US PGA: McIlroy ready for St Louis event despite four-year major drought

Rory McIlroy with caddie Harry Diamond during a practice round at Bellerive on Tuesday

US PGA Championship 2018
Dates: 9-12 August Venue: Bellerive Country Club Coverage: Commentary on 5 live sports extra from 22:00 BST Thursday-Saturday; 5 live 20:30 Sunday; live text updates on BBC Sport website

Rory McIlroy insists he heads into this week’s US PGA Championship in a positive frame of mind despite his four-year major drought.

McIlroy’s last major win was the 2014 US PGA with his joint runner-up finish at the recent Open his latest near miss in the game’s four biggest events.

“It’s not as if my game’s in bad shape at all,” said the 29-year-old.

“It’s just I haven’t won as much as I would have liked, but there’s still plenty of time to change that.”

A disappointing three-over-par 73 last Sunday saw McIlroy fall away from a challenging position at the Bridgestone Invitational as Justin Thomas triumphed but the former world number one is refusing to be downhearted.

McIlroy up to fifth in world rankings

McIlroy’s performance at Carnoustie, as he finished two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari, was his eighth top-10 in his past 14 majors and he has moved up to fifth in the world rankings heading into this week’s event at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis.

“With a good week this week, it just puts a different spin on my year from being what some people see as disappointing to back on track and another major and going forward again,” added the four-time major winner.

“I’ve kept giving myself chances this year.

“I haven’t closed out those tournaments as I would have liked, but at least I’m putting myself in position, and that’s all I can do.”

McIlroy insists has “done well” in moving back up the rankings from 11th at the start of the year but “the only thing” he has not done is “win enough”.

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson chat during Tuesday's practice round at Bellerive

His sole win so far in 2018 came as he produced a brilliant putting display at Bay Hill in March but after struggling for most the year on the greens, McIlroy has shown improved form with the flat stick in recent weeks.

“I’ve played in a lot of final groups and I haven’t played well enough when it’s counted, so I’m just trying to figure out what I need to do to make that little step from contending and getting into final groups to lifting trophies.”

McIlroy added that he is also working hard to improve the wedge play weakness which has seen him fail to take advantage of prodigious hitting off the tee in recent months.

“What makes me so good with the driver is sometimes what makes me inconsistent with the wedges.

“I’ve gotten into a couple of bad habits and that just makes it a little tougher for me to be consistent with a shorter club in my hand. So I’m working on it.

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Spieth relaxed over second tilt at career Grand Slam

Jordan Spieth plays a shot out of a bunker

US PGA Championship 2018
Dates: 9-12 August Venue: Bellerive Country Club Coverage: Commentary on 5 live sports extra from 22:00 BST Thursday-Saturday; 5 live 20:30 Sunday; live text updates on BBC Sport website

Jordan Spieth says he is going “under the radar” for his second attempt at a career Grand Slam at the US PGA Championship this week.

The American, 25, is bidding to become only the sixth golfer to win all four majors at this year’s event at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis.

He would have beaten Tiger Woods as the youngest player to achieve the feat if he had won last year but finished 28th.

“I was probably a little more anxious last year,” said Spieth.

The three-time major winner went into last year’s US PGA following victory at The Open at Royal Birkdale, which remains his last professional win.

“Going in there was a big focus on it, given it was right after winning the Open Championship, so it was fresh, I was in form and going to a place that – if I worked up the leaderboard – it would create a lot of noise,” he said.

“I feel somewhat under the radar this year. I’ve kind of felt that way a lot this year – I don’t mind it.”

Former world number one Spieth, who finished tied for ninth in defence of his Open title last month, added the US PGA will “always be circled” until he wins it, and that completing the career Grand Slam is a “life-long goal”.

Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods are the five players to have won all four majors, with Woods the youngest at 24 years, seven months and 25 days.

Woods has ‘homework’ to do on course

Tiger Woods holds his backswing after playing a shot

Fourteen-time major winner Woods, 42, said he has “some homework” to do on the course, having taken Monday off and only been able to play five holes on Tuesday before thunderstorms disrupted the second day of practice.

He said he “had not set foot” on the Bellerive course since the WGC-American Express Championship in 2001, which was cancelled because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, while he also missed the 2008 BMW Championships at the same venue through injury.

“I didn’t really get a chance to see a whole lot, so I’ll have to do some more homework and get a good feel for what’s going on for the rest of the week,” he said.

“I needed that day off – I spent a few times in the ice bath just trying to get some inflammation down.”

At last month’s Open, Woods took the outright lead of a major for the first time since his peak years, during which he won four US PGA titles, before his career was derailed when a series of personal scandals were followed by a serious back injury.

“To go from missing the cut at the US Open to contending and leading The Open on the back nine felt good and very familiar, but I made two mistakes that cost me the chance of winning,” he said.

McIlroy looking for ‘little step’ towards winning

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is seeking his third US PGA title, having won the last of his four major titles at the 2014 edition at Valhalla.

The 29-year-old finished tied for fifth at the Masters in April and tied for second behind champion Francesco Molinari at The Open at Carnoustie last month.

“I’ve kept giving myself chances this year,” said McIlroy.

“I haven’t closed out those tournaments as I would have liked, but at least I’m putting myself in position, and that’s all I can do.”

The former world number one added he has “done well” in moving back up the rankings from 11th at the start of the year to fifth as it stands but “the only thing” he has not done is “win enough”.

“I’ve played in a lot of final groups and I haven’t played well enough when it’s counted, so I’m just trying to figure out what I need to do to make that little step from contending and getting into final groups to lifting trophies.”

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Final-day tickets for 2019 Open sell out a year before tournament

Royal Portrush during the 2012 Irish Open

Tickets for the final day of next year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush have sold out – nearly 12 months before it takes place.

The Open is to return to Northern Ireland for the first time since the 1951 event was staged at Portrush.

Weekly and weekend bundle tickets for the 18-21 July event have also sold out, say organisers the R&A.

Tickets still remain for the first three days of the Championship, as well as the practice days.

A sell-out attendance at next year’s event would result in 190,000 spectators coming through the gates, and the Championship is predicted to generate about £80m for the Northern Ireland economy.

Because of the big crowds expected at Portrush, organisers have taken the decision to have the 2019 Open as an all-ticket event for the first time in the major’s history.

In 2012, a European Tour-record 112,000 fans attended the Irish Open at Royal Portrush as that event returned to Northern Ireland after a 59-year absence.

In June 2014, the R&A announced that Royal Portrush was returning to the Open Championship rota and 16 months later, it was confirmed that the Northern Ireland venue would stage the 2019 event.

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Open winner Hall hopes to inspire young girls

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England’s Georgia Hall hopes she can encourage more young girls to take up golf after winning the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

The 22-year-old is only the third British winner since the event became a major championship in 2001.

Hall, who won by two shots at 17 under par, also hopes to help attract new sponsors to the Ladies European Tour.

“I couldn’t believe so many young girls and boys were watching me, wanting a picture or an autograph,” she said.

“Hopefully I can encourage a lot of young girls out there to take up the game. I want to be a good role model for young girls in Britain.”

Victory meant the 2013 British ladies’ amateur champion emulated compatriot Karen Stupples (2004) and Scot Catriona Matthew (2009), the other two British winners since this event became a major.

It also secured the Bournemouth-based golfer a £383,000 top prize, with Hall admitting she had previously missed majors because of the cost.

“I hope it will bring more sponsorship to the Ladies European Tour,” she told BBC Radio 5 live. “It’s definitely growing and I try to support them when I can. I’m still a member and it’s my home.

“I had to miss roughly three majors because I couldn’t afford to get there, which was frustrating as I’d qualified.

“As an amateur it was hard but I knew if I played well that could get me to these places.”

Trailing Pornanong Phatlum by a shot overnight, Hall moved clear of the Thai on Sunday with two holes remaining and held her nerve on the 18th to secure victory.

“I do get very excited and it’s because I want it so much,” she said. “I promised myself if I got in this position I wouldn’t get too carried away, focus on every shot and take one shot at a time.

“To go down 18 and manage to close it out fairly easily is a relief for me. Golf is a very mental sport, more than people even think. So it was kind of a battle.

“It’s my fourth years on tour as a professional and loads of people were asking ‘when is it going to come?’. I knew if I stayed patient and kept working hard I could win and it would come along.”

Hall also says she is just as superstitious as her father and caddie, Wayne, who refused to change his socks for four days.

“I am quite superstitious as well, I have to touch every golf club before I tee off to make sure there are 14,” she added.

“Silly things, I had to get my boyfriend to close the curtains every night. I set three alarms, check three times they’re on and my phone is on loud.”

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England’s Hall wins first major title at Women’s British Open

Breaking news

Women’s British Open 2018 final round leaderboard
-17 Hall (Eng); -15 Phatlum (Tha); -13 Ryu (Kor); -9 Kim (Kor), Jutanugarn (Tha), Higa (Jpn)
Selected others:-8 Shanshan (Chn); -7 Lee (Aus); -6 Ko (Aus); -2 Kerr (US); E Law (Eng); +1 Matthew (Sco); +2 Parker (Eng); +6 Hall (Wal); +9 MacLaren (Eng); +12 Frankish (Eng)
Full leaderboard

England’s Georgia Hall won her first major title with a two-shot victory at the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

The 22-year-old is only the third British winner since the event became a major championship in 2001.

Trailing Pornanong Phatlum by a shot overnight, Hall moved clear of the Thai with two holes remaining, and held her nerve on 17 and 18 to secure victory.

Hall finished on 17 under, having picked up five shots on the final day.

It was her third bogey-free round of the tournament, and she dropped just two shots during day three.

Hall, from Bournemouth, joined Phatlum at the top of the leaderboard after the 13th, and holed a 20ft putt on the 16th to take the lead for the first time.

Victory meant the 2013 British ladies’ amateur champion emulated compatriot Karen Stupples (2004) and Scot Catriona Matthew (2009), the other two British winners since this event became a major.

Of the other British participants, England’s Bronte Law finished tied 39th on level par, Matthew was a shot worse off in tied 42nd, and Wales’ Lydia Hall ended in tied 55th on six over.

More to follow.

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Merritt has surgery on blood clot but still hopes to play in PGA Championship

Troy Merritt

American Troy Merritt had emergency surgery on a foot-long blood clot in his arm on Friday – but still hopes to play in this week’s PGA Championship.

The world number 173 said his arm swelled to twice its normal size and turned purple, when his wife told him to get it looked at.

Surgeons removed the clot which went from his left bicep, through his arm pit and into his left pectoral muscle.

“I’m not in pain, but I can’t move my arm very much,” said the 32-year-old.

Merritt – who won the Barbasol Championship two weeks ago, his second PGA Tour title – is scheduled to tee off at 14:51 BST in the final major of the year on Thursday.

He is not expected to play in the practice rounds at Bellerive in St Louis, Missouri.

“I’ll go to the course; I might be able to hit a few putts,” Merritt told PGA Tour.com.