Italian Open. Molinari Flying The Home Flag.

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Francesco Molinari is flying the home flag in the first round of the Italian Open in Torino Italy.

Italian Open

Francesco Molinari / Getty Images

Francesco shot an opening round of -6 under par 66, he was joined at the top of the leaderboard on that score by Bernd Wiesberger.

Francesco has a Ryder Cup spot on his mind after European Team Captain Paul McGinley admitted Francesco is “very much in my mind” for one of the three wild cards that he will announce on Tuesday;

I had a chat with Paul when he got here and I think the good thing is that he knows what I can bring to the team because he has seen me as vice-captain on the last two teams.”

But it’s up to me to prove that I really want it and am playing well enough. I think anything less than a win would not be enough so I have to aim for that.”

Bernd, a two-time European Tour winner has plenty of Gleneagles experience, capturing fourth place in the Johnnie Walker Championship their last year, he also spoke about the Ryder Cup;

Paul knows I play well at Gleneagles and I like the course, but I am pretty far down the list (23rd) and even if I win it would be a surprise to get that call on Tuesday.” 

“The first three days at Valhalla gave me a lot of confidence knowing I could get into that position and be in the last group in a Major. I probably should have tried to make more of a move in the final round but I didn’t drive the ball that well that day and couldn’t really get it going.

“It was actually the first time I have had a really good performance in America as well so it was a big, big week for me and a pretty cool experience to be out so late on a Sunday in a Major.”

There are five players all tied at -5 under par for the tournament; American John Hahn, Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin, Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, England’s Richard Bland and South African Hennie Otto.

Stephen Gallacher, another Ryder Cup hopeful headed straight to the range after an opening round that featured four birdies and four bogeys, posting an even par round of 72;

“I’m a bit disappointed because I threw away a couple of shots midway through my round, but it’s okay for the first day and I am only one good score away from the top of the leaderboard.” 

“I know I have to finish first or second, that’s not going to change, so I’m not putting any pressure on myself. Once you get out on the course you just try to birdie every hole. That’s the easy part. It’s when you finish you think about the Ryder Cup.”

 

Sony Open. A Walk in the Park for Walker.

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It was a walk in the park for Jimmy Walker as he won the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

Walker's run continues

Jimmy Walker / Getty Images

Jimmy fired an amazing last round of -7 under par 63, to lift the trophy at the Sony Open on Hawaii with a -17 under par total. Added to that sweet success is the fact that although  it’s still only the middle of January, he is also No. 1 in the FedExCup standings and Ryder Cup standings.

Jimmy said it took him a while to get there, but he played some real cool golf;

“It took me a long time to do it, I felt very calm and controlled. That’s what you’ve got to feel and do when it’s time to win. It’s easy to say, hard to do, but today was awesome, really cool golf. I’ve always felt like I belonged, and you need affirmation every now and then. The other win was like, `Yeah, OK, I can do it.’ I did it, and I was supposed to be able to do it. Everybody told me I was supposed to do it, and I finally did it. And then it’s, `Well, are you going to be the guy that won that you never hear from again?’ It’s nice to get it done and do it again today.”

Chris Kirk finished in second place at -16 under par, his last round -4 under par 66 not good enough to win the trophy. He felt he had played well enough to win;

“I feel like I hit the ball well enough to win this week, but it doesn’t always work out that way.”

Jerry Kelly finished alone in third place, at -15 under par, with Harris English on his own in fourth at -14 under par.

Jerry finishing strongly with a -5 under par 65, but Harris was not so good again carding another round of -3 under par 67, to slip out of contention.

World number two Adam Scott completed his tournament in -10 under par, and is now taking a six-week break, to work on his game which was lacking a little something here in Hawaii;

“I was liking my position there, I was making today a lot of fun, but I didn’t play very well on the next nine. I just was in the rough too much, unfortunately. It’s just such a hard course to get it going around here. I’ll work on my game a lot, I think there’s plenty of work on after the last couple weeks.”

European Tour.Volvo Golf Champions. Three-Way Tie at the Top

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There is a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Volvo Golf Champions event at Durban Country Club.

Tommy FleetwoodLouis Oosthuizen and Joost Luiten are tied at the top of the Volvo Golf Champions at -7 under par for the tournament. Joost carding a spectacular albatross, ( note it is not a double eagle) at  the par five tenth hole. He  holed his second shot, a four iron  from  248 yards, at the to the 560-yard hole.

Joost Luiten  (Getty Images)

Albatross man Joost Luiten / Getty Images

Joost explained how it went, and the good feelings involved;

“It’s my first albatross,  I hit a good drive down the middle of the fairway, 227 metres left, hit a four iron and basically went straight at it. It pitched exactly where I wanted, just front of the green and released up the slope and straight at the pin and went in. It was a good feeling. “

“I didn’t really do a lot over the winter. I had three weeks off and I didn’t really practice. You never know how you are going to play after that but luckily the game is still all right. The funny thing is yesterday it felt terrible but I was making some good swings today, so that gives you some trust hopefully for the coming days. I want to win again and if you do there’s a Ryder Cup coming up, that’s the main goal.”

Tommy is not thinking of the Ryder Cup at this moment;

“It’s not my motivation at the minute, although it would be a dream come true one day.”It’s the best sporting event in the world but there are a lot of guys ahead of me at the moment.

“The difference between winning at Gleneagles last year and coming fifth that week was a single putt in four rounds. I could have lost in the play-off (with Ricardo Gonzalez and Stephen Gallacher), finished 50th in the order of merit and not played in the WGC event in Shanghai or this week and the difference in mindset would be huge.

“I played in all four Final Series events and played with Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy, and just being surrounded by the big players is a massive learning experience that you can’t buy.”

Padraig Harrington, currently sharing eleventh place at -2 under par, had to contend with his caddie collapsing half way round the course. Regular bag-man Ronan Flood needed medical treatment, and could not continue. Pat Cashman,  a photographer for the Golfing Union of Ireland, and who has known Padraig for around 35 years was in the gallery following his fellow Irishman and stepped in to carry the bag.

Padraig Harrington and stand-in caddie Pat Cashman  (Getty Images)

Padraig and Pat / Getty Images

Pat said in interview;

“The bag was lighter than I expected. It was very comfortable. I saw Ronan on the range and he looked awful. I said if you need help, call me. They sent out a replacement caddie but Padraig asked if I would be happy to continue and I was. I told him I wouldn’t give him a line or a club but he was so easy to work for. I’ve given him my phone number if he needs me but hopefully Ronan will be okay.”

Padraig spoke about his stand-in caddie;

“He started off like he was carrying bows and arrows but by the end he had the double-strap going (on the bag) and was using all the lingo. It’s amazing how much caddies do for you and it gives you a new appreciation for what they do out there. I know now why we pay them the big bucks!”

Hong Kong Open, Miguel Masters Manley and Messawat in Playoff for the Title.

Miguel Angel Jiménez  rolled in an 18 foot putt at the 18th hole to become the oldest winner in European Tour history with this victory at the Hong Kong Open.

Miguel Angel Jimenez  (Getty Images)

Miguel Angel Jiménez / Getty Images

Finishing the final round tied with Stuart Manley and Prom Messawat at -12 under par Miguel made a winning birdie on the first extra hole in the play-of for the Hong Kong Open title.

A happy Miguel loves this place, winning the event for a record fourth time, and is thinking of the Ryder Cup;

“I love this place, I love this golf course, I love the tournament. I played so well and I holed some putts, and the one in the play-off gave me victory. If I play the way I am playing this week I will be in the Ryder Cup Team, there is one more year to go and now I get this victory here it will help a lot. You never know, I would love to be part of the team again.”

Prom, from Thailand, spoke about his amazing week;

“It’s been an amazing week for me, I didn’t feel any disappointment in the play-off. I did my best this week, and it’s my best finish on this golf course.”

Stuart was happy with his result, but was disappointed to put his approach to the green in the play-off into the Hospitality tent, he still made par, but is was not good enough;

“I’m pretty pleased. Obviously I’m disappointed to lose in a play-off with a poor shot, but for Miguel to make birdie is pretty special.  It was pretty special to make three myself to get into the play-off. So I can take a lot from the week. This week will give me a lot of confidence. It’s money on the board for The Race to Dubai and everything feels very positive.”

 

Johnnie Walker Championship. Relaxed Ricardo Leads At Half-Way.

Ricardo Gonzalez leads at the half-way stage of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Ricardo Gonzalez  (Getty Images)

Ricardo Gonzalez / Getty Images

Ricardo compiled a second consecutive round of -7 under par 65, to top the leaderboard on The Gleneagles Hotel course at -14 under par. This is the Centenary Course which will host next year’s Ryder Cup at The Gleneagles Hotel.

Ricardo managed to  birdie his last five holes to card his second consecutive 65 on the course, the 43 year-old currently lies 109th in The Race to Dubai, with only the top 110 at the end of the year retaining their playing privileges for 2014.

He reflected on a tough couple of years on Tour, and if he wins this week he dedicate the victory to Mum and Dad;

” The last two years have been very difficult personally, if I win I would like to dedicate it to my mother and father, that’s my target this week. It’s a very important week for me because I have not played well at the start of the season. To shoot two rounds of 65 is amazing. I had five weeks’ rest to recharge my batteries. It’s strange because I’m a professional golfer and I need competition, but I’m feeling great after five weeks off. It has made me more relaxed and I think that’s the key to making a good score.”

 Bernd Wiesberger could not quite match the brilliant finish of Ricardo, but he still covered the back nine in 31 strokes to add a -6 under par 66,  to his opening 65 and finish the 54 holes at -13 under par, just one shot back and firmly in second place alone.

Bernd is hoping to play in the Ryder Cup, and said that Captain Paul McGinley thinks he could represent Europe;

” I played with Mr McGinley in the final round of the Scottish Open and afterwards he said he was very happy with my game and thinks I can play myself into the team, that’s something I really enjoyed hearing. It’s good that I have my name up there and even though qualifying has not started yet it’s important to play well at The Ryder Cup venue and make a statement that way.”

 Mark Foster and Tommy Fleetwood are at -11 under [ar after rounds of 67 and 65 respectively, to occupy third place. Mark admitting his search for a second European Tour victory ten years after his first is always on his mind.

“At the time it was not too bad,, but as it went on I thought about it more, especially every time I step onto the 18th tee here now, I’m not one for regrets. I stayed positive and hit drives and just made a bad swing rather than choosing a bad club.”

Defending Championship Paul Lawrie is at -7 under par after two rounds,

“I hit it lovely today and I am in there again, I think I will probably need a low weekend with the way the scoring is going but as long as you are in there you have a chance.”

Tshwane Open Rd 1, Darren Fichardt Leads.

Darren Fichardt  (Getty Images)

Darren Fichardt / Getty Images

Darren Fichardt secured the first round lead as he goes in search of a second European Tour win in as many weeks at the inaugural Tshwane Open, at Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate in South Africa. Darren had a first round of -7 under par 65, and is looking to add to his  African Open victory a couple of weeks ago. Darren also likes the Ernie Els designed course here;

“The swing is good and I’m putting well, this golf course is awesome , it’s very fair. The greens are very soft, so you’re able to attack the flags. I’m happy with seven under to start off with. Right now it’s been eight weeks in a row and I don’t even know what’s going on! I’m just going with the flow and hitting one shot at a time. I’m looking forward to a break. I’ll take it one day at a time and do my best this week.”

In second place is  qualifying school graduate, Sweden’s Bjorn Åkesson, shooting a round of -6 under par 66, he said afterwards;

“I got off to a great start with two birdies through the first three, back nine I kept playing really good and made a lot of putts. That’s what you need to do to shoot low scores.”

This is the sixth and final event co-sanctioned between The European Tour and Sunshine Tour on The 2013 Race to Dubai, and so far they have been predominately South African winners. The only exception to this run was the win of   Scott Jamieson at the Nelson Mandela Championship, which was presented by ISPS Handa

The former Ryder Cup star, England’s David Howell, along with countryman Gary Lockerbie,  are accompanied by India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, Chilean Mark Tullo and South African Jean Hugo, all  are two shots off the pace in a share of third. Jeev Milkha Singh said he just loves playing here;

“I love playing in South Africa,  I’ve always had good results and it always gives me positive vibes and good memories when I come back. This year I played the Volvo Champs in Durban and it was my first time back in South Africa after eight years. Every time I wanted to come back there was an event in Asia or Europe and I was missing coming back.  Things have worked out nicely that I’m back here and I love the course. I’m happy with the way I hit the ball and I putted well. When it’s windy and you miss a few greens you need to make some up and downs and that’s what I did. I holed a lot of putts today and I’m happy with the way the round turned out.” 

WGC Accenture Match-Play, Semi’s Finalised

Four for the show

Jason Day Vs Hunter Mahan  Matt Kuchar Vs Ian Poulter / Getty Images

WGC Accenture Match-Play semi’s have been decided, Jason Day will play Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar will face Ian Poulter at The Golf Course on Dove Mountain, for a place in the final.

Jason Day beat off the challenge of Graeme McDowell, while Hunter Mahan had a tough task in ousting Webb Simpson.

Matt Kuchar took care of Robert Garrigus and Ian Poulter had a real old tussle with Steve Stricker.

Ian took control of the momentum of the match when he sunk a 40ft putt on the third hole, Steve Stricker laughed when the putt rolled in, but was not laughing when his own four foot birdie attempt missed and he lost the hole. Ian joked about the putt, which was reminiscent of his Ryder Cup putt against Phil Mickleson;

“It was 40 feet, left-to-right, right-to-left, right-to-left again, hopefully slowing down on the ridge, taking a left-hand turn, down the slope and then chucking a little left to right at the end to drop it, it was really nice.”

Ian was three up with three holes remaining when he missed the green to the right. Steve came up short and chipped to about three feet. While Ian was studying his chip to the green, a fan standing near Ian said;

“Pick it up.”  so Steve did just that.

Ian, the highest remaining seed left in the tournament, said of the incident;

“I think it was close enough, anyway, but for a split second, it was a little off-putting, and I guess I had to hole a 12-footer to finish the match.”

The semi’s tomorrow look like being enthralling contests, and I look forward to them.