Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Major drought continues but U.S. in good shape behind Clarke

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If American golf is in crisis then it is a crisis every other nation would like a taste of as the sport’s most dominant country made a determined assault on the 140th British Open at Royal St George’s this week.

They came up short as Darren Clarke secured a third major triumph in 14 months for Northern Ireland but the final leaderboard was otherwise littered with the Stars and Stripes as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson shared second and Americans filled five of the top seven places and 12 of the top 24.

Clarke’s victory means that American golfers have failed to land any of the last six majors — the worst run since the Masters was launched in 1934 and the first time since 1994 that the sport has had a year without an American holding at least one of the four grand slam crowns.

Throw in last year’s defeat in the Ryder Cup and the fact that Europeans occupy the top four spots in the world rankings for the first time in 20 years, and something was surely rotten in United States golf.

Charismatic “People’s Champion” Seve Ballesteros dies

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Ask anyone you know you has attempted the game of golf “Which golfer’s style would you most like to copy?” and they will most likely say the dazzling Severiano Ballesteros.

The Spaniard’s flare and touch were what stood him apart, and here follows reaction from his friends and rivals. There will never be anyone quite like him again.

McIlroy and Woods still have reasons to be positive

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GOLF-MASTERS/One of the most riveting final rounds at the Masters left Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy dealing with bitter disappointment, although they each appear to have bright prospects going forward.

Woods, without a tournament win for nearly 17 months, looked like the Tiger of old as he charged into contention over the front nine at Augusta National on Sunday, banishing any thought he might be a spent force.

Augusta offers comfort factor but will it be enough for Woods?

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GOLF/Tiger Woods returned to competition at last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in the Arizona desert under increasing pressure to clean up his game and his on-course demeanour.

Although he showed distinct signs of improvement in the latter category, his week ended abruptly when he was eliminated by Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn after 19 holes in the opening round.

Why all the fuss about being world number one?

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GOLF-RANKINGS/WESTWOODTo much fanfare, Lee Westwood has ended the 281-week reign of Tiger Woods as golf’s world number one yet the fact the Briton has not won a major raises a couple of questions — Do rankings reward consistency rather than great achievement? And how much do they really matter?

According to former world number one and six-times major winner Nick Faldo, the answer is not as much as the big tournaments.

Why the Ryder Cup is so special

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GOLF-RYDER/My love affair with the Ryder Cup began in 1969 when my first golfing hero, Tony Jacklin, was involved in a memorable halved match with Jack Nicklaus that saw the American great sportingly concede a three-foot putt at the last hole.

The passion grew stronger and stronger until the relationship was consumated when I covered my first Ryder Cup as a journalist at the Belfry in 1985.

Ryder Cup shows sportsmanship at its best

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GOLF-ENGLAND/If golf is an island of civilisation in a world of sport awash with cheating then the Ryder Cup is the coconut-laden palm tree on top.

Golf’s core values are honesty, self-regulation, absolute and unquestioning observance of even the most archaic rules and its great gift to the world – etiquette.

A golfing year unlike any other for a troubled Tiger

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GOLF/If any further proof was needed that this has been a golfing year unlike any other for Tiger Woods, simply reflect on the optimism he expressed after he failed to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta.

For the first time in 15 years, the American world number one has ended a PGA Tour season without claiming a single victory but he says he has drawn great comfort from the form he has shown over the last month.

Casey with point to prove to Monty

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GOLF/European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie could be left with egg on his face if Paul Casey wins the U.S. Tour’s money-spinning FedExCup series on Sunday.

The 33-year-old Briton was flying high at ninth in the world rankings when Montgomerie ignored his claims for a wildcard pick last month, choosing Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari instead.

Woods gets nod for Ryder Cup

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Tiger Woods was named as one of four wildcard picks for next month’s Ryder Cup by United States captain Corey Pavin on Tuesday.

The American world number one, who failed to gain automatic selection for the biennial team competition after struggling for form for much of this year, was selected by Pavin to compete in his sixth Ryder Cup.

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