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Siem wins Hassan II Trophy in wire -to-wire fashion, awaits Masters fate

AGADIR, Morocco — Marcel Siem completed a wire-to-wire victory at the Hassan II Trophy on Sunday to all but confirm his debut appearance at the Masters.

HASSAN II TROPHY

Golf on TVWhat’s in the winners’ bagsPhotos: Golf around the worldHoey happy to return to ‘James Bond’ courseMolinari confident about Masters chancesThursday recapFriday recapSaturday recapSunday recap

Siem overcame a shaky start to the final round, when his four-shot lead was quickly erased by Mikko Ilonen, before eventually prevailing by three strokes.

Siem’s third European Tour success also could be further sweetened by a first appearance at Augusta National in two weeks with his victory likely to send him into the world’s top 50. That would be enough to secure an invitation to the Masters, although he will have to await the final results of the Shell Houston Open before booking his flights to Georgia.

“That will be unbelievable,” Siem said of his chance to get into the Masters. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid, so if that comes true it will be unbelievable. It would be wonderful to play the Masters.

“I just want to be on that ground,” he added. “I’m not going to cry, but it would be very emotional.”

Siem’s final-round 70 was his worst score of the week and it looked as though disaster might strike when Ilonen, who shook off a bout of food poisoning overnight, drew level by the fourth hole.

Siem bogeyed the first before Ilonen secured a hat trick of birdies from the second to suddenly put his rival’s Masters dream under threat.

The German responded impressively with birdies at the fifth and seventh, and the momentum turned his way irretrievably on the 11th with a birdie Ilonen could only match with a bogey.

In the end Siem signed for 2-under-par 70 for the day, and a 17-under total, with Ilonen having to be content with a share of second alongside England’s David Horsey after they both shot 69.

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Siem wins Hassan II Trophy in wire -to-wire fashion, awaits Masters fate

Stricker still gets requests for putting lessons

HUMBLE, Texas (AP) — At some point, Steve Stricker may have to turn down all the requests for putting lessons.

Since straightening out Tiger Woods stroke, Stricker has somewhat facetiously become known as the tour’s resident expert on the greens. He’s still taking grief for it and a handful of players asked him for instruction on Wednesday in advance of this week’s Houston Open.

“I’m hearing it all over the place,” Stricker said. “Some of them are joking and I think some are serious.”

Stricker is happy to help, but doesn’t want to be distracted from his own game. He talked about balancing the two with Dave Stockton Sr., who developed a reputation as a putting guru when he was on tour and now coaches several players.

“He said, what you have to do is, if you’re going to help a guy, just tell the guy, ‘You never got help from me, so the word doesn’t get out,'” Stricker said. “That’s not the way I am, I guess. Makes sense that you still have to pay attention to what you’re doing. Otherwise, you get caught up in everybody else and what they need to fix in their game and your game goes by the wayside all of a sudden.”

Maybe more than ever, Stricker seems to have his focus in the right place.

The 46-year-old Stricker is scheduled to play only 11 events this year. So far, he’s making the most of his limited opportunities, with $1.82 million earned in his three starts.

“It’s only been three events, but I notice the change in myself playing so far,” Stricker said. “I feel like there’s a little bit less pressure on me to perform well, for whatever reason.”

These days, Stricker won’t pick up a club for more than a week after playing in a tournament, then resume practicing about five days before leaving for the next one. After finishing second to Woods at Doral, he returned home to Wisconsin and took in some basketball at the Big Ten tournament in Chicago the following week.

“I always have come out and done fairly well when I’m fresh,” Stricker said. “Whether that’s a mental thing, I don’t know. But I enjoy coming out. I feel like I’m a little bit easier on myself, I’m fresher mentally.”

He’s back at one of his favorite tournaments this week, the one he credits with reviving his career in 2006.

Stricker finished 162nd on the money list in 2005, and needed a sponsor’s exemption from tournament director Steve Timms to play in the Houston Open the following year. He shot a 66 in the final round to finish third, the first of seven top-10s in 2006, and was later named the tour’s comeback player of the year.

“It brings back a lot of good memories,” Stricker said. “(Timms) gave me a spot in ’06, when I needed a spot. Played well, and went on to play well that year and ever since really. As long as I’m eligible to come here, I probably will.”

The Houston Open became the run-up event to the Masters in 2007 and organizers embraced the niche, trying to create Augusta-like conditions at Redstone.

This year, the tournament lost that distinction, with the Masters starting later than usual. The Houston Open stayed put in the week after Bay Hill, while the PGA Tour moved the Texas Open in San Antonio to the week before Augusta.

The move on the calendar wasn’t enough to lure Woods, who’s never competed in the Houston Open and has historically played two weeks before majors.

But it was ideal for Rory McIlroy, who slipped to No. 2 in the world after Woods won at Bay Hill. McIlroy hasn’t played since tying for eighth in Doral, the most encouraging performance of an otherwise forgettable start to his season.

“I definitely treat this tournament as its own entity and a tournament that’s worth winning,” McIlroy said. “It’s not a week before the Masters, it works really well.”

He’s comfortable with Woods taking over the top spot in the world rankings, and the spotlight that comes with it. But McIlroy also wants to get in the mix in Houston before heading to Augusta.

“I want to get back to getting into contention in tournaments and trying to win,” McIlroy said. “I think this is a good week to try and get into contention, have a chance with the Masters coming up. I’m just really focused on this week in Houston and trying to play well here.”

Defending champion Hunter Mahan, 2011 winner Phil Mickelson and top-10 players Brandt Snedeker, Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley are also in the field this week. Bradley is up to No. 10 in the world after three straight top-10 finishes.

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Stricker still gets requests for putting lessons

Breakdown of Woods’ 77 PGA Tour wins shows consistency at courses

ORLANDO, Fla. — Even before Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time, he was asked on several occasions what it was about Bay Hill that brings him so much success. Finally, he gave an answer that applies to more than just him.

”Once we figure out what courses we like, we tend to play those,” Woods said.

SHELL HOUSTON OPEN

Full leaderboardGolf on TVPhotos: Golf around the worldWoods returns to world No. 1, McIlroy slips to secondMcIlroy and Woods text after Woods reclaims No. 1 spotNew Nike ad about Woods creates social media stormNotebook: Many players vying for precious Masters spotsBreakdown of Woods’ wins shows success at favorite coursesIs Woods back? We might find out at MastersMcIlroy searching for swing path against strong field in Houston

Brendan Steele finished his round Saturday and was on the range making small talk when he was asked about his schedule the next few weeks, such as the Valero Texas Open.

”Nah, I don’t think I’m going to play there,” Steele said with a slight grin.

The light came on for the reporter who realized that San Antonio is where Steele won for the first time. He laughed.

”I won, I tied for fourth last year,” he said. ”How could I not play?”

Woods has established a schedule that is easy to predict. It’s based on the courses where he does well.

His 77 wins on the PGA Tour have come at 25 tournaments. He has won only eight tournaments just once: the Las Vegas Invitational (1996), Byron Nelson Classic (1997), BellSouth Classic (1998), Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (2000), Canadian Open (2000), Players Championship (2001), Deutsche Bank Championship (2006) and Wells Fargo Championship (2007). The only events he continues to play are The Players, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo.

Woods won what is now the Cadillac Championship on six courses (Valderrama, Mount Juliet, Capital City, Harding Park, The Grove, Doral), the Accenture Match Play Championship on two courses (La Costa, Gallery at Dove Mountain), Tournament of Champions on two courses (La Costa, Kapalua) and the Tour Championship on two courses (Champions, East Lake). In the majors, he has won the British Open on two courses (St. Andrews twice, Hoylake) and the PGA Championship on three courses (Medinah twice, Southern Hills, Valhalla).

He has won two tournaments at La Costa (Tournament of Champions, Match Play twice), Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open seven times, U.S. Open), Pebble Beach (National Pro-Am, U.S. Open) and Doral (Ford Open twice, Cadillac twice).

The last time Woods won a tournament the first time seeing the course as a pro – except for majors and WGC events – was the 1998 BellSouth Classic at the TPC Sugarloaf.

Of the 34 golf courses on which he has won on the PGA Tour, only five have been on original TPC designs: Boston, Sawgrass, Sugarloaf, Summerlin, Las Colinas.

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Breakdown of Woods’ 77 PGA Tour wins shows consistency at courses

Notebook: Many players vying for few Masters berths via world ranking

ORLANDO, Fla. — Geoff Ogilvy was thrilled to get into the mix for the Masters with his runner-up finish at the Honda Classic, going from No. 79 to No. 47 in the world ranking. Three weeks later, he is lucky to still be on the bubble.

Ogilvy had a 73-74 weekend at Doral, a 76-72 weekend at Innisbrook and he missed the cut at Bay Hill. Because no one else did much around him, Ogilvy has slipped only three spots to No. 50 in the world.

SHELL HOUSTON OPEN

Full leaderboardGolf on TVPhotos: Golf around the worldWoods returns to world No. 1, McIlroy slips to secondMcIlroy and Woods text after Woods reclaims No. 1 spotNew Nike ad about Woods creates social media stormNotebook: Many players vying for precious Masters spotsBreakdown of Woods’ wins shows success at favorite coursesIs Woods back? We might find out at MastersMcIlroy searching for swing path against strong field in Houston

The trick now is to stay there.

After this week, the top 50 in the world are eligible for the Masters. Ogilvy not only has to play well this week in the Shell Houston Open, he has to hope no one else around has a big week either in Houston or points beyond.

Henrik Stenson (53), David Lynn (55), Charles Howell III (57) and Luke Guthrie (58) are at Redstone for the Houston Open, which offers a lot of points because of the strong field. Thongchai Jaidee is at No. 59 and is playing the Chiangmai Golf Classic in Thailand. Stephen Gallacher (64) and Rafael Cabrera-Bello (65) are playing the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco on the European Tour.

Players abroad might have to win because of the weak fields. Lynn is already in the Masters based on his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship last year, though he still could have a bearing on the top 50.

Freddie Jacobson is at No. 46. He withdrew from the Houston Open, though he would appear to be safe.

It’s similar to four years ago, when a 64 by Prayad Marksaeng on the final day in Thailand got him into the top 50. He bumped out Davis Love III, who finished at No. 51 by a fraction of a point behind a South African hardly anyone knew back then: Louis Oosthuizen.

VIJAY OUT: Vijay Singh withdrew from the Houston Open for what a tour official said was a knee injury.

The PGA Tour is investigating Singh telling a magazine that he bought deer-antler spray, which is said to have a growth hormone on the tour’s banned list of substances.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the process of the tour’s investigation and a potential appeal is ongoing.

WEIR’S RIB: Mike Weir’s bid to restore his game suffered a setback at Bay Hill when he injured a rib muscle and had to withdraw after 11 holes of the third round. A physical therapist had been out on the course with him as he tried to play through the injury.

Weir said he felt pain when he was on the practice range after his opening round Thursday. He played Friday and shot 70 to make his third cut this year.

The former Masters champ said his doctor in Utah told him he had torn cartilage in his ribs. Weir is taking medication and resting with hopes it will heal in time for him to compete at Augusta National. This is the 10-year anniversary of the Canadian’s playoff win, making him the first left-hander to win the Masters.

SLUMPING: Robert Allenby managed a smile when someone told him to remember to show up Sunday at Bay Hill.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational was the first time that Allenby played on Sunday in a full-field PGA Tour event since the St. Jude Classic last June. Since then, he has missed the cut 16 times in official events and withdrew once. He finished 69th in the Bridgestone Invitational (a World Golf Championship with no cut) and tied for 79th in the McGladrey Classic, where he missed the 54-hole cut after more than 78 players made it to the weekend.

He might not have been around for the weekend at Bay Hill. But when PGA Club Professional Rod Perry made a bogey on the final hole in the final group Friday, that let in eight players, including Allenby. Fittingly, Allenby played with Perry on Saturday.

”I told him, ‘I know you hate to finish with a bogey, but thanks,”’ Allenby said.

DIVOTS: The LPGA Tour’s season finale will be played at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. The Titleholders was held last year at TwinEagles Golf Club across town. The Titleholders also is boosting the biggest prize in women’s golf to $700,000 for the winner. Na Yeon Choi earned $500,000 last year. … Tiger Woods has won his last nine PGA Tour events by at least two shots. … Keegan Bradley cracked the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time with his tie for third at Bay Hill. He became the 89th player to reach the top 10 since the ranking began in 1986. Justin Rose, the runner-up at Bay Hill, moved up to a career-best No. 3. … Tiger Woods won for the sixth time on a Monday, only one of them planned – the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2006, which traditionally ends on Labor Day. … Rory McIlroy is playing the Houston Open pro-am with former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and race car owner Roger Penske.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has won $7,319,360 in his career at Bay Hill. That’s more than the total prize money combined from the first 13 years of the Arnold Palmer Invitational ($6,702,910).

FINAL WORD: ”The pre-shot routine used to be one sentence. Now it’s a paragraph.” – Johnny Miller.

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Notebook: Many players vying for few Masters berths via world ranking

McIlroy searching for swing against strong field at Shell Houston Open

HUMBLE, Texas — Once the frost thawed, Rory McIlroy was back at work Wednesday morning trying to find a swing he could trust and repeat.

McIlroy hasn’t looked anything like the No. 1 player in golf this year, and now he’s not. That spot belongs to Tiger Woods again after winning for the third time in two months to establish himself as the favorite going into the Masters.

SHELL HOUSTON OPEN

Full leaderboardGolf on TVPhotos: Golf around the worldWoods returns to world No. 1, McIlroy slips to secondMcIlroy and Woods text after Woods reclaims No. 1 spotNew Nike ad about Woods creates social media stormNotebook: Many players vying for precious Masters spotsBreakdown of Woods’ wins shows success at favorite coursesIs Woods back? We might find out at MastersMcIlroy searching for swing path against strong field in Houston

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None of this bothers McIlroy.

He is more concerned with the path of his swing than the mathematical average of his ranking. He wants to win whenever he plays, though there is pragmatic side to the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland. He still hasn’t made the cut against a full field this year.

That makes the Shell Houston Open more than just a final tune-up for the first major of the year. It’s a place to measure progress.

”I want to get back to getting into contention in tournaments and trying to win,” McIlroy said. ”I think this is a good week to try and get into contention, have a chance with the Masters coming up. I’m just really focused on this week in Houston and trying to play well here.”

McIlroy is part of a strong field at the Houston Open, where the tournament tries to give players a taste of what they might see in two weeks. The greens are fast and pure, with several closely mown collection areas that allow for a variety of shots around the green.

The Houston Open thought it was getting the No. 1 player in the world when McIlroy signed up to play Redstone Golf Club in January. It still has five of the top 10 players, including Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker and Louis Oosthuizen.

And it has Phil Mickelson, who likes Houston so much that he would rather be here than his usual schedule of playing the week before the Masters. Because the Masters is a week later than usual based on the calendar – it always ends on the second Sunday of April – the Valero Texas Open was given the spot a week before Augusta.

That change worked out well for McIlroy, who wants to be in Augusta the weekend before the Masters.

”I thought it fit in really nicely,” McIlroy said.

Far more important is what follows over the next few days. Under more scrutiny than he had ever faced – a new place in the game, a new equipment deal with Nike – McIlroy tripped badly coming out of the blocks. He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi. He lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Frustration boiled over to the point that he walked out in the second round of the Honda Classic.

Optimism came from Doral, a World Golf Championship event with no cut. McIlroy not only broke par for the first time all year, he closed with a 65 to crack the top 10. And then he took off for two more weeks, spending part of that time with tennis girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Key Biscayne, Fla., and hitting balls at a public course in Miami.

McIlroy was spotted hitting balls with a carry bag (decked out in Manchester United logos) next to other paying customers at Miami Municipal Golf Course, along with Wozniacki and tennis star Novak Djokovic. It was rare to see a player with McIlroy’s credentials – still No. 1 in the world with two major championships – in such a public setting.

He didn’t understand all the fuss. McIlroy still sees himself as normal.

And in his normal world, he is bound to hit the kind of rough patches he is going through now. And he looked like a regular guy Wednesday morning, sitting in a booth inside the caddie trailer having breakfast with his coach and his caddie, watching sports on TV, perfectly content with his world.

”We go through highs and lows. It’s just sport and that’s golf,” McIlroy said Tuesday during his press conference. ”You’re going to have patches where you play great and have patches where you struggle a little bit. I guess you’ve just got to take the rough … be patient and know that you’re working on right things.”

This should be a good week to figure out where he is.

Success at the Houston Open when it was the week before the Masters didn’t guarantee a big week at Augusta.

Hunter Mahan, the defending champion at Redstone, tied for 12th last year. Mickelson made 18 birdies on the weekend at Houston in 2011 and followed with his worst Masters finish in 14 years. Anthony Kim won Houston and tied for third at the Masters, helped by a 65 on the last day, though he never had a serious chance to win. Paul Casey won in 2009 and didn’t break par at Augusta until the final round.

For McIlroy, it’s all about taking baby steps closer to where he knows he can be.

Even though he hasn’t won a green jacket, Augusta National is McIlroy’s kind of place. It wasn’t an accident that he had a four-shot lead going into the final round in 2011. And last year, he was one shot out of the lead until he crashed on the weekend.

And while he hasn’t played in two weeks, he had least has some positive memories from his most recent round.

”The things that I’m trying to work on are definitely becoming a lot more comfortable,” McIlroy said. ”I’ve seen enough good signs. The weekend at Doral was great and the way I’ve been hitting the ball recently. I’ve just got to keep working on it and keep working on it and … I definitely feel like it’s going in the right direction.”

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McIlroy searching for swing against strong field at Shell Houston Open

Molinari confident about his Masters chances at Hassan II Trophy event

AGADIR, Morocco — Francesco Molinari is targeting a victory in the Hassan II Trophy after playing in the pre-tournament pro-am with the Crown Prince of Morocco, HRH Prince Moulay Rachid.

Established by the late King of Morocco in 1971, the event is celebrating its 40th anniversary edition this week, with His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid marking the occasion by participating in the pro-am at the Golf du Palais Royal.

HASSAN II TROPHY

Golf on TVWhat’s in the winners’ bagsPhotos: Golf around the worldHoey happy to return to ‘James Bond’ courseMolinari confident about Masters chances

Molinari, the highest ranked player in the field at 39th in the Official World Golf Ranking, was given the honor of partnering His Highness, who plays off a handicap of 12, before the European Tour event gets underway on Thursday.

“It was a great privilege for me to play with the prince,” said Molinari. “I had the chance to meet him last night and he is a very nice, down to earth guy. He just loves his golf and is very knowledgeable about the game and the top players.

“It is not every day that you get the chance to play golf with royalty, so it is a very humbling experience for me.”

Molinari is confident that his game is getting back to its best as the first major championship of the season approaches.

Currently one of two players in the field heading to the Masters (the other is two-time champion Jose María Olazabal), the 30-year-old Italian is aware of his pre-tournament favorite status, but is doing his best to ignore the fact he will be a marked man this week.

“My game is getting there,” he said. “I took a lot of time off at the start of the year to get ready for the whole season so have just been getting better over the last few weeks.

“I played okay in America and just need to play a bit more competitive golf,” he added. “If I can have a good scoring week here and play well, then I will be ready for Augusta.

“It’s never easy to be the top ranked guy in the field,” he explained. “I have had that in the past, but you have to try not to think about and try to do the best I can.

“There are so many other good players in the field this week that you can’t start to think that you should be doing well because you are one of the favorites to win. You just have to try and play the golf course and take your chances when they come.”

Original source: 

Molinari confident about his Masters chances at Hassan II Trophy event

McIlroy tries to find form going to Masters

HUMBLE, Texas (AP) — Once the frost thawed, Rory McIlroy was back at work Wednesday morning trying to find a swing he could trust and repeat.

McIlroy hasn’t looked anything like the No. 1 player in golf this year, and now he’s not. That spot belongs to Tiger Woods again after winning for the third time in two months to establish himself as the favorite going into the Masters.

None of this bothers McIlroy.

He is more concerned with the path of his swing than the mathematical average of his ranking. He wants to win whenever he plays, though there is pragmatic side to the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland. He still hasn’t made the cut against a full field this year.

That makes the Houston Open more than just a final tuneup for the first major of the year. It’s a place to measure progress.

“I want to get back to getting into contention in tournaments and trying to win,” McIlroy said. “I think this is a good week to try and get into contention, have a chance with the Masters coming up. I’m just really focused on this week in Houston and trying to play well here.”

McIlroy is part of a strong field at the Houston Open, where the tournament tries to give players a taste of what they might see in two weeks. The greens are fast and pure, with several closely mown collection areas that allow for a variety of shots around the green.

The Houston Open thought it was getting the No. 1 player in the world when McIlroy signed up to play Redstone Golf Club in January. It still has five of the top 10 players, including Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker, Louis Oosthuizen and Steve Stricker.

And it has Phil Mickelson, who likes Houston so much that he would rather be here than his usual schedule of playing the week before the Masters. Because the Masters is a week later than usual based on the calendar — it always ends on the second Sunday of April — the Texas Open was given the spot a week before Augusta.

That change worked out well for McIlroy, who wants to be in Augusta the weekend before the Masters.

“I thought it fit in really nicely,” McIlroy said.

Far more important is what follows over the next few days. Under more scrutiny than he had ever faced — a new place in the game, a new equipment deal with Nike — McIlroy tripped badly coming out of the blocks. He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi. He lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship. Frustration boiled over to the point that he walked out in the second round of the Honda Classic.

Optimism came from Doral, a World Golf Championship event with no cut. McIlroy not only broke par for the first time all year, he closed with a 65 to crack the top 10. And then he took off for two more weeks, spending part of that time with tennis girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Key Biscayne, Fla., and hitting balls at a public course in Miami.

McIlroy was spotted hitting balls with a carry bag (decked out in Manchester United logos) next to other paying customers at Miami Municipal Golf Course. It was rare to see a player with McIlroy’s credentials — still No. 1 in the world with two major championships — in such a public setting.

He didn’t understand all the fuss. McIlroy still sees himself as normal.

And in his normal world, he is bound to hit the kind of rough patches he is going through now. And he looked like a regular guy Wednesday morning, sitting in a booth inside the caddie trailer having breakfast with his coach and his caddie, watching sports on TV, perfectly content with his world.

“We go through highs and lows. It’s just sport and that’s golf,” McIlroy said Tuesday during his press conference. “You’re going to have patches where you play great and have patches where you struggle a little bit. I guess you’ve just got to take the rough … be patient and know that you’re working on right things.”

This should be a good week to figure out where he is.

Success at the Houston Open when it was the week before the Masters didn’t guarantee a big week at Augusta.

Hunter Mahan, the defending champion at Redstone, tied for 12th last year. Mickelson made 18 birdies on the weekend at Houston in 2011 and followed with his worst Masters finish in 14 years. Anthony Kim won Houston and tied for third at the Masters, helped by a 65 on the last day, though he never had a serious chance to win. Paul Casey won in 2009 and didn’t break par at Augusta until the final round.

For McIlroy, it’s all about taking baby steps closer to where he knows he can be.

Even though he hasn’t won a green jacket, Augusta National is McIlroy’s kind of place. It wasn’t an accident that he had a four-shot lead going into the final round in 2011. And last year, he was one shot out of the lead until he crashed on the weekend.

And while he hasn’t played in two weeks, he had least has some positive memories from his most recent round.

“The things that I’m trying to work on are definitely becoming a lot more comfortable,” McIlroy said. “I’ve seen enough good signs. The weekend at Doral was great and the way I’ve been hitting the ball recently. I’ve just got to keep working on it and keep working on it and … I definitely feel like it’s going in the right direction.”

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McIlroy tries to find form going to Masters

Last bullet in chamber for Augusta-chasing Europeans

(Reuters) – Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello leads a host of top European names hoping to qualify for the first major of the year at the U.S. Masters next month when the European Tour travels to Morocco for the Hassan II Trophy starting on Thursday.

Cabrera-Bello put the theft of his personal possessions behind him en route to last week’s weather-hit Malaysian Open to finish tied-22nd and with a ranking of 65 he is closing in on a Masters’ debut with a place in the top 50.

“The main reason I am here is to try to win this tournament and get into The Masters,” the Spaniard told the European Tour website (www.europeantour.com), with the April 11-14 Masters looming large on the horizon.

“This is my last chance to do it this year, the last bullet in the chamber if you like, and I am going to give it my best shot,” added the twice European Tour winner.

“Hopefully, I can continue to play well and if the door opens a little bit on Sunday afternoon here then I can take my chance.”

The other four names who can book their Masters place with victory in Morocco are Scots Stephen Gallacher (64), Richie Ramsay (73) and Scott Jamieson (74) plus German Marcel Siem (72).

(Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, Editing by John Mehaffey)

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Last bullet in chamber for Augusta-chasing Europeans

Golf-Last bullet in chamber for Augusta-chasing Europeans

March 27 (Reuters) – Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello leads a host of top European names hoping to qualify for the first major of the year at the U.S. Masters next month when the European Tour travels to Morocco for the Hassan II Trophy starting on Thursday.

Cabrera-Bello put the theft of his personal possessions behind him en route to last week’s weather-hit Malaysian Open to finish tied-22nd and with a ranking of 65 he is closing in on a Masters’ debut with a place in the top 50.

“The main reason I am here is to try to win this tournament and get into The Masters,” the Spaniard told the European Tour website (www.europeantour.com), with the April 11-14 Masters looming large on the horizon.

“This is my last chance to do it this year, the last bullet in the chamber if you like, and I am going to give it my best shot,” added the twice European Tour winner.

“Hopefully, I can continue to play well and if the door opens a little bit on Sunday afternoon here then I can take my chance.”

The other four names who can book their Masters place with victory in Morocco are Scots Stephen Gallacher (64), Richie Ramsay (73) and Scott Jamieson (74) plus German Marcel Siem (72). (Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, Editing by John Mehaffey)

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Golf-Last bullet in chamber for Augusta-chasing Europeans

Poulter lifts Albany past Lake Nona to victory in Tavistock Cup exhibition

WINDERMERE, Fla. — Ian Poulter birdied the first hole of a playoff to lift Albany past Lake Nona in the Tavistock Cup on Tuesday, ending Lake Nona’s event winning streak at four in the team tournament.

Poulter shot an even-par 72 at Isleworth, then teamed with Tiger Woods in the best-ball playoff against Lake Nona’s Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson.

Albany tied Lake Nona at 7 over, with Woods and Tim Clark shooting 73, and Justin Rose finishing with a 77. The event was shortened to one day of stroke play because of the Monday finish in Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McDowell had a 71 to lead Lake Nona. Ross Fisher had a 72, Stenson shot 74, and Peter Hanson 78.

Primland and Isleworth tied for third at 8 over, Oak Tree was 12 over and Queenwood 20 over.

Primland’s Webb Simpson had the best round, shooting 70.

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Poulter lifts Albany past Lake Nona to victory in Tavistock Cup exhibition

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