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Rory McIlroy"s year to remember has just one major blip – Derek Lawrenson

McIlroy's year to remember has just one major blip

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 19 November 2012

The fact he will be receiving end-of-season awards left, right and centre says everything about Rory McIlroy's wonderful campaign. But, on the eve of the grand finale at the Dubai World Championship, does his stellar year rank as the best ever by a European golfer

It is certainly right up there. It is better than any managed by Colin Montgomerie, for example, and he won eight orders of merit. Better than any mustered by Lee Westwood, and he won six tournaments in 2000.

Not even some of the greats of the past could claim a season like Rory's. A major, and finishing No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic Bernhard Langer never had a season like that. Neither did Ian Woosnam, during some admittedly great years from 1987 to 1991.

Year of years: Rory McIlroy has tasted success on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012

Year of years: Rory McIlroy has tasted success on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012

More from Derek Lawrenson…

EXCLUSIVE: Westwood ditches injured caddie Foster and gives job to Kerr
15/11/12

Rory checks out with double top as McIlroy follows in Donald's footsteps
11/11/12

Fourteen-year-old Chinese schoolboy Guan earns place at Masters by winning Asia-Pacific Championship
04/11/12

Fourteen-year-old Chinese prodigy in line to win place at the Masters next year
02/11/12

Rory's 156m deal with Nike cleared to go as Titleist admit they won't renew contract
30/10/12

Rose almost 1m richer after invoking Ryder Cup miracle to beat Westwood in Turkey
12/10/12

Rose and Westwood face final showdown as beach boy McIlroy enjoys 187,000 break
11/10/12

Thunder blow to McIlroy's Turkey hopes and soaks beach trip plans with Wozniacki
10/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

What about the outgoing Ryder Cup captain, Jose Maria Olazabal In 1994 he won the Masters, Europe's flagship event at Wentworth, and ran away with the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. But better than a major, two money list titles plus a couple of other big wins

Let's salute Sandy Lyle and what he achieved in 1988. Three wins in America, including the Masters, and two big wins in Europe at the British Masters and the World Match Play Championship. But does fifth on the European order of merit and seventh in America stand muster against numero uno on both tours

Then there's Seve. In 1983 he won the Masters plus regular tournament victories on three different continents. It was the year he first starred in the Ryder Cup. But his annus mirabilus still ranks a hair's breath below a year McIlroy started by becoming world No 1 at the age of just 22 and finished head and shoulders above the No 2, Luke Donald.

So to the top three. We've got Rory. We've got Sir Nick Faldo in 1990. And we've got Padraig Harrington in 2008. In terms of consistency, it isn't a contest. Faldo only managed half a dozen top 10s all year in 1990; McIlroy had 10 in America alone. In 2008, Harrington had only two top 10s in 14 starts in Europe; McIlroy had more than that by March.

But it isn't just about consistency at their level, is it If you asked McIlroy would he swap his season for either of the other two contenders, he'd snap your hand off. That, of course, is because they each won two majors during their year of years, with Faldo winning the Masters and the Open, and Harrington the Open and the PGA.

Trip down memory lane: Faldo finished third in the US Open in 1990, and won in Hong Kong

Trip down Memory Lane: Faldo won the Masters and the Open in 1990

Third on the list of all-time great seasons for McIlroy, then, with the exciting thought there is room for improvement. What about that stodgy middle when he was distracted, and how much better will he be when he trims his schedule from 26 events to a more manageable 22 My hunch is he might have three of the top five all-time great seasons by the time he is through.

As for the current top two, let's give the nod to Sir Nick, who also finished third in the US Open in 1990, and won in Hong Kong.

Westwood taking American Dream seriously

No-one can say there's anything half-hearted about Lee Westwood's impending move to America. He will leave these shores in the middle of next month to defend the Thailand Open. The next time he will touch down on British soil will be the middle of May.

On the move: Westwood won't touch down in Britain until the middle of May

On the move: Westwood won't touch down in Britain until the middle of May

Quote of the Week

'Today was the difference between going back to the Challenge Tour or staying on the European Tour and it was probably the most stressful day of my life. But to pull it off and stay on the main tour, it feels better than a win.'

Highly-rated Englishman Tommy Fleetwood might not have fulfilled his promise this year but the gutsy manner in which he kept his card in South Africa on Sunday suggests that the man who was my 'one to watch' this season really will be worth keeping an eye on in 2013.

Henrik proves class is permanent

Not a great weekend for the doomsayers who think the European Tour is a busted flush. One week after a victory for 19 year old Matteo Manassero, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is almost 30 years his senior, won in Hong Kong to become the oldest winner. Then there was a win in South Africa for another of the tour's great characters, Henrik Stenson.

Success: Henrik Stenson won in South Africa

Success: Henrik Stenson won in South Africa

Not too many come back from completely misplacing their muse, in the manner that Lee Westwood did, or Paul Lawrie. But Stenson is well on his way to completing his second comeback from the dead.

The first time he went from almost literally not being able to keep the ball on a golf course to the world's top five. This time, he's fighting back after losing millions in the Allen Stanford financial scandal. Last year he played more than a dozen events on each of the two main tours and managed just one top-10 finish. Now he's got his first win in over three years.

His career might be the embodiment of that time-honoured saying: form is temporary but class is permanent.

Sports pictures of the day: Friday, September 28, 2012

Sports images of the day: Our picture editor's selection

UPDATED:

13:15 GMT, 28 September 2012

Each day, MailOnline sports picture editor Dave Muir will choose his favourite photographs from around the world in the past 24 hours.

Enjoy today's selection right here…

Here you go: Rory McIlroy signs autographs for fans during a practice round for the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club

Here you go: Rory McIlroy signs autographs for fans during a practice round for the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club

Take that: Female WBO junior flyweight champion Yesica 'La Tuti' Bopp (right) of Argentina punches Marisol Miranda of New York

Take that: Female WBO junior flyweight champion Yesica 'La Tuti' Bopp (right) of Argentina punches Marisol Miranda of New York

Leap of faith: Blake Aldridge of Great Britain diving from the 27.5 metre platform during the seventh and final stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Oman

Leap of faith: Blake Aldridge of Great Britain diving from the 27.5 metre platform during the seventh and final stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Oman

Ball's in your court: Angelique Kerber returns a shot to Agnieszka Radwanska during their semi-final match at the Japan Pan Pacific Open

Ball's in your court: Angelique Kerber returns a shot to Agnieszka Radwanska during their semi-final match at the Japan Pan Pacific Open

Crunch: Baltimore Ravens' Morgan Cox tackles Cleveland Browns' Josh Cribbs

Crunch: Baltimore Ravens' Morgan Cox tackles Cleveland Browns' Josh Cribbs

Crack: South African cricketer JP Duminy plays a shot against Pakistan

Crack: South African cricketer JP Duminy plays a shot against Pakistan

Heather Watson loses to Maria Sharapova at Pan Pacific Open

Plucky Watson loses in three sets to Sharapova at Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo

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UPDATED:

09:01 GMT, 25 September 2012

Britain's Heather Watson pushed Maria Sharapova all the way but was beaten in three sets after taking an early lead at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

The British No 1 was on course to cause a huge upset after winning the first set 7-6 in the second round clash against the world No 2, but was eventually beaten 7-6, 3-6, 4-6.

More to follow…

Out: Watson took the first set, but lost in three to world No 2 Sharapova

Out: Watson took the first set, but lost in three to world No 2 Sharapova

Powering back: Sharapova fought her way from a set down to beat Watson

Powering back: Sharapova fought her way from a set down to beat Watson

Powering back: Sharapova fought her way from a set down to beat Watson

Brit of all right: Waton - ranked 78 in the world - put up a brave challenge against the women's No 2

Brit of all right: Waton – ranked 78 in the world – put up a brave challenge against the women's No 2

Heather Watson beats Sabine Lisicki in Toray Pan Pacific Open

Happy Heather will face Sharapova after stunning Lisicki with tidy Tokyo triumph

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UPDATED:

09:49 GMT, 24 September 2012

Heather Watson enjoyed one of the best wins of her career on Monday by overcoming Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the opening round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

Watson, who had not won a match on the main tour since the London Olympics, triumphed 6-4 7-6 (7/3) in Tokyo.

On form: Heather Watson won in straight sets

On form: Heather Watson won in straight sets

Sabine Lisicki

Heather Watson

Out of form: Sabine Lisicki (left) has slumped down the world rankings in recent months

Lisicki, who has slipped to No 30 in the world rankings from a career-high 12 in May, conceded a solitary break of serve in the opening set and was unable to hit back on the four opportunities she created.

A couple of breaks apiece meant the second went to a tie-breaker which the 20-year-old from Guernsey won to set up a second-round clash with former world No 1 Maria Sharapova.

London 2012: Jeneba Tarmoh pulls out Games run-off with Allyson Felix

Tarmoh pulls out Olympic run-off with Felix and gives up Olympic place

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UPDATED:

00:35 GMT, 3 July 2012

Jeneba Tarmoh has declined the opportunity of a run-off with Allyson Felix for the final women's 100 metres berth in the United States' athletics team.

The pair could not be split as they finished joint third in 11.07 seconds in the 100m final at the trials in Eugene on June 23.

With no formal policy on how to deal with such a situation, it had been unclear whether the issue would be decided by a race or the toss of a coin until the head-to-head was scheduled for 5pm Pacific Time (1am BST tomorrow).

No run-off: Jeneba Tarmoh does not want to run-off against Allyson Felix for a place in the Olympics

No run-off: Jeneba Tarmoh does not want to run-off against Allyson Felix for a place in the Olympics

Having considered that option, Tarmoh wrote to the USA Track and Field president and chairman Stephanie Hightower today standing down.

An email released by the athlete's agent Kimberley Holland read: 'I Jeneba Tarmoh have decided to decline my third place position in the 100m dash to Allyson Felix.

'I understand that with this decision I am no longer running the 100m dash in the Olympic Games and will be an alternate for the event. As an alternate I understand that I will be asked to run if another 100m runner decides not to for personal reasons, and/or on the 4x100m relay.'

Level: Tarmoh and Felix could not be separated by photo-finish

Level: Tarmoh and Felix could not be separated by photo-finish

Felix now joins qualifying winner Carmelita Jeter and second-placed Tianna Madison.

'We are disappointed that Jeneba has changed her mind regarding her position on the Olympic team,' Hightower said.

'We all worked hard to reach a consensus on the tiebreaker, but we know that Allyson, Carmelita and Tianna will represent Team USA well.'

Nike unveil NFL uniforms: Seattle Seahawks get complete makeover

Evolution not revolution for Nike's new NFL uniforms… unless you're a Seahawk

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UPDATED:

17:49 GMT, 8 April 2012

The NFL and Nike launched their five-year partnership in New York this week, unveiling lighter, tighter and stronger uniforms for all 32 franchises.

In line with the NFL’s traditionally conservative nature, the Oregon-based sports equipment manufacturer engineered from the inside-out, with a focus on innovation and performance.

And in the main, the groundbreaking aesthetic redesigns seen in college football were not on show at the glittering Brooklyn bow.

Grand designs: Nike unveiled their new uniforms for the 2012 NFL season at a football-themed fashion show in Brooklyn

Grand designs: Nike unveiled their new uniforms for the 2012 NFL season at a football-themed fashion show in Brooklyn

Indeed, five teams – the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and the Oakland Raiders – declined Nike’s invitation of a radical overhaul.

But in poker terms the Seattle Seahawks went all-in, pushing for a head-to-toe revamp. The move is unique in a league that only allows changes once every five years, and other teams are tipped to follow their lead.

‘The Seahawks have crazy uniforms,’ purred Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

‘Hopefully Green Bay decides to switch it up and go with the look of 2012. If you look good, you play good. If you play good, you get paid good. The Seahawks have the best uniform out there right now.’

All eyes on me: Todd van Horne (left), Nike's global creative director, and Kam Chancellor at the launch

New look: Todd van Horne (left), Nike's global creative director, and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor at the launch

Moving away from the traditional royal blue to a darker shade, the uniform also features new-look helmets, the addition of neon green and a ‘feather pattern graphic’ as a nod to the Native American heritage of the Pacific Northwest.

With 12 feathers on both pants and jerseys and the No 12 sewn in to the jersey in homage to Seattle fans – the 12th man.

On his first visit to New York, birthday boy Kam Chancellor was the first to model the new duds.

‘This uniform is especially made for the 12th man, thinking all about the fans. All the players really liked them,’ the 24-year-old safety said. ‘These uniforms are lighter. The shoes. The socks. I can reach above my head without a problem, too.’

Under lights: Athletes sport the Nike Elite 51 Uniform

Under lights: Athletes sport the Nike Elite 51 Uniform

The deal is the first time Nike have exclusive rights to all teams, marking the conclusion of the NFL’s previous 10-year agreement with Reebok.

It is estimated the adidas AG-owned brand will lose between $200-250million-a-year, and the move came as a relief to some.

‘It’s long overdue,’ said Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. ‘A lot of players weren’t satisfied.’

Nike’s decision to focus on performance for the Elite 51 range went down well with athletes, who praised the lower weight – which Nike CEO Mark Parker estimated between 20-30 per cent – greater flexibility and breathability.

The centre of attention: Super Bowl winner Victor Cruz was mobbed by local and international media in New York

The centre of attention: Super Bowl winner Victor Cruz was mobbed by local and international media in New York

Victor Cruz of the New York Giants said the apparel would help make him tougher to tackle. ‘That's the biggest thing for me: making sure that I'm sleek and I'm fast and I can't be grabbed or held.’

Harvin was on the same page. ‘The collar has Nylon in it and that for me is one of the big things. It kind of keeps it from sticking out or flapping over. That’s how I was being tackled a lot last year, so defenders won’t be able to snag it no more. ‘

‘The socks are way better,’ he continued. ‘They won’t slide down. They’re more comfortable.’
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hailed the lightweight new material, saying: ‘It is not the old mesh, it breathes really well.’

‘Usually it takes time to break in pants and they seem like they’re pretty flexible,’ said Wes Welker of the New England Patriots.

A new era: The swoosh replaces Reebok's logo on the new NFL uniforms

A new era: The swoosh replaces Reebok's logo on the new NFL uniforms

Meanwhile, Miami Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby praised the 22 per cent cooler base layer.

‘The ventilation alone is going to be huge in South Florida with the humidity and the heat, so the form fitting pants give us a lot of range in motion and makes plays around our body with the jersey. It’s perfect.’

The new ‘logo lock up ‘gloves are said to improve grip, while colour-coordinated shoes – for players who opt to wear them – are available for the first time.

‘The shoes are super light,’ Dansby added. ‘And these are size 16. These are the lightest cleats I ever put my feet in. It’s awesome.’

soc it

soc it

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added his praise, 'I love them,' he said. ‘I love them, first, because it starts with the performance part of them. Talking to the players, they don't want to take them off. They love 'em.’

While Nike are unable to perform another wholesale makeover until 2017, Goodell said teams are likely to push the boundaries: ‘What we tried to do is innovate. Even if the look doesn’t change, there’s innovation. You saw it with the Seahawks: there will be more to come.’

Individual quirks specific to franchises are included in the current range. The Panthers have the words ‘Keep Pounding’ stitched on their collars as tribute to the late linebacker and coach Sam Mills, who lost his battle with cancer in 2005. And the Chicago Bears have enlarged GSH initials on their jerseys to honour founder George S Halas.

Glove story: Athletes will now be able to wear the Nike Vapor Jet 2.0 Glove featuring an interlocking team logo on the palms

Glove story: Athletes will now be able to wear the Nike Vapor Jet 2.0 Glove featuring an interlocking team logo on the palms

‘Our brief was to provide players with everything they need and nothing more. We blended cutting edge technology and fabrications with more than 40 years of knowledge, craft and insight into the game,’ said Nike’s Design Director for Football, Todd van Horne. ‘We worked closely with the teams, listening to their needs and delivering the best options to serve those athletes.’

Kris Aman, vice president and general manager of men's athletic training at Nike, added: ‘The energy you feel in here is all about a celebration. This is just the beginning,’ Aman said. ‘People in the NFL and people here at Nike are fans. We are here showing our passion for the game.’

Jerseys are available from April 26, the first day of the upcoming season’s draft weekend. Nike replica jerseys will be on sale for $99, while the limited edition jersey – featuring Flywire technology and ventilation areas – is priced at $135. The elite version, which adds water-repelling fabric, will be on the market for $250.

Ernie Els determined to bounce back

Els determined to Master his game and bite back for Augusta

Ernie Els believes having to qualify for this year's Masters tournament will motivate him to get back to playing his best golf.

The three-time major winner, 42, has been eligible to play at Augusta National every year since his debut in 1994 but Els' poor form last season saw him drop out of the world's top 50.

Speaking ahead of the Northern Trust Open in Pacific Palisades, California the former world No 1 said: 'Obviously the Masters is right around the corner. I've never really been in that position where I had to try and qualify for it because I've been fortunate enough to basically glide through and get in there.

On a mission: Ernie Els is determined to get back to his best

On a mission: Ernie Els is determined to get back to his best

'I've got to do some work, and I think it's good for me. It will keep me focused, believe me, get me trying, and I think that that's a good thing.

'I'm going to play quite a few tournaments now running up to Augusta, so I'll give myself a good chance of getting in.

'It's a motivation, but my goal this year is to really get back and play proper golf and maybe get back to that short putter.

'I think I'm close to getting back to that and playing the way I can play and I think if I do that the rest will take care of itself.

'[When] I started out in life, I wanted to be the best player in the world and win as many tournaments as I could. I got married and had a family, and your direction goes a little different way.

'I'm still a professional golfer and I still want to win golf tournaments this year and in the future.'

Close: South African Els finished second in The Masters in 2000 and 2004

Close: South African Els finished second in The Masters in 2000 and 2004

This will be the eighth time Els has played the Northern Trust Open, winning the tournament in 1999, and the South African, who has a successful golf course design business, is impressed with the layout of the Riviera Country Club course.

'I love the bunkering, I think it's phenomenal,' he added. 'I love the angles they have with their greens, the way the course flows – you've got to draw a lot of shots, fade a lot of shots.'

Els will be joined in the tournament by Sergio Garcia with the Spaniard equally complimentary of the Riveria Country Club, ranking the course as one of his favourites.

He said: 'I love this course, it's one of my favourites on the tour. When it plays firm, it's one of the best that we get all year and I think it's got a mix of tough driving holes with some holes with small greens, small targets.

'And then the putting surfaces are quite difficult – when they're fast like they are now, they get very, very tricky.'

World No 1 Luke Donald will head a strong British challenge at Riviera, which includes Justin Rose and Martin Laird.