McGinley watches on at the Masters

The first major of the year came to a conclusion yesterday as Bubba Watson put on his second green jacket in three years. But walking around the greens, Paul McGinley had other things on his mind as he was on the look out for the European talents who will be wanting to make the short list for his Ryder Cup side this September.

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

Jonas Blixt was one of the outstanding performers from this weekend but when asked about his chances for a place in this year’s competition, the Swede stuttered and was unable to mention the captain’s name. Blixt finished second overall alongside young American, Jordan Speith, on five under par after a round of 71 on the final day. For the second consecutive major, he has finished in the top five after doing so in the US PGA Championship and his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed from the captain. He reiterated that he is the man for the big occasion but it will depend on whether he can hold this consistency going into the summer.

50 year old, Miguel Angel Jimenez had a strong finish on the final day as he too recorded a round of 71, pushing him up to four under par. The Mechanic was paired up with Rickie Fowler on the final day as the contest between the young and the experienced captivated the crowds in Augusta. On Saturday, the Spaniard produced one of his best rounds in this tournament, recording a round of 66 after taking advantage of the cool conditions but unfortunately his chances had been hindered by his poor score the day before. He has already featured in the Ryder Cup and featured as a captain last time out but he wants to prove that he still has the composure to play in the team again.

Lee Westwood finished seventh on the leaderboard as he still craves his first major. The Englishman still felt he was in contention going into the final day but he was unable to catch the leaders who failed to falter. Undoubtedly, he will be a favourite to feature in this year’s line up along with McIlroy, Rose and Poulter. It was an encouraging performance from all the British hopefuls but the general consensus was the inability to conquer the par fives. Watson made the longer holes look easy with his powerful drive enabling him to reach the green in two but the Brits were forced to rely on their short game more often after staggering up the large fairways.

There is plenty of time left for McGinley to make his picks but the Americans will be pleased with what they have seen this weekend in particularly from their younger players such as Jordan Speith and Rickie Fowler. But what must be remembered is that this year’s match up will come from Gleneagles and until we see how they perform on a links course, will we be able to predict the outcome.

 

Women’s Super League Preview

The Women’s Super League will get under way this April and the popularity has increased season by season. It’s the highest division in the female game here in the UK and teams are starting to attract some of the big names from elsewhere in Europe and in particularly Asia where the game is thriving. Here is a preview looking at the teams to watch out for this year.

Birmingham City:

The Blues have had great success over the past few years in the WSL finishing as runners up in 2011 and then again the following year. In 2012, they won the women’s FA Cup beating Chelsea and their second place finish in the league enabled them to qualify into the Champions League alongside Arsenal. Most recently, the two faced off in the quarter finals of the European competition and the Midland outfit came off as the winners over two legs and will now play in the semi-finals against Swedish side, Tyreso who have the Brazilian and five time player of the year, Marta, in their side.

Unfortunately, last year the team finished fourth meaning they missed out on a place in the next Champions League campaign but this could be a blessing as this allows more concentration to be put into the league campaign. Manager, David Parker, has assembled a very young squad for this season with the average age calculating at 23. The strikers are especially younger but they have a great pairing up front with former Liverpool striker, Hannah Keryakopolis teaming up with England veteran, Karen Carney.

Liverpool:

Liverpool Ladies claimed their first Super League title last year and much of their success was due to the way they and the club organised their training. Originally the team would train once a week but now they train four times a week at Liverpool’s training ground, Melwood and have been pictured working alongside the men.  Great investment has gone into the female side after years of failure when the team would often finish bottom of the division. They signed 12 new players last season including Fara Williams, another England international, and Icelandic star, Katrin Omarsdottier. As well as Omarsdottier, Liverpool have an array of foreign talent from Sweden and Germany which made them one of the hardest teams to beat last year and they look on course for another solid season under Matt Beard.

Arsenal and Chelsea:

Originally when you think of women’s football you look to the Gunners who have always had a strong side and have been pictured year after year lifting cups on the television. They won the first two Super League campaigns following on from their decade of domination under the Premier League but have had their authority challenged recently. They missed out on European qualification in 2013 for only the second time in their history after finishing third. To tackle this problem, the club have made big acquisitions by signing Japanese duo, Yukari Yinga and Shinobu Ohno. On top of this, Dutch defender, Anouk Hoogendijk has joined the team along with England’s Casey Stoney and Siobhan Chamberlain.

Staying in London and on the blue side of the city, Chelsea have started to take the Super League seriously themselves as they hope to challenge at the top. After Matt Beard left the club following defeat in the FA Cup final to Birmingham, Emma Hayes was appointed as manager. She has managed to bring in Ji So Yun from South Korea who Hayes is very excited about. Along with them, she has managed to convince Katie Chapman and Gilly Flaherty to make the switch from Arsenal. The club are building for the future as the women’s game continues to grow from strength to strength and so Hayes hopes bringing in a mix of youth and experience will help push the club in the right direction.

Also competing in this season’s Super League:

  •          Bristol Academy (2nd last year)
  •          Everton
  •          Manchester City Ladies
  •          Notts County Ladies

It all kicks off on the 16th April and 10 more teams will compete in the Women’s Super League 2, the second tier of women’s football.

Record crowd in Leeds

The Premier League of Darts came to Leeds last Thursday and the event was performed in front of a record crowd, creating an atmosphere that stunned the players. Phil Taylor, Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen reflected on another great league meeting that is helping to increase the appeal of darts.

The First Direct Arena held 11,000 fans for week seven where Van Gerwen and Taylor picked up two points whilst the rest of the pack shared out draws. ‘Mighty Mike’ now moves up to first and Taylor continues to move up the table after a terrible start to his campaign. For ‘The Power’, it is a move in the right direction and the noise of the crowd was much appreciated by the 16 time World Champion.

Taylor said: “Fantastic! Absolutely brilliant. I cannot fault them. I never thought in a million years we would get a crowd like this in Leeds, I’ll be honest with you. I thought maybe 4- 5,000, but this has blown my socks off.”

Peter Wright kept up his unbeaten streak in his debut season in the league after coming back to draw 6-6 with Raymond van Barneveld thanks to a massive 161 checkout – the highest finish of the night. Unfortunately, this point drops him down to second but he is still firmly in contention of  a place in the play-offs. He too was impressed with the crowd but he is still in favour of his home crowd back in Glasgow.

Source: Lawrence Lustig, PDC.

Source: Lawrence Lustig, PDC.

He said: “I’d have to say I prefer Glasgow – sorry Leeds, but this is definitely the second best venue I have played at at the moment. It was amazing.”

The colourful Wright will take on his new rival, van Gerwen in Dublin, a game which could prove to be the preview for this year’s final and the young Dutchman is looking very comfortable too and believes he will be there at the O2 come May as well. He is very much enjoying his place at the top and feels fearless now being the world number one.

“I was really confident when I came into this Premier League season”, said van Gerwen.

“But this has also put more pressure on me and I think I’m handling it quite well, I’ve already won 3 pro tour events and I’m doing really well. I’m feeling really good and I want to continue that.”

Over the past two years the prize money has increased by £100,000 and the season has been stretched by seven days. With Sky Sports continuing to showcase the meetings as the highlight of their Thursday night programming, maybe the event will move to Fridays to help increase the viewing figures even more. Either way, it seems everybody wants a ticket to the darts. 

Source: Lawrence Lustig, PDC.

Source: Lawrence Lustig, PDC.

What England have learnt

Even though England didn’t win the Six Nations they have certainly learnt a lot from this year’s competition. With the World Cup just a year away, Stuart Lancaster will be pleased with what he has seen from his team in the past two months.

England finished second in the group, narrowly losing out on the title through goal difference to Ireland who secured their first championship win in five years. Despite this, England still retained the Calcutta Cup and the Millennium Trophy and they also won the triple crown for the first time since 2003 . Last time they did this they went on to win the World Cup in Australia. triple crown

This year’s tournament was the first for many of Lancaster’s selections. These picks have proven to be vital as the players who have shone through in these matches will have an advantage over those who didn’t for selection on next year’s roster. Jonny May and Jack Nowell have both proven to be influential wingers who’s impressive displays for Exeter and Gloucester have been reflected on to the national stage. Billy Vunipola has looked a lot more comfortable in the shirt this series and put in a brilliant display at number 8 against Ireland. After an impressive run in the Bath sqaud, George Ford also gained a couple of caps in the squad.

One set of positions which England looks to be thriving in is at 12 and 13. Luther Burrell has been the player of the competition according to many of the pundits after scoring three tries in five starts. Alongside him, Billy Twelvetrees has established himself as a regular name on the team sheet but will be competing with Manuel Tuilagi who made his return against Italy yesterday, scoring a try after coming on as a substitute.

danny care

Danny Care of Harlequins

Danny Care has been a very influential scrum half for England and has easily taken the limelight away from his rival Ben Youngs of Leicester. He put in a commanding display against Wales, setting the team into motion after just four minutes with a try of a quick run from a penalty.  Care was the dominate number that day, making his counterpart Rhys Webb look sheepish.

The most consistent player from this year’s Six Nations has been Owen Farrell who has been in perfect kicking form. He has converted 13 trys and has notched up 33 points from penalties this year, a remarkable record which has kept Ford waiting on the sidelines. It has been a good campaign for Mike Brown too who has now made 26 appearances for his country and is the favourite to hold his position at full back come next summer.

As a team, England have been a lot more influential going forward which before Lancaster took charge, was a consistent factor in their poor performances. They have created a lot more opportunities on the break and look a lot more patient than before when the phases looked rushed and not thought out. However, many would say that no matter how much stronger England look going forward, at the back, it is still not stable. As evident in the opening match against France, the team were slow from the start and were poorly positioned and this cost them at the end too. Even yesterday, just a minor lapse in concentration saw Italy race over for a try with just ten minutes to play.

The Autumn Internationals will be very important this year and will prove whether or not this latest batch of young talent has what it takes to lift the Webb Ellis Cup at Twickenham next year.

Can Darts be an Olympic Sport?

From the wall of your local tavern to the main stage of the biggest international sporting event on the planet. Originally, it was a game contested by drunks, one in which little effort was given and could eventually turn dangerous if somebody had had one too many. But now, this traditional pub pastime has become one of the most watched sports in Britain and most of Europe. The International Olympic Committee may sit up and take notice.

To become a recognised sport at the Olympics, the game must incorporate respect, excellence and friendship according to the Olympic values. The sport must also have a well organised federation that administers the game and must put forward a strong campaign towards the IOC. Darts has been previously constrained by its roots from the local watering hole but the game has been developed to suit these requirements. Since 1992, the World Darts Federation has been the game’s governing body with the Professional Darts Corporation and the British Darts Organisation setting up their own competitions. And in 1989, beer was removed from the stage by the BDO, a move which has helped set up fitter idolised figures such as James Wade and Stephen Bunting in place of a wobbling Andy Fordham.

'The Power' AKA Phil Taylor along side creator of the Premier League, Barry Hearn.

‘The Power’ AKA Phil Taylor along side creator of the Premier League, Barry Hearn.

Darts is still a sport which attracts a rowdy audience but over the past nine years has become a televised feature on the sporting calendar. In relation to the PDC, events such as the World Championships, the Premier League, the World Matchplay and the Masters have become iconic competitions due to the new entertainers of the game. Players such as Michael van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Andy Hamilton have popularised the sport by showing off their wacky personalities at the ochey. It is no longer a one man game owned by ‘The Power’. The level of competition has increased and because of this has engaged a larger audience. Sky’s coverage of the 2014 PDC World Championship final received 960,000 views, 100,000 more than BT Sport’s coverage of Southampton vs Chelsea on the same day.

Questions will be raised whether the sport has an international appeal or whether it is simply a game made of the British Isles and the Netherlands. Arguably this is similar to a lot of sports which is dominated by geographical areas such as Badminton. At the 2012 Olympics, 78 of the 172 competitors were from Asia – over half, with 17 of them from China. Against this view, it should be noted that the last PDC World Cup of Darts featured 24 different countries including participants from Gibraltar, South Africa and Japan, and South Africa almost caused the shock of the tournament, narrowly losing out to England in the quarter final, 5-4 on legs. Although it’s a tournament that has only had three editions, it has become so successful that it has been authorised to be moved to June, which will precede the FIFA World Cup. Let’s not forget that rugby sevens will feature at the games in 2016 which is also a game dominated by just Britain and Oceania. Rio-Olympics-2016-logo-640x360

Both of this year’s World Championships have sold out at Lakeside and the Alexandra Palace and this has probably caused a boom in the fancy dress market as well. Due to its nature, darts hasn’t come under consideration from the IOC in the past yet chess and tug of war are already recognised sports. Football on the other hand has featured in the Olympics since 1900, a game which has been tainted by hooliganism in the past. Surely it’s just a matter of time before the IOC looks past the imperfect image of this old public house game.

What’s up with Phil?

It’s been an unusual start to the Premier League season for Phil Taylor who is currently joint bottom of the table after two defeats from two weeks. On Thursday night, he was beaten by England’s number two, Adrian Lewis, who he had beaten the previous weekend at the UK Open qualifiers, winning 6-2. This time around he was demolished 7-3 and at one point was 5-0 down. philtaylor_1913862a

‘The Power’ went twelve games without scoring a leg after he lost on the opening week to new world number one, Michael van Gerwen, 7-0. Just two days later, Taylor went on to record a twelve dart finish against Lewis to win his qualifier in Wigan.

Both van Gerwen and Lewis have sympathised with the great Taylor, claiming his recent downfall has been due to his weight loss and change in darts.

van Gerwen said to Sky Sports: “He didn’t play his top game and I know that. He didn’t look confident but when Phil picks up a new set of darts, he needs a couple of weeks. Even though he was still averaging 100, Phil can usually average about 105 or 110.”

Taylor may have not looked himself but the opponents he has has played have been in a rich vane of form this year. The Dutchman, ‘Mighty Mike’, is the Premier League champion and the new World Champion meaning he is the man to beat. In his opening match he averaged 109, a massive figure to hold in the opening week. Lewis had a fruitful campaign at the Ally Pally making it to the semi-finals before losing to the eventual champion, MVG. Last year he began his Premier League campaign woefully but since then has looked a more comfortable player winning the European Championships and finishing as the runner up at the Matchplay and the Masters.

This is a worrying time for Taylor. After year after year of success many are awaiting his departure from the world stage so that a new generation of competition at the top can begin. At 53, he is the most successful man in sport but at the moment he is looking very inconsistent. Last year, he won the World Championships but was remembered for his outburst with Raymond van Barneveld in the semi-final. At this year’s tournament, he was removed in round two by Mark Webster who was a candidate for a place in the Premier League this year. These may just be small signs but the level of competition looks a lot more fierce with Peter Wright joining the ranks of tough competitors such as Robert Thornton and Barney who he has struggled against in the past.

When will Phil feel it’s time to step back from the ockey.

Source: Daily Mail

Source: Daily Mail
Phil Taylor in no mood to talk to Barney after his semi final victory last year at the PDC World Championships.

A stuttered start for England

England made a slow start to their Six Nations campaign after losing 26-24 away in France due to a bleak beginning and a weak ending.

With just two minutes to go, Gael Fickou was fed the ball left hand side just a few metres from the touchline, who went on to run behind the posts to give Maxine Machenaud an easy kick to convert.

Stuart Lancaster gave first team debuts to two players yesterday, winger Jack Norwell of Exeter and try scorer Leroy Burrell. Danny Care came in at scrum half and made a notable impact scoring a drop goal in the second half which gave England the brief lead.

Unfortunately, England made a slow start to the game with France scoring a try after 30 seconds thanks to Yoann Huget who scored another 17 minutes later after a bounce caught Alex Goode and Norwell allowing the winger to grab his second.

Source: Rugby World

Source: Rugby World

The visitors came back in it just before the break adding a try on to Owen Farrell’s earlier penalty as Mike Brown touched down in the corner to make the score 16-8 at half time.

After the break, England looked the stronger side and after Burrell got his try thanks to a great charge from Billy Vunipola, beating a number of defenders before the ball was run under the posts. Farrell went on to convert before Care added another three points to the score to give England a 21-16 lead.

Two further penalties were exchanged by both as Machaud and Goode replied to each other’s kicks but it was the French whose timed assault on the lead that proved to be the difference.

Despite the defeat, Lancaster was proud of his team’s performance and his positive thoughts insinuate that the team are still in it to win it.

He told BBC Sport: “I thought the boys showed incredible character and resilience and a lot of skill to put us in a position to win it. But a bit of French flair at the end and they got the win but it’s a difficult place to come.

“I thought our young players learned a lot today and I’m proud of them.”

The holders Wales got their campaign off to a winning start with an unconvincing display over Italy who battled hard in the second half to reduce the defeat to 23-15. Leigh Halfpenny scored 13 of his side’s points with his boot whilst Michele Campagnaro latched on to two mistakes made by the home side to give his side two scores in Cardiff. The trys from Wales came from Alex Cuthbert and Scott Williams which put the hosts 14-0 up early on.

Source: Channel Four

Source: Channel Four

Ireland also began the tournament with a win after thrashing Scotland 28-6 thanks to trys from Andrew Trimble, Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney. Jonny Sexton scored 13 points for the hosts whilst Greig Laidlaw scored two penalties for the visitors.

England will now travel up to Scotland for their next game whilst Ireland take on Wales with the remaining game being contested abroad between Italy and France.

Is this van Gerwen’s year?

Tonight Michael Van Gerwen will take on Adrian Lewis in the biggest match of the tournament as they compete for a place in the PDC World Championship final. With no Phil Taylor awaiting in the other side of the draw, surely this is a chance for the young Dutchman to claim the first title of 2014.

‘Mighty Mike’ came through a gruelling quarter final match against Mark Webster as he almost threw away a 4-1 lead but luckily held out to win 5-3. Van Gerwen stormed into an early lead averaging an incredible 115 after the first two sets and he checked out on some high totals including 128 in the third. But the ‘Spider’ crawled back as he upped his average to 102 by the fifth set as it looked like the 24 year old was about to bottle it. However, the ‘Green Machine’ kept composed and checked out on 114 and then 90 to finish the match.

Despite the win, Van Gerwen was far from happy with his performance and realises he has to raise his game if he is to beat the two time World Champion in the next round.

He said: “I didn’t play well after that (third set). I’m not happy with it at all. The last couple of sets I played absolutely rubbish. It’s something to practice on, but I’m not happy with my game at the moment.”

During the Premier League season, Van Gerwen was high on confidence and this was a key reason why he strolled to the league title. At last year’s World Championships, he was exhibited some sensational darts. Everyone can remember his unbelievable 9 darter against James Wade which almost amounted to 18 perfect darts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQT3jTG3Oyw

There is a real contrast between the Van Gerwen from last year and the one on show this year yet the Dutchman has an even better chance of winning the title this year with the world number one taking an early exit.

The other semi final consists of the colourful Peter Wright and ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Simon Whitlock. Both of them are exceptional players and Wright looks to be the form of his life after his huge wins over the giant killer Michael Smith and Wes Newton. However, many fans will agree that the winner between Lewis and Van Gerwen will be the favourites for the final due to the outstanding performances they have shown this season.

'Snakebite' is the favourite for the other semi final.

‘Snakebite’ is the favourite for the other semi final.

Going by form, Lewis looks the slight favourite for tonight’s semi after he demolished a weak looking James Wade 5-1. He has looked very comfortable this year, dropping just three legs throughout his run to the semi finals. With two world titles already under his belt, experience could be the difference.

Van Gerwen may not look his best, but going by the statistics, the Dutchman is playing as well as his rival. Lewis holds a tournament average of 96.67 whilst Van Gerwen is hitting around 96.27. ‘Jackpot’s’ highest checkout this year is 146 whilst Mighty Mike is slightly lower on 144 yet he has hit the most 180′s this year.

Arguably, this will be the biggest match of the tournament, with the winner likely to go on and win the title.

Championship Contenders

This year’s race for promotion is looking very close with many teams fighting it out for a place in the Premier League next season. Here’s a look at the teams pushing for the automatic places and some picks for the play offs.

Burnley:

Sean Dyke has become known as the Jose Mourinho of the championship as he has pushed Burnley beyond the call of duty as they sit at the top of the pile. Almost half way through the season and the Clarets have 43 points, having lost just two games. They had a racing start to the campaign but they have slowed down in their last 10 games having won just four yet this only includes one defeat. Danny Ings has been the side’s goal threat with 13 goals, one of which he added on the weekend in the side’s 2-1 win over Blackpool at Turf Moor. Typically if you are top at Christmas then danny ingsyou are in strong contention for the title but with only one point separating them from the play off places it will be interesting to see if Dyke’s men can hold it together over the busy festive period.

Queens Park Rangers:

QPR are the favourites for promotion this year and have lived up to expectations running just a point of the pace. Harry Redknapp has removed the dead wood rotting at the club including Christopher Samba, Jose Bosingwa, Ji Sung Park and Djibril Cisse. The squad is filled with young talent including Danny Simpson, Charlie Austin and Spurs loanee Tom Carroll. In particular, Austin has had a very impressive season as he stands as the league’s third top goal scorer. What makes Redknapp’s side so strong is the collection of young and experienced British players who know what it likes to play in the Premier League which will make them a much more stable side next year. Joey Barton, Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha are all key players who he will need to hang on to in January. The club has the money to make further investments in the next transfer window and by bringing in players now, the club can begin to gel a bigger squad needed for the Premier League next season.

Leicester City:

Leicester are another side who are backed by wealth and for the first time in almost a decade, the Foxes look like potential promotion contenders. Like Rangers, Nigel Pearson has a great depth of experience including Paul Konchesky, Sean St Ledger and Gary Taylor Flethcer. David Nugent, who has always been a striker with potential, is enjoying his most fruitful spell as he now has 39 goals in his Blues career. This is certainly a different picture to a few seasons ago under Sven where Darius Vassell was leading the attack. Unfortunately they are quite inconsistent with results lately but they are right at the top in touching distance of Burnley and they have some big games coming up including Reading on Boxing Day as well as Derby and Leeds just after the New Year which will be pivotal games for the club.

Derby and Leeds:

Both Derby and Leeds look like strong contenders for automatic promotion. The Rams are on an incredible run of form at the moment, currently on a seven game win streak, just two points off second. Craig Martin and Craig Bryson are a remarkable partnership in front of goal with a share of 20 goals between them. It is helpful that County’s midfield is filled with strong play makers including Will Hughes and Jeff chris-martin-derbyHindrick. Leeds are quite far off with 34 points but are still in the hunt for a spot in the top two. What makes United so strong is the presence of Ross McCormack upfront. He leads the chase for the golden boot with 16 goals and is on the score sheet week in week out. McDermott has also nurtured Sam Byram who is a promising full back being watched in the Premier League. After guiding Reading to the top division two years ago, fans at Elland Road can’t be blamed for being hopeful.

Play off chasers:

  • Reading
  • Nottingham Forest
  • Brighton
  • Ipswich
  • Blackpool
  • Blackburn
  • Wigan

McIlroy turns it around in Australia

Rory McIlroy ended his year long wait for a title by winning the Australian open beating the home favourite Adam Scott after he birdied the final hole.

McIlroy has faced many problems off the course this year in relation to his management team, his change in sponsorship and his relationship. However, the Northern Irishman insists that he is in a better place after the critical press attention he has received all mcilroyyear.

He said: “I’ve been building confidence for a few weeks now. When I went to Asia, I started to play really well. I’ve worked hard. I’ve put the hours in and I’ve practised hard and finally it’s turned around for me.”

The 24 year old finished on a round of 66 on the final day totalling 18 under on the scorecard. Although Scott broke the course record on the opening day with a round of 62, the Aussie bogeyed on the final hole of the last day and finished narrowly behind of 17 under.

Scott said: “I’m gutted. I felt I’d never have a better chance to win the Aussie Open. I just slightly misjudged a few putts, overplayed the break, missed a lot of putts on the high side and didn’t quite have the eye – and it always gets a lot trickier on the Sunday.”

It was a duel between the two players throughout the final two rounds with each of having opportunities to put the stamp on the match.

Scott led the pack all week but he missed several opportunities to seal the win. He was agonisingly close to getting an eagle on the 13th as his ball shaved the edge of the hole. He then bogeyed on the final hole and allowed his opponent the chance to steal the match.

McIlroy began the day four off the lead but he managed to go 6 under on the day. He scored an eagle on the ninth along with two birdies on the front and the back nine.

It’s been a hard year for the World number 6 who has faced constant criticism from the media. Since joining Nike at the start of the season, he has failed to recapture his form from the past couple of the seasons and this has shown with his lack of titles.

In terms of Majors, McIlroy has only managed to reach the final day of one of the events and that was at the PGA Championships where he finished 8th overall. He finished 25th at the Masters and failed to produce at the US and British Open.

Others have pointed at his relationship for why he has gone off form this season as there was rumours that he and Tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki had broken up. These claims were dismissed by the pair.

In September, he broke up with management team, Horizon Sports, due to a dispute over fees which coincided with his new sponsorship deal in January. This development has been in the back of his mind as the year has gone on and now that it’s almost resolved, he’s finally a contender.

As one of the highest paid players in sport, McIlroy will be expected to be fresh for the major events as he can’t afford to have another poor season if he wants to regain the number one spot.