Saturday, October 01, 2011


Michael Hoey will take a three-shot lead over compatriot Graeme McDowell into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after another excellent day for Northern Ireland's golfers.
Hoey, pictured right by Cal Carson Golf Agency, carded a 66 at Carnoustie to finish 54 holes 18 under par, while former US Open Champion McDowell posted a third consecutive 67 at St Andrews to claim outright second on 15 under.
Former Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen marked his return to St Andrews with a 69 to lie 14 under, with a seven-strong group on 13 under including World Number One Luke Donald, fellow Englishman Simon Dyson, US Open Champion Rory McIlroy and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.
Donald and Dyson both shot 63 at St Andrews, equalling the course record for the extended lay-out set by McIlroy in The Open Championship last year.
"I'm very, very happy with the day," said Dyson, who is 30th in the Official World Golf Ranking after two wins this year.
"I didn't realise my birdie putt on the 18th was for the course record otherwise I might have hit it a bit harder. But it's a good name to share the record with."
Around an hour later he was also sharing it with Donald, who did manage to pick up a shot at the 18th for his ninth birdie of a flawless round as he looks to become the first man to finish top of the money list on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.
Donald currently enjoys a lead of over €1,600,000 over McIlroy on The Race to Dubai, but his lead over Webb Simpson on the US PGA Tour is just €50,000 after he overtook the American by finishing joint third in the Tour Championship on Sunday.
McDowell got the ball rolling for Northern Ireland with his US Open victory at Pebble Beach last year, following up by holing the winning putt for Europe in The Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor Resort last October.
He was succeeded as US Open Champion by McIlroy in June, while Darren Clarke won The Open Championship at Royal St George's a month later to give Northern Ireland their third Major Champion in little over a year.
Hoey has yet to hit those heights despite a successful amateur career which saw him play on the same victorious Walker Cup team as Donald in 2001, but the 32 year old drew high praise from McDowell.
"Michael has always been a very talented player," McDowell said.
"He's a great ball-striker, a great swing. He has always had the talent and won the British Amateur at Prestwick in 2001 before playing on a winning Walker Cup side.
"It's a fine line between guys who go on to become the best in the world and guys who become journeymen pros. And you wouldn't say Michael is a journeyman, he's popped up twice and won on tour, and won well each time.
"When he applies himself and puts it all together he's as good as anyone out there. Why he doesn't put it together more often, who knows?"
Hoey himself gave the answer to that question, admitting: "I've probably just been really hard on myself. Trying to relax is obviously what I need to do and I've done that well so far this week.
Hoey, 32, who won his second European Tour event, the Madeira Islands Open last May, said:
"Golf is very mental, you have to accept poor shots. It's great to be in the lead in a really big tournament but there's a long way to go.
"My short game was unbelievable, the best it's ever been. I even holed a bunker shot. I’m definitely getting all the breaks and getting good lies in the rough. Everything has gone my way so far, so it’s just a question of keeping it relaxed again tomorrow. It’s great to be in the lead in a really big tournament, but there's a long way to go.”
Padraig Harrington, two-time winner of the Championship in 2002 and 2006, brought himself back into contention with a fine 64 at St Andrews. He was full of praise for Hoey.
“Michael seems to be running away with it, but I’m pleased with that. He's good from the front. It's taken him a while to get comfortable on the Tour. He's always been a very talented player and this could be his arrival tomorrow.
“I had my low score of the year, never a bad thing. I feel good about my game. I holed a few putts today and hopefully I'll do that tomorrow. Obviously the pins will be a little tougher. If it's a good day, you're going to think you need to shoot 67 to stay in position and if you're going to catch Michael, you're going to have to go 64 again, at least.”
US Open champion Rory McIlroy, who shot a 66 on the Old Course, said: “I've known Michael for quite a while. He's actually a member at the same golf club, Shandon Park. He's a supremely talented player, he always has been. He's playing great this week and he's scoring very well.”
Despite the sunshine of the first two days giving way to damp, overcast conditions - play was suspended for an hour at Kingsbarns due to fog - low scoring was prevalent and the rounds of 63 from Donald and Dyson at St Andrews equalled the course record for the extended layout set by McIlroy in The Open Championship last year.
Dyson has won the Irish Open and the KLM Open this season and puts his improvement down to a renewed dedication to the game, which extends to becoming almost teetotal and hiring a full-time trainer.
"I'm going to be a dad in March so I said to my wife 'you're not going to be drinking so I will give it a go with you'," the Yorkshireman added.
"I'm quite enjoying how I'm feeling and the better results you get from doing this means there is no reason to change. Previously if I had a week off I would have a few nights out, but now I'm still practising and training.
"I also saw a nutritionist the week after The Open and she has got me on all sorts of stuff. Fitness is a big part of the game and you notice it playing with amateurs this week. I'm not saying they are unfit, but they are struggling at the end of the round, whereas the top pros are making birdies and making their charges."
McIlroy was left ruing a number of chances which went begging in the latter stages of his 66, but added: "As long as the guys don't get too far ahead I think I have a chance."
As for Northern Ireland's success, he added: "I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's just coincidence or if we're feeding off each other.
"I don't think it will last forever, but I hope it does. It's just a period where we are all playing well together, although English guys are number one and two in the world!"

Par 216 (3x72)
198 Michael Hoey (N Ireland) 66 66 66.
201 Graeme McDowell (N Ireland) 67 67 67.
202 Louis Oosthuizen (S Africa) 66 67 69.
203 George Murray (Scotland) 70 66 67, Rory McIlroy (N Ireland) 70 67 66, Simon Dyson (England) 69 71 63, Jaco Van Zyl (S Africa) 67 67 69, Luke Donald (England) 69 71 63, Tommy Fleetwood (England) 69 63 71, Padraig Harrington (Ireland) 68 71 74.
204 Marc Warren (Scotland) 67 67 70, Charl Schwartzel (S Africa) 69 69 66.

206 Colin Montgomerie 68 72 66 (T18).
208 Paul Lawrie 71 68 69 (T30).
209 Richie Ramsay 72 66 71 (T41)
210 James Byrne 67 71 72 (T49).
211 Sandy Lyle 69 70 72

212 David Drysdale 69 73 70 (T72)
213 Steven O'Hara 71 72 70 (T83)
214 Stephen Gallacher 74 68 72 (T94)
216 Peter Whiteford 75 68 73 (T116).
217 Scott Jamieson 73 67 77 (T126).
218 Alan McLean 72 72 74, Gary Orr 75 73 70 (T135).




A 14 year old St Andrews schoolboy, given a last minute call-up to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, has qualified for the tournament’s Sunday final round over the Old Course with a team score of -25.
Alasdair McDougall, who hails from Drumoig near St Andrews, was selected for an amateur slot in the tournament on Wednesday, paired with Dutch pro Joost Luiten. He made his debut on Thursday with an impressive round at the Old Course where he and Joost netted a score of five under.
Alasdair, from Drumoig near St Andrews, was selected for an amateur slot in the tournament and made his debut on Thursday with an impressive round at the Old Course where he and Joost had a team score of 5-under. Following Friday’s 9-under round at Kingsbarns and today’s 11-under team score at Carnoustie – the first time the youngster had played either course – Alasdair and his partner are now just four shots behind leaders Nick Dougherty and radio presenter Chris Evans.
Speaking after his round today, Alasdair said:
“I played well. Joost shot 65 today so he played great too. We’re right up there on the leaderboard so we’re doing well.
“We connect really well. We’re both good players and he’s played really well today. The last couple of days his putting wasn’t great and neither was mine, but we both did well on the greens today and holed a few putts.
“Today has definitely been the best day so far because I played much better and I liked the course a lot better. I’ve never played Carnoustie before but it’s now one of my favourite courses, definitely. It’s a great course.
“I only found out I was playing on Wednesday night and I went straight into the next day. I was so happy when I found out – I was running about and telling all my friends. I was really nervous that night and didn’t get much sleep.
"On the first tee I was shaking, but after I hit my first shot all the nerves went and I got on with playing the game. I’m used to playing links as I play it a lot.
“It has been much, much better than I expected or hoped for. I’ve had really good fun and loved every minute of it. It has been amazing. I already can’t wait to get back on the course tomorrow and show them who’s boss! I want to have this all day every day, so I’ve definitely got the bug.”
Alasdair is a promising young golfer who won the St Andrews Links Junior Golf Association (SALJGA) Order of Merit this year. He was born in Carlisle but moved to Drumoig with his family six years ago.
Attending school in St Andrews, Alasdair immediately joined SALJGA and quickly fell in love with the game. Two years ago his handicap was 13 but he is now playing off three.
Earlier this year he represented Scotland in the under-16 quadrangular internationals playing against Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy and Wales. Alasdair is also part of the national Scottish Golf Union squad coached by Steve North, Director of Instruction at St Andrews Links Golf Academy.




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