Sport

Three speaking issues in golfing this week


Paris – Former Masters champion Patrick Reed claimed his second World Golf Championship title on Sunday with a one-stroke victory in Mexico, while Viktor Hovland secured his maiden PGA Tour win in Puerto Rico.

Here follows a look at three talking points in golf this week:

McIlroy falls short again

World No 1 Rory McIlroy is undisputedly the best player in the game and he proved it last season with four victories and 15 other top-10 finishes in just 25 events. But there is still a suspicion that he struggles to be ruthless when in winning positions.

The Northern Irishman, who has not lifted a major title since the 2014 USPGA Championship, has posted four straight top-five efforts without a win.

On Sunday in Mexico, he looked poised to strike when moving just one shot behind a group of four leaders, but fell away, with a three-putt from just 12 feet epitomising his poor day on the greens.

“Frustrating. I don’t feel like I got the best out of myself,” McIlroy, who led by two strokes after the first round, told Golf Channel.

“I didn’t putt as well as I needed to over the last three days. I just let a few shots get away.”

Lift-off for Hovland

Hovland became the first Norwegian to win a PGA Tour title as the youngster delivered on his undoubted potential. The 22-year-old, widely expected to become one of the top players in the game, claimed an exciting one-shot victory in the Puerto Rico Open.

He is playing his first full season as a professional, having finished as low amateur at both the Masters and US Open last year.

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The victory lifted Hovland 42 places to 60th in the world rankings, with that rise showing no sign of stopping despite a slow start to the season.

“He got his card and I think started to try and fill those expectations right away and he was getting very stressed and he wasn’t himself,” his caddie Shay Knight told pgatour.com.

Hovland found his form spectacularly in Puerto Rico, though, bouncing back from a triple bogey on the 11th hole in the final round by chipping in for eagle at 15 before draining a 30-foot putt on the final green to win.

From €400 000 of debt to WGC

Mike Lorenzo-Vera knows all about the ugly side of golf, and life, as he wrote candidly in a player blog for the European Tour last week.

The Frenchman found himself in €400 000 of debt after struggling on the second-tier Challenge Tour in 2013 and making “bad decisions”, but finished last year inside the top 100 for the first time and made his second WGC appearance in Mexico.

“One day the card stopped working and I called the bank shouting at them. ‘Why isn’t it working?’ and they say, ‘Well, because you’ve got no money,” Lorenzo-Vera said.

“Then I was trying to make cuts to try and bring cash back in, but it was ridiculous. I messed up my taxes as well. Believe me, I made all of the mistakes.”

He said he struggles with anxiety surrounding his game, but that seeing sports psychologist Meriem Salmi helped his game.

“The higher up you go, the more anxiety there is… I’m sure even Brooks (Koepka) and Rory (McIlroy) have hard times mentally.”

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World rankings

Top 20 on Monday, February 24

1. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 9.48 average points, 2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.68 (+1), 3. Brooks Koepka (USA) 8.62 (-1), 4. Justin Thomas (USA) 7.62, 5. Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.72, 6. Adam Scott (AUS) 6.06 (+1), 7. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.04 (-1), 8. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.93 (+6), 9. Webb Simpson (USA) 5.88 (-1), 10. Tiger Woods (USA) 5.81 (-1), 11. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.62 (-1), 12. Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5.52 (-1), 13. Justin Rose (ENG) 5.30 (-1), 14. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 5.01 (+2), 15. Tony Finau (USA) 4.88 (-2), 16. Matt Kuchar (USA) 4.63 (-1), 17. Gary Woodland (USA) 4.38 (+2), 18. Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 4.36 (-1), 19. Shane Lowry (IRL) 4.33 (-1), 20. Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 4.31 (+1)


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