Section: Golf

Masters: Jordan Spieth wins first major with dominant display

Jordan Spieth equalled the lowest winning score in Masters history to cap a record-breaking display at Augusta and win his first major.

The 21-year-old American, second on his debut last year, shot a two-under 70 to triumph on 18 under.

England’s Justin Rose hit 70 to finish 14 under, joint second with three-time champion Phil Mickelson (69) who ended runner-up in a major for the 10th time.

World number one Rory McIlroy finished fourth on 12 under after a 66.

The story going into the Masters had been all about the Northern Irishman’s quest to become just the sixth man to win the Grand Slam of all four of golf’s majors.

But it was Spieth, the new world number two, who dominated the headlines on each day, equalling Tiger Woods’s winning score of 18 under in 1997, when the former world number one won his first Green Jacket.

Spieth also became the second-youngest Masters champion, winning the tournament at the age of 21 years and 259 days, 155 days older than Woods when he recorded his 1997 win.

He also became the first player in 39 years to lead a Masters from start to finish, and the first to shoot 28 birdies at the tournament.

A one-over 73 for Woods meant he finished tied 17th on five under, while 2014 champion Bubba Watson carded a 74 to finish tied for 38th on one over.

Read more at BBC Sport

Masters: Justin Rose cuts Jordan Spieth’s lead

Jordan Spieth will go into the final round of the Masters nursing a four-shot lead over England’s Justin Rose with three-time champion Phil Mickelson heading a charging pack behind.

Rose conjured up five birdies in his last six holes, including a chip-in from the bunker on 16, to finish on 12 under and remain in the hunt for his first Green Jacket.

His hopes of winning might also be buoyed by some uncharacteristic errors by Spieth towards the end of his round. He double-bogeyed the 17th and sliced his approach to the 18th green into the crowd, but recovered his composure to save par.

Spieth’s late wobble sets up an enthralling Sunday afternoon after a low-scoring thriller of a third day saw contenders rise and fall in their pursuit.

The young Texan’s two-under-par 70 left him on 16 under, a new Augusta record after 54 holes, and kept him on track to become the second youngest Masters champion in history behind Tiger Woods.

And Woods’s record score of 18 under, made in his epoch-changing debut win in 1997, is also in danger from a performance that for most of the first three days has borne striking similarities.

But Rose is on his tail after fighting back from a dropped shot on the first and another on the fifth to storm through the back nine, draining a horrible downhill birdie putt from the fringes on the last to go clear in second.

Mickelson’s five-under 67 puts him on 11 under, his six birdies igniting the galleries around the sun-baked course, with Woods and world number one Rory McIlroy both scoring 68s to tie for fifth on six under.

All three piled the pressure on the precocious Spieth until late dropped shots hurt McIlroy and Woods, with Mickelson missing another birdie putt by a fraction on the 18th.

Charley Hoffman, second overnight, remains in contention at 10 under after shooting 71 to add to his 67 and 68 over the first two days.

Not since Ray Floyd in 1976 has a Masters champion led from start to finish, indicative of the way this course can snare and punish even a man in rare form.

The history of the tournament is also littered with the tales of players who blew big final day leads – Greg Norman spurned a six-shot advantage in 1996, McIlroy four in 2011.

Read more at BBC Sport

Masters: Superb Jordan Spieth sets halfway record

Jordan Spieth carded the lowest halfway total in Masters history to take a massive step closer to a first major title at Augusta National on Friday.

Spieth added a second round of 66 to his opening 64 to post a total of 130, one shot better than the previous best set by Ray Floyd in 1976.

That also equalled the 36-hole record in any major shared by Nick Faldo, Brandt Snedeker and Martin Kaymer, and at 14-under is the lowest 36-hole score in relation to par.

Faldo was 12-under on his way to winning the 1992 Open at Muirfield, with Snedeker and Kaymer 10-under at the 2012 Open and 2014 US Open respectively.

Spieth was runner-up here last year and came into the week having finished first, second, and second in his last three events.

“I have been on my game and coming to a place that I love,” Spieth said. “It’s special to be here and just be in the tournament let alone out front.

“I just need to keep my head down, set a goal for myself. It’s definitely going to be more challenging and I am going to have to be aware of that and be okay with a bogey or two.”

At 14-under-par Spieth was five ahead of fellow American Charley Hoffman, who bogeyed the 18th to card a 68, with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods reduced to the status of also-rans.

Woods was three-under for his round and two-under overall in just his third start of the year, the 14-time major winner having recorded a career-worst 82 in the first and withdrawing through injury after 11 holes of the second.

Woods, 39, who had blamed a poor short game on being caught between two “release patterns”, said: “[I am] very proud of what I’ve done, to be able to dig it out the way I have.

“I was at a pretty low one in my career, but to basically change an entire pattern like that and put it together and put it in a position where I can compete in a major championship like this is something I’m very proud of.”

World No.1 McIlroy was bidding to become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam, but found himself 12 off the pace as he set off and started his second round with a bogey on the first and birdie on the second.

Ernie Els was refusing to give up hope of catching Spieth despite being nine adrift after adding a 72 to his opening 67.

“Jordan is playing unbelievably well and obviously we’re all watching the leaderboard,” Els said. “But we know how far there is to go. Front runners tend to do well here, but there have been some really good comebacks, so it’s a big weekend ahead.

“He’s not thinking about anything right now and that’s a great place to be at. I’d really like to shoot two 67s and see where that leaves me. That’d make me 15-under and that’s about as good as a man can do.

“If it keeps blowing like this and the nerves get going… I don’t want to wish badly on anyone but if he takes his foot off the gas or has a bad break here and there, it really gives you thought of catching him.”

Read more at ESPN

Ryder Cup: Davis Love III to captain United States in 2016

Davis Love III has been named United States captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in Minnesota.

Love, 50, led the United States team beaten by a stunning Europe comeback in the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ of 2012.

“I am here with the same goal as in 2012 but not as the same captain,” Love told a news conference on Tuesday.

Europe, who defeated the US 16.5-11.5 at Gleneagles to retain the cup last autumn, named Darren Clarke as skipper for 2016 last week.

The 2016 Ryder Cup takes place from 30 September to 2 October.

Love’s first act as skipper was to appoint Tom Lehman as one of his four vice-captains.

Lehman, the 1996 Open champion, captained the United States in 2006 as Europe claimed an 18.5-9.5 win at the K Club.

“I am thrilled to be the Team USA Captain and represent our country as we work to win back the Ryder Cup,” said Love.

“It is a great honour to be in the position to help build the team, but our mission doesn’t end there. What we accomplish in 2016 at Hazeltine must serve as the foundation for future USA Ryder Cup teams.”

Love was part of an 11-man task force set up to look into all aspects of the United States’ approach to the Ryder Cup after they suffered an eighth defeat in the last 10 contests in Scotland last year.

Love, who won his sole major at the 1997 PGA Championship, played in six consecutive Ryder Cups from 1993.

He tasted victory on his first appearance, which came at The Belfry, after pairing with Tom Kite to beat Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal in the foursomes and winning a crucial singles match against Costantino Rocca on the last day.

Read more at BBC Sport

Golf: Princess Royal among first women to join St Andrews

The Princess Royal has become one of the first women to join the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Golfers Laura Davies, Renee Powell, Belle Robertson MBE, Lally Segard, Annika Sorenstam and Louise Suggs also accepted honorary member invitations.

George Macgregor OBE, captain of the club said it was a “historic” day.

In September 2014, the Royal and Ancient voted in favour of allowing women members for the first time in its 260-year history.

More than three quarters of the club’s 2,400 members voted with an 85% majority.

“It is an honour and a privilege for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to welcome these remarkable women as honorary members,” said Macgregor.

“The Princess Royal enjoys a strong bond with Scotland and has shown great energy and commitment to developing sport through her work in the Olympic movement.

“They are extremely worthy additions to our roll of honorary members and will become ambassadors for the club as they have been for the sport of golf throughout their careers.”

The Royal and Ancient has been the guardian of the rules of the game since 1754, although in 2004 it devolved responsibility for the administration of the game and the Open to the newly-formed R&A.

Royal and Ancient’s members play on the St Andrews links course in Scotland regarded as the “home of golf”.

Before the vote to allow female members, women could play on the course, on Scotland’s east coast, but they were not allowed in the clubhouse.

They also had no significant part in the sport’s rulemaking arm of the R&A.

A statement from the R&A added: “In addition to the honorary members, a number of women have been admitted as members of the club with more set to follow in the coming months.”

Read more at BBC Sport


Dubai Desert Classic: McIlroy cruises to victory

World No.1 Rory McIlroy admitted he was looking for the solid rather than the spectacular as he won the Dubai Desert Classic for a second time.

The Northern Irishman won by three shots ahead of Alex Noren with a final round 70 securing his 10th European Tour title.

Six years ago, a teenage McIlroy captured his first professional title at the event and after coming close a couple of times since, the 25-year-old was delighted.

“It is always great coming back here, it is nice to put my name on trophy once again,” he said at the trophy presentation.

“I felt like I was finishing second every time I was teeing it up, so it was time for a change, obviously the only way I wanted to go was one better and thankfully I was able to do that today.

“I played very nicely all week. I did what I needed to do today to keep my nose in front and be able to win.

“I still get nervous, a little tentative, we’ve seen what can happen to big leads. I was making sure I wasn’t making any mistakes and to play a solid round.”

Noren, who played just two events in 2014 due to tendinitis in both wrists, finished second after an impressive six-under final round of 65 saw him leap up the leaderboard from eighth to finish on 19-under-par.

Noren was not thinking about victory at the start of the day and after missing so much time due to injury of late, the Swede was delighted with his showing.

“It was an amazing day, an amazing week,” Noren, who finished ninth at the Qatar Masters last week, told Sky Sports.

“I missed it so much it was really nice. I never, ever thought of winning. He [McIlroy] is playing so good, I was trying to get a nice finish. I just tried to keep making birdies and keep up with the other guys.”

Stephen Gallacher, who won the tournament both in 2013 and 2014, failed to replicate the form he showed on the first two days.

Gallacher finished with four birdies in the back nine, but dropped shots on the first and 14th meant he finished third on 16-under.

England’s Andy Sullivan failed to finish strongly with a bogey on 15 bringing an end to his challenge, while a dropped shot on the last meant he finished in fourth, with a two-under final round of 70.

Martin Kaymer was the day’s big mover as he closed with a final-round 64 to jump 30 places and finish level with Sullivan on 15-under.

France’s Gary Stal also finished in fifth after four-under on the final day, with Bernd Wiesberger also finishing 15-under. Morten Orum Madsen, who started the day in second, was left ruing a seven on the opening hole and two dropped shots on the back nine as he finished on 15-under.

Graeme McDowell closed with a 70 to finish 14 under par, good enough for ninth. But his countryman McIlroy never looked like losing control.

Read more at ESPN

Golf: Lydia Ko becomes golf’s youngest world number one at the age of 17

South Korea-born New Zealander Lydia Ko became the youngest world number one in golf history by reaching the top of the women’s rankings aged 17.

Ko secured the number one ranking by finishing in a tie for second at theLPGA Coates Championship  in Florida.

She eclipses Tiger Woods, who was 21 when he became men’s world number one in 1997.

“It’s amazing,” said Ko. “It’s a huge honour to be in that ranking. All I was focused on was trying to play my best.”

South Korean Jiyai Shin had been the youngest player to top the women’s rankings, doing so aged 22 in 2010.

Ko took her record despite surrendering a four-stroke overnight lead in the opening LPGA event of the season, which was won by South Korean Na-Yeon Choi.

But she still gained enough ranking points to move past South Korea’s Inbee Park in the rankings.

Ko became the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event with victory in the Canadian Women’s Open in August 2012 at the age of 15.

She turned professional in October 2013 and has won five times on the LPGA Tour and once on the European Tour.

“I’m just going to just focus on my golf, not think about the rankings,” she said. “The rankings always come after the results.”

Read more at BBC Sport

Dubai Desert Classic: Rory McIlroy leads after sublime 64

World number one Rory McIlroy fired a sublime eight-under 64 to move to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy carded eight birdies and missed several other chances as he took a one-shot lead over Scotland’s Marc Warren.

Warren led for much of the day after his 65 left him on 13 under but McIlroy finished with three straight birdies.

Graeme McDowell and England’s Seve Benson share third on 12 under with Lee Westwood among a group on 11 under.

McDowell matched Warren’s 65 with Benson carding a second successive 66 but the dominant feature on another glorious day of sunshine was McIlroy’s magnificent ball-striking.

The 25-year-old Northern Irishman reached the green with his drive on the 351-yard par-four second and picked up five shots in his opening 11 holes to move to 11 under.

His momentum was then halted as he missed three successive short birdie-putts from the 12th but his mini-wobble was emphatically ended by three closing birdies, which included an 18-foot effort at the last.

“I felt like I played very nicely. Couldn’t ask for much more; bogey-free, made birdies, and set myself up for a good run over the next couple of days,” said McIlroy of his round at the Emirates Club, where he recorded his first victory as a professional in 2009.

Read more at BBC Sport

Golf: Abu Dhabi Championship: Gary Stal beats Martin Kaymer to title

Martin Kaymer blew a six-shot overnight lead to hand Gary Stal his first win on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi Championship in a frantic final round.

Kaymer looked like cruising to a fourth title in Abu Dhabi after making three birdies in his opening four holes, even threatening his record of 24-under from 2011, but a bogey at six – his first dropped shot 47 holes at Abu Dhabi Golf Club – was followed by a double at nine and a triple-bogey seven at 13.

Stal, ranked 357 in the world at the start of the week, pounced with six birdies between holes 4 to 11 and held himself together down the stretch, picking up another shot at the 16th to capture his maiden title on the main tour thanks to a seven-under 65 for 19-under overall.

Kaymer shot 75 for 17-under and third place behind world No.1 Rory McIlroy, who has now finished in the top two in his last six European Tour events.

Read more at ESPN

Golf: Rory McIlroy eight shots behind Martin Kaymer in Abu Dhabi

Germany’s Martin Kaymer is on the verge of winning a fourth Abu Dhabi Championship title, having opened a six-shot lead after three rounds.

The US Open champion had seven birdies in his first 13 holes during a bogey-free round of 65 to reach 20 under.

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters is second after a two-under-par 70.

World number one Rory McIlroy, only two behind overnight, saw a series of putts stay up and only two birdies in a 71 left him tied for fifth on 12 under.

McIlroy, yet to add the Abu Dhabi tournament to his comprehensive list of titles, has been runner-up three times in the last four years, but his chances of victory were hampered by taking 34 putts on day three.

“I hit the ball as well as I did yesterday, gave myself so many chances and didn’t convert any really. Very wasteful and looking like I am playing for second tomorrow,” said a disconsolate McIlroy, who had a hole-in-one in round two.

Kaymer has now gone 42 holes without dropping a shot and on the rare occasion when he did find trouble he produced a superb escape on the 10th hole.

The world number 12’s second shot went left and lodged in a bush, but having taken a drop and then found a bunker with his fourth, he holed out from the sand for a remarkable par five.

“The main goal was to still lead the golf tournament, it was a little bit of an up and down round so therefore a 65 is a great score,” said Kaymer, who eclipsed Paul Casey’s record total for the third round by one shot.

Asked whether he was focused on his own tournament record of 24 under set in 2011 he said: “I’m not really thinking about the record but a good score will hopefully mean I will win.”

Shot of the year winner Jamie Donaldson, the 2013 champion, had seven birdies and an eagle in his 65 and the Welshman shares sixth place on 11 under.

Read more at BBC Sport