Marvel Mansell edges closer to Dunhill Links glory as Old Course test of nerve awaits

By Sports Desk October 01, 2022

Richard Mansell heads into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship armed with a four-shot lead and a glorious chance to earn a first DP World Tour win.

Englishman Mansell was one of just three players to go under 70 when wild weather made for troublesome golfing conditions on Friday, and the 27-year-old followed that impressive 68 with 67 on Saturday to reach 15 under par.

At a tournament where the first three rounds have been split daily between St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, it is Mansell who will start on Sunday as the frontrunner when all competitors head to the Old Course for the closing 18 holes.

Three players sit four shots off the pace, with Sweden's Alex Noren losing ground to Mansell after going round in 69 at St Andrews. He was joined on 11 under by two players who competed at Kingsbarns on Saturday: England's Daniel Gavins (67) and New Zealand's Ryan Fox (65).

Mansell, who played Carnoustie on Saturday, has yet to win on the tour and entered this week on the back of two missed cuts, but he has had top-four finishes this season at the European Open, World Invitational and European Masters.

The world number 218 is having the best year of his career, earning almost €550,000 (£480,000) already, and he can more than double that on Sunday, with $816,000 (£730,000) on offer to the champion.

The low round of Saturday came from Belgium's Thomas Pieters, whose bogey-free 64 repaired some of Friday's damage, when he followed his opening 65 with a ruinous 84.

Rory McIlroy had a 75 on Friday but rebounded with 66 at St Andrews on Saturday to reach seven under, likely too far back to mount a challenge on the final day.

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    Rory McIlroy has suggested there is a chance he could leave the PGA Tour and join LIV Golf.

    McIlroy took a strident position against the big-money Saudi venture, which tempted a host of top names with lavish paydays and disrupted the established order of the PGA and European Tours.

    But the world number two – who even claimed last summer that he would “rather retire” than become a LIV rebel – has softened his stance in recent months as Europe Ryder Cup team-mates Jon Rahm and Tyrell Hatton have made the switch from the PGA Tour.

    McIlroy’s former agent Chubby Chandler has claimed the Northern Irishman could make a shock move to LIV Golf – and the four-time major champion did not completely dismiss the idea ahead of the Cognizant Classic in Palm Beach Gardens.

    Chandler put a potential switch at 10 per cent and, asked at a pre-tournament press conference whether he would put a percentage on him joining LIV Golf, McIlroy replied: “Somewhere in the middle maybe. Who knows?

    “I think he’s writing a book, so there is that. I spoke to Chubby, I might have seen him in the Middle East at the start of the year.

    “Never know. He might know a few things. Who knows?”

    McIlroy began his 2024 campaign by finishing second to Tommy Fleetwood at the Dubai Invitational and then winning the Dubai Desert Classic for a record fourth time.

    But it has not been plain sailing for the 34-year-old since returning to the PGA Tour this month.

    McIlroy finished tied 66th at the rain-ruined AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and had a share for 24th at the Genesis Invitational.

    “I feel like Pebble, the weather disrupted it and the courses were super soft,” said Florida resident McIlroy, who held off Tiger Woods at this event in 2012 to win and claim the world number one spot for the first time.

    “I won the pro-am portion, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

    “And then Riv (Riviera Country Club) was pretty good. I made a mess of 15 and 16 on the first day but apart from that, I felt like I played some pretty good golf.

    “I feel like my game is in pretty good shape. You know, it’s nice to stay at home this week and feel a little more I guess relaxed in the surroundings.”

    On what he defines as a successful season, McIlroy, a 24-time PGA Tour winner, added: “I guess it comes down to wins and season-long titles and major championships.

    “I can’t sit here and say that the last 10 seasons haven’t been successful because I haven’t won a major.

    “But at the same time, I recognize that whenever all is said and done I’m going to be judged on those tournaments a lot.

    “Hopefully among other things as well but, yeah, winning is always good. The more wins you can get the better.”

  • Mel Reid named among four Europe vice-captains for Solheim Cup Mel Reid named among four Europe vice-captains for Solheim Cup

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    Dame Laura Davies, Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Norwegian Caroline Martens were all part of the set-up for last year’s clash against the United States in Andalusia, which saw Europe retain the trophy after a thrilling 14-14 tie.

    Reid was previously a vice-captain in 2019 and made four appearances as a player for Europe, winning seven-and-a-half points.

    Pettersen feels she has pulled together a strong support group for when Europe face the US again at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia from September 13 to 15.

    “With just over six months to go until the competition, I am thrilled to be able to name my backroom team for the 2024 Solheim Cup,” said Pettersen.

    “After last year’s success, why change a winning team? I am excited to be able to have the same team by my side, but also with the great addition of Mel.

    “It was a very natural choice for me and the rest of the team to bring Mel in alongside us in a vice-captaincy role. She has an immense passion and head for the Solheim Cup.

    “She has the experience both from her time as a player and also being a vice-captain during the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles. She is all over this task and we’re excited for her to join us.”

    Reid, a six-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, is relishing the challenges ahead.

    “Everyone knows how much the Solheim Cup means to me and how much I love being part of it and Team Europe. It brings out passion and shows the best of what golf has to offer,” the 36-year-old said.

    “Being a vice-captain back in 2019 gave me a different perspective and it made me hungrier to be on the Solheim Cup team in 2021. It was what I needed at the time, and it was a huge honour to do that.

    “What the team did in Spain last year was amazing and I am excited to be able to join Suzann, Caroline, Laura and Anna on this journey as we prepare to go for more history at the 2024 Solheim Cup in the US.”

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    As a former Masters champion, Danny Willett will definitely be at Augusta National for the first major of the year.

    Whether he is there just to sample the delights of Jon Rahm’s menu for the champions dinner or swinging a golf club in anger is less certain as he battles to regain full fitness following shoulder surgery.

    Willett looked set to challenge for a second BMW PGA Championship title in September when he covered his first 12 holes in six under par, only to aggravate a shoulder tear after hitting his tee shot on the 15th.

    The 2019 champion played through the pain barrier and completed all 72 holes at Wentworth but underwent surgery the following week and faces a race against time to compete at Augusta, where he won in dramatic style in 2016.

    “The surgery went really well, I’m back hitting balls right now but Augusta is six weeks away. It’ll be very, very close,” Willett told the PA news agency at the launch of Prostate Cancer UK’s fundraising challenge, The Big Golf Race.

    “It’s been a long time rehabbing it just to get it up to strength to be able to take the capacity and the load that it needs to. We’ll know more when we start practising in America as to how we’re getting on.

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    Willett had been managing his shoulder problem for several months before it flared up at Wentworth and the extent of the damage was only discovered when he went under the knife.

    “We thought there was one tear and when the surgeon went in he realised there were two tears and a good bit of damage around the cartilage and a few cysts he had to clear out,” Willett said.

    “It’s a pretty intrusive surgery and it was a bit scary when I first came out and I could barely lift my own hand. You wonder if you’ve done the right thing but now it feels pretty good.

    “Ultimately I’m only 36 so I’ve still got a hell of a long time left in my career, so to have this time out now will hopefully mean I can come back and prolong my career and have another good 10 or 15 years at it.”

    Willett is now into his fourth year of supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s fundraising efforts and raised £38,000 as host of the British Masters for two years as title sponsors Betfred donated £1,000 for every birdie he made.

    The 36-year-old admits it was “staggering” to learn that prostate cancer affects one in eight men in the UK and is backing this year’s The Big Golf Race, which challenges golfers to play 36, 72 or even 100 holes in a day.

    “It’s a great charity to support,” Willett said. “As men, if something’s not right or we don’t feel well, very rarely do we go and get it sorted so it was about making people aware to go and get checked.

    “One of my old England coaches Steve Rolley was diagnosed and fortunately they got it early enough and he’s now fine. It’s amazing how many people it has affected that you know, but how little information there was out there about it.”

    ::: Danny Willett is supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s golf fundraising challenge, The Big Golf Race, which is calling on golfers to take on 36, 72 or 100 holes in a day to raise money and help save men’s lives. To sign up, visit prostatecanceruk.org/get-involved/activity/golf/the-big-golf-race

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