Scottish bid to host 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles

Last year’s Ryder Cup venue Gleneagles could host the 2019 Solheim Cup after a bid was submitted to bring the tournament back to Scotland. The biennial women’s match play event between Europe and United States was last held in Scotland in 2000. “We would be truly honoured to welcome the Solheim Cup to Gleneagles,” said Gleneagles managing director Bernard Murphy. This year’s tournament takes place from 18-20 September in Germany. Europe are the current holders, claiming their fifth win to United States’ eight in Colorado in 2013.

American Juli Inkster and Swede Carin Koch are this year’s Solheim Cup team captains. Scotland’s top female golfer Catriona Matthew has played in seven Solheim Cups and described the tournament as “a special event, which is growing in profile and stature with each passing staging”. “I have no doubt that a Solheim Cup in 2019 at Gleneagles would be the biggest and best yet and further help to enhance the stature of the event and women’s golf as a whole,” she added.

“Golf in Scotland is a national past-time and the Scottish crowds would come out to support The Solheim Cup in droves. Equally, both players and media love coming to golf events in Scotland. “It is the Home of Golf and there is always that something extra every time you tee it up in a competition here.”
The bid is being led by VisitScotland in conjunction with the Scottish government. “Last year Scotland showed what it can do on the world-stage when it not only held, but significantly enhanced, some of the biggest events in the world of sport,” said Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“The 2014 Ryder Cup was a magnificent spectacle and will be remembered for many years to come, while the XX Commonwealth Games was another huge success story for our country. We want to do the same thing with The Solheim Cup in 2019. “Scotland is now renowned as a world-class tourism and events destination. “Not only would hosting the Solheim Cup in Scotland, the Home of Golf, provide a huge boost to the profile of this fantastic event, it would continue to promote equality across the game and show that golf in Scotland, where it began, is a sport for all after the successful hosting of the Ryder Cup.”


Rory McIlroy ‘100% ready’ for US PGA title defence

World number one Rory McIlroy says he has recovered from injury and is ready to defend his US PGA Championship title this week. The 26-year-old suffered a “total rupture” of ligaments in his left ankle in July while playing football.

He then missed The Open, but will play the last major of the year, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. The Northern Irishman said: “To play golf, it’s 100%. To go back on a soccer pitch, it wouldn’t be quite ready.”

McIlroy played practice rounds at Whistling Straits over the weekend and completed nine holes in the rain on Monday. “To do what I need to do this week, it’s 100%,” he added. “If felt fine. I’ve come a long way in five weeks.”

Tee times were released on Friday with McIlroy grouped with the winners of this year’s majors, Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson.


The Open 2013: Lee Westwood rues loss of form at Open

Lee Westwood said not doing “enough right” on the last day of the Open cost him the chance to win a first major. The 40-year-old led by two shots after 54 holes but his worst round of the championship, a 75, saw him finish in a tie for third at Muirfield, four shots behind winner Phil Mickelson. “I didn’t play badly, but I didn’t play great,” said the Englishman.

“There have been lots of very good players who have never won a championship and perhaps Lee Westwood is going to be one of those who never win. “He’ll be badgered by people and he will get the feeling, if he lets it get to him, that people are wondering why he doesn’t win.” “It’s a tough course – you’ve got to have your ‘A’ game. I missed a few shots out there.” Westwood made five bogeys as he slid down the leaderboard to finish on one over, while American Mickelson shot the round of the day – a 66 – for a three-under total.

“Sometimes you play well and somebody plays a bit better and sometimes you play poorly,” he added. “I didn’t really do either and Phil obviously played well. He shot the round of the day, five under par and birdied four out of [the last] six – that’s a pretty special finish in a major championship.
“But you’ve got to play well to give yourself your own momentum, and I just couldn’t get there today.

“I didn’t do a lot wrong, I just didn’t do enough right. I know what I’ve got to work on.” Westwood, who has finished either second or third at a major eight times in his 62 attempts, “really enjoyed” the experience of beginning the final round as leader.

He said: “It’s where any professional golfer wants to be. It means a lot and you go out there and try your best, but there was no pressure. “I was amazed to be in the lead going into the fourth round, because every time I turned into the wind I was really struggling. “I didn’t feel like I was striking the ball well but I putted lovely this weekend. I made my fair share so there was a lot of positives to take out of the week. “I’m not too disappointed. I don’t really get disappointed with golf any more.”

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The Open 2013: Phil Mickelson cards superb 66 to win at Muirfield

Phil Mickelson came from five strokes back to clinch his first Open title and fifth major on a dizzying final day at Muirfield.

The 43-year-old American triumphed by three shots from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, with English pair Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood four back, alongside Australia’s Masters champion Adam Scott.
Mickelson surged to the third leg of a career Grand Slam of all four majors with a stunning five-under 66 to finish three under.

Former European Ryder Cup captain BBC Sport at Muirfield. “What an unbelievable round by Mickelson. He almost made it look simple. He played with such freedom. The second shot he hit to 17 was absolutely majestic and then he went on to birdie the last, which was the sign of a true champion. He was the best guy out there this week.

“The only disappointment was Lee Westwood’s round today. He played a poor round and only he knows why. It’s not his last chance, but this one will hurt. Fortunately he is extremely resilient and he will fight back.”

The left-hander, who won the Scottish Open last week, birdied four of the last six holes and was in tears on the final green as he hugged caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay.

The mercurial Mickelson’s Open record had been modest up to now, despite a third place at Troon in 2004 and second at Royal St George’s in 2011, as he slowly got to grips with a style of the game he initially “hated”.

But a play-off victory over the Castle Stuart links in Inverness last week, and now his first Claret Jug, should make amends for his devastation at recording a record sixth runner-up spot in the US Open behind Justin Rose last month.

“This is such an accomplishment because I never knew whether I’d be able to develop my game to play links golf,” said Mickelson. “I played arguably the best round of my career, and shot the round of my life. It’s such a difficult six-hole finish, I putted so good. It feels amazing.”

He added: “The range of emotions I feel are as far apart as possible after losing the US Open. But you have to be resilient in this game. These last couple of weeks, these last couple of months, I’ve played some of the best golf of my career.”

Mickelson delighted to “shoot the round of his life”. Mickelson, who won the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010 and the US PGA in 2005, continues the list of illustrious former champions at Muirfield, which includes such greats of the game as Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (twice) and Ernie Els, who was defending champion this week.

American Mickelson becomes the third consecutive player in his 40s to win the Open, after Els and Darren Clarke. Westwood, seeking a first major title at the 62nd attempt, led by two going into the final day and moved serenely into a three-shot lead after five holes. But he took two to get out of a pot bunker on the short seventh and from then on was always struggling for momentum in a 75.

“I didn’t play that badly, my round came unstuck at seven, eight and nine,” said Westwood.
“Phil must have played really well. To birdie four out of the last six here on any day is good going. But to do it today on a breezy day with the flags blowing and in the Open Championship is exceptional.”

Stenson carded 70 for his best finish in a major, while Ryder Cup hero Poulter surged from eight strokes back with a brilliant 67 on an overcast, breezy day in contrast to the heat and sunshine of the rest of the week in East Lothian.

Scott, who blew a four-shot lead to finish runner-up to Els last year, hit the front at one stage on a topsy-turvy afternoon that saw the lead change hands numerous times, but the 32-year-old faltered late on with a 72.

Tiger Woods began two behind Westwood and in prime position to strike for a 15th major title and first since 2008. But he went backwards from the first and ended with a 74 for two over.

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Cesc Fabregas: Man Utd make revised £30m bid for midfielder

Manchester United have made a second bid for Barcelona and Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
United confirmed a £25m offer last Monday and have increased that to £30m plus add-ons, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward leaving the club’s pre-season tour to negotiate a deal.
“As I understand it, Ed had a response [to the first bid],” said Moyes at a press conference in Yokohama. “We have made a second offer but Ed is dealing with it rather than me.”

The Scot added: “When you’re interested in good players you want to give it every opportunity to materialise and I’ll do that. I hope things can continue and move forward.
“At this moment in time I can only tell you that Ed is working hard trying to make the deals happen. We can only hope that some of them fall into place shortly.”
Fabregas came through Barcelona’s La Masia academy before Arsenal signed him as a 16-year-old in 2003.

He developed as one of the London club’s key players under manager Arsene Wenger before becoming Arsenal captain in November 2008.

The 26-year-old spent eight years with the Gunners, playing 303 games and scoring 57 goals.
However, he returned to the Nou Camp when he signed a five-year deal with Barcelona in a £25.4m move in August 2011.

He has since helped the Catalan club win the Copa del Rey in 2011-12 and La Liga in 2012-13.
Fabregas has played 96 times in two seasons with Barcelona, including 60 league games, but has rarely featured in his preferred midfield role, with Xavi, 33, and Andres Iniesta, 29, ahead of him.
Fabregas has made 83 appearances for Spain, winning the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship twice.

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Umpires in match fixing scandal

Umpires at the centre of a match-fixing scandal in southern Asia have denied the allegations.

The ICC has confirmed it is investigating following a programme broadcast by India TV in which its reporters set up a sting operation.

The TV channel claimed that six umpires, including one who is a regular fixture on the international circuit, were willing to give decisions or provide inside information on the teams and playing conditions in return for illicit payments.

The ICC called on India TV "to turn over any information which can assist (our) urgent investigations into this matter.

"The ICC reiterates its zero-tolerance towards corruption whether alleged against players or officials."

Three of those named are from Sri Lanka, two are from Pakistan and the sixth is Bangladeshi Nadir Shah who is a member of the ICC’s international panel.

India TV footage appeared to show Shah, who has stood in 40 ODIs and a number of Twenty20 internationals, say he was willing to give LBW decisions on demand.

The video does not show any cash being exchanged nor did the channel broadcast any proof of the umpires delivering decisions or information.

In a statement Shah says the allegations are "absolutely rubbish".

"If I am going to fix match, I will be caught some day by the ICC. No umpire fixes matches," he said.

Pakistan umpire Nadeem Ghouri, another of those named, has also denied any involvement.

"I am surprised at these baseless allegations" he said. (I will) consult my lawyers to decide on my future course of action," he said.


Tiger Woods spills the beans

Tiger Woods fought back tears on Friday as he issued a full and frank apology for cheating on his wife.

The world number one, speaking for the first time in public about his affairs, gave a lengthy statement to an invited audience of friends, family and colleagues at the US PGA Tour headquarters in Florida.

Woods, who confirmed he has been in therapy since December, said: “I want to say to each of you simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behaviour.”

The 34-year-old also confirmed he has not set a timescale for his return to golf, saying: “I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that day will be.”

Woods was injured on November 27 of last year when he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree near his Florida home.

Two days later he released a statement in which he said the issue involved was “private … and I want to keep it that way”.

After missing his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, he released a statement amid persistent allegations over extra-marital affairs.

A statement to his website at the time read: “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”

Amid continued allegations of affairs, Woods saw several high-profile sponsors announce they were ending their links with him.

A further statement in which admitted his “infidelity” followed but this month speculation of his return to golf heightened ahead of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

On Tuesday it was announced Woods would make a statement today but the timing – during a tournament backed by one of his former sponsors – was criticised by several leading figures in the game.

Woods said he and his wife were attempting to work through their problems and made an appeal for privacy.

He continued: “I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish.

“People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children.

“And, while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say. Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behaviour. We have a lot to discuss and what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.”

Woods also vehemently denied allegations his car crash was caused after Elin attempted to attack him with a golf club following revelations about his affairs.

He continued: “I have a lot to atone for but there’s one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night.

“It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage.

“Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise not blame.”

Woods admitted he was unsure when he would return to golf. “I do plan to return to golf one day,” he said. “I just don’t know when that day will be.

“I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return I need to make my behaviour more respectful to the game.”

Woods’ statements on his website when the speculation about his private life first became public were somewhat cryptic but he was explicit about his failings on Friday.

“I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated,” he said. “What I did is not acceptable and I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values I was taught to believe in.

“I knew my actions were wrong but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting, instead I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries a married couple should live by.

“I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled thanks to money and fame. I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong and I was foolish.”

The 14-time major winner claimed therapy had helped him start to deal with his problems and vowed there would be no repeat of his infidelities.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’ve done,” he continued. “My failures have made me look at myself in a way I’ve never wanted to before. It’s now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I’ve made.

“It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity. It’s hard to admit that I need help but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February I was in in-patient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I’m facing. I have a long way to go. I have taken my first steps in the right direction.”

Rory targets top spot

Rory McIlroy is prepared to take the race to be Europe’s number one right to the wire after being overhauled at the top of the standings by Lee Westwood.

The Englishman claimed a dramatic victory at the Portugal Masters on Sunday to move 200,000 Euros ahead of McIlroy in the Race to Dubai.

But there is still plenty of money to play for in a lucrative end-of-season swing and the Northern Irishman is confident Westwood can be pegged back.

McIlroy’s bid for the Harry Vardon Trophy continues at next week’s World Matchplay before he takes part in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the Hong Kong Open and the season-ending Dubai World Championship.

“Lee overtook me at the weekend and I think we are playing the same tournaments in the run in,” McIlroy said.

“It will be good to chase him all the way to the finish and I will have to play some really good golf to try and overtake him.

“But there are lots of other guys still in with chance like Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey and there are a few others just outside but can make big moves. I will be trying my best to get back on top.”

McIlroy, meanwhile, suggested that he is set to remain on the European Tour next season.

The 20-year-old had been considering a switch to the PGA Tour but said: “I am still thinking about it but I am leaning towards playing in Europe. I’ll obviously play 12 or 13 events in America if I don’t take my card anyway.

“With the flying back and forth, I have seen a few guys in the past that haven’t really done that too well and I just feel that I have a lot of time on my hands, so if I don’t do it next year I can always do it the year after.”

Cabrera Looks back at the Masters

Argentina’s Angel Cabrera said his experience of winning the US Open in 2007 proved an invaluable aid as he won a play-off to win this year’s Masters.

Beating Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell by parring both extra holes, Cabrera said: “The US Open got me by surprise.

“But this win I’m more prepared. I know more how things happened. I was happy with my game. I was confident, just enjoying the moments.”

Cabrera was the best of the leading contenders over the closing holes.

Although he had started the day tied with Perry for the lead on 11 under – and reached 12 under following a birdie at the third – three bogeys between the fourth and 10th left him three shots behind his American playing partner at the 13th.

However, his length off the tee helped him birdie that par five, where Perry three-putted for par, and more birdies at 15 and 16 – where he sank an awkward left-to-right putt – kept him in the mix.

“After the 10th hole I started to hit the ball good and things started to roll,” Cabrera said.

At the 18th, he nailed a tricky downhill putt to get into the play-off with Perry and Campbell, and went to the second extra hole with Perry alone following Campbell’s bogey exit – and a slice of fortune for the South American.

With the players playing the 18th again, Cabrera’s second hit a tree but ricocheted back into play. His third, a pitch from more than 100 yards was hit to about nine feet and another nerveless putt kept the 39-year-old Argentine in the race.

A solid par at the second extra hole, the 10th, was good enough for the title after Perry pulled his second shot into the rough.

The only other South American to win a major was Cabrera’s countryman Roberto de Vicenzo, who won The Open in 1967 but signed an incorrect scorecard at the 1968 Masters to hand Bob Goalby a win without a play-off


Lee Westwood still has Georgia on his mind even though he has flown out of America and back to Europe this week.

With the Masters now only two weeks away, Westwood defends the Andalucian Open title at Aloha in southern Spain before returning across the Atlantic.

Finishes of 17th and 34th at Bay Hill and Doral the last two weeks were not as good as the Ryder Cup points-leader was looking for, especially as he was only three off the lead at the halfway stage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

lee_westwood.jpgBut having started the European Tour season with four successive top 10s, including runners-up finishes in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, Westwood is hoping a return to a happy hunting ground will provide a timely boost just before the first major of the season.

A two-stroke victory at Aloha last May was the 34-year-old’s first victory for nearly four years, although others were more worried about that long barren run than he was.

“I won so often in the late 90s that if I had a spell where I didn’t win, people were always going to highlight it and get on my case about it,” he said. “But I was never going to get on my own case.”

Last September at The Belfry he added the British Masters by a commanding five shots, his closing 65 bringing back memories of the form he showed in winning the 2000 European Order of Merit.

Westwood has had finishes of fourth in the Open, fifth in the US Open and sixth in the Masters.

That was nine years ago and, sharing the lead as he did with nine holes to go at Augusta, he admitted it was an experience that made him feel physically sick.

This season, though, he has already said: “I feel closer to a major than ever before.

“I like all the major venues this year and I feel ready to have a second career and kick on.”

He is fitter and stronger than ever before, losing six inches off a waist that 18 months ago measured an unhealthy 40 inches, has sharpened up his short game with the help of former Tour player Mark Roe and, of course, has added experience.

He is far from alone in fitting in another European Tour appearance between the CA Championship in Miami and the Masters.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is back – no surprise because he is one of the promoters close to his Malaga home – and so are Dane Anders Hansen, 12th on Monday after the final round spilled into an extra day, and German Martin Kaymer.

Two other players, Welshman Bradley Dredge and Swede Peter Hanson, need to win on Sunday to have a chance of climbing into the world’s top 50 and so claiming a late spot at Augusta.