Wales Open. Lowery Leads at Half-Way Point.

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Shane Lowery leads the Wales Open at the half-way point at The Celtic Manor Resort.

Wales Open

Shane Lowery / Getty Images

Shane shot a second round -6 under par 65 to lead the Wales Open at -9 under par after 36 holes. He admitted his lofty position was a bit of a surprise, as he had never played that well before at Celtic Manor;

“I’m pretty happy. I’ve never, ever done well here before, so to be leading after two rounds is nice.There is still a long way to go in the tournament but I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”

“I didn’t drive it that good yesterday but still shot a decent score. I drove it a lot better today, drove it a lot straighter and gave myself a lot of chances and rolled in a few putts, so it was nice.”

“I felt like coming over that I could give it a go this week. I was around tenth going into the back nine on Sunday last week, and similar the week before in Switzerland. If I can get myself in a good position come the back nine this weekend, again, hopefully I can give it a go.”

First round leader Joost Luiten is tied second place, carding -2 under par in the second round for a -8 under par tournament total. Joost said the course played much tougher today, overnight rain being the main factor;

“I’m happy. It was tough today because the greens were very soft compared to yesterday with all the rain they had last night, and with the back pins, even seven irons spun back four or five yards, and it was tough to fly them all the way to the back.”

Big hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts is also tied in second at -8 under par, and would love to win again, his last victory was in 2012;

“It would mean a lot to win again after two years and struggling the first few months of the season.”

“Today I started very nicely but made two silly mistakes in the middle of the round and I almost lost it but it was nice to hole that putt on the last. It was about 35 feet with eight feet of break.”

The two Gleneagles Ryder Cup wild cards, Stephen Gallacher and Lee Westwood experienced differing results but similar emotions.
Steve shot -1 under par 70, and went home, missing the cut; Lee scored -2 under par 69 and made the cut. He was happy to have two more rounds of golf before heading to Gleneagles;

“I needed a couple more rounds, I was not particularly competitive yesterday, it was pretty scratchy, but today was more solid. A few iffy shots but it was nice to finish with two birdies in the last four holes to ensure being here for the weekend and two more competitive rounds.”

“I have been working on my game and been in the gym quite a lot, but I’m not quite match fit. I had three weeks off and you lose your sharpness.”

Steve was in a relaxed and philosophical mood as he left Celtic Manor;

“Yesterday was quite tough, it was tough to get going and get my head around it but today was a lot better. I was maybe trying a wee bit too hard yesterday and still thinking about next week.”

“I feel good, I’m physically and mentally good so I am really looking forward to next week. I’ll get up the road this afternoon and relax this weekend and maybe play nine holes with Thomas (Björn) on Monday morning.”

“I’ve done my preparation for it and I just want to get up there and get going.”

Wales Open. Joost Luiten Leads on Day 1.

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Joost Luiten leads  at the end of day 1 of the Wales Open at Celtic Manor Resort.

Wales Open

Joost Luiten / Getty Images

Joost shot an opening round at the Wales Open of -6 under par 65 to sit on top of the Celtic Manor Resort course leaderboard.

Nicolas Colsaerts and Andrew McArthur are tied in second place at -5 under par following their first round scores of 66. Nicolas hit the longest drive in European Tour history , mighty a 447-yard bombshell that left him with just a gap wedge into the 613-yard par five 18th hole at Celtic Manor, to set up the Eagle. Even that record could not console him as he rued not having the chance to play once again in the Ryder Cup, in his previous outing he carded eight birdies and an eagle in a four-ball win alongside Lee Westwood at Medinah two years ago.;

“I saw them having dinner and thought ‘I wish I was in that room. It’s their adventure and I am not part of it, but once you play in one Ryder Cup, you don’t want to miss another one.”

Of the longest drive, “The muscles from Brussels” only mentioned the wind assistance and some heavenly help;

” I thought it was too far right but it’s all downhill and downwind and it must have luged down the fairway. If all the stars align you can hit it a long way.”

Tied in fourth place are Justin Walters, Robert Rock and Sam Walker, these three carded rounds of -4 under par 67.

Robert admitted he had not played well this year;

“Probably for the last month I’ve been playing good, the rest of the year has been pretty horrific. I’ve been driving the ball well for months, and wasting every opportunity that brings.”

” My iron play has been good for two weeks, the putting has been hit and miss, but the past two weeks have been good, so I hope I can drag that on for a little bit longer.”

Of the four Team Europe players competing at The Celtic Manor Resort, Jamie Donaldson’s -1 under par 70 was the best score, with Thomas Björn returning with level par, Lee Westwood +2 over par and a rusty Stephen Gallacher signing for a +7 over par 78, Steve had this to say afterwards;

“I did half expect it, generally if I’ve got something to play for I’ll play pretty well. When I go through the motions I’m useless.’

“All eyes are on next week and it’s hard to put it out of my mind when I’m already in. Once you’re in it, I just want it happen. Next week it’ll be different, you’re in a heightened mood and I’ll be better.”

“One swallow doesn’t make a summer, so I’m not really bothered to be honest. I’ll just go out tomorrow and try and make a few birdies, see what happens. I’ll give it my best shot, I shot 63 around here once (in 2010).”

The longest drive this season on the PGA Tour was hit by Bubba Watson, who sent one 424 yards on the 16th hole at Firestone Country Club. He was the only player to eclipse 400 yards this season.

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.”