Rory ready to roar into China

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

ARESURGENT Rory McIl­roy is look­ing to end 2016 in style, start­ing by win­ning the pres­ti­gious World Golf Cham­pi­onships-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in Shang­hai this week.

But the PGA Tour’s newly crowned FedEx Cup cham­pion will have to over­come all four of 2016’s first-time ma­jor win­ners and 40 of the world’s top 50 play­ers in a starstud­ded field if he is to lift the ti­tle for the first time.

The list of cham­pi­ons of the tour­na­ment dubbed “Asia’s Ma­jor” reads like a who’s who of golf.

But the North­ern Ir­ish­man’s il­lus­tri­ous name is miss­ing from a WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons roll of hon­our fea­tur­ing Phil Mick­el­son, Dustin John­son, Martin Kaymer and Bubba Wat­son, some­thing McIl­roy would love to put right.

“Here, yes, I’d love to tick that one off,” McIl­roy told AFP.

“I’ve won in Hong Kong be­fore. I’ve won in Shang­hai but it wasn’t an of­fi­cially sanc­tioned event at the time [the Shang­hai Masters in 2011].

“I’d love to win in China again and I’ve played well enough on this golf course to win but just haven’t re­ally done enough when it mat­tered. Hope­fully this year will be the year to change that.”

The good news for McIl­roy is that he ap­pears fi­nally to have put his in­jury-wracked 2015 be­hind him.

McIl­roy ripped an­kle lig­a­ments play­ing foot­ball and had to miss his Bri­tish Open de­fence and a large chunk of last sea­son.

And so wretched were his 2015 for­tunes that when he got to Shang­hai a year ago he was floored by a dodgy sand­wich and se­vere food poi­son­ing which meant he could not prac­tise.

McIl­roy did man­age to tee off 12 months ago – al­beit 10 pounds lighter – and fin­ished tied for 11th, the only time he has failed to make the top six at She­shan.

“I’ve avoided the club sand­wich this week,” joked McIl­roy.

“The aim is to get out of China in one piece. I’m tak­ing ev­ery pre­cau­tion to be in good shape,” he laughed.

McIl­roy still went on to win the Race to Dubai and it seemed his game had turned the corner, more so when he won the Ir­ish Open in May.

Ground to make up But he missed the cut in two ma­jors – the US Open and the US PGA cham­pi­onship – largely be­cause of an in­abil­ity to find the cup with the put­ter.

But his mojo re­turned on the greens dur­ing the FedEx Cup se­ries last month as he stormed to two wins in four events – the Deutsche Bank Cham­pi­onship and the sea­son-end­ing Tour Cham­pi­onship – and a US$10 mil­lion bonus.

“After the FedEx Cup and the Ry­der Cup I wanted to take some time off as it was a busy stretch of golf,” said for­mer num­ber one McIl­roy.

“I went to Dubai last week for a few days to prac­tise and, yeah, the game’s feel­ing re­ally good and I’m re­ally happy with where I’m at.

“I’d love to do the dou­ble [FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai]. There’s a lot of ground to make up but that’s noth­ing a cou­ple of wins wouldn’t fix.”

Masters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett leads the Race to Dubai stand­ings and has great mem­o­ries of the 7261-yard She­shan course on the west­ern out­skirts of Shang­hai’s boom­ing me­trop­o­lis of 24 mil­lion peo­ple.

The English­man shot a flaw­less 62 with 10 birdies in the fi­nal round a year ago to fin­ish in a share of third place.

Bri­tish Open cham­pion and Olympic sil­ver medal­list Hen­rik Sten­son lies se­cond in the Euro­pean Tour stand­ings and will be look­ing to close the gap with McIl­roy lurk­ing in third.

US Open Cham­pion Dustin John­son took his first big tour­na­ment win at the WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in 2013 while US PGA Cham­pion Jimmy Walker com­pletes the full house of 2016 ma­jor win­ners in China this week.

Justin Thomas, who re­tained his PGA Tour CIMB Clas­sic ti­tle in Kuala Lumpur last week, plus US Ry­der Cup tal­is­men Pa­trick Reed and Rickie Fowler and de­fend­ing cham­pion Rus­sell Knox are also in the hunt for a share of the $9.5 mil­lion prize fund – the rich­est in world golf out­side America and the ma­jors. –

“We be­lieved we did the right thing at ev­ery junc­ture in our re­la­tion­ship with Josh,” said Mara. “Our be­liefs, our judge­ments and our de­ci­sions were mis­guided. We ac­cept that re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“We hope that Josh will con­tinue to ded­i­cate him­self to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, and to be­com­ing a bet­ter per­son and fa­ther. We hope that Josh and his fam­ily can find peace and a pos­i­tive res­o­lu­tion.”

In a state­ment from Brown is­sued in the same Gi­ants an­nounce­ment, the kicker apol­o­gised for call­ing into ques­tion “the char­ac­ter or in­tegrity of The New York Gi­ants, Mr Mara or any of those who have sup­ported me along the way”.

“In the com­ing days and weeks I plan on telling more of the pain I had caused and the mea­sures taken to get help so I may be the voice of change and not a statis­tic,” Brown added.

Just hours ear­lier, Brown had is­sued a state­ment deny­ing phys­i­cally abus­ing his ex-wife.

“It is im­por­tant to share that I never struck my wife, and never would,” he had said.

Brown was ini­tially sus­pended for only one game for the 2015 do­mes­tic vi­o­lence case. He played in five games for the Gi­ants be­fore being placed on the NFL’s “ex­empt list” after the league de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther fol­low­ing the re­lease of a trove of doc­u­ments last week.

In the doc­u­ments, Brown ad­mit­ted to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in var­i­ous let­ter, email and jour­nal en­tries. In one en­try he wrote clearly, “I have abused my wife.” –

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