Pebble Beach under the spotlight ahead of 2019 US Open

Press Association Sport 12:00 06/06/2019
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At Chambers Bay in 2015 it was bad greens, which Henrik Stenson likened to “putting on broccoli”, on a course Gary Player felt was designed by “a man who had to have one leg shorter than the other”.

The following year at Oakmont it was the bizarre rules decision – or indecision – which left the eventual winner Dustin Johnson, other players, officials and spectators unsure of what his score was with just seven holes to play.

In 2017 it was the sound of heavy rough being cut down on four holes during his pre-tournament press conference at Erin Hills which left Rory McIlroy shaking his head in disbelief.

And last year tournament organisers finally admitted they went “too far” with the set-up of Shinnecock Hills after only three players broke par in a third round during which Phil Mickelson was penalised two shots for running after his ball as it rolled off the 13th green and hitting it while it was still moving.

The good news is that Pebble Beach is a regular venue on the PGA Tour which should be easier to set up than the likes of relatively new layouts such as Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, while the much-criticised USGA chief executive Mike Davis has handed over such duties to colleague John Bodenhamer.

Mickelson’s quest for the US Open victory which will complete the career grand slam means last year’s issues cannot be overlooked entirely, but Masters champion Tiger Woods and hat-trick seeking Brooks Koepka offer up equalling intriguing story-lines.

It was at Erin Hills just two years ago that Koepka made his major breakthrough with a record-equalling total of 16 under par, since when his record in majors reads 6-13-1-39-1-2-1.

Scotland’s Willie Anderson (1903-05) is the only player to have the won the US Open three years in succession, but few would bet against Koepka’s blend of power and precision giving him a chance to match that feat 114 years on.

The 29-year-old successfully defended his US PGA title last month and left playing partner Woods trailing by 17 shots at halfway, Woods missing the cut by a shot on his first competitive start since the Masters.

Woods took a phlegmatic approach to his early exit, his enjoyment at ending an 11-year wait for a 15th major title at Augusta National, coupled with the need to limit his playing opportunities after four back operations, meaning a rare missed cut could be placed in its proper perspective.

The same may not apply at Pebble Beach however, where the 43-year-old memorably won the 2000 US Open by a record 15 shots to kick-off the “Tiger Slam” of holding all four major titles at the same time.

Woods was also fourth behind Graeme McDowell at the same venue in 2010 and McDowell will be hoping for a repeat performance as he tries to book his place in July’s Open Championship in his home town of Portrush.

McDowell’s victory was the first of four in five years for European players, although 2011 champion Rory McIlroy has missed the cut the last three years, 2013 champion Justin Rose twice in the last three years and Martin Kaymer has managed no better than 35th since his runaway 2014 triumph.

European hopes of ending a four-year winning streak for American players may be best served by Tommy Fleetwood, fourth and second in the last two years respectively, or Open champion Francesco Molinari, while rising star Matt Wallace will not lack for confidence after finishing third at Bethpage.

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Patrick Cantlay turns on style to seal second PGA Tour title

Press Association Sport 07:25 03/06/2019
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Patrick Cantlay secured his second PGA Tour title in style, producing a sparkling 64 on Sunday to win the Memorial Tournament by two shots.

Cantlay came into the final round four strokes behind overnight leader Martin Kaymer but five birdies on the front nine closed that gap to two as he reached the turn.

And three more gains on the back nine saw him finish the tournament on 19 under par to claim his first victory since November 2017 and earn a handshake from tournament host and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus.

Australian Adam Scott finished alone in second on 17 under after a late charge, comprising birdies at the 14th, 15th and 16th, saw him sign for a closing 68.

Former European Ryder Cup star Kaymer was two shots further back in third after three back-nine bogeys derailed his challenge in Ohio.

In an interview shown on the PGA Tour’s website, Cantlay said: “It feels great.

“It’s been a while since I’ve won and being able to win on this golf course – a golf course I really like – in front of Jack, making that putt on the last hole, I can’t tell you how good it feels.”

Cantlay followed up early birdies at the second and fifth with three in a row from the seventh for a front nine of 31.

When German Kaymer – playing in the final group – dropped his first shot of the day on the ninth, Cantlay was just one behind, and he tapped in his birdie putt at the long 11th to grab a share of the lead.

Cantlay continued to create plenty of chances going down the stretch, narrowly missing his 10-foot birdie putt on the 12th before firing back-to-back birdies from the 14th, having come agonisingly close to holing his enormous eagle effort at the 15th.

He curled in his eight-foot par putt on the 18th green to keep his card clean and close out a stunning victory.

Masters champion Tiger Woods finished the week with a 67 to claim a share of ninth place on nine under.

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Discover Ireland in the best possible way with unique golf tours

Sport360 staff 08:08 01/06/2019
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As the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open rolls into Lahinch next month, thousands of people from Ireland and beyond will descend on the picturesque town in County Clare.

Two weeks later, action moves five hours north to Portrush, where the 148th edition of the Open Championship, golf’s fourth major of the year, takes place, again highlighting the beauty and attraction of Ireland’s golf courses.

In fact, over 200,000 overseas visitors play golf during their visit to Ireland every year, contributing almost €270 million to the economy and driving over 1.7 million bed nights across the country.

As a result of this, a number of Irish golf tour operators have come to the fore in recent years, and with Ireland proving such an exceptional golf destination, as well as offering unrivalled attractions off the course, it is easy to see why.

One of the men at the centre of golf tourism in the country is Maurice O’Meara. After a brief stint in the commercial world with Kerry GAA, the Kerry native is back working with his beloved golf, leading Discover Ireland Golf Tours.

O’Meara is a former general manager at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club where he worked for nearly seven years, before leading the charge at Island Golf Club (2013-2015) and Dooks Golf Club in beautiful Glenbeigh from 2015 to present.

Speaking on the eve of the Irish Open, O’Meara said: “Its great to see the market buoyant again after some difficult years in the industry due to worldwide economic conditions. Demand is very high and we are already focussing on the 2020 season , with bookings and tours already in place up to October 2020.

“The next few weeks are huge for Irish golf with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open being at Lahinch and the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. The golf industry in Ireland will be in very strong position following these events.”

His love of the sport has been evident since first lifting a golf club at aged-12, and his latest venture has combined a passion for both golf and business. It was the next natural step for a man who has worked closely with both tour operators and visitors over the years in his respective roles.

Discover Ireland Golf Tours focuses on the attributes of welcoming and looking after visiting golfers to the island of Ireland, and facilitates them in finding and enjoying the best of courses that the country has to offer.

The company is mainly targeting North America, Canada, Scandinavia and the UK. Bespoke services include in-house PGA professionals available for escorted tours/tuition, and 24-hour concierge services during a golfer’s trip to Ireland.

“We are also running a number of unique events in the shoulder months which will be mainly focussed at the domestic market and will be hosted in our partner clubs here in the south west namely Killarney Golf & Fishing Club and Dooks Golf Links,” said O’Meara.

“We have strategically partnered with agents in the UAE and stateside in Tampa , New York, Ohio, Dallas and San Francisco, we will be working closely with these partners to provide tours and showcase the best that Ireland has to offer in all things golf.

“It is important for clubs to communicate fully and accurately with members, staff and all key stakeholders. Helping clubs manage their communication strategies and sales and marketing plans will be one of our specialties at Irish Golf Consultancy.”

Further details are available at www.discoverirelandgolftours.com.

MAURICE’S FIVE FAVOURITE COURSES

Waterville Golf Club
Dooks Golf Club
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club
Lahinch Golf Club
The Island Golf Club

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