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Masters 2013: Guan Tianling to do homework while becoming youngest ever Masters player

Teen sensation Guan balances schoolwork and golf ahead of becoming youngest ever Masters player

By
Phil Casey, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

19:25 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 9 April 2013

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China's Guan Tianlang has done his homework, in every sense of the word, ahead of his historic appearance in the US Masters this week.

Guan secured his place at Augusta by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand last year and, at the age of 14, will become the youngest player Masters history when he tees off on Thursday.

The Guangzhou schoolboy says he will do 'pretty much all' of his homework while in America, but has found plenty of time for seven practice rounds at Augusta, with today's being alongside two-time winner Ben Crenshaw and tomorrow's scheduled to be with another double champion Tom Watson.

Juggling: Tanlang Guan, during the first Masters practice round today, will do his homework while in America

Juggling: Tanlang Guan, during the first Masters practice round today, will do his homework while in America

Juggling: Tanlang Guan, during the first Masters practice round today, will do his homework while in America

Guan

'I'm really excited in the morning when I come out on the course and there's many people here and I'm really looking forward to the tournament,' said Guan, who will also play the traditional par-three contest on Wednesday with three-time winner Nick Faldo.

'I'm not going to push myself too hard and I'm going to enjoy my game. Hopefully I can play well.

'The general manager of my home course is friends with Ben (Crenshaw) and he told him I wanted to play with him. He told me a lot and we really enjoyed it on the golf course.'

Picture perfect: Guan enjoyed his practice round with Tiger Woods on Monday

Picture perfect: Guan enjoyed his practice round with Tiger Woods on Monday

Picture perfect: Guan enjoyed his practice round with Tiger Woods on Monday

Guan has already played with Tiger Woods in a pro-am in his native China but will also seek out the world number one for a chat.

'I
think probably we will talk,' he added. 'The players here are all great
players, so I'm looking forward to speaking to any one of them.

'When
I was three or four years old I was looking at him (Woods) winning the
Masters and it's pretty exciting to watch him. I played with him twice
in the past couple of years and he gave me a lot of advice. Every time I
play with him I feel a lot better and give myself some confidence.'

Starlet: Guan will become the youngest Masters player in history when he tees off on Thursday

Starlet: Guan will become the youngest Masters player in history when he tees off on Thursday

Guan

Guan

Guan's appearance at Augusta may have made headlines around the world, but world number eight Steve Stricker was still taken aback when he realised exactly how old the former world junior champion is.

'I knew he was playing, I knew he was young. I didn't think he was the same age as my daughter,' Stricker said. 'I thought he was 16.

'That's remarkable. I just can't imagine being that young and competing at this level at such an early age.

'It will be interesting to see how he does and how he handles it. It's remarkable that he's even playing.'

Final preparations: Staff in Augusta are making last changes ahead of the tournament's start on Thursday

Final preparations: Staff in Augusta are making last changes ahead of the tournament's start on Thursday

Final preparations: Staff in Augusta are making last changes ahead of the tournament's start on Thursday

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hole guide

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National

PUBLISHED:

08:55 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

13:02 GMT, 8 April 2013

The waiting is over for the year's first Major as the best players in the world arrive at Augusta National for The Masters.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy stroll down Magnolia Lane as the top two in the world while Bubba Watson is defending the Green Jacket he won 12 months ago.

Woods is the man to beat with three wins under his belt already in 2013 while McIlroy looks like he's finally getting used to his Nike clubs following a fine display finishing second at the Texas Open.

But this is Augusta National where anything can happen and here, Sportsmail has everything you need to know in our hole-by-hole guide.

The Masters: Hole by hole

Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National – everything you need to know ahead of the season's first major

*Holes ranked from 1 (most difficult) to 18 (least difficult) based on how the course played in 2012

1st (Tea Olive), 445 yards, par four: A deep bunker on the right of the fairway and trees both sides make for a daunting start, while long and left of the undulating green both spell big trouble. Unsurprisingly played the hardest hole on the course last year. 2012 average: 4.39 (rank 1)

2nd (Pink Dogwood), 575 yards, par five: Driving into the trees on the left cost Padraig Harrington a nine in 2009, but Louis Oosthuizen memorably holed his second shot for an albatross in the final round last year before losing in a play-off to Bubba Watson. Important early birdie chance.
2012 average: 4.64 (rank 18)

3rd (Flowering Peach), 350 yards, par four: Shortest par four on the course but a pear-shaped green with steep slope in front allows for some wicked pin positions. 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel pitched in for eagle in the final round. 2012 average: 3.90 (rank 14)

4th (Flowering Crab Apple), 240 yards, par three: The back tee – not always used – turns it into a beast with the green sloping from back to front. Phil Mickelson took six here in the final round last year and finished two shots outside the play-off. Jeff Sluman's ace in 1992 remains the only hole-in-one here in Masters history. 2012 average: 3.22 (rank 6)

5th (Magnolia), 455 yards, par four: Jack Nicklaus twice holed his second shot in 1995 and Colin Montgomerie did it in 2000, but it is another devilishly difficult green. To clear the fairway bunkers requires a 315-yard carry. 2012 average: 4.21 (rank 7)

6th (Juniper), 180 yards, par three: From a high tee to a green with a huge slope in it. Four holes-in-one, but Jose Maria Olazabal took seven in 1991 and lost by one to Ian Woosnam, while Arnold Palmer has also run up a seven. 2012 average: 3.17 (rank 8)

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year - the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year – the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

7th (Pampas), 450 yards, par four: What used to be a real birdie chance has been lengthened by 35-40 yards, while trees were also added and the putting surface reshaped. More bunkers – five – around the green than any other hole. 2012 average: 4.17 (rank 9)

8th (Yellow Jasmine), 570 yards, par five: The bunker on the right, about 300 yards out, pushes players left and from there it is harder to find the green in two up the steep hill. Still a good birdie chance and Bruce Devlin made an albatross two in 1967. 2012 average: 4.86 (rank 15)

9th (Carolina Cherry), 460 yards, par four: The tee was pushed back 30 yards in 2002. The raised green, with two bunkers on the left, tilts sharply from the back and anything rolling off the front can continue down for 50-60 yards. 2012 average: 4.25 (rank 4)

10th (Camellia), 495 yards, par four: A huge drop from tee to green on this dogleg left and over all the years of the Masters the most difficult hole. It was here that Rory McIlroy began to fall apart in 2011 with a seven, while Watson clinched the title 12 months ago by making par in the play-off from the trees. 2012 average: 4.249 (rank 5)

11th (White Dogwood), 505 yards, par four: The start of Amen Corner. Toughest hole in 2011, with the water front and left scaring many. Best remembered for Larry Mize's chip-in in 1987 and Nick Faldo's back-to-back play-off wins. 2012 average: 4.32 (rank 2)

12th (Golden Bell), 155 yards, par three: Probably the most famous par three in golf. Narrow target, water in front, trouble at the back, it has seen everything from a one to Tom Weiskopf's 13 in 1980. McIlroy four-putted it in 2011. 2012 average: 3.06 (rank 13)

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National - measuring just 155 yards - is probably the most famous par three in golf

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National – measuring just 155 yards – is probably the most famous par three in golf

13th (Azalea), 510 yards, par five: The end of Amen Corner. Massive dogleg left with scores ranging from Jeff Maggert's albatross two in 1994 to Tommy Nakajima's 13 in 1978. Watson's crucial run of four birdies in succession last year started here. 2012 average: 4.72 (rank 16)

14th (Chinese Fir), 440 yards, par four: The only hole on the course without a bunker, but three putts are common on the wickedly difficult green. Course record holder Nick Price took eight here in 1993, while Phil Mickelson holed his approach en route to 2010 victory. 2012 average: 4.09 (rank 12)

15th (Firethorn), 530 yards, par five: Often a tough decision whether to go for the green in two across the pond on the hole where Gene Sarazen sank his 235-yard four-wood shot for an albatross in 1935. There have also been three 11s here. 2012 average: 4.67 (rank 17)

16th (Redbud), 170 yards, par three: Tiger Woods' memorable chip-in in 2005 came the same year as 73-year-old Billy Casper's 14, while Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter are among 15 players to record holes-in-one. 2012 average: 3.11 (rank 11)

17th (Nandina), 440 yards, par four: Tee shot is played over the Eisenhower Tree on the hole Justin Rose double-bogeyed when one off the lead in 2007. Jack Nicklaus birdied here to take the lead as he won his 18th major in 1986. 2012 average: 4.16 (rank 10)

18th (Holly), 465 yards, par four: The drive through an avenue of trees was made much harder when the tee was moved back 60 yards in 2002. The fairway bunker from which Sandy Lyle got up and down to win in 1988 is now 300 yards away. 2012 average: 4.31 (rank 3)

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

VIDEO: Tiger Woods hits embarrassing drive at Abu Dhabi Championship

VIDEO: Tiger hits embarrassing topped drive that just makes it past ladies' tee

PUBLISHED:

11:52 GMT, 18 January 2013

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UPDATED:

11:52 GMT, 18 January 2013

The ugly topped drive that barely makes it past the ladies' tee – it's the shot that brings us hackers out in cold sweats. Is there anything more embarrassing on the golf course

Well, just ask Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champion proved that even golfing Gods are not immune from first-tee meltdowns (although it was actually his tenth hole) when he pulled his drive low into the rough at the Abu Dhabi Championship, his first tournament of the year.

Woods looked on aghast as his shot travelled barely 130 yards. We know how you feel, Tiger. But we also secretly enjoy it when it happens…

Oh Tiger! Woods reacts after hitting his shocking drive off the first tee

Oh Tiger! Woods reacts after hitting his shocking drive off the first tee

***** CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO *****

Rivalry with Rory McIlroy can drive on Tiger Woods, says Jack Nicklaus

Rivalry with McIlroy can drive on Woods like Watson battle boosted me, says Nicklaus

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UPDATED:

08:04 GMT, 18 December 2012

Never underestimate the value of a
young rival. It worked for Jack Nicklaus when Tom Watson came along and
starting beating him on a regular basis and it will be good for Tiger
Woods that Rory McIlroy has wiped the floor with him this year.

Who says so None other than the great
man Nicklaus himself. 'I think the force that was pushing Tiger for so
long was my major record but that might get stale during a period of
time,' said the Golden Oldie Bear, now 73.

Rory McIlroy has put Tiger Woods in the shade

Rivals: Rory McIlroy has overtaken Tiger Woods to be world No 1

'Now Rory has come along and it will definitely be helpful for Tiger. He probably needs somebody to pop him a few times so he gets a chance to go pop him back. It's kind of good for you to get drummed a couple of times and then all of a sudden he says: “I'm not getting drummed anymore. I'm going to drum that guy back.” That's what rivalries are all about. The competition is fierce, and that's good.'

In an unusually long blog on his website, Woods was full of praise for what McIlroy has achieved this year but was more circumspect when it came to the rivalry part. Well, you never talk up an opponent too much, do you

'Rory had a wonderful year and my hat is off to him, he deserved Player of the Year,' declared Woods. 'Whether we develop a rivalry remains to be seen. Let's just play it out and see where it takes us.'

Where it will take them first of all is to Abu Dhabi in a month's time, which will be the first of around 15 tournaments next year where the pair will both be part of the same field.

This year they went at it for the first
time down the stretch at the Honda Classic in March, where McIlroy not
only emerged the winner but became world number one for the first time
at the age of just 22. They played together on a number of occasions
during the four tournament FedEx Cup series in the summer, where McIlroy
won two events and finished second behind Brandt Snedeker.

Classic rivalry: Jack Nicklaus (left) and Tom Watson at the 1977 Open

Classic rivalry: Jack Nicklaus (left) and Tom Watson at the 1977 Open

Now the year has ended with the Northern Irishman picking up all the end of season awards that used to be the preserve of Woods. The latest was being named European Tour Golfer of the Year on Tuesday.

As for Tiger, he might not have had a year that lived with McIlroy's but he will be quietly pleased about a season of solid progress that saw him win three times to move up 20 places in the world rankings and re-establish himself in the top three. Woods will be 37 at the end of this month, which was exactly the age Nicklaus was when Watson beat him at Turnberry to win the 1977 Open.

Nicklaus's response was to take back Watson's Open crown the following year, and add three more majors to his glittering collection in the years to come. Could Woods respond to McIlroy's challenge by doing something similar

'Looking ahead to next year, I'm just trying to win those big four tournaments and obviously try to use other events to prepare for them and try to win them as well,' wrote Woods. 'I have had to alter my practice schedule because my kids come first. It takes a little better time management on my part but I expect to play a similar number of events to this year.'

Regarding the season just ended, Woods concluded: 'Golf-wise, there's really no comparison between this year and last year. This year I got a chance to play a full season, compete and win three tournaments, whereas last year I was hurt most of the time. Being able to compete as much as I did was very exciting. I could actually go out and practice and prepare and play and not have a limited ball count or rehab training, and recording nine top ten finishes in 19 starts shows my game is back on track.'

But is it back enough to live with the ever-improving McIlroy Roll on 2013.

Hull 2 Huddersfield 0 match report

Hull 2 Huddersfield 0: Bruce keeps Tigers flying high with comfortable victory

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UPDATED:

00:23 GMT, 16 December 2012

Hull manager Steve Bruce is determined to get justice for his son Alex after his side’s win over Huddersfield ended in controversy.

The defender was sent off after the full-time whistle when he shoved Huddersfield striker Alan Lee in retaliation for an off-the-ball incident, and a melee ensued on the pitch and in the tunnel.

Bruce senior is determined the right person is punished, though, and took a DVD of the incident into the post-match press conference to show reporters footage of Lee aiming a forearm smash into the face of his son. ‘We are appealing his red, you can understand why,’

Party time: Hull celebrate taking the lead against Huddersfield

Party time: Hull celebrate taking the lead against Huddersfield

Match facts

Hull: Stockdale, Elmohamady, Chester, Hobbs, Bruce, Brady (Rosenior 81), Evans (Cairney 63), Meyler, Koren (Faye 90), Quinn, Simpson.

Subs Not Used: Jakupovic, Mclean, Olofinjana, Proschwitz.

Booked: Quinn, Meyler.

Goals: Koren 8,Meyler 90.

Huddersfield: Smithies,Hunt,Peter Clarke,Gerrard,Lynch,Clayton,
Norwood (Lee 70),Southern,Ward (Atkinson 60), Novak (Beckford 60),Vaughan.

Subs Not Used: Bennett, Woods, Hammill, Wallace.

Booked: Southern.

Att: 16,488

Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

The latest Championship table, fixtures and results

Bruce said. ‘I knew there must have been something in it for him to react like that. I thought it was cowardly by Alan Lee.

‘I thought more of him, I have had a pint of Guinness with him, I have played his guitar and I thought more of him.

‘Cheat is the right word for him. I
don’t use that lightly but that’s the right word for him. He’s
15-and-a-half stone and he went down like that.

‘That has ruined the day. We had the best referee in the country in Howard Webb and I have spoken to him.

'He will report it and hopefully there
is some justice. Alex is wrong with his retaliation, but he only pushes
him in the chest. He’s my son, but he takes after his mother.’

Before the incident, Hull had cruised
to a third straight win thanks to Robert Koren’s eighth-minute goal and
an injury-time second from David Meyler, though the win could have been
more convincing.

Bruce added: ‘It was an excellent
performance and we were the better team by a million miles. Our only
achilles heel is the conversion of chances we create.’

Huddersfield boss Simon Grayson
admitted Lee deserves punishing if found to have done something wrong.
He said: ‘I didn’t see what Alan has done, but if he has done something
he will probably get punished.

‘I don’t know what will happen, but he
deserves punishing if he’s shown to have done something. It was a
stupid way to end the game from both sets of players.’

The defeat represents a sixth game in a
row without a win for Huddersfield and they rarely looked like scoring,
despite having plenty of possession.

Grayson added: ‘It is disappointing
because we did a lot of work on trying to match Hull and the way they
played, and inside eight minutes we were a goal down to something that
we had worked to prevent.

‘We tried to change formation and get
something out of the game, but i t was disappointing that we didn’t
create too many opportunities and when you look back Hull goalkeeper
David Stockdale has not had too much to do.

‘It will take hard work to get out of this run. We will just have to work hard on the training pitch.’

Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson will be pulling out all the stops to beat Europe

I'll stop the rot, vows America's Ryder Cup captain Watson… and Tiger will be my No 1

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UPDATED:

00:06 GMT, 14 December 2012

It all ended in tears the last time an iconic figure made it as far as the 80th floor of the Empire State Building and roared out a warning.

Nearly 80 years on from the movie King Kong, Tom Watson will hope his message to Europe’s Ryder Cup team from the same New York landmark doesn’t end with him shot down in flames.

‘I hope that by appointing me as America’s Ryder Cup captain we’re telling the Europeans we are pulling out all the stops to beat you guys,’ he said. ‘We’re saying that winning is the most important thing and we want to do it in style. I always say that early in my career I learned to win by hating to lose — and it is about time we stopped losing.’

Bullish: New USA Ryder Cup captain was in bullish mood in his inaugural press conference saying his team would 'pull out all the stops to beat you guys'

Bullish: New USA Ryder Cup captain was in bullish mood in his inaugural press conference saying his team would 'pull out all the stops to beat you guys'

Skipper: Watson posed for photographers on the observation deck of the Empire State Building...

Skipper: Watson posed for photographers on the observation deck of the Empire State Building…

...but still had time to act the tourist and take a picture of his own

…but still had time to act the tourist and take a picture of his own

And with that proclamation ringing in the ears it was time to light the most famous building in Manhattan in the obligatory red, white and blue. As befits the grace of the man himself, there was nothing garish about Watson’s appearance, save for the slightly unnerving lack of grey hairs on the 63-year-old’s head.

Speaking of icons, the news of Watson’s appointment had hardly been made official than Tiger Woods was sending his congratulations and saying what an honour it would be to play for him at Gleneagles in 2014. Two years ago, he and Watson had a major falling-out after the latter had gone public with some scathing criticism of Tiger’s behaviour. Now Watson is keen to emphasise it is ‘all water under the bridge’. He added: ‘I hope he is on my team and if for some unforeseen reason he isn’t, he’s going to be my number one pick. He’s perhaps the best player in the history of the game and brings a stature to the team.’

Struggle: Tom Watson stated that Tiger Woods (above) will be the first name on his team, but the former World Number 1 has an appalling record in the tournament

Struggle: Tom Watson stated that Tiger Woods (above) will be the first name on his team, but the former World Number 1 has an appalling record in the tournament

Given Tiger’s appalling Ryder Cup record, for a moment I thought he said statue.

In keeping with the startling nature of this extraordinary appointment, Watson revealed he was first approached 13 months ago. ‘It was a phone call that I had waited a really long time to receive,’ said the five-time Open champion, who was a winning captain at The Belfry in 1993.

‘I really wanted the challenge again. Here we are, just off Broadway and that’s appropriate because I look upon being captain as like a stage manager, getting everything ready so the actors, or in this case, the players, can go out and perform.’

Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe’s retiring Ryder Cup captain, said Watson was just the man to deal with some of the huge egos in the American team. As the fall-out from Medinah continues, others have pointed the finger at Olazabal’s counterpart, Davis Love. Trust Watson to cut through the bluster. What he will bring to the job is an enormous presence, and that shouldn’t be underestimated.

But let’s not forget that Love lost at Medinah by the narrowest of margins. Watson was quick to seize on the hope that he gets that elusive quality that deserted his predecessor. ‘What I need is a little bit of luck,’ he said.
It was fascinating listening to his brilliant analysis of that miracle in Chicago. How Ian Poulter’s five successive birdies on Saturday night brought a ‘cloud on to the horizon’; how Europe’s wonderful start on Sunday saw the cloud turn into a storm. ‘ 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.'

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.

Spurs wizard Gareth Bale shows off his new trick shot – video

Spurs wizard Bale shows off his new trick shot… on the golf course

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UPDATED:

12:53 GMT, 5 December 2012

Spurs winger Gareth Bale is revered for his deft touch, mazy dribbles and silky skills – and his ball juggling on the golf course is not bad either.

The Welsh wizard, who shares 11 as his squad number and golf handicap, is regular on the golf course with team-mates Michael Dawson, Carlo Cudicini and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

And Bale finished off a recent session at the driving range with a trick shot.

Watch the video

Bale mimicked Tiger Woods famous Nike advert by juggling the ball on an iron before smashing it down the range on the half volley.

But he may need a little bit more practice before he is really a match for Tiger.

Watch the video

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