Dyson Claims Third Dutch KLM Open Title

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Before the start of the KLM open in the Netherlands last week there was a mass of focus and attention on a few key players, and it’s fair to say the winner wasn’t one on them.

That matters little though to Englishman Simon Dyson who came through for his third KLM Open title in just six years on the weekend, a massive achievement in anyone’s language.

Dyson upstaged the return to gold of Rory McIlroy as well as some well supported German’s with a final round of 66, enough to finish one shot clear of compatriot David Lynn.

McIlroy didn’t have a bad day though, he was only a further two back showing he’s ready for a crack at the world’s number one ranking next season.

RoryMcIlroy

Rory McIlroy ends his comeback tournament with a solid third at the KLM Open.

The day belonged to Dyson though as he seemingly felt no pressure to sink four birdies in the last seven holes and enter the clubhouse with a final score of 12 under par.

That mark would prove enough as the 33 year old grabbed his second win of the season to go along with his Irish open victory back in July.

He has tasted success in the Netherlands in 2006 and in 2009, this making him just the third person since Steve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer to put three together.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be on the same trophy as names like those two,” Dyson said.

“It’s something special, a dream come true really. To win any title once is tough, but to win it three times is a fantastic feeling.”

“I started a bit shakily – my timing was just a little bit off – but after my bogey on 11 I played pretty flawless golf.”

It now means he’s well and truly secured in the top 10 of the Race To Dubai rankings and only just outside the top 30 in the world golf rankings.

McIlroy finished with birdies on the final two holes to close the gap somewhat to Dyson while Lynn missed out from arguably a winning position with only the one birdie during the final six holes.

Gary Orr and James Kingston led going into the final day but with scores of 71 and 73 respectively they will have to make do with fourth and equal sixth placed finishes.

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Rory Fever Grips Dutch KLM Open

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All eyes are on Rory McIlroy today as he looks to take over the Netherlands on his way towards top spot on the world golf rankings.

The KLM Open is the launching pad he’s chosen to end his short absence from the game and the world number four has a great opportunity to score a couple of body blows early in the piece.

World number two and three Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are both competing in the same event meaning McIlroy can assert his dominance on them directly.

Kaymer is in fact the defending champion of the event and will also have plenty of support from the crowd with plenty of Germans pouring across the border.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy's charge to top spot starts in the KLM Open.

That being said there’s no doubt who the real poster boy of the tournament is with McIlroy billed as the ‘new Tiger’ following the former world number 1′s performance slump.

He boasts a similar level of confidence as well saying knocking Luke Donald off the number one ranking is something he hopes to accomplish within the next 12 months.

“I’m not desperate, but it’s definitely a goal that I’ve set for myself,” he said.

“I feel as if it’s very attainable.

“It might not be this year, but definitely into next year, I can give myself a very good platform to kick off the season next year if I end the season well.

“So all I want to do is try and get closer to Lee, obviously at Number Two and then to look at Number One, Luke’s got a little bit of a lead at the minute and it would be nice to get closer to him.

“But at the end of the day, winning golf tournaments takes care of that. So I want to just concentrate on trying to play well and give myself chances to win every week that I play.”

There will be no shortage of people able to tell him how he’s going either with a flurry of media attention following his every move across the country.

His US Open win was what really set him as popular figure as he busted the mold of the usual golfing stereotype, much like Woods did before him.

He says he’s not feeling any extra pressure from the attention though and daily life remains more or less unchanged.

“I’m still trying to keep my feet on the ground, I have the same friends, and I’m still very close to my Mum and Dad,” he said.

“So I try to live as normal a life as possible. But sometimes that’s not always easy.”

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Darren Clarke picks up his first Claret Jug and another major goes to Northern Ireland

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Darren Clarke holds his first jug

Darren Clarke holds his first jug

Another major goes to Northern Ireland. The surprise was Darren Clarke’s name on the Claret Jug.

Ten years after he last contended in a major, no longer in the top 100 in the world, Clarke delivered his defining moment Sunday in the Open Championship when he held off brief challenges from Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to win golf’s oldest championship.

The weather was so wild that heavy rain changed to sunshine, back and forth all afternoon, while the wind was relentless.

Clarke was a steady presence through it all.

A 20-foot eagle putt on the seventh hole gave him the lead for good, and he didn’t drop a shot until it no longer mattered. With bogeys on the last two holes, Clarke closed with an even-par 70 for a three-shot victory over the two Americans.

“Pretty amazing right now,” Clarke said, the Claret Jug at his side. “It’s been a dream since I’ve been a kid to win the Open, like any kid’s dream is, and I’m able to do it, which just feels incredible.”

Northern Ireland had gone 63 years without a major. Now it has three of the last six — Graeme McDowell in the U.S. Open last year at Pebble Beach, followed by Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Open in a record performance last month at Congressional, and now the 42-year-old Clarke.

“Northern Ireland…… Golf capital of the world!!” McIlroy tweeted as Clarke played the last hole.

“We’re blessed to have two fantastic players in Rory and GMac, and I’ve just come along, the only guy coming along behind them,” Clarke said. “We have fantastic golf courses, we have fantastic facilities, but to have three major champions from a little, small place in a short period of time, it’s just incredible.”

They are so close that a week after McIlroy won the U.S. Open, Clarke pulled out of a tournament in Germany so he could return to Northern Ireland and join the celebration.

They were always for someone else. Clarke had reason to believe his best celebrations were behind him. Surely, nothing could top playing a Ryder Cup on home soil in Ireland five years ago and leading Europe to victory just one month after his wife, Heather, died of cancer.

“In terms of what’s going through my heart, there’s obviously somebody who is watching down from up above there, and I know she’d be very proud of me,” Clarke said. “She’s probably be saying, ‘I told you so.’”

Indeed, this was overdue.

No one had ever gone more than 15 starts in the Open until winning, and this was the 20th try for Clarke. Yet even as he struggled with his game and the adjustment of raising two boys without their mother, and as the spotlight shifted to youth, Clarke never gave up on his dreams.

“I always believed I would get myself back up here,” he said before heading out to the 18th green to collect the oldest trophy in golf. “I always believed I had enough talent to challenge and win one.”

He delivered on the demanding links of Royal St. George’s to hold off Mickelson and Johnson.

Mickelson, rarely a threat in this major, made up a five-shot deficit in seven holes and was only one shot behind after a birdie on the 10th until he started missing short putts. He shot 38 on the back nine, hitting his final approach into the grandstand.

Then it was Johnson’s turn. In the final group of a major for the third time in six years, Johnson made two birdies early on the back nine and was only two shots behind when his second shot to the par-4 15th went out of bounds, ending his hopes again.

The last hour was a coronation for Clarke, long a popular figure not only in Europe but around the world. Puffing away at cigarettes as he barreled down the fairways, he never looked to be in any trouble.

And the few times he did, the golfing gods came to the rescue. He twice hit shots that were headed for pot bunkers well short of the green, only to hop over them or around them, keeping him in control.

He posed with the Claret Jug that was empty, but not for long. He promised some “nice, Irish black stuff” by evening. And when asked about the celebration, Clarke promised only that it would be “long.”

“And I’ll be very, very hungover,” he said.

He finished at 5-under 275 and became the first player in his 40s to win a major since Vijay Singh at the 2004 PGA Championship. Only two other players were older than Clarke when they won their first major — Roberto De Vicenzo (44) in the 1967 Open, and Jerry Barber (45) in the 1961 PGA Championship.

For the Americans, their longest drought without a major since the Masters began in 1934 will continue at least until the PGA Championship next month. They had plenty of contenders, from Mickelson to Johnson to Rickie Fowler and Anthony Kim, but none came through.

Mickelson’s problems started on the par-3 11th, when he missed a par putt from just inside 3 feet.

“It was just a dumb, mental error,” Mickelson said. “I just lost focus there, and it hurts to throw shots away like that when I’m behind.”

He wound up with a 68, which felt more like a 78, and had his seventh runner-up finish in a major.

It might have been more devastating for Johnson, who never lost his composure even as he fell four shots behind on the front nine. Johnson made a 6-foot birdie on the 10th and a 15-foot birdie on the 12th to get within two shots.

Just like that, it was all over.

Johnson had an 8-foot birdie attempt at No. 13 as Clarke went over the green. Instead of a potential two-shot swing, however, Clarke saved yet another par, and Johnson missed his putt. From the middle of the 14th fairway, Johnson tried to lay up with a 2-iron, playing a draw back toward the flag. The wind caught it and took it beyond the white stakes, and Johnson hung his head and dropped another ball in the fairway.

It was another wasted opportunity — the 82 in the final round of the U.S. Open with a three-shot lead, then taking a two-shot penalty on the last hole of the PGA Championship when he didn’t realize he was in a bunker.

“The more I put myself in this situation, the better,” said Johnson, who closed with a 72. “The more I learn, the more I understand my game and what happens in this situation.”

Thomas Bjorn, who threw away the Open in a bunker on the 16th hole eight years ago, acquitted himself nicely. He never got closer than three shots all day, but his 71 put him in fourth place and at least earned him a trip back to the Masters next year.

Chad Campbell (69), Kim (70) and Fowler (72) tied for fifth.

Clarke won for the second time this year — he beat a weak field in Spain that was opposite The Players Championship — and goes to No. 30 in the world. He had been No. 111, the lowest-ranked player to win a major since Shaun Micheel in 2003 at the PGA Championship.

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Darren Clarke captures his 13th. European Title at Iberdrola Open in Mallorca

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Darren Clarke wins again

Darren Clarke wins again

Darren Clarke came from four behind to capture his 13th European Tour title at the Iberdrola Open in Mallorca.

The Northern Irishman used all his experience to grind out a final round 69 and deny Chris Wood his maiden victory.

The Ryder Cup Vice Captain had reduced Wood’s overnight advantage to one within three holes, but a double bogey at the 11th after finding water looked to have cost him a first win since the 2008 KLM Open.

But Wood encountered numerous problems on the back nine – three-putting the 12th and 13th and driving out of bounds at the 15th as he came back in 40, despite coming within millimetres of a hole in one at the last.

And Clarke finished in style, holing a putt from the fringe at the 14th, nailing his approach to six feet at the 15th, saved par with a brilliant approach from a fairway bunker and then chipping in to scramble par at the next.

The 42 year old finished with a six under par total at the Pula GC course designed by his final round playing partner José Maria Olazábal, with Wood tying for second with compatriot David Lynn.

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The PGA mournes the passing of a true gentleman of the game

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Seve Ballesteros Passes Away

Seve Ballesteros Passes Away

Seve Ballesteros was a genius with a golf club in his hands, an inspiration to everyone who saw him create shots that didn’t seem possible. The Spaniard’s passion and pride revived European golf and made the Ryder Cup one of the game’s most compelling events.

 

Ballesteros, a five-time major champion whose incomparable imagination and fiery personality made him one of the most significant figures in modern golf, died Saturday from complications of a cancerous brain tumor. He was 54.

His career was defined not only by what he won, but how he won.

“He was the greatest show on earth,” Nick Faldo said.

Tiger Woods said on Twitter: “Seve was one of the most talented and excited golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.”

A statement on Ballesteros’ website early Saturday said he died peacefully at 2:10 a.m. local time, surrounded by his family at his home in Pedrena. It was in this small Spanish town where Ballesteros first wrapped his hands around a crude 3-iron and began inventing shots that he would display on some of golf’s grandest stages.

“I held his hands, caressed them and thought: ‘what these hands have done in the world’,” his brother Baldomero told Spanish agency Efe. “He knew he was dying, and he did it with full presence of mind.

“What is leaving us is more than a brother, a son or a father; what is leaving us is glory.”

Ballesteros won the Masters at 23, leading by 10 shots at one point in the final round. He was a three-time winner of the British Open, no moment greater than his 1984 victory at St. Andrews. He was as inspirational in Europe as Arnold Palmer was in America, a handsome figure who feared no shot and often played from where no golfer had ever been.

“Today, golf lost a great champion and a great friend. We also lost a great entertainer and ambassador for our sport,” Jack Nicklaus said. “No matter the golf that particular day, you always knew you were going to be entertained. Seve’s enthusiasm was just unmatched by anybody I think that ever played the game.”

In a long list of spectacular shots, perhaps the most memorable came from a parking lot next to the 16th fairway at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in the 1979 British Open. Leading by two in the final round, he drove his ball into the lot, had a car removed to get his free drop, then fired his second shot to 15 feet and made birdie on his way to his first major.

“He was a man who got into trouble. Only for Seve, there was no such thing as trouble,” Gary Player once said.

Headlines such as “The Inventor of Spanish Golf” and “Life of a Legend” were splashed across Spanish media as athletes and other notable figures from around the world paid tribute Saturday.

“This is such a very sad day for all who love golf,” European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady said on the tour website. “Seve’s unique legacy must be the inspiration he has given to so many to watch, support and play golf, and finally to fight a cruel illness with equal flair, passion and fierce determination. We have all been so blessed to live in his era.”

Lee Westwood, the No. 1 player in the world, said on Twitter: “Seve made European golf what it is today.”

An emotional Jose Maria Olazabal played through tears at the Spanish Open on Saturday, overcome by grief.

Olazabal, who teamed with Ballesteros as the most successful pairing in Ryder Cup history, broke down as players honored Ballesteros with a minute’s silence.

“I just played the most difficult round of my life. It was very tough to make it to the first tee and hit the first drive,” said Olazabal, who shot a 3-over 75. “I don’t think there will ever be another player like him. There can be others that are very good, but none will have his charisma.”

Ballesteros’ last challenge came from an unbeatable foe: cancer.

He fainted in a Madrid airport while waiting to board a flight to Germany on Oct. 6, 2008, and was subsequently diagnosed with the brain tumor. He underwent four separate operations, including a 6 1/2-hour procedure to remove the tumor and reduce swelling around the brain. After leaving the hospital, his treatment continued with chemotherapy.

Ballesteros looked thin and pale while making several public appearances in 2009 after being given what he referred to as the “mulligan of my life.” But he rarely was seen in public after March 2010, when he fell off a golf cart and hit his head on the ground.

His few appearances or public statements were usually connected to his Seve Ballesteros Foundation to fight cancer. He wanted but was unable to take part in a champions exhibition at St. Andrews for the British Open.

Ballesteros won a record 50 times on the European tour, his first victory as a 19-year-old in the Dutch Open, his last when he was 38 at the Spanish Open in 1995. That also was his last year playing in the Ryder Cup, where he had a 20-12-5 (win, lost, drawn) record in eight appearances. Ballesteros was captain in 1997 when Europe won at Valderrama.

“He did for European golf what Tiger Woods did for worldwide golf,” three-time major champion Nick Price said from a Champions Tour event in Alabama. “His allegiance to the European Tour was admirable.”

Ballesteros was the reason the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include continental Europe, and it finally beat the United States in 1985 to begin more than two decades of dominance. While others have played in more matches and won more points, no player better represents the spirit and desire of Europe than Ballesteros.

His battle went beyond the golf course.

Ballesteros did not play in the 1981 Ryder Cup over a dispute with Europe over appearance money. He later battled former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman over how many tournaments he was required to play.

He was feisty. He was proud. He was charming. He made people watch, and he usually gave them something to remember.

Ballesteros announced his retirement in a tearful news conference at Carnoustie before the 2007 British Open. He had returned to Augusta National that year to play the Masters one last time, but shot 86-80 to finish last. After turning 50, he tried one Champions Tour event, but again came in last.

His back was ailing, his eyes were less lively, his best game had left him years earlier.

“I don’t have the desire,” Ballesteros said at the time, though he remained active in golf even after he stopped playing regularly, mainly through course design.

His desire was as big a part of his game as any shot he manufactured from the trees, the sand — just about anywhere on the course.

Born April 9, 1957, in Pedrena, Ballesteros first gained acclaim at 19 in the final round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale, where he threaded a shot through the bunkers and onto the green at the 18th hole, finishing second to Johnny Miller and in a tie with Nicklaus.

“He invented shots around the green,” Nicklaus said in the weeks before Ballesteros was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. “You don’t find many big hitters like him with that kind of imagination and touch around the green.”

Ballesteros went on to win the Order of Merit on the European Tour that year, the first of six such titles. Two years later, he won the first time he teed it up in America, a one-shot victory at the Greater Greensboro Open.

His first major came a year later, at Royal Lytham in the 1979 British Open, where he made birdie from the parking lot.

“I won the Open … in a different way from most people that have won the Open,” Ballesteros once said. “I was right, left, in trouble most of the time. But I finished the hole quicker than the rest of the field. That was the name of the game.”

Partly because of his humble roots, partly because of his Spanish blood, Ballesteros always played as though he had something to prove. Even after some called him “Car Park Champion” for his shot at Lytham, the Spaniard showed that was no fluke when he arrived at Augusta National the next year.

He obliterated the field in the 1980 Masters, much like Woods did in 1997. Applying his genius to a course built for imagination, he became at 23 the youngest Masters champion until Woods won at age 21.

Ballesteros won the Masters again in 1983, and he was equally dominant in golf’s oldest championship. He won the British Open in 1984 at St. Andrews over Tom Watson, then at Lytham in 1988 by closing with a 65 to beat Price and Faldo.

Despite his five majors and 87 titles around the world, Ballesteros forever will be linked to the Ryder Cup. He developed an “us against them” attitude that became infectious with what had been an inferior European team. He made his teammates believe.

Ballesteros was headed for defeat in 1983 at PGA National, his ball beneath the lip of a bunker, some 245 yards from the green, when he lashed a 3-wood to the fringe and escaped with a halve against Fuzzy Zoeller. The Americans narrowly won, but the Ryder Cup was never the same after that year—and perhaps after that shot.

He teamed with Olazabal to become the most formidable partnership in Ryder Cup history, producing an 11-2-2 record. In his final Ryder Cup, at Oak Hill in 1995, he played Tom Lehman in singles and didn’t hit a single fairway on the front nine, yet was only 1 down. Lehman calls it the greatest nine holes he ever saw.

Ballesteros and his wife Carmen divorced in 2004. They had three children together.

The funeral will be Wednesday in Pedrena with family and intimate friends attending the subsequent wake. Three days of official mourning will be held in Cantabria, regional government head Miguel Angel Revilla announced.

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Scott Jamieson leads second round of Open de Esparia after shaky start

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Scott Jamieson

Scott Jamieson

European Tour rookie Scott Jamieson battled back from a shaky start to set the early clubhouse target in the second round of the Open de España in Barcelona.

 

After opening with a pace-setting 66 in only his 11th event on The European Tour, the 27 year old Scot had three bogeys in his first six holes but then birdied the seventh, 12th and 16th to return to six under par with a 72.

However, Pablo Larrazábal, playing on his home El Prat course, and South African Thomas Aiken were quick to join Jamieson out in front when they teed off again.

Former Open de France champion Larrazabal birdied the long second while Aiken, back this week from a seven-week lay-off, resumed on the back nine and picked up strokes at the tenth and 14th.

Indian Jeev Milkha Singh was another who started with a 67, but he fell back to three under with a 74.

Title favourite Miguel Angel Jiménez, second to World Number One Lee Westwood in Korea on Sunday, was on the same mark but then double-bogeyed the eighth – his 17th – and had to settle for a 72 and one under aggregate.

Colin Montgomerie had hopes of being right in the thick of things as well when he resumed two under, but he followed an opening birdie with three bogeys in the next five and by parring in from there handed in a 74 and level par total – the same as his successor as Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain, Jose Maria Olazábal

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Seve Ballesteros loosing battle with neurological condition

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Seve Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros

The Ballesteros family today issued a statement about Seve’s condition which said: 

“The Ballesteros family informs that Seve’s neurological condition has suffered a severe deterioration. The family will inform accordingly about any change in his health condition and takes this opportunity of thanking everyone for the support that both Seve and his own family have been receiving during all this time.”

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Jose Maria Olazabal makes return to Tour after seven years in the Open de España

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Jose Maria Olazabal returns

Jose Maria Olazabal returns

José María Olazábal will make his first appearance in the Open de España for seven years this week with former Amateur Champion Alex Larrazábal on his bag.

 

The 2012 European Ryder Cup Captain, with of two Masters titles among his 30 professional victories, has restricted his playing schedule in recent years as he continues to battle arthritis but makes his seventh appearance of the 2011 European Tour season accompanied by his friend and local professional Larrazábal, whose local knowledge of El Prat will no doubt be beneficial.

Olazábal made his very first professional appearance at the 1985 Open de España played at Vallromanas and his best finish in his national Open was tied for second in 1998, one stroke behind Denmark’s Thomas Björn. His last appearance in the tournament, one of the oldest of the continental Opens dating back to 1912, was in 2004.

Past winners include Arnold Palmer (1975), Sir Nick Faldo (1987), Bernhard Langer (1989), Colin Montgomerie (1994), Padraig Harrington (1996), Sergio García (2002), Charl Schwartzel (2007), last year’s champion Alvaro Quiros, and, of course, Olazabal’s good friend Severiano Ballesteros, winner in 1981 at El Prat, 1985 at Vallromanas and 1995 at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.

Olazábal, who will lead Europe against the United States in The Ryder Cup next year at Medinah Country Club, Chicago, is looking forward to this week’s challenge.

“We shall play the nine holes that run between the pine trees,” he said. “They are shorter but more technical than the other nine, except maybe 17th (which will play as the eighth), a tremendous par four with a tricky green.

“The other nine is more open but the length of the holes makes them tougher. The par fours are long, the par threes very solid and the par fives hard to reach. It makes a good combination – nine strategic holes and nine power holes. The greens are very undulating.

“I came here to practice at the end of last year with Domingo Hospital, Pedro Linhart and Pepo Canonica, but it rained so much that we only managed to play nine holes.”

Regarding his battle to regain fitness, he added: “My health is ok, not a hundred per cent but bearable. It’s certainly no excuse not to play well!”

Olazábal is also looking forward to having Larrazábal on the bag.

“Alex has played competitive golf, he knows the game and he can help me make decisions. He sees the different situations as a player, and that for me is most important. He is reliable, always on time and hardworking. He gives me moral support. He keeps a cool head when things are not working out, and he has a fighting spirit which keeps me going. He always says, “come on… let’s give it a try”. His sense of humour is also a great help on and off the course.”

Barcelona born Alex Larrazábal, 31, grew up playing at El Prat and in 2003 won the Amateur Championship. He started working for Olazábal last season, at the suggestion of  Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño.

Larrazábal said: “I learnt from the boss the things you need to do to become great: work and train, work and train. José Maria is a great character and a real fighter… he gives it everything he has, every time. I look forward to working with him at my home course. It’s not a long course, but the greens are deceptive. The second nine are more strategic than the first. Generally speaking, the holes tend to become tougher as you approach the green. The tee shots a friendlier”.

The event will be held this week at Real Club de Golf El Prat, with Reale Seguros as its main sponsor, as well as with the support of Turespaña and Conselleria de Turisme i Esports de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

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Jimenez and Quiros lead charge this week at Open de Esparia

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Miguel Angel Jimenez at El Prat

Miguel Angel Jimenez at El Prat

After finishing second to World Number One Lee Westwood in Korea last week, Miguel Angel Jiménez will, along with defending champion Alvaro Quiros, lead the home charge at this week’s Open de España.

 

As The European Tour returns to its home continent to begin a hugely exciting summer season, Jiménez and Quiros will be among the star attractions at the outstanding Real Club de Golf El Prat, alongside Europe’s last and next Ryder Captains Colin Montgomerie and José Maria Olazábal, as well as teenager Matteo Manassero.

Jiménez came within one stroke of winning his 19th European Tour title at the Ballantine’s Championship but lost out to the man who is currently the best player on the planet.

The Spaniard, however, will head to the outstanding Real Club de Golf El Prat on the outskirts of Barcelona in brilliant form hoping to win his national Open championship for the first time in his outstanding career.

Aged 47, Jiménez continues to amaze the world of golf with his wonderful attitude and approach to the game, and indeed life in general.

“I’ve been in good form, and hopefully this week is a little bit better for me and I have a chance to get the Spanish Open title,” said Jiménez.

“I’ve never won the Spanish Open and it would mean so much me to able to win that one. That’s the one I would love to win the most – and a Major, of course.

“I played very well in Korea. I was happy for Lee last week but hope this is my week.”

Quiros will be hoping that the Open de España is his week once again. The big-hitting, big-smiling Spaniard achieved one of his lifelong ambitions when he edged out Englishman James Morrison in Seville last year and will be looking for the same result in Barcelona this week.

The 26 year old, already a winner this year after his victory at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, is looking to become the first man since Max Faulkner in 1953 to successfully defend the Open de España.

“Winning my own national Open last year was one the most important things in my life for sure,” he said.

“To be the winner of your Open is something really, really great – along with The Ryder Cup and the World Cup they are the best three biggest things in golf for me.”

The course will be played over the new 7,296-yard par 72 El Prat course, whicyh was designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2004. It was the first course designed by the Australian in continental Europe.

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Westwood maintains No.1 status with win at Ballantine’s Championship

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Lee Westwood wins Ballantine's ChampionshipLee Westwood lived up to his billing as World Number One with a stunning final round to take the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea.

The Englishman, who climbed to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking with victory in Indonesia last week, spoke before this tournament of wanting to deliver a performance befitting his new status.

He certainly did so today, defying the pressure of expectation to shoot a superb 67 and make a decisive charge up the leaderboard late on an elongated day at the Blackstone GC Course.

It secured his 21st European Tour title, but his first since 2009, and lifted him to €653,508 in The Race to Dubai.

He finished on 12 under, one shot clear of close friend and joint overnight leader Miguel Angel Jiménez, who ultimately paid the price for carding two bogeys in the first four holes of the outward nine in the last round.

A birdie on the last for Jiménez – as he had done earlier in the day during the completion of the rain interrupted third round – would have taken the tournament into a playoff, but he missed the decisive putt from 15 feet.

“It feels great,” said Westwood. “I must admit it was nerve-racking sitting there watching people play. I don’t obviously wish ill on [Jiménez] but over those last three holes I wasn’t cheering for him to make a birdie.

“I’m delighted. Professional golf is all about winning and it’s great to do it back-to-back two weeks in a row. It was nice to come back from last week and get it all together.”

Jimenez was quick to congratulate Westwood and the latter revealed they enjoyed dinner together last night.

“We had a nice bottle of red and after dinner I said ‘I’ll see you in the playoff tomorrow’ and it nearly went that way,” Westwood said.

Although Westwood failed to save par after resuming his third round on the 13th, he responded by birdying the 14th and 17th to begin the final round three shots off the lead.

He barely put a foot wrong thereafter, while Jiménez, by contrast, found sand on the 14th, 15th and 18th as his attempts to repair the early damage foundered.

“That’s the game,” Jiménez said. “I made four rounds under par for 11‑under, and that’s not good enough.”

Westwood added: “It’s a difficult course because it goes around the hills and it’s difficult to pick the wind up; it swirls a lot.

“It was very tough and to go around without making a bogey, five birdies and 13 pars was a special round of golf.”

South Korean Park Sang-hyun ended his week in sensational fashion, firing an eagle on the par five 18th to delight the home crowd and climb into third place on 10 under.

His closing round 69 was matched by American Dustin Johnson, who finished one shot further adrift, while Hong Soon-sang, another Korean to impress on his own turf, also went round in 69 to finish tied for fifth with Alex Noren, the Swede.

Noren began the final round on 10 under, boasting a share of the lead with Jiménez and Welshman Rhys Davies, but five bogeys, including three on the back nine, on an erratic day cost him his chance of victory.

Jbe Kruger, from South Africa, and Westwood’s compatriot James Morrison finished six under par alongside Australian Brett Rumford, who recovered partially from a poor finish to the third round and start to the last after resuming today as joint leader with Jiménez.

Three Koreans – Mo Joong-kyung, Kim Kyung-tae and Kim Dae-hyun – were a shot further back after each broke par today.

Davies, meanwhile, carded a disappointing 77 that was marred by an eight on the par four, 448 yard 12th. He eventually took a share of 13th place.

Westwood reserved high praise for the tournament and the local support, saying: “The fans were very good, very supportive and it just shows the keenness of the Korean public to come out and watch people they have seen on TV. It has been a great week.”

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