Tag Archives: fairways

Scott Jamieson wins Nelson Mandela Championship

Jamieson takes Nelson Mandela Championship with super second day show

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UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 9 December 2012

Scotland's Scott Jamieson won the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship, which is the opening event of the new European Tour season, in South Africa tonight.

In a tournament cut to 36 holes and on a Royal Durban course reduced to a par-65 because of saturated fairways, Jamieson shot a second-round 57 and then beat England's Steve Webster and Spaniard Edoardo de la Riva in a play-off.

De la Riva bogeyed the first extra hole and then, in fast-fading light, Webster, the only one of the trio to have won on the circuit before, did the same when they returned to the 18th tee.

Champ: Scott Jamieson of Scotland poses with the trophy after winning the Nelson Mandela Championship

Champ: Scott Jamieson of Scotland poses with the trophy after winning the Nelson Mandela Championship

Beaten: Steve Webster lost in the play-off to the Scot

Beaten: Steve Webster lost in the play-off to the Scot

Jamieson, whose previous best finish was third, will not go into the Tour record books for his 57, however. Because of the course conditions it will not officially count, but that will not matter to the 29-year-old ranked 167th in the world.

He was not even in the top 60 after his opening round of 66 and admitted afterwards: 'Starting the day I probably didn't think I would be standing here holding the trophy.'

Let's go: Jamieson plays his second shot onto the 18th green on the first extra play-off hole

Let's go: Jamieson plays his second shot onto the 18th green on the first extra play-off hole

All three players involved in the play-off finished their rounds by lunchtime and had to wait all afternoon to see if anybody could beat their seven-under totals of 123.

South Africa's Tim Clark had the best chance, but double-bogeyed the 17th when joint leader.

De la Riva, who less than a fortnight ago came through the Tour qualifying school in joint ninth place, was left to rue not only failing to get up and down from a bunker in the play-off, but also a closing bogey in his second-round 61.

That's better: Playing conditions were fine after the two-day washout

That's better: Playing conditions were fine after the two-day washout

Webster, who had the second of his
two victories in Portugal five years ago, produced a 60 and almost
clinched victory on the first extra hole when his 30-foot birdie putt
came up just short.

Next time round, though, he could not recover from pulling his drive into thick rough.

Earlier, Jamieson could have won it
outright on the 305-yard ninth – his last – when he drove the green, but
just missed a 12-foot eagle attempt.

He had earlier gone to the turn in a five-under 26 that included four birdie twos.

Lazy day: Pelicans sitting around on the course

Lazy day: Pelicans sitting around on the course

'I knew I needed a fast start and was
lucky enough to get that,' Jamieson added after also being presented
with a framed drawing of Mandela.

'It's an honour to win a tournament
like this. Getting your name on any European trophy is a fantastic
achievement, but it's a bit more special with someone like Nelson.'

Joint fourth a stroke behind were Clark, German Max Kieffer, Dane Morten Orum Madsen and England's Matthew Nixon.

Martin Kaymer enter Nedbank Golf Challenge final round with one-stroke lead

Kaymer holds nerve at Sun City to take one-stroke lead into final round

PUBLISHED:

17:56 GMT, 1 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:56 GMT, 1 December 2012

Martin Kaymer will take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City after holding his nerve in testing conditions at the Gary Player Country Club.

A windy, overcast day made for a low-scoring third round, but Kaymer tallied three birdies and just one bogey to post a two-under 70 and move to five under overall.

Steady start: Martin Kaymer putts on he first green during the third round

Steady start: Martin Kaymer putts on he first green during the third round

Kaymer, who began the day a shot behind overnight leader Paul Lawrie, was required to hold his nerve at the last to maintain the outright lead, the German sinking a tickly putt from around 10 feet to make par.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen went round in 69 to sit one off the lead, while compatriot Charl Schwartzel is in the mix in third place, two shots off Kaymer after a 70.

Tough day: Paul Lawrie hits out of a bunker on the sceond hole

Tough day: Paul Lawrie hits out of a bunker on the sceond hole

Lawrie suffered a trying day as the Scot carded a three-over 75 to drop back to sixth place, while England's defending two-time champion Lee Westwood (70) is in a share of fourth place on two under alongside America's Bill Haas.

Kaymer knows he is there to be shot at tomorrow with such a slender lead and some real quality in the chasing pack, and insists the only option is to go on the attack.

'I think a mistake would be if I try to defend my lead,' he said on europeantour.com.

One behind: Louis Oosthuizen acknowledges the crowd

One behind: Louis Oosthuizen acknowledges the crowd

'You cannot approach the last round like that.

'You hit fairways and greens and that is the most important, then think you will have a few more chances to make birdie.

'You cannot play too aggressive at certain holes, but you must take your chances. That is my goal.'

Oosthuizen is bidding to become the first South African winner of this event since 2007 and set five birdies against two bogeys to give his chances of claiming the title a huge lift.

And he admits the final round will be all about staying in touch until the final holes with conditions forecast to remain difficult.

'I would not be surprised if it is seven under winning it tomorrow,' he said. 'I think tomorrow you just need to stay very patient and give yourself a shot with four to five holes to go.

'It will be a great finish to a good season. I have played really well the whole season, one or two came really close to a few as well and I think winning it here would mean everything.'

Ryder Cup 2012: Ian Poulter guide to Europe and USA teams

Ian Poulter's guide to the golfing gladiators

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 27 September 2012

EUROPE

Rory McIlroy
Age: 23 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 1; Halves 2

Poulter's verdict: The new phenomenon. Like
everyone else, I knew it the first time I saw him on a golf course and
now he’s living up to all that potential. Looks like he can win when he
wants to.

USA

Tiger Woods
Age: 36 Ryder Cup record: Wins 13; Losses 14; Halves 2

Poulter's verdict: Not a great matchplay record
on paper but still the most dangerous opponent. Holes putts at the right
time, and hits a lot more fairways these days. Just tough to play
against.

Illustrations of Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy by Paul Trevillion, commissioned exclusively for Sportsmail. Paul is the legendary master of movement.

Illustrations of Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy by Paul Trevillion, commissioned exclusively for Sportsmail. Paul is the legendary master of movement.

Illustrations of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods by Paul Trevillion, commissioned exclusively for Sportsmail

Nicolas Colsaerts
Age: 29 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Poulter’s verdict: Three hundred and
fifty yard drives off the tee. That’s handy in fourballs, isn’t it I’ll
be telling him to just stay loose and go and play, because he’s such an
exciting guy to watch.

Luke Donald
Age: 34 Ryder Cup record: Wins 8; Losses 2; Halves 1

Verdict: Played incredible golf the
last two years and is a great man to have by your side. Someone you can
rely on to hit the right shot at the right time.

Sergio Garcia
Age: 32 Ryder Cup record: Wins 14; Losses 6; Halves 4

Verdict: The spirit he plays golf
with is like no other. We’ve seen him hit career shots time and again at
the Ryder Cup and it’s going to be very special for him to play under
Ollie.

Peter Hanson
Age: 34 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 2; Halves 0

Verdict: One of those pros that the
players probably notice more than the public. Deservedly made the side.
Been solid in the majors, and the big events, and makes a hatful of
birdies.

Martin Kaymer
Age 27 Ryder Cup record: Wins 2; Losses 1; Halves 1

Verdict: How nice to see him show some
form recently. He’s capable of turning it on very quickly and when he
does he’s great to play with. I’ve got a feeling he will surprise some
people and show his class.

Keegan Bradley
Age: 26 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Poulter’s verdict: A major
championship win and a WGC victory, both in the last 15 months. Plays
the game with the sort of intensity I love to see.

Jason Dufner
Age: 35 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Verdict: One of the most consistent
players in the last 12 months. He has led a quite amazing number of
events. The quietest man on either side.

Jim Furyk
Age: 42 Ryder Cup record: Wins 8; Losses 15; Halves 4

Verdict: Think of Jim and you think
of the word gutsy. He’s just dogged and when his putting is on he is a
seriously tough guy to play against.

Dustin Johnson
Age: 28 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 3; Halves 0

Verdict: A dangerous man. When you’re
up against someone who can hit it so long, it can spell trouble. A very
good man to have in the right format.

Zach Johnson
Age: 36 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 3; Halves 1

Verdict: Always hits the ball with
his draw, never tries anything different, and why should he when it
works so well What I like about Zach’s game is he never beats himself.

Airborne: Ian Poulter leaps into the air after hitting an approach shot to the 16th green during practice

Airborne: Ian Poulter leaps into the air after hitting an approach shot to the 16th green during practice

Paul Lawrie
Age: 43 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 1; Halves 1

Verdict: He’s some story, isn’t he
He is quite simply a man reborn and all year his stats have been
excellent. Paul is a great man to partner and he is someone I have a
hunch is going to do very well.

Graeme McDowell
Age: 33 Ryder Cup record: Wins 4; Losses 2; Halves 2

Verdict: I love the way his excitement
levels go through the roof at the Ryder Cup and yes, that does remind
me of a certain someone else in the European team!

Francesco Molinari
Age: 30 Ryder Cup record: Wins 0; Losses 2; Halves 1

Verdict: It doesn’t matter if he’s
hitting a driver, a hybrid, a long iron or a short iron. He will hit it
in the middle of the fairway and the middle of the green, and gives you
great options as a partner.

Ian Poulter
Age: 36 Ryder Cup record:
Wins 8; Losses 3; Halves 0

Verdict: I certainly don’t need to talk about
myself. I do far too much of that already.

Justin Rose
Age: 32 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 1; Halves 0

Verdict: People think he’s nice and
quiet but take it from me he’s a feisty character when he needs to be.
Upset to miss out last time and I expect to see him fired up and
passionate. He’s going to be great.

Lee Westwood
Age: 39 Ryder Cup record: Wins 16; Losses 11; Halves 6

Verdict: Lee is the perfect team-mate.
He is as hard as nails when he needs to be and a very good laugh when
he doesn’t need to be. Has seen it all.

Matt Kuchar
Age: 34 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 1; Halves 2

Verdict: The American team’s
Molinari. He puts the ball in play time and again and just has a very
solid game. Expect him to play in the two foursomes series.

Phil Mickelson
Age: 40 Ryder Cup record: Wins 11; Losses 17; Halves 6

Verdict: A new putting grip, I see.
As erratic as he can be, you never know when he’s going to chip in or
hole a putt and that gives you an edge at matchplay.

Webb Simpson
Age: 27 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Verdict: Showed what he is capable of
with his win at the US Open. Another who can really roll his ball with a
putter, as the Americans say.

Brandt Snedeker
Age: 31 Ryder Cup record: Debut

Verdict: With apologies to my mate Luke, here is the world’s best putter. His stroke is as pure as it gets.

Steve Stricker
Age: 45 Ryder Cup record: Wins 3; Losses 3; Halves 1

Verdict: Hits it straight down the middle, has a great wedge game and holes more than his share of putts.

Bubba Watson
Age: 33 Ryder Cup record: Wins 1; Losses 3; Halves 0

Verdict: Plays footloose and fancy free. You can see why people love to watch him. Makes shedloads of birdies.

Just warming up: Poulter plays off the 17th tee at Medinah Country Club in Chicago

Just warming up: Poulter plays off the 17th tee at Medinah Country Club in Chicago

Ryder Cup essential

US PGA Championship: Kiawah Island hole-by-hole guide

US PGA Championship: Kiawah Island hole-by-hole guide

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UPDATED:

10:01 GMT, 8 August 2012

Kiawah Island hosts the US PGA Championship this week and the monster South Course is set up to provide one of the hardest challenges the pros will face.

Barring any late withdrawals, the top 100 players in the world will tee it up in South Carolina.

Here's a look at the track that will make or break them between now and Sunday night.

Tough test: The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

1st, 396 yards, par four:
One of the narrowest fairways on the course, with a sandy waste on
the right and thick dune grass down the left. The gently undulating
green is tucked into a natural dune area.

2nd, 557 yards, par five:
Ancient live oaks line both sides of the fairway and players have to
decide how much of the salt marsh to bite off. Depending on the wind
there could be the chance to go for the elevated green, set between
sand ridges, in two.

3rd, 390 yards, par four: Shortest
par four. The tee shot is fired across the marsh, with the best
drives finding the plateau on the left. The green is framed by an old
live oak and slopes off to all sides, with the marsh long and left.

4th, 458 yards, par four: Perhaps
the toughest par four on the front nine. Playing against the wind,
players may opt to bail out to the left of this green and try to save
par with a chip.

5th, 188 yards, par three:
The course turns back from east to west for its first par three. An
hourglass-shaped green runs away diagonally from the right. A large
waste area runs from tee to green.

6th, 480 yards, par four: Three
wind-pruned live oaks frame the far side of the fairway. There is
also a waste area and small pond to the left and the green is protected
left and right by more sand.

7th, 579 yards, par five:
Wind conditions will determine the strategy, players having to decide
whether to carry a natural dune area. The second shot can be fired at a
slightly elevated green open in the front.

8th, 198 yards, par three: Becomes
narrower the further the pin is cut into an elevated green framed by
tall live oaks. Any shot missing long or right will find sand.

9th, 494 yards, par four: A
wide fairway sloping down from the right. The putting surface is open
in the front, but there are an assortment of grassy swale and deep
waste areas both left and right.

10th, 447 yards, par four:
A drive down the left-centre to the crest of the fairway will set up a
second shot to a green set down into the dunes. There is a large waste
area to the left front of the green and a deeper, steep-faced waste
area to the back.

11th, 593 yards, par five: Unreachable
in two shots for most of the field. Players must avoid several deep
waste areas right of the fairway. A good lay-up will leave a pitch to a
relatively flat, but exposed and elevated green.

12th, 412 yards, par four: The
widest fairway gives way to one of the narrowest approaches. The
green is guarded closely on the right by a canal, with dunes and thick
native grasses framing the left and rear.

13th, 497 yards, par four: Maybe
the most difficult hole on the inward nine. The players must decide
just how far down they will try to carry the canal. It continues down
the entire right side of the hole.

14th, 238 yards, par three: The
course turns back to the east and plays directly along the beach. A
tee shot missing this severely exposed and elevated green will leave a
severe uphill chip. An extremely deep and dangerous waste area is on
the left.

15th, 444 yards, par four: The
tee shot must find the fairway to set up a mid-iron to a small green
running diagonally away from the player to the right. Waste areas lie
left and back right.

16th, 581 yards, par five: The
tee shot is over a pond to reach a terraced fairway that is higher to
the right side. A long, shallow waste bunker guards the second shot to
the right, with another deeper one guarding the left side.

17th, 223 yards, par three:
The most famous hole on the course. The target over the lake appears
narrow with two deep waste areas to the left. Colin Montgomerie won it
with a double bogey in the 1991 Ryder Cup.

18th, 501 yards, par four: Still
with the ocean as a backdrop, the fairway falls to the right.
Longer players may have a huge advantage if they challenge the
right side. Elevated green is open from the right and runs to
the back left.

The Open 2012: Can Lee Westwood & Co restore order?

A race to be Sweet 16: Westwood & Co look to restore order at Royal Lytham

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 18 July 2012

Fifteen different winners of the last 15 major championships, 25 different winners of the last 25 events on the European Tour’s international schedule.

The 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes has arrived on the schedule at a time of unprecedented flux. Is this the week when a little order is restored

Every Open staged here since the world rankings were introduced in 1986 has been won by a man who was the world’s best golfer at some point during his career. An encouraging thought, perhaps, for the present top four, who have all enjoyed spells at the summit and yet currently do not own a major between them.

Crowd puller: Fans gather to see Justin Rose

Crowd puller: Fans gather to see Justin Rose

This time last year, No 1 Luke Donald and No 3 Lee Westwood collapsed under the weight of expectation and missed the halfway cut.

The word on the fairways this time is that Donald has never struck the ball better in practice. His caddie John McLaren reckons these greens are the purest he has seen at an Open. We really will know Donald the demon putter has mental issues regarding majors if he makes another poor start here.

Open Winners

Open Winners

No question as to the most popular cry. ‘Come on Lee’ has become an Open mantra, such is the yearning to see Westwood finally break the tape. Is there anyone who would begrudge seeing him end the 43-year run without an Englishman winning The Open in England

For both Donald and Westwood, though, the doubts grow with every major. Colin Montgomerie made some good points in Sportsmail on Wednesday and they have been reinforced by David Duval, the articulate winner at Lytham in 2001.

‘The longer it drags on without you winning a major the harder it gets, the more you get in your own head, the more you press and think about it,’ said Duval. ‘I don’t think you could argue it any other way if you’re making an honest argument.’

Yet people succeed. One, Darren Clarke, did so only last year at the age of 42. There’s no need to give up hope just yet.

Westwood talked at the US Open of trying to untie the mental knots by appreciating everything he has got rather than focusing on the one thing he has not.

Perspective is as good an approach as any and one that Justin Rose, another home contender, will adopt. He will be the focus of attention this morning when he tees off in the company of Tiger Woods for the fourth time at The Open. The first was in 2002 at Muirfield.

Rose recalled: ‘It was a big deal at the time. Tiger was at his peak and I was the hot young kid thrown in at the deep end. My dad was very sick at the time and he gave me a great speech, talking about what we’d dealt with as a family and how playing with Tiger paled into insignificance.

Normal service Lee Westwood will be out to restore order

Normal service Lee Westwood will be out to restore order

‘Even now it is a speech I think about when I have a chance to win and one I can use this week.’

Rose has long been part of Open history. Who will forget him as a 17-year-old amateur, holing a chip shot at Royal Birkdale to finish joint fourth in 1998 The moment has been captured by his sponsors Taylor Made in a film called Outside the Ropes — an intriguing look at the lives of the company’s leading players.

‘Seeing the Birkdale moment was a
reminder that time is passing on,’ said the 31-year-old. ‘It was
shocking to see how fresh-faced I looked — my God! But my former coach,
Nick Bradley, said I would play my best golf in my thirties and so far
he has been proven right. I have won big tournaments in America, then a
world golf championship event and so the next stage in this sequential
progression has to be a major.’

Attraction: Over 33,000 people turned out to see the likes of Tiger Woods in practise

Attraction: Over 33,000 people turned out to see the likes of Tiger Woods in practise

LYTHAM IN NUMBERS

33,600 – Total attendance over the three practise days at Lytham this week

Two – Cigarettes smoked per hole by Darren Clarke – and the number of amateurs in the field

33 – GB and NI golfers. Just Padraig Harrington from the Republic.

If it is getting harder for these players to win their first, then the pressure is surely growing on Woods to end his four-year barren spell if he is to catch Jack Nicklaus’s major total of 18.

In recent months Woods’ driving accuracy and greens in regulation stats have improved immeasurably and he must have every chance here of winning his 15th.

Now that nobody is talking about world No 4 Woods versus No 2 Rory McIlroy, what price it happening down the stretch this weekend That would be typical of this sport, wouldn’t it So many possible storylines then, so many conceivable winners, and all played out on perhaps the most under-rated course on the Open rota.

Listening to some of the guff spoken, you’d think Lytham was the only links course around sporting thick rough. The truth is the Royal and Ancient have simply done what any half-competent links custodian has up and down the land and allowed nature to take its course.

So nature has dictated a championship based on straight hitting and set a weather course that looks fair. Now, with eager anticipation, we await to see what compelling hand fate has to play.

Enlarge

Card of the course

The Open 2011: Ian Ladyman investigates Royal Lytham rough

It's rough out there… Our man in the thick of it investigates Royal Lytham

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 16 July 2012

Tiger Woods has said it was ‘almost unplayable’. Paul Casey has described it as ‘brutal’. And on Monday, Open champion Darren Clarke said it was ‘really, really tough’.

They were all talking about the deep rough at Royal Lytham, so Sportsmail sent Ian Ladyman into the long grass to see for himself…

I spent a couple of hours on the back nine at Royal Lytham on Monday looking at what the players can expect when the competition starts on Thursday.

In the thick of it... Conditions are looking treacherous at Royal Lytham

In the thick of it… Conditions are looking treacherous at Royal Lytham

In the thick of it... Conditions are looking treacherous at Royal Lytham

It included a visit to the side of the 14th fairway where Vijay Singh lost two balls in the benign practice conditions. As far as I know, they remain missing in action.

If players miss fairways by a matter of feet or inches here they will play their second shots out of reasonably palatable semi-rough. Certainly that won’t worry the greatest golfers on the planet.

However, once balls start to land five yards wide of the short stuff players may begin to struggle in wispy rough that can grip the club at impact and send shots flying out at the sort of angles club golfers will recognise.

And what about the areas 10 yards off the side of the fairways

Is it really bad enough to send golfers running for the hills Well, put it this way – when I looked down to see if my feet were on solid ground to the side of the 16th fairway I realised that I couldn’t actually see them.

Draw your own conclusions.

In trouble: Vijay Singh (centre) lost two balls on the 14th

In trouble: Vijay Singh (centre) lost two balls on the 14th

As champion Darren Clarke said on Monday: ‘There are a few patches where it’s just absolutely brutal.

‘It’s really, really tough. If you start spraying the ball around this week, you might as well go home.’

Three who'll love it…

IAN POULTER: Always a happy bunny when the requirement is accuracy off the tee rather than length.

GRAEME McDOWELL: The arch strategist should prosper on the straight and narrow.

MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ: Don’t rule out one cigar chomper handing the trophy over to another.

Three who'll hate it…

PHIL MICKELSON: It would be amazing if he broke his Open duck around this layout.

RORY McILROY: His natural attacking instincts will not be served best here.

BUBBA WATSON: Will he entertain As always. Will he win Not a chance.

US Open 2012: Webb Simpson triumphs at the Olympic Club

D'oh! McDowell and Westwood blow it as homer Simpson claims US Open glory

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UPDATED:

03:03 GMT, 18 June 2012

Twenty five years ago it was Scott Simpson who won the United States Open at Olympic. This time it’s Webb Simpson.

After a crazy weekend on the funkiest venue in major championship golf, filled with ‘D'oh!’ moments, it seemed only appropriate that we ended up congratulating another member of the Simpsons.

Credit the young American, who just lost out to Luke Donald in the race for the US Tour money list last year, he showed his class at the weekend with two wonderful closing rounds of 68.

Champion: Webb Simpson holds up the trophy after his triumph in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club

Champion: Webb Simpson holds up the trophy after his triumph in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club

US Open Leaderboard

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But it was hard not to feel for Jim Furyk, the pacemaker for almost the entire last 36 holes before he was worn down in the end. Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Payne Stewart and now Furyk and his fellow co-third round leader McDowell. This is the glittering cast list of players who were out in front with a round to play of a US Open at Olympic, only to fall short in the final analysis and see an unheralded player lift the trophy.

McDowell lost his swing in the middle of the round, missing eight consecutive fairways at one point but he fell back on that admirable mental fortitude that has served him so well in recent years. When a long birdie putt at the 17th found the bottom of the hole he found himself alongside Furyk, with both men needing a birdie at the last to tie Simpson.

Not his day: Graeme McDowell battled hard but came up short in his bid for a second major championship

Not his day: Graeme McDowell battled hard but came up short in his bid for a second major championship

Furyk was the first to fall. He missed the green with a gap wedge and left himself an impossible bunker shot. So to G-Mac, whose wedge approach left him with a 25ft birdie putt to force an 18 hole play-off on Monday.

This green, with a steep bank filled with fans, was not unlike the 16th hole at Celtic Manor a couple of years back. Alas, unlike that unforgettable final day at the Ryder Cup, McDowell could not find a putt to match, the ball slipping past the left edge.

Simpson, watching in the locker room alongside his wife, couldn’t hide his joy, his face breaking into the broadest of smiles before sealing his triumph with a kiss. He becomes the first winner of the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal.

‘It feels incredible to win my national Open,’ said the devout Simpson. ‘I just had an inner peace all day and prayed hard on those final three holes.’

Where's it gone Lee Westwood (centre) looks up for his ball believed to be in a tree on the fifth hole

Where's it gone Lee Westwood (centre) looks up for his ball believed to be in a tree on the fifth hole

Sight for sore eyes: Westwood attempts to locate his golf ball in a tree using binoculars

Sight for sore eyes: Westwood attempts to locate his golf ball in a tree using binoculars

Long drive back: Westwood is carted back to the fifth tee as his challenge falters after the bad break

Long drive back: Westwood is carted back to the fifth tee as his challenge falters after the bad break

So many other players had their chance on a course that proved the great leveller. There was another unsung American Michael Thompson, the first day leader who shot 67 to fall a shot short. There was Ernie Els, who came to the last four holes featuring two par fives needing a birdie to tie Simpson but finished instead with a couple of bogeys.

There was Padraig Harrington, making a welcome return to the white heat of major championship Sunday. How well he played to reach the 18th three under for his round and needing a birdie, he felt to have a chance. How right he was to prove. The bad news, alas, is he bogeyed it to fall two short.

Then there was Lee Westwood, seemingly destined to always be the nearly man at the majors. Perhaps it is just as well he has vowed to keep a relaxed attitude when it comes to the slings and arrows of major championship golf. Otherwise, after what happened at the Olympic club, he might have been tempted to fling himself off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Consider the circumstances. Three behind at the start of play, the Englishman, still seeking his first major championship, had made a good start at level par for his round after four holes.

Bitter taste: Jim Furyk bites his club after seeing his challenge falter on the final day

Bitter taste: Jim Furyk bites his club after seeing his challenge falter on the final day

At the 5th, his drive was perhaps a fraction off to the right. What happened next Well, there was one lone cypress tree that could affect the flight of his ball. Westwood’s tee shot duly caught the branches. Did it throw it back on to the fairway Just the grotesque opposite. The ball was never seen again. Eventually a ball was spotted high up the tree but even with a pair of binoculars Westwood could not identify it.

This desperate break meant he had to declare the ball lost and be driven back to the tee. The resultant double bogey took him five off the lead.

Ironically, this was the same hole where in 1998 Lee Janzen’s tee shot finished up a cypress tree, before falling to earth just before the five minute deadline. He went on to win. It couldn’t happen to Westwood, could it

Janzen’s tree was taken out after the championship. Perhaps they will do the same to Westwood’s, before he does it for them.

There was one wonderfully defiant iron shot at the par five 17th, which almost went into the hole for an albatross before settling three inches away for a tap-in eagle. Wouldn’t you know it, now he needed to make a birdie at the 18th to miss out on the winning score by the sum of that lost ball. In going for it, he ran up a bogey five.

Nearly there: Simpson fist bumps with his caddie Paul Tesori after chipping onto the 18th green

Nearly there: Simpson fist bumps with his caddie Paul Tesori after chipping onto the 18th green

That's the way to do it: Simpson had six consecutive one putts in the middle of his round

That's the way to do it: Simpson had six consecutive one putts in the middle of his round

The action was played out against the dramatic backdrop of mist rolling in from nearby San Francisco Bay. If truth be told, some of the play was so scrappy it deserved to be hidden from view. It looked as if many players had had their fill of this brutal test. Like Tiger Woods, the halfway leader, but a peripheral figure long before the close following a bitterly disappointing weekend.

Woods’s long game remained in reasonable shape over the final two days but his touch around the greens deserted him completely. There were two stubbed chips and what felt like a million putts.

On nine previous occasions when he was leading at the halfway stage in a major he went on to win eight of them. Here, he did not even finish in the top 20. Afterwards he sounded like a man in denial.

‘There were plenty of positives for me to take out of this event,’ he said, repeating the words, presumably in case he thought people had misheard.

Still, even without Tiger and Phil, that’s three majors in a row for players from the US. The great American golf revival continues.

US OPEN 2012: Live coverage of day one

US OPEN LIVE: All the action as it happens on day one at San Francisco's Olympic Club

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UPDATED:

15:09 GMT, 14 June 2012

US OPEN – ESSENTIALS

Click here for a hole-by-hole guide

Click here for a full list of tee times

Click here for the live leaderboard

Welcome to Sportsmail's live coverage of the US Open at The Olympic Club.

The biggest names in the game are facing
their toughest test yet with narrow fairways, ankle-deep rough and a
high demand for shot-shaping on this beast of a track just south of the
Golden Gate Bridge.

Stick with us and we'll bring you the latest news, live scores and all the best pictures. And if you want to get in touch, leave a comment on the section at the bottom of the page or email me at [email protected]

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

4.05: Steady start for Bubba and Tiger with pars but it's a bogey for Mickelson.

4.00: South African Branden Grace has made a good start from the ninth and is one under after a birdie at his second hole. Grace has won three times this year and is making the most of his chance after a late call-up (due to his ranking) at the start of the week.

3.50: In about half an hour, Andy Zhang will become the youngest player to take part in a major since 1865. Zhang was born in China and has been living in America since he was a kid. Well, since he was 10. That's twice I've tried that gag this week. Room for improvement.

When I was 14 I was doing well if I was allowed to stay up to watch the finish of the US Open. Good luck Andy.

3.40: For those of you who can't be bothered going ALL the way up to the top of the page and clicking on the handy link to the tee times, here's a few to keep you going:

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 champion, is out at 9.40pm in the group after his great mate Rory. And G-Mac is joined by Sergio (we'd love to see him win a major) Garcia and 2003 champ Jim Furyk.

Keep your eye on it: Phil Mickelson watches his drive after starting with Tiger at the ninth

Keep your eye on it: Phil Mickelson watches his drive after starting with Tiger at the ninth

Padraig Harrington is set to tee off in about 15 minutes so the Dubliner should see most of Ireland's Euro 2012 clash with Spain. Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing after watching them against Croatia though.

3.30: Matt Bettencourt is the first man to dip below par with a birdie three at the ninth. Much better than last week. He walked out of Memphis after a first-round 80 in the St Jude Classic.

Take a bow Matt. The five other players to have played the ninth all carded bogeys.

And he's off: Tiger hits the first shot of his opening round in his quest for a fourth US Open title

And he's off: Tiger hits the first shot of his opening round in his quest for a fourth US Open title

Here he comes: All eyes were on Tiger Woods as he made his way to start his US Open bid at the ninth

Here he comes: All eyes were on Tiger Woods as he made his way to start his US Open bid at the ninth

3.15: Tiger says there won't be much chat between him and Mickelson on the way round. Never mind Phil, Bubba's probably good for a blether.

3.00: Amateur Beau Hossler, Scott Langley and Steve LeBrun will be the first three through that terrifying opening stretch. They've just teed off.

2.55: You've probably not heard too much about Shane Bertsch, Tommy Biershenk and Martin Flores (join the club) but the three Americans will be first out on the course – starting at the ninth at 3pm.

The marquee group of Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson are also starting at the ninth at 3.33pm. Get there early if you want to follow the big guns.

A true test: The Olympic Club at San Francisco will separate the men from the boys in the year's second major

A true test: The Olympic Club at San Francisco will separate the men from the boys in the year's second major

Golf blog

Tiger is the bookies' favourite
with the world's top three players, Luke Donald, defending champion Rory McIlroy and Lee
Westwood, also backed to challenge come Sunday night.

The Europeans are keeping each other company for the first two rounds and they get going at 9.29pm.

They're off
at the first and Woods said this week any player negotiating the
opening six holes in level par will pick up a bucket of shots on the
field.

Scary start then.

World of Golf: Such a shame that glory for Matt seems a bit flat

Such a shame that glory for Matt seems a bit flat

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UPDATED:

22:40 GMT, 14 May 2012

What's gone wrong with the Players Championship A few years ago it compared favourably with the Masters.

Successive wins for Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson brought with them an excitement that had been missing a month earlier during dull wins at Augusta for the likes of Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera.

Now the roars have returned every Sunday to the Masters while the Players has thrown up a hat-trick of winners all cut from the same mould.

Same same, but different: Matt Kuchar claimed victory in the Players Championship

Same same, but different: Matt Kuchar claimed victory in the Players Championship

Like Tim Clark and KJ Choi before him, this year’s winner Matt Kuchar is a fairways and greens man who gets the job done through consistency rather than flair.

Alongside Saturday’s pantomime villain Kevin Na, it made for perhaps the flattest weekend’s viewing we’ve seen all year. Why this has come about is a little course tweaking in both instances.

More from Derek Lawrenson…

Derek Lawrenson: Rickie's in tune with Golf Boys
07/05/12

World of Golf: Americans in form, so it won't be an easy Ryder
30/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Former Open champion Curtis finds his salvation with a victory to savour
23/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Euro stars strike it rich as 130m Tour goes global
16/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: The pride and passion of 'Blubber' Watson
09/04/12

Derek Lawrenson's Masters countdown: Jack's doing his bit for Luke and Rory
02/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Woods is back, but the UK's finest can defy his bid to be Master
26/03/12

World of Golf: Donald is back on top and enjoying the view
19/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

At Augusta they’ve made it a touch easier, thus loosening the reins for the adventurous players, allowing them to play their shots in the knowledge there’s an escape route if they just fail to pull them off.

That’s how you get winners like Bubba Watson.

At Sawgrass now, there’s no margin for error. You only have to miss a fairway by a couple of feet to be in trouble.

The greens are invariably protected by a thick lining of rough, thus nullifying the skill and imagination of the short game artists.

Maybe this is fair enough. Why should everything be set up in favour of the great flair players It just seems a shame given the passionate crowds the event attracts and the brilliant trinity of finishing holes.

This year they cut the rough down a little, and let’s hope they cut it down a little more next year.

Nobody wants to see the McIlroys and the Mickelsons having things all their own way. But neither do you want them feeling like they can’t deliver.

Don't miss it

The Big Miss has proved a huge hit with the book-buying public of America. The controversial tome written by Tiger Woods’ former coach

has been flying off the shelves, with more than 228,000 hardback sales.

Big booking: Hank Haney's tome on Tiger Woods has been flying off the shelves

Big booking: Hank Haney's tome on Tiger Woods has been flying off the shelves

‘A money-making exercise,’ raged Woods when it was published in March and he certainly got that right.

Offering an interesting insight into
the mind of the Tiger, there have been seven reprints already, netting
its author an estimated $1million.

Perhaps Haney could get Woods to have another dig before the paperback comes out and make him a further million.

Caddie Waite’s the Westwood pick

As you can imagine, Lee Westwood hasn’t been short of offers since it was confirmed he would be without his regular caddie Billy Foster for the rest of this season owing to the latter suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury.

The man he has chosen is experienced
Australian Mike Waite, who caddied for Kiwi Michael Campbell when he won
the US Open in 2005.

Leen on me: Lee Westwood has had a big decision o make about his caddy

Leen on me: Lee Westwood has had a big decision o make about his caddy

Westwood’s manager Chubby Chandler was sitting in the press centre on Friday when he took the call from Waite. Three days later, Waite was glad he rang, for based on current form, 10 per cent – the usual caddie quota – of what Westwood earns is a better rate of pay than the Prime Minister’s.

What happens to Foster if Westwood and Waite team up to win a major this summer ‘Billy will be back on the bag the moment he is fit again,’ said the loyal Westy.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

‘I actually think we might want to experiment with penalty shots for players who play slowly. But I don’t think it will make any difference.’

Is there anybody in the world who agrees with that comment from US Tour commissioner Tim Finchem No, didn’t think so.

Don’t experiment, Tim, implement it. Tiger Woods wants it, Luke Donald wants it, in fact everyone with half a brain wants it to speed the game up. Golf in threeballs on Thursdays and Fridays is so slow it’s all but unwatchable.

Uncertain future
Troubled waters: Ian Poulter won last year's Volvo World Match Play Championship

Troubled waters: Ian Poulter won last year's Volvo World Match Play Championship

Once a staple of the autumn calendar at Wentworth, the Volvo World Match Play Championship was relaunched last year in Spain, but it already faces an uncertain future following this week’s edition.

The first thing will be to persuade Volvo to carry on supporting it, which won’t be the easiest task given the tournament has failed to attract any of the world’s top eight players.

Assuming the sponsors can be persuaded to stay on board, the next thing will be to find the event another new home, for it won’t be held at this week’s troubled venue Finca Cortesin anymore.

‘I can see it moving around Europe,’ said Guy Kinnings, golfing supremo for IMG, who organise the event.

Let’s hope he sees another date as well. Being sandwiched between marquee events on both sides of the Atlantic just doesn’t work.

Guan Tian-Lang, 13, is the youngest swinger on tour

EXCLUSIVE: Meet the youngest swinger on tour: Guan, 13, leads red revolution

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UPDATED:

21:07 GMT, 18 April 2012

Oliver Fisher was just 16 when he became the youngest player to compete in the Walker Cup.

Seven years on, the Londoner could be forgiven for wondering what held him back when he steps on to the first tee at the Volvo China Open.

Walking the fairways alongside him will be a fellow competitor who stands 5ft 6in and is barely a teenager, at 13 years and 173 days old.

Driving ambition: 13-year-old Guan Tian-Lang wants to be the youngest player to make the cut on the European Tour

Driving ambition: 13-year-old Guan Tian-Lang wants to be the youngest player to make the cut on the European Tour

Naturally, the better players in the field, like Paul Casey, were openly suspicious about the presence of Guan Tian-Lang, wondering if it wasn't just some spurious publicity stunt.

But Guan is playing on merit, having made it through a qualifying competition to become the youngest golfer ever to compete in a European Tour event.

What were you doing at 13 Looking forward to a lie-in until noon Planning your first kiss Guan is certainly looking forward to his big date.

'I can't tell you how excited I am to be playing in my national Open,' he said.

Guan could be found at Binhai Lake in Tianjin on Wednesday, working on his swing with his father in close attendance. In some respects he could almost pass for a typical teenager, being as skinny as a whippet and not overly interested in talking about his studies.

He looks about eight, pitches the ball about 230 yards through the air with his driver and will have to rely on his short game, his strongest suit, on a course that measures more than 7,600 yards.

Red revolution: China have a production line set-up for producing the next generation of golfers

Red revolution: China have a production line set-up for producing the next generation of golfers

It is usually in the women's game where players make their mark at a very early age. American Lexi Thompson was just 12 when she qualified for the US Women's Open.

Earlier this year, New Zealander Lydia Ko became the youngest winner of a pro event when she claimed the New South Wales Open at the age of 14.

Michelle Wie was the same age when she missed the halfway cut in a men's US Tour event by a stroke in her native Hawaii. What Guan's emergence underlines is the ever increasing presence of players from the Far East in today's game.

We've seen it in the women's events and it seems only a matter of time before the pattern is repeated in the men's.

All over China, there are golf programmes in place where kids are taught the game from as young as five or six then 'hot-housed' if they show potential.

European senior tour professional David J Russell was playing in a pro-am at Mission Hills in 2010.

'There were 36 pros playing alongside 36 juniors and it was such an eye-opener,' he recalls. 'I played with an 11-year-old off a two handicap and he was far from alone in being of that standard. It is amazing to see how good they are at such a young age.'

Guan was introduced to the game by his father at the age of four. He has already travelled the world playing golf, winning numerous age-related titles.

Young gun: Fisher exploded onto the scene when he was just 16

Young gun: Fisher exploded onto the scene when he was just 16

Last year, he went to San Diego and won the World Junior Championship by 11 shots after carding a 63 in the opening round.

On the practice ground yesterday Guan, who speaks fractured English, downplayed any thoughts of being considered the new Tiger Woods. For a start he was born in the Year of the Rabbit – how inappropriate is that

'I'm not thinking about turning pro or anything like that yet,' he said. 'I just want to get better and try to do well here.'

One of the things he is looking forward to is meeting Ian Poulter, the leading attraction this week. Having achieved one record in getting into the event, Guan's ambition now is to set another by becoming the youngest player ever to make the halfway cut.

One man who gives him a shot is Alistair Polson, the tournament's operations director.

'Anyone who has seen Guan play wouldn't rule out the possibility,' he said. 'He really is a talented player. He displays a maturity well beyond his 13 years and doesn't seem fazed by all the attention.'

Welcome to the start of golf's red revolution.