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Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, Wood Carves out a Lead

Chris Wood   (Getty Images)

Chris Wood / Getty Images

Chris Wood of England has carved out a decent chance of his first European Tour Title win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha.

Chris has previously had nineteen top ten finishes, but now has an excellent chance to secure his first win after his third round of -8 under par 64, for a tournament total of -15 under par, three shots clear of the field. Chris said he was very excited to be in this position;

“I’m very excited. I wouldn’t say it was one of my best rounds, but I played very solidly and was giving myself loads of chances. Going out today I thought as long as I kept myself in the mix going into tomorrow, then I was going to be really looking forward to it. Leading gives me a bit of a cushion, obviously it’s going to be hard, it’s hard to win any tournament on The European Tour, so it’s going to be difficult.”

There are three players at -12 under par for the tournament, Simon Khan, Alexander Noren and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell. Michael is continuing with his recent good form, and a win here would complete his come-back to perfection. Currently at 264th in the World Golf Rankings, 40 year-old Michael has not won since his HSBC World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth in 2005. He is amazed at the feelings he is experiencing right now;

“It’s been a tough couple of years since winning at Wentworth and it’s amazing that the feelings start to come back quickly.  The confidence is increasing every day. Six months ago, I was desperate, I think I made two cuts in about two years, 18 months or something, and now I have a chance of winning a couple of times last year and maybe tomorrow. We are just going back to what is working and what worked before, and going back with my coach Jonathan Yarwood six months ago definitely helped. That’s really one thing I’ve been working the last six months is just smile after each round of golf, whether it’s a good one or a bad one, and it’s working so far.  It’s really simple stuff. It’s just nice to be out here and having some fun at the same time and maybe have a chance of winning.”

Michael Campbell  (Getty Images)

Michael Campbell / Getty Images

Tied for fifth at -11 under par are Branden Grace and Sergio Garcia. Sergio slipping back down the leaderboard after going in the water with his third shot to the par five last and taking an undignified six.

Good Luck to Chris Wood, I hope he gets his first European Tour Win.

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Justin Jogs Along

 

Justin Rose  (Getty Images)

Justin Rose / Getty Images

Justin Rose jogged through the third round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship with a -4 under par round of 68. He now has a two shot lead over the field. Jamie Donaldson is in second place at -10 under par after his third round score of -3 69, he shares second spot with Thorbjorn Olesen.

Thongchai Jaidee is alone in fourth place at -9 under par following his marvelous round of -6 under par, 66. New Zealand’s Michael Campbell is still showing some interest in this tournament, he now at -7 under par, five shots off the pace going into the last round.

Justin was pretty candid with his comments;

“I came here with no expectations, I came here to see where my game is at. Anybody who wins this week, they have beaten the Number One and Number Two in the world. You can say you’ve beaten the best. I believe that any tournament I tee up in I can win.”

Jaime Donaldson had a victory last year in the Irish Open, so far that is his only triumph, but he is feeling confident here;

“I feel pretty good, I played some great recovery shots out there. It was another tough day out there, even though there wasn’t much wind. I couldn’t have really scored much better than that.”

Thorbjorn Olesen won the Sicilian Open last year, and is also full of confidence;

“I won last year and that gave me a lot of confidence, and I had a few second places. So I’m learning in every tournament, and it’s been a really good process the last three years. Hopefully I can make a few birdies tomorrow and make it exciting.”

David Howell, is at -8 under par, his last victory was  in 2006 at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, but has kind of dropped off the radar since then. David commented about his record in this tournament;

 “I’ve never really played well here, a couple of top twenties I think maybe. But if I can have a great day tomorrow obviously I can post a very good total. I’ve played really consistently for the best part of a year and I’m playing some of the best golf I ever have really. I’m just coming from a low position. It’s hard to fight your way back up there, but I’m doing it bit by bit and a big finish or a win would go a long way to taking me right back to where I want to be.”

I honestly don’t think David, or anyone can catch Justin, with the mood that he is in. He was relegated to fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings by Louis Oosthuizen’s victory in South Africa last week, Justin would take the position back by lifting a title worth €336,725.

 

 

BMW PGA Championship, Luke Donald wins, and Regains World #1 Ranking

Luke Donald BMW PGA Champion  (Getty Images)

Luke Donald BMW PGA Champion (Getty Images

Luke Donald successfully defended his title and retained his BMW PGA Championship title at the Wentworth Club in Surrey England, on Sunday. In doing so he also returned to the number one spot in the World Golf Rankings. This victory makes him only the third player, Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are the other two,  who have won The European Tour’s flagship event two years in a row.

Luke had a last round of -4 under par, 68 for a tournament total of  -15 under par. Justin Rose put up a good fight, and even drew level with Luke after four holes of the last round on Sunday. That event seemed to galvanize Luke’s thinking, and he then accelerated away to go clear once more.

This was Luke’s first ever successful title defense, he was very pleased with everything today;

 “What a great one to do it at. This is our biggest event on The European Tour. To come and defend and get back to number one is very sweet indeed. I was just trying to keep my head down and plug away. I was swinging well and I’ve putted well all week. I just needed to settle down a bit. This is a big week and I felt some of the pressure. After the fourth I didn’t give him (Justin) another hole where he was teeing off first other than the 18th. I got the job done.  I take a great amount of satisfaction. It means I am doing the right things, the hard work is paying off and I have a great team around me.”

Luke’s next meeting with Rory McIlroy will be at the Memorial tournament in Ohio starting on Thursday, but it is the US Open Championship in San Francisco on June 14 that his sights are now on. If he continues to play like this there is a good chance a first Major could well be his.

Justin Rose had to settle for share of second place, on -11 under par, with Paul Lawrie, who finished his tournament with a sizzling -6 under par 66, for the same Sunday total.

Justin was asked what he felt the difference was between him and Luke on the day, he replied;

“Luke’s putter really. He buried a lot of putts in the middle of the round and there were no loose shots coming down the stretch.”

Paul Lawrie has moved up in the rankings from world number 272 a while ago, to now probably being in the top thirty, and for the first time he can call himself Scotland’s top player. Paul said of his round;

 “You’re never unhappy when you shoot 66, but really it should have been a few less. When you get on a bit of a run the confidence goes up and right now it’s probably never been better.”

BMW PGA Championship 3rd round, Luke Donald in control.

Donald in pole position to defend his title

Luke Donald (Getty Images)

Luke Donald is in control of the BMW PGA Championship title at Wentworth after overcoming testing conditions with a third round – 3 under par, 69,  at the Wentworth Club in front of record Saturday crowd of 25,176. Luke showed his class with a joint-best round of the day in strong winds, the 34 year old is now eleven under par for the tournament, and two ahead of Justin Rose in second place.

Luke is attempting to follow Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players ever to make a successful defence of The European Tour’s flagship event. Nick Faldo did it in 1980 and 1981, while Colin Montgomerie had three wins in a row from 1998 to 2000.

The overnight leader James Morrison had a very difficult day, even though he started four clear of the field after a sparkling second round 64. The world’s number 236 cracked under the pressure and  signed for an 81 and will go into the closing eighteen holes eight strokes behind after, a quadruple bogey eight, a triple bogey eight and three bogeys on his card.

Luke said of his day;

 “The tougher the better. The good players that can be patient and deal with it are always going to rise to the top usually. That was by far my best round of the three. The wind was swirling and I hit a lot of solid shots. There were a couple of loose ones coming down the stretch, but I’m very pleased with that finish, it was hugely important for me. Physically and mentally it was tough and it’s going to be a grind tomorrow.”

Justin Rose was also pleased with his effort in the windy conditions;

“I’m delighted. It was one of those where I didn’t realise how good a round it was until I saw that the course had taken its toll.”

BMW Championship, Wentworth 2nd round, Morrison leads, Donald lurking with intent.

James Morrison leads the BMW Championship at Wentworth after a sparkling second round of -8 under par and 64. He leads by four shots from two players, yesterdays leader David Drysdale who had a second round score of -2 under par, 70, and the man seeking to retake the #1 spot in the world golf rankings, Luke Donald. Luke repeated yesterdays score with a -4 under par, 68, and with Rory McIlroy missing the cut in this years event, he must surely have his eyes set on the #1 ranking.

Luke Donald  (Getty Images)

Luke Donald (Getty Images)

The  current World Number Two is looking to regain top spot from Rory McIlroy at the venue where he dethroned Lee Westwood 12 months ago, Luke had three bogeys on his card, but two of them were followed by birdies and he eagled the twelfth  after dropping a shot at the eleventh. Luke said after his round;

Obviously I’m very pleased with that round,” he said. “This is a tricky course, and the scores are reasonably good. Obviously James Morrison had a great round – there are scores out there because the greens are holding.

“When I made bogey on 15, to finish with a couple of birdies on 16, 17, really will make me feel a lot better going into the weekend. I’m feeling very strong on the greens. I feel like something that has been not as consistent for me over the last couple of months, but felt very comfortable on the greens the last two days. Every time I’ve had opportunities, I’m seeing the line, and got the speed down and making some good putts.”

Asked if he was focusing on a top eight finish to give him the coveted #1 spot, Luke replied;

 ” To be honest, the focus is always to try and win the tournament.”

David Drysdale said he is desperate to win a tournament;

“I expect a lot, but if I shoot 80 or 65 I’ll take what I can from it. I desperately, desperately, desperately want to keep going forward and that’s my problem sometimes, I’m too eager, too keen, too determined I guess. I’ve been playing great, but been getting in the way of myself. I’m going to do my best and that’s all I can do.”

Along with Rory McIlroy, other notables missing the cut were; Graeme McDowell, Nicolas Colsaerts, Robert Karlsson and Retief Goosen.

I am anticipating a really good finish from Luke Donald, it will be interesting to see if James Morrison can live with the pressure of life at the top of the leaderboard.

BMW Championship at Easy Wentworth.

Drysdale dodges damp ending to lead with Lawrie

David Drysdale (Getty Images)

David Drysdale and Peter Lawrie both shot first round 66′s, for -6 under par on the first day of The BMW Championship at Wentworth. The Championship is being played on the West course, recently revamped by Ernie Els to make it easier to play, because he said some aspects of the old course were “unfair”. Since when has golf meant to be fair, if Ernie thought it was too difficult now  he should have tried to play it with old style clubs. It would appear that he has eased the difficulty a little too much, with two opening rounds of 66 and they were followed by five rounds of 67 and a further 13 rounds of 68.

David Drysdale used every trick in the book on the way to his 66, including a Barnes Wallis shot, bouncing the ball over the water on the eighteenth hole and achieved a birdie. He said of his magical shot;

 “You could hit 1,000 balls and never have it happen. I don’t know what it hit, maybe a fish. It was a massive break. I don’t think I can say what I would have thought if I had taken six or seven there.”

 Co-leader Peter Lawrie said:

“I played so well in practice that I was kind of very nervous starting out. I missed a couple coming in, but 66 can’t be sneezed at. The course is set up great for me, I’m not one of the longest hitters on Tour, but one of the straightest. You have to very patient and I’m quite a patient person. My wife wouldn’t believe that, but I am on the course!”

Luke Donald was one of the finishers tied at 68 with his -4 under par round, which included to bogies. Luke  has the chance to join Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players to make a successful defense of The European Tour’s flagship event.

Justin Rose achieved his score of -5 under par, 67, after fearing he might have to withdraw before the round.

“An hour before my tee time, I thought: ‘I can’t play’. I guess it was some sort of vertigo, I was nearly falling over and was sitting in the doctor’s chair for a while. He gave me an anti-nausea or something and did a good job getting me ready. I felt fine all the way round.”

Lee Westwood managed to get round in -2 under par, 70, despite not even playing his B game. He remarked;

 “I didn’t have anywhere near my A-game and not even my B-game really.”

Lee’s play-off defeat to Donald 12 months ago cost him the World Number One position, was delighted with the days score in the circumstances.

Two big names who missed out on the day were Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell who both had rounds of  +2 over par, 74′s, and could not have been best pleased with their efforts on the day. Rory even managed to get out of bounds, albeit by only an inch as he ran up a six on the long par five 12th hole, the last of four bogeys in five holes and a double bogey at the 16th was to follow.

Ernie Els thinks the West Course at Wentworth should be easier.

Ernie Els thinks the West Course at Wentworth was too hard, and unfair, he has redesigned it over the last twelve months to make it easier. He is now predicting that the winning score will be in the double digits at the BMW PGA Championship this week. Els said;

“The scoring is going to be better I think 14, 16 under is going to be the winning score again. Hopefully we will have more smiling faces from the players this year.”

Ernie Els  (Getty Images)

Ernie Els (Getty Images)

Among the changes is the 12th hole which has reverted back to a par 5, measuring 531 yards. A bank on the approach to the 15th hole has been flattened, and there is now a fringe which has been allowed to grow on the right of the 17th to slow any errant shots, which normally would have rolled down the slope. Personally speaking I thought that in golf, errant shots deserved to be punished. Ernie spoke about the changes to the 12th;

“The green was designed for a par five. It’s quite a severe green.”

Ernie was of the opinion that the bank on 15, as you approached the green over a bunker was “unfair” for players going in with a long iron and required a flatter area so the ball could pitch and stay on.

Changes to the 18th include removable of the big tree and the bunker on the right hand side, along with the raising of the fairway in the landing area and also now features a collar of rough around the green to make it less likely that a ball will spin into the water as happened in the play-off last year.

Most people are amazed that a golf course designer actually changes the normal layout, just to make it easier to play. Ernie spoke about the criticism;

“The way it was put forward the first year was a little childish, but hopefully we’ll have more smiling faces from the players this year. You make changes on a great course like the West Course people are going to not like it. That’s part of what we do as designers, but I think we’ve passed that bridge.  It’s history and we’ve patched things up with all the players. You’re not going to please everybody, but I don’t believe everybody should criticize just because there’s changes.”

The weather has played a part this year with head greenkeeper Chris Kennedy saying it was;  ” The most difficult build up I have ever known. March was the warmest and driest in 120 years and April was the wettest on record. Now May is shaping up to be the coldest in decades. We’ve had hail, white frosts and driving rain. It’s been so hard getting quality grass to grow.”

Not to worry too much Chris, the course is now so much easier to play. Incidently Chris did not make any comments regarding the changes to the course.

Luke Donald and BMW PGA Championship

Luke Donald is excited about playing in the BMW PGA Championship and cannot wait to defend his title at Wentworth Club next month. Luke rates this as the biggest tournament outside the Major Championships, and this is where he beat Lee Westwood in a play-off last year to not only claim the coveted trophy but rob his compatriot of the World Number One spot, a position Luke held on to for a total of 40 weeks. Luke spoke about his ambitions for this year;

“The BMW PGA Championship is the best event we play outside the Majors on The European Tour. Obviously the Majors come first. Those are the events I’m looking to try to win at the top of the list, but Wentworth isn’t far behind. For me it has a special, personal feeling too, because I grew up so close to it. I came as a kid a few times to watch and I have some special memories having won there as well. There’s a sentimental factor. I had a few wins last year, but I think Wentworth was the most fun and the most enjoyable because I got that World Number One ranking. It just all seemed to happen for a reason that week, at the flagship event of The European Tour, going against Lee who was World Number One and doing it in front of lots of friends and family. Especially having grown up just down the road, it was very special.  It’s a bigger event with the world class field that it attracts, and you always get up for those big events. I’m extremely excited to go back there and defend.”

“Who better to take down than the Number One player?” he said. “And the fact he happened to be British and English, that made that one much more satisfying.  If I’d been going against a lesser name, the win still would have been special, but in terms of going head to head with Lee, it was a special one. Right now we have so many guys who are ranked highly. We are always trying to get one over the other. We do have good relationships off the course, so on the course, certainly we are trying to beat each other.”

Last year's BMW PGA Championship was a truly special week for Luke Donald  (EuropeanTour)

Luke Donald (EuropeanTour)

Since then the World Number One title has seesawed between Luke and  Rory McIlroy, but the 34 year old knows that if he can produce a similar performance over Wentworth Club’s demanding West Course to last years super effort, he will return to the pinnacle of the Official World Golf Rankings. It would be a real boost for Luke to win at Wentworth, and return to the number one spot and I will be cheering him on, albeit from my TV armchair down here in New Zealand. Incidently, I too lived just up the road from Wentworth, used to drive past it everyday, but have never played there. Perhaps one day I will make it, its on my bucket list !!!

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