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The Star Online: Sports

Golf: European Tour chief concerned about unrest in Gulf

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 06:27 AM PDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Political unrest in the Gulf is a concern for the European golf tour and organizers are monitoring the situation in Bahrain, which is due to host the first tournament of 2012, chief executive George O'Grady said Monday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, O'Grady said a decision won't be made "for several months" on whether the Volvo Golf Champions tournament will be held for a second year in Bahrain. This year's inaugural event, held in late January, was problem-free and deemed a success, he said.

Authorities in Bahrain have cracked down heavily on dissent since anti-government protests began Feb. 14. The unrest has left 30 people dead, including four opposition supporters who died in custody, and forced Formula One's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to be called off.

"Bahrain is being monitored all the time," O'Grady said. "If we are advised not to go, we would do the same as F1. I don't think anyone fully knows. It's just too early to say. It will be up to the golf federation in Bahrain and the king as our hosts. We started in Bahrain and we hope we can continue."

Colin Montgomerie, who designed the Bahrain course, said how the situation unfolds will determine if the event goes ahead.

"Of course, it's concerning ... especially for local Bahrainis," Montgomerie said. "But at the same time, I think George is dead right in saying it's too early to say regarding the Bahrain tournament next year. We all hope that the unrest will come to an end and peace in the region will suffice once again."

O'Grady played down the long-term implications of the unrest, noting that the European Tour has navigated political challenges before, including the Gulf and Iraq wars as well as terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom. He also said the Nigerian Open in the 1970s was disrupted by an uprising in the African country that forced players to remain housebound.

"You have had terrorists attacks in Britain but you continue the tournaments don't you?" he said. "You don't run scared. When the Gulf War was on, we came to Qatar when a lot of other sports wouldn't come. We reckoned we were safe there. Some players were worried but we honor our agreements."

O'Grady said he has no regrets with the move into the Gulf which now features five tournaments, including the year's first tournament in Abu Dhabi, one in Qatar and the season-ending, $7.5 million tournament in Dubai. The tour has also held preliminary talks with Saudi Arabia on hosting a Senior Tour event and with Oman over hosting a sixth European Tour event in the coming years.

"We have to be reasonably circumspect to make sure everyone is fully committed. It is a big undertaking to have extra tournaments," O'Grady said. "We are talking to many different golf federations in the area. Oman would be the most developed in that sense."

O'Grady said talks are also ongoing regarding keeping the season-ending Dubai World Championship in the city. It is no secret that Abu Dhabi would like to host the event that concludes the Race To Dubai. The three-year contract with government-owned developer Nakheel ends after this year's tournament.

Prize money for the tournament has also been reduced from $10 million to $7.5 million due to the economic crisis that hit Dubai.

"We are comfortable in Dubai as long as all our partners in Dubai wish to continue," O'Grady said. "The Race to Dubai has been synonymous with Dubai and the European Tour through largely good times and in the last couple of years more challenging times ... I'll be surprised if we don't continue in Dubai."

In 1989, Dubai hosted the the first European Tour tournament outside of Europe in what O'Grady describes as a "catalyst for change." The tour now stages 50 events in 29 destinations but O'Grady said there are limits to its global ambitions.

O'Grady said there are no plans to host a World Golf Championship in Europe. Currently, three are held in the United States, one in Asia and a fifth is slated for South Africa in 2012.

"There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't have one, but at the moment the desire of the sponsorship isn't there," he said.

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Birthday boy Manassero sets record as youngest winner

Posted: 18 Apr 2011 02:39 AM PDT

ITALIAN teenager Matteo Manassero, who only turned professional less than a year ago, earned a US$416,660 birthday present after becoming the youngest ever golfer to win the Malaysian Open title at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club yesterday.

Manassero, who will be 18-years-old tomorrow, started the celebrations early as a closing four-under 68 gave him a total of 16-under 272 and it saw off challenges from Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy.

The dashing Italian had a crucial eagle on the 10th hole to thank for his one-stroke win over Bourdy, who battled to a five-under 67.

McIlroy, the world No. 9, battled magnificently on the back nine to give himself a chance to win the title but failed to find the crucial birdie at the last hole to force a playoff with Manassero and settled for a three-under 69 for third place on 274.

The leaders had 27 holes to play on the final day after six hours of weather delays earlier in the week, with McIlroy immediately extending his two-shot overnight advantage to three with a birdie at the par-five 10th.

But the 21-year-old McIlroy was passed by Manassero and Alexander Noren of Sweden before the end of the third round after dropping two shots at the short 15th.

Manassero, on the other hand, birdied both par threes on the back nine for a five-under 67 that left him 12-under with one round to go alongside Noren.

In the final round, Manassero completed the first nine holes on 35 but his game lifted with the eagle on the 10th.

Two birdies more and a lone bogey ensured Manassero's place in history as he eclipsed Noh Seung-yul of South Korea as the youngest champion. Seung-yul won the title last year at 19.

And Manassero was beaming with pride as he collected the trophy and winning cheque from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Manassero will also break into the world top 50 for the first time with the win as the Maybank Malaysian Open this year was accorded the highest ranking points due to the elite field.

The winner gets 40 points and yesterday was also Manassero's second European Tour title in his young career.

Manassero was the youngest winner in European Tour history when he won the Castello Masters in Valencia last year.

"It's fantastic. To have another title two days before my 18th birthday, it's a great achievement," he said.

He felt the eagle on the 10th was the turning point as he started to pull his game strongly.

"Two great up and downs from the bunker and then holing a nine iron on the 10th (for eagle) was maybe the turning point and made me think of the possibility of winning," added the European Rookie of the Year.

"It was not easy. It was tough. The course is really tight and all the players were doing good and playing well.

"It's just not easy to concentrate, especially to stay calm. I managed quite well. Fortunately, I ended up like this. I'm happy to get my second title after 11 months as a pro."

On how he planned to celebrate his birthday tomorrow, Manassero said that he would return to Verona for a gathering with his family and close friends.

"I will also be looking at altering my playing schedule now that I may be inside the world top 50," he said.

"I am just looking at a few Majors and the TPC (The Players Championship) right now. Things will definitely change."

Final round scores

272: Matteo Manassero (Ita) 66-71-67-68.

273: Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 71-69-66-67.

274: Rory McIlroy (Nir) 69-64-72-69.

275: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 69-70-69-67, Alexander Noren (Swe) 64-69-71-71.

276: Felipe Aguilar (Chi) 70-70-66-70.

278: Simon Dyson (Eng) 70-64-76-68.

279: Siddikur Rahman (Ban) 68-71-71-69.

280: Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 69-72-68-71, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 70-71-67-72.

281: Stephen Gallacher (Sco) 67-70-72-72, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 73-71-67-70.

282: Robert Rock (Eng) 70-71-70-71, Shiv Kapur (Ind) 71-69-71-71, Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 73-70-72-67, James Morrison (Eng) 69-71-70-72.

283: Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 73-71-68-71, Soren Hansen (Den) 70-72-72-69, Joost Luiten (Ned) 72-69-71-71, Jason Knutzon (Usa) 70-71-71-71, Baek Seuk-hyun (Kor) 70-73-70-70, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 70-70-72-71, Daniel Gaunt (Eng) 69-69-71-74, Danny Lee (Nzl) 71-67-70-75, Brett Rumford (Aus) 69-68-72-74.

284: Kodai Ichihara (Jpn) 71-71-74-68, Peter Lawrie (Irl) 70-71-73-70, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 70-70-71-73, Tim Stewart (Aus) 73-71-70-69, Kenichi Kuboya (Jpn) 74-70-65-74, Mark Brown (Nzl) 73-71-70-69.

285: Jamie Donaldson (Wal) 68-73-71-73, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 69-73-72-71, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 71-73-69-72.

286: Chan Yih-shin (Tpe) 70-74-73-69, Chinnarat Phadungsil (Tha) 73-69-71-73, Tetsuji Hiratsuka (Jpn) 71-69-71-75, Michael Campbell (Nzl) 73-67-70-76, Paul Waring (Rsa) 71-69-70-76, George Coetzee (Aus) 73-71-74-68.

287: Maarten Lafeber (Ned) 74-68-69-76, James Kingston (Rsa) 71-71-71-74, Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) 72-68-73-74, Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) 71-72-69-75, Danny Chia (Mas) 71-73-67-76.

288: Marcus Both (Aus) 71-70-72-75, Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 67-76-69-76, Hwang Inn-choon (Kor) 72-71-65-80, Chapchai Nirat (Tha) 71-72-69-76, Gareth Maybin (Nir) 73-71-74-70, Pablo Martin (Spa) 73-65-82-68.

289: Rhys Davies (Wal) 72-70-70-77, Graeme Storm (Eng) 71-70-75-73, Anirban Lahiri (Ind) 75-68-74-72, Tano Goya (Arg) 72-71-72-74, Boonchu Ruangkit (Tha) 71-72-75-71; David Horsey (Eng) 72-72-71-74.

290: Darren Beck (Eng) 67-71-76-76, Lin Wen-tang (Tpe) 70-72-75-73, Pariya Junhasavasdikul (Tha) 75-68-75-72.

291: Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 71-72-72-76, Chris Rodgers (Eng) 69-74-74-74, Udorn Duangdecha (Tha) 73-70-76-72.

292: Alastair Forsyth (Sco) 72-71-74-75, Liang Wenchong (Chn) 70-69-75-78.

293: John Parry (Eng) 74-68-74-77, Scott Barr (Aus) 69-73-74-77, Chawalit Plaphol (Tha) 69-73-74-77, Mardan Mamat (Sin) 73-70-73-77, Gavin Flint (Aus) 71-73-73-76.

294: Kwanchai Tannin (Tha) 69-72-74-79.

295: Louis Ooosthuizen (Rsa) 69-75-76-75.

296: Peter Karmis (Rsa) 73-71-77-75, David Drysdale (Sco) 69-72-79-76.

Related Stories:
Poor Danny hits a low point in his game
Danny fails to cling on to top 20 spot
McIlroy suffers another late collapse in final round
Eighth placed Siddikur is the best Asian performer

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