Reed leads by three in the Bahamas as Woods moves into contention

Patrick Reed

Hero World Challenge second-round leaderboard
-12 P Reed; -9 G Woodland; -8 H Stenson (Swe), J Rahm (Spa); -6 T Woods, J Thomas, R Fowler; -5 J Rose (Eng)
Selected others: -3 M Kuchar; +1 J Spieth, B Watson
Full leaderboard

American Patrick Reed holds a three-shot lead after the second round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

Reed hit a second successive six-under 66 to lead on 12-under, three clear of compatriot Gary Woodland.

Tiger Woods, who hosts the tournament, also carded a 66 to move into a tie for fifth on five under.

He is a shot behind Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Spain’s Jon Rahm, and level with fellow Americans Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

England’s Justin Rose is the only British player in the 18-strong field and is eighth on five-under.

Leader Reed said: “I feel good. “I feel like the game’s a lot more clearer than it was earlier this year.

“I’m giving myself opportunities and the putter’s working.”

The event is held for the benefit of Woods’ charitable foundation.

The 15-time major winner, who hit a level-par 72 in the first round, said: “Yesterday was tough with the wind blowing, especially with the putts.

“But today was a little less windy, the ball was flying and I got after it.”

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Toxic smoke from bushfires affects Australian Open

Paul Casey

Players at the Australian Open have complained of stinging eyes as toxic smoke from bushfires around Sydney affected the opening round on Thursday.

Sydney’s air quality index registered on a par with Beijing, forcing New Zealand golfer Ryan Chisnall, who is asthmatic, to don a face mask.

Smoke has blown over from fires that have raged for more than a month.

“It feels like I should shove a bit of salt water up my nose or something,” said Australian number one Adam Scott.

Scott, who is thinking about wearing a face mask for the second round, struggled to a four-over 75.

“Obviously not the conditions we want to be playing in. [The smoke] got pretty thick for a while,” he added.

England’s world number 14 Paul Casey, the highest-ranked player in the field, finished the day on 68, three shots off the lead.

“I must admit my eyes are stinging but you know I honestly feel for the people [nearer the fires], because we’re feeling it down here 100 [miles] away.

“I’m not going to complain because there’s people in a way worse position than me.”

Two young Asian amateurs, Japan’s Takumi Kanaya and Taiwan’s Yu Chun-an, both 21, led after day one with six-under-par 65s.

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Reed and Woodland lead in Bahamas as Woods struggles

Patrick Reed

Hero World Challenge first-round leaderboard
-6 G Woodland, P Reed; -4 C Reavie; -3 J Rose (Eng), J Thomas, R Fowler, H Stenson (Swe); -2 J Rahm (Spa)
Selected others: E B Watson, T Woods

Gary Woodland and fellow American Patrick Reed share the lead after the first round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

The pair managed six-under rounds of 66 as Tiger Woods was one of those to struggle in windy conditions.

The 15-time Major champion closed with a bogey and double bogey to slip to level par for his opening round.

England’s Justin Rose is one of four players three shots off the lead and one behind second-placed Chez Reavie.

American duo Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, plus Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, joined Rose on three under.

“I didn’t putt well today,” said Woods after his round. “My short game was great, drilled it really well, just hit a couple of poor iron shots that cost me a few shots.”

Woods hosts the 18-strong field at the event which is held for the benefit of his charitable foundation. He admitted that he would also take the chance to fine-tune his American team before next week’s Presidents Cup meeting with the International team.

Only Dustin Johnson is absent from playing captain Woods’ 12-man selection for Royal Melbourne.

“We have some things we need to run through with the guys, some ideas,” Woods said. “We want to have a clear picture of what we want to do down there because obviously once we get down there things roll pretty quickly.”

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Andalucia Costa del Sol Open: Anne Van Dam retains title after ‘crazy day’

Anne Van Dam

Costa del Sol Open final leaderboard
-13 A Van Dam (Ned); -12 N Madsen (Den), A Ashok (Ind); -9 A Munoz (Spa), O Cowan (Ger), J Engstrom (Swe)
Selected others: -4 L Maguire (Ire); -3 L Young (Eng); +2 A Boulden (Wal); +3 C Matthew (Sco)

Netherlands’ Anne van Dam won the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open for the second year running after overturning a one-stroke deficit on the final hole.

Nanna Koerstz Madsen led on the final tee but sent her drive into a lake and then three-putted for double bogey.

Van Dam, 24, made par to finish on 13 under par at Marbella’s Aloha Golf Club – one stroke ahead of Denmark’s Madsen and India’s Aditi Ashok.

“I did not expect that. That’s golf. It was a crazy day,” said Van Dam.

“Nanna is a good friend of mine and I would have loved to have beaten her in a play-off – that would have been a better feeling for me, but that’s golf.

“She took more of a risk hitting a driver off the tee and I’ve been hitting an iron off the tee there all week.”

Van Dam, the longest hitter on both the Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tours in 2019, took her driver out of her bag for the tournament, but admitted that she is keen to be reunited with it.

“I’m not sure we’re going to keep that going, because I love to hit driver, but you didn’t need a driver much this week,” she said after closing with a two-under-par 70.

“I just stuck to my plan, even though it was hard to only hit three-wood sometimes. It was a game plan we made this week and it paid off. I had a lot of options from the tee and I think that paid off.”

Madsen, who began the day three strokes ahead of Van Dam but shot a closing two-over-par 74, conceded: “I lost; Anne didn’t really win. I played terrible and had three double bogeys which cost me everything.”

Ireland’s Leona Maguire finished in joint 13th place on four under, while England’s Liz Young, who tied for 16th, was the top-ranked British player.

The Andalucia Costa del Sol Open, which will be part of a new Race to the Costa del Sol format, will have its prize money doubled from next year.

Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, who finished in a tie for seventh in Spain, is set to win the order of merit at next week’s season-ending Kenya Ladies Open. German rookie Esther Henseleit is the only player who could beat her but would need to secure her maiden win.

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Larrazabal survives blisters and final day scare to win Alfred Dunhill Championship

Pablo Larrazabal in the final round at Leopard Creek

Alfred Dunhill Championship final leaderboard
-8 P Larrazabal (Spa); -7 J Sjoholm (Swe); -6 C Schwartzel (SA), B Grace (SA), W Besseling (Ned); -4 D Van Tonder (SA)
Selected others: -2 C Syme (Sco), G Porteous (Eng); +1 E Pepperell (Eng); +11 E Els (SA); +19 R Fisher (Eng)

Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal survived an alarming run to capture his fifth European Tour title with a one-shot win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The 36-year-old world number 261 began the final round at Leopard Creek with a three-shot lead but had six bogeys and a double bogey in his first 13 holes.

He recovered to hole from inside three feet at the last for his fifth birdie of an eventful three over 75.

His eight under total was one clear of Swede Joel Sjoholm, who had a 69.

Larrazabal, who was affected by blisters on his feet, and Dutchman Wil Besseling were seven under playing the par-five 18th in South Africa in the first event of the new season, but Besseling’s second shot embedded itself next to a stone wall guarding the green.

The 33-year-old world number 307, seeking his first European Tour win, dropped a shot and finished in a share of third with South Africans Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel, the former Masters champion.

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Portstewart to host 2021 Irish Open when event will return to Northern Ireland

Jon Rahm holds the Irish Open trophy after his 2017 triumph at Portstewart

The Irish Open will return to Northern Ireland in 2021 when Portstewart hosts the European Tour event for the second time in four years.

The news was announced at the club’s AGM on Thursday evening.

Portstewart’s members were told that discussions between the European Tour and the club resulted in an agreement being finalised last week.

The Irish Open returned to Northern Ireland after a 59-year gap when it was played at Royal Portrush in 2012.

The event proved to be a huge success as it attracted a then record attendance for a European Tour event.

Three years later, the event was staged at Royal County Down before Portstewart was the host venue in 2017 when Spaniard Jon Rahm clinched the first of his two Irish Open victories.

Royal Portrush’s successful staging of the 2012 event helped convince the R&A to bring this year’s Open Championship back to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.

The Open is expected to return to Royal Portrush over the next decade and Thursday’s news surrounding the Irish Open will help to maintain the momentum of the sport in Northern Ireland, which is also aided by Rory McIlroy’s exploits around the world.

Local hero Graeme McDowell is likely to be a strong candidate to undertake the tournament host role when the 2021 event takes place at Portstewart.

Next year’s Irish Open will take place at Kilkenny venue Mount Juliet from 28-31 May.

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Players to be allowed to wear shorts on European Tour for first time

Ernie Els during the pro-am for the Alfred Dunhill Championship

European Tour players have been granted permission to wear shorts for the first time in competition when the new season begins in South Africa on Thursday.

Shorts had previously been restricted to pro-am and practice rounds.

However, temperatures are expected to reach a high of 40C (104F) during the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

Local favourite Ernie Els said the change was “great news” and joked: “Heatwave for my European friends.”

The new season begins only four days after Spain’s Jon Rahm secured the Race to Dubai title by winning the Tour Championship finale.

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Ladies European Tour to ‘unite’ with LPGA

Meghan MacLaren

Players are hoping the Ladies European Tour (LET) will benefit after agreeing to ‘unite’ with the LPGA.

The joint venture means golfers could be fast-tracked into more lucrative tournaments in the United States.

LET board chair Marta Figueras-Dotti said the partnership would create chances “we simply could not have pursued on our own”.

It was earlier announced the LET Order of Merit will be renamed the Race to Costa del Sol from 2020.

The new partnership aims to immediately offer LET members more playing opportunities on the LPGA tour, which this season had a total prize fund of about £55m, compared to £12m on the Europe-based tour.

It will seek to expand the LET schedule, which this year included 20 official events in 13 different countries.

Eight of those are in Europe, including two major championships – the Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open.

LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan said: “We have experienced incredible growth in women’s golf in the US, and this is an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate and expand the game in Europe as well.”

‘People are starting to invest in us’

The Race to the Costa del Sol will offer a bonus prize fund of 250,000 euros (£214,000) – the top player on the money list at the end of the year will get an additional £107,000, with £64,000 for the runner-up and £43,000 for third.

The Andalucia Costa del Sol Open, which starts on Thursday, will also have its prize money doubled from next year.

The prize pot for the event in 2020 will be 600,000 euros (£514,000).

Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord leads this year’s Order of Merit standings, with England’s Meghan MacLaren the highest-placed British player in fifth place.

Scotland’s Carly Booth is 10th and told BBC Sport the move was “very positive for the Tour”.

“It’s been a tough couple of years for us, both emotionally and financially, so it seems to be going in a more positive manner now,” the 27-year-old said.

“We have so much potential on this tour and people need to see how good we are. People are starting to invest in us, I’m feeling positive about what is next.”

On Sunday, Spain’s world number three Jon Rahm secured a bonus of $2m (£1.56m) for winning the men’s European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

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Ladies European Tour gets rebrand and bonus pot

Meghan MacLaren

The Ladies European Tour Order of Merit will be renamed the Race to Costa del Sol from 2020 and offer a bonus prize fund of 250,000 euros (£215,000).

It means the top player on the money list at the end of the year will get an additional £107,000, with £64,000 for the runner-up and £43,000 for third.

The Andalucia Costa del Sol Open, which starts on Thursday, will also see its prize money doubled from next year.

The prize pot for the event in 2020 will be 600,000 euros (£514,000).

Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord leads this year’s Order of Merit standings, with England’s Meghan MacLaren the highest-placed British player in fifth place.

On Sunday, Spain’s world number three Jon Rahm secured a bonus of $2m (£1.56m) for winning the men’s European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

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Rahm birdies last to take Race to Dubai title

Breaking news

Jon Rahm birdied the final hole to win the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on 19 under par and clinch the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm holed a three-foot putt to finish one ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood and win the event for the second time.

And it meant the 25-year-old Spaniard also pipped Fleetwood to be the number one in Europe for 2019.

Rahm becomes the second Spaniard to achieve the feat after the late Seve Ballesteros, who won it six times.

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