Tag Archives: palmer

Tiger Woods tops world rankings after Arnold Palmer Invitational win

Tiger back on top of the world after victory march at Arnold Palmer Invitational

: Returns to top 10 with victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

June 3, 2012: Returns to top five with win in the Memorial Tournament

2013: Closes gap on leader Rory McIlroy with early-season wins at Farmers Insurance Open and WGC-Cadillac Championship.

March 25, 2013: Returns to number one spot by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods has also won the Farmers Insurance Open and the Cadillac Championship this year as he prepares for next month's Masters.

The 37-year-old, who announced he was in a relationship with skier Lindsey Vonn last week, is the bookies' favourite for Augusta as he bids to win the Green Jacket for a fifth time.

Rickie Fowler was Tiger's playing partner for the final round but his challenge hit the buffers when he put two in the water at the 16th.

More to follow…

The one to watch: The 14-time major champion Woods had plenty of support in Orlando

The one to watch: The 14-time major champion Woods had plenty of support in Orlando

Taste for success: Tiger, with caddie Joe LaCava, has a quick bite to eat as he walks up the sixth fairway

Taste for success: Tiger, with caddie Joe LaCava, has a quick bite to eat as he walks up the sixth fairway

Keeping it interesting: Woods had the odd wobble on the tee but he was able to recover

Keeping it interesting: Woods had the odd wobble on the tee but he was able to recover

Gave it a go: Rickie Fowler was Woods' playing partner for the final round at Bay Hill

Gave it a go: Rickie Fowler was Woods' playing partner for the final round at Bay Hill

THE WORLD No 1s SINCE WOODS

Tiger Woods was world No 1 for 281 weeks in a row between June 12, 2005 and October 30, 2010.

Since then four different players have held top spot:

LEE WESTWOOD (17 weeks)
October 31, 2010 to February 26, 2011

MARTIN KAYMER (Eight weeks)
February 27 to April 23, 2011

WESTWOOD (Five weeks)
April 24, 2011 to May 28, 2011

LUKE DONALD (40 weeks)
May 29, 2011 to March 3, 2012

RORY McILROY (Two weeks)
March 4 to 17, 2012

DONALD (Four weeks)
March 18 to April 14, 2012

McILROY (Two weeks)
April 15 to 28, 2012

DONALD (One week)
April 29 to May 5, 2012

McILROY (Three weeks)
May 6 to 26, 2012

DONALD (11 weeks)
May 27 to August 11, 2012

McILROY (32 weeks)
Aug 12, 2012 to Mar 25 2013

Rory McIlroy signs Nike deal in Abu Dhabi to set him on way to billion dollar prize

Billion dollar Rory! Nike deal sets McIlroy on his way to UK record haul… but Ryder Cup storm clouds threaten his Abu Dhabi party

By
Derek Lawrenson

PUBLISHED:

22:48 GMT, 14 January 2013

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UPDATED:

23:09 GMT, 14 January 2013

Dude, is that your real hair

Watch the first Nike advert featuring both new signing Rory McIlroy and original superstar Tiger Woods.

Rory McIlroy took a major step to becoming the United Kingdom's first billion-dollar sportsman after he was officially unveiled as a Nike athlete.

At a press conference in Abu Dhabi filled with glitz and glamour, the Northern Irishman, 23, signed a $25million-a-year (about 15.5m) contract that, alongside tournament earnings and appearance fees of similar magnitude, could see him break the 10-figure earnings barrier before he finishes his glittering career.

Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won his last major and the legendary Arnold Palmer is still raking in $20m (about 12.4m) a year in sponsorship despite now being in his eighties.

Just done it: Rory McIlroy has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike that will see him net 155m

Just done it: Rory McIlroy has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike that will see him net 155m

Just done it: Rory McIlroy has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike that will see him net 155m

If McIlroy can avoid the scandals that have affected other Nike athletes such as Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong and keep his form, that gargantuan billion-dollar figure is clearly within range.

McIlroy was welcomed into the fold by fellow Nike superstars Wayne Rooney, Roger Federer and Woods himself. Messages of support from the trio were played on a big screen behind where McIlroy and Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, were sitting.

Spectacular: McIlroy's image was projected onto water at a glitzy ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday

Spectacular: McIlroy's image was projected onto water at a glitzy ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday

Spectacular: McIlroy's image was projected onto water at a glitzy ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Monday

No details of the Nike deal have been revealed but the initial contract is believed to be worth up to $25m a year and could run for a decade. That equates to around $68,000 (over 42,000) a day but McIlroy vowed not to let the staggering sums of money distract him from his game.

Rory the cleaner's son mops up

Read Derek Lawrenson's verdict on the sponsorship deal that everyone is talking about…

'I don't play golf for money, I am well past that,' he said. 'I am a major champion and world No 1, which I have always dreamed of being, and I want to keep on living the dream. If I haven't won another major by the end of this year I am going to be very disappointed.'

McIIroy's megabucks deal heralded what promises to be a momentous week in Abu Dhabi, with Europe's Ryder Cup captain due to be announced on Tuesday.

The Holywood star reiterated his backing for Paul McGinley but there are plenty of whispers that the 15-man Tournament Players' Committee, who have the vote, might go for Scot Colin Montgomerie on home soil at Gleneagles next year.

If that happens, McIlroy might find himself leading a revolt among the men who were at Medinah.

Welcome to the big time: McIlroy joins Tiger Woods in earning a huge sum as the face of Nike's golf division

Welcome to the big time: McIlroy joins Tiger Woods in earning a huge sum as the face of Nike's golf division

Gael Clichy strips for French rugby calendar

Oh la la! Manchester City's Clichy strips for French rugby calendar

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UPDATED:

13:19 GMT, 21 December 2012

The annual nude calender of French rugby club Stade Francais has gained a cult status in France for its images of toned, muscular rugby players pulling revealing poses.

But the 2013 edition is sure to raise a few eyebrows this side of the Channel, too.

Manchester City and France star Gael Clichy has agreed to bare all in the calendar, which gives new meaning to the club’s anthem ‘Blue Moon’.

Calendar boys: City full-back Gael Clichy poses for Stade Francais's rugby shoot

Calendar boys: City full-back Gael Clichy poses for Stade Francais's rugby shoot

On the ball: Back-rower James Haskell, now at Wasps, fronted the Stade calendar in 2010

On the ball: Back-rower James Haskell, now at Wasps, fronted the Stade calendar in 2010

Gael force: Clichy leaps to evade a tackle from Danny Simpson (left) during City's 3-1 defeat of Newcastle last weekend

Gael force: Clichy leaps to evade a tackle from Danny Simpson (left) during City's 3-1 defeat of Newcastle last weekend

He is joined by France team-mate and Lille star Rio Mavuba as the only other footballer to appear in the calendar.

England rugby stars James Haskell and Tom Palmer have also appeared in the calender, with Haskell even appearing on the cover in 2010, covering his delicates with only a rugby ball.

Scott Lavalla

Rio Mavuba

Cover stars: Stade's American lock Scott Lavalla (left) fronts this year's offering while Lille footballer Rio Mavuba (right) also appears in the collection

Other French rugby stars include Clermont’s Wesley Fofana and Morgan Parra, Jonny Wilkinson’s team-mates at Toulon Maxime Mermoz and Alexis Palisson.

The calender includes more than 40 photos in both black and white and colour. This year’s includes players from other clubs in the Top 14, as well as hockey players, boxers and athletes from a range of other sports.

Morgan Parra

Wesley Fofana

Djibril Camara

Parra-dise: France scrum half Morgan Parra (left), Wesley Fofana (centre) and Djibril Camara (right). Former England lock Tom Palmer (below, right), who still plays for Stade, posed for the 2011 calendar

Stade Francais calendar

Stade Francais calendar

Tom Palmer

Meanwhile, City manager Roberto Mancini has told Clichy's team-mate Mario Balotelli that he needed to show respect for himself and his responsibilities by accepting a 340,000 punishment from the club.

Earlier this week Balotelli dropped his fight against the fine for breaches of discipline, deciding not to take City to a Premier League tribunal ‘as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club’, according to a club statement.

Wrestle mania: Stade stars arm wrestle in one of the calendar's coulour pictures

Wrestle mania: Stade stars arm wrestle in one of the calendar's coulour pictures

Pants: A rare shot with the rugby players wearing trousers features in the 2011 calendar

Pants: A rare shot with the rugby players wearing trousers features in the 2011 calendar

But Mancini believes that above all the controversial striker owed it to himself to admit he was wrong after Balotelli was banned for a fifth of City’s games last season.

'It’s normal that when someone makes a mistake he should take his responsibilities and Mario did this,’ said Mancini. ‘He respected himself, not me because it’s important for him to respect himself, very important.’

Rory McIlroy named PGA Tour Player of the Year

McIlroy named PGA Tour Player of the Year as awards keep rolling in for Northern Irishman

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UPDATED:

16:56 GMT, 4 December 2012

The awards just keep on coming in recognition of Rory McIlroy's remarkable season.

On Tuesday it was the turn of the pros he competes against on the US Tour as they acknowledged him as their Player of the Year.

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman became the youngest to win the award since Tiger Woods in 1998 and the second European in a row, following Luke Donald's success last season.

Award: Rory McIlroy has been named PGA Tour Player of the Year

Award: Rory McIlroy has been named PGA Tour Player of the Year

Among the other contenders were Woods himself, who won three times on tour, and Masters champion Bubba Watson.

'I feel very honoured, when you think of the names of the players who have won this award in the past,' said McIlroy. 'It's always nice to get recognition from your peers.'

The trophy goes alongside the Arnold Palmer award for the official US tour money winner and the /12/04/article-2242872-1634827E000005DC-146_468x317.jpg” width=”468″ height=”317″ alt=”Team game: McIlroy says girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki has been a big help” class=”blkBorder” />

Team game: McIlroy says girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki has been a big help

McIlroy was in full agreement with his best golfing mate Graeme McDowell, who opined last week that he had seen a change in his friend over the last 18 months, and that he had become more focused and single-minded.

'I think after winning the US Open last year my career had clearly gone up a level and I needed to become a little more professional and business-like if I wanted to keep on winning trophies,' said McIlroy. 'Fortunately I have been able to do that.'

In a teleconference conducted while being driven along the freeways in Boston – we lost him at one point as he went through one of the city's many tunnels – he acknowledged that his tennis-playing girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki had also played her part.

'Seeing how hard she works, her practice and dedication, flipped a switch for me,' he said. 'It made me realise that I could be a bit more like that.'

Roary: McIlroy was celebrating as part of the European Ryder Cup team this year

Roary: McIlroy was celebrating as part of the European Ryder Cup team this year

McIlroy concluded by warning his peers that he has no plans to settle on his laurels in 2013.

'How can I follow up such a great season is a question I get asked all the time, but I think I can do it,' he said.

'I look at my game and think there are plenty of areas where I can improve, add a couple of shots, and show a bit more variety.

'If there was one disappointment this year it was that I had only one chance to win a major, and luckily I was able to pull it off.

'But next year the goal will be to give myself four good chances to win.'

And so we await what promises to be the next exciting instalment in Rory's era.

England 54 Fiji 12: Stuart Lancaster"s side rue missed chances

England 54 Fiji 12: Lancaster's young side in control but rue missed chances

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 11 November 2012

England may have run up a half-century of points with seven tries and a record winning margin against Fiji, but this was no brave new dawn for Stuart Lancaster's side.

The reality is that while England had valid reasons for producing a rusty performance – injuries ruling out half-a-dozen first-choice players – this was as poor a Fiji team as they have fielded in five meetings with their hosts.

Two-try hero: Manu Tuilagi went over twice at Twickenham

Two-try hero: Manu Tuilagi went over twice at Twickenham

Match facts

England: Goode; Sharples, Tuilagi, Barritt, Monye; Flood, Care; Marler, Youngs, Cole, Parling, Palmer, Johnson, Robshaw, Waldron.

Replacements: Paice (65 for T Youngs), Wilson (58 for Cole), Vunipola (46 for Marler), Launchbury (50 for Palmer), Tom Wood (59 for Johnson), B Youngs (58 for Care), Farrell (59 for Flood), Brown (59 for Monye)

Try: Sharples 2, Monye, Johnson, Tuilagi 2. Cons: Flood 4, Farrell. Pens: Flood 3.

Sin bin: Care (10).

Fiji: Koniferedi; Wara, Goneva, Naqelevuki, Votu; Talebula, Matawalu; Makutu, Veikoso, Manu, Nakawara, Ratuniyarawa, Naikatani, Ravulo, Qera.

Replacements: Naureure (47 for Veikoso), Samoca (not used), Saulo (67 for Manu), Kalou (73 for Ratuniyarawa), Ratuva (52 for Naikatini), Bola (not used), Matavesi (40 for Koniferedi), Fatiaki (67 for Wara).

Try: Matawalu, Kalou Con: Matavesi.

Sin bin: Manu (29).

Referee: G Jackson (New Zealand).

That may not be surprising, given
Fiji's absentees after sudden and convenient declarations of allegiance
to France, as well as injuries and visa problems, all of which resulted
in a team ranked 14th in the world having just one full training session
before this encounter at Twickenham.

But despite being ranked 10 places above them, England botched at least seven try-scoring opportunities.

Three were disallowed rightly by the
busy Television Match Official, Gareth Simmonds, two more were held up
and two thrown away by loose final passes.

Throw in the fact that it took 20
minutes before England took the lead – a Toby Flood penalty – in a first
quarter dominated by the South Sea islanders, who also missed two
penalties and almost scored two tries, and Lancaster and his coaching
team will have much to analyse in the cold light of day.

Does this all seem a little churlish
Fiji are an unknown quantity to an England team who last played them in
1999, while England, with three Test debutants in the match-day 23,
needed a good run-out before they take on the big three of Australia,
South Africa and New Zealand.

Maybe.

Make mine a double: Charlie Sharples scored two tries also

Make mine a double: Charlie Sharples scored two tries also

Versatlie: Man-of-the-match Alex Goode operated as a makeshift scrum-half with Danny Care sin-binned

Versatlie: Man-of-the-match Alex Goode operated as a makeshift scrum-half with Danny Care sin-binned

But the Wallabies next Saturday, let
alone the Springboks and All Blacks, will not give England anything
like the freedom afforded them by a Fiji team who ran out of steam well
before the final whistle.

England will need to convert their
chances if they are to come close to fulfilling Lancaster's wish of four
straight autumn wins.

So what are the positives

All 23 of the squad played at least a part, including reserve prop Mako Vunipola and reserve lock Joe Launchbury.

Motoring nicely: Ugo Monye's try pushed the score onto 25-0

Motoring nicely: Ugo Monye's try pushed the score onto 25-0

New hooker Tom Youngs made a more
than decent first start, carrying the ball with zest and producing a
flawless display at the lineout.

Flood, the most experienced player
in this callow England side with 51 caps to his name, kicked seven from
eight as he helped himself to 17 points; Charlie Sharples was within an
inch of scoring a hat-trick of tries, which will make the team selection
for Australia next week interesting with the suspended Chris Ashton
available; and Alex Goode followed up his confident first start as
full-back in Port Elizabeth five months ago with a man-of-the-match
performance.

Up and running: Charlie Sharples scored the opening try

Up and running: Charlie Sharples scored the opening try

High riser: Geoff Parling holds on as England win a lineout

High riser: Geoff Parling holds on as England win a lineout

The injured Ben Foden may have to start thinking about playing on the wing for England when he returns for the Six Nations.

When Flood kicked the first points
of the game, the decision to go for goal was received with the odd boo
by an already restless crowd.

/11/10/article-2230983-15F42C57000005DC-374_634x412.jpg” width=”634″ height=”412″ alt=”Tough to stop: Thomas Waldrom is tackled by Vereniki Goneva” class=”blkBorder” />

Tough to stop: Thomas Waldrom is tackled by Vereniki Goneva

Flood converted, then added a penalty, and after having barely been in the game for 26 minutes, England were 13 points up.

It should have been 20 seven minutes from the break, but Joe Marler's final pass to Brad Barritt missed his man.

Three minutes later, the prop made
some amends by playing his part in forcing referee Glen Jackson, the
former Saracens stand-off making his Test debut in charge, to award
England a penalty try after the increasingly dominant English pack
forced their counterparts to repeatedly collapse under their own posts.

When Ugo Monye then burst over
unopposed in the corner after Goode's quick tap in the dying seconds, a
half-time lead of 25-0 appeared about par, and with Flood adding a
penalty, Tom Johnson scoring his first Test try in his first home start
in the corner after receiving from the unselfish Chris Robshaw and Flood
converting inside 50 minutes, a cricket score was on the cards.

This did not quite materialise as England, in fairness, rang the changes.

Fiji scrum-half Nikola Matawalu
grabbed a try back, and although Sharples scored his second from a long,
floated pass from Flood and Manu Tuilagi bulldozed his way to two late
tries, it was Fiji who had the last word when replacement lock Seko
Kalou burrowed his way under the English posts.

Dan Cole England most experience front row forward

EXCLUSIVE: Prop idol Cole has had to learn fast to lead England from the front

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UPDATED:

12:55 GMT, 9 November 2012

Just 21 months on from his international debut and Leicester prop Dan Cole already finds himself the most experienced man in England's front row as they prepare to face Fiji on Saturday.

A knee injury to first-choice hooker and captaincy candidate Dylan Hartley means that Cole leads a front row from tighthead alongside Hartley's replacement Tom Youngs and loosehead Joe Marler – the pair have just three caps between them, all belonging to Marler.

When asked if it was strange to be the most experienced front row forward in England's side, Cole admitted: 'It is a bit, it's not long ago I made my debut.

Prop idol: Tighthead Cole (left) messes around in training with loosehead Joe Marler

Prop idol: Tighthead Cole (left) messes around in training with loosehead Joe Marler

'Obviously now with Dylan out injured, Tom Youngs and David Paice (reserve hooker) are stepping in, whereas before I had a lot of experience around me in the hooker position with the likes of Steve Thompson and Mearsy (Lee Mears), but they have gone.

'In the loosehead position before we had people like Andrew Sheridan but now we have got Marler and Mako (Vunipola), so it is interesting for me how it has turned around so quickly.

'But we're all of a similar age and hopefully we can all go forward together.'

Cole's rise to senior squad member is symptomatic of the faith head coach Stuart Lancaster's has shown in youth since taking on the job, initially in an interim role, at the turn of the year.

Only one of England's starting XV on Saturday is the wrong side of 30 and with 31 caps to his name 25-year-old Cole, by no means a veteran, has more international appearances under his belt than all of his team-mates excluding just Toby Flood (50) and Tom Palmer (37).

The young ones: Cole, Marler and Tom Youngs (centre) are England's youngest three starting forwards for Saturday

The young ones: Cole, Marler and Tom Youngs (centre) are England's youngest three starting forwards for Saturday

But as part of what Cole desribes as 'going forward together', both literally and metaphorically, Lancaster has not placed an extra responsibility on the prop's huge shoulders.

'I don't think it's about passing on experience so much, it's just about helping each other out,' Cole explains.

'The guys have played big games in the Heineken Cup and everything else so they know the score.

'They know that internationals are a step up and in the squad we talk about stuff and how we can win games.

'But it's not like I've sat them down and put my arm around them all and talked about my international experience, because you have got to learn from the experience yourself and enjoy it yourself.

Missing: Both Hartley (centre) and regular loosehead Alex Corbisiero (right) are unavailable

Missing: Both Hartley (centre) and regular loosehead Alex Corbisiero (right) are unavailable

'But the squad are open and we help each other out any way we can.'

Next, we move our conversation on to the scrum, and Cole's tone visibly lifts as we enter his area of expertise.

Since his international debut against Wales in the 2010 Six Nations, Cole has quickly established a reputation as one of the best set-piece operators in world rugby.

But he is well aware of the challenges that lay ahead for him and England's young scrummaging outfit against the nous and experience of the 'big three' – particularly renowned scrummagers South Africa and New Zealand.

'These teams are the best in the world, so you want to put yourself up against the best packs in the world and the best scrummagers in the world and try and do better than them,' enthuses Cole.

Last time out: Cole played all three Tests as England were beaten 2-0 in South Africa

Last time out: Cole played all three Tests as England were beaten 2-0 in South Africa

'Benn Robinson (of Australia) is a very good loosehead, then there's the Beast (South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira), he's the biggest of the looseheads we'll be playing against. Then there's Tony Woodcock for New Zealand – the Kiwis are very good at what they do.'

It has been argued by some that the art of scrummaging is dying out, but this is not something that Cole agrees with, although he admits the goalposts have been moved.

'It has to evolve and adapt,' said Cole. 'The game moves on, the game evolves and that's what scrummages do.

'Guys from 20 years ago wouldn't be able to play with how it is now, and 20 years from now we wouldn't be able to play.

'The game evolves and the game grows and you have got to make the best of what you have got now.

The Beast: Cole is likely to come up against Tendai Mtawarira

The Beast: Cole is likely to come up against Tendai Mtawarira

'Scrummaging is perhaps not as power-based now, there is less emphasis on the engage now, but the scrummages are still there and are still a big part of the game.'

Despite all the talk of wanting to operate in a more adventurous way against the big three, England are surely hoping that the set-piece will play a big part against Fiji.

The exciting Fijians have many facets to their game, but they are far from fearful scrummagers and Cole knows that he, Marler and Youngs – England's youngest three starting forwards on Saturday – have a big role to play.

'Fiji probably aren't renowned for being the world's greatest scrummagers, and it is a big part of the English game,' admitted Cole.

'We've got big guys who will want to push and get stuck into the set-piece and if we get that right we'll have a good chance of winning the game.'

If Cole is at his scrummaging best on Saturday, it is hard to see how Fiji will stop England building the platform they need for victory.

O2 Inside Line – the behind-the-scenes show from inside the England camp – re-launches on November 8th. To receive email alerts on each show visit www.O2InsideLine.com

Joe Launchbury on his England call-up

Grounded Launchbury has no intention of being left on the shelf after England call-up

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 8 November 2012

Joe Launchbury has revealed how he has gone from a supermarket shelf-stacker to England rugby international in only three years.

The 21-year-old spent five months working in a Horsham shop to fund a student gap year after he failed to gain a professional contract at Harlequins.

But his rugby took off again when he was signed up by ex-Wasps prop Will Green, who was coaching at Worthing in National League Two, and the 6ft 6 lock has never looked back.

He is now set to make his England debut in Saturday’s international as a substitute if required by head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Call-up: Joe Launchbury is in the England squad to face Fiji

Call-up: Joe Launchbury is in the England squad to face Fiji

‘It’s been a crazy few days,’ Launchbury admitted after Lancaster revealed his squad.

‘If someone had told me last Sunday, after finishing the game for Wasps at Saracens, my next game would be for England at Twickenham then I would not have believed them.’

Launchbury was called into the squad on Monday because of injury doubts over Wasps colleague Tom Palmer.

Though Palmer recovered from a calf strain to take up his place, Lancaster has kept Launchbury in the squad after deciding he would be the substitute lock ahead of Saracens’ Mouritz Botha.

‘Stuart has told me to treat it like any other game and not to worry that you are playing in front of 80,000 people.’

Stern test: Launchbury (right) attempts to grapple with Joe Marler

Stern test: Launchbury (right) attempts to grapple with Joe Marler

Lancaster had earmarked Launchbury for honours last May and took him on England’s tour to South Africa only for a knee injury to force the player to be sent home.

‘I was not the easiest person to live with last summer,’ Launchbury explained. ‘It was very disappointing not to get a game on the tour.’

As for the shelf-stacking, Launchbury confided the humble job had given him a good insight into every-day life.

‘I now know what can happen if rugby does not work out. For me to have this here (the England squad) is fantastic and I don’t want to go back to stacking shelves.

‘I did it for three or four months while I was on a gap year. It was to earn some money before I went travelling but the rugby started up and I never went off.’

Green signed up Launchbury, who was then 18, to play for Worthing and was so impressed that he quickly recommended the versatile forward to his old club of Wasps who gave him an opportunity in A league games.

Launchbury had just lost out on a professional contract at Harlequins after playing in the club’s academy while at Christ's Hospital School, Horsham.

‘Looking back it was the right decision (by Quins) because it really drove me and made me really get motivated. I joined Worthing and got back into the swing of things to play rugby.’

Turkish Airlines World Golf Final a delight as eight greats battle – Derek Lawrenson

It's a Turkish delight as eight greats battle it out for big bucks

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 8 October 2012

When Chubby Chandler was approached by the Turkish Golf Federation about starting a megabucks tournament, they envisaged one featuring 100 or so of the world's best players.

'But there are plenty of events like that already,' replied Chubby. 'Why not try something different Why not a tournament with just the best eight golfers'

That idea was not new either, of course. Chandler was thinking back to the glory days of the late Mark McCormack’s World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, when the likes of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus would gather each October for a glorious autumn festival.

Jet-setters: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are in Turkey for the World Golf Final

Jet-setters: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are in Turkey for the World Golf Final

Jet-setters: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are in Turkey for the World Golf Final

It is the spirit of that much-missed spectacle that he has tried to recapture with the first Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, which begins on Tuesday.

Golf blog

True, the venue has shifted thousands of miles to the East, as is increasingly the way these days, and the players might even be seen wearing shorts rather than wrapped up to the nines.

But you might have to go back to the late Sixties or early Seventies to find the last time anyone tried to get the world’s top eight players together and seven of them actually accepted the invitation.

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So it is that the event features not only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy but Justin Rose and Lee Westwood. Rounding off the elite gang are Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Charl Schwartzel, with Matt Kuchar stepping in for Luke Donald, the only man to turn down the invitation.

The organisers have got lucky, with the game still on a high after the momentous events at Medinah, and no fewer than six of the eight are playing for the first time since the Ryder Cup. There’s clearly an appetite for more head-to-head, although the format needs explaining.

The eight are separated into two groups of four, with everyone playing each other in their group over the first two days at medal matchplay (ie. the player with the best score over 18 holes wins). The leading two in each group go forward to the semi-finals on Thursday, with the final on Friday.

Naturally, these eight don’t come cheap. Even last place is worth 200,000, while the winner will receive 1million.

And yes, we will see Tiger versus Rory. Funnily enough, they’ve been ‘drawn’ in the same group and will play one another on Wednesday afternoon. Having coughed up all that dough, you didn’t think the organisers would leave that match-up to the vagaries of chance now, did you

The action begins with McIlroy v Kuchar, Westwood v Simpson, Rose v Mahan and Woods against Schwartzel.

Amazing Grace

If you want to know how hard it is to win on the European Tour, consider that a player as good as the two-time Ryder Cup man Francesco Molinari has only three titles to his name in eight years of toil.

That puts the startling feat of the gifted South African Branden Grace, in winning four times in his rookie season, into its proper light.

Links king: Branden Grace with his prize on the Swilkan Bridge at The Old Course

Links king: Branden Grace with his prize on the Swilkan Bridge at The Old Course

One of those wins came in a play-off against his two idols, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Another came on Sunday at the Dunhill Links played at the Home of Golf, where the 24-year-old became the first man on tour this year to lead from wire to wire.

‘The next South African major winner,’ declared the Open champion — and who would quibble with Els’s prediction

Tom is looking for a happy return

This time last year we were all getting rightly excited at the amazing sight of a young man winning a prestigious title in only his third start on tour. Now he returns to Portugal to defend his Masters crown this week as the forgotten man.

Glimpse of his best: Tom Lewis at St Andrews

Glimpse of his best: Tom Lewis at St Andrews

What on earth has happened to Tom Lewis This year, the Englishman has competed in 21 strokeplay tournaments without so much as a single top-10 finish. What a sad contrast to the fresh-faced amateur who led The Open after the first round last year.

Lewis has been talking with Justin Rose, who endured similar growing pains, and maybe he can follow his example. On Saturday at the Dunhill Links there was at least the hint of a corner being turned as the 21-year-old shot 65, his best round of this difficult season.

Now he returns to the place on the Algarve where all his memories are good ones. Let’s hope for more signs of recovery.

Quote of the week

‘I think I’ll take that bandage off now! How can all your good shots turn out bad Ugggh, this game!’

John Daly, after following up a 63 in Las Vegas last week with an 86. Painful, no doubt, but not his ‘personal best’ in Sin City. The colourful one once followed up winning $500,000 (312,000) at a tournament with losing three times that amount on the slot machines.

Ryder Cup 2012: Nick Faldo scarred by 2008 defeat at Valhalla

I'm scarred by Valhalla: Faldo finally opens up about failure as Ryder Cup captain in 2008

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 26 September 2012

Perhaps it is not surprising it has taken Sir Nick Faldo so long to talk publicly about his captaincy and the events at Valhalla in 2008.

When you've been a winner all your life and accustomed to talking only about success, how difficult must it be to converse about failure

'The bottom line is that it was a tough experience and very tough for me to deal with afterwards,' said Faldo.

Scarred: Nick Faldo finally opened up about Europe's Ryder Cup failure in 2008

Scarred: Nick Faldo finally opened up about Europe's Ryder Cup failure in 2008

'I wanted to leave with a win, I wanted to have that feeling because you know you only get one chance and I am a winner. Sure it left a scar. There's still a small one there, even now.'

Back in 2008, Faldo's tortured final three words on the morning after becoming the only losing European captain this century were: 'Officially, no more.'

That is how it remained, until talking openly to Sportsmail.

During the past four years, a legend seems to have grown that it was all Faldo's fault that Europe lost by the margin of five points.

There was no passion in the team room, declared a number of players. He was too aloof and remote, declared others.

The atmosphere was more like the players were preparing for a testimonial than a Champions League final, one insider memorably declared.

Lee Westwood had a pop recently about Faldo's controversial decision to drop him from a series of matches for the first time in his career, at a time when he had just equalled Arnold Palmer's record for matches unbeaten.

Faldo either did not see the criticism or chose to bite his lip. Until this interview.

So let's deal with the passion
question first, because that is the one that causes him to lean forward
in his seat and become animated.

'That's
the one I really don't understand,' he said. 'So you need someone to
tell you to be passionate to play well in the Ryder Cup

'I have to say I didn't need a battery inside me to go and play in the
Ryder Cup. I'd have walked barefoot to the first tee to play if that was
what was asked.

'If
the Ryder Cup doesn't inspire you and give you passion, I don't know
what would. I was desperate to win a point every time I played.

Disaster at Valhalla: The USA team celebrated a win over Faldo's Europe

Disaster at Valhalla: The USA team celebrated a win over Faldo's Europe

Disaster at Valhalla: The USA team celebrated a win over Faldo's Europe

'Golf is not like team sports. It is not like a rugby coach shouting and pushing his message down people's throats. In golf, you go play and it's down to you and you take responsibility for your own actions.

'If a man is one down and has a curling putt on the 14th hole and misses it, how is it the captain's fault

'I remember when we came back to win with a great comeback in the singles in 1995. We didn't do it by jumping around a room.

'We just wanted to pull off a victory and you do that by every player going out and doing his job.'

Did his well-earned reputation for aloofness as a competitor follow him into captaincy and affect the sense of European camaraderie

'I don't know what more I could have done to address that issue,' he said.

'On the first day I stood up in the team room and said if anyone sees me looking through them, they have my permission to kick my backside.

'I thought I had broken down that barrier of what I am supposed to be like.

'I didn't want to walk beside them and ask them do they want this, do they want that.'

In the team room, the entertainment was provided by the Iron Maiden drummer, Nicko McBrain, and DJ Spoony.

Did this compromise the atmosphere and send out the wrong message that they were not taking it seriously enough

'I got a lot of stick for that, but don't tell me it was a wrong move,' responded Faldo.

'It loosened people up, because you can't play if you're wound tight like a ball.

Not our year: Faldo (right) was criticised by some of the players for his style of captaincy

Not our year: Faldo (right) was criticised by some of the players for his style of captaincy

'As a funny aside, what I didn't know is that Iron Maiden are huge in places like Sweden and Denmark, and so the wives of the Scandinavian players were coming up to me and telling me they had their first date listening to Iron Maiden, or got engaged to Iron Maiden.'

It should be said that in the days following the calamitous loss, the Daily Mail was as critical as any of Faldo's captaincy and its contribution to the defeat.

Now we've heard his responses to some of the leading points, what is his explanation for it all going wrong

'The bottom line is that my top three players won one-and-a-half points,' added Faldo, who was also denied the services of Luke Donald through injury.

'Sergio Garcia was sick and he was having a bad time trying to get over splitting from his girlfriend (Morgan-Leigh Norman, daughter of Greg).

'Padraig Harrington was the best player in the world at the time but it was of no use to us because he was mentally exhausted, having won two majors that year.

'I dropped Lee from one series because he had blisters and I thought that telling him during his match would make him extra-determined to win that point.

Pop: Lee Westwood (left) was irritated that Faldo dropped him in 2008

Pop: Lee Westwood (left) was irritated that Faldo dropped him in 2008

'But that's not to blame them. At some point I do think we have to accept that the overwhelming reason why we lost is that the Americans just played better than us. They putted us off the course.'

Indeed they did and perhaps he's right – perhaps that was all there was to Valhalla proving a burial ground for Europe's Ryder Cup hopes.

But it is interesting that Faldo's deputy that year, Jose Maria Olazabal, is doing things differently here at Medinah.

No drum kits this time. 'A captain can't have a significant effect on you winning a Ryder Cup but they can have a significant effect on you losing it,' reckons Westwood.

Faldo's place in Ryder Cup history is secure. The record books show that he is still the greatest points-scorer of all time.

But being a losing Ryder Cup captain is that nagging ache that might never go away. The small scar that doesn't heal.

Ryder Cup 2012: Lee Westwood eyes Nick Faldo"s record

Englishman Westwood eyes Faldo's Ryder Cup points record

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 21 September 2012

When it comes to the Ryder Cup, Lee Westwood is keeping the most rarified company. The only European players who have amassed more points than him are Sir Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomere, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.

It's quite possible, when he makes his eighth appearance at Medinah next week, he could go past both Spanish maestros. No wonder he values his Ryder Cup record so highly.

'I've got 19 points and I hope to play in several more Ryder Cups and win many more points,' said the 39 year old. 'Faldo holds the record with 25 points and it's certainly a goal of mine to become the top scorer. You've always got to have ambitions in this game, and that one is right up there.'

All smiles: Westwood will compete at next week's Ryder Cup

All smiles: Westwood will compete for Europe at next week's Ryder Cup

Adding further motivation is the fact he blames Faldo for the one really sour moment he has experienced.

It came in 2008 at Valhalla when Faldo was the captain. Westwood, playing a fourballs match in the company of Soren Hansen and on the cusp of equalling Arnold Palmer's record of 12 matches unbeaten, was told he was going to be dropped from a series of matches the following morning for the first time in his career.

Record: The Englishman has Faldo's points haul in his sights

Record: The Englishman has Faldo's points haul in his sights

'It was easily the worst moment, it just seemed such a strange time to drop somebody,' said Westwood, who was clearly flat when he did get out on the course the following afternoon, partnering Hansen again and losing his unbeaten record.

'I don't think captains can help significantly in winning a match but if they get the little things wrong they can have a significant effect on you losing it,' he added.

Ouch.

It's an illustration of the fire that's in his belly when it comes to these biennial matches. Ironically enough, it all began for him with a successful partnership with Faldo at Valderrama in 1997. Since then he has been the unheralded rock of so many stirring victories, forging partnerships with the likes of Darren Clarke and relishing putting America's leading lights to the sword.

'You'd think having played in seven the excitement might have lessened but that's certainly not the case. I might know what to expect but I'm still really excited. I think this will be a great Ryder Cup, with two even teams and all 24 players ranked among the top 36 players in the world, which I believe is the first time that has ever happened.'

Way back when: Westwood's Ryder Cup debut came alongside Faldo in 1997

Way back when: Westwood's Ryder Cup debut came alongside Faldo in 1997

One of the things Westwood loves is the banter. Told that American captain Davis Love has been trying to 'European proof' the course by making it a birdie-fest, he smiles and says: 'Well, that will make it an even bigger achievement if we somehow manage to win, won't it They've got home advantage and a course only they can play. What a triumph it would be to beat them!'

Westwood confirmed that he would love to be captain one day, and will take a step in that direction by becoming the on-course leader this time. 'I feel I am getting to that stage now,' he acknowledged.

Champagne moment: Westwood celebrates Europe's win in 2010

Champagne moment: Westwood celebrates Europe's win in 2010

'I have played in as many or more Ryder Cups than most of the captains I have played under, so I do have a lot of experience and can take on a more responsible role. I have witnessed what captains do right and what they do wrong, and if I am asked I will certainly give my opinion.'

What's the hardest thing about playing a Ryder Cup away from home

'I suppose it is the fact you're not getting the same level of feedback to which you are accustomed,' he said.

'When you hole a putt you're used to everybody clapping. In the Ryder Cup in America, only a few people do and so you have to go into your own bubble and remember they can't influence you unless you let them. They can't pick the ball up and throw it in the water, can they So you just have to make sure you don't let the atmosphere get to you.'

Westwood is pleased with the events of the last six weeks, which has seen the European team running nicely into form.

'I'd say for most of the year the USA have been favourites but maybe the momentum has shifted a little,' he said.

'I'd still make them favourites, if only for the fact they are playing at home, but it's more evenly matched now. I look at our team and I think we have got a lot of experience, a lot of good match players in there. The only guy playing it for the first time is Nicolas (Colsaerts) and he is world matchplay champion this year. The golf course is long and he is the longest hitter on either side. So I'm very happy and impressed with how our team has turned out.'

He is looking forward to playing under Jose Maria Olazabal.

'The Seve effect has obviously rubbed off on him when it comes to the Ryder Cup,' said Westwood.

'He will bring a great attitude and lots of emotion. He will inspire people. When he gives a speech to the team, he is as good as anyone I have ever seen.'

And the one man in the team whom Olazabal has kept more fully informed is Westwood.

The role of the top player might be Rory McIlroy's these days but Rory is the first to acknowledge that he, like everyone else in the European team room, will be looking up to Westy when it comes to Medinah.