8am Round-Up: Americans ‘committed’ to Ryder Cup in France

Sandy Jones, pictured with then First Minister Alex Salmond in the build up to the Gleneagles Ryder Cup, is confident the 2018 match will go ahead in France. Picture: Jane Barlow
Sandy Jones, pictured with then First Minister Alex Salmond in the build up to the Gleneagles Ryder Cup, is confident the 2018 match will go ahead in France. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Retiring PGA chief executive Sandy Jones is confident next year’s Ryder Cup in France will go ahead despite fears over terrorism attacks in the country.

It was claimed recently that Gleneagles, where the match was staged three years ago, had been put on standby for the 2018 encounter.

However, Jones believes the event will be played at Le Golf National outside Paris and become just the second in the history of the match to be staged in Continental Europe.

“The Americans are committed to Paris, totally,” he said. “There’s no hint they won’t go.”

Meanwhile, Jones, who is stepping down tomorrow after 25 years as the PGA’s chief executive, is hopeful that Scottish golf will start to pick up again in the near future.

Only one player - Russell Knox - sits inside the world’s top 100 at the moment while the average age of the Scottish card holders on the European Tour this season is 37.

In contrast, English golf is riding on the crest of wave, with 10 players in the world’s top 60 and a record-breaking 11 players flying the flag at next week’s Masters.

“England are way ahead of the Scots,” said Jones. “They have more people obviously but they have engaged much more sincerely with the professional game. The top coaches – the Mike Walkers etc – they have engaged.”

Referring to Scottish Golf, he added: “Under previous management, there was a reluctance to engage with the pros.

“It was almost you do as we tell you, a kind of master and servant relationship. In England, they have listened to us, talked to us and got the best pros in each part of the country working with the counties and helping that development.

“I think our fortunes will change, but the structure needs to change. I’ve been meeting with (Scottish Golf chief executive) Blane Dodds, and I think we are building a relationship were we can be more of an influence.

“The game has to come together. Not the PGA running it or Scottish Golf running. Both sides have to come together and that will make the difference.”

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A decade after trying for second in the event, Catriona Matthew is hoping she can tame high winds in the Californian desert to go one better in this week’s ANA Inspiration, the opening major of the 2017 season.

Gusts between 45-60mph are forecast for today and tomorrow at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, where world No 1 Lydia Ko defends the title.

“Im very excited,” said Matthew of starting her latest campaign in the majors, having landed the Women’s British Open, of course, at Royal Lytham in 2009. “I’ve always enjoyed this course and this place, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s already been windy earlier in week and also supposed to be on Thursday and Friday, so that will be a challenge. Everyone says it never gets windy over here, but I’ve played in enough wind here to know that’s not the case.”

The 47-year-old believes “women’s golf is on the up”, having seen an impressive standard of play on the LPGA so far this season.

“Everyone is upping game and I’ll have to keep working away,” she added.

Matthew tees off in her opening round with Korea’s Sei Young Kim at 1.36pm local time.

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Hazel Irvine, the BBC’s golf anchor since 2009, is to sign off from the role after next week’s Masters, with another Scot, Eilidh Barbour, having been appointed as her replacement.

Irvine, who has been part of the BBC team covering golf for 25 years, said her decision was based on wanting to devote more time to her family.

“After much thought, I have decided that in what is my 30th year in broadcast sport, I want to re-align my on-air commitments around the changing needs of my family,” she said.

“I have loved working with my brilliant friends and colleagues on the BBC golf team and look forward to being in Augusta to see Danny Willett defend his title and to savouring the unique atmosphere of the Masters one more time.”

Barbour, who hails from Dunkeld, was part of the BBC Five Live team at last year’s Open Championship. She tweeted: “Hazel is the standard I aspire to emulate. A huge inspiration to me personally. To follow her is a dream come true.”

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport said of Irvine, who will continue to cover snooker and major events: “It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Hazel having been the familiar face of the sport for 25 years. However, we respect her decision.”

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Jordan Spieth reckons Dustin Johnson is a justified strong favourite heading into next week’s opening major of the season.

With a win and two runner-up finishes under his belt at Augusta National over the last three years, Spieth is feeling confident about his own chances in the Masters, which starts a week today.

However, having watched Johnson record three wins in a row, including two since he became world No 1, the Texan believes he has his work cut out to try and claim a second Green Jacket.

“I think Dustin Johnson is the guy to beat in golf no matter where you are,” said Spieth as he prepared for his final Masters warm up in the Shell Houston Open, which starts today.

“If I play my best golf, I believe that I can take down anybody, and you have to believe that.

“But I think that he is the guy that everyone is saying he’s playing the best golf in the world right now and I don’t think he’s letting up any time soon.”

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Gary Woodland has revealed the tragic reason behind his decision to withdraw from last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Woodland pulled out of the £7.8million event at Austin Country Club due to a ‘’personal family matter” before his second group match with Rory McIlroy.

The 32-year-old did not elaborate at the time, but posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday which read: “Last week I withdrew from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play to be with my wife, Gabby, as there were complications with our recently announced pregnancy with twins.

“Gabby and I have since had to cope with the heartbreaking loss of one of the babies, and our doctors will be closely monitoring the health of my wife and the other baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.

“We appreciate all of the love and support during this difficult time as we regroup as a family. At this point in time, I plan to play the Masters next week.”

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Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy holds a one-shot lead after carding a two-under-par 69 in the opening round of the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Qualifying School stage-one event at The Carrick on Loch Lomond.

Alva amateur Lawrence Allan sits joint-second alongside Robert Menzies (Turnberry Hotel) while Craig Lawrie, with his dad Paul looking on, shot a 72 to lie joint-fifth alongside former Scottish Amateur champion John Gallagher.