Tag Archives: driving

Lee Westwood putting his game in great shape ahead of Abu Dhabi Championship

Westwood set for stellar season after putting his game in great shape, says Chubby

Lee Westwood is about to embark on the finest year of his illustrious career. Yes, even better than 2000, when he won six times in Europe and once in South Africa. That's the opinion of the man who might know him best, his long-time manager, Chubby Chandler.

'I'd be absolutely amazed if this doesn't turn out to be his best season yet,' he said.

Managers and players usually shy away from making such bold statements but confidence is oozing from the Westwood camp because of one added ingredient.

Driving force: Lee Westwood has been tipped for his best year ever

Driving force: Lee Westwood has been tipped for his best year ever

Whisper it softly, because we all know what putting is like. But it does seem like the best golfer by miles from tee to green over the past three years has finally worked out how to hole his share of 15ft putts.

Putting works like writer's block. You try everything and nothing works and then suddenly a fresh approach produces a eureka moment.

Abu Dhabi Championship preiview

Check out Sportsmail's Golf Blog for the full lowdown ahead of the mouth-watering battle in the desert…

Westwood's came when he started working with the noted putting coach Phil Kenyon at the back end of last year. He knew straight away that he was on to something. And then the putts started to drop.

Suddenly, he went from being in contention every week because of the quality of his long game to lapping the field thanks to his renewed confidence on the greens.

At the Sun City Challenge last month he thought he played the best golf of his life, only to revise his opinion a fortnight later in Thailand, an event he led by the astonishing margin of 14 shots at the halfway stage.

Of course, it's one thing to win a couple of end-of-year events when hardly anyone is looking; quite another to carry it into this season and tournaments sprinkled with stardust like the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, which begins on Thursday.

Smiles better: Westwood says his putting has been transformed

Smiles better: Westwood says his putting has been transformed

But Chandler has no doubts and Westwood, to judge from his supremely confident demeanour, doesn't either.

Not that he wanted to delve too deeply into his putting. Westwood politely answered a couple of questions and then promptly said he wouldn't talk about it anymore.

A wise man. Unless you're Luke Donald, who rarely struggles on the greens, it's best not to talk too much about this decidedly black art.

'I would say the difference with Phil is that my practice is a lot more structured and based around drills to make sure I do the same thing over and over again. And, other than that, I am not saying any more,' he commented, smiling.

Westwood might be 39 in April but looks in the best shape of his career, both literally and metaphorically. Twice-daily sessions in the gym have taken away the extra pounds that hung around his frame before Christmas, while the nagging angst at the back of his mind that crippled his putting stroke is fast becoming a bad memory.

That's some threesome: Tiger Woods will play alongside Rory McIlroy and world No 1 Luke Donald for the first two rounds of the Abu Dhabi Championship

That's some threesome: Tiger Woods will play alongside Rory McIlroy and world No 1 Luke Donald for the first two rounds of the Abu Dhabi Championship

Like everyone else here, Westwood was excited to get going in this star-laden first tournament. Who could have imagined a European Tour event featuring such a marquee group as Westwood, Sergio Garcia and the defending champion Martin Kaymer, and it still not being the one attracting the biggest crowd

It was trumped by the threesome featuring Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and the world No 1 Luke Donald.

Six years have now passed since McIlroy missed the cut as an amateur in the Dubai Desert Classic and spent the weekend watching Woods, his idol growing up. Here he practised on Wednesday with the icon and spent the early hours of this morning UK time playing his first round with Tiger in a regular tour event.

'Of course I was a little awestruck back in 2006, who wouldn't be' he said. 'He was doing things no-one thought possible, he was changing our game forever. But I played with him in a skins game in 2010 and in the first round of Tiger's tournament that year and so gradually I've felt less in awe.

Luke-ing good: Donald drives during practice for his first tournament of the year

Luke-ing good: Donald drives during practice for his first tournament of the year

'Now I've got to know him a little and feel comfortable around him. And you could see in practice he's ready to play well again. He's clearly fit again and hit some really good shots. Let's hope we can play together on a few Sundays this year and not just on Thursday and Friday.'

As for Donald, he remembers the day when he was completely in awe of Woods. It was the final round of the 2006 US PGA at Medinah, when he turned up in a red shirt and left with a red face after being contemptuously demolished by Tiger.

'I remember it well and I certainly feel a hugely different player to what I was back then. One with a lot more experience. I think every year you learn more about yourself as a golfer. You learn a little bit more about your swing.

'Obviously last year was a hugely important one for me in terms of dealing with pressure and being able to come out on top when it mattered.'

Keep tuning in. This year is going to be one of the great ones.

Cardiff City v Crystal Palace Carling Cup semi-final preview

Crystal Palace boss Freedman is right up for final 'battle' in Cardiff

For Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman, Tuesday night's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Cardiff City is just a ‘small battle’, not a war.

His club have already won that, after all. In 2010 Palace survived a 10-point deduction for going into administration and avoided relegation to League One by drawing 2-2 at Sheffield Wednesday.

Under new owners CPFC 2010, a consortium led by fan and businessman Steve Parish, Palace came out of administration in August of that year.

Rollercoaster: Freedman's side have emerged from a turbulent few years

Rollercoaster: Freedman's side have emerged from a turbulent few years

Just 18 months on they take a 1-0 lead
to south Wales and are 90 minutes away from a Wembley cup final against
Liverpool or Manchester City.

Freedman, 37, said: ‘To be here in such a short space of time is wonderful. We’ve been in relegation zones but we’ve turned it around with the same squad.

‘They are a group of players hungry for success after being knocked down for two seasons in terms of on-and-off-the-field experiences. They have had to take a lot in terms of administration and it’s about these guys achieving something I always knew they could.

‘Nothing can happen to these guys. They’ve been in a situation where they haven’t been paid, didn’t know if the club was going to exist and last-day relegations.

‘We’re not in a war – we’re in a small battle. We are enjoying ourselves. Nobody expected us to be here.’

Driving seat: Anthony Gardner rises to score the only goal of the first leg

Driving seat: Anthony Gardner rises to score the only goal of the first leg

Darren Ambrose, who scored the stunning 35-yard goal at Old Trafford that helped Palace to a 2-1 win against Manchester United in the quarter-finals, is one of the Palace players back on their feet after being knocked down in recent seasons. He came close to joining Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 2010 but signed a three-year deal at Selhurst Park instead.

The 27-year-old said: ‘It’s a great
reward for everyone involved. We were in a bad place two years ago
(when) the club was nearly not here.
‘For the last two years we’ve been
fighting relegation and nearly gone out of existence so to get to the
final would be a massive achievement for everyone.’

Freedman has tried to ease the pressure
on his team by attempting to paint Cardiff as the perpetual bridesmaids
who always fall at the last hurdle. Under former manager Dave Jones the
Welsh side suffered defeats in the play-offs against Reading and
Blackpool and lost the 2008 FA Cup final to Portsmouth. It was
Freedman’s assistant, Lennie Lawrence, who oversaw Cardiff’s last
success – the 2003 Division Two play-off victory against QPR.

Extra motivation: Mackay (right) coaches from the touchline at Selhurst Park

Extra motivation: Mackay (right) coaches from the touchline at Selhurst Park

Probable line-ups

Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Clyne, McCarthy, Gardner, Parr; Jedinak, Dikgacoi; Zaha, Martin, Ambrose; Murray.

Cardiff (4-1-3-2): Heaton; McNaughton, Hudson, Turner, Taylor; Whittingham; Cowie, Gunnarsson, Ralls; Mason, Miller.

Referee: Howard Webb

TV: LIVE on BBC2 from 7.30pm

KO: 7.45pm, Cardiff City Stadium

Cardiff boss Malky Mackay insisted Freedman’s comments will only motivate his side, noting ‘part of the team talk is done’. But striker Kenny Miller refuted Freedman’s claim Cardiff will be ‘scared stiff’.

Miller said: ‘Mind games always come into things when you go into management but it means nothing to us. I’m not scared stiff. I’ll be anything but scared.

‘I’m looking forward to the game and we have the chance to put the result right from two weeks ago. It’s a massive opportunity for the players and the club to get to a cup final at Wembley.

‘If we can get an early goal then great, but even if it’s still 0-0 at half-time then we still have time to win it. We’re more than capable because we’ve done that so many times this season.’

West Brom defender Gonzalo Jara banned driving

West Brom defender Jara slapped with fine after driving while banned

In the dock: Gonzalo Jara Reyes

In the dock: Gonzalo Jara Reyes

Gonzalo Jara has been fined 3,500 for getting behind the wheel of a car while banned for drink driving.

The West Brom defender pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and driving without insurance when he appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Friday.

The 26-year-old right-back, who gave his address as Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, was banned from driving for 17 months in July last year.

Sussex Police said they stopped the Chilean international player's Audi Q7 sports car in Brighton city centre, East Sussex, just before 11am on December 17.

Brighton magistrates disqualified Jara from driving for 12 months and ordered that he also pay 100 in costs.

The player, who moved to West Brom for 1.4million in 2009, joined npower Championship Brighton on loan in October but was recalled by the Barclays Premier League side last month and has started their last two matches.

Danny Care fails drink-drive test and is dropped by England for Six Nations

England start 2012 with another booze storm as Care is axed for Six Nations over failed drink-drive test

England's plan for a revival in 2012 has already hit the wall after Danny Care failed a drink-driving test – his second drink-related incident in less than a month.

The Harlequins scrum-half is now out of consideration for Six Nations, which starts next month, after his test in the early hours of New Year's Day.

Highs and lows: Danny Care is presented with champagne after being named man of the match at Exeter - just hours before he failed drink-driving test

Highs and lows: Danny Care is presented with champagne after being named man of the match at Exeter – just hours before he failed drink-driving test

England's interim coach Stuart Lancaster is furious with Care as he attempts to rebuild the national side after the scandals of the World Cup.

Lancaster has acted swiftly to remove Care from contention after learning of the news on Sunday. He travelled down from Leeds on Monday to meet with the player and Harlequins' director of rugby Conor O'Shea.

Care, who turned 25 on Monday, was stopped as he returned from Devon on Sunday after scoring a try in the Aviva Premiership victory over Exeter 24 hours earlier.

The Daily Telegraph report that he had a drinks at a local pub and returned to the home he shares with Harlequins team-mates Rory Clegg and Jordan Turner-Hall.

Star showing: Care scores a try for Harlequins on New Year's Eve

Star showing: Care scores a try for Harlequins on New Year's Eve

However, he had a phone call with a former girlfriend in the early hours and this led to him getting in his car and driving to his friend's house.

Police stopped Care en route, and it is believed that he was twice the legal limit permitted for alcohol in the bloodstream. The case is scheduled to be heard on January 16.

The England squad is not named until January 11 but Care was certain to be included.

This was despite his previous misdemeanour in December, when he was fined a ‘substantial' amount Harlequins and warned by Lancaster after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly following the defeat by Toulouse in the Heineken Cup. He was released without charge after paying a fixed penalty fine.

Care missed the controversial World Cup campaign after injuring his toe during the second warm-up match against Wales in August.

There was a strong chance that he would have started the Six Nations as first-choice scrum-half in his battle for the No 9 spot with Ben Youngs.

Star showing: Care scores a try for Harlequins on New Year's Eve

Headache: Stuart Lancaster has acted tough after Care's fresh troubles

England now face a pressing issue at scrum-half, with Youngs' understudy in New Zealand – Richard Wigglesworth – injured. Wasps rookie Joe Simpson won his only international cap in New Zealand.

Care's antics come as Lancaster picks up the pieces from the end of Martin Johnson's reign.

Mike Tindall highly unlikely to play for his country again after his late-night drinking saga in Queenstown during the tournament.

James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were involved in an unsavoury row with a hotel maid, while Manu Tuilagi was fined for jumping off a ferry as it returned to Auckland harbour after England's quarter-final exit to France.

Johnson resigned after the tournament and the RFU is currently undergoing restructuring.

Frozen out: Care has wrecked his chances of a Six Nations return

Frozen out: Care has wrecked his chances of a Six Nations return

Power Serg: Aguero strikes as Manchester City charge clear at the top of the table

Power Serg: Aguero strikes as Manchester City charge clear at the top of the table

Roar talent: Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring Manchester City's opener

Roar talent: Sergio Aguero celebrates
scoring Manchester City's opener

Manchester City put the pressure firmly back on rivals United with a victory over Liverpool that opened a three-point gap at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Sergio Aguero scored the opener as City, who had taken just a point from their previous two games, won 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium. A Yaya Toure header and a James Milner penalty sealed the victory.

City manager Roberto Mancini, who will watch United face Newcastle at St James’ Park, said: ‘We produced a good performance and that was just what we needed. United are a strong team and we can’t worry about what they do.

‘We should try and think only about ourselves and try and win every game.’

City survived the sending off of Gareth Barry for two bookings when the score was 2-0 and immediately broke away to win the penalty, converted by Milner.

Mancini was criticised for waving an imaginary card after Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel brought down Yaya Toure in the area but the Italian said: ‘Maybe I made a mistake but I was nervous. I didn’t agree with the referee for the second yellow card for Gareth Barry.’

Superb result: Mancini saw City put the disappointment of defeat at Sunderland behind them

Superb result: Mancini saw City put the disappointment of defeat at Sunderland behind them

'I didn't understand. I watched the games yesterday and there were a lot of
tackles without yellow cards.

'You play one important game like this evening and we lose one player for
nothing.'

Mancini confirmed that Toure and his brother Kolo will head for the Africa Cup of Nations after Sunday’s FA Cup tie against United.

‘I’ve looked in my squad for another Yaya and I can’t find one,’ he admitted.

Irreplaceable: Yaya Toure is foulde by Martin Skrtel, handing City their penalty

Driving force: Yaya Toure is fouled by Martin Skrtel, handing City their penalty

Liverpool had a lot of early possession but then goalkeeper Pepe Reina let a shot from Aguero squirm under his body and the visitors never recovered.

Manager Kenny Dalglish said: ‘We have learned some harsh lessons tonight.

‘You can’t concede the goals we conceded. I won’t criticise individuals, though. That’s not the way we do things.’

Howler: Pepe Reina was at fault for Aguero's goal

Howler: Pepe Reina was at fault for Aguero's goal

City captain Vincent Kompany hailed the performance from his side, saying: 'This is massive for us. We were incredibly efficient and it's a great win.

'It is one of the top six teams out of the way and now we know United and the other teams have to play each other.'

A force to be reckoned with: After cup ties with Manchester United and Liverpool, Wigan are up next in the Premier League for City

A force to be reckoned with: After cup ties with Manchester United and Liverpool, Wigan are up next in the Premier League for City

Wayne Bridge exclusive: Roberto Mancini is my only handicap

Wayne Bridge Exclusive: Play golf Mancini is my only handicap

Wayne Bridge is not after sympathy – all he wants is an opportunity to put across his side of the story. This is the former England defender”s considered response to Roberto Mancini”s criticism after two years largely spent in exile.

Mancini claims the Manchester City defender is motivated by money, pulling in 95,000 a week and spending Saturday afternoons down at the driving range. Golf is his big thing, according to Mancini; swinging clubs is his priority instead of trying to find one to take on his super-sized salary.

Building Bridges: Manchester City

Building Bridges: Manchester City”s Wayne Bridge wants to reignite his career

“Roberto Mancini obviously doesn”t know me very well because I don”t play golf,” revealed Bridge in the first major interview of his professional career.

Given the freedom and platform to express himself, Bridge has laid bare his frustrations after so long in isolation, an isolation that has seen him spend a month at a time training with the kids at City.

It is all here – his relationship with Mancini and his thoughts on walking away from England after John Terry”s alleged affair with Bridge”s ex-girlfriend and mother of his son.

Defining: Bridge achieved notoriety last season after the John Terry scandal into the Chelsea skipper

Defining: Bridge refused to shake Terry”s hand last season

He has nothing left to lose now, not after Mancini poked fun at him in a pre-determined attack ahead of City”s Barclays Premier League fixture with Stoke City last Wednesday.

“The only player I”ve seen isolated like this was Bogarde at Chelsea”

“When I was at Chelsea I was playing for a team where Ashley Cole was the best in the world and I still got games. It won”t happen at City. There has never been an explanation, butit”s obvious they don”t want me.

“Mancini doesn”t really speak to me, he doesn”t really speak to any of the players. The only time I”ve known aplayer isolated like this was Winston Bogarde at Chelsea. Usually you still train with the first team, even when they want you out.”

Best pals: Bridge and Terry has been extremely close in the past, and so had their partners

Best pals: Bridge and Terry played together at Chelsea and for England

TAKING A SWING

Roberto Mancini

Mancini (right) in Wednesday”s Sportsmail: “Sometimes I don”t understand why there are some players who have a good chance to play football, maybe not in the Premier League but in the Championship. Wayne Bridge is a good guy but for every other player it should be important to play.

“Wayne has had two or three chances (to go somewhere). In the summer he had the chance to play for Celtic, and this is an important team. I don”t know what he does on Saturdays now. Golf”

Bridge, 31, has played just once for City this season – a Carling Cup third-round tie against Birmingham – and has barely featured in first-team training. Most days he arrives early, working out in the gym at City”s Carrington training complex to vent his frustrations before he joins the kids again. That is the daily routine: walking out on to the training pitches to join the youngsters, alone with his thoughts and willing himself to get through another soul-destroying session.

“I”ve never caused trouble, I”m not that kind of character,” he said. “There will be days when I”m frustrated – not depressed, but down. Training helps take my mind off the fact that I don”t play.

“I don”t like confrontation, to be honest. It takes a while for me to lose it, but when I do…

“Some players are totally different to me – they would phone the manager and say things there and then. I just get on with things and hope they resolve themselves. Even when I”m playing I just like to get on with my own life. “If I kicked up a fuss I might have got out easier.”

International class: Bridge was regularly included in England squads prior to the story

International class: Bridge was regularly included in England squads prior to the story

That is the plan, negotiating with City to secure his release in the January transfer window. He has been training hard and his five per cent body fat – the lowest at City – is unlikely to be troubled by the home-made chocolate cake his popstar girlfriend Frankie is serving.

Popstar girlfriend: Bridge with his partner Frankie Sandford

Popstar girlfriend: Bridge with his partner Frankie Sandford

“I feel I am letting my mum and dad down and they basically live for following me around and watching me play football.

“I hate that my parents can”t come and watch me or Frankie, who loves to watch football, can”t come with her mum and dad.

“It is like I am letting them down as well because they are so proud to see me out there playing. They havebeen really supportive.

“They are people I can call when I am down. They cheer me up straight away and slap me back into place. Aaron Lincoln, my agent, has been amazing.

“Everyone has been so supportive and they can all tell when I have been down.”

There has been talk of Arsenal takinghim on loan and there has been interest from Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He desperately wants to get away, to rediscover the zest for the game that took him to the very top.

Bridge played in the 2003 FA Cup final for Southampton and went on to win two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and the League Cup with Chelsea. Inevitably he regards Jose Mourinho as the best manager he played under. His eyes light up withthe memories of a glorious goal against Arsenal in the 2004 Champions League quarter-final at Highbury, and a beauty he scored against Portsmouth the previous season.

“There was a time when I could have gone to Portsmouth on loan, but I had to say no – my dad”s Southampton and I grew up supporting them. Dad would never have spoken to me again.”

Loan ranger: The out-of-favour full-back spent the second half of last season at West Ham

Loan ranger: The out-of-favour full-back spent the second half of last season at West Ham

This is the old Bridge, bounding withenthusiasm as he talks about the games that earned him 36 caps before he retired from international football in a storm of publicity last year.

He misses England, but maintains he was left with no alternative after refusing to shake Terry”s hand when City travelled to Stamford Bridge in February 2010.

Wayne

Wayne”s world: The Man City defender is angling for a January move

“Everyone misses being an international when they don”t play. It is the thing everyone wants to be- an England international. When you start playing professional football it is the next step.

“It has been difficult for me over the last couple of years football-wise – I have not played great and personal stuff that had gone on. I don”t want to talk too much about it.I don”t want to bring up the situation that happened because I didn”t talk about it at the time and what”s the point

“If I had gone to the World Cup it would have been an absolute media frenzy. I probably could talk about itone day, but at this precise moment I don”t think it is going to help me and I don”t think it”s going to help anyone else who was involved.

“I had never been in the press before. Then I was and everyone had an opinion about it. It was like I felt, “Just leave me to get on with it”. Some were supportive and some weren”t. That”s just the way it is. But I got a lot of support and I am thankful for the support I did get. I can deal with it. Everyone was talking about it and I just didn”t want to talk about it.

“At the time, (England manager) Fabio Capello called me two or three times but it wasn”t right. “My personal life has got better. I am happy at the moment and the football has got to get better in January.”

He is expecting to move and is prepared for the next phase of his career.

“My next move has to be right for me.I”d rather play three games a week than none, but I”m entitled to leave. City claimed I”m only at the club for the money, but when it comes to the deal to let me go, it becomes about the money for them.”

After this, it is time for City to do the right thing.

Barry Bannan unveiled as face of Don"t Drink and Drive campaign

Aston Villa midfielder Bannan is controversial choice for anti-drink drive campaign

Barry Bannan was unveiled as the surprise face of West Midlands Police Don”t Drink and Drive Campaign… one month after the Aston Villa midfielder was found guilty of drink driving.

The Scotland international was slapped with an 18-month driving ban in November after he was found guilty of a string of driving offences following a motorway crash.

Campaign: Bannan is the face of West Midlands Police anti-drink drive campaign

Campaign: Bannan is the face of West Midlands Police anti-drink drive campaign

Bannan crashed his Range Rover on theM1 in October and was charged with drink driving, failing to stop aftera road accident, driving without due car and attention and driving on aprovisional licence.

The 21-year-old was almost twice the legal limit.

Bannan has admitted there would have been “no point in me living” had the crash resulted in any loss of life.

He said: “It still goes through my head now, it was a huge mistake and I regret everything I”ve done. It will never happen again.

Action: The Scotland international was banned for 18 months

Action: The Scotland international was banned for 18 months

“As much as I regret it, I”m so luckyto be still here today. If I hit another car and killed someone else, then there”s no point in me living, really, after the things that would be going through my head. It”ll still be with me for the rest of my lifein the back of my head.”

Villa manager Alex McLeish has backed Bannan to put the incident behind him and continue his football education.

McLeish said: “He”s got to now totally concentrate and be totally professional and try to make himself the best he can possibly be.”