BBC BLOGS - Rob Hodgetts

Archives for October 2010

Montgomerie plays captain's role to perfection

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Rob Hodgetts | 19:57 UK time, Monday, 4 October 2010

Colin Montgomerie vowed to leave "no stone unturned" in his quest to regain the Ryder Cup for Europe and in the end it proved just enough.

Monty's men got off to a start as dazzling as the newly discovered Welsh sunshine as the tournament that had threatened to become the dud in the mud moved into an unprecedented fourth day.

Europe raced into the lead in eight of the 12 singles matches early on, needing five points to seal the win.

But as they edged towards their target, a gritty American team put the party on hold and ramped up the tension.

Montgomerie was meticulous in every part of his planning and the positioning of Graeme McDowell, the US Open champion, in the singles anchor role was no accident. It was the last piece of Montgomerie's jigsaw and it illustrated the big picture.

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Ryder Cup ready for thrilling finale

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Rob Hodgetts | 22:55 UK time, Sunday, 3 October 2010

Colin Montgomerie hailed it as one of the truly great days for European golf as his side turned a two-point deficit into a three-point lead at Celtic Manor.

Monty's army trailed the USA 6-4 after Saturdays's third session but were leading in all six rain-affected matches going into Sunday's resumption.

The captain's plea to play with more passion had sparked the turnaround, and after another morning's washout, the European team were able to relight the fire and clinch five-and-half points out of the six to march into Monday's re-scheduled singles leading 9.5-6.5.

The crowd played their part, implored by Montgomerie to be their 13th man, and the great snakes of humanity slithering, literally at times, around the Usk Valley, were treated to a tenacious front-running display by Europe and a spirited attempt at a fightback by America.

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Jonny Wilkinson guru turns Donald into Europe's assassin

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Rob Hodgetts | 22:45 UK time, Sunday, 3 October 2010

Fans know him as "Luuuuke", uttered in the style of Obi-Wan Kenobi calling to his young disciple.

But Luke Donald, Europe's Skywalker, has his own Jedi Master instructing him in the ways of the Force.

Performance coach Dave Alred is the same guru whose voice filled the head of Jonny Wilkinson as he kicked that drop-goal to win the Rugby World Cup.

His mission with Donald - to transform the placid Englishman into an "assassin".

With two wins from three matches, including a 6&5 drubbing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the company of Lee Westwood, Donald has certainly brought his killer instinct to Celtic Manor.

And the next target in his sights will be singles opponent Jim Furyk on Monday.

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Monty rocket ignites Europe revival

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Rob Hodgetts | 20:54 UK time, Saturday, 2 October 2010

Colin Montgomerie was flustered, panicky even, at the start of Saturday's third session.

By the end of play the European Ryder Cup captain had less reason to stress. But he was still clearly agitated.

Montgomerie has put his heart and soul into winning back the Ryder Cup but a bunch of freewheeling Americans looked to be riding roughshod over his best-laid plans.

But the Ryder Cup is all about momentum. There are highs and lows along the way and going into Sunday, Europe are soaring. Theoretically, anyway. The scoreboard still says Europe 4-6 United States but the home side are up in all six unfinished matches - two foursomes and four fourballs.

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Hollers, high fives and fores at the third

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Rob Hodgetts | 15:01 UK time, Saturday, 2 October 2010

In a quiet corner of south Wales the sounds of battle are approaching.

Cheers gain in strength as the first group of players edge up the first and second holes. Down behind the third green the crowd, half a dozen deep around the ropes and packed into the grandstand, wait patiently.

The giant screen opposite the picturesque pond shows morning highlights and the first shots of the foursomes. A generator hums and the gallery murmurs gently.

A breeze ruffles the tall trees behind the lake, but at water level the reeds are still. The white flag hangs limply on the pin. In the distance, three brown cows munch grass, heads down, oblivious.

A cheer goes up from the nearby 2nd green and 190 yards away a scrum of stickmen emerge onto the 3rd tee.

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Tales of a Celtic caddie

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Rob Hodgetts | 23:17 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

The last time I met Graeme McDowell's caddie he was sat sweltering and defeated outside the Augusta clubhouse having just missed the cut in the Masters.

Five months later, life has changed somewhat. McDowell bounced back to clinch the Wales Open here at Celtic Manor in June, and two weeks later became the first European since Tony Jacklin to win the US Open when he triumphed at Pebble Beach. Now he's at the Ryder Cup as one of the lynchpins of the European team.

I caught up with bagman Ken Comboy to get a caddie's view of that major victory and the Ryder Cup.

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Swinging in the rain

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Rob Hodgetts | 10:44 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

Two marshals huddle under umbrellas. They're alone in the middle of the vast stand. Rain pelts down, the wind lashes in from the left. Ordinarily no-one would be out in this, not at this time. It's 7.00am - and it's filthy.

But on the range in front, Lee Westwood bangs golf balls into the leaden sky. Now and then he glances up from under a dark Bill and Ben rain hat. The only extremity exposed is his tongue, hanging out in concentration.

Caddie Billy Foster watches on from under an umbrella. Next to him captain Colin Montgomerie, one hand in pocket, another clutching his own brolly.

At the far end, Martin Kaymer hunkers under a white woolly hat and goes through his own routine. Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson stand between the Europeans, clad in blue tracksuit-style waterproofs with their names on the back. They, too, grimly limber up, trying not to drown.

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