The Joy of Golf: Ladies looking good as season gets a boost

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All in the genes: Jessica Korda, daughter of ex-tennis player Petr, is showing that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Last week’s results would have surely injected new life into golf’s 2014 season. After all the moaning, mostly by us journalists, that the list of winners in recent times was taking the excitement out of the game, it was one jackpot after another on Sunday.

Ladies first, so let’s begin with the LPGA. It’s been a dramatic turnaround for the Tour, which is enjoying some of its best time on and off the golf course. And Jessica Korda’s win at the Airbus LPGA was another fine result for them.

The LPGA is doing well because a lot of good things are happening for them simultaneously. Firstly, the American girls are winning. Secondly, established names like Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie have started winning again.

The youth brigade, led by Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Korda, are playing great golf. Then there is the fantastic geographical diversity in the origin of winners – Aussie Karrie Webb, Korean Inbee Park, Chinese Shanshan Feng and Norwegian Suzann Pettersen.

Add to that fact that the ladies have been just brilliant in their interactions with the fans, sponsors and media. So, today, you have more fans attending LPGA Tour events, which are getting more media coverage and most importantly, it has been able to attract several new sponsors.

Korda has the potential to become one of LPGA’s poster girls as she is young (21), good-looking, very talented (this was her second LPGA victory) and has a great story.

As is quite well known now, she is the daughter of former tennis player, Petr Korda, the Czech who won the 1998 Australian Open.

Up north in Michigan, at almost the same time, Colin Montgomerie won his first major – albeit on the Seniors Tour. Monty showed the old boys why he was such a threat in his debut season, winning the Senior PGA Championship by four shots.

The Scotsman is a character and a fighter to the core. He remains extremely competitive, and not the most liked player in America. With all this, the Seniors Tour should be a fun place.

However, it was Rory McIlroy’s BMW PGA Championship win and Adam Scott’s brilliant effort at the Colonial that will be remembered more by fans.

I personally thought McIlroy would struggle for a couple of weeks before settling down for the US Open. But his win proved once again what an awesome player he is to be able to channel his energy and focus to the game after calling off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

As for Scott, it was just amazing how he turned around the tournament after being two-over halfway through the second round and almost set to miss the cut. To win from there and retain his No1 crown was a stunning effort.

The victories, and the way they were achieved, should definitely add to the excitement at next month’s US Open.

Mickelson outlines his plans
Phil Mickelson may be having the worst time of his career on the golf course – not a single top-10 since finishing second in Abu Dhabi in his first tournament of the season, as well missing the cut at the Masters – but that doesn’t seem to have made any dent in his confidence level.

Perhaps Lefty is just trying to pick himself up and practicing lessons in self-motivation, but this is what he had to say in an interview with ESPN on what the future holds for him. 

“The next five years are going to be the best of my career. I’m going to win a bunch of tournaments. I’m going to win at least one US Open, maybe two. And I’m going to make the 2016 Olympic team. And really, I’d love to make the 2020 Olympic team. I’d be 50. How cool would that be?”

The US Open win is realistic – and I’d hate to see him end up with six runner-up finishes and no wins in his national open – but surely, a place in the US Olympic team in 2020 is far-fetched.

Of course, Mickelson could replicate Miguel Angel Jimenez and play some scorching golf even at the age of 50, but I can foresee several other young Americans ahead of him in the rankings.

If he does make it to the team in 2020, it would be a sad reflection on American golf.

Walker’s birdie shot
At the Colonial last week, FedEx Cup leader Jimmy Walker hit a birdie with his tee shot on a 387- yard, par-4 hole. If you are perplexed as to how, he actually hit a bird mid-air with his shot.

The bird was not injured, and Walker saved a par after the ball dropped to the edge of the fairway.

Quote of the Week
“I love playing with Korda. It’s also really great playing with Charley as well. You feel old but it was a lot of fun.” – Michelle Wie, 24, speaking after playing with eventual champion 21-year-old Jessica Korda and 18-year-old Charley Hull at the Airbus LPGA Classic.

Stat of the Week
-5 – Adam Scott’s score on the par- 3s during his win at the Colonial last week. Normally, one would think that the winner would have exploited the par-5s better. But he was only three-under par for the par-5s.

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McIlroy aims for world domination following Wentworth win

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Happy ending: Rory McIlroy ended a turbulent week in superb fashion.

Rory McIlroy put personal turmoil behind him to win the European PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday and said he hopes it will help him become the dominant player in world golf.

The Northern Irishman, who announced his split from tennis star Caroline Wozniacki just days after sending out the invitations on the eve of the tournament, fired a sparkling six-under-par 66 to come from seven shots back and win by a shot from Ireland's Shane Lowry.

In April McIlroy said golf was crying out for a stand-out player to stamp their authority on the game following the regression of Tiger Woods after years of the American leading the way.

"I think it's the start of something," said the 25-year-old. "I could feel my game sort of bubbling and it was getting there. A win validates that."

McIlroy headed to Ireland to see his family immediately after his win in the European Tour's flagship event and was due to fly to the United States on Monday.

There he will play in the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village before travelling to Pinehurst where he will attempt to win his third major title at this year's US Open.

The Irishman's win was his first since the Australian Open in December and came during an emotional week when he broke off his engagement with former world number one tennis player Wozniacki.

And the former world number one golfer – number ten before this tournament – is desperate for the victory to kick-start his rise to top of the game again.

"I think the game is waiting for one guy or one or two guys to just to kick on," McIlroy told reporters at Wentworth.

"I stand by that comment; that I'd like to be that guy, and I'd like to think that this is a springboard to doing something like that. There's still three Majors to play this year, a lot of golf left and a lot of big tournaments to try and win.

"So even though we're nearly halfway through the season, I feel like mine's just beginning." 

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Luke Donald in the mix as he blitzes Wentworth

Phil Casey 24/05/2014
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Master of the West Course: Luke Donald, two-time champion at Wentworth, shot a superb 67 on a very tough day.

Luke Donald planned to treat himself to a curry after moving into contention for a third BMW PGA Championship title in four years.

Donald carded a superb 67 at Wentworth on Friday to finish sixunder par, four shots behind joint leaders Thomas Bjorn and Shane Lowry and one ahead of the likes of Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy.

The former world No1 carded six birdies and an eagle for the best round of the day, which included a run of five threes in succession from the eighth culminating in an eagle on the 12th.

“When we were warming up the rain was coming down pretty heavy and the wind was blowing hard,” said the 2011 and 2012 champion Donald, who would join the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo as three-time champions of the European Tour’s flagship event.

“It was wet for six or seven holes but for the rest of the day it was pretty nice. I’m happy with the way I played and I holed some long putts which is always a bonus.

“Being nine behind after the first day seems like a big mountain to climb but now I’m back in position to try to win this title again.”

Donald finished his round in style with a birdie from 25 feet on the 18th and added: “Dinner will taste good, I might enjoy a good curry. It’s hard to fine one in the States.”

Bjorn had set a new course record with his opening 62 and was pleased to recover from two-over par after seven holes to return a 72.

“Those were tough conditions for everybody out there today,” the 43-year-old Dane said. “Especially on the front nine it was extremely difficult to get into a rhythm.

“We played those first four holes in…I don’t know how long, and wehad a couple of rulings in front of us. It was just impossible to find a good rhythm and Retief (Goosen) left us with a back injury after five holes, so we got caught in a two-ball.

“It just seems like all day we were waiting and waiting for a long time on a lot of these shots. It was a tough ask today so I was pretty pleased with the way I finished the round.”

Bjorn birdied two of the last four holes to finish where he started the day, on 10-under, with Lowry recovering from a double-bogey six on the ninth with birdies on the 10th, 12th, 17th and 18th.

Lowry, a massive fan of Wentworth after finishing fourth here in 2011 and 12th last year, said: “I was good out there today. I was mentally there and really enjoyed it.

“It was tough for the front nine with the rain and stuff but it was a nice back nine and I managed to take advantage of it.”

There was a hint of controversy about the difficult day two pin positions. Lee Westwood led the assault, claiming that the hole location denied the early starters the kind of advantage that had been conferred on Thursday’s early birds.

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