VIRGINIA WATER, England -- After the winds of controversy that have blown over the Wentworth West Course the last few days, the European Tour breathed a sigh of relief when a golf tournament finally broke out Thursday morning.
Andrew Dodt of Australia, England’s Graeme Storm and Phillip Price of Wales got proceedings back to normal in the first three-ball of the day.
For the record, Sergio Garcia got a warm reception from the Wentworth gallery when he teed off at 12:50 p.m. local time in the company of defending champion Luke Donald and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. The European Tour was glad Garcia was letting his clubs do the talking instead of making wise cracks with racist overtones.
European Tour chief executive George O’Grady was near the first tee when Garcia teed off. As if O’Grady didn’t have enough on his plate with losing his main players to the PGA Tour, the last thing he needed was Garcia making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
We should also put on the record there were no fist fights between Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. McIlroy has left the Horizon Sports Management Group, leaving (former?) good friend McDowell ...
VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy has refused to shed any light on his alleged change of management companies. The Northern Irishman is remaining tight-lipped on claims that he is leaving Conor Ridge’s Horizon Sports Management Group to set up on his own.
News broke during the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria last week that the World No. 2 had split with Horizon. However, McIlroy wanted to talk about anything other than his management arrangements on the eve of the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship.
“I’m here to stay on point and talk about golf and everything else,” McIlroy said. “I really can’t comment on speculation at this point. Obviously you guys know something’s up. That’s fair enough, but at this point I can’t really say much more.”
Graeme McDowell made it plain last week in Bulgaria that McIlroy was moving on. However, McIlroy said he and his countryman are still on good terms despite the fact that he probably didn’t appreciate McDowell going public.
“I spoke to Graeme yesterday afternoon,” McIlroy said. “We got back to the hotel and we just had a chat. Everything’s good.”
Things had ...
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Adapt or die. That seems to be Lee Westwood’s message to the European Tour.
The Englishman says the European Tour has to consult its top players and work with the PGA Tour to stay viable. He says there aren’t enough clusters of tournaments to attract Europe’s top stars to stay in Europe.
Westwood joined the PGA Tour last year and now resides in the United States. He’s making a rare return to Europe, and even rarer return to England. This week’s BMW PGA Championship is the only European Tour event in England this year. Ten years ago there were five.
There are more tournaments outside Europe this year than there are in Europe, 26 versus 20. South Africa has six tournaments alone.
“It’s nice to come home and play on home turf, and support English and British golf,” Westwood said. “We’ve got so many good English players at the moment. It’s a shame that the English and British public only get to see us once a year outside of The Open.”
Westwood will miss defending next week’s Nordea Masters in Sweden because he has opted to play in ...
FAR HILLS, N.J. – It felt like a wake, and in a way it was.
With the adoption of Rule 14-1b, the anchored stroke in golf officially is going the way of square grooves, the concave-faced wedge and croquet-style putting. In fact, the U.S. Golf Association can break ground on its retrospective exhibit at the museum next door on an era in golf when at least four majors were won with a method of stroke set to be banned on Jan. 1, 2016.
The mood was somber and the skies a gray foreboding mass as attendees at the USGA’s headquarters waited to hear anchoring’s fate after a 90-day comment period that had dragged too long. Some picked at muffins and a spread of fruit, but any hope that golf’s governing bodies might take a mulligan on the ban, first proposed Nov. 28, vanished when the R&A scooped their counterparts on this side of the pond and published its news release 25 minutes before the scheduled 8 a.m. EDT announcement. It confirmed that the text of the final rule is the same as previously proposed.
But as the saying goes, the show must go on ...
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has gone back to the future to try to retain next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland. McGinley has opted for an extra wild card pick, and will select three next year instead of the two that Jose Maria Olazabal had last year.
Three picks isn’t new. Many past European captains had three selections and, after much analysis, McGinley said that’s the best system to help Europe win the Cup.
“I looked at so many different areas and went through all of the statistics and the history of Ryder Cups and what worked, what didn’t work,” McGinley said. “My heartfelt view is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So everything has remained in place that Jose Maria had – his criteria – with one exception: I will be having three picks rather than two.
“That is the criteria I feel is the best to result in the strongest players in the Ryder Cup next year.
“I feel that by giving myself an extra pick, it’s a little bit of wiggle room.”
The Dubliner researched every points table going back to 1979, spending countless hours looking ...
Sang-Moon Bae’s victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, his first PGA Tour win, moved him to No. 64 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking.
Bae improved 42 spots from the previous week (No. 106). He also becomes the highest-ranked Korean, surpassing K.J. Choi, who dropped from No. 86 to No. 92 this week.
It’s not the highest ranking of Bae’s career, though. He was ranked No. 26 after finishing T-31 at the Dunlop Phoenix, a tournament on the Japan Golf Tour.
The top 60 in the OWGR after this week earn spots in this year's U.S. Open. Chris Wood is currently No. 60, 0.01 points ahead of Angel Cabrera.
Also, Keegan Bradley’s runner-up finish in Irving, Texas, moved him from No. 14 to No. 11, which is where he was prior to finishing T-54 at the Masters and then missing two straight cuts (Zurich Classic and the Players). Bradley has never been ranked higher than No. 10 – he was 10th for one week following his T-3 finish at Bay Hill this season.
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G-Mac up to No. 7
Following his victory at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, Graeme McDowell improved ...
KAVARNA, Bulgaria – Add Graeme McDowell’s name to a list of winners that includes most of golf’s greats. The Northern Irishman became the Volvo World Match Play Champion after defeating Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, 2 and 1 in the final.
McDowell follows in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin, David Graham, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Sir Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Ian Poulter, among others.
The Northern Irishman picked up just over $1 million for his win. Jaidee took home approximately $500,000.
“I’ve been in control of my emotions most of the week,” McDowell said. “This golf course, the second I saw it I knew it felt like it suited my type of game. It requires accuracy off the tee. I work my driver from left to right and that suits the finishing stretch because that land sits from right to left.”
It is McDowell’s second win of the year, following the RBC Heritage. The victory also makes up for the Northern Irishman’s loss to Nicolas Colsaerts in last year’s final, but he had to win the hard way.
McDowell was ...
Editor's note: This story originally ran in the March 15th issue of Golfweek magazine. Uihlein won his first European Tour victory on Sunday in Portugal.
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RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- The best thing that ever happened to Peter Uihlein may have been flunking out of PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2011.
With no status, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion boldly went where few Americans go anymore. Uihlein took the fork in the road and joined the Challenge Tour, the European Tour’s developmental circuit, and has become a better golfer for it.
Flipping through his passport, stamped with 17 countries where he has competed since turning professional in late 2011, is a conversation starter. At this rate, he may replace Gary Player as golf’s global ambassador. After all, Uihlein can recount adventures cage-diving with great white sharks at Mossel Bay in South Africa, or show video he took of lions while chasing the country’s “Big Five” at Kruger National Park. His eyes grow wide as he describes playing a tournament inside the palace gates of Mohammed VI, the king of Morocco.
“You’re hitting balls literally in his garden,” Uihlein said.
Yes, Uihlein, who competed in Puerto ...
Behind a 4-under 68 on Sunday, former Oklahoma State star and U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein won his first European Tour title, clearing the field at the Madeira Islands Open in Portugal by two shots.
Uihlein started the final round one shot back of 54-hole leader Mark Tullo, and dropped further behind with a bogey on his opening hole. He'd make the turn at even-par 36, but would card birdies on Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 16 on the back nine to separate himself from the pack.
Uihlein had two top-10s in his last three starts (T-8 at Open de Espana, 4th at Tshwane Open), so his victory doesn't come as a surprise.
KAVARNA, Bulgaria –– It took 12 months, but Graeme McDowell finally gained revenge on Nicolas Colsaerts for losing last year’s Volvo World Match Play final.
The Northern Irishman defeated Colsaerts, 2 and 1, even though the Belgian made one of the more famous up-and-downs in the history of golf, saving a par from a restroom on the 10th hole.
Yes, a restroom.
McDowell was 3 up at the time when Colsaerts went for the green. His ball ended up in a small restroom to the left of the green. Bizarrely, he was forced to take a drop inside the restroom. Eventually, he was allowed to take relief since the rest room was an immoveable obstruction. He then pitched onto the green and made a par to halve the hole.
“I don’t remember the last time I had a half out of a toilet,” Colsaerts said. “I’m sure it’s going to make the news about some Belgian playing golf out of a toilet. Even when I was a kid you’d have thought I was crazy enough to try some shots out of a toilet but I never did.
“I was just amused more than anything else. I ...
KARVARNA, Bulgaria – Pre-tournament favorite Ian Poulter bowed out of the Volvo World Match Play Championship looking for the “tallest tree and the shortest rope.”
That quote described the Englishman’s mood after losing his second match in two days, going down by one hole to South Africa’s Thomas Aiken. Ever honest, Poulter vented his frustration after a day that saw him play so poorly he lost two balls in three holes, hooking drives at the 10th and 12th.
“It’s simply disgusting, disgraceful and there is no explanation for it,” Poulter said. “It’s simply not good enough. It’s a long year; it’s one week. I’m [upset]. I’m going to stay [upset] for a couple of hours and get back to England and go and win at Wentworth (next week’s BMW PGA Championship).”
Poulter was never really in the match. He lost the first hole to a birdie and gave away the second with a bogey after needing two shots to get out of a greenside bunker. He struggled all the way around.
The Ryder Cup star managed to get the match back to all square with wins at the eighth and ninth holes ...
KARVARNA, Bulgaria – Thank goodness the €3 million Volvo World Match Play Championship doesn’t adhere to the conventional match-play format of lose and you’re out. Otherwise the king of match play would be on his way home along with several other contenders for this tournament.
Ian Poulter’s chances of winning the €800,000 first-place prize are alive and well thanks to Volvo’s insistence on a group format instead of the traditional knockout system the tournament used to employ.
Poulter lost 3 and 2 to Thongchai Jaidee, but a win tomorrow against South Africa’s Thomas Aiken, the other player in the group, will see the Englishman through to the knockout rounds. The top two from the eight groups of three go through to the pure knockout stages.
“No dramas,” was how the Ryder Cup star described his loss. Poulter began with three consecutive birdies but handed Jaidee holes with poor shots at Nos. 4, 6, 11, 12, 13 and 14.
“He’s a great player but I gave him holes today and you don’t do that in match play. It’s dead simple," said Poulter.
“It’s a tough golf course where if you hit a ...
KARVARNA, Bulgaria – Just as well the words “match play” are placed after “Volvo World” and before “Championship,” because we’ll probably never see a European Tour stroke-play event around Thracian Cliffs.
Make that definitive never.
Thracian Cliffs is a stunning location. Hard by the Black Sea some 220 miles from Bulgarian capital Sofia, Gary Player has somehow carved 18 undulating holes into sheer white cliffs that will provide stunning television pictures. Whether it produces stunning golf is another story.
But then you don’t need stunning golf in match play. You just need to beat the other guy. That’s why players were being ultra diplomatic when asked about the golf course.
“It’s an interesting course,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “It’s a stunning bit of land. I don’t know if I’ve been in a place as impressive – a bit like Torrey Pines.
“There’s some extreme type golf holes out there. It’s perfect for match play. I’m glad we’re not adding them (strokes) all up. I think there could be a few train-wreck holes out there.
“There will be a lot of birdies and quite a lot of others. So I think that’s ...
KAVARNA, Bulgaria -- The €3 million Volvo World Match Play Championship couldn’t come soon enough for Ian Poulter. It also comes at exactly the right time for Graeme McDowell.
Poulter arrives in Bulgaria after a horrid run of form, looking forward to his favorite type of golf. McDowell, on the other hand, has no problems with his form. Everything in his world seems to be in perfect alignment.
The Englishman has missed his last two cuts – The Players Championship and Masters. He began the year with a T-9 in the Hyundia Tournament of Champions before reaching he semi-finals of the WGC Accenture World Golf Championship. However, in the run up to the Masters his best finish was T-21 from three events.
“I’m not overly happy with my performance the last couple of weeks,” Poulter admitted. “I think it’s good timing. I have had two poor weeks.
“I’m a confident person. I would expect to put myself under pressure this week to go out there and play well. It’s match play. I love the format, and I just think it’s come at the right time of year for me.”
McDowell also missed the cut at The ...
Don’t be surprised if Charley Hull makes this year’s European Solheim Cup team. The way she’s going, she looks like a lock to make the trip to Colorado this August.
There’s a good chance the Ladies European Tour rookie will turn up as a tournament winner, if not a multiple tournament winner on this year’s LET.
The 17-year-old English woman recorded a second-place finish in the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open in Belek, Turkey. Hull tied with Carlota Ciganda of Spain and Finland’s Minea Blomqvist on a 2-under total of 290, just one shot behind South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace.
It was Hull’s third consecutive second-place finish in just three starts on this year’s LET. She began the final round tied for the lead with Ciganda, but could only manage a 2-over 75.
“I’m pleased but just a bit annoyed,” Hull said. “At least I parred the last. I didn’t play very good on the first 11 holes. The back nine, I played a lot better. I seem to perform better when I’m under pressure and I have to chase, like the last couple of holes. I just edged my ...
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