Rose expects British golfer to contend this week

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2010, 4:20 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Rule Britannia.

A British golfer hasn’t won his own Open in more than a decade, and it’s been even longer since an Englishman hoisted the claret jug. That could change at St. Andrews this week, given the way golfers from the United Kingdom – all of Europe, really – have dominated the winner’s lists on both sides of the Atlantic lately.

“I expect one of us to be in contention on Sunday, just pure numbers,” said Justin Rose, who’s leading the charge after winning twice on the PGA Tour in a five-week span. “Numerically, you look at the world rankings, you look at the opportunity for us. It’s probably better than it’s been, dare I say, ever. Just using that basis, I think one of us will be in contention Sunday afternoon.”

Stuck in the shadows of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for so many years, the Europeans pose their biggest threat since the days of Seve, Faldo and Ollie. After eight years without a major champion, Europeans have now won four of the last 12, including Graeme McDowell’s surprise win at the U.S. Open last month. McDowell’s big victory was part of a stretch that saw Europeans win four PGA events in five weeks – and Rose had a shot at winning the fifth as the 54-hole leader.

Half the players in the current top 20 hail from Europe, with all but three of the 10 from Britain or Northern Ireland. Only six of the top 20 are Americans. Compare that to five years ago, the last time the British Open was held at St. Andrews. Back then, the Americans had nine players in the top 20, while all of Europe managed just five, two from Britain or Northern Ireland.

“You look at the last five years of the majors, and the English and the British players have started to get more and more experience. For me that was what spurred me on,” said Nick Faldo, whose win at the 1992 British Open was the last by an Englishman. “I think everybody is learning and everybody is really keen. I think something is going to happen this week.”

While part of Europe’s rise is simply cyclical, there is more to it.

When Padraig Harrington won the 2007 British Open, he was Europe’s first major champion since Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999. Harrington kept the claret jug for a second straight year in 2008, and added the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship.

Suddenly, all those players who wondered if they’d ever catch up to the Americans, Australians and the South Africans realized one of their own already had. Same with McDowell’s win at Pebble Beach, the first at America’s national championship by a European in 40 years.

“To see him win that, it gave me a lot of confidence just to know winning a major wasn’t as far away as I thought it was,” said Rory McIlroy, who has already proven he’s got the game to win – and win often – with his dominant display at Quail Hollow in May. “I had sort of viewed winning majors as this higher level, and it made me realize that it wasn’t. You just need to play well in the right week, and have a few things go your way.”

McIlroy is only 21, the kind of precocious talent that could carry the continent for a generation. The Northern Irishman turned pro in 2007, earned his European card without going to Q-school and broke into the top 10 in the world before his 21st birthday.

“The fields seem to be a lot more wide open nowadays and guys are believing that they can do it,” McDowell said. “To be part of that inspiration factor, hopefully, for European golfers and for a guy maybe to win this week or to win at the PGA, I’m comfortable with that.”

Lee Westwood’s bum calf probably will keep him from doing much at St. Andrews, but he’s ranked No. 3 in the world and Europe’s top player last season. When he was honored at the British golf writers’ dinner Tuesday night, Westwood looked over at PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and said, “Congratulations to Steve Stricker. Always nice to see an American win on your tour.”

Ouch. Hard to argue, though. Stricker’s victory Sunday at the Deere Classic was only the second by an American since the beginning of June.

“Getting over to the States and playing a lot more with obviously the best players in the world … you become more comfortable with them,” McDowell said. “And, obviously, you feel like you can start to compete, rather than seeing them less often and being over-awed.

“I’m just proud to be part of a strong British and Irish contingent, and part of a strong European contingent right now,” he added. “It would be great to see another one of the boys win this week.”

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with an two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”