Tag Archives: ryder

Colin Montgomerie worries European stars" defection to PGA Tour could weaken Ryder Cup defence

Monty worries European stars' defection to PGA Tour could weaken Ryder Cup defence

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UPDATED:

19:39 GMT, 18 December 2012

Colin Montgomerie says that steps need to be taken to encourage Europe's stars to play more in Europe.

Ten of September's successful Ryder Cup side – all bar Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari – will be members of the PGA Tour in America next season.

Montgomerie, whose induction next year into the World Golf Hall of Fame was announced today, is a member of the European Tour's tournament committee and said: 'It's very difficult and we have to sit down and try to address this.

Miracle at Medinah: Europe's victorious Ryder Cup stars celebrate in Chicago

Miracle at Medinah: Europe's victorious Ryder Cup stars celebrate in Chicago

'Sponsorship is getting harder and the first thing a sponsor asks is “who's playing”. He wants as many Ryder Cup players as possible.

'It's important for the future of European golf.'

Tom Watson spoke last week after being named as United States captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup about the edge Europe gains by staging the match on courses well-known to their players.

The 2014 match is at Gleneagles in Scotland, but although a European Tour event has been held there every year since 1999 it does not always attract the top names.

Honour: European Ryder Cup hero Colin Montgomerie (right) was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Tuesday

Honour: Colin Montgomerie (right) is now a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame

This August, for example, the only members of Jose Maria Olazabal's side who played there – even though it was the final qualifying event – were Lawrie, Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts.

Montgomerie led the side at Celtic Manor two years ago and admitted today he was disappointed that more of his side did not play the Wales Open on the course four months earlier. Only seven of the 12 were there.

'We need to get our team to Gleneagles. We have to have that advantage,' the Scot said. 'In 1997 our biggest advantage was Valderrama. The Americans had three days to prepare, we had 10 years.'

Jose Maria Olazabal lose to Asia team in Royal Trophy in Brunei

Tables turned on Olazabal as Spaniard watches Europe throw away lead and lose Royal Trophy to Asia

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UPDATED:

13:28 GMT, 16 December 2012

Jose Maria Olazabal might now feel an inkling of Davis Love III’s pain after his Europe side threw away a lead at the Royal Trophy and crashed to defeat against Asia in the Sultanate of Brunei.

If Love, Olazabal’s victim during the Miracle at Medinah, was watching at home in Georgia, one would forgive him a vengeful smirk.

A week under the tropical sun, surrounded by lush rainforest and the South China Sea lapping gently in the distance might sound like a fine way to end the golfing year. But for Olazabal the reality was rather more uncomfortable.

Plagued by an injury that sent shooting pains through his neck and forced his withdrawl from play on Sunday, drenched in sweat from the stifling humidity and beaten by a much-less celebrated Asia team – this was no week in the sun for Ollie.

Comeback kings: Asia Team Captain Naomichi Joe Ozaki of Japan lifts the Royal Trophy after beating Europe

Comeback kings: Asia Team Captain Naomichi Joe Ozaki of Japan lifts the Royal Trophy after beating Europe

Party time: The Asia Team celebrate beating Europe

Party time: The Asia Team celebrate beating Europe

The great Spaniard was hoping to cement his status as a great European captain by following the Ryder Cup with another intercontinental triumph but was forced to withdraw from the final day’s singles after the neck injury he sustained yesterday failed to respond overnight to intensive treatment. The only consolation was that, rather than forfeit the match, competition rules meant the match was halved due to Olazabal’s injury.

That's it: Miguel Angel Jimenez shakes hands with Jeev Milka Singh of India after finishing their round

That's it: Miguel Angel Jimenez shakes hands with Jeev Milka Singh of India after finishing their round

Happy times: YE Yang of South Korea and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa celebrate as the European team look on

Happy times: YE Yang of South Korea and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa celebrate as the European team look on

It might seem more than a little unfair on the Asian team, who would have won before the eventual playoff were he forced to concede, but the same rule applies in the Ryder Cup. Golf remains a gentleman’s game, despite what you might think about the scenes surrounding certain tees at Medinah.

‘I am extremely disappointed,’ admitted Olazabal. ‘Everyone knows how much respect I have for the game of golf, for my opponents, and for this competition. Pulling out of a match is not a decision I would ever take lightly.

Watching it all the way: Jeev Milkha Singh of India putts on the third hole and but sees his effort miss (below)

Watching it all the way: Jeev Milkha Singh of India putts on the third hole and but sees his effort miss (below)

Jeev Milkha Singh

'I am part of a team, with the added responsibility of being the captain, and to risk throwing away a point because of selfish pride would be unthinkable.’

Nicolas Colsaerts had appeared to set Europe on course for a routine victory with a win in the opening singles match against Sang-moon Bae, the Belgian bomber inspired by an eagle on the long 15th thanks to a jaw-dropping 60-foot putt. But Henrik Stenson was Olazabal’s only other winner on the day as Yoshinori Fujimoto, Jeev Milkha Singh and YE Yang took European scalps.

On course for victory: Ryo Ishikawa of Japan watches his tee shot on the fourth hole

On course for victory: Ryo Ishikawa of Japan watches his tee shot on the fourth hole

The Asian fightback forced a four-man, fourball playoff – there is no cop-out of retaining the trophy here in the event of a points tie (bad luck for Olazabal, but what would have transpired had Love been afforded that luxury) And Colsaerts appeared to have landed the knockout blow with a stunning wedge into the 18th green following his umpteenth tracer-bullet drive of the week.

No Euro joy this time: Marcel Siem of Germany watches his tee shot on the third hole

No Euro joy this time: Marcel Siem of Germany watches his tee shot on the third hole

But, ironically, it was ultimately one of Olazabal’s Ryder Cup heroes who let him down at the crunch. Kim sank an eight-footer for birdie, while Colsaerts missed from just five feet to hand victory to Asia, whose captain, Joe Ozaki, danced Gangnam Style in celebration.

It was Olazabal who made famous victory dances, but he will have to return to Spain and console himself, glass of wine in hand, with the memories of those incredible days in Chicago. Although he takes this emerging and promising competition very seriously, one imagines he will do that just fine.

Tom Watson named United States Ryder Cup captain

Watson named Ryder Cup captain as United States ask legend to lead them into battle at Gleneagles

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UPDATED:

17:45 GMT, 13 December 2012

Tom Watson has been named United States Ryder Cup captain for the battle with the Europeans at Gleneagles in 2014.

The greatest Open champion of the past 100 years, the man of principle who rigidly refused to use the crutch of the belly putter even while crippled with a form of the yips, picks up the captaincy in at an age when most people are content to pick up their bus pass.

Three weeks after his 65th birthday, Watson won’t be a father figure to most of the team he will lead at Gleneagles but a grandfatherly one. Not only is he the oldest American captain of all time, he is a good decade older than any captain of either side for more than 40 years.

Leader: Tom Watson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014

Leader: Tom Watson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014

Leader: Tom Watson (right) will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

DARREN CLARKE (Europe’s likely captain in 2014): ‘Obviously if Tom does get it, he is one of the legends of the game. I am sure he would be a fantastic captain, not just to the team but for the whole aspect of the Ryder Cup. The man is a huge name in the world of golf and rightly so.’

BERNARD GALLACHER (European captain opposite Watson in 1993): 'It is a surprise. The USPGA obviously decided they needed a bit of experience in Scotland and Tom is probably the most respected figure in the game today.

'He's done the job before, he's been there as a player, he knows how to win in Europe and in Scotland as well.'

WEBB SIMPSON (2012 US Ryder Cup player): ‘I think he would be amazing. Such a remarkable player and person and he demands respect just by the kind of player he has been. He’s like a quiet lion. It would be an honour to play for him.’

BRANDT SNEDEKER (2012 US Ryder Cup player): ‘I am surprised but excited. Tom is a good friend of mine, one of the best players to ever play the game who is instantly going to gain a lot of respect and sway the homefield advantage for us in Scotland because of his success over there.’

PAUL AZINGER (2008 US Ryder Cup captain): ‘Truthfully, I am really surprised but I think it’s OK. There’s a philosophy of picking contemporary players under the age of 50 that hasn’t really worked. That would have been a great philosophy had we been winning, but we haven’t, which makes Watson a good choice at this time.’

LANNY WADKINS (played under Watson in 1993): ‘Tom is just one of those guys who always believes. He doesn’t go out there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done. That’s really what the PGA of America, in my opinion, are thinking what needs to happen.’

On Thursday Watson appeared on NBC television before a teleconference at the Empire State Building in New York.

He said: 'I was waiting 20 years to get the call again,' he said. 'It's a great honour to do it again and this time it is going to be 14 and a half points.

'I loved it the first time. I've been a great fan of the Ryder Cup – I get the same gut feeling just watching it at home on TV.'

Inevitably, there will be eyebrows
raised as to how a man who will not be rubbing shoulders with his
players week-in, week-out can somehow mould them into a team.

It is a
reasonable question, one that Sir Nick Faldo failed to answer in 2008,
and he had been only a few years removed from the scene, not 13 long
seasons like Watson.

But there are other more persuasive
reasons that suggest this could turn out to be an inspired move by the
PGA of America rather than an illogical one.

Firstly, in four Ryder Cups as a
player and one as a captain, Watson has never been on a losing side.
Given that losing has become a habit for the US, with seven defeats in
the past nine matches, that winning mentality he has always possessed
can only be for the good.

But here’s the main reason I think
he has been selected. Since Watson captained America to victory at The
Belfry in 1993 — their last triumph on foreign soil — we have seen four
American skippers in Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, Tom Lehman and Corey
Pavin dwarfed by the personalities of their European counterparts — Seve
Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie.

Think back to the last match at
Celtic Manor, where Montgomerie was lording it gloriously and his
opposite number appeared even smaller than his diminutive self after
being labelled ‘Crazy Pavin’.

Momentum is everything in a Ryder Cup and Europe began each of those
matches with it all in their favour because four larger-than-life
captains had set the tone against four US skippers with no profile
outside their own country.

Now look at the two men put forward
to lead in 2014: the immensely popular Darren Clarke and the relatively
unknown David Toms. Is it any wonder the PGA of America looked at that
prospective scenario and wearily thought to themselves: ‘We’ve seen this
movie before’.

Tartan Army: Scottish golf fans love Watson - he won four Opens north of the border

Tartan Army: Scottish golf fans love Watson – he won four Opens north of the border

Now, in going for a true legend who could not be held in higher esteem in Europe, they have changed the dynamic completely.

Watson, lest we forget, won four of
his five Open titles in Scotland, where he might even be more popular
than Andy Murray. In the press room, Clarke’s blarney would have been
infinitely more quotable than the genuine but quiet Toms, while among
the paying spectators filling the grandstands there would have been no
contest.

But Watson, with all his wit,
charisma and integrity, is a different matter. For the first time in 19
years at an away match, America will not mentally feel a couple of
points down at the start.

Squaring up: Darren Clarke (right) is set to captain Europe - following on from Jose Maria Olazabal (centre)

Squaring up: Darren Clarke (right) is set to captain Europe – following on from Jose Maria Olazabal (centre)

As for the team room, Watson might
not know much about the music tastes and personalities of his players
but it is hard to imagine there will be a member of the US side who will
not look up to him and respect his decisions. Well, maybe there is one.
In 2010, at the height of the Tiger Woods scandal, Watson was scathing
in his criticism.

‘I feel Tiger has not carried the
same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack
(Nicklaus), /12/12/article-2246805-05C54D86000005DC-660_634x408.jpg” width=”634″ height=”408″ alt=”Fairytale: Watson was so close to winning The Open at Turnberry in 2009 before Stewart Cink pipped him” class=”blkBorder” />

Fairytale: Watson was so close to winning The Open at Turnberry in 2009 before Stewart Cink pipped him

Watson’s four Open wins in Scotland
came at Carnoustie in 1975, Turnberry in 1977, Muirfield in 1980 and
Royal Troon in 1982. He came close to winning again and writing one of
the great sports stories of all time at the age of 59 at Turnberry in
2009, but he missed a short putt at the 72nd hole then lost out in a
play-off to Stewart Cink.

The man who will feel most
disappointed is the personable Toms but expect him to be chosen for
Hazeltine in 2016. Unless America win, of course. Then it will probably
be Arnold Palmer.

It's elementary: Why Watson's a real Ryder Cup hero

He has appeared in four Ryder Cups as a player (1977, ’81, ’83, ’89) and one as captain (1993) and never been on a losing side.

In 15 matches he won 10 and lost just four. He teamed up with Jack Nicklaus on four occasions and won every time.

Only one American who has played two Ryder Cups or more has a better winning percentage against Europe — Larry Nelson.

At 65 he will be the oldest American Ryder Cup captain. The previous oldest was Sam Snead, who was 57 when captain in 1969.

Watson’s message before sending his team out in the singles in 1993: ‘Remember, everything they invented, we perfected.’

He is the seventh US captain to be granted a second term of office but the first since Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village in 1987.

Ryder Cup pedigree: Watson and the USA's triumphant team of 1993 celebrate victory at The Belfry

Tom Watson to captain United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles

Captain America! United States to drop Ryder Cup bombshell by naming legend Watson as skipper for Gleneagles

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UPDATED:

10:06 GMT, 12 December 2012

Surprises don't happen often when it comes to announcing Ryder Cup captains but the PGA of America will come up with a jaw-dropping one on Thursday when they name Tom Watson as US skipper for the match at Gleneagles in 2014.

Captains on both sides for the past 15 years have all come from a narrow profile of players in their late 40s or early 50s.

'We've done something a little bit different this time,' Ted Bishop, PGA of America president, teased the US media at a lunch on Tuesday.

Leader: Tom Watson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014

Leader: Tom Watson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in 2014

No-one thought he meant as different as Watson, who will have celebrated his 65th birthday by the time the match comes around.

While the decision will undoubtedly spark incredulity and astonishment in some quarters, it looks an inspired move from this one.

The last time America won on foreign soil was in 1993 when Watson just happened to be the captain at The Belfry.

Think about what has happened since. The last four US captains for away matches have been Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin, who were up against Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie respectively.

Tartan Army: Scottish golf fans love Watson - he won four Opens north of the border

Tartan Army: Scottish golf fans love Watson – he won four Opens north of the border

In other words, four US skippers with little profile in Europe who were all monstered when it came to the vital PR battle against four huge personalities.

America effectively found themselves a couple of points down in each instance before the matches had even started.

So no wonder the PGA of America looked at the widely expected line-up for next time of the immensely popular Darren Clarke against the relatively unknown David Toms and wearily thought to themselves: we've seen this movie before.

Now, in going for a legend who could not be held in higher esteem in Europe, they have changed the dynamic completely.

Watson, lest we forget, won four of his five Open titles in Scotland, where he might even be more popular than Andy Murray. How does Europe counter that one

Where Watson might struggle is that he will not know a great deal about most of the players who will make up his team.

This was one of the complaints about Sir Nick Faldo's captaincy in Kentucky in 2008.

Squaring up: Darren Clarke (right) is set to captain Europe - following on from Jose Maria Olazabal (centre)

Squaring up: Darren Clarke (right) is set to captain Europe – following on from Jose Maria Olazabal (centre)

The argument against that is that Watson has always been much more of a people person than the aloof Englishman. He might not know much about their music tastes and their personalities, but it is hard to imagine there will be a member of the US team who won't look up to Watson and respect his decisions.

Well, maybe there is one. In 2010, at the height of the Tiger Woods scandal, Watson was scathing in his criticism.

'I feel that Tiger has not carried the same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack (Nicklaus), /12/12/article-2246805-05C54D86000005DC-660_634x408.jpg” width=”634″ height=”408″ alt=”Fairytale: Watson was so close to winning The Open at Turnberry in 2009 before Stewart Cink pipped him” class=”blkBorder” />

Fairytale: Watson was so close to winning The Open at Turnberry in 2009 before Stewart Cink pipped him

Playing in the Australian Open last week, everyone wondered why an Aussie writer asked Watson how he would feel about being Ryder Cup captain once more. Now the journo looks like a positive sage.

'It would be pretty cool,' said Watson. 'I would like to go back again as a captain. It would be a great honour if I got tapped on the shoulder.'

Northern Irishman Clarke, the overwhelming favourite to be standing in the opposite corner at Gleneagles, is playing in Australia this week and said: 'Obviously if Tom does get it he is one of the legends of the game. I am sure he would be a fantastic captain, not just to the team but that whole aspect of the Ryder Cup. The man is a huge name in the world of golf and rightly so.'

Watson's four Open wins in Scotland came at Carnoustie in 1975, Turnberry in 1977, Muirfield in 1980, and Royal Troon in 1982.

He came close to winning again at Turnberry in 2009 and writing one of the great sports stories of all time at the age of 59 but missed a short putt at the 72nd hole and then lost out in a play-off to Stewart Cink.

Interestingly, in four Ryder Cup teams as a player and one as a captain, he has never been on a losing side.

Given that America have lost seven of the last nine contests, no wonder he got the nod.

The man who will feel most disappointed is the personable Toms, but expect him to be chosen for the match at Hazeltine in 2016.

Unless America win at Gleneagles, of course. In which case it will probably be Arnold Palmer.

Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and the best Ryder Cup of all time! Golf"s great year remembered – Derek Lawrenson

What a year! Magnificent McIlroy, Donald, Rose, Poulter… and the best Ryder Cup ever

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 10 December 2012

Right from the first tournament in Abu Dhabi in January, this was a golfing year to remember, with each month providing a highlight reel. As the curtain comes down, here are my favourite moments of a season to savour.

January – Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi

Not only Rocky by name but, for one tournament at least, Rocky by nature. A former club pro who rises through the ranks to beat the greatest player of his generation — Hollywood would be interested if the franchise hadn’t already been taken. Here, Rocky wrote a script on which he will dine out for years to come.

David and Goliath: Robert Rock (left) is congratulated by Tiger Woods on his victory in Abu Dhabi

David and Goliath: Robert Rock (left) is congratulated by Tiger Woods on his victory in Abu Dhabi

February – Paul Lawrie in Qatar

An unlikely revival that had begun in Dubai the previous December took wing in the Gulf as the Scot continued his remarkable rise from the nether regions to Europe’s Ryder Cup team. How nice to see that one of the game’s genuine guys is getting the credit this time round that was denied him following his 1999 Open win.

March – The UK's finest rule in Florida

I couldn’t tell you how many tournaments I've covered in the Sunshine State that have been won by Americans. It felt like I waited ages for the first UK success to come along. Then, in a manner characteristic of a Florida downpour, it started raining victories. First, Rory McIlroy beat Tiger in Fort Lauderdale. Then, Justin Rose won his first World Golf Championship in Miami. Not to be outdone, Luke Donald joined the party by winning the following week in Tampa. It was March madness of a glorious kind.

Justin Rose won at Doral

Luke Donald kisses the Transitions Championship trophy at Innisbrook

England's finest: Justin Rose won the WGC Cadillac at Doral (left) and Luke Donald took the glory at Innisbrook

April – Watson wins the Masters

Whoever imagined a man called Bubba would find himself wearing a green jacket No, it is not an urban myth that Bubba Watson has never had a lesson in his life. Working out the hardest sport all on his lonesome, Watson earned his ultimate reward at the season’s first major, moving a wedge 30 yards in the air on the first play-off hole and moving a nation in the process with his wonderful success.

The greatest shot ever played Bubba Watson's miraculous hooked wedge that helped seal the Masters title

The greatest shot ever played Bubba Watson's miraculous hooked wedge that helped seal the Masters title

May – Luke's successful PGA defence

It is never easy defending a title and particularly Europe’s flagship event on home soil. Was this really the same Luke Donald who used to find it so hard to win In front of an adoring record crowd at Wentworth, the classy Englishman made it appear relatively straightforward, with a vivid demonstration of how much he has grown.

June – Marvellous Royal Portrush

At an historic Irish Open, it might have rained almost from the first shot to the last, but it made no difference to the golf-mad people of this special corner of Northern Ireland. To watch them pouring through the entrance gates from first light was truly humbling. More than 130,000 people had attended by the time Welshman Jamie Donaldson holed the winning putt.

Great friends: Ernie Els commiserates Adam Scott after pipping his pal to the Claret Just at Lytham

Great friends: Ernie Els commiserates Adam Scott after pipping his pal to the Claret Just at Lytham

July – Ernie Els's major comeback

Was there anyone who still believed big Ernie had another major victory in him Fortunately, the people who mattered kept faith. They rebuilt his shattered putting stroke and fractured confidence to lay the foundation for a most popular Open win. Credit, too, the dignified runner-up, Adam Scott, who took his late, late collapse at Royal Lytham & St Annes on the chin.

August – Rory at Kiawah Island

So much for fatal distractions and taking his eye off the ball. All those who doubted Rory McIlroy’s desire and ambition were forced to concede they were wrong following a momentous second major win for the 23-year-old, achieved in the grand manner, when a 20-foot holed putt on the final green allowed him to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record margin of victory. In that moment, every pro golfer wished that he was so distracted.

September – The FedEx Cup

Another eye-opener. This four-event series opened with Tiger and Rory playing together and kept us gripped through two McIlroy victories, right up to the moment Brandt Snedeker walked off with the mammoth $10million bonus and promptly announced he was giving much of it away to charity. A perfect warm-up to the year’s big event.

Major number two: Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

Major number two: Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

September-October – The Miracle at Medinah

There are some who believe this to have been the greatest golf event of all time. What is undeniable is that it provided a lifetime of memories. An event that defined Ian Poulter as one of the sporting heroes of the age, where Rory’s timing was as good on the course as it was bad off it; where Bubba introduced us to the unforgettable sound of cheering on the first tee while golfers play their shots. If you were wearing European blue, this really was as good as it gets.

Miracle-worker: European talisman Ian Poulter celebrates after his remarkable performance at Medinah

Miracle-worker: European talisman Ian Poulter celebrates after his remarkable performance at Medinah

November – Rory in Dubai

Ho-hum, not a bad month either. Poults took his Ryder Cup form to China and then became the first Englishman to win two WGC events. Luke made it three wins on three different continents with victory in Japan. And then came Rory at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. How about five birdies in a row to finish the season and finish off Justin Rose, who had just shot 62 What a day in the Middle-Eastern sun — but then, what a season.

December – And the winner is… Rory

A year that began with him becoming world No 1 at the age of 22 is ending with Rory scooping up practically every golf award going. Thank goodness, he has reportedly settled on a $10m home in Florida, so he has somewhere to put all these trophies. The year is ending in a fitting manner, therefore, as the dawn of Rory’s era offers up the promise that it will provide many more special moments in the seasons to come.

Quote of the Year

‘Europe’s Ryder Cup qualification
system should now be changed. It should be nine automatic qualifiers,
two captain’s wildcards… and Ian Poulter. Call it the Poults
clause.’

Lee Westwood sums up the feeling of a
continent in the aftermath of a display from Poulter that surely ranks
as the greatest Ryder Cup performance of all time.

After 48 consecutive weeks, this column is taking a December break. Merry Christmas to you all… and we will be back on January 7.

Graeme McDowell wins World Golf Challenge in California

McDowell makes it two in three by picking up World Golf Challenge in California

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UPDATED:

23:53 GMT, 2 December 2012

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell finished three shots clear of Keegan Bradley to win the World Golf Challenge in California.

The European Ryder Cup star banked a cheque for one million US Dollars (624,000) as a result of finishing 17 under for the week, as well as ending a two-year wait since his last victory – which happened to be in this competition.

The 2010 US Open winner was two shots ahead of Bradley at the start of the day and ensured success with a strong back nine that earned him a four-under 68.

Here kitty: Graeme McDowell poses with his trophy after winning the World Golf Challenge

Here kitty: Graeme McDowell poses with his trophy after winning the World Golf Challenge

Fist pump: McDowell celebrates winning at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks

Fist pump: McDowell celebrates winning at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks

He was one under at the turn, having
picked up a stroke at the par-five second, but strengthened his case on
the back nine with four more birdies to balance against a solitary
bogey-six at the 13th.

Bradley started strongly, with birdies
at holes two and five but was level par for the front nine after giving
back shots on eight and nine.

He finished three under for the round as he responded to McDowell's surge but it was not enough.

Up you go: McDowell tosses his club after hitting a shot on the 18th fairway

Up you go: McDowell tosses his club after hitting a shot on the 18th fairway

The pair were well ahead of the rest
of the 18-man field, Bo Van Pelt finishing third four shots back from
Bradley and seven adrift of McDowell.

Tournament host Tiger Woods finished in a share of fourth alongside Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk on nine under.

Zach Johnson spared England's Ian
Poulter last place with a dreadful round of seven over that included
three double bogeys and three bogeys.

Fourth: Tiger Woods shared his position with Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk

Fourth: Tiger Woods shared his position with Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk

Graeme McDowell leads in California going into the final round

McDowell on course to end year on high as he takes two shot lead into final round in California

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UPDATED:

09:02 GMT, 2 December 2012

Graeme McDowell remains on course for victory at the World Golf Challenge after a solid third round at Thousand Oaks.

The Northern Irishman soared to the top of the leaderboard yesterday with a six-under 66 and heads into the final day two clear at the top after following up with a 68.

It was a bogey-free round from the European Ryder Cup star and also included four birdies as he moved to 13 under for the tournament.

Leading the pack: Graeme McDowell leads in California

Leading the pack: Graeme McDowell leads in California

Keegan Bradley, in the news recently for his vocal defence of the endangered belly-putting technique, sits second on 11 under after signing for a 67 – the joint best round of the day alongside Bubba Watson.

He made six birdies but dropped a shot at the par-four ninth.

In the hole: McDowell makes a putt on the 15th

In the hole: McDowell makes a putt on the 15th

Competition host Tiger Woods is tied for third with Bo Van Pelt five shots off the lead.
England's Ian Poulter failed to crack 70 for the third time in a row and is way off the pace at even par.

Graeme McDowell gets engaged to Kristin Stape

G-Mac finds perfect playing partner as Ryder Cup star gets engaged to Kristin Stape

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UPDATED:

09:31 GMT, 22 November 2012

Old romantic Graeme McDowell hit the heights in Dubai as he proposed to his girlfriend on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab.

McDowell, taking part in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship this week, went down on one knee to pop the question to long-time partner Kristin Stape.

The Northern Irishman – solid as a rock when closing out a US Open or the final match of a Ryder Cup, admitted to a bit of a wobble 700ft above the UAE.

Two for tee: Graeme McDowell and Kristin Stape will get married in 2013

Two for tee: Graeme McDowell and Kristin Stape will get married in 2013

He said: 'She had no idea what was going on and was shocked and stunned. I even found myself getting a little bit emotional. It was a very special location, looking out over Dubai.'

McDowell met American Stape when he contacted her interior designer business to decorate his Orlando home and the couple are set to get married at the end of 2013.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy, McDowell's friend and fellow countryman, will also be celebrating this week as he is officially crowned the winner of the Race to Dubai.

McIlroy tweeted: 'Congrats to my good friend @Graeme_McDowell on his engagement to the lovely @kristinstape! Delighted.'

Ian Poulter says he doesn"t need a sports

Poulter: I know how to climb the rankings… and it isn't by using a sports psychologist!

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 21 November 2012

Picture a press centre enthralled to see what happened next after Ian Poulter was asked whether he had ever thought about seeing a sports psychologist.

Heavens, It must be Poults’s obvious lack of self-belief that prompted the question. All those vital putts he leaves short at a Ryder Cup.

For a few seconds the Englishman appeared to be weighing up how he could reply politely. ‘Do you honestly think I need a sports psychologist’ he began.

Are you crazy Ian Poulter responded to questions about whether he needs a sports psychologist

Are you crazy Ian Poulter responded to questions about whether he needs a sports psychologist

‘Are you crazy Wow. I think there are people in this game who would pay me a fortune to be their sports psychologist.’

Indeed they would, given there’s hardly anyone in the history of the sport who’s got more out of his game, and is less in need of the dark science.

The 36 year old is right in his pomp just now, of course, still on a high from his stunning contribution to the miracle of Medinah and playing some of the best golf of his career. In three events since the Ryder Cup Poulter has won one, finished runner-up in another and fourth in the third.

‘It just shows what golf can be played when I focus my mind and I am going to work hard in my little head to keep the focus the same as it was at the Ryder Cup,’ he said. ‘I know I am dangerous when I have that frame of mind.’

Could it be that seeing all those UK boys dominating the top five in the world rankings and the headlines also brought out the competitor in him

'I would say that I am good friends with a lot of guys who were playing a lot better golf than I was playing, so it did spur me on,’ he admitted.

‘It told me that I was capable of playing better golf but hopefully I’ve changed that picture now and it is time to kick on from this position.’

Poulter, currently ranked 13th in the world, certainly has the chance to kick on at the tour’s grand finale, the Dubai World Championship, where the presence of every other member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team means there are oodles of ranking points on offer.

Close call: Poulter missed out on the Australia Masters after losing to Adam Scott

Close call: Poulter missed out on the Australia Masters after losing to Adam Scott

Close call: Poulter missed out on the Australia Masters after losing to Adam Scott

He then has a couple of limited field events to play before a six or seven week off-season where he will try to improve a few areas of his game in time for the Masters in April.

‘I would like to drive the ball a bit further than I do, and my mid-iron play could get a little better,’ he said.

‘Most of all I need to be a little more consistent with my putting and putt like I have been doing for the past month over a longer period. Look at Luke Donald.

'He has putted consistently well for 18 months and look what that has done for his world ranking.

‘The main goals next season will be all around the majors. I’ve played well in three of them this year, three top 10s, and I’d like to get a lot closer.

'I would think coming down the stretch, if I was in contention, I’ve got a lot of self-belief in me that can hopefully get me over the line. But we will just have to see. They are hard to win, as you know.’

Star of the show: Poulter was in fine form for Europe at the Ryder Cup in Medinah

Star of the show: Poulter was in fine form for Europe at the Ryder Cup in Medinah

Poulter finished as he began, his eyes glazing over at another baffling question. An American journalist used a baseball analogy.

Seeing Poulter’s bemused response, the writer concluded: ’Living in Florida, you know baseball….’

That was enough for Poulter to knock the question out of the room for a home run.

‘I’ve never watched a full game of baseball,’ he said. ‘You want to sit there for four and a half hours eating a hot dog and a coke Really I’m sorry.

'I’ve been living in America for four years and I have never watched a full game. In fact I can’t think of many sports where I’d sit there watching for four and a half hours. Unless it was the Ryder Cup, of course.'

Hopefully, it will be a good few Ryder Cups yet before he is reduced to watching. Or playing the role of sports psychologist.

Rory McIlroy says he can win with any club

World No 1 McIlroy dismisses Faldo's fear, saying: I can win with any club

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UPDATED:

22:37 GMT, 20 November 2012

Rory McIlroy laughed in the face of danger; well, he did if you believe Sir Nick Faldo’s opinion that ditching his Titleist clubs is a ‘dangerous’ move.

Here at the season-ending Dubai World Championship, which marks the first time all the winning Ryder Cup team have been in the same place since Medinah, McIlroy will have a last outing with the only brand he has used since he was a teenager.

Speaking for the first time about his impending switch to Nike, the 23-year-old feels sure that there will be no teething problems.

Out in front: Rory McIlroy will end the year as World No 1

Out in front: Rory McIlroy will end the year as World No 1

Play with any club: McIlroy has opted to ditch Titleist clubs in favour of Nike

Play with any club: McIlroy has opted to ditch Titleist clubs in favour of Nike

He breezily dismissed Faldo’s belief it will take time to adjust. Six-time major champ Sir Nick had said: ‘I’d call it a dangerous move because we get a split-second with the ball on the club and you get used to how a ball feels and sounds.’

Final event: McIlroy is playing in the pro-am event prior to the DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates

Final event: McIlroy is playing in the pro-am event prior to the DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates

Not so, countered Rory. ‘I think all of the manufacturers make great equipment these days and it is all very similar. A lot of the manufacturers get their clubs made at the same factories.’

With the Race to Dubai wrapped up alongside the American money list and a record-breaking win at the US PGA, McIlroy has had a ‘phenomenal’ year.

‘The highlight was, of course, winning my second major,’ he said. ‘Up to then, it had been a good year but nothing more than that —when you win a major, it changes everything.

The biggest disappointment was the stretch in the middle where I did not play so well and missed the cut in two big tournaments in the PGA at Wentworth and my defence of the US Open.

‘As for my best shot, I will go for my final putt at the PGA at Kiawah to seal the record win. It summed up how the week had gone, and it is a putt I will think about for a long time.’

McIlroy ends the year with almost the same demands on his time as Tiger Woods had when he was in his prime. He knows he will have to be selfish and say no a lot more than he says yes.

He began so yesterday with a none-too-subtle rebuke to Arnold Palmer, of all people. The King joked recently he would break McIlroy’s arm if he gave the Arnold Palmer Invitational a miss next March.

‘My first thought when I read it was that I’d have to play the Masters next year with one arm,’ said McIlroy.

Perhaps his best answer came when he was asked what motivates him now he is, by a long way, the world’s best golfer.

‘Winning, and trying to become the best golfer I can be,’ he said. ‘Trying to win majors. Those are the really big things for me — winning tournaments and trying to win as many majors as possible. That is the benchmark.’