0 View comments The weather is supposed to improve considerably at the BMW PGA Championship on Saturday, but it has come too late to save some of the most celebrated names in European golf.
Did two vile days at Wentworth prove a great leveller? Or has all that Florida living thinned their blood? Whatever the reason, the fact is the weekend play at the European Tour’s flagship event will be bereft of world No 2 Rory McIlroy, defending champion Luke Donald, Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell twice a winner in the previous five weeks and Englishman Ian Poulter.
Moving on up: A spectator last year, Eddie Pepperell is just two shots off the halfway lead at the PGA Championship Disappointing: Luke Donald, who had won the competition twice in a row, missed the cut Eight months ago the eyes were bulging, the putts were dropping and all of Europe bellowed their delight as he composed his Medinah miracle.
Now Poulter, with his usual refreshing honesty, has admitted the fire has gone out.
Not surprising, perhaps, when it is colder in late May here than it was in early March.
But Poulter’s problems on the course are about more than two bad rounds at a venue where he has a poor record.
Another weekend off here, added to similar results at the Masters and the Players Championship, means he has missed the halfway cut in three successive tournaments for the first time in almost a decade.
All over bar the pouting: Ian Poulter hasn’t enjoyed a good week at Wentworth Add a self-confessed disgusting performance at the World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria last week, where he failed to win a game, and it is clear this is now, officially, a slump.
At least the 37-year-old has not lost his sense of humour along with his game.
I am going to take the positives out of this, and they are that I am going to the Champions League Final at Wembley, followed by the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday and then a charity match on Monday where the worst thing that can happen is I will earn 50,000 for charity, he said.
So I am fine.
Don t worry about me.
Poor week: Rory McIlroy tees of on the eighth hole during his second round What exactly has happened to Poulter? What happens to so many.
Sometimes a step backwards has to be taken to make two steps forward.
The funny thing about this spell is I can t work any harder, he said.
You take six weeks off, do everything right, put new equipment in the bag and work even harder, work on your fitness, and what happens? Nothing at all.
So what do you do, say sod it all? No, I ll keep doing the same things and play through this, but obviously at the moment it is no fun.
The fire’s not there right now so I ve got to throw some wood in the oven and see what happens.
I need to find the fire and get out there and play.
Local lad: Pepperell lives just an hour down the road Sadly for Poulter, there is no Ryder Cup around the corner to stir the juices, but there is a US Open next month on a course that ought to fit his eye.
After his weekend among the beautiful people he will strive to find some beauty in his game, with the season’s second major now just a shade over three weeks away.
Poulter is not alone, mind, in searching for his muse.
While the spectators turned up in remarkable numbers given the weather, a number of the other miracle merchants, metaphorically speaking, did not.
From three-under after 12 holes on Thursday, Rory McIlroy played his next 24 holes in eight-over.
That’s two years in a row he has missed out on the weekend here and, given he has no great love of the place, don t be surprised if he doesn t come back next year.
At least he didn t lose heart, something he has been guilty of in the past.
On this occasion he seemed to embrace the challenge but just played badly, summed up by the 17th where any chance of survival disappeared with a double-bogey seven.
So it goes on, this list of celebrity absentees.
Donald missed the first European Tour cut of his career in March.
Now he has missed another just two months later at the tournament he had bossed for the last two years.
Comfortably, too, with rounds of 78 and 72.
It wasn t all bad news at the Medinah reunion.
Francesco Molinari, the last European on the course at the end of that memorable week in Chicago, shot a wonderful 68 and leads on six-under.
Just three shots behind is Lee Westwood.
Even his peers are still getting used to the new Westy, who hit only one green in regulation over the front nine but still went out in 36 blows.
‘You ve become a short-game wizard,’ said Open Champion Ernie Els, smiling.
The South African, himself, is on the same mark.
Finally, there is 22-year-old Eddie Pepperell from Oxford, who was still playing at 8.50pm on Thursday and was back at 7am yesterday to complete his first round and then play his second.
He finished with four straight birdies for a 69 to go with his opening 71 and lies just two shots off the lead.
It’s all a bit of a dream, he said.
Let’s hope the little-known Englishman dreams on.
Leader: Italian Francesco Molinari is in the lead
Rafa Benitez is convinced if Chelsea win the Europa League it will finally be accepted he has done a good job during his short stint at Stamford Bridge.
With a top-four place assured barring a mathematical miracle, Benitez will add some silverware to the campaign if Chelsea overcome Benfica in the Amsterdam ArenA.
It would be an adequate return for the Spaniard, who has endured such a miserable time with the Blues support who have never forgiven him for the negative comments he made about their club when he was at Liverpool.
The main man: Rafa Benitez, flanked by Frank Lampard and Petr Cech, could lead Chelsea to the Europa League, a trophy he previously won in 2004 with Valencia Benitez stopped attempting to win his critics round a long time ago.
But the 53-year-old knows, from the unpromising circumstances he walked into last November, if the Europa League makes this the seventh trophy-winning campaign out of nine for the Stamford Bridge outfit, he will have nothing to reproach himself for.
‘You can always make mistakes but it was not an easy situation at the beginning,’ he said.
‘We have managed it quite well.
Record breaker: Tomorrow’s final could be midfielder Frank Lampard’s last at the club if he is to leave in the summer Confident camp: Goalkeeper Petr Cech is clearly looking forward to facing Benfica, having played a key role in winning last season’s Champions League ‘Every day, after every training session, I go home and think we are doing our best.
‘For me it is always important to win trophies.
If we win it will be easier and people will realise that to be here, at this stage of the competition, means we have done a lot of things well.’ Chelsea’s task has been made harder by the absence of Eden Hazard, who has failed to recover from the hamstring injury he sustained at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Benitez has promised to give skipper John Terry every chance to get over the ankle problem that forced him to be carried off at Villa Park.
Much maligned: But if Benitez inspires Chelsea to the Europa League he’ll have proved many of the numerous doubters wrong Talking tactics: Chelsea need to win the tournament to avoid this season being a disappointment However, Terry only managed a jog round the pitch before being withdrawn from the main training session this evening.
In any case, it is highly unlikely the 32-year-old would have started as Chelsea look to complete the unique achievement of winning the Europa League in the season after the Champions League.
Yet it is only unique because Chelsea became the first Champions League winner to fail in their quest to get out of their group the following season.
In that sense, the Blues could be forgiven a tinge of embarrassment at the situation they find themselves in, but Frank Lampard does not feel anything of the sort.
‘You are talking about the highest level of club football in the world,’ he said.
Decorated: Chelsea possess one of the most talented and expensive squads in football Major doubt: Captain John Terry could miss out if he fails to recover from an injury sustained in Saturday’s victory away to Aston Villa ‘You can’t have it your own way every year.
We were lucky enough to have had a great run to the Champions League final and win it last year.
‘At first we were disappointed to end up in the Europa League.
But the more we have been involved in it, the more we have learned to love it.
‘We wanted to progress and the closer we got to the final, the more we wanted to be here.’ Chelsea would also become the first English club to win all three European competitions, although only seven now can given the Cup Winners’ Cup no longer exists.
Goalkeeper’s union: Cech’s preparation will again be supported by long-term second-choice goalkeeper Hilario More disappointment to follow? Terry walked off from the training session after only temporarily participating Benitez already has a UEFA Cup on his CV from his time at Valencia in addition to that never-to-be-forgotten Champions League triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul with Liverpool in 2005.
Now he is focused on more European glory, which is remarkable in itself when the physical demands that have been placed on his players are added to the burden of criticism he has had to carry.
‘You have to analyse from the beginning,’ he said.
‘You have to analyse the age of our players, the new players, the transition period we have had, the short squad at times and all the competitions.
Words of wisdom? Benitez had been talking to Terry before the defender departed Competitive: Defender Gary Cahill challenges Lampard for possession ‘After tomorrow we will have played 68 games.
For the last six months we have been playing two games a week at least.
‘Imagine any team in the world doing that and progressing to semi-finals of two competitions and final of one.
‘It doesn’t matter what a lot of people say, we feel we have done a good job.
Hopefully we can do even better.’ Flags are waiting: A sight to warm the heart of manager Benitez Grand stage: Tomorrow’s final is to be played at the impressive Amsterdam Arena Great view: There barely appears to be a bad seat in the house Calm before the storm: This scene will be far busier in 24 hours time Pristine pitch: It is hoped the occasion will be one in which both sides’ most talented footballers will flourish All smiles: Lampard, Cahill and Marko Marin enjoy a joke during training Transformation: David Luiz has become one of Chelsea’s best players since Benitez’s arrival Contrast: Luiz looks significantly more concerned about the prospect of facing former side Benfica than midfielder John Mikel Obi, who appears extremely relaxed
Jason Puncheon: Thinks Premier League survival is just reward for Southampton’s efforts this season Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Southampton forward Jason Puncheon says the club deserve to stay up after an eventful first season back in the top flight.
The Saints are playing in the Premier League for the first time since 2005 and a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on Sunday all but secured top-flight survival.
Only a mathematical miracle next weekend will see the South Coast club drop four places and end the final day in the bottom three.
It represents a fine achievement for a team that was playing League One football just two years ago and lost their first four league games of this campaign.
Former Plymouth and MK Dons star Puncheon, who scored in Sunday’s clash at the Stadium of Light, believes they deserve their Premier League status for the way they have improved as the season has progressed.
“It’s a massive feeling knowing that it’s more or less there,” he told the Daily Echo.
“For the season we’ve had and the way we’ve gone about it it’s even better, because we deserve it, as a group of players and as a football club.
“It was a tough start for us this season.
We’ve learnt our lessons and we’ve grown as a football team and a football club, and that’s shown.
“That’s why this was important for us to obviously get the points on the board.”
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Madrid sports paper Diario AS on Wednesday ran a fan poll on whether Jose Mourinho will be staying at Real Madrid.
By mid-afternoon over 32,000 have responded and 82 per cent have voted that he will be off as soon as the final whistle is blown on the last match at home to Osasuna on June 1.
Immediately after Madrid’s semi-final failure Cristiano Ronaldo was asked about his manager’s future and replied: ‘It is not important to me.
What matters to me is my future and the club s.
The decisions he takes are his and his family’s and they have to be respected.’ Which way now? Jose Mourinho appears to be sliding towards the Real Madrid exit at the end of the season As Ronaldo was distancing himself from his coach on Tuesday night, Mourinho was distancing himself from almost everyone at Madrid.
‘Here there are people that hate me, many of them are in this room’, he said in his press conference.
The failure to reach the Wembley European Cup final brought front page headlines.
They ranged from ‘Adios Big Ears’ a reference to the trophy Madrid will not be touching at the end of this month to ‘Failure Accomplished’.
But perhaps the most damning was from Diario AS.
They carried a picture of Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas embracing beneath the banner headline ‘Miracle on Miracle off…’ below were the words ‘And Mourinho is navel gazing’.
His comment that ‘there are clubs in England that want me; one especially’ was seen as self indulgent.
In the dark: Mourinho could be on his way back to Chelsea this summer when Rafa Benitez leaves the Bridge Outdone: Mourinho (right) watched Real Madrid crash out of the Champions League to Borussia Dortmund If Mourinho does win the Copa del Rey on May 17 he will leave Real Madrid having won one league title and two Spanish Cups and taken Madrid to three consecutive Champions League semi-finals in three years.
By any other coach’s standards and bearing in mind Real Madrid’s pre-Mourinho Champions League form was so bad they weren t even group seeds his numbers are acceptable.
The failure lies not in what has or has not been won, but in his inability to stay the course.
Madrid was always going to be a long-term job.
He inherited an expensively assembled squad but it was one containing many players whose signings he would never have sanctioned.
Much was made of the entire Dortmund team costing less than Kaka but Mourinho would never have signed the Brazilian.
Embrace: The front page of AS showed Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas (left) as Marca (right) bid him farewell Game over: Sport describes the Champions League defeat as a ‘failure’ and Mundo says goodbye to the boss Gonzalo Higua n and Karim Benzema were not his style of striker.
In a fourth summer at the club he might have been able to sign the centre-forward he needed.
Now it seems now he ll be sharing a taxi to Madrid airport with Falcao who is represented by Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes and on his way out of Atletico Madrid.
After falling at the semi-finals for three straight seasons Madrid could be just two more signings away from going one better next time.
Bridge too far: Cristiano Ronaldo could not breach the Dortmund defence to score the vital third goal But Mourinho will not be there to see out the job because one year short of the original four year deal he signed in 2010 and three years short of his extension to 2016, too many bridges have been burned.
Ramos and Casillas embracing on the front of AS have privately made it known they want a new coach at the end of the season.
The diplomacy that might have seen him suffer a dressing room of politicians and a powerful press forever looking to lever supporter opinion might have given him a longer crack at winning the European Cup in the Spanish capital.
But the Mourinho fire burns too intensely and its ferocity is unsustainable.
He has said he plans to keep managing until he is 70 but he is currently averaing a club every three years and will run out of teams long before his desire to coach has dried up.
Private enemy: Sergio Ramos (left) is one of the players who have turned on their manager On Tuesady ahead of the game Real Madrid President Florentino Perez waited for his players to step off the team bus and shook every player’s hand.
When he came to Mourinho there was a kiss it was a cheek to cheek moment before another semi-final disappointment.
Then came the subsequent talk of an imminent divorce.
Judd Trump: Celebrates his final-frame victory over Shaun Murphy Judd Trump held his nerve to edge a final-frame decider against Shaun Murphy, in the process setting up a potential semi-final showdown with Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Betfair World Championship.
Trump, who had trailed Murphy 8-3 at one point, came through a nerve-wracking 53-minute final frame to secure a 13-12 triumph over the 2005 champion.
Barring a minor miracle he will now take on O’Sullivan in a mouth-watering last four clash, with the Rocket needing just one more frame to secure his progress having opened a 12-4 lead ahead of the final session of his quarter-final with Stuart Bingham.
Having won the last five frames played on Tuesday to level at 8-8, Trump went ahead for the first time since the opening frame of the match when he took the opener on Wednesday.
However, Murphy responded in stunning style with a clearance of 128 and then got his nose back in front with a contribution of 70.
It was then Trump’s turn to reassert himself with a break of 77 good enough to level again at 10-10 and the left-hander was back in front as he pinched a scrappy 21st frame.
Tense finish He should have moved 12-10 ahead, but miscued on the pink before missing an easy pot and allowing Murphy to make it 11-11.
With nothing to separate them it was little surprise when Murphy hit back with a rapid 88 to set up a final-frame shoot-out, cancelling out Trump’s break of 90 in the previous stanza.
It was to prove a gripping, see-saw affair with both players having numerous chances after the reds scattered, although Murphy may now be regretting his rather cautious approach having opted for safety ahead of pots on more than one occasion.
A fine snooker behind the blue looked to have turned things decisively in Trump’s favour but he was unable to close things out, allowing Murphy another life.
But the right-hander would go on to leave a red open which Trump gobbled up and, although he opted to lay a snooker ahead of taking on a difficult black that would of sealed things, he was vindicated after coming back to pot the colours he needed to finally get over the line.
Neil Lennon: Has urged his players to restore “respectability” to their Champions League tie Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Neil Lennon has challenged Celtic to bow out on a high should their European adventure end, as expected, in Turin on Wednesday night.
Champions League elimination seems imminent with Juventus 3-0 winners in the first leg but Lennon is determined to relish the trip.
“We haven’t had Champions League football for four or five years,” the Parkhead boss said.
to have those nights back at Celtic Park has been truly memorable for me.
And going up against the best teams in the world, the best coaches in the world, has been a fantastic experience for a group of players who are relatively young in their careers and who haven’t cost a lot of money.
“They have excelled, absolutely excelled, and they have done the club and Scotland proud.
“They have one more crack at it so if we do go out, we want to go out on our shield.” Lennonn concedes qualification will require a “minor miracle” but has urged his players to enjoy the experience.
“It would be a tall order to win the tie 4-0 or 4-1, but we are capable of winning the game and that’s what we would like to do,” he added.
“If we win we would it would equal the club record (of wins in Europe in a season).
“It is a fantastic game to play in.
We may not be here again as a group; you are playing the champions of Italy who are a very good team so enjoy it.
“Enjoy the stadium, enjoy the atmosphere, don’t be intimidated.
Go and play.
The pressure is really off so try to restore some respectability in the tie, play your football and win the game.”
Tweet Arsene Wenger has hailed Reading boss Brian McDermott as a miracle-worker ahead of Arsenal’s Capital One Cup fourth-round tie at the Madejski Stadium.
Wenger admires the success achieved by McDermott, a former Gunners midfielder, on a limited budget and believes he has the skill to keep the Royals in the Barclays Premier League.
Last season’s npower Championship winners have yet to win in the league, but are one victory away from a place in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
“Reading have made appointments from within the club well over the years,” Wenger told Arsenal Media.
“You have to congratulate Brian McDermott for promotion last year, I believe he made a miracle basically.” He added: “When you get to the Premier League, the level of expectation is to stay and I feel they have a chance.
McDermott has the qualities to achieve that.
“We expect a challenge and we know Reading will give absolutely everything when they play against us.
“Reading have done very well in their scouting.
They are one of the examples of a club not spending money and living within their resources.
“I always respect that.
There is some quality work behind their success.”
Tweet Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is adamant he has not been affected by the criticism which has come his way this season.
Although they are just one point off top spot in the Barclays Premier League, City have been particularly disappointing in the Champions League and face a fight to qualify for the knockout stages.
That has led to some cutting analysis from outside the club, and Kompany, outstanding at the heart of City’s defence in the last campaign, has also found his form the subject of scrutiny.
But the Belgian said: “Personally, I don’t ever get affected by it.
I just keep living the life and keep working really hard.
If one day goes a little bit less than another, I know I have at least done my best.” He added: “By being patient and keeping doing what you have done to get success in the first place, you’ll get there again.
It is a very difficult thing.” Criticism of City intensified after the midweek loss to Ajax in Amsterdam left them needing a “miracle”, in the opinion of manager Roberto Mancini, to reach the next stage of Europe’s elite club competition.
Mancini came under fire for changing his formation too often during the game and defender Micah Richards said he was not comfortable with the change of system at the back.
Some reports claimed the City squad was heading for mutiny because the players do not like the changes Mancini has made this season, but Kompany, who helped the team beat Swansea 1-0 on Saturday, dismissed that as nonsense.
The 26-year-old said: “That’s funny.
I don’t like to get involved in this but sometimes I do.
“I never have a problem with performances being down or up.
People have the right to have opinions on performances, but the stories are based on things I cannot even relate to, and I am in this team.
“I started my career to play football and be the best footballer.
I expect journalists to tell the truth and do the job for that.
That is just sensationalism, nothing more.”
Tweet Man City V Swansea – view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Mancini – Top players must be flexible Roberto Mancini has rejected any criticism of his three-man defence initiative and claimed if anyone cannot handle it they are not good enough to play for Manchester City.
The City boss held his hands up for his failure in preparation ahead of Wednesday night’s shock 3-1 Champions League defeat to Ajax in Amsterdam and wants a response when Swansea visit the Etihad on Saturday.
He still accepts responsibility for a result that leaves the Blues requiring a “miracle” to avoid tumbling out at the group stage for the second successive season.
However, what he will not acknowledge is any weakness in formation.
Having toyed with three at the back at various times during the current campaign, Mancini did again in midweek as he desperately sought a way back into the contest.
The move had catastrophic consequences, leaving substituted Joleon Lescott fuming, Gael Clichy appealing for guidance about exactly where he was supposed to be playing, City conceding a third goal and Micah Richards conducting a post-match interview where he confirmed his team-mates were ill at ease with the tactical switch.
Mancini claimed Richards’ comments were “not important”.
However, his assessment of the situation left little room for argument.
“Good players should be able to play in any system,” said Mancini.
“If you are a top player, the system is not important.
If you don’t understand you are not a top player and you cannot play for a top team.
If the Italian is to be believed, he has used the system far more than anyone previously thought.
“In pre-season we only had 10 senior players,” he said.
“But I wasn’t changing anything.
It is difficult to watch from the stand when we change the system but we have used this a lot of times during games last season, a minimum of 50 times.
“We were 2-1 down and we wanted to improve the situation.
“With this system we beat Chelsea 3-2 in the Community Shield.
With this system we recovered from 3-0 down against United, got back to 3-2 and had a chance to draw with only 10 players.
“With this system we have changed the result every time.” Swansea head to the Etihad Stadium on the back of last weekend’s morale-boosting win over Wigan, but will face a City side desperate to respond.
However, Wayne Routledge believes the Dutch team’s 3-1 victory shows there is nothing to fear for the visitors going into a game few expect them to get a positive result from, although he is under no illusion about the size of the challenge facing the Swans.
He said: “The Etihad has become something of a fortress for them there, but we’ve got to go there in a positive frame of mind.
“As footballers, they’re in the higher echelons but sometimes you have games when it doesn’t click.
“That seems to be what happened the other night, it wasn’t the usual Manchester City.
“But when you play Manchester City whatever they do it’s going to be a really hard game on Saturday.
We have to get our minds right and be ready from the start.” The game will see Swansea face Scott Sinclair for the first time since the winger left the Liberty Stadium to join Roberto Mancini’s side in August.
But Routledge, who has benefited from Sinclair’s move, insists the Swansea squad do not hold a grudge against him for moving on.
He said: “People get on well here and we all wish each other the best.
Scott had a chance to go and join the champions and he took that opportunity.
“I haven’t spoken to Scott for a little while because he’s had a lot to do up there, he’s moving, but I’m sure we’ll catch up on Saturday.
“Obviously I knew in the summer that gave me the chance to work hard in pre-season and hopefully get a chance in the team.
“I’ve done that and it’s going well.”