Soren Kjeldsen wins Irish Open after play-off

Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen endured a difficult day before ultimately claiming victory

Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen endured a difficult day before ultimately claiming victory

Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen saw off the challenge of England’s Eddie Pepperell and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger at the first play-off hole to become Irish Open champion at Royal County Down.

The trio had finished on two under par after the 72 regulation holes in tough conditions.

Kjeldsen took a two-shot lead into the final round and was one shot ahead with two to play despite being four over par for the day as the players battled winds gusting up to 40mph.

A three-putt bogey on the 17th left Kjeldsen needing to birdie the 18th to win his fourth European Tour title, but after chipping from one side of the green to the other, he did well to get up and down for a closing 76 to join the play-off.

Pepperell had set the clubhouse target on two under after a remarkable bogey-free 69, with Wiesberger missing from eight feet for birdie on the 18th in his closing 73.

Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello missed out on the play-off after a bogey on the 18th, with England's Tyrrell Hatton also one under after a par on the last in a closing 74.

The players returned to the par-five 18th for the first hole of sudden death and Kjeldsen was the only one able to find the green in two before two-putting for a winning birdie.

Rory McIlory misses the cut at the Irish Open

A miserable day for Rory McIlroy

A miserable day for Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy has missed the cut at the Irish Open for the third year in a row.

It was always going to be an uphill struggle for the World No 1 after his disastrous 80 yesterday but with the cut mark hovering around the plus four or plus five mark there was hope among the bumper crowd that McIlroy could shoot a 67 or 66 to make the weekend.

It started steady, with the Holywood native parring the first holes before nabbing his first birdie of the week on the short seventh.

Hope really started to rise in the hearts of fans when McIlroy birdied the 12th, moving to seven over for the tournament as the cut moved out to plus five. Two more birdies on the way home would see the local hero play the weekend at the tournament he sponsors.

But then the 15th hole undid his chances.

McIlory overshot the green on the tricky par 4 and by the time he got up and down it was a double bogey six on the card. That pushed McIlroy back to level for the day, nine over for the week and a cert for a weekend off.

A huge gallery continued to follow the multiple Major winner around the scenic dunes of Royal County Down for his final three pars, until he carded a level 71 for the day, but those with weekend tickets won't have the same honour.

Harrington falters but stays in hunt at Irish Open

Harrington in action surrounded by the stunning scenery at Royal County Down

Harrington in action surrounded by the stunning scenery at Royal County Down

Padraig Harrington had an up and down day but he stays in touch after his second round at Royal County Down

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington appeared to be doing everything in his power to ensure his prediction of a home winner came true as the Irish Open resumed at a windswept Royal County Down on Friday.

Former champion Harrington predicted on Wednesday that an Irish player would lift the trophy on Sunday, with world number one Rory McIlroy seemingly the most likely contender.

But while McIlroy faced an uphill battle to avoid a third straight cut in the event after crashing to an opening 80, Harrington claimed a share of the overnight lead with Germany's Max Kieffer with an opening 67.

And after starting his second round on the back nine with a run of six pars, Harrington picked up his first birdie of the day on the 16th to move into the outright lead on five under par.

Harrington holed from 15 feet for birdie on the 17th to extend his lead and missed from just six feet for an eagle on the par-five first, but the tap-in birdie took him further ahead of the chasing pack.

However, the Dubliner slipped off top spot after the turn. A bogey on the second, his 11th, was followed by a double bogey on the third and another dropped shot on the fourth.

But Harrington rallied back, and a birdie on the short Par 3 seventh put him back on top at -4.

Sadly for Harrington, he finished poorly with bogeys on his 17th and 18yj hols (eight and nine) to post a round of 73, two over par for the day and two under for the tournament.

That leaves Harrington two off the lead held by Scot Richie Ramsey.

As for 2009 winner Shane Lowry, he could be heading for an unwanted free weekend. After a broken putter he hit a run of three bogeys in four holes and that dropped him back to four over par.

Two birdies got him back under the projected cut but another dropped shot on the fourth left the Offaly man still dicing with dnager.

And yet another birdie, followed by yet anaother bogey, left Lowry facing an uncertain wait this afternoon as he sits on four over, right on the projected cut.

Rory McIlroy posts disastrous first round score at the Irish Open

It was a tough day at the office for Rory McIlroy

It was a tough day at the office for Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy’s homecoming did not go to plan as the Holywood native shot a nine-over-par 80 in his first round at Royal County Down.

McIlroy came into the event having missed the cut in the BMW PGA Championship, the four-time major winner slumping to a second round of 78 in the defence of his title.

And despite insisting he felt refreshed after an unexpected weekend off, the 26-year-old carried on where he left off at Wentworth by covering his first nine holes in 41.

Starting on the back nine, McIlroy – who has pledged to donate his prize money this week to his charitable foundation – missed from 15 feet for birdie on the 10th and then bogeyed the 11th after his approach from the rough bounded through the green.

A birdie looked on the cards when McIlroy came up just short of the par-five 12th in two, but he three-putted from long range and things went from bad to worse with four bogeys in succession from the 15th, including further three putts on the 16th and 18th.

That left McIlroy five over par and joint 74th of the 78 morning starters, with a third missed cut in succession in the Irish Open already a distinct possibility.

A hold-up in play allowed a smiling McIlroy and US Open champion Martin Kaymer to discuss how they were both five over par as they waited on the fourth tee, but that soon became six over for McIlroy after he missed the green on the long par three.

And when a clumsy chip from right of the fifth green led to a seventh bogey of the day, McIlroy found himself joint last with England's Simon Dyson on seven over par.

Incredibly, things would get even worse for McIlroy with back-to-back bogeys on his 16th and 17th holes of the day, leaving him languishing at nine over at the end of his round.

"It was not quite as difficult as I made it look," admitted McIlroy after an opening round played in cold, blustery conditions and the occasional rain shower.

"It's disappointing because I want to go out there and play well, not just for myself but for a lot of other people. I'll just have to pick myself up and go out there tomorrow and shoot a good one.

"My goal will be to make some birdies, make my first birdie of the tournament at some point.

"I want to give them something to cheer about and not just get sympathy claps as I got coming off the ninth green.

"I felt like I put myself in good positions off the tee but I was caught between trying to play two ways. I was hitting it well on the range, keeping it down and hitting half shots, but the wind was not up that much on the course and that led to missing greens, which led to lots of eight to 12-foot putts for par, which led to missing all of them."

Danny Willett and Soren Kjeldsen are the club house leaders on -2.

We preview the star-studded Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and try to pick a winner

Rickie Fowler, one of the big names on show, practices at Royal County Down

Rickie Fowler, one of the big names on show, practices at Royal County Down

By Thursday morning and his opening shot in the 2015 Irish Open Golf Championship at Royal County Down, even a supremely-fit athlete like Rory McIlroy might just be running on fumes.

Consider his schedule over the last few weeks: Two superb, but draining, victories on the  USPGA Tour, followed by a night flight across the Atlantic to defend his PGA title at Wentworth this week. 

That ended in a missed cut last Friday, quite understandable when, even before the event got going, he had to do a full corporate day with Nike as well.

All before heading to Ireland tomorrow morning for his national championship, at which he is also the host − a job that will impose yet more media and entertainment duties than would be normal for even the World No.1 golfer.

But in the unlikely event of McIlroy playing poorly this week, we cannot criticise him, for it is clear that the 26-year-old has been hoovering up the stardust for this Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, putting the squeeze on his fellow top pros to play at County Down.

This tournament has always been blessed with the best Irish professionals giving it their full support, but if were not for McIlroy putting his full weight behind the Irish Open, and doubtless doing a bit of arm-twisting too, would newly-crowned Players champion Rickie Fowler be turning up, or Sergio Garcia or Ernie Els or Martin Kaymer?

Garcia (below) is a very interesting entry. He has not played in the event since 2000, when he was defending champion at Ballybunion. Garcia’s Irish Open win the previous year, at Druids Glen, was his very first success on the European Tour.

He’s a player that Irish golf fans have always enjoyed watching, but they have had to do it mostly on television. Now Sergio will be here in the flesh and will be a big draw himself.

The biggest attractions, however, will be the host and his fellow Irish stars, especially the major winners in Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke and the former winner of the Irish Open Shane Lowry.

The Offaly man loves links golf and must be a contender for the win if he comes out of the PGA Championship in good fettle, and he ought to for that is an event at which Lowry has excelled in recent seasons.

Of course, Harrington, McDowell and Clarke know their way around this form of golf too and anyone who shoots a 61 at Northern Ireland’s other links gem, Royal Portrush, as McIlroy did as a 16-year-old, can play seaside golf too.

But it will be interesting to see what the big-name visitors, and Continental players like Victor Dubuisson and Miguel Angel Jiminez, make of Royal County Down’s special demands, which include a great deal of patience with blind shots that go wrong.

On many holes, on RCD’s front nine in particular, a golfer is shooting over marker stones and hoping they’ve got it right. However, the pros do not like getting to the other side of a big hill and then finding that what they thought was an accurate shot has bounced off a hump in the fairway and run into a bunker.

They are the bad breaks of links golf and it will be interesting to see if any of the guests verge on the edge of combustion as they discover that a ball they hoped would be on the green has instead trickled into six-inch rough.

Over the four days, good and bad bounces will even out at Royal County Down, as they always do on the greatest links courses.

The TV companies, who will beam pictures of this event all around the world thanks to McIlroy rounding up golf’s finest players, will love the four days of golf, with majestic Slieve Donard as the backdrop.

Tourism Ireland will be getting a fair old bang for their buck over the four days of golf.

Spectators who turn up, and there are still a few tickets available for Thursday, will love the way so many of Royal County Down’s greens are surrounded by natural amphitheatres, so they will look down on many of the world’s best golfers putting on the pristine surfaces of Royal County Down.

Who will win? Well, we give you five golfers to choose from below, but the reality is that if the weather gods favour the 2015 Irish Open with a bit of sunshine and a few dry days, then Ireland, and Irish golf, will be the big winner.

For that we can thank McIlroy for getting behind the tournament in a way that’s above and beyond the call of duty.


Here's my five to follow:

SERGIO GARCIA (11/1)

The Spanish star has been playing well of late, without winning! Surely he would have won at the Players in Sawgrass earlier this month but for Rickie Fowler playing magnificent golf over the last nine holes. With a bit of luck on the greens, which is where Garcia is always vulnerable, he could become our champ.

SHANE LOWRY (22/1)

An Irish Open victor as an amateur at Baltray in 2009, Lowry will relish the four days of action at Royal County Down. He has all the shots for links golf, being able to hit the ball a long way and having a deft touch around the greens. He would be a most popular winner of the event.

JAMIE DONALDSON (25/1)

The Welshman is looking for a big Northern Ireland links double, having won the Irish Open at Royal Portrush three years ago, so we know he can play links golf. Donaldson has had some good rounds of late, but not yet put four together in the same tournament. This could be the very week.

STEPHEN GALLACHER (40/1) 

Being a Scot, Royal County Down will hold no fears for Gallacher, who is one of the most consistent golfers in action on the European Tour.
He has  started this season steadily, but at 40/1 I like his chances of being in the mix this week.

ANIRBAN LAHIRI (66/1)

Who, I hear you say? Well, the Indian has won twice on the 
European Tour this season and lies seventh on the Race to Dubai, so he’s having a great campaign. If he takes to links golf, Lahiri could be a cracking each-way bet.

15 Irish Open facts ahead of the 2015 tournament

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

The European Tour has put together 15 interesting facts about the Irish Open that are sure to make you appear knowledgeable to your friends at Royal County Down this week

  • The first ever Irish Open was held in 1927 when Scotsman George Duncan lifted the trophy at Portmarnock in Dublin.
  • The history of the Irish Open in Northern Ireland dates back to 1928 when the second ever tournament was held at Royal County Down, the venue for this year’s event.
  • Prior to this year, the Irish Open has been held in Northern Ireland 10 times. Royal Portrush has hosted the event on four occasions (1930, 1937, 1947 and 2012), Royal County Down on three prior occasions (1928, 1935 and 1939), Belvoir Park, Belfast, twice in 1949 and 1953, with Malone Golf Club, Belfast, hosting the event just once in 1933.
  • Portmarnock in Dublin has hosted the most Irish Open tournaments by a considerable distance, a total of 19 over the course of 76 years – from the very first event in 1927 to 2003 when Michael Campbell from New Zealand was crowned Champion.
  • In 2012, the Irish Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 50 years when Royal Portrush hosted a record breaking tournament, the first European Tour event to sell out completely in advance. Jamie Donaldson (below) was crowned champion that year and likened the experience to playing in a major championship.
  • Ireland’s Christy O’Connor Senior has won more Irish Opens than any other player with FOUR triumphs in total – three at Woodbrook in County Wicklow in 1964, 1967 and 1972, and once at Royal Dublin in 1966 (Royal Dublin). Three years after his last victory in 1972, his son Christy O’Connor Junior won his only Irish Open title – again at Woodbrook!
  • Four players have won a hat-trick of Irish Opens and they are Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1985, 1986), German Bernhard Langer (1984, 1987, 1994), England’s Nick Faldo (1991, 1992, 1993) and Scotsman Colin Montgomerie (1996, 1997, 2001).
  • Nick Faldo holds the record for consecutive Irish Open wins with three in a row from 1991 to 1993. The only other players to successfully defend their titles with back-to-back wins are Ballesteros (1985-86), Montgomerie (1996-97), Welshman Ian Woosnam (1988-89), England’s Mark James (1979-80), Christy O’Connor Snr (1966-67).
  • The first two Irish Opens to be held in Northern Ireland were won by English brothers Ernest Whitcombe at Royal County Down 1928 and Charles Whitcombe at Royal Portrush in 1930. A third brother Reg completed Irish Open wins for the whole family when he lifted the title at Royal Dublin in 1936.
  • The lowest 18-hole score in an Irish Open is 61, a feat accomplished by Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell at County Louth in 2009 and again the following year by England’s Ross Fisher when he won the tournament at Killarney in 2010. However, G-Mac’s score was 11-under par, compared to Fisher’s 10-under.
  • The biggest winning margin in an Irish Open was in 1987 when Bernhard Langer finished 10 shots ahead of the field at Portmarnock.
  • Wicklow golfer Harry Bradshaw obviously liked travelling up north as he won the Irish Open twice in Northern Ireland in the space of three years – firstly in 1947 at Royal Portrush and then again in 1949 at Belvoir Park.
  • Fred Daly from Portrush is the only player from Northern Ireland to ever win the Irish Open, when he lifted the title at Portmarnock, Dublin, in 1946. The following year he became the first Irish player to win the Open Championship in 1947 at Hoylake (Royal Liverpool) Golf Club. Daly went on to play on four Ryder Cup teams in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1953.
  • The lowest 72-hole score is 266 (18-under) shared by Colin Montgomerie (Fota Island, 2001) and Ross Fisher (Killarney, 2010). The lowest 72-hole score in relation to par though is a 21-under 275 by Christy O’Connor Jnr in 1975 at Woodbrook.
  • The course record at Royal County Down is 66 set by Ireland’s first golfing superstar Jimmy Bruen in the opening round of 1939’s Irish Open. This was the last time that Royal County Down hosted the Irish Open, some 76 years ago, and his record remains intact. Jimmy, was born in Belfast in 1920 but grew up and learned his trade in Cork, led the field after the first 36 holes but couldn’t hold on as the tournament was eventually won by England’s Arthur Lees. With this year’s amazing field, led by World Number One Rory McIlroy, it will be very interesting to see if Jimmy’s record will still be standing come Sunday evening’s trophy presentation!

Mercedes boss apologises to Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton looked set for a comfortable victory in Monte Carlo before a poor tactical decision from his team

Lewis Hamilton looked set for a comfortable victory in Monte Carlo before a poor tactical decision from his team

Mercedes’ head of motorsport Toto Wolff has apologised to Lewis Hamilton for the miscalculation that cost him victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.

An otherwise run-of-the-mill race on the streets of the principality came alive late on when Max Verstappen crashed his Toro Rosso.

It proved the defining moment as it led the safety car to be deployed for the first time in the race, first virtually and then a real car, and the bemusing decision for Hamilton to pit.

It was a horribly misjudged choice, with the Brit overtaken by both team-mate Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel as almost certain victory slipped out of his hands.

"What the hell happened there? That's exactly the right question and the simple answer is we got the math, the calculation, wrong," Mercedes chief Wolff said.

"We thought we had a gap which we didn't have when the safety car came out and Lewis was behind the safety car.

"The calculation was simply wrong, hence what happened."

Wolff refused to apportion the blame – "this was a team decision, we are all in this together" – and knows it looks a risky move from the outside.

"The decisions are being made jointly with a lot of information at the same time," Wolff said of the decision taken just 50 metres before the pit entry.

"Within a fraction of seconds, you need to make a call. We tried to get as much input as possible from the engineers, from the management, from the driver and then take a decision.

"In that case, the algorithm was wrong."

Hamilton cut an understandably gloomy figure after becoming just the second driver in the last 12 races to have started Monaco in pole and failed to win.

The Brit kept his counsel, though, and Wolff was impressed by the composed nature of his post-race interviews.

"We win and we lose together and that one goes on the team," he said. "I apologised and that is probably the only thing you can do.

"He is a great leader, a great driver and I am sure that he will understand that sometimes we make errors and this was such a situation.

"He was in the media scrum and I said 'apologies for that one'. It was all good between us."

Asked how Hamilton will cope with the disappointment, Wolff said: "He has such mental strength and he is on a roll.

"It must be very sore to lose that run because it was his to win. I have no doubt that he will recover as quickly as he always did."

First day of PGA defence for world No 1 full of ups and downs

McIlroy in action on Day 1 at Wentworth

McIlroy in action on Day 1 at Wentworth

Defending champion Rory McIlroy had a real mixed bag on the first day of his defence of the PGA title at Wentworth.

By Liam Kelly

McIlroy got his defence of the BMW PGA Championship underway this morning at 8:35 am, paired with Welshman Jamie Donaldson and former US PGA champion Martin Kaymer.

The world No 1 got off to a rocky start with a bogey at the first hole. However, he responded with a birdie on the second hole par 3.

He went on to card another birdie on the fourth but then he dropped a shot on the next hole.

McIlroy really didn't get going today at all, however at the 12th McIlroy played a beautiful wedge shot to stick his shot within five feet of the hole for a fantastic birdie opportunity which he bins in to bring his scorecard under par for the round.

Then again, like he has done all day, another mistake at the 13th was very costly for the Irishman as he bogeys to bring himself back to level par.

McIlroy then responds to the blemish at the 13th with a birdie on 14 to bring himself back to one under par with his partner Donaldson.

We then get a sight of a smile from McIlroy as he leaves at 18-foot birdie putt short to stay one under par.

At this point we hope to see McIlroy gain momentum and show the crowd why he is a four-time major champion.

Unfortunately for the 26-year old he only is able to par the remainder of his holes on the way home.

McIlroy will start the second day one under par. Hopefully we will get a glimpse of the real Rory McIlroy because even though one under par is a respectable score we expect more from the man who won here last year, a win that kicked off his phenomenal form over the last 12 months.

His partner Donaldson will be sharing the same position on the leaderboard with the Welshman carding also a one under par. Kaymer had a slightly poorer round with a level par round.

In other news for Irish golfers, Padraig Harrington has pulled out of the tournament today with a shoulder injury The former British Open champion vowed to fans he would play the tournament this week. This comes as a big dissapointment as it seems likely he will miss the Irish Open next week, a huge upset for home-based fans.

It’s not just McIlroy and Harrington who were to play in Wentworth this week, Shane Lowry is two over par and still on the front nine, Darren Clarke is two over par also, Damien Mc Grane is one over through one, Neill Kearney, 27, has finished up level par while Peter Lawrie is just about to finish up and he is leading the Irish charge at two under par.

Leading the tournament at the time of writing is Robert Karlsson, in the clubhouse at five under.

Pics: Rory McIlory and Niall Horan were playing a round today

As he builds up to defend his PGA title at Wentworth Rory McIlory once again employed the services of Ireland’s One Direction heartthrob Niall Horan to help.

By Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy got his defence of the BMW PGA Championship underway with the traditional star-studded Pro-Am at Wentworth. The recently crowned Wells Fargo Championship winner was down to partner One Direction band member and fellow Irishman Niall Horan and they were to face ex-Manchester United veteran Paul Scholes and ex-Everton captain and Scholes’ former teammate Phil Neville. 

Since McIlroy being the world class player that he is had to tee off on the first hole quite a bit back from the other celebrities. The pairs both headed for the first hole, teeing off time was 8am. 

It is not the first time the pop star has been on the fairway with the world’s best golf player, he caddied the 4 time major winner in the Par 3 contest in Augusta before the Masters where Horan revealed his handicap of 12. The duo seemed to enjoy the day out with laughter sighted constantly in there direction.

Here are the two lads warming up

 

Morning practice session with One Direction's Niall Horan before the #BMWPGA Pro-Am. ⛳️

Posted by Rory McIlroy on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No word yet on the final scores but our money is on Rory to be the winner in this group.

Racing legend Sizing Europe has been retired

Sizing Europe in full flight

Sizing Europe in full flight

Former two-mile Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe has been retired by his owners Alan and Ann Potts.

Also a winner of the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham and going so close in a Champion Hurdle when he was cruising to the front before breaking a blood vessel, the 13-year-old finished down the field at both this year's Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead described Sizing Europe as 'the horse of a lifetime' after being in charge for every one of the horse's runs during a superb career.