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Ryder Cup 2012: Jack Nicklaus serves up painful reminder to Colin Montgomerie

Tee Room: Golden Bear serves up a painful reminder for Monty



23:43 GMT, 30 September 2012

As if watching Europe struggle to retain the trophy he led them to two years ago wasn’t bad enough, Colin Montgomerie had salt rubbed in the wound by Jack Nicklaus.

As the pair sat together in the commentary box, Nicklaus declared: ‘You’ve got to win some majors to be rated,’ before cheekily adding: ‘Oh, sorry Colin.’

Rubbing salt in the wound: 14-time major winner Nicklaus (centre)

Rubbing salt in the wound: 14-time major winner Nicklaus (centre)

Breakfast beers!

Hardly surprising there have been a few drunken oafs around considering the first outlet incoming spectators got at Medinah was a man selling bottles of the local brew from a box.

His sales pitch was a cheerful ‘Breakfast beers, breakfast beers! If you don’t start in the morning you can’t drink all day!’

Iron out whinges, Lee

Westwood was among those whingeing about the greens – a vested interest
after his feeble pairing performances perhaps – complaining that they
have speeded up unusually after lunch.

It is true, however, that the greens were ‘ironed’ on Friday between foursomes and fourballs, and nobody told the Europeans.

In the dark: Westwood was unhappy that the greens were ironed out

In the dark: Westwood was unhappy that the greens were ironed out

Check this lot out…

One of the most staggering sights of the Ryder Cup has been the merchandise tent.

As long as a football pitch and more than half one’s width, the norm has been a queue 100 yards long to get into the snaking lines of the paying area, where 85 assistants are on the check-out desks.

This temple of consumption dwarfs its equivalent at The Open.

Barack is Bushwhacked

Former US Presidents George Bush and George W Bush were supporting the Americans this weekend and gave a pep talk on Saturday night. Barack Obama was invited but despite deep local connections said he was otherwise engaged.

After taking flak for the amount of golf he plays he might not have wished to come too near anyway.

You'll never putt alone

Two things you never knew about Keegan Bradley, whose Ryder Cup exploits have made him a superstar in American golf – even if taking on world No 1 Rory McIlroy on the final day proved a step too far.

Up to the age of 13 Bradley was among the most outstanding ski racers in mountainous Vermont before turning to his talents to the game of golf instead. His Christian names are Keegan Hanson – but there is no Liverpool connection.

Vincent Kompany proud of Belgian impact in Premier League

Beaming Kompany delighted with Belgian Premier League impact



15:57 GMT, 6 September 2012

Vincent Kompany is proud to be part of a generation of players proving there is more to Belgium than chocolate and waffles.

The formidable Manchester City defender and inspirational captain is one of a rapidly-growing number of talented Belgians playing in the Barclays Premier League.

Belgium have not featured at a major tournament since 2002 but a current crop that also includes the exciting Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele look destined to change that.

Proud: Vincent Kompany (third right) with Premier League stars Kevin Mirallas (second left), Mousa Dembele (third left), and Simon Mignolet (second right)

Proud: Vincent Kompany (third right) with Premier League stars Kevin Mirallas (second left), Mousa Dembele (third left), and Simon Mignolet (second right)

They were considered the best team not to reach Euro 2012 and Wales are set for a stern examination as their World Cup qualifying campaign begins at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.

Kompany, also the national team skipper, said: 'I'm proud of all of them.

'There are almost too many to name now, there are so many Belgian guys now in the Premier League.

'When I signed four years ago I was the first, then Fellaini came just after that and (Thomas) Vermaelen.

'Ever since it has been a very good competition for Belgian players.

'Not only do we showcase our talent in the Premier League but I hope at the international level as well now.

'We do sell a few beers as well – but we do have a few more things than chocolate and waffles!'

Belgium have nine Premier League players in their squad to face Wales, including the recently arrived Hazard, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin Mirallas.

Another highly-rated player, Axel Witsel, this week made a 32million move from Benfica to Zenit St Petersburg.

Kompany expects the top-level experience to prove hugely beneficial for the national side.

The 26-year-old said: 'The reason we just about didn't qualify for the Euros – even though we had big talents in the team – was because there is still a difference between success or performing every week at the top and supposedly being able to play at the top.

Impact: Eden Hazard has started well in England

Impact: Eden Hazard has started well in England

'The step has been made now by many players – Vertonghen, Hazard, Dembele.

'There are so many players now that play at the top of the competition and that will add so much experience.

'At international level the teams that do well are the more disciplined and the more experienced. /09/06/article-2199264-14D9088B000005DC-866_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Ambitious: Kompany (right) is aiming for the top with club and country” class=”blkBorder” />

Ambitious: Kompany (right) is aiming for the top with club and country

The Eastlands outfit bolstered their squad by making five signings on transfer deadline day last week and have a Champions League group to look forward to that includes Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.

But as eager as he is to get back to work in Manchester, Kompany is happy to put it on hold to focus on international duties that also include a game against Croatia next Tuesday.

Kompany said: 'Everybody knows I have big ambitions with Manchester City but everyone back home knows I have huge ambitions with my national team.

'We have a side now with Belgium who deserves success – not just because of the quality that is in the group, but because of the type of players we have.

'We have the character, the personalities.'

Wales have been hit by injuries ahead of the first qualifier but now also boast a young squad with increasing top-flight experience.

Kompany said: 'We'll know a lot about them and I presume Wales will know a lot about us.

'Most of the players play against each other now in the Premier League. I think it will be a good game.

'Wales have got a lot of hope in their team and the hope people in Belgium now have to qualify for the World Cup is unreal.

'It does bring pressure with it but we need to be able to deal with it.'

Euro 2012: England in the mood for Ukraine, says Steven Gerrard

Roy's boys are in the mood! England are a far cry from the rabble of South Africa



22:07 GMT, 18 June 2012

Standing in a doorway deep in the Donbass Arena here on Monday night, Steven Gerrard was taken back briefly to a time when there was rather less harmony in the England camp.

It was two years to the day since that goalless draw against Algeria in Cape Town, a game memorable not so much for the dire football as the diatribe Wayne Rooney directed at the England fans down the lens of a television camera.

Then under the guidance of Fabio Capello, England were in a mess. The match was followed by a few beers, which John Terry later presented as some kind of players’ mutiny during a press conference that actually sounded like a one-man coup.

In it together: England's squad looked at ease ahead of their crunch game against Ukraine

In it together: England's squad looked at ease ahead of their crunch game against Ukraine

Two years on and the mood could not be more different. ‘The reason for that is because of how we are playing,’ said Gerrard. ‘We are playing well and we are playing positively. We are enjoying how we are playing. Everyone knows that in South Africa the team weren’t playing at a good level. Now we can’t wait for tomorrow night. We have Wayne Rooney back and everything is positive.’

After two excellent performances against France and Sweden there is a sense of unity and a growing feeling of confidence, even if both Gerrard and Roy Hodgson were at pains to temper their ambitions and look no further than Tuesday evening’s game against Ukraine.

Hodgson knows the low expectation that travelled with England is quietly being ushered out of the back door. Rooney has spoken of how England are among the sides capable of winning the tournament. Gerrard responded to their spirited defeat of Sweden by declaring this England side ‘unbreakable’.

England’s manager summed it up nicely. ‘You play football at international level to try to get people carried away,’ he said. ‘Dreaming is what this is all about.’

Pitch inspection: England's players got a look at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on Monday

Pitch inspection: England's players got a look at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on Monday

But Hodgson and his players are not daring to dream. While the coaches have sat through hours of analysis of their opponents, the players have focused on recovery then on what is expected of them. There is a huge temptation to plan ahead and start picking the quarter-final they would prefer. Gerrard, however, was having none of it.

‘I am trying to force myself not even to talk about quarter-finals,’ said the captain. ‘It would be very disrespectful to the opposition tomorrow, who are dangerous. We have watched tapes. Their combination play in the middle and around the box is good. If I started talking about quarter-finals and we slipped up, I would never forgive myself.’

Hodgson echoed the sentiment and further explained the dangers presented by a Ukraine team playing at home and needing to win. As Hodgson said, it is about more than Andriy Shevchenko.

‘They are a very good counter-attacking team,’ he said. ‘They are a very quick team, breaking out of defence. They also have the ability to keep the ball very well in the middle of the field through Tymoshchuk and Nazarenko, with Voronin or Shevchenko dropping deep. We have been impressed with them.’

Roy's relief: England's saviour against Sweden, Theo Walcott (second left), will be fit to play

Roy's relief: England's saviour against Sweden, Theo Walcott (second left), will be fit to play

In many ways this presents the kind of challenge that should suit Hodgson with its demand for the right balance between ambition and consolidation.

Draw and England are through to the quarter-finals and, before a ball was kicked here, the new England manager would have certainly settled for that. So would the FA given the chaos that has engulfed the team these past few months. But playing for a draw can be dangerous.

Perhaps that is why Hodgson is wrestling with his options on the right wing, between a more attacking line-up that sees him start with Theo Walcott to exploit a lack of pace in Ukraine’s defence and a more conservative approach with James Milner, who ran 1.4km further than any other England player against Sweden.

Dangerman: Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko (centre) in training on Monday

Dangerman: Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko (centre) in training on Monday

Hodgson kept his players guessing, even if he had made it clear by then that Danny Welbeck would partner Rooney up front with Ashley Young on the left flank.

England v Ukraine: Donetsk Essential

For Hodgson, it has already been a fairly successful tournament. He got his tactics right against France and he did so again against the Swedes, the decision to select Andy Carroll paying off as much as the decision to send on Walcott as an impact substitute.

It had Sir Dave Richards, here as chairman of the FA’s international committee, declaring — a tad prematurely — that Hodgson possesses ‘the Midas touch’.

‘I suppose I feel on a roll because I’ve found it such an enjoyable job to do,’ said the manager. ‘But it’s nicer to work in a position where nobody expects too much from you. Once people are giving you praise, you get concerned because then you get worried that you’re going to let them down.’

He did not let anyone down here, and neither did Gerrard.

They both paid a moving tribute to Danny Fullbrook, the Daily Star chief football writer who lost a battle with cancer at the age of 40 on Monday. A lifelong Fulham supporter, Danny certainly would have taken pleasure in the contrast between England now and the England team he followed, with the rest of us, in South Africa two years ago.

SIX NATIONS: George North says no-one dare mention the words Grand Slam

Triple Crown glory at Twickenham proved our quality



22:02 GMT, 9 March 2012

Warren Gatland has made it clear the Triple Crown is only half of what we can achieve. We need to keep our heads on and go all guns blazing to the end.

The feeling of achievement was incredible but Grand Slam is a banished phrase in the camp. We’ve got a Test match and a big physical battle against Italy before we can even start thinking about it.

We needed to beat England to prove ourselves after all the hype and cement this young squad together. We had a few beers to celebrate at the hotel as Gatland said we had earned the right to enjoy it together, but the job is half done.

Crown princes: North and Cuthbert celebrate

Crown princes: North and Cuthbert celebrate

On the morning of the England game the first thing I saw was Sam Warburton’s face! We were sharing a room and he woke me up snoring away.

When we got on the bus to Twickenham all you could see was a sea of white with occasional clumps of red jerseys. Those pockets of red meant a lot.

There was a lot of traffic and at one point we didn’t move for five minutes when all you want to do is get there. All the boys are whining: ‘I bloody hate London!’

I can’t describe how I felt in those final moments – it was such a dramatic ending. The last play was scary. We had a player down and that didn’t help, but we dug in and ground out a win. That’s what has been missing these past couple of years, the ability to grind out a victory.

Warburton passed the trophy around the changing room. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures on Twitter of the boys with it. The phones were buzzing – tweets, Facebook, it all went nuts. Twitter is flying through the roof now.

Powerhouse: North beats England's Ben Morgan

Powerhouse: North beats England's Ben Morgan

I was massively humbled after the World Cup when I came back with 20,000 followers. It blew my mind. Now it’s more than double! Why do so many people want to know what I’m saying It’s a compliment but I feel pressure to entertain them all.

We went into the cryotherapy capsule in the car park after the match. It was pretty mad. They told us it was quite close to the changing rooms so I went out in just my shorts, a jacket and no socks on. The next thing you know I’m hiking through a car park full of mad supporters to get to this van that feels like it’s a hundred miles away. They lied to us! It was nowhere near.

I’m really excited for today because it will be my 20th cap. I set myself a goal of winning 20 caps before I turn 20 in April.

Gatland took me and Alex Cuthbert aside and said: ‘We just want you guys to run. Get as much ball in your hands as you can. Whenever you feel like you’re too tired to work any more, work again.’ So we’ve just got to work our socks off for the chances and hopefully we’ll be rewarded with some tries.

Final preparations: Wales train at the Millennium Stadium on Friday

Final preparations: Wales train at the Millennium Stadium on Friday

Gethin Jenkins might come across as grumpy to people but he doesn’t put up with any rubbish. He puts his body on the line, he tackles hard and leads from the front. He’s our third captain in four games but that doesn’t affect us.

They all bring different things to the table but we’re such a strong unit we respond the same way as a team, pulling together to get the job done.

We’re owed a good performance against the Italians. We didn’t actually play that well at Twickenham. We’re due a big game and we can deliver that against Italy.

We need to get a few points on the board to get our head in a good place leading up to France, we need to show we can be clinical when we need to be.

We had a charity dinner in Cardiff and those things are so important. I’ve become an ambassador for Latch Wales, a charity that helps children with cancer and leukaemia in South Wales. I recently lost my uncle to cancer so it felt right. It is important to do whatever you can.

George North is supporting NatWest RugbyForce, the community rugby programme that is improving club facilities across the nation. To register your club for the NatWest RugbyForce Weekend on June 2 and 3, visit: www.natwest.com/rugbyforce