Rory McIlroy predicted he would enjoy the weekend at the Dubai Desert Classic after a 66 on day two moved him firmly into contention.

The former world number one vaulted up the leaderboard into a share of fifth place, following up a steady 71 with a bogey-free round containing four birdies and an eagle.

A two-time winner of this tournament, having been champion as a 19-year-old in 2009 and again in 2015, McIlroy has happy memories and there could be more cause to celebrate come Sunday.

He moved to seven under par through 36 holes, putting him just four shots behind the leader, Justin Harding of South Africa, who added a 68 to his opening 65.

England's Tyrrell Hatton sits second on nine under after matching McIlroy's score. Nobody beat 66 in the second round, with Germany's Nicolai von Dellingshausen also making the same score, in his case atoning for an opening 77 to reach a share of 38th place.

South African Erik van Rooyen and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti share second on eight under par, with McIlroy one shot back in a group that also includes England's Richard Bland, Norway's Viktor Hovland, Adrian Meronk of Poland, and the first-round leader Joachim B Hansen, who had four bogeys and four birdies in a level-par 72. Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey were all on six under.

McIlroy chipped in for eagle at 13, while leader Harding, who began on the back nine, holed from 183 yards at the par-four sixth.

There was satisfaction but also frustration for McIlroy after his round, as he said: "It could have been way lower. I certainly hit the ball good enough for it to be a few shots lower. I hit the ball as good as I've done in a long time, and it could have been a few better, but 66 is a good score and sets me up for a nice weekend."

McIlroy said he had been making technical alterations to his swing on the range, and added: "I thought I hit my irons a lot better today and was in control of the driver a bit better too."

To his frustration, McIlroy has not won a major since reaching four big ones in 2014, but he had two victories on the PGA Tour last year and was firmly in the hunt for the DP World Tour Championship in November until a closing 74 scuppered his chances.

The Northern Irishman tied for 12th last week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, enjoying a strong weekend after only just making the cut. This time he is in a better position from which to strike, and he likes his game at the moment.

"I think with how I ended last year, I certainly found something. I got a little bit of momentum, I won on the PGA Tour and had a really good chance to win here in Dubai at the end of last season," McIlroy said speaking to the DP World Tour website.

"But it feels good. There are so many ebbs and flows in this game and the career's so long that it's hard to compare one season to the next, and how you're feeling and how you're hitting it. But looking back on my last 12 or 14 years, the body of work is there.

"I've played well when I haven't felt so good and I've played poorly when I've felt really good. So it's just a matter of keep showing up each and every day and try your best and try to put the lowest score possible on the scorecard and move on."

Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa faced an overnight wait to learn whether they had made the cut at the windswept Abu Dhabi Championship, as Scott Jamieson clung to first place.

McIlroy made a vital birdie at the par-five 18th to improve his score to three over, having dropped four shots over the previous five holes.

His opening 72 had been way off the pace, and a 75 in the gusting wind could be considered a better result, nudging the four-time major winner up 15 places to a share of 60th position at Yas Links.

Reigning Open champion Morikawa added a 74 to his opening 73 to sit alongside McIlroy, both men hoping there was no surge coming from those left with holes still to play in the second round.

Play was suspended amid fading light on Friday, after the high winds made scoring treacherously difficult.

Jamieson had opened with a 63 on Thursday, but he had two bogeys and a double in his second round, which he started from the 10th tee. Birdies at 11 and eight kept the 38-year-old Scot just ahead of the field after a 74, with Viktor Hovland, Ian Poulter and James Morrison all one shot back.

Hovland also shot a 74, Poulter impressed with a 72, while Morrison, level par for the day, had four holes of his round to complete as darkness fell.

Former Open champion Shane Lowry was in a group of four on five under, while Denmark's Jeff Winther was the only player to break 70, his round of 69 featuring five birdies and taking him to four under, in a share of ninth.

In the first DP World Tour event of the year, the drastic change in playing conditions provided a stiff test for all, some former Masters winner Danny Willett was among those who struggled.

His 80, after an opening 72, meant the Yorkshireman could be definitely confirmed as missing the cut on eight over. Only four players scored worse.

The top 65 players and ties are assured of playing the final two rounds, with the second round to resume at 07:30 local time on Saturday (03:30 GMT).

Jamieson, the world number 336, said it "certainly wasn't easy" for the players who had enjoyed conditions suitable for low-scoring on the opening day.

"It's so tricky," he said, quoted on the DP World Tour website. "Obviously hitting shots is tricky with all the gusts, but the hardest thing is putting.

"You get over the ball and you feel like you've got to be so tense to stop everything moving, but that's the worst thing you can do when you're trying to putt.

"I holed a lot of really good putts from inside five feet today which kept my score respectable.

"It's a great test from tee to green, if you want to call it a test, at the mercy of whatever gust you might or might not get."

Scott Jamieson holds a one-shot lead from Viktor Hovland after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship. 

Jamieson got the first DP World Tour event of the year under way with a brilliant nine-under 63 at the Yas Links course on Thursday.

The Scot was bogey-free through his opening round, hitting the turn in 32 and making another five birdies on the back nine to set the clubhouse target at the DP World Tour's newest venue.

Jamieson started with a birdie and never looked back, fittingly also finishing his excellent round with another gain.

He said in an interview with the DP World Tour: "Eight weeks off from tournament golf, you're always a little bit on edge at the start of the day, but a birdie at the first settled any edge there was and I was just really solid all day.

"One tee shot wasn't very good, but I kind of got lucky and recovered well."

Hovland signed for an eight-under 64 in the opening Rolex Series event of the season, with a bogey five at the 12th the only blemish on the world number seven's card.

The Norwegian had gone out in 31 and finished with a flourish, making three birdies in his final four holes.

World number two Collin Morikawa, winner of the Race to Dubai last year, has work to do following a one-over 73, with Rory McIlroy also having ground to make up at level par.

Thomas Pieters is two shots adrift of Jamieson in third place, while Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and James Morrison are among a group of five players on six under.

Takumi Kanaya and Victor Perez also started with six-under rounds of 66.

Bryson DeChambeau carded an eight-under-par 64 to take the lead after the second round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

World number seven DeChambeau started Friday's session down in 11th but climbed to the top of the standings on 11 under for the tournament with an impressive round.

The 2020 US Open winner double-bogeyed on the par-four 16th after pulling his drive into a bush, but that was the only blemish as he made 10 birdies.

DeChambeau, whose only title this calendar year came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, is one stroke clear of fellow Americans Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka.

Morikawa will overtake Jon Rahm as the world's number one should he win the tournament, and he would have had a share of the lead if not for a bogey on the 18th.

"When I put myself in the fairway, I was converting, I was making the birdies when I needed to," said Morikawa.

“I still felt like the driver's a little off, but, you know, get my timing a little bit better tomorrow and the next day and we'll be just fine."

Finau began the back nine with a bogey but recovered well with four birdies on the following eight holes to remain in strong contention for the title with two rounds to go.

Rory McIlroy, who held a share of the first-round lead with Daniel Berger and Abraham Ancer, shot a one under-par 71 on Friday to slip four off the pace.

Berger is fifth after a round of 69, while Ancer's 73 – which included five bogeys – saw him drop outside the top 10.

Meanwhile, Sam Burns impressed with seven birdies for a second-round 65 that was bettered only by DeChambeau as he climbed into a tie for sixth alongside Tyrrell Hatton.

Danny Willett gave himself a golden opportunity to celebrate his birthday by winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after taking three-shot lead on Saturday.

The 2016 Masters champion could toast turning 34 on Sunday by claiming his first title since his BMW PGA Championship triumph in September 2019.

Willett's impressive six-under bogey-free third round of 66 on the Old Course at St. Andrew's moved him to 14 under, three shots clear of Tyrrell Hatton, Richard Bland, Shane Lowry and John Murphy.

Englishman Willett overcame difficult weather conditions to move into a strong position.

"Early on, with a decent bit of wind, downwind, you always feel like you should take so many chances," said Willett.

"You need to drive it close, and as soon as you get on the 12th tee, you know you've got pretty tough conditions coming straight into the wind on the last six holes. I really had a go on the last six and gained a lot of shots coming in doing that.

"It's nice that the fans are back this week, the format is back, we missed it last year. I think it's great to have everyone here. We're getting cheered on, so it's great to be back on British soil. Another 18 holes to go, and we'll see how we do."

Three bogeys in a row on the back nine for Hatton after a promising start of four birdies from his opening five holes saw the 29-year-old drop into joint-second at 11 under as he signed for a one-under 72.

"Got off to a very nice start, and then just hit a couple of loose shots, just lost all momentum, to be honest," Hatton said. "I think from the eighth hole, just never really got anything going our way.

"I think there were only a couple of times where I had a realistic birdie chance, and I hit a good putt, and it bobbled off line or whatever."

Bland carded a sublime eight-under 64, while Irish duo Lowry and Murphy are firmly in the mix after going round in 67.

Tyrrell Hatton emerged from day two of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as the outright leader, but there are still multiple contenders to claim glory this weekend.

Englishman Hatton ended day one in a four-way tie for the lead, but even though he could not repeat his stunning first-round score of 64, settling for a two-under round 70 on Friday was still enough to claim the advantage.

World number 19 Hatton is 10 under for the tournament, one shot clear of compatriot Daniel Gavins after playing the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Li Haotong, one of Hatton's co-leaders overnight, and Danny Willett are tied for third on eight under at the European Tour event, with Tommy Fleetwood and Denmark's Jeff Winther one shot further back at seven under.

Former Open champion Shane Lowry produced the best round of the day, with his eventful 67 featuring an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys. He is sitting at six under, four off the lead.

However, the two other overnight leaders, Nicolas Colsaerts and Adri Arnaus, struggled to remain in contention, in contrast to Hatton and Li.

Colsaerts is now five shots off the lead, while Arnaus trails by six after a miserable 76 which featured five bogeys and a double bogey.

Hatton, part of the European team that suffered a record-breaking 19-9 defeat by USA on American soil in the Ryder Cup last week, is looking to triumph in the tournament for a third time.

He previously lifted the title in 2016 and 2017.

Tyrrell Hatton produced a magnificent back nine to sit in a share of the lead following the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Hatton is looking to triumph in the tournament for a third time, having lifted the title in 2016 and 2017.

The Englishman was part of the European team that suffered a record-breaking 19-9 defeat by USA on American soil in the Ryder Cup last weekend.

However, he quickly overcame that disappointment with a hugely impressive back nine score of 29 at Carnoustie – aided by five birdies and an eagle – to move joint-top of the leaderboard on eight under.

"Obviously, we needed a big back nine and very happy that the putter worked well and hopefully that continues," Hatton said after his score of 64.

"It's always nice to start pretty good around this golf course. You go to the other ones and feel like you've got slightly more of a chance than here, so we'll see what the week brings."

Three-time European Tour winner Nicolas Colsaerts has also started well in his quest for a first triumph in two years.

The Belgian recovered from bogeying the second hole on the Old Course at St Andrews with five birdies and two eagles, also carding 64.

"Once you start to play well at the home of golf, it's a pretty nice feeling when you hit the shots," he said.

"Making two eagles on the two par fives and a birdie on 18, you basically tick every box on the Old Course, which is nice."

Meanwhile, China's Li Haotong and Spaniard Adri Arnaus carded bogey-free opening rounds to join Hatton and Colsaerts on eight under par.

Local favourite Ewen Ferguson is one of three players who are a shot behind the early leaders, along with Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey and Frenchman Romain Langasque.

Defending champion Victor Perez, who triumphed in 2019 before last year's tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, had a steady start, carding an opening 71.

The United States claimed the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits as they defeated Europe by a record margin with a 19-9 triumph on Sunday.

Padraig Harrington's side had won seven of the past nine editions of the biennial event but failed to recover from a six-shot disadvantage heading into the final day.

USA required just 3.5 points to claim the trophy on home soil, and they managed to reach that mark in just the fifth match of the finale as Collin Morikawa finished all square with Victor Hovland.

Europe had early hope through Rory McIlroy, who cruised past Xander Schaffuele to collect his first win at this year's edition but Patrick Cantlay quickly restored USA's dominance by defeating Shane Lowry.

Fellow rookie Scottie Scheffler enjoyed a magnificent singles debut, overcoming world number one Jon Rahm, before Bryson DeChambeau crushed Sergio Garcia with two holes to spare.

Morikawa and Hovland were neck-and-neck until the penultimate hole, where the former landed his iron shot within tap-in range to secure at least a half point and the trophy for the USA. Hovland won the last to halve their battle, but the Americans had the overall match in the bag.

Paul Casey chased Dustin Johnson but could not stop the two-time major champion from winning on the final hole to complete a 5-0-0 record, while Brooks Koepka eased past debutant Bernd Wiesberger despite a spirited performance from the Austrian.

Justin Thomas produced a dominant performance to demolish Tyrrell Hatton, while Lee Westwood - making his record 47th match appearance for Europe - picked up a consolation point against Harris English.

Ian Poulter also maintained his unbeaten record in singles matches to collect Europe's second win on the day, but that proved in vain, with Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood sharing the spoils as they both faltered on the 18th.

However, in the final pair, Daniel Berger edged past Matthew Fitzpatrick, who found the water at the last, as the USA defeated Europe by a record margin, surpassing the previous 18.5 to 9.5 win at Walton Heath Golf Club in 1981.

 

Shot of the day

Team USA were looking for a positive start to quash any suggestions of another repeat of the 'Miracle at Medinah' and DeChambeau provided exactly that in the fourth match of the day.

He comfortably reached the green with his drive on the par-four first, much to the delight of the Wisconsin crowd surrounding the tee box.

The world number seven could have claimed the 'shot of the day' tag with his drive, however, the subsequent 41-foot putt that followed to secure an eagle was both magnificent and important to place early pressure on the evergreen Garcia.

Player of the day

Scheffler, who was a Ryder Cup rookie and has yet to win on the PGA Tour, was sent out early and tasked with tackling world number one Rahm.

The American's rapid start, recording five birdies in the opening six holes, was enough to see off Rahm, who could not fight back from that point onwards and was finished off with three holes to go.

Sunday's singles win made it 2.5 points from a possible three, Scheffler unbeaten in the four-balls in a memorable debut in the Ryder Cup.

Chipping in

USA's winning captain Steve Stricker: "Speechless. Everything about it, these guys all came together. Two weeks ago they came together. Showed me a lot about this group of guys. They had a mission this week and you could tell, they played great and they came together. I just can't tell you - I mean, Brooks and Bryson wanted to play together; that's how much it came together. That shows a lot about this whole team."

Europe captain Padraig Harrington: "Of course we're disappointed. But the USA played well. Look, they out-played us, they are a strong team. They got their plan right. They got some momentum going. They started well. It's been good, no doubt about it. The fans were better - it's tough when you're going away and having no Europeans, but certainly above expectations in terms of an away crowd."

Rory McIlroy (on NBC): "I don't think there's any greater privilege to be a part of one of these teams, European or American. It's an absolute privilege. I've gotten to do this six times. They have always been the greatest experiences of my career. But this team, and what it feels like to be a part of, to see Sergio [Garcia] break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut. The more I play in this event I realise it's the best event in golf, bar none."

A little birdie told me...

Johnson entered this year's tournament with a 7-9 record in four previous appearances.

However, he made Ryder Cup history as he went 5-0-0, becoming just the fifth player to do so in a single Ryder Cup and the third since battles between Europe and the USA began in 1979. Previous matches saw teams from Great Britain, and Great Britain and Ireland, take on the Americans.

Johnson knew victory against Casey would see him etch his name in history, and he duly confirmed victory on the final hole, with the Englishman dragging his potential levelling putt wide.

Sunday's single results

Rory McIlroy (Eur) beat Xander Schauffele (USA) 3 and 2

Patrick Cantlay (USA) beat Shane Lowry (Eur) 4 and 2

Scottie Scheffler (USA) beat Jon Rahm (Eur) 4 and 3

Bryson DeChambeau (USA) beat Sergio Garcia (Eur) 3 and 2

Collin Morikawa (USA) tied Victor Hovland (Eur) A/S

Dustin Johnson (USA) beat Paul Casey (Eur) 1UP

Brooks Koepka (USA) beat Bernd Wiesberger (Eur) 2 and 1

Ian Poulter (Eur) beat Tony Finau (USA) 3 and 2

Justin Thomas (USA) beat Tyrrell Hatton (Eur) 4 and 3

Lee Westwood (Eur) beat Harris English (USA) 1UP

Jordan Spieth (USA) tied Tommy Fleetwood (Eur) A/S

Daniel Berger (USA) beat Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eur) 1UP

The 12 singles pairings for the final round of the Ryder Cup have been announced, with the United States looking to dethrone Europe on Sunday.

Team USA hold a commanding 11-5 lead following Saturday's foursomes and four-ball at Whistling Straits, where the hosts boast the biggest two-day advantage since 1975.

Steve Stricker's USA require just 3.5 points to reclaim the cup from Europe, who will need to produce the biggest ever comeback if they are to claim the required nine points to defend their crown.

"That was an important one," Stricker said after USA split the four afternoon matches. "If they blank us, they're right back in the game. I think getting two points and splitting the session is a good outcome for us."

Xander Schauffele will lead the Americans out to start Sunday's play in Wisconsin, facing struggling European star Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy was dropped for Saturday's foursomes having struggled on Friday – the first time in the four-time major champion's Ryder Cup career that he has missed a session. He returned for the four-ball but fell to another defeat alongside Ian Poulter against Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa 4 and 3.

The second matchup pits USA's Patrick Cantlay against Shane Lowry, while Europe captain Padraig Harrington put world number one Jon Rahm down to face Scottie Scheffler.

Bryson DeChambeau and European star Sergio Garcia meet in match four, American Collin Morikawa tackles Viktor Hovland and unbeaten USA veteran Johnson plays Paul Casey.

Elsewhere, Brooks Koepka is set to tee off against Bernd Wiesberger, Poulter and Tony Finau go head-to-head, Justin Thomas will clash with Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood goes up against Harris English, Jordan Spieth faces Tommy Fleetwood and the final matchup is a showdown between Daniel Berger and Matt Fitzpatrick.

The United States continued their dominance on day two of the Ryder Cup, the hosts closing in on the trophy after taking a commanding 11-5 lead over defending champions Europe.

Europe, who have won seven of the past nine editions of the showpiece biennial competition, split Saturday afternoon's four-ball session but face an uphill task to retain their crown in Wisconsin this weekend.

USA – enjoying the biggest two-day lead since 1975 – require 14.5 points to dethrone Team Europe and clinch the cup on home soil at Whistling Straits on Sunday.

Europe gave themselves some hope by winning the opening two matches of the afternoon's four-ball – world number one Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia topping Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth as Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton battled past Tony Finau and Harris English.

But the Americans claimed the final two matches of the day to preserve their six-shot cushion thanks to Dustin Johnson-Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler-Bryson DeChambeau.

Rory McIlroy was benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, sitting out the morning foursomes. The four-time major champion returned in the afternoon but he was unable to snap his winless run at this year's tournament, tasting defeat in his pairing with Ian Poulter versus Johnson and Morikawa.

Earlier, in the foursomes, Steve Stricker's red-hot USA were dominant once again.  

Spieth and Justin Thomas took four of the last five holes to beat the rookie duo of Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger, while Johnson and Morikawa edged past Paul Casey and Hatton.

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay won for the second consecutive day, claiming holes nine, 10 and 11 to take control as they overcame Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Spanish pair Rahm and Garcia got Europe's solitary point, as they came from behind to see off Koepka and Daniel Berger despite initially going three holes down. 

 

Shot of the day

Casey ended up on the losing side in his foursomes match alongside Hatton, but he can at least reflect on a remarkable shot at the par-four 14th hole.

Hatton's drive had found the left-hand rough just short of the bunker, leaving Casey with a blind wedge shot onto the green.

Not only did he get it onto the dancefloor, but the Englishman rolled it into the cup to win the hole in style.

Player of the day

The oldest player on the Team USA roster, Johnson has led by example throughout this week. The 37-year-old is yet to taste defeat at Whistling Straits, having swept the foursomes and four-ball alongside Morikawa on Saturday. Johnson did not drop a shot in the final matchup against Poulter and McIlroy, while he and Morikawa also enjoyed a flawless display in the win over Casey and Hatton.

Chipping in

Despite a record-breaking day personally, former Masters champion Garcia told reporters: "It's great but it's not. We need more wins and unfortunately we are not getting them at the moment. I didn't even know. Steve Sands told me on the 17th hole. I didn't know the record and I didn't care. Obviously Jon and I, we did what we had to and what we could, and unfortunately it just looks like the American guys are just playing a little bit better than us, and it's a shame."

USA captain Steve Stricker said: "This team is deep. They are so good and they have had great couple of years to make this team. Everybody came in ready and prepared. They are hitting it well. They came here all on board a couple weeks ago for the final round and they put the time and effort and energy into it."

On the home-field advantage, Dustin Johnson added: "It definitely helps. It kind of keeps you going. It gets you fired up, especially right at the start. But the fans have been great this week. I felt like they have been really respectful to both sides. But obviously we have got definitely a home-field advantage here."

A little birdie told me...

Garcia was in record-breaking form in his foursomes showdown, becoming the player to win the most matches in Ryder Cup history.

The 41-year-old, who made his competition debut in 1999, claimed his 24th victory earlier in the day, moving clear of Nick Faldo's previous record.

Saturday's foursomes results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (Eur) beat Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton (Eur) 2 and 1
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) beat Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger (Eur) 2 up
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (Eur) 2 and 1

Saturday's four-ball results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (Eur) beat Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth (USA) 2 and 1
Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton (Eur) beat Tony Finau and Harris English (USA) 1 up
Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau (USA) beat Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland (Eur) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy (Eur) 4 and 3

Ryder Cup team captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have confirmed their selections for Saturday's four-ball session at Whistling Straits.

Europe have their work cut out to retain the title as they lost the day's foursomes 3-1 to trail the United States 9-3 in Wisconsin.

The pressure will therefore be on Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton to get a point on the board when they face Tony Finau and Harris English in the first four-ball match.

That is followed by Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia teaming up for a third time to take on Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, while Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau meet Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland in match three.

The final match of the session will involve Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa for the USA, with Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy their opponents.

Poulter and McIlroy were well beaten by Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay in Friday's foursomes, but Harrington is showing faith in the pair.

Johnson and Morikawa were successful against Hatton and Paul Casey earlier on Saturday in the foursomes, meanwhile, as they prevailed to hold off a European fightback.

"Dustin and Collin are great players, and again they played great golf – opening up with three birdies," Casey told Sky Sports. "But I'm very proud of how we fought. 

"I think Tyrrell was probably a little bit disappointed. I hit a couple of poor shots. I think Tyrrell felt like he hit a couple of poor shots. But what a fight. 

"Tyrrell is such a gritty little player and he's a key part of our team, and I would team up any time with that guy.

"You know, there was one stage we didn't think we would get them as far as we did, and then I guess we had a chance to take them all the way and make it a great battle. 

"But you tip your cap to Collin and Dustin. There's a reason why they are as good as they are, and they are clearly very, very difficult to beat."

Europe captain Padraig Harrington has selected Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup, but there is no place for Justin Rose on the 12-player roster.

Rose has competed in five of the last six editions of the biennial tournament, but he was overlooked by Harrington after a poor season on the PGA Tour that saw him fail to make the top 125 on the order of merit list.

Harrington opted for experienced names in Garcia and Poulter, while Lowry was given a reprieve of sorts after being knocked out of the automatic selection places when Bernd Wiesberger finished tied-20th at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday.

Wiesberger, Poulter, Garcia and Lowry join Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Viktor Hovland, who all qualified through the rankings.

"I am absolutely thrilled with my team, with all of our picks we have the strongest 10, 11 and 12 we've ever had," Harrington said on Sunday.

Asked about the inclusion of Poulter, who is set to compete in his seventh Ryder Cup, Harrington said: "He is undefeated in singles. He lifts himself, he lifts his partners, he lifts the team.

"I'm getting a player who is in probably the best form of his life. He consistently motivates people around him. That's so important to the team. I know I have players who are good enough to deliver and Poulter is at the heart of our team."

Europe are looking to retain the trophy at Whistling Straits later this month following their 17.5-10.5 triumph over the United States in Paris three years ago.

USA finalised their squad on Wednesday, with captain Steve Stricker selecting Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele among his wildcard picks.

Schauffele was one of four rookies chosen by Stricker along with Daniel Berger, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, with Tony Finau – part of the beaten side in 2018 – completing the captain's picks.

Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay had already locked in spots for the USA.

After an enforced absence in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Open is thankfully back on this year's golf calendar.

Royal St George's will host the 149th edition of the tournament, a welcome return to the Kent course that saw Darren Clarke triumph a decade ago.

Shane Lowry is the defending champion, having prevailed at Royal Portrush in 2019, but can he retain his crown? Will one of the big guns instead get their hands on the famous Claret Jug, or could another long shot follow in the footsteps of Ben Curtis, an unlikely champion at the venue back in 2003?

Ahead of the opening round, it is time to take a look at some of the players who could be in contention for glory in the final major of the year.

 

RAHM READY FOR OPEN CHALLENGE – Nicholas McGee

Jon Rahm has struggled to capture his best in four previous appearances at The Open, just one of which has seen him finish with an under-par score (-3 in 2019). However, only in 2018 has he missed the cut, and his blistering form in 2021 suggests he should be firmly in the mix this week.

His 11 top-10 finishes rank as the most on the PGA Tour this season. Rahm also leads the tour in scoring average (69.6) and in strokes gained (2.02 avg). Second in strokes gained tee to green and (1.82 avg) and fifth in greens in regulation (71 per cent), Rahm has displayed consistency that should lend itself to links golf. Further optimism came with a seventh-placed finish at the Scottish Open. The stage looks set for him to emphatically turn his Open fortunes around.

SPIETH HAS THE BELIEF – Russell Greaves

Jordan Spieth has three key things in his favour at this tournament: he's a man in form, he's exceptional with the putter, and he's won it before. The 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year has an overall putting average of 1.566 on the PGA Tour in 2021, placing him seventh in that metric.

That showing on the greens has laid the foundations for a year in which the 27-year-old has enjoyed eight top-10 finishes. He was in a tie for third at the Masters and boasts a career aggregate score of 21 under at the Open Championship, marking him down as a leading contender in Kent.

NO DOUBTING THOMAS AFTER RECENT RUN – Dan Lewis

Justin Thomas has struggled on the links in his career but ended up in a tie for eighth at the Scottish Open last week – his first top-10 finish since winning the Players Championship in March. He opened and closed with rounds of 65 at the Renaissance Club, where he used a new putter, and has not carded a bogey in his last 25 holes.

The 28-year-old may not be among the top group of contenders, but the 2017 US PGA Championship winner is certainly capable of carrying his momentum into this event to claim a second major in his career.

DUSTIN'S TIME TO HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT - Timothy Abraham

The form book might be against him, but world number one Dustin Johnson can have a Claret Jug-shaped silver lining to a disappointing 2021 in the majors. The American failed to make the cut at both the Masters and the US PGA Championship, alongside a 19th-placed finish in the U.S. Open this year.

An aggregate career score of +15 in The Open is hardly the stuff of a potential champion, but a decade ago he tied second behind champion Clarke. Johnson is a better player now, and the type of optimist capable of winning a major out of the blue. Write him off at your peril.

GLORY FOR RORY AGAIN? ABSOLUTELY! – Chris Myson

The Open champion in 2014, Rory McIlroy is rightly seen as a contender in Kent. He did miss the cut at this tournament in 2019 – but that was the first time he has done so since 2013.

When the Northern Irishman gets to the weekend at The Open, he is usually competitive. He had four consecutive top-five finishes prior to his previous disappointing outing and has a total of five in his career, including that triumph seven years ago. A top 10 at the U.S. Open gave McIlroy some much-needed major momentum and he can now finish with a flourish in his final opportunity this year.

HATTON CAN LINK IT ALL TOGETHER - John Skilbeck

Considering the winners Royal St George's has thrown up in the 21st century - Curtis and a past-his-prime Clarke - you might as well stick a pin in the field and take your chances. Tyrrell Hatton has twice won the Dunhill Links Championship which points to him knowing how to handle an Open course, and he has scored victories on each side of the Atlantic in the past 18 months so brings recent experience of closing out tournaments successfully.

Whether he wins or not is another thing: there are missed cuts on his Open Championship CV. However, two top-six finishes in the last four editions suggests the Englishman might not be far away.

Dustin Johnson has had little time to revel in the success of his record-breaking Masters triumph last November.

The world number one became the first player in the tournament's illustrious history to win with a score of 20 under par.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant the event could not be held in its usual April slot, with Johnson's triumph achieved amid an Autumnal rather than Spring backdrop.

This year, though, the action takes place at the traditional point in the calendar. So, here we are for the first major of 2021 and the expert team at Stats Perform News have picked out their favourites for the green jacket.

GEAR UP FOR THE SPIETH SHOW – Peter Hanson

Here is a statement of fact (okay, actually it's an opinion): golf is much more fun when Jordan Spieth is in the groove. We all know it to be true. And recently, boy have there been some tantalising moments to suggest Spieth will be flying at Augusta – a place where you could fill a lengthy highlight reel with his brilliance from years gone by. A rancid run of form saw Spieth ranked as low as 92nd earlier this year following a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. However, four top-10 finishes from six events preceded a victory at the Valero Texas Open at the weekend – his first tournament win since triumphing at The Open four years ago. Spieth is always great viewing at a venue where he was champion in 2015 and has recorded three other top-three finishes. Key to success for Spieth will be if he can get the putter firing. On the PGA Tour this season, he ranks fifth for one-putt average, while his 27.91 putts per round tallies fourth.

BRYSON REVOLUTIONISED THE SPORT, NOW HE'LL WEAR GREEN - Dan Lewis

Having helped to revolutionise the sport en route to winning the US Open seven months ago, Bryson DeChambeau will now be looking to put his power game to good use with a second major title. The 27-year-old will certainly better his previous best finish of 21st in 2016 and, if he can continue to improve his putting, he has a serious shot of unseating Johnson.

THERE'S NO CURE QUITE LIKE WINNING FOR RORY – John Skilbeck

Who was that lurking in 39th place on the FedEx Cup standings last week? Is there another Rory McIlroy or is this where we are? By now, many thought we would be in an era of McIlroy domination, given the prowess he showed in his early twenties, but those predictions have been skewered, with McIlroy struggling to mount sustained title challenges in the majors. His career card shows plenty of top-10 finishes at the very elite level, but, since landing his fourth major at the 2014 US PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman has often been chasing essentially lost causes. There have been rounds which have amounted almost to self-sabotage, such as the closing 74 when he was genuinely in the hunt three years ago at Augusta, or the 75 with which he began last year. With coach Pete Cowen now on board, McIlroy is actively looking for remedies. There's no cure quite like winning.

DON'T IGNORE THE OBVIOUS, DJ CAN MASTER AUGUSTA AGAIN – Ben Spratt

Are we ignoring the obvious? Dustin Johnson is the Masters favourite and rightfully so. Since winning on his last trip to Augusta in November, DJ triumphed at the Saudi International on the European Tour but his PGA form has been mixed – just one top-10 finish from five tournaments. But no other golfer has had the benefit of returning to the scene of their triumph just five months later. Johnson did not just squeak to victory in November either; his 20-under 268 for the week broke Masters records and secured a five-stroke advantage. Do not bet against him mastering Augusta again.

IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR VETERAN WESTWOOD – Pat Ridge

Westwood has never won a major, but he is in excellent form heading to Augusta. He just missed out to Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, losing by one shot – his best result on the PGA Tour since he tied for second at the 2016 Masters. He followed that up with a second-placed finish at The Players Championship, and it could be a case if not now, then will it ever happen for the 47-year-old? A strong performance will also do his Ryder Cup chances no harm, as he looks to match Nick Faldo’s record of 11 appearances for Europe.

NEW FATHER RAHM CAN JOIN NEW WINNERS' CLUB – Chris Myson

Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau were first-time winners in golf's majors in 2020. Going further back, 12 of the last 19 winners had never before won a major, while seven of the last 10 champions at Augusta was triumphing at one of the big four events for a first time. This could be Jon Rahm's turn to continue those trends. While first-time winners have been prominent, nine of the last 10 Masters winners had landed a top-six major finish in the previous two years before breaking their duck. Rahm, who recently became a father for the first time, came in a tie for third at the 2019 U.S. Open and has three straight top-10 finishes to his name at Augusta. He has recent form too. In seven events in 2021, Rahm has five top-10s and is yet to miss a cut.

Dustin Johnson will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Saudi International after finishing with a flourish at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on Saturday.

Johnson was two strokes adrift of joint-leaders Ryan Fox and Stephen Gallacher at the halfway mark, but the world number one will be the man to catch in the final round.

The Masters champion was upwardly mobile on moving day, carding a four-under 66 to go out on his own at 13 under in an event he won in 2019 before finishing second last year.

Johnson had not dropped a shot this week until his double bogey at the 13th, relinquishing a two-shot advantage after finding the water.

The two-time major winner put that setback behind him like the champion that he is, ending his third round with back-to-back birdies, having also made three gains on the front nine and another at the 10th.

A second successive 66 left Victor Perez in second place, the Frenchman going out in 32 following three birdies and picking up another shot at 17 in a blemish-free round.

Race to Dubai leader Tyrrell Hatton is a further shot back on 10 under along with fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan, Tony Finau and Soren Kjeldsen.

Fox slipped back nine under with a 71, two bogeys on the front nine and as many after the turn denting his hopes of being crowned champion.

Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia are among another six players at nine under, the Spaniard making great strides with a sublime six-under 64 - the lowest round of the day.

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