Friday, January 31, 2014

Jimenez tops January poll

Miguel Angel Jiménez has been named the first winner of The European Tour Race to Dubai Golfer of the Month for the 2014 season following his record-breaking start in December. The Golfer of the Month Award, now in its 30th anniversary year, is awarded to the European Tour member judged to have produced the outstanding performance each calendar month throughout the season. The Spaniard, who receives an engraved alms dish and a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne, re-wrote golf’s history book with his spectacular defence of the Hong Kong Open – securing his fourth triumph in the tournament, following previous wins in 2005 and 2008, at the age of 49 years and 337 days which extended his own record as the oldest winner on The European Tour. Jiménez, whose 20th European Tour win was his 13th since turning 40, said: “I’m very happy and grateful to have been voted Golfer of the Month. To do it in the way I did, with that big putt at the 18th (in a play-off) was very special. “It’s very nice to now be 50 and still competing at this level, winning tournaments and it was even better to do it in Hong Kong, a place that I like very much and always enjoy going.” Victory for Jiménez followed a play-off at Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling, with Stuart Manley, of Wales, and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat – a superb 18-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole coming on a day when Denmark’s Thomas Björn captured the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the age of 42. Derek Lawrenson, Golf Correspondent of the Daily Mail and Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “The first Sunday in December proved a special one for European Tour stalwarts Thomas Björn and Miguel Angel Jiménez with their victories in South Africa and Hong Kong. “Björn’s victory in the Nedbank Challenge propelled him to the cusp of a return to Europe’s Ryder Cup team, but it’s hard to argue with the sheer romance of Jiménez’s successful defence of the Hong Kong Open. He continues to confound all golfing logic in the most spectacular manner; America’s Golf Channel summed him up aptly when they called him the ‘world’s most interesting golfer’.” The European Tour Golfer of the Month Panel, comprising members of the AGW as well as commentators from television and radio, focus their attention on winning performances in The Race to Dubai on The European Tour International Schedule – Denmark’s Morten Ørum Madsen (South African Open Championship hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni) and South Africans Charl Schwartzel (Alfred Dunhill Championship) and Dawie Van der Walt (Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa) were other contenders – while also taking into account performances worldwide. Jiménez (December) will now be considered with the next 11 monthly winners for The 2014 European Tour Golfer of the Year Award which was won last year by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sergio dominates in Doha

Sergio Garcia claimed his 11th European Tour title in dramatic fashion after a nail-biting play-off with Mikko Ilonen at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. In fast fading light at Doha Golf Club, Garcia eventually saw off the Finn with a birdie at the third extra hole to collect the €305,232 winner’s cheque and move to second place in The Race to Dubai. After both men had finished on 16 under par – Garcia courtesy of a superb round of 65 and Ilonen with a 66 – the duo halved the first two play-off holes with birdie fours. Third time around, Ilonen’s tee shot found the right rough and his approach ended up in the bunker, giving Garcia – who had located the heart of the green with his second shot – the chance to win it with an eagle three, only for his putt to roll agonisingly past the cup. Faced with a 20 foot putt to take the play-off into a fourth hole, Ilonen’s effort drifted wide to hand Garcia his first European Tour victory since the 2011 Andalucía Masters. The Spaniard said: “It’s been a bit of a wait for my 11th win, I came close a few times last season, including here in Qatar, but didn’t quite manage to get the job done. So it’s nice to get the win, and great to get more Ryder Cup points on the board. “I feel like my game’s coming together really nicely – although I wouldn’t have said that after the first round, when I played terribly but shot one of the best rounds of 71 in my career. So to recover from that and grind out a win does an awful lot for my confidence, and the rest of the season excites me.” Despite tasting defeat in the first play-off of his career, Ilonen was still pleased with his week’s work. He said: “I played good golf this week, so I can’t be too disappointed. I gave it my best shot, but Sergio was a bit better this time. There’s no shame in losing to a great player like him.” Garcia’s compatriot Rafa Cabrera-Bello finished in a tie for third place on 15 under par alongside Thorbjørn Olesen after the pair carded respective rounds of 69 and 68.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pablo in form at Abu Dhabi

Pablo Larrazábal showed once again his fondness for picking up prestigious titles on The European Tour when he held off a stellar cast to claim the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. The 30 year old Spaniard – whose previous Tour triumphs have come in the Alstom Open de France and the BMW International Open in Germany – carded a bold final round 67 on the National Course for a 14 under par total of 274 and a one shot victory over Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. “I win when I can and I win when I have a chance to win,” said the former Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year. “But it was great to do it when all my family and my team were here. They know who they are they all know how hard I’ve worked for this. I thank them for supporting me and continuing to push me hard.” Larrazábal started the final round three shots behind leader Craig Lee, but as the Scot faded, the Spaniard seized the initiative. Reaching the turn in 32, further birdies at the 11th and 13th saw him hit the front and when he two putted the final hole for his sixth birdie of the round, it set a target neither of his two illustrious pursuers could match. Mickelson, the reigning Open Champion, battled hard and produced his usual brand of golfing fireworks as he strove to close the gap. But the 43 year old Californian’s challenge was undone at the 13th where a double hit, while attempting to extricate himself right handed from a bush, saw him run up a triple bogey seven. “It never crossed my mind that I would double hit it,” said the American, who gamely fought to make up the lost ground with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 18th holes. “But I enjoy challenging myself to hit some shots. Sometimes they come off, and sometimes they don’t. This week I had a little bit of both.” Like Mickelson, joint runner-up McIlroy tried everything to make up ground on Larrazábal, but seven straight pars from the 11th to the 17th saw him unable to do so; like Mickelson, his birdie four at the last leaving his total one shot shy of the mark. It did, of course, leave the Northern Irishman rueing the rules infringement he incurred during Saturday’s third round, a mistake which cost him a two shot penalty and, ultimately, the title. “I’m standing here and I feel I should be 15 under par for the tournament and the winner, not 13 under par and the runner-up,” he said. “But that’s the way it goes I suppose. I played the least shots of anyone here this week so I suppose I can count that as a moral victory. “But I’ve very happy with the week as a whole. I came in here telling everyone I was happy with my game and I think I’ve proved that by doing a lot of good work. So it’s fair to say I’m really excited about the rest of the season now.” Larrazábal’s fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello (68) – who held the lead at one stage during the front nine, slipped back to share fourth with South African George Coetzee (66) on 12 under par 276, while Dutchman Joost Luiten completed the top six with a 68 for ten under par 278.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stenson's shot hits the Top

Henrik Stenson’s stunning approach to the final hole of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai has been voted by fans as The European Tour Shot of the Year for 2013. The Swede’s majestic three wood to the 18th green on the final day of the 2013 season at the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates was the runaway winner in the 2013 Shot of the Year competition, polling a massive 62.63 per cent of the votes cast through, with Justin Rose’s magnificent approach to the 72nd hole of the US Open at Merion finishing a distant second with 9.58 per cent. The superb approach shot helped Stenson – who was named The European Tour Race to Dubai Golfer of the Year for 2013 – sign off a dream year with a tap-in eagle, as he sealed commanding victories in both The Race to Dubai and the season-ending tournament itself.  “The three wood to the 18th in Dubai was a very fitting way to cap the best season of my career so it’s great that it has been named Shot of the Year,” he said.  “To land that close on the final hole of the season, in front of a packed grandstand, to win both titles – you really could not have directed it any better. Even making par there would have been a nice way to finish, but the stars seemed to align and that shot was the icing on the cake of an amazing year. “Thank you to all the fans who voted for the shot on It’s very special to win both Golfer of the Year and Shot of the Year, as well as three Golfer of the Month awards, and 2013 will go down as the greatest year of my career to date.”Stenson’s Shot of the Year award sits alongside his European Tour Golfer of the Year Award and a host of honours, including the two top Swedish Sports Awards announced on Monday, which recognised the unprecedented transatlantic double of 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 US PGA TOUR. One lucky MyEuropeanTour fan will also soon be celebrating as a result of voting in the Shot of the Year competition. The winner and their guest will get the chance to play midnight golf in the height of summer at two European Tour Properties with a trip to the exquisite Linna Golf in Finland before being ferried across the Baltic Sea to the stunning Estonian Golf & Country Club for another round.  Indeed, all those who voted in the annual Shot of the Year Poll will be contacted and offered the same amazing trip at a discounted price. More information about the two venues can be found at and .The full list of contenders for the Shot of the Year competition was: Chris Wood (January), Charl Schwartzel (February), Anders Hansen (March), Maximilian Kieffer (April), Ernie Els (May), Justin Rose (June), Francesco Molinari (July), Danny Willett (August), Peter Uihlein (September), Craig Lee (October) and Stenson (November).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Louis reigns again at Volvo Golf Champions

South African Louis Oosthuizen came out on top in his battle with compatriot Branden Grace to successfully defend his title in the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club. Oosthuizen trailed by one shot going into the final two holes but birdied them both to finish one shot clear of 2012 winner Grace, as he once again started the new year by winning the European Tour’s ‘tournament of champions’, following his victory by the same margin 12 months ago. Grace had carded a closing 68 in the group ahead of his compatriot to set the clubhouse target of 11 under par and then watched as former Open Champion Oosthuizen holed from two feet on the 17th and then chipped to the same distance for another birdie on the short par four 18th. That meant Oosthuizen also signed for a round of 68, but that was enough for a 12 under par winning total of 276 and his seventh European Tour title, four of which have been on home soil.  “It’s great to start the year with a win again,” he said. “It feels really good and hopefully I can defend next year. Volvo is an unbelievable company, with what they do for golf on The European Tour and worldwide, so to defend the Volvo Golf Champions tournament is special, and hopefully I can go three in a row.“It looks like proper rest, with no golf, is the key for me. It doesn’t work all of the time, but it has for the last few years.” Oosthuizen, whose 2013 season was hampered by a back injury, had started the day two strokes behind overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood, and had a slow start to his final round, carding seven consecutive pars before sinking a 12 foot eagle putt on the eighth hole.  He then dropped a shot on the tenth before back-to-back birdies on the 13 and 14th holes pushed him into a share of the lead with Grace, who had posted a hat-trick of birdies from the sixth hole before his only bogey of the day on the 15th hole.  Grace’s birdie on the 16th, which Oosthuizen bogeyed, meant it was Grace who temporarily held the advantage, but Oosthuizen dug deep and produced the two closing birdies when it mattered most to retain his title.  “I knew Branden was going to make a charge and I saw him up there early. I really thought that you're going to see the South Africans coming through today, and Joost Luiten played really well but just missed a few putts. He's a good player but Branden was the one that really spurred me on to finish well.” Grace will rue his opening round 74 and some missed chances during his final round as he fell just short in his bid for a fifth European Tour victory, having won the title two years ago when he defeated fellow countrymen Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in a play-off at Fancourt. “I let a couple slip out there which was unfortunate, but it was a good start to the year,” he said. “If you told me my first event, I’d start off with a second place, and coming this close, I would have taken it. So I'm very pleased. The winner at the end of this week is going to be the true champion, and Louis played well, so he deserves it.” Englishman Fleetwood, who took a one stroke lead into the final round, carded a level par round of 72 to share third position on ten under par with Dutchman Luiten, who had a 71. Three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington closed with a round of 67 to finish a shot further back in a share of fifth position, alongside French pair Victor Dubuisson (72) and Raphaël Jacquelin.