Rocco Forte Open: Hoey two behind halfway leader Quiros

Michael Hoey

Rocco Forte Open second-round leaderboard
-15 Quiros (Spa); -13 Hoey (NI), Soderberg (Swe); -12 Lombard (SA), Horsey (Eng); -11 Foster (Eng), Li (Chi), Jacquelin (Fra)
Selected others:-9 Hurley (Ire), Wattel (Fra)
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Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey lies two shots behind leader Alvaro Quiros of Spain at the halfway point of the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily.

Hoey, who led after the first round alongside Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg after a brilliant 61, carded a three-under 68 in Friday’s second round.

Quiros birdied his last four holes for a 63 to go two strokes clear on 14 under par for the tournament.

Soderberg matched Hoey’s 68 and the pair are tied on 13 under.

Hoey, who lost his full European Tour card last year, recorded six birdies and three bogeys in his second round.

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Michael Hoey tied for lead at Rocco Forte Open first round

Michael Hoey

Michael Hoey is tied for the lead at the Rocco Forte Open in Verdura after posting a stunning first round of 10-under-par 61 in Sicily on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman, 38, carded 10 birdies, eight in his first 11 holes, to join Swede Sebastian Soderberg at the top of the leaderboard.

The pair lie one shot ahead of Zander Lombard of South Africa.

Hoey missed an eagle putt at the ninth and a birdie attempt at the 10th as he attempted to post a first sub-60 round.

Despite passing up those opportunities, his round of 61 was still the lowest of his career.

“I left it in the jaws, both putts, but I was nervous,” admitted Hoey, who has won five times on the European Tour but lost his card last year.

“It was hard to hit them past the hole but it’s nice to be nervous because I haven’t been nervous on a golf course for quite a while and it’s exciting to have such a good score.

“My best ever score by two shots, no bogeys, it doesn’t get much better.

“We’ve had two kids (since 2013) and it’s been tiring. I had to have sinus surgery done a couple of years ago. I haven’t been as healthy as I wanted to be, so hopefully now I can get going.”

Playing in just his 15th European Tour event after gaining his card via the qualifying school last year, Soderberg was also eight under par after 11 holes and admitted breaking the magical 60 barrier was very much on his mind.

“That’s all I thought about walking down the par-five 12th, it kind of helped keep me going,” Soderberg said.

“I didn’t feel like it stopped me, I definitely had a couple of putts the last seven holes that could have gone in, but overall it was a great round.”

Alvaro Quiros, Sebastian Heisele and Jbe Kruger all lie joint third on eight under.

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Fit again Montgomerie targets Senior Open

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Colin Montgomerie says success in the Senior Open Championship is his “number one target” after a long-term injury.

Montgomerie tore ligaments in his ankle in February, but is fit to compete at Royal Porthcawl from 27-30 July.

The Scot finished second behind Bernhard Langer at Porthcawl in the 2014 Senior Open and was also second in the 1995 Open at St Andrews.

“I would love to go one better,” he said. “It is right on my radar, the most important event on my calendar.”

Since turning 50 in June 2013, Montgomerie has claimed three Senior majors but the Senior Open remains infuriatingly elusive.

As well as his second place finish in Wales three years ago, he had an opportunity to win at Sunningdale in 2015 but had to settle for third behind American Marco Dawson.

“I went there with a very open mind,” said Montgomerie, referring to the 2014 Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl. “I was taken aback at how undulating it was for a links course and how good it was. I was very, very impressed.

“It is a very solid golf course and one you have to be extremely careful of. You can get the odd lucky bounce, but you can’t be lucky for four days.

“I enjoyed playing it. It was a course full of character and I put it in the same category as Turnberry and Royal Birkdale. Let’s also hope the weather plays its part again.”

Langer is joined by a host of major winners from the past 40 years in the field, including Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam, John Daly, Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples.

Defending champion Paul Broadhurst, Welshman Phillip Price and Ireland’s Paul McGinley will also tee up alongside Montgomerie.

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Ian Poulter to play PGA Championship after European Tour invitation

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter has accepted an invitation to play at the BMW PGA Championship from 25-28 May at Wentworth.

Poulter, second at last week’s Players Championship, thought he had lost his PGA Tour card in April as he was ranked 197th after struggling with injury.

The 41-year-old got a reprieve after a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing on major medical exemptions was highlighted.

“Thanks for the invite and help, European Tour,” said the Englishman.

“Excited to now be playing. Heard good things about the west course. See you in a week.”

The PGA Championship is the European Tour’s flagship event, while the PGA Tour is a season of tournaments played mainly in the United States.

World number two Rory McIlroy will decide early next week whether he will play at Wentworth.

A scan has revealed the back problem the 28-year-old Northern Irishman had at the Players Championship was a recurrence of a rib injury from earlier this year.

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Ian Poulter: Players Championship runner-up upbeat after 'toughest stretch'

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter is looking forward to planning a “very long schedule” after overcoming injury problems in “the toughest stretch” of his career.

Poulter, 41, was runner-up at the Players Championship on Sunday, his best finish since November 2014.

The Englishman, once fifth in the world rankings, missed four months last year with a foot injury and says even now he is only operating at “75%”.

“It’s been miserable, really hard – but we’re getting there,” he told the BBC.

Poulter’s injury problems caused him to drop out of the top 200 and ended a run of five consecutive Ryder Cup appearances, in which he won 14 points from 18 matches.

Having secured a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour, he missed the cut in his first two events back and feared he had lost his card last month after failing to gain the requisite earnings in the allotted time frame.

However, the PGA Tour decided its rules “unintentionally made it more difficult” for injured players and Poulter was allowed to continue for the rest of this season.

At the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass – often referred to as the unofficial fifth major of the year – Poulter was in contention for a first PGA Tour victory since 2012, but finished three shots behind winner Kim Si-woo, the event’s youngest champion.

“It has been miserable, there’s no other way to explain it,” Poulter told BBC Sport.

“When you’re taking a break for several months, when your world ranking plummets, when you miss Ryder Cups, when you find yourself in a position chasing down to try and keep your tour card.

“It’s obviously been the toughest stretch of my career. We’re still working through some things to try and be 100% there. I think I’m at 75%.

“I can now plan a very long schedule and work out exactly what I’m doing.

“I’m going to have a nice summer with the kids in the UK. I think I’ll be playing a lot in the UK this summer.”

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Players Championship: Kim Si-woo wins Players Championship at age of 21

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South Korean Kim Si-woo produced a faultless round to become the youngest champion at the Players Championship.

Kim, 21, shot a three-under-par 69 on the final day at Sawgrass to finish on 10 under and replace Adam Scott as the youngest winner.

England’s Ian Poulter was tied for the lead at one stage but finished three shots behind in a tie for second with Louis Oosthuizen after a 71.

Rafa Cabrera Bello and Kyle Stanley finished tied for fourth on six under.

More to follow.

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Matt Wallace: World number 242 wins Portugal Open for first European Tour title

England's Matt Wallace

Open de Portugal
-21 M Wallace (Eng); -18 J Suri (USA); -16 M Pavon (Fra); -15 S Heisele (Ger), S Walker (Eng)
Selected others: -14 B Evans (Eng), O Fisher (Eng), M Foster (Eng)

England’s Matt Wallace led from start to finish to win the Portugal Open, his first European Tour title.

Wallace, 27, the world number 242, shot a final round 69 at the Morgado Golf Resort to finish three shots clear of American Julian Suri.

He finished on 21-under-par and becomes only the second player on the tour this season to win from start to finish.

It was Wallace’s fifth start on the European Tour having made the step up from the Alps Tour last year.

Wallace shot 17 birdies on the first 36 holes and a level-par round on day three left him with a three-shot lead over German Sebastian Heisele going into the final day.

Wallace held off a surge from Suri on Sunday and becomes just the second winner since 2013 to card three bogey-free rounds on his way to victory.

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Players Championship: JB Holmes and Kyle Stanley lead at Sawgrass

JB Holmes

JB Holmes and Kyle Stanley will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Holmes carded a 70 to reach nine under par at the end of a tough third round and fellow American Stanley shot a 72.

They lead South African Louis Oosthuizen by one, while South Korea’s Si Woo Kim is a further shot back.

Ian Poulter shot a steady 71 and is on six under alongside Emiliano Grillo, while Masters champion Sergio Garcia fired a superb 67 to reach five under.

Rory McIlroy is one under after a 71 and world number one Dustin Johnson is two over after a 74 which included five dropped shots in the last six holes.

Patient Poulter keeps it steady

Poulter is looking to capitalise on retaining his PGA Tour card after fellow professional Brian Gay alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing on major medical extensions.

The Englishman, who only played 13 tournaments last season because of injury, birdied the second hole and from there on parred the rest to maintain his hopes of winning the title on Sunday.

Garcia had Augusta on his mind

Sergio Garcia

Garcia carded a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th and an eagle on the par-five 16th to surge into contention.

A three-putt bogey on the 18th took some of the gloss off a superb round but the Spaniard is in a strong position.

Afterwards the 37-year-old revealed he brought his Masters Green Jacket with him to Sawgrass and admitted that thoughts of Augusta hampered his first two rounds.

“I felt rusty probably head-wise,” said the 2008 champion. “There were lots of thoughts going through my head, and the first day I was still thinking about the Masters.

“I was thinking, come on, you have to play well after winning the Masters, you have to, you have to, you have to, and I probably put too much pressure on myself.”

McIlroy struggles to make an impression

McIlroy, who will have an MRI scan on Monday after suffering a recurrence of the back problem which ruled him out for seven weeks earlier this season, could not find any consistency during his round.

The Northern Irishman made the ideal start with a birdie on the first, but the four-time major winner then bogeyed the fifth.

And although he did birdie the ninth for the third day running, birdies on the 16th and 17th were cancelled out by bogeys on the 14th and 18th.

Perez enjoys best round of the day

In-form American Pat Perez made the halfway cut on the mark of two over par but fired a 66 on Saturday, his lowest score in 43 rounds at Sawgrass, to climb more than 50 places up the leaderboard.

The world number 42, who was second in the Wells Fargo Championship last week, made four birdies to reach the turn in 32, before picking up three more shots despite the early blustery conditions.

A bogey on the 18th was the only blemish on Perez’s scorecard as the 42-year-old finished the day on four under.

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Oosthuizen in share of lead as McIlroy struggles with back

Louis Oosthuizen

Players Championship second-round leaderboard
-9 L Oosthuizen (SA), K Stanley (US); -7 JB Holmes (US); -6 V Singh (Fij); -5 I Poulter (Eng), D Hearn (Can), R Cabrera Bello (Spa), P Cantlay (US), A Noren (Swe)
Selected others:-4 P Casey (Eng), -2 A Scott (Aus); -1 G McDowell (NI) Level R McIlroy (NI), S Garcia (Spa), D Johnson (US); +1 L Westwood (Eng), J Rose (Eng);+3 L Donald (Eng); +4 J Spieth (US)
Full leaderboard

Louis Oosthuizen shot a bogey-free six-under-par 66 to take a share of the lead after round two of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

The South African former Open champion is level on nine under par with American Kyle Stanley, who also shot 66, with eight birdies and two bogeys.

JB Holmes spoiled an impressive round with bogeys on his final two holes to sit third overnight on seven under.

Fiji’s three-time major winner Vijay Singh, 54, is fourth on six under.

He also faded at the end of his round – carding his only bogey in a 68 on the 18th.

Singh would surpass Sam Snead, who was 52 when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open, as the oldest winner in PGA Tour history if he were to claim a first victory since 2008.

Ian Poulter was Britain’s best performer as he followed four birdies and a bogey with an eagle on the 16th to card a 67 and move to five under. Fellow Englishman Paul Casey is one shot further back.

“I was really happy with that,” Casey told Sky Sports after shooting 69.

“But I need more numbers in the 60s to catch guys like Louis at the top. Nothing really fazes him and there’s a lot of depth behind too.”

The big names struggle – again

Rory McIlroy had two birdies and one bogey as he again failed to produce his best, carding a one-under-par 71 to move to level par overall.

After his round, the Northern Irishman said he had been suffering with a back problem.

Rory McIlroy

“I’m going to get an MRI scan on Monday after the tournament and I might have to rest for a week or two,” he told Sky Sports.

“As long as I get myself right for the US Open, that’s the most important thing.”

McIlroy’s struggles were mirrored by Masters champion Sergio Garcia and world number one Dustin Johnson, who both also finished one under par, two shots above the halfway cut.

England’s Justin Rose and Lee Westwood finished on one over, but their countryman Luke Donald did miss the cut, two bogeys and a double bogey between the sixth and eighth ultimately costing him as he ended on three over par.

Jordan Spieth was another high-profile casualty. The 2015 Masters and US Open champion missed the cut for a third year in a row after adding a 75 to the 72 he scored on Thursday, ending on four over par.

But it could have been worse…

India’s Anirban Lahiri came within a stroke of carding the highest score at the 18th hole in the tournament’s history.

The world number 84 hooked three balls into the water hazard that lines the left side of the par-four hole, running up a sextuple-bogey 10.

The 29-year-old, in his second full season on the PGA Tour, shot 75 to miss the cut with a six-over total of 150.

Earlier on Friday, 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett pulled out midway through his second round because of a back injury, saying his “body and mind need a rest”.

Willett, who has a history of back injuries, was 11 over par for his 27 holes in Florida.

The BMW PGA Championship takes place in Wentworth from 25 May, and asked if he would be fit to play, Willett replied: “Hopefully, touch wood.

“We’ll see how things go. I’ve already limited the schedule down a lot. Hopefully, all going well, we get back on. We have a week to do some work and see how it feels.”

Analysis

BBC Sport golf correspondent Iain Carter

It has been a curious Players Championship, with none of the world’s leading players fully getting to grips with a testing Sawgrass.

The 66s of Louis Oosthuizen and Kyle Stanley were exceptional rounds on a hot, breezy afternoon when the course became firmer and the water grabbed balls galore at the treacherous 17th.

Rory McIlroy made it to the weekend but it will be results of a different sort on Monday that will be more significant.

He faces an anxious wait for an MRI scan to identify the extent of his latest back injury. If rest is prescribed it may put in jeopardy his place in Wentworth’s BMW PGA Championship at the end of the month.

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