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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: Bubba Watson: off-course friendship means nothing

We're friends off the course… but we want to smash Europe at Medinah, admits Bubba

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UPDATED:

17:48 GMT, 27 September 2012

A day after he questioned how it was possible to want to 'kill' great mates in the Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter today a staunch ally in the shape of Masters champion Bubba Watson.

'I understand where Poults is coming from,' Watson said on the final practice day at Medinah. 'I love it. I love watching his passion. The guy is great for the game of golf.'

Poulter's comments came after he was asked if he could see a future in which the biennial contest lost its edge because so many Europeans have homes in the States, something the Florida-based 36-year-old could not see happening.

Up for the Cup: Big-hitting American Bubba Watson on the practice ground on Thursday

Up for the Cup: Big-hitting American Bubba Watson on the practice ground on Thursday

'It means too much to us for it ever to lose that edge,' he said. 'This event is unique. I hate to say we don't get on for three days, but there is that divide – and it's not that we don't like each other. We are all good friends, both sides of the pond, but there's something about Ryder Cup which kind of intrigues me.'

And Watson, who lost three of his four matches on his debut at Celtic Manor two years ago, could not agree more.

'It's funny, we're friends with all of them,' the big-hitting left-hander said. 'We've played golf with all of them for years. We know them all. We know their families.

Great for golf: Watson is a big fan of Englishman Ian Poulter, who is one of Europe's big guns

Great for golf: Watson is a big fan of Englishman Ian Poulter, who is one of Europe's big guns

'It's just that trophy, it's just that little trophy we want to win so bad. So it's really not a dislike for the other team. It's just a dislike for any opponent, no matter who the opponent is.

'It's just like the FedEx Cup. We were mad at (Brandt) Snedeker because he won, and I wanted to win it. But now I'm pulling for that guy.'

Watson would also seem to be 'pulling' for Poulter, adding: 'As a fan of golf, Ian Poulter is an amazing story. Love Ian Poulter to death.

'It's amazing watching where his career started and where it is now. It's amazing to listen to him talk about where he picked up range balls, he worked in the pro shop, did everything, and now he's at the Ryder Cup. So I love his passion, I respect him very much and I love how passionate he is about winning it.

Partnership: Masters champion Watson is expected to partner Webb Simpson at Medinah

Partnership: Masters champion Watson is expected to partner Webb Simpson at Medinah

'It's the little gold Ryder Cup is what we're trying to get, and again it doesn't matter who it is that I'm facing. If I was facing y'all or facing Poulter or facing Phil Mickelson, it's about winning the cup.'

Watson looks set to partner fellow major winner Webb Simpson at Medinah, the US Open champion being one of four rookies on the home side along with Snedeker, Jason Dufner and 2011 US PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, who is expected to partner Phil Mickelson.

'Bubba and I are good friends away from golf, and I think that's what makes us a good team,' said Simpson, who also partnered Watson to three wins out of four in the 2011 Presidents Cup. 'He's laid-back. What you see in his golf videos and all the other funny stuff he does, that's him on the golf course.

Rookie: Webb Simpson speaks to the media at Medinah Country Golf Club on Thursday

Rookie: Webb Simpson speaks to the media at Medinah Country Golf Club on Thursday

'He still is a competitor. You can't win the Masters and not be a very tough competitor. But his approach to the game is laid-back, and then when he has 30 seconds to hit a shot, he's serious. I am a little more serious, he kind of relaxes me and I kind of help him focus on golf and draw him back to what we need to be looking at.

'He's definitely a clown and everybody laughs at him, and he's a good guy to have on the team.'

So far this week, Matt Kuchar's main role has seemingly be to beat all-comers at table tennis in the home side's team room, but the 2012 Players Champion is also relishing his first Ryder Cup on home soil after making his debut at Celtic Manor.

'I think walking to the first tee on Tuesday, I knew we weren't in Wales. That was just such a big difference to me,' Kuchar said. 'It was so exciting knowing that we were on home turf and there was such an eruption of excitement when we got to the first tee. It was an awesome feeling.

'It's been one of my major goals to make this team for a number of reasons. Once you play your first team competition, you don't want to miss out on another one.'

Jose Maria Olazabal warns his players to be careful on Twitter during Ryder Cup

Don't be Twits! Olazabal warns Ryder Cup colleagues to be careful on social networks

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UPDATED:

21:43 GMT, 26 September 2012

European captain Jose Maria Olazabal has warned his players to be careful over their use of Twitter during the Ryder Cup in Chicago.

Olazabal has not attempted to issue a blanket ban over the use of social networking sites, but reminded his team to bear in mind how their comments can be interpreted.

Watch out: Jose Maria Olazabal has told his team to be cautious

Watch out: Jose Maria Olazabal has told his team to be cautious

'I'm not banning any member of the
team,' Olazabal said at Medinah, where Europe will attempt to retain the
trophy and make it five wins in the last six contests.

'What I've said to them is that they have to be careful on what they say, how they say it and when they say it. I'm sure that any comments that are made on Twitter are not intended in a bad way, but if you take the sentence out of context, it might look completely different.

Chat: Olazabal talks with Darren Clarke

Chat: Olazabal talks with Darren Clarke

'In that regard, the boys need to be a little bit cautious about it.'

Two years ago at Celtic Manor, there was some confusion over whether captain Colin Montgomerie had issued a ban, with the Scot then clarifying that he had asked players that 'respect is shown for what is said within the team room.'

Montgomerie added at the time: 'It's not a ban because if somebody does it how can you punish someone for it'

Ryder Cup 2012: Ian Poulter won"t make predictions at Medinah

No more predictions, I guarantee it! Poulter keeping his cards close to his chest at Medinah

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 25 September 2012

There will be no bold predictions this time. No staring into the camera and telling the millions watching that a point in the singles is guaranteed.

'I think you will find that was a one hit wonder,' said Ian Poulter, referring to his breathtaking moment of fate-tempting at Celtic Manor two years ago.

'Do that on a regular basis at the Ryder Cup and you're guaranteed to fall flat on your backside and have everyone laugh at you.'

The future's bright: But Poulter won't be making any predictions this year

The future's bright: But Poulter won't be making any predictions this year

The Ryder Cup is far too important to Poulter to have it threatened by ridicule.

The fact a man who played off a five handicap at 17 could end up winning tournaments on five different continents is one of the great sagas of modern golf.

But it pales for Poulter alongside the achievement of playing in four Ryder Cup teams, with the magnificent record to date of eight wins and three losses in 11 matches.

Sign here, please: Poulter is competing in his fourth Ryder Cup

Sign here, please: Poulter is competing in his fourth Ryder Cup

'Everyone knows I'm proud of my tour victories but to make four Ryder Cups is a bigger achievement for me,' he said.

'There's nothing in golf that gets close to the Ryder Cup. Imagine pumping your fist after holing a putt on the first hole of a strokeplay event Everyone would think you an idiot. The emotion you're feeling is such that every holed putt at the Ryder Cup is like one you hole on the back nine at a major.'

Back home in Florida, no visitor to his enormous new house is allowed to leave without seeing his Ryder Cup trophy cabinet.

'Everything's in there. I've got the crystal. I've got flags signed, golf bags signed, shoes signed, menus signed. What can I say It is a very important part of my life, and I want to share it with the people who come to my house.'

Davis Love III faces Ryder Cup wildcard dilemma- Derek Lawrenson

Old heads or long hitters Your wildcard call, Love

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UPDATED:

23:39 GMT, 3 September 2012

When America's Ryder Cup captain Davis Love sat down with a small corps of British golf writers at the US PGA Championship recently, he waxed lyrical about the value of experienced hands like Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

He talked enthusiastically about Hunter Mahan wanting to make amends for what happened at the last Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, when his clunked chip presented the Europeans with their victory.

Everything said during that fascinating round-table discussion — stay tuned for all the details, later this month — would have led you to believe that all three would get the nod when Love names his four wildcards on Tuesday afternoon.

Off course: Hunter Mahan is one player who finds his Ryder Cup spot in doubt

Off course: Hunter Mahan is one player who finds his Ryder Cup spot in doubt

But, three weeks on, we find ourselves in the remarkable situation where all three could just as easily miss out on the US team for Medinah.

Never before, then, have we seen anything quite like the dilemma confronting Love, who might well have waited to see what happened in the final round of the Deutsche Bank FedEx Cup play-off event in Boston on Monday evening before making his final decision.

Indeed, so close are the plausible claims of seven different candidates that, if you asked 20 fellow pros for their selections, you’d probably get 20 different answers.

In form: Dustin Johnson is making a late charge towards the US team

In form: Dustin Johnson is making a late charge towards the US team

Furyk and Stricker need little introduction, of course. The former has made his riches showing precisely the sort of grit and stellar short game that defines a great player at a Ryder Cup.

Stricker might be the second best putter in the game behind Luke Donald and solves instantly the conundrum that has foxed so many US Ryder Cup captains: who partners Tiger Woods.

Counting against them is the fact they are the only two candidates without a win in a full-field event this season, and they’re medium-length hitters on a bomber’s course.

Tough choice: US captain Davis Love III must select his four wildcards

Tough choice: US captain Davis Love III must select his four wildcards

Mahan, by contrast, has actually won twice, including the Accenture Match Play where he beat Rory McIlroy in the final. But he has cooled off so dramatically he hasn’t had a top-10 finish since April.

If current form is a prime factor —and surely it should be — you’ve got last week’s winner Nick Watney and in-form Dustin Johnson, who are both long hitters. You’ve got Brandt Snedeker, third in The Open, runner-up last week and another wizard on the greens.

Finally, there’s Rickie Fowler, who beat McIlroy in a play-off to win his first tournament in May and just loves head to head.

Tempting: Rickie Fowler loves the head-to-head nature of the Ryder Cup

Tempting: Rickie Fowler loves the head-to-head nature of the Ryder Cup

A genuine sense of mystery hangs over proceedings, therefore, when Love announces his picks at the New York Stock Exchange.

The skipper will then finish the day by ringing the closing bell.

It is entirely in the nature of being Ryder Cup captain, of course, that he’d better make sure he gets his picks right — or he will find by the end of the month that bell is tolling for him.

I'll have what he's having…

Is there a more remarkable club golfer in these isles than Bill Thomas

On the eve of this year’s Ryder Cup, at a South Herts venue that has so many Ryder Cup connections, Bill will be sworn in as this year’s captain of the London Welsh Golf Society.

And here’s the fabulous twist: he recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Fellow society member Andrew Porter tells me Bill still plays nine holes at society meetings.

‘He looks more like 70 than 100, and is just amazingly fit,’ he says. Golfers are fond of comparing their lives to a round of 18 holes, saying things like they’re now on the back nine when they pass the age of 50, etc. Lucky Bill must feel like he’s playing 36.

Main attraction: Scotland's Carly Booth

Main attraction: Scotland's Carly Booth

On the tee… Carly’s cartwheeling

Organisers of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool next week are hoping more than 75,000 spectators will turn up, and let’s hope they are right.

The new generation of photogenic talents, like the gifted Scot Carly Booth and the brave English lass Melissa Reid, deserve the support.

Among their backers will be Olympic gymnastics bronze medallist Beth Tweddle, with a couple of the players presently mulling over whether to join her in doing a few cartwheels for the crowd.

This is what’s missing from the men’s game, of course.

Wouldn’t it be fun watching Monty cartwheeling his way to the first tee

Quote of the week

‘Congrats to my niece Cheyenne on winning her first professional event on the SunCoast Ladies Series Tour. Won by four. Very Proud.’

In a rare tweet, Tiger Woods salutes his 22-year-old relative who shares his surname and was the last player taught by Tiger’s late father, Earl.

Cheyenne, who recently graduated from college and who begins her quest for a card to play on the main US Women’s Tour on Monday, comes with an added bonus: she doesn’t throw clubs.

‘I never thought that was a good look on a golfer,’ she says. Now, why can’t her uncle grasp that

Michael Owen not wanted by Al Shabaab

Owen's on the downhill! Dubai club Al Shabab in u-turn over freebie former England striker

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UPDATED:

09:33 GMT, 27 June 2012

Al Shabab have performed a dramatic u-turn in their pursuit of Michael Owen after the UAE side declared they do not want to sign the former England striker because he is 'on the downhill'.

Owen is available on a free transfer following his summer release from Manchester United after three injury-hit seasons at Old Trafford.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis is keen to offer the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle frontman a pay-as-you-play deal to sign at the Britannia Stadium – just 30 minutes from Owen's Manor House stables in Cheshire.

Up for grabs: Michael Owen left Manchester United earlier this summer

Up for grabs: Michael Owen left Manchester United earlier this summer

Dubai-based Al Shabab emerged as the favourites to secure the 32-year-old's services.

They posted a statement on Twitter to reveal discussions were underway.

It read: 'Michael Owen has
been identified as a candidate to play for Shabab next season and we are
in negotiations with his management team. The player’s agent is in
Dubai to close the deal.'

Free agent: Owen

Free agent: Owen

But their vice president Khalid Bu Humaid ruled out signing the free agent, suggesting Owen was past it.

'Michael Owen is on the downhill right now. He's not one of our options,' Bu Humaid told Gulf News.

'He's 32 and he only played a handful
of matches last season. There have been some talks and his agent is
coming to Shabab Club but there is nothing to confirm with regard to him
signing or not.

'We'll listen to what his agent has to say and report that back to the coach (Marcos Paqueta), who is currently in Brazil.

'This is a general talk with no
obligations. When someone calls us we listen to what they have to say
and see what they have to offer.

'But this part of the world is not the market for Michael Owen anymore.'

Despite his well-documented injury troubles, racehorse owner Owen is determined to carry on playing professional football.

He made only six Premier League starts in three years at Manchester United and his last competitive appearance was against Otelul Galati in November.

Wales Open: Thongchai Jaidee leads into final round

Fisher stays in the hunt at Celtic Manor despite suffering toe injury overnight

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UPDATED:

16:40 GMT, 2 June 2012

Accident-prone Ross Fisher overcame another incident to keep himself in the hunt for the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

Despite a problem with a toe and a real struggle on the tee, Fisher managed a third-round 71 and will go into the final day only one shot behind Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee.

Driving forward: Ross Fisher goes into the final day just one shot of the lead

Driving forward: Ross Fisher goes into the final day just one shot of the lead

The former Ryder Cup player – it was on this very course he made his debut two years ago – stubbed his toe in his hotel room on Friday night.

'There were a few expletives and it was extremely painful,' said Fisher. 'I couldn't put any weight on it and half-contemplated playing in trainers.

'One of the toes is as purple as anything. I iced it and two of the toes were strapped together, but I hit it everywhere and I'm glad to finish.'

Fisher even finished with a birdie, which made five in all, but there were also five bogeys and that allowed former paratrooper Jaidee to take over at the top.

Tip the cap: Thongchai Jaidee leads the way

Tip the cap: Thongchai Jaidee leads the way

The 42-year-old is a four-time winner on the European Tour, but all those came in Asia, where he has pulled off 15 victories in all.

Jaidee, ranked 199th in the world to Fisher's 157th, also birdied the par five last after an incredible drive measured at 410 yards.

'I think 320 is the longest for me, so when we got to the top of the hill I asked “where's the ball” and a marshall told me,' he said. 'I thought it was 390, but 410 sounds better.'

He only needed a seven-iron second to the 575-yard hole, pushed it into a bunker, but made a 12-footer for the outright lead on seven under.

Fisher, joined in second place by Dutchman Joost Luiten after his best-of-the-week 64, has dropped 130 places on the rankings since he helped Europe to victory.

'It would mean a lot to win. I set very high standards and I reached 17th in the world, so I know I have the game,' he said. 'Given where I hit it that's one of the best level par rounds I've ever had. I hung in there and dug deep.

'The 63 I had at the European Open (an event he won by seven shots at The London Club in 2008) was good, but today was impressive.'

Playing partner Lee Slattery, two behind Fisher at halfway, could not say the same.

The Southport player put two balls in the water for a quadruple bogey seven on the 189-yard third and with a 76 fell back to joint 26th.

Blame the tools: Lee Slattery, Fisher's playing partner, had a tough penultimate round

Blame the tools: Lee Slattery, Fisher's playing partner, had a tough penultimate round

Luiten started the day in a tie for 20th and was even deeper in the pack after a bogey on the fifth.

But birdies at the next two sparked a recovery and by the time he sank a 25-foot putt for an eagle two at the driveable 15th he was out in front.

After two-putting the last for his sixth birdie he said: 'It hasn't been a great season, but it's a course that if you play well you can shoot a decent score.'

He was only one off his lowest-ever round on the circuit and that one set him up for his only victory in Indonesia late last season.

Scot Paul Lawrie, second in the Ryder Cup standings, reached two under after eight holes, but a double bogey seven on the next was a big setback and he finished with a 71 for one over like Slattery.

Lee Slattery leads Wales Open at Celtic Manor after first round

Slattery braves stiff winds to take lead at Celtic Manor just days after major bonus

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UPDATED:

18:54 GMT, 31 May 2012

England's Lee Slattery followed one great performance with another at Celtic Manor today.

Three days after shooting 66 at Walton Heath to earn himself a US Open debut, the 33-year-old from Southport took the first round lead in the ISPS Handa Wales Open with a four under par 67.

And if that does not sound special consider this – there were more than 20 scores in the eighties, one in the nineties and a handful of players could not keep a 10 off their cards. Gary Boyd even had two.

Fine form: Lee Slattery putts on the 14th green during the first round of the Wales Open on Thursday

Fine form: Lee Slattery putts on the 14th green during the first round of the Wales Open on Thursday

A stiff wind and fast-running conditions made life tough on the course where Europe beat America two years ago in a Ryder Cup remembered not just for its thrilling finish, but also its torrential rain.

Slattery had already made eight trips to the European Tour qualifying school by then, but his career turned around last October when, on his 183rd start, he captured the Madrid Masters – even with a double bogey seven on the final hole.

Now he is planning for a trip to San Francisco which will include not only his first-ever tournament there, but also a visit to Alcatraz and possibly the baseball game at which Rory McIlroy is throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie plays his second shot into the 16th green on the Twenty Ten course

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie plays his second shot into the 16th green on the Twenty Ten course

'I know Olympic Club is going to be difficult, but I'm really looking forward to it,' he said.

'It's more the atmosphere. I remember The Open at Hoylake (his only previous major was there in 2006) and I thrived on it.'

Slattery's round was not without its scary moments. He was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580-yard ninth.

The hole still cost him his only dropped shot, but he added: 'It was very difficult. The wind was stronger than anticipated and if you get round without a bogey it's an amazing achievement.'

Nobody did.

Scot Paul Lawrie, second on the Ryder Cup points table, needed to birdie two of his last three holes for a 74, the same as 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie, while his successor Jose Maria Olazabal took 76 and holder Alex Noren an 81 before withdrawing with back trouble.

Top grass: Johan Edfors of Sweden plays his second shot into the 14th green at Celtic Manor

Top grass: Johan Edfors of Sweden plays his second shot into the 14th green at Celtic Manor

Slattery finished the day one ahead of German Marcel Siem and Dutchman Tim Sluiter.

While Sluiter closed with four successive birdies Siem bogeyed his last two holes on the same lay-out where he led by three with a round to play two years ago and then fell away after a quadruple bogey seven on the third.

Only four members of the victorious 2010 side are in the field. Ross Fisher, who has dropped to 157th in the world since that memorable week, did best with a 70.

Miguel Angel Jimenez took a double-bogey seven on the last for 76 and Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari were 74 and 77 respectively.

The others to break 70 were Spanish duo Pablo Larrazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Ireland's Simon Thornton and Swede Joel Sjoholm.

Wales Open: Live leaderboard

Wales Open leaderboard: Keep up to date with the latest scores

The European Tour is at Celtic Manor this week for the Wales Open.

Sweden's Alex Noren took the title last year and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE LEADERBOARD

Swede dreams: Alex Noren was the winner in Wales 12 months ago

Swede dreams: Alex Noren was the winner in Wales 12 months ago

Jose Maria Olazabal to pick four Ryder Cup vice-captains

Europe will have four Ryder Cup vice-captains again, reveals skipper Ollie

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UPDATED:

14:54 GMT, 21 May 2012

Jose Maria Olazabal has confirmed that, like predecessor Colin Montgomerie, he will be selecting four vice-captains for his European team at the Ryder Cup in Chicago in September.

'I am surprised to learn that there have been media reports suggesting that we will have only two vice-captains,' the Spaniard said. 'I don't know where they could have come from or whether there has been some misunderstanding, but I want to make it clear that I will be selecting four vice-captains.

'This is what Davis (American captain Davis Love) and I agreed in Chicago last September.

A little help from his friends: Jose Maria Olazabal will have four vice-captains

A little help from his friends: Jose Maria Olazabal will have four vice-captains

'I have said many times that as a vice-captain myself in 2008 and 2010 I learned that you need a lot of help that week. You need eyes, extra eyes to follow the players in the practice rounds to gather as much information as you can about how everyone is playing.

'Then it is important to have each match watched because you have to hand in your pairings for the afternoon matches when the players are still out on the course.

Monty's army: Olazabal's predecessor also employed four vice-captains

Monty's army: Olazabal's predecessor also employed four vice-captains

'That means it is absolutely essential to have all the information you can get before you put those pairings down on paper to be handed in. “I would say it is borderline to do the Ryder Cup with less than four vice-captains. Never at any time have I considered reducing that number to three, let alone two.'

Olazabal was the only official assistant to Nick Faldo in Louisville four years ago, although Faldo had other helpers, while he became the fifth vice-captain for Montgomerie during the 2010 match at Celtic Manor because bad weather meant there were six games in one session.