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Rory McIlroy wins US PGA Championship with a smile – Derek Lawrenson

Derek Lawrenson: McIlroy wins by a mile after he remembers to smile

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UPDATED:

23:35 GMT, 13 August 2012

The summer of learning for Rory McIlroy and the state of flux in the sport he plays have both come to an end in the most emphatic of ways.

Four days was all it took to restore order to the world of chaos. Four days of ruthless brilliance from McIlroy and the conversation has shifted from 16 different winners of 16 different majors to how many one man can win in the years to come.

One record-breaking win at the US PGA Championship on Sunday, and all foolish talk of Caroline Wozniacki being some sort of Yoko-like distraction (younger readers, ask your dad) has been thankfully buried.

Cup that cheers: Rory McIlroy parades the US PGA trophy after his eight-shot triumph

Cup that cheers: Rory McIlroy parades the US PGA trophy after his eight-shot triumph

More from Derek Lawrenson…

World of Golf: It's time to play follow the leader as the guessing game begins for the next Major winner
06/08/12

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30/07/12

Derek Lawrenson: They said Els had lost it… they're not saying that any more
23/07/12

World of Golf: Remember wonder boy Welch At 16 he was better than Westwood
16/07/12

Derek Lawrenson: Crazy golf as journeyman Potter casts a magic spell
09/07/12

Derek Lawrenson: Stars on board as Turkey shoots for the Olympics
02/07/12

Derek Lawrenson: Portrush is the place to be for the party of the year
25/06/12

Derek Lawrenson: The big turn-off! Webb won it… but was there anyone left watching
18/06/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Over the past two summers McIlroy has had to deal with throwing away the Masters in heartbreaking fashion and becoming one half of a celebrity love item, and yet he's still finished up being the youngest winner of the US Open for 90 years and the youngest winner of the US PGA since it became a strokeplay event in 1958.

What on earth's he going to be like next year, with a settled life away from the course and all that wisdom gained on it

Some people drink for a week after winning a major and never get over the feeling of celebration, their lifetime's mission accomplished.

McIlroy was back on the beach at Kiawah bright and early yesterday morning, doing a photo shoot for his sponsor, Oakley. He spoke of his relief at winning his second major so quickly after the first and his determination to press on in the years ahead and fulfil his destiny among the immortals.

Holding 54-hole leads in big golf tournaments had come to resemble running down a slope backwards until McIlroy came along on Sunday and showed, like Tiger Woods before him, that if you've got the quality there's no better place to be.

Yes, we've enjoyed watching the Webb Simpsons have their day in the sun. But there's nothing that compares to watching greatness and the manner in which McIlroy dismantled the course considered the toughest in America was truly something to behold.

The nominal par might be 72 but to give you some idea of its difficulty, a scratch golfer would be considered as playing to his handicap if he shot a 36-hole total of 158 strokes. Over the weekend, McIlroy played those holes in 133 blows.

In a league of his own: Rory blew away the world's best golfers in a fashion that Tiger once did

In a league of his own: Rory blew away the world's best golfers in a fashion that Tiger once did

When you win two majors in successive years by eight shots it's only natural for people to think of Tiger and Jack Nicklaus, but first things first.

Let's think Seve Ballesteros and Sir Nick Faldo and becoming the most successful European golfer of all time.

Ballesteros won five majors and Faldo six, and the latter has no doubt that both totals will be eclipsed.

'I think we saw at Kiawah, as we did at the US Open last year, that he is a very special golfer,' said Faldo.

Water view: McIlroy is back at the top of the world standings after his US PGA triumph

Water view: McIlroy is back at the top of the world standings after his US PGA triumph

'I didn't win my first major until I was 30 and yet here he is at 23, with all that knowledge of winning already gained.

'The only other golfers in recent times to win two majors at his sort of age were Tiger, Jack and Seve and that's exactly where Rory should be ranked. He is that good.'

'I think we saw at Kiawah that he is a very special golfer'Nick Faldo

Like Tiger at the same age, Rory is in love with the majors. Last Wednesday the year had a B rating, but this victory, which has seen him recapture the world No 1 spot from Luke Donald, has elevated it instantly to an A plus.

When asked about beating Nicklaus's PGA record winning margin of seven shots, set in 1980, the smile almost cracked his face. 'That's a nice record to have, the sort you're really proud to own,' he said.

McIlroy felt intuitively when he arrived at Kiawah it was going to be a special week. He played the course, looked around the clubhouse, took in the sublime views and told his team he thought it time to confine a difficult summer to history, and prove a few people wrong.

He said: 'I just had a good feeling about the week. Earlier in the summer I was frustrated with how I was playing but a few people pushed panic buttons for no reason and it did motivate me. I don't think I could have answered the criticism in a better way.'

Dave Stockton, the American who has done so much for McIlroy's putting technique, told him to remember the boy within, the lad who never wanted anything else but to compete on the big stage, and play with a smile on his face. How better McIlroy looks when everything comes naturally.

Rory McIlroy

How many majors will he win On big courses like Kiawah and when he's playing well, there's simply no-one who can live with him. It's inconceivable he won't win at least a couple of green jackets, for example, for Augusta National might have been built with him in mind.

But the next test for McIlroy is learning to do what doesn't come naturally and cope with tight tests where the strategy is all about patience and playing conservatively.

How quickly he absorbs those lessons might well decide whether he challenges the majors totals set by Seve and Sir Nick or pushes on for the rarefied territory of double digits. That all lies ahead in what promises to be an intoxicating future.

For now, however, let's do what Rory did after sinking his 20-foot birdie putt on the final green to complete his round of 66 and create history. For a few seconds he closed his eyes and savoured the moment.

All week he had gone back to his rented villa, turned on the television and taken in the inspiring scenes from the London Olympics. Now he has made his own stirring contribution to the sense of sporting euphoria sweeping the nation.

Garcia in final bid for Ryder Cup spot

Sergio Garcia and Nicolas Colsaerts have entered this week's Wyndham Championship in North Carolina in search of Ryder Cup points to force their way into Europe' s team.

Eleventh and 12th in the automatic standings, the pair would likely need a top-three finish to move past Ian Poulter in 10th and into the last automatic spot.

Eyes on the prize: Garcia is hopeful of forcing himself into the Ryder Cup reckoning

Eyes on the prize: Garcia is hopeful of forcing himself into the Ryder Cup reckoning

Colsaerts has also entered next week's final qualifying event, the Johnnie Walker Championship. However, the in-form Belgian is likely to be one of captain Jose Maria Olazabal's two wildcard picks.

America's top eight is now known captain Davis Love will pick four wildcards in three weeks' time.

EUROPE (top 10): McIlroy, Rose, McDowell, Paul Lawrie, F Molinari, Donald, Westwood, Hanson, Kaymer, Poulter.

UNITED STATES (top eight): Woods, B Watson, Dufner, Bradley, Simpson, Johnson, Kuchar, Mickelson.

Surprise package Lynn’s head in a spin

Prior to finishing second at the US PGA, David Lynn's claim to fame, if fame is the right word, was for a picture of him with his head in a washing machine and his feet on a table top.

'Very uncomfortable,' said the 38-year-old from Stoke. 'Far more uncomfortable than being in contention to win a major.'

Life-changing round: Lynn finished second in this week's major

Life-changing round: Lynn finished second in this week's major

Lynn is an arch exponent of the practical joke known as planking but the joke he played on Sunday had him laughing all the way to the bank.

The majors are supposed to be for the best of the best, only for a relative unknown to finish one place above Justin Rose and Ian Poulter and register a higher finish in his second grand slam event than Luke Donald has managed in 38.

Lynn's prize of 550,000 trebled his previous best and could be described as life-changing. It guarantees entry into next year's Masters and US Open, and he could join the US Tour.

Now part of the world's top 40, he's even thinking Ryder Cup, which is some change in circumstances for a 17-year tour veteran who has never finished inside the top 25 on the money list.

Quote of the week

'Rory is proving that when he plays well it is like when Tiger played well. Tiger turned up for a few years and if he brought his 'A' game the rest of us struggled to compete. Rory is showing the same thing and there's only going to be less weight on his shoulders after this second major win. The frightening thing for the rest of us is he's only going to get better.' – Padraig Harrington heralds the Rory McIlroy era with a paean of acclaim.

Ernie Els: They said the South African had lost it – Derek Lawrenson

They said Els had lost it… they're not saying that any more after his triumph at Lytham

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UPDATED:

23:14 GMT, 23 July 2012

The sweetest moment of Ernie Els's career There's nothing to compare to holing that 12-foot birdie putt on Royal Lytham's final green on Sunday when nothing else would do.

Not for the man who missed six putts in a row from less than that distance on the final six holes of the 2004 Open to lose out to Todd Hamilton.

Not for someone who was a standing joke in the eyes of former Ryder Cup player David Feherty as recently as March.

Open winner: Els celebrates his last-gasp success at Royal Lytham on Sunday

Open winner: Els celebrates his last-gasp success at Royal Lytham on Sunday

Cast your mind back to the Transitions Championship in Florida, won by Luke Donald but thrown away by Els as he missed three short putts on the final three greens.

'Did you have the confidence standing over those putts' asked television commentator Steve Sands, a question loaded with a sub-plot if ever there was. Did you choke The next day, in an exhibition event called the Tavistock Cup, Feherty ramped up the cruelty.

More from Derek Lawrenson…

World of Golf: Remember wonder boy Welch At 16 he was better than Westwood
16/07/12

Derek Lawrenson: Crazy golf as journeyman Potter casts a magic spell
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Derek Lawrenson: Stars on board as Turkey shoots for the Olympics
02/07/12

Derek Lawrenson: Portrush is the place to be for the party of the year
25/06/12

Derek Lawrenson: The big turn-off! Webb won it… but was there anyone left watching
18/06/12

Derek Lawrenson: Lee's in shape to offer Rory a major thank you
11/06/12

Derek Lawrenson: Tiger sprinkles his stardust on the game again
04/06/12

Derek Lawrenson: How Roger the Lionheart roared to incredible win
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

'Here's Ernie, who has just had a frontal lobotomy and will be putting today with a live rattlesnake,' he told the crowd.

Believe it or not, some people found that funny. Watching anyone struggle on the greens is no joke, but watching someone with Els's gifts was excruciating. How could a sport give so much to someone from tee to green and then take it away once he got there

Missing those putts in Florida cost Els his spot at the Masters, the event he always seemed destined to win. That's it, we thought, the tipping point. Aged 42, next stop – oblivion. Time to blend into the background and admire fellow South Africans who grew up wanting to swing the club and win majors like he did and pulled it off. Men like Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.

Yet Ernie did not accept the rationale. He did not do like Feherty did when the going got tough. He did not quit. The following week he finished fourth at the Arnold Palmer

Invitational. A month later, a runner's-up spot in New Orleans got him into the US Open where he finished tied ninth.

'It is a crazy game,' he said recently in an interview with The Scotsman. 'When you are a kid you grow up wanting to be, say, Ernie Els. Then, when you're Ernie you try to play like you did when you were a kid.'

Pain to gain: Els suffers with his putter in Florida earlier this year

Pain to gain: Els suffers with his putter in Florida earlier this year

On one of the hardest back nines in golf on Sunday, Ernie, after all those lost years of toil, finally found his inner kid. Suddenly the putts started to drop.

Providence, having taken so many majors from him – he has been runner-up six times – handed one back at last. It still came down to a 12-foot putt, though.

Watching anyone struggle on the greens is no joke

Ultimately, Adam Scott's collapse would have meant nothing if Els had not helped himself. From a perfect camera angle, you could see him swing the putter straight and true and the ball never looked like going anywhere else but the bottom of the hole. Take that, Feherty.

Asked to assess his career before the momentous events of last week, Els said he thought he should have won five or six majors to rank alongside Seve Ballesteros or Sir Nick Faldo.

That sounds about right to me and, by ending the long drought and winning his fourth, there is every hope he might now get there, following a victory on Sunday that was celebrated everywhere outside Australia.

When it was over, Els jumped on a plane to Canada and a corporate bash. The Claret Jug has just completed an exhaustive journey around the world in the hands of a popular protagonist and you can be sure Els will enjoy it every bit as much as Darren Clarke. And where will it all end in 2013 Muirfield, the scene of his previous Open triumph in 2002. Sweet, indeed.

It's only a game

Someone clearly forgot to tell Adam Scott that these days every tear in defeat adds up to a waterfall of popular acclaim. Thank goodness for that. The 18th green at Royal Lytham made for a wonderful scene on Sunday. After a gripping finale, the victor shook hands with the loser, one man made a speech fit for a statesman while the other held his head high. Let's be grateful to Scott for the reminder that sport still works best when people remember it is only a game.

Second best: Scott missed out on Open glory after blowing a healthy lead

Second best: Scott missed out on Open glory after blowing a healthy lead in the closing stages

Royal Lytham is No 1

They say you can tell the quality of a course by the calibre of its champions and Ernie Els's victory means the only people who have won The Open at Lytham in the modern era remain golfers who have spent time during their careers as world No 1.

That is a heck of a testament to this fabled links given the efforts Mother Nature made to disguise its natural character on this occasion. Els's final-round 68 was his 39th in the sixties during his Open career. That's two more than Sir Nick Faldo managed, followed by Jack Nicklaus (33), Tom Watson (29) and Greg Norman (26). That's not a bad list to lead, is it

The streak goes on: Els became the 16th different winner from as many majors

The streak goes on: Els became the 16th different winner from as many majors

Sweet Sixteen

And so the streak goes on. That makes it 16 winners of the last 16 major championships. We have had six Americans, three South Africans, three Northern Irishmen, and one representative each from Argentina, Korea, Germany and Ireland. Still no Englishman, though.

When you think the list does not include Tiger Woods and five other Americans ranked in the world's top 14, Adam Scott plus a certain three Englishmen ranked in the world's top 10, we might be here a while yet. Incidentally, Woods's top-five finish means he has broken the UK's stranglehold of the top three ranking positions, with only Luke Donald now ahead of him.

Quote of the Week

'I can't deny the belly putter has been great for me, but I certainly won't be complaining if the authorities ban it. It isn't the way golf is supposed to be played and if they ban it that will be fine with me.'

Could the case for getting rid of these wretched things be expressed more eloquently considering these comments were made by Ernie Els, the man who just ended the week as the new Open champion

Perhaps someone could put them in front of the rules committee of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, who are reviewing their controversial use, with a statement expected by the autumn.

The Open 2012: Royal Portrush dealt blow by R&A over hosting hopes

Portrush suffers blow to Open hopes as R&A chief suggests major work needed first

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UPDATED:

12:29 GMT, 18 July 2012

The chances of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke or Graeme McDowell adding to their major collections on home soil have suffered a heavy blow, with Royal Portrush warned not to 'expect anything imminent' on their hopes of staging the Open Championship.

A successful staging of this year's Irish Open at Portrush was expected to boost hopes of the Open returning to the venue for the first time since 1951.

But R&A chief executive Peter Dawson put a dampener on those expectations ahead of Thursday’s first round of the 141st Open at Royal Lytham, revealing a lot of hard work and 'a huge amount' of money still needs to be spent.

Star attraction: Royal Portrush was praised for its hosting of the Irish Open

Star attraction: Royal Portrush was praised for its hosting of the Irish Open

Star attraction: Royal Portrush was praised for its hosting of the Irish Open

Dawson admitted the Irish Open, won by Jamie Donaldson, had been a success, but stressed the difference in scale between staging a regular European Tour event and a major championship.

'It’s a favourite of mine, wonderful golf course, wonderful challenge,' he said. 'And it’s great to see how successful the Irish Open was and particularly the enthusiasm from the spectators in that part of the world.

'If you were at the Irish Open and compare it with what we’re doing here, we’re talking 20,000 grandstand seats, and there I doubt they had 2,000 at the Irish Open.

'You’re talking about a tented village here I would estimate 10 or more times the size it was at the Irish Open. And the crowd size at the Irish Open, whilst it was very good, was only as good as perhaps the lowest crowd we expect at an Open venue, ie Turnberry.

'Where would you put the big grandstand complex The practice ground would need a lot of work at Portrush in my own estimation. And we don’t have a finishing hole that would have the grandstands around it. There would be much work to do for an Open to go to Portrush.

Home hero: Darren Clarke has led the calls for Portrush to be given the Open

Home hero: Darren Clarke has led the calls for Portrush to be given the Open

'A huge amount of money would need to be spent, in my estimation, to make Royal Portrush a sensible choice. That’s not a criticism of Royal Portrush; it’s a wonderful golf course, but the commercial aspects of it are quite onerous.

'It’s going to take some time to come to a view, and the view may be no. We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s always been to an extent on our radar and our Championship Committee will, I’m sure, continue to evaluate it. But don’t expect anything imminent, that’s for sure.'

Nine courses – St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Troon, Turnberry, Lytham, Birkdale, Hoylake and Sandwich – are currently on the Open rota, and Dawson added: 'We don’t feel short of Open venues now. We’re not rushing to look for more, we don’t feel that pressure.

'But what did impress hugely about the Irish Open was the logistics worked well, the traffic flows and all of that. But above all, I thought the enthusiasm of the spectators was something not to be forgotten, and that’s a very strong point.'

Jamie Donaldson up against Anthony Wall in Irish Open

Donaldson up against the Wall in last round Irish Open shoot-out

PUBLISHED:

17:28 GMT, 30 June 2012

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UPDATED:

17:31 GMT, 30 June 2012

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, winless in
244 European Tour starts, takes a one-stroke lead over England's Anthony
Wall, winless in his last 364, into the final round of the Irish Open
at Royal Portrush.

The pair have the same aim, but have taken a very different approach to the week.

While Donaldson is staying in a
boutique hotel which, according to the local tourist board, is 'a unique
accommodation experience' that 'sets a new standard' for the area, Wall
is in a caravan park.

Out in front: Jamie Donaldson heads the Irish Open

Out in front: Jamie Donaldson heads the Irish Open

'It's quite a posh caravan – it's got running water, it's got gas,' said the 37-year-old Londoner after battling wind and heavy rain for a brilliant 67 he described as 'probably the best round I've ever played'.

Wall is sharing with fellow player Andrew Marshall and explained: 'I didn't want to stay in town because it was going to be quite boisterous.

'I knew we would have a bit of fun and it's been nice to relax. Half the time you seem to be on your own and you're sort of killing time.'

With overnight leader Gregory Bourdy crashing to an 80 – it included a triple bogey eight on the 17th – Donaldson took over at the top with a 69.

In contention: Anthony Wall in action

In contention: Anthony Wall in action

Their records, though, still leave three-major winner Padraig Harrington as the title favourite.

The 2007 champion's 72 left him sharing third spot with Englishman Mark Foster, two behind, while Rory McIlroy is six back, Graeme McDowell eight behind and Open champion Darren Clarke nine adrift.

Donaldson has had no fewer than 32 top-10 finishes in his Tour career, but hopes his first-ever hole-in-one on the opening day was a sign of things to come.

'I've had a few chances, but at the end of the day I've not been good enough so far to stand on the last green holding the trophy,' said the 36-year-old.

'You've got to keep trying and it's one shot at a time, one hole at a time.

'The only person I am playing against, I suppose, is myself. I've got to stay out of my own way.

'Obviously Padraig is a class player, but it's me versus me really.'

While James Morrison won an 80,000 for his ace at the 14th Donaldson had to be content with a bottle of whisky and a ride-on plastic car for his baby son.

He could have the last laugh, however. First prize is over 267,000 and the title would mean the world to him.

Still favourite: Padraig Harrington is two shots back

Still favourite: Padraig Harrington is two shots back

After an opening bogey he eagled the long second from 10 feet, saved par from 20 feet at the fourth, then made birdie putts of 10 and 25 feet on the following two greens.

With conditions really tough – amazingly there was still a crowd in excess of 30,000 for the first Irish Open north of the border since 1953 – Wall caught him, but Donaldson edged back in front with another birdie at the 16th.

Wall had birdied three of the first four holes and then on the long ninth into the wind struck 'the best drive and three-wood I've ever hit'.

He found the elevated green, two-putted to turn in 32 and after running up a six on the 478-yard next added further birdies at the 11th and 17th.

There was a real danger the last might spoil his day when his drive bounced off a spectator into a bush, but after taking a penalty drop his seven-iron third shot finished just six inches from the flag and allowed him to escape with a par.

Wall's one Tour victory came in South Africa 12 years ago. He had only two full seasons on the circuit behind him at the time, but although he has earned over 5million and comfortably kept his card every year since then, 40 more top-10 finishes have not included any titles.

Irish Open: Live leaderboard

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

The European Tour is at Royal Portrush this week for the Irish Open.

Simon Dyson is the defending champion and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE LEADERBOARD

Defending champion: Simon Dyson won the Irish Open at Killarney last year

Defending champion: Simon Dyson won the Irish Open at Killarney last year

Rory McIlroy relishing home challenge at Royal Portrush in Irish Open

Here's 61 reasons why Rory is relishing a home challenge at Royal Portrush

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UPDATED:

21:01 GMT, 27 June 2012

Rory McIlroy was 16 when he stunned a field of his fellow competitors and just about everyone else who had ever played Royal Portrush by somehow going round the forbidding links in 61 strokes.

That was his 'Hello, world' moment, when golf really started taking notice. At St Andrews, where The Open was taking place at the same time, the Portrush authority Darren Clarke found himself fielding more questions on McIlroy’s miracle on his home turf than his own round.

‘Nothing that kid does surprises me,’ said Clarke. And so it has continued in the seven years since, as countless records have fallen during McIlroy’s rapid ascent to international superstar at the age of just 23.

Life's a beach: Rory McIlroy poses on the fifth green on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club

Life's a beach: Rory McIlroy poses on the fifth green on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club

Home sweet home: McIlroy, watched by his father Gerry, during the pro-am for the Irish Open

Home sweet home: McIlroy, watched by his father Gerry, during the pro-am for the Irish Open

This special Irish Open, which begins on Thursday on the Antrim coastline, is not just a momentous homecoming, therefore, but a chance to look around and reflect on how far he has come.

Golf blog

The promise shown that day in qualifying for the North of Ireland Championship has been realised to such an extent that each fairway was lined several people deep on Wednesday just to watch him play in the pro-am.

So what does he remember about that 61 ‘Basically, every shot,’ said McIlroy, smiling the way a person does when asked to recall a moment of a lifetime.

As he showed that day, McIlroy can demolish any links when the wind is not blowing. But what about when there’s a little hoolie and a few heavy showers, as are forecast for Thursday

Claret Jug: Reigning Open champion Darren Clarke tees off on the 1st at Portrush in front of his prize

Claret Jug: Reigning Open champion Darren Clarke tees off on the 1st at Portrush in front of his prize

Like father like son: Clarke watches his son Tyrone tee off... and it was a good one!

Like father like son: Clarke watches his son Tyrone tee off… and it was a good one!

Rory gave an astonishingly candid response. ‘For sure. If things haven’t gone my way, the fight goes out of me pretty quickly and that’s something I’m working on. I want to become a better wind player and a better bad weather player.’

He will almost certainly get practice here, which could prove invaluable come The Open at Lytham in three weeks’ time.

You could have been forgiven for thinking this was The Open, watching the people streaming in from first light. Time and again, fellow players went up to Clarke and the other Portrush native Graeme McDowell and said the atmosphere was like being at a major.

‘Driving to the course there was just a great sense of pride at seeing the European Tour come to my town,’ said McDowell.

Home town hero: Graeme McDowell is back in Portrush for the Irish Open, which starts on Thursday

Home town hero: Graeme McDowell is back in Portrush for the Irish Open, which starts on Thursday

Game for a laugh: American movie star Bill Murray partnered McDowell in the pro-am on Wednesday

Game for a laugh: American movie star Bill Murray partnered McDowell in the pro-am on Wednesday

‘I guess to be part of the reason why this tournament is here, you dream of moments like this.’

McDowell, now US-based, hasn’t played much here in recent years. He has discovered a course fortified by a number of new back tees. ‘I see they’ve Rory-proofed it,’ he said, wryly.

As for Clarke, he took to the links, as he has so often, with his dad Godfrey and his lad Tyrone. The only difference here was that there were 15,000 other people.

Tyrone was dressed appropriately in green trousers and his younger brother Conor was by his side. After a fine drive down the first, his dad gave him a little ‘well done’ punch on the arm. Tyrone looked at him as if to say: ‘What did you think I was going to do — whiff it’

Four seasons’ worth of weather is expected to fall on Portrush these next four days. No-one will be going round in 61.

Irish Open at Royal Portrush makes history by selling out

Portrush shows pulling power as Irish Open makes history by selling out

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UPDATED:

18:07 GMT, 27 June 2012

The Irish Open starting on Thursday has made European Tour history by becoming their first regular event to sell out completely.

A total of 27,000 people each day will descend on Royal Portrush as Northern Ireland stages the tournament for the first time since 1953.

Over 4,000 people attended the opening practice round, while a crowd of 14,225 were at the eve-of-tournament pro-am.

Star attraction: Rory McIlroy in the pro-am at Royal Portrush on Wednesday

Star attraction: Rory McIlroy in the pro-am at Royal Portrush on Wednesday

'The 2012 Irish Open has exceeded all expectations in terms of advance ticket sales. Following the announcement that the last three days were sold out, we had a considerable up-take for Thursday, which has culminated in us putting up the “sold out” signs,' said Championship Director Antonia Beggs.

Golf blog

'We urge spectators not to arrive at the gate in hope of purchasing tickets, as there will be no further sales.'

The Tour hope to make an announcement later this week about the sale of tickets for the 2013 Irish Open at Carton House near Dublin on June 27-30.

What a setting: McIlroy prepares for the tournament on the Dunluce Links

What a setting: McIlroy prepares for the tournament on the Dunluce Links

Padraig Harrington inspired to be back at Portrush and leads the calls for Ryder Cup return

Harrington inspired to be back at Portrush and leads the calls for Ryder Cup return

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UPDATED:

22:42 GMT, 26 June 2012

Padraig Harrington can remember travelling to play golf at Royal Portrush and being stopped at a roadblock because the police had discovered a 500lbs bomb.

Contrast that grim picture during the Troubles with the happy times leading up to the start of the Irish Open here. Less than an hour away the Queen will shake hands today with the former IRA commander, Martin McGuinness.

No wonder Harrington, an ambassador for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, thinks politics should no longer be an issue when it comes to the prospect of The Open returning to the Antrim coastline for the first time since 1951.

Looking forward: Harrington

Looking forward: Harrington

‘It shouldn’t be an issue for the R&A, we are much bigger than that now,’ said the twice Claret Jug winner.

‘It’s really only the infrastructure that should concern them because the course is plenty capable of hosting an Open.

‘This has long been my favourite course. I had a great time here as an amateur, I’ve probably played it over 60 times. But I remember one day when we were stopped on the road going into Newry. When we asked a policeman what was going on, he told us it was just a small problem. it turns out it was a 500lb bomb on the road – just a small problem then!

‘I remember going back I was getting a lift and thinking maybe we should have checked under the car before we left but people just got on with it. You just went and played.’

The Dubliner played a practice round with USPGA Champion Keegan Bradley yesterday. ‘Like me, he was taken aback by the size of the crowd for a Tuesday,’ said Harrington. 'It seems like it was an inspired decision.'

Royal Portrush to stage Irish Open

Major boost for Royal Portrush as Irish Open heads for Causeway coast

Northern Ireland is set to stage a professional golf tournament once again following the phenomenal success of the region's golfers.

Royal Portrush Golf Club on the scenic Causeway coast will be unveiled on Friday as the new home of the Irish Open.

The decision to move the European Tour event northward from Killarney, Co Kerry, in the Irish Republic comes on the back of the achievements of Northern Ireland's three major winners in the last two years.

What a setting: Royal Portrush will host the Irish Open

What a setting: Royal Portrush will host the Irish Open

Darren Clarke's emotional victory in the Open Championship at Sandwich in Kent last summer followed the successive US Open victories of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

All three players – McDowell and Clarke have homes in Portrush – backed the bid to bring the Irish Open to the town's famous links course.

Local heroes: Rory McIlroy (left) and Darren Clarke won majors in 2011

Local heroes: Rory McIlroy (left) and Darren Clarke won majors in 2011

It is hoped that a successful staging of the Irish Open this June will add further momentum to the campaign to bring the Open Championship itself back to Northern Ireland.

The Open has only been staged in the region once before, at Royal Portrush in 1951. But the three major wins by local golfers prompted a clamour for a return and heaped pressure on governing body the Royal and Ancient (R&A) to bring the tournament across the Irish Sea.

After Clarke's win last year, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson pledged to look again at the issue.

East Londonderry Assembly member John Dallat said securing the Irish Open could open the way for a major return.

Blazing a trail: Graeme McDowell won the US Open 12 months before McIlroy

Blazing a trail: Graeme McDowell won the US Open 12 months before McIlroy

'Anything is now possible,' he said. 'Confidence at that level has now been bestowed on the club, so why not'

Clarke and McDowell both welcomed the return of the Irish Open to Portrush.

'Fantastic news on the Irish Open 2012 coming to Royal Portrush,' McDowell told his Twitter followers.

'Always been a dream of mine to play a top event in my home town.'

Clarke urged golf fans to pack the fairways come June.

'Royal Portrush will be awesome for the Irish Open this year… it's as good a test as we play anywhere!' he tweeted. 'Brilliant news. Big crowds please!!!'

BBC Sports Personality 2011: Youth award candidates all female

Now Sports Personality of the Year choice is all female… the Young Sports Personality of the Year that is

The BBC have announced their shortlist for the Young Sports Personality of the Year award.

And after last week”s furore when the shortlist for the main Sports Personality of the Year award didn”t feature a single female athlete, it is noticeable that the top three are female.

Enlarge Water star she is: Eleanor Simmonds is a candidate to win the award

Water star she is: Eleanor Simmonds is a candidate to win the award

Lucy Garner, the junior road race world champion, two-time European Paralympic gold medalist Eleanor Simmonds and British Ladies” Open amateur golf champion Lauren Taylor are the three top candidates.

The shortlist was decided on by a panel chaired by BBC presenter John Inverdale. The panel also included presenters Jake Humphrey and Sonali Shah, Newsround”s Ore Oduba, previous winner Amy Spencer and representatives from the Youth Sport Trust and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year editorial team.

In the swing: Lauren Taylor

In the swing: Lauren Taylor

Garner became the junior road race world champion in Copenhagen this year, making her Britain”s first medallist in the event since Nicole Cooke a decade earlier. She also claimed victory in the Youth Commonwealth Games road race.

Simmonds won four medals in individual events at the European Swimming Championships in Berlin – two gold, a silver and a bronze. She previously won the Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2008, following her superb performances at the Beijing Paralympic Games.

Taylor became the youngest ever winner of the Ladies” British Open Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

A succession of female athletes, including Dame Kelly Holmes, were highly critical of the main list last week.

Chrissie Wellington, the ironman triathlon world champion, announced she would boycott the event in protest.

World swimming champion Rebecca Adlington expressed surprise after what she said was a successful year for British women athletes, and suggested that past winners of the awardshould be consulted.

The BBC currently have no say on the athletes in contention for the main prize. It is decided by national newspaper and magazine editors and journalists.

Pedal power: Lucy Garner (left) is also up for the award

Pedal power: Lucy Garner (left) is also up for the award

The winner will be announced on December 22. The bookmakers” current favourite to win the main award is Mark Cavendish.

US Open golf champion Rory McIlroy and world 5,000m champion Mo Farah are also expected to challenge for the top honour.