up there.  “It’s not often you make two eagles on the back nine on a Sunday when you are in contention and it was just one of those days when it was my day. The five iron I hit into the tenth was the shot of the week, and then I got a bit of luck on 14 because the ball pitched in the bunker and made it to the green but I still had to hole the putt and those are the little breaks you need to win golf tournaments. “I knew I had to shoot something low and then see what Jamie was doing and I knew that Sergio and Henrik (Stenson) would probably make a move. It turned out that it was Sergio and every time I saw a leaderboard he was making birdies. I am very proud of the way I played today – it’s a very special day in my career.” Garcia was delighted with his own performance and admitted he could do little more than doff his cap to Björn.  “It was a great week and a great final round but in the end I just couldn’t catch Thomas. It was one of those days when I was making loads of birdies but he just kept matching me. I couldn’t have done much more and you have to congratulate Thomas on a great victory.” Björn’s address to the South African crowd during the prize giving ceremony ended with a fitting tribute to the nation’s former President Nelson Mandela. "If everyone could live their lives just a little bit like Nelson Mandela, the world would be a better place,” he said.

Jimenez the conqueror in Hong Kong

Miguel Angel Jiménez broke his own record as The European Tour’s oldest champion by winning the Hong Kong Open for a fourth time in stunning style. Aged 49 years and 337 days, Jiménez used his experience to devastating effect in a play-off with Thailand’s Prom Meesawat and Welshman Stuart Manley, holing a slick 18-foot putt for birdie at the first extra hole to add to the titles he won here at Hong Kong Golf Club in 2005, 2008 and last year. Earlier in the day he birdied the 17th and made a fine up-and-down at the last for a four under par 66, which left him tied on 12 under with Prom Meesawat, who went one better with a 65. Late drama then ensued when Qualifying School graduate Manley holed his chip for a three on the 18th to join the play-off, but his joy was cut short when Jiménez calmly rolled in a birdie putt to claim his 20th European Tour title. “This is very sweet,” said the Spaniard. “I love this place and I love this golf course. Holing that putt to win the play-off makes it even sweeter. “Winning a tournament is always tough. I three-putted the 15th and then I missed a good birdie chance on the 16th, so I knew I had to make at least one birdie on the last two holes. I never stopped telling myself, just take it hole by hole, stay calm, live the moment. “It’s been a hard season because I missed the first few months when I broke my leg. I worked very hard to come back from that. I work very hard in the gym every day with stretching and cardio. And the main thing is my head. The head is still very competitive.” Meesawat looked to be marching towards his first European Tour title when he led by three midway through the final round thanks to two eagles, but he bogeyed the 14th and parred his way home. “It's been an amazing week for me,” said Meesawat. “I didn't feel any disappointment in the play-off. I did my best this week, and it’s my best finish on this golf course.”  It has been an eventful few weeks since Manley earned his European Tour card at the Qualifying School Final Stage, and although he was not able to capitalise on leading at the start of the final round, he was delighted with his performance this week. “I'm pretty pleased,” he said. “Obviously I’m disappointed to lose in a play-off with a poor shot, but for Miguel to make birdie is pretty special. It was pretty special to make three myself to get into the play-off. So I can take a lot from the week. “I was pretty pumped (in the play-off). I said to my caddie that we could do something special. It was a great chip and I think I started celebrating before it went in. “This week will give me a lot of confidence. It's money on the board for The Race to Dubai and everything feels very positive.”

Brooklyn's Finest in Boxing Bout

Two weeks after his 33rd birthday, Paulie "The Magic Man" Malignaggi (33-5, 7 KO's) picks up his 33rd win in a unanimous decision victory over Zab "Super" Judah (42-9, 29 KO's) in front of his hometown crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The fight, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, headlined a four-fight SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING event. Despite being knocked down in the second round, Malignaggi was able to regain his stride en route to a strong 116-111, 117-110, 117-110 victory which earned him Brooklyn bragging rights and a potentially bright future in the stacked welterweight division. In addition, he was awarded a special Brooklyn's World Championship belt designed by SARTONK. "This is an emotional win for me," said Malignaggi. "It definitely allows me to continue boxing. If I had lost, I don't know that I would have wanted to continue. But this big win puts me in the right spot to fight in this division for lots of money...lots. "Walking to the ring was pretty surreal. As a teenager I watched Zab fight and to walk into the ring and fighting against him was very surreal. Not that I never expected myself not to be successful, but it was still something very surreal," continued Malignaggi. "I felt like this showed that this sport can unify everyone. I looked up to this guy when I was coming up in the sport and he's one of the greats." Judah said, "I came to fight and so did Paulie. It just wasn't there. This was a great opportunity and a great event. I wanted to be the King of Brooklyn. He wasn't tougher than me. He stayed on the outside and didn't engage."  In the co-main event, Shawn "Showtime" Porter (23-0-1, 14 KO's) was crowned the new IBF Welterweight World Champion after defeating Devon Alexander "The Great" (25-2, 14 KO's) by unanimous decision 115-113, 116-112, 116-112. Porter dominated Alexander from the first punch until the closing bell in a hard-fought battle that left both fighters battered and bruised. Porter, a decorated amateur, was able to execute his game plan by being, "aggressive, backing him [Alexander] up, and making him fight." After the fight, Porter said, "This is a blessing. We wanted to come out here and establish that I was the better fighter and we made it happen. I think I was able to control the fight because of my experience and I'm the bigger guy. We did what we had to do. I paid my dues. The opportunity was here and I stepped up to the plate." Alexander said, "I'm disappointed. I didn't do what I was supposed to do. I didn't follow the game plan. He was rushing in and I didn't capitalize on that. And that's what we had planned on." Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KO's) soundly defeated Austin Trout (26-2, 14 KO's) by unanimous decision in a technical bout. The scores were 115-109 and 117-110 twice. Trout never seemed comfortable in the ring. Lara sent Trout down in the 11th round for only the second time in Trout's career. "I did what Canelo couldn't do. I dominated Trout and I dropped him. Now we have to make a fight that everyone wants to see which is me against Canelo," said Lara. "I'm coming right back," said Trout. "Who can say that they fought such high caliber fighters as Cotto, Canelo and Lara back-to-back-to-back? His style was tricky, but I don't sign up for easy fights. He was the better man tonight." The opening bout of the evening, a thrilling slugfest, had the excitable Barclays Center crowd on its feet at times. Sakio Bika (32-5-3, 21 KO's) and Anthony Dirrell (26-0-1, 22 KO's) went toe-to-toe from the first bell and battled to a split draw. Dirrell floored Bika early in the fight, and Bika later lost a point for a low-blow. In the end, the final tally was a split draw: 114-112 (Bika), 116-110 (Dirrell), 113-113. After the scores were announced, Dirrell immediately left the ring without commenting on his performance. Ringside reporter Jim Gray was able to catch up with Dirrell in his locker room shortly after. "I want to apologize to the fans for leaving the ring like that but I was just disappointed," said a frustrated Dirrell. "He hit low and head butted. I definitely want a rematch." Bika felt differently. "I feel like I was fighting the referee as well. The body shot was a legitimate body shot. Not below the belt line. I got him on the belt line, Dirrell just wanted to milk it. I was the busier fighter and now I just want to fight the best ahead of me."

Monday, December 02, 2013

Stenson on Top in November

Henrik Stenson has equalled another record by being named The Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month for November following his win in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai with which he secured Number One honours in The 2013 Race to Dubai. Stenson, who receives an engraved alms dish and a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne, becomes only the second player in the European Tour Golfer of the Year’s 29 year history to win three monthly awards in a single season. Ian Woosnam won the panel’s vote three times in 1987 when he was also named The European Tour Golfer of the Year after finishing Number One with five tournament wins in addition to capturing the World Cup of Golf for Wales with David Llewellyn. Stenson, who won the award in August and September, maintained his lead in The 2013 Race to Dubai with a tie for seventh in the Turkish Airlines Open by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism then the following week made history on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, UAE, when with scores of 68-64-67-64 he won the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai with a record 25 under par total of 263 by a record-equalling six shot margin ahead of Ian Poulter. The 37-year-old from Gothenburg, Sweden, then celebrated winning The 2013 Race to Dubai, for which he received the Harry Vardon Trophy, and also a remarkable transatlantic double-double following his US PGA TOUR Championship and FedEx vCup triumphs. Stenson said: “It’s very pleasing to win the award again. I have to say I am a little surprised to have beaten Victor because of his win in Turkey and then backing it up with a good performance in Dubai but that is not for me to judge. I am certainly not complaining.  “It is very flattering to win these awards and I suppose to win three of them in the same season just shows once again that this has been a dream year for me.  “Winning the DP Word Tour Championship the way I did to win The Race to Dubai overall was very special obviously, and to be the only guy to have won The Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup in the same year is something I might never get the chance to do again so I was so happy to be able to take that chance.” 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, selected Stenson, highly commended Victor Dubuisson, winner of the Turkish Airlines Open presented by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, acknowledged the European Tour victories of Morten Orum Madsen (South African Open Championship), and Charl Schwartzel (Alfred Dunhill Championship) and the worldwide successes of Luke Donald (Dunlop Phoenix, Japan), Ricardo Gonzalez (Abierto del Litoral, Argentina), Liang Wen-Chong (Resorts World Manila Masters) and Rory McIlroy (Emirates Australian Open), and praised Ian Poulter for his month-long grandstand finish on The 2013 Race to Dubai in which he finished runner-up and Thomas Björn who came within a whisker of winning the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf. James Haddock, Golf Correspondent of Sky Sports, said: “The pressure on Henrik to continue to perform at the business end of the year was immense. First he showed his resilience to keep his nose in front in Turkey then the sublime way he went through the week in Dubai was hugely impressive especially given his wrist injury and the mental pressure involved.” Derek Lawrenson, Golf Correspondent of the Daily Mail and Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “Two great candidates in November during another stellar month when European golf again came to the fore worldwide with many other superb performances. Victor Dubuisson deservedly won in Turkey, fighting back after losing his lead, but the panel unanimously voted for Henrik following a quite outstanding performance in Dubai.” Chris Wood (January), Darren Fichardt (February), Marcel Siem (March), Raphaël Jacquelin (April), Matteo Manassero (May), Justin Rose (June), Graeme McDowell (July) , Henrik Stenson (August, September and November) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (October) will all be among the candidates being considered for The 2013 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year