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THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hoe guide

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National

PUBLISHED:

08:55 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

08:55 GMT, 8 April 2013

The waiting is over for the year's first Major as the best players in the world arrive at Augusta National for The Masters.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy stroll down Magnolia Lane as the top two in the world while Bubba Watson is defending the Green Jacket he won 12 months ago.

Woods is the man to beat with three wins under his belt already in 2013 while McIlroy looks like he's finally getting used to his Nike clubs following a fine display finishing second at the Texas Open.

But this is Augusta National where anything can happen and here, Sportsmail has everything you need to know in our hole-by-hole guide.

The Masters: Hole by hole

Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National – everything you need to know ahead of the season's first major

*Holes ranked from 1 (most difficult) to 18 (least difficult) based on how the course played in 2012

1st (Tea Olive), 445 yards, par four: A deep bunker on the right of the fairway and trees both sides make for a daunting start, while long and left of the undulating green both spell big trouble. Unsurprisingly played the hardest hole on the course last year. 2012 average: 4.39 (rank 1)

2nd (Pink Dogwood), 575 yards, par five: Driving into the trees on the left cost Padraig Harrington a nine in 2009, but Louis Oosthuizen memorably holed his second shot for an albatross in the final round last year before losing in a play-off to Bubba Watson. Important early birdie chance.
2012 average: 4.64 (rank 18)

3rd (Flowering Peach), 350 yards, par four: Shortest par four on the course but a pear-shaped green with steep slope in front allows for some wicked pin positions. 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel pitched in for eagle in the final round. 2012 average: 3.90 (rank 14)

4th (Flowering Crab Apple), 240 yards, par three: The back tee – not always used – turns it into a beast with the green sloping from back to front. Phil Mickelson took six here in the final round last year and finished two shots outside the play-off. Jeff Sluman's ace in 1992 remains the only hole-in-one here in Masters history. 2012 average: 3.22 (rank 6)

5th (Magnolia), 455 yards, par four: Jack Nicklaus twice holed his second shot in 1995 and Colin Montgomerie did it in 2000, but it is another devilishly difficult green. To clear the fairway bunkers requires a 315-yard carry. 2012 average: 4.21 (rank 7)

6th (Juniper), 180 yards, par three: From a high tee to a green with a huge slope in it. Four holes-in-one, but Jose Maria Olazabal took seven in 1991 and lost by one to Ian Woosnam, while Arnold Palmer has also run up a seven. 2012 average: 3.17 (rank 8)

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year - the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year – the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

7th (Pampas), 450 yards, par four: What used to be a real birdie chance has been lengthened by 35-40 yards, while trees were also added and the putting surface reshaped. More bunkers – five – around the green than any other hole. 2012 average: 4.17 (rank 9)

8th (Yellow Jasmine), 570 yards, par five: The bunker on the right, about 300 yards out, pushes players left and from there it is harder to find the green in two up the steep hill. Still a good birdie chance and Bruce Devlin made an albatross two in 1967. 2012 average: 4.86 (rank 15)

9th (Carolina Cherry), 460 yards, par four: The tee was pushed back 30 yards in 2002. The raised green, with two bunkers on the left, tilts sharply from the back and anything rolling off the front can continue down for 50-60 yards. 2012 average: 4.25 (rank 4)

10th (Camellia), 495 yards, par four: A huge drop from tee to green on this dogleg left and over all the years of the Masters the most difficult hole. It was here that Rory McIlroy began to fall apart in 2011 with a seven, while Watson clinched the title 12 months ago by making par in the play-off from the trees. 2012 average: 4.249 (rank 5)

11th (White Dogwood), 505 yards, par four: The start of Amen Corner. Toughest hole in 2011, with the water front and left scaring many. Best remembered for Larry Mize's chip-in in 1987 and Nick Faldo's back-to-back play-off wins. 2012 average: 4.32 (rank 2)

12th (Golden Bell), 155 yards, par three: Probably the most famous par three in golf. Narrow target, water in front, trouble at the back, it has seen everything from a one to Tom Weiskopf's 13 in 1980. McIlroy four-putted it in 2011. 2012 average: 3.06 (rank 13)

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National - measuring just 155 yards - is probably the most famous par three in golf

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National – measuring just 155 yards – is probably the most famous par three in golf

13th (Azalea), 510 yards, par five: The end of Amen Corner. Massive dogleg left with scores ranging from Jeff Maggert's albatross two in 1994 to Tommy Nakajima's 13 in 1978. Watson's crucial run of four birdies in succession last year started here. 2012 average: 4.72 (rank 16)

14th (Chinese Fir), 440 yards, par four: The only hole on the course without a bunker, but three putts are common on the wickedly difficult green. Course record holder Nick Price took eight here in 1993, while Phil Mickelson holed his approach en route to 2010 victory. 2012 average: 4.09 (rank 12)

15th (Firethorn), 530 yards, par five: Often a tough decision whether to go for the green in two across the pond on the hole where Gene Sarazen sank his 235-yard four-wood shot for an albatross in 1935. There have also been three 11s here. 2012 average: 4.67 (rank 17)

16th (Redbud), 170 yards, par three: Tiger Woods' memorable chip-in in 2005 came the same year as 73-year-old Billy Casper's 14, while Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter are among 15 players to record holes-in-one. 2012 average: 3.11 (rank 11)

17th (Nandina), 440 yards, par four: Tee shot is played over the Eisenhower Tree on the hole Justin Rose double-bogeyed when one off the lead in 2007. Jack Nicklaus birdied here to take the lead as he won his 18th major in 1986. 2012 average: 4.16 (rank 10)

18th (Holly), 465 yards, par four: The drive through an avenue of trees was made much harder when the tee was moved back 60 yards in 2002. The fairway bunker from which Sandy Lyle got up and down to win in 1988 is now 300 yards away. 2012 average: 4.31 (rank 3)

Lee Westwood paired with Vijay Singh at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am

Westwood paired with Singh in Pebble Beach… should former world No 1 play

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Harrington came joint seventh in the
individual event and is back now to try to improve on that in a line-up
headed by defending champion and last week’s winner Phil Mickelson.

The left-hander almost broke 60 last
Thursday, but he has fond memories too of the closing 64 last year
because it came as playing partner Tiger Woods was taking 75.

Woods, who won at Torrey Pines a fortnight ago, is not back to attempt revenge.

Harrington plays the opening round at
Spyglass Hill – three courses are used – with Spaniard Rafael Cabrera
Bello, another to make the long journey from Dubai, while Mickelson,
seeking a record-equalling fifth victory in the tournament, is at
Monterey Peninsular with fellow Australian Rod Pampling.

Harpsy Cord falls at final fence in Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase at Limerick

No laughing matter at Limerick as Harpsy Cord falls at the last having led from the front

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UPDATED:

17:56 GMT, 27 December 2012

There was agony for backers of Harpsy Cord in the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase as, after leading all the way, he crashed out at the final fence when five lengths clear and seemingly having the two mile three-and-a-half furlong race at his mercy.

That left course specialist Jack Absolute (16-1) in front and he had to be kept right up to his work to hold off Tullintain by a length-and-a-quarter and land the 21,000 prize.

It was not what Harpsy Cord deserved as he had jumped brilliantly in the hands of Keith Donoghue but after pecking on landing at the second-last he got in too tight to the final fence to gift victory to the John Walsh-trained nine-year-old in the hands of Brian O'Connell.

Going... Harpsy Cord clips the final fence at the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Steeplechase

Going… Harpsy Cord clips the final fence at the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Steeplechase

Going... Harpsy Cord clips the final fence at the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Steeplechase

Going... Donoghue is sent flying over the top of Harpsy Cord as he fails to regain his footing

Going… Donoghue is sent flying over the top of Harpsy Cord as he fails to regain his footing

Going... Donoghue is sent flying over the top of Harpsy Cord as he fails to regain his footing

Gone: Both horse and jockey (who were OK after the fall) hit the deck and kiss goodbye to their hopes of winning

Gone: Both horse and jockey (who were OK after the fall) hit the deck and kiss goodbye to their hopes of winning

Gone: Both horse and jockey (who were OK after the fall) hit the deck and kiss goodbye to their hopes of winning

Walsh said: 'That's his eighth win and his sixth around here so it's definitely a case of horses for courses.

'Today was the plan and you can't beat a bit of luck!'

The Earl of Harrington Memorial Maiden Hunters Chase will also live long in the memory for the wrong reasons after the attritional conditions resulted in 13 of the 16 runners failing to complete the course.

The race was won by 11-2 chance Goonyella who slogged through mud best of all to come home a distance clear of Survival, with Thetalkisover (pictured) the only other finisher back in third. The win provided a welcome fillip for trainer Tom Dreaper who had been so luckless earlier in the afternoon with Harpsy Cord.

Conditions took their toll on John Gleeson-trained Thetalkisover who refused to jump the final fence at the first time of asking but finally consented to clamber over and take third place despite being exhausted.

Third time lucky: Thetalkinisover initially refused to jump the final fence in the Hunters Steeplechase

Third time lucky: Thetalkinisover initially refused to jump the final fence in the Hunters Steeplechase

Third time lucky: Thetalkinisover initially refused to jump the final fence in the Hunters Steeplechase

Third time lucky: Thetalkinisover initially refused to jump the final fence in the Hunters Steeplechase

Third time lucky: Thetalkinisover initially refused to jump the final fence in the Hunters Steeplechase

Katie Walsh was feared to have suffered a shoulder injury when Pocketfullapennies came down at the seventh-last but later tweeted she was 'fine just sore!!'.

Padraig Harrington leads Grand Slam from Bubba Watson

Harrington takes control of Grand Slam after surging into two-shot lead over Watson

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UPDATED:

22:29 GMT, 23 October 2012

Padraig Harrington is halfway towards the 375,000 PGA Grand Slam title in Bermuda – just three days after being offered the chance to play.

The 41-year-old Dubliner, who lost play-offs at Mid-Ocean in 2007 and 2008, started with a five-under-par 66 at Port Royal to lead Masters champion Bubba Watson by two, US Open winner Webb Simpson by three and holder Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy's replacement, by six.

Leading the way: Padraig Harrington is halfway towards winning the PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda

Leading the way: Padraig Harrington is halfway towards winning the PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda

The event is meant to be between the year's four major winners, but with McIlroy opting to play in Shanghai, Ernie Els pulling out with an ankle injury and reserves Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods turning it down – they are in Asia as well – Harrington received a call.

In contention: Bubba Watson is two shots adrift of Harrington

In contention: Bubba Watson is two shots adrift of Harrington

Eighth behind Watson at Augusta and fourth to Simpson in San Francisco, he grabbed seven birdies and would have been even more in control but for bogeys at the third and 16th, both par threes.

Simpson came back into the picture with three back-nine birdies but then bogeyed the 431-yard last while left-hander Watson, his Ryder Cup partner, mixed an eagle and five birdies with four bogeys. Bradley, who last year beat McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Charl Schwartzel, was always fighting an uphill battle from the time he double-bogeyed the fourth and bogeyed the next two to stand four over.

Even the player who finishes last still earns 125,000.

Ross Fisher plays through pain barrier to claim halfway lead in Portugal

Fisher plays through pain barrier to claim halfway lead in Portugal

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UPDATED:

18:30 GMT, 12 October 2012

England's Ross Fisher overcame an injury scare to move a step closer to his fifth European Tour title.

The 31-year-old slipped walking off the first tee when he resumed the Portugal Masters and feared for a while he might have to withdraw.

Ross Fisher

Tough day: Ross Fisher overcame injury scare to claim lead at halfway

But after a physio was called for and strapping applied to his left foot, Fisher battled on and thanks in large part to a 22-foot eagle putt on the long 17th added a 67 to his opening 65.

'I didn't think anything of it at first and for two or three holes it was okay, but then it started to get really sore,' he said.

'The physio told me I was not doing any damage by playing on. It was uncomfortable for a while, I was feeling it again at the end and I'm just very relieved to get through.

'To be leading is very, very pleasing. It was really difficult to get through the ball and it made it quite challenging to pick the right club.

On a roll: Stephen Gallacher has enjoyed two solid rounds

On a roll: Stephen Gallacher has enjoyed two solid rounds

'My balance was not very good, but I tried to grind it out and fortunately I came through with a decent score.'

On 10 under par at halfway Fisher leads by three from Scot Stephen Gallacher and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.

Gallacher, yet to have a bogey, is seeking only his second victory in nearly 400 Tour events, but Wiesberger has already had two this season.

Fisher last tasted success at the Irish Open two years ago, a victory which helped to secure him a Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor.

Since partnering Padraig Harrington to two wins against the Americans, however, he has managed only one top five finish and finds himself down at 140th in the world.

More to follow

Ryder Cup 2012: Sportsmail compare captains Davis Love and Jose Maria Olazabal

Love is all around… but Olazabal gets it right in the end in the clash of the captains

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UPDATED:

23:45 GMT, 30 September 2012

Dominated on the course for two days by the resurgent home team, Europe were beaten outside the ropes as well.

Jose Maria Olazabal redeemed himself in the end, or rather his players did. At times he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights and some of his partnerships were plainly guesswork.

But it all turned round for him thanks the incredible singles performance, and a massive error made by his counterpart, Davis Love.Here's our verdict on Olazabal and Love on their areas of influence.

Got there in the end: Jose Maria Olazabal picked some peculiar pairings

Got there in the end: Jose Maria Olazabal picked some peculiar pairings

RYDER CUP

Read the full report here

Wild Cards

Only those with Padraig Harrington blinkers on felt Ollie had any other choice but to pick Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts, and both men came up trumps.

Poulter's stunning performance was the principal reason Europe pulled off their improbable success.

Colsaerts might have had just one win to his name but what a point.

He gave perhaps the best fourballs display in Ryder Cup history on Friday afternoon in beating Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker singlehandedly.

It was going well for Love's four picks for two days but it changed completely on the final day. Only Dustin Johnson of the four won.

Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker choked horribly. Love had gone with experience and it backfired massively.

Verdict: Olazabal one up.

Wild card: Ian Poulter (above) and Nicolas Colsaerts dazzled in Medinah

Wild card: Ian Poulter (above) and Nicolas Colsaerts dazzled in Medinah

Strategy

American Davis Love had a plan in place and wasn't going to change from it.

No player was going to compete in more than four matches and only once did it seem incongruous, with the ridiculous decision not to play Keegan Bradley on Saturday afternoon, after his foursomes match had finished at 10-15am.

Another horrendous mistake came on Sunday in trying to fight fire with fire in the singles.

He knew Europe would topload their singles order with their best players. Trailing by four points, they had no choice.

But why would you put your best alongside them. It shouldn't have been the struggling Stricker in 11th spot it should have been someone like Bradley.

We're told Olazabal had a strategy for two days but it remained unclear. When you end up with an obvious foursomes player like Francesco Molinari picked instead for the fourballs it becomes unfathomable.

Blind panic is the best guess, but he got away with it in the end.

Verdict: Olazabal one up.

Love is all around: Davis Love greeted Dustin Johnson

Love is all around: Davis Love greeted Dustin Johnson

Pairings

Love drew on all his vast experience and went with pairings that made common sense.

Men with similar unflashy games playing in the foursomes like Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, with the flair players reserved largely for the fourballs, like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley was also a blindingly obvious pairing given they're mates and the younger man grew up idolising his elder, but let's credit Love with not trying to swim against the tide.

After all, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia was also an obvious fourballs pairing that both men wanted to happen but it never materialised, despite them practising together.

Some of Olazabal's pairings made no sense. Why play Lee Westwood in the foursomes on Saturday morning when clearly his confidence was shattered

Why lumber Justin Rose with two partners in the fourballs with whom he had no chemistry

Verdict: All Square.

No chemistry: Justin Rose often struggled with those who Olazabal paired him with

No chemistry: Justin Rose often struggled with those who Olazabal paired him with

Public Relations

From his interviews in the press room to his remarks at the opening ceremony, Love played a blinder.

He always wanted the crowd involved but made it clear there was a boundary that ought not to be crossed.

On the eve of the Ryder Cup, he told the crowd: 'Let's remember we're about to witness a golf event. Nobody should confuse the battle that follows with anything other than an athletic one.'

Olazabal also scored well in this regard. Few remained unmoved with the obvious emotional strain he was feeling at the absence of Seve.

For two days however, he was hardly ever seen on the course. It has passed into legend that Seve, when he was captain, appeared to be in five places at the same time.

Nobody would expect Ollie to be so hands-on but it was puzzling he was so hands-off.

There's nothing wrong with being a low-profile figure but for two days he played the part of the invisible man.

Verdict: All Square.

Ryder Cup 2012: Secret to great golf partnerships

So, what is the secret to making a great golf partnership

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UPDATED:

21:36 GMT, 25 September 2012

It is the question that has kept every Ryder Cup captain awake. What makes for a successful pairing Answer that correctly and they can look forward to the history books bestowing a kind fate on their stewardship. Get it wrong and they are contemptuously dismissed as a cock-up.

As a perfect example, look at how the captains from the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills are remembered. Hal Sutton is recalled as a hopeless failure for pairing Tiger Woods with Phil Mickelson; Bernhard Langer an inspiration for bringing together Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie.

Here are a few things every captain considers – or should do – when deciding the pairings.

Unhappy couple: Mickelson (left) and Woods were paired together in 2004

Unhappy couple: Mickelson (left) and Woods were paired together in 2004

Nationality

In the case of the European team, they might be playing for their continent but the pride of representing their country draws players from the same nation together and has been utilised by virtually every skipper, when possible.

The finest Ryder Cup partnership of all was forged on Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal hailing from the same coastline. They lived just an hour’s drive from one another. They spoke the same language and shared the same passion.

Instinctively they knew what made the other tick. They were quickly labelled the ‘Spanish Armada’ when they sailed to Muirfield Village in 1987. When they proved invincible, the idea of drawing on the bonds of nationhood was afloat.

Since then we have seen other Spaniards play together,

Irishmen, Italians, Scots, Englishmen and Swedes, too. Drawing on the same principle, this time we will see Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy play together and England’s Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.

Ulster's finest: McDowell (left) and McIlroy (right) were paired together in 2010

Ulster's finest: McDowell (left) and McIlroy (right) were paired together in 2010

Friendship

You do not have to be great buddies to play together. You do not even have to get along at all off the course, as Ian Woosnam and Sir Nick Faldo proved when putting their differences aside to form a brilliant partnership in 1987. But it has to help.

Rose and Poulter live walking distance from one another. They have been friends since a young Rose, struggling under the weight of a plethora of missed cuts, found strength when Poulter put a protective arm around his shoulder. It’s a natural pairing.

Big Brother

There's nothing to stop a captain putting two rookies together but most recognise it as a high-risk strategy that leaves you open to criticism if it backfires. Through the ages, the majority of skippers have favoured the route of appealing to the patriarchal instincts of an old hand to shepherd a nervous newcomer through his first experience. This was another area where Ballesteros was the master. Most people remember the way he helped an ashen Olazabal through the first day in 1987.

But he was an expert by then, having done the same thing with Paul Way in 1983. This time, it would be no surprise if Olazabal’s only rookie Nicolas Colsaerts pairs up with Paul Lawrie, the oldest player in Europe’s team.

Father figure: Ballesteros (left) helped Olazabal (right) through his early Ryder Cup experiences

Father figure: Ballesteros (left) helped Olazabal (right) through his early Ryder Cup experiences

Davis Love has more of a problem in this
regard, with four rookies. But he will solve at least one of his
conundrums by asking Phil Mickelson to show Keegan Bradley the ropes.

Personality

Putting together two similar types can work, as McDowell and Poulter showed at Valhalla in 2008. McDowell ended up with stiffness in his shoulder, he had been high-fiving his playing partner so much.

But some of the great Ryder Cup partnerships have been an ideal blend of a quiet man and an excitable sort, like Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia. ‘We’ve had occasions where Sergio has got me fired up and others where I’ve had to calm him down,’ says Donald of their chemistry.

Or an analytical mind and someone who plays off the cuff, like Gardner Dickinson and Arnold Palmer, America’s most successful partnership of all. Or Langer-Sandy Lyle and Faldo-Woosnam in 1987, or McDowell-McIlroy and Steve Stricker-Tiger Woods from more recent times.

The analyst draws comfort from playing with someone who can pull off shots he can only dream about. The flair merchant likes someone who can cover his back when his daring does not pay off.

Odd couple: Woosnam (left) and Faldo (right) back in 1987

Odd couple: Woosnam (left) and Faldo (right) back in 1987

Play To Strengths

At Valhalla, Europe’s captain Faldo was guilty of trying to reinvent the wheel. Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey are two wonderfully talented ball strikers with a flair for making birdies, but are also prone to bouts of wildness.

You never do what Faldo did then, and play them together in foursomes rather than fourballs.Foursomes is all about keeping the ball in play and seizing on the mistakes of your opponents. It appeals to the steady eddies, the Luke Donalds, the Frankie Molinaris and the Jim Furyks.

Fourballs is all about making things happen and favours the men who routinely make five birdies every round, like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and McIlroy. A great foursomes partnership is something like Woods and Stricker.

The former is a wonderful iron player who will put you 15ft from the flag all day, while Stricker the demon putter will roll in more than his share of putts.

At fourballs, Watson and Johnson could prove a potent pairing based on the principle that the odd bogey will be but a foothill when placed against their mountain of birdies.

Ryder Cup captain Olazabal hits back in Harrington "grudge" row

Ryder Cup captain Olazabal hits back in Harrington 'grudge' row

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UPDATED:

23:13 GMT, 24 August 2012

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal woke up on Friday to find himself portrayed in some quarters as little more than a petty grudge bearer, with Padraig Harrington his hapless victim.

As anyone who knows Olazabal will tell you, the suggestion is as offensive as it is ludicrous, and no wonder the Spaniard reacted with justifiable anger.

'Anyone who thinks that I would let something that happened in 2003 interfere with my judgment is speaking a lot of B.S., and that is putting it mildly,' he said. 'I would be failing completely as a captain if that was the case.’

That will teach Olazabal to answer a question honestly.

Flashpoint: Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington clash at the Seve Trophy in 2003

Flashpoint: Jose Maria Olazabal and Padraig Harrington clash at the Seve Trophy in 2003

Asked on Thursday what Harrington
needed to do at the Barclays FedEx play-off tournament in America to
force his way into the wildcard equation — the Irishman was leading at
the time following a first-round 64 — he replied: ‘A win, at least.’

Given that Harrington hasn’t won a
tournament of any note for four years, and is a long way removed from
the automatic placings, isn’t it entirely reasonable to ask him to prove
his nerve, given the wildcard opposition includes Ian Poulter and
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, with a matchplay win to his name this season
and whose huge hitting would clearly be an asset on a bomber’s course
like Medinah

Apparently not.

Needing a victory: Padraig Harrington in second round action at The Barclays

Needing a victory: Padraig Harrington in second round action at The Barclays

According to the conspiracy
theorists, Olazabal’s comments were fuelled by what happened in 2003,
when he believed Harrington questioned his integrity during a singles
match at the Seve Trophy.

Honestly, would players like Graeme
McDowell talk about how desperate they are to play under Ollie if all he
did was bear grudges Even Harrington gave the theory short shrift. ‘I
know how he feels about the Ryder Cup and I am absolutely convinced the
only players Ollie wants on his team are the 12 best ones,’ he said.

The absurd nature of the debate was
put into sharp focus when Harrington went out and played horribly in the
second round, recording a score fully 11 shots worse than his opener to
go from one ahead to five behind.

This is how it has been for most of a
frustrating season for the Irishman and why Olazabal is perfectly
within his rights to place him a long way behind Poulter and Colsaerts
for a wildcard.

In the swing: Olazabal at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Friday

In the swing: Olazabal at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Friday

Olazabal visited Medinah recently and
discovered a course that plays to all Colsaerts’s strengths. The
fairways have been widened to suit the bombers in the American team. The
other thing that counts in Colsaerts’s favour is that, if picked, he
would be the only rookie in the team.

‘Experience is often a factor with
wildcards but that is not the case this time round,’ argued Ollie. ‘One
thing we are not lacking is experience. I played the course last week
and there’s not much rough. It’s clearly been set up to help the long
hitters.’

The only long hitters in Europe’s team at present are Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Colsaerts was in second-round action
on Friday at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles where,
following a solid opening round of 69, he showed signs of being a little
frayed around the edges.

On the march: Nicolas Colsaerts during the second round at Gleneagles

On the march: Nicolas Colsaerts during the second round at Gleneagles

The 29-year-old only arrived in
Scotland from America on Tuesday, following his seventh-place finish in
the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. For 13 holes he was going
nowhere, and some way removed from the pace set by Englishmen Mark
Foster and Richard Finch.

But his ability to make lots of
birdies was evident over the final five holes, which he played in three
under to turn a mediocre day into a decidedly decent one. He ended up
with a 70 to be handily placed inside the top 10, just three shots off
the lead.

Over in New York, it was Tiger Woods
who must have been giving American captain Davis Love an anxious time as
he clutched his back on a number of occasions. It didn’t seem to affect
his golf, however, as he finished up only three behind the joint
leaders, American Nick Watney and Europe’s renaissance man, Garcia. Rory
McIlroy and Luke Donald are a distant eight adrift.

Nicolas Colsaerts in good position in Ryder Cup race at Johnnie Walker Championship

Colsaerts well placed to make Ryder Cup surge after fine start at Gleneagles

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UPDATED:

18:16 GMT, 23 August 2012

Golf blog

Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal gave an instant reaction in Scotland to Padraig Harrington scoring a 64 in America – and it should leave the Irishman in no doubt where he stands.

Harrington is fighting to be among the candidates for a wild card on Monday, but it is how he finishes the first of the FedEx Cup play-off events that appears far more important than how he starts it.

Olazabal was reminded that two weeks ago he said Harrington needed to do something extraordinary to make the side. So what now constitutes extraordinary 'At least a win,' Olazabal replied with a smile.

Good position: Nicolas Colsaerts in action during the first round of the Johnnie Walker Championship

Good position: Nicolas Colsaerts in action during the first round of the Johnnie Walker Championship

He was speaking at Gleneagles, where Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts needs a top-two finish to earn himself a cup debut and is two off the lead following an opening three-under-par 69.

Colsaerts, thought to be in with a great chance of being picked along with Ian Poulter if he fails in his bid for an automatic spot in the Johnnie Walker Championship, was delighted with his day's work.

'It was exactly the day I wanted, being in control of what I was doing,' the 29-year-old Volvo World Match Play champion said. 'I'm very pleased with how I handled myself.'

One down, three rounds to go: Belgium's Colsaerts putts on the 18th green at Gleneagles

One down, three rounds to go: Belgium's Colsaerts putts on the 18th green at Gleneagles

He also pleased watching Ryder Cup assistant captain Thomas Bjorn, who was paired with him for the first two rounds and kicked off his defence of the title with a 70.

'I can see what he's capable of,' Bjorn said. 'I don't think it comes as a surprise – I think we all know what Nicolas can do.

'He needs to keep doing what he's doing and get a good week out of it. He's in good form and you can see that his confidence is high.

'Even when he gets himself in trouble he gets out of it decent and that's the sign of somebody that has all the things at the moment going in the right direction.'

A close look: Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal is in Scotland for the conclusion to the Ryder Cup points race

A close look: Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal is in Scotland for the conclusion to the Ryder Cup points race

US PGA Championship 2012: Rory McIlroy on top as Tiger Woods blown off course

McIlroy joins Singh on top as Woods blown off course at storm-hit Kiawah Island

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 11 August 2012

Rory McIlroy can add to the wave of
sporting euphoria sweeping the nation after upstaging Tiger Woods early
in the third round of the US PGA Championship.

The Northern Irishman shrugged off a
difficult summer with a spectacular front nine featuring not only his
trademark brilliance but also some remarkable feats of escapology.

On the charge: Rory McIlroy

On the charge: Rory McIlroy

The disappointment for McIlroy came when his terrific outward half of 32 shots – joint third-round leader Woods needed three more strokes simply to complete seven holes – was interrupted when play was suspended owing to an approaching thunderstorm.

At that point, McIlroy had moved into a tie for the lead with the remarkable veteran Vijay Singh, one ahead of another making a forward move, Australian Adam Scott, who is doing a wonderful job of getting over his Open meltdown.

Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell were four off the lead while Padraig Harrington and little-known Englishman David Lynn finished with rounds of 69 and 68 to be five off the pace.

Woods was on the same one under mark after a hopeless seven holes and was glad of nature's interruption. He has still to play an under-par round at the weekend of a major this season.

Few things in golf compare with McIlroy in full flow and he showed it all during a wonderful front nine featuring five birdies and an amazing par at the third.

Struggle: Tiger Woods

Struggle: Tiger Woods

The 23-year-old made the perfect start with birdies at the opening two holes but his tee shot at the par-four next, which appeared destined to leave him with an easy chip to the green, struck the limb of a dead tree and embedded itself.

There followed an anxious few moments as McIlroy looked for the ball until television replays relayed to him showed his tee shot had finished in the tree.

McIlroy identified the ball as his, took a drop under penalty, pitched up to six feet and holed the putt for an amazing par.

Another escape followed at the next before a couple of fabulous iron shots set up birdies at the fifth and eighth. With another birdie at the seventh, McIlroy had established a two-shot lead before running up his first bogey at the ninth.

With Singh holing a 45-foot putt on the seventh, the pair were level.

There's an awfully long way to go but, if McIlroy were to follow up last year's US Open victory and win, he would move ahead of Woods in terms of majors won at the same age.

Lynn has been plying his trade in Europe for 14 years without anyone outside the sport noticing, and moved stealthily into the world top 100 to get into this event. But all sorts of possibilities have opened up for the 38-year-old from Stoke.