Wentworth diary


Compiled by PHILIP REID

Pitch and bobble: McIlroy takes honorary Giants step

US Open champion Rory McIlroy will have one duty to perform in San Francisco before he gets his defence of the Major championship under way at the Olympic Club in three weeks’ time: he will be honorary pitcher at the San Francisco Giants-Houston Astros baseball match on Tuesday night, June 12th.

Indeed, the Giants have promoted McIlroy’s pitching debut as the highlight of their Irish Heritage Night, which will see baseball fans who purchase the special events ticket receive a limited-edition McIlroy bobblehead with the golfer sported out in Giants colours.

“I’ve seen it,” said McIlroy of the promotional Bobblehead, “and I think it might be a little better looking than me, which is nice . . . I’ve got a few friends coming over to San Francisco, so it will be a nice night out on a Tuesday night to take my mind away from the golf a little bit and have some fun.

“Obviously, throwing the first pitch at a baseball game is something I’ve never done before. I just need to start practising. I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

Jockeying: For position

Multi-decorated jockeys AP McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald and Carl Llewellyn know a thing or two about getting over the line, but they had to play second fiddle in the morning pro-am at Wentworth to a team of businessmen headed by Paul Casey who has recovered from his recent snow-boarding accident.

The winning team finished on 23-under-par, with the jockeys – led by South African pro Branden Grace – in second place on 20-under-par. “Great morning’s golf, great company,” observed McCoy, who plays off a 14 handicap.

There were millions of euro worth of sporting talent on display – among them ex-footballers Gianfranco Zola and stand-in Chelsea manager Robeto Di Matteo. One of the loudest cheers greeted former Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi’s chip-in for birdie in accompanying Simon Khan.

Dirty tricks

ALL professional sportspeople must have an inherent competitive streak if they are to succeed, and Luke Donald gave an insight into his own will-to-win when revealing that he even hates to lose a race up the stairs against his daughter Elle.

“I don’t like to let my daughter win . . . and she’s two years old. I’ll pull her back if I have to.”

Penalty point: Kaymer takes heart from soccer failures

Martin Kaymer’s season so far has been more a case of stuttering rather than speeding along, evidenced by his slide from fourth in the world at the start of the year to his current position of 11th.

The German believes the reason he has yet to hit form is due to the amount of time he has spent on the practice range. Rather than get too upset over his drop in form, former USPGA champion Kaymer has equated his plight with that of top soccer players who missed penalties in recent Champions League games.

“If you see those great players failing once in a while, people have to understand that every athlete is human. When Messi missed the penalty in the semi-final and Robben missed the penalty in over-time (in the final) and Schweinsteriger missed the last one, it was important to see that even those guys, world-class athletes, can fail or miss. It’s just a matter of time that I will play great golf again. Everybody goes through a time when it’s not ideal. I practice a lot and it will pay off, sooner or later. You just have to wait and wait and it will happen.”

Measuring up: Harrington putts finger on the problem

ALL day, those players deemed most likely to make Jose Maria Olazabal’s Ryder Cup team for the defence of the trophy with the US were, one by one, measured up for team uniforms.

Perhaps it’s a sign of his current standing that three-time Major champion Pádraig Harrington was not one of the 30 or so prospective players called ashore to have tape measurements taken.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time left for the Dubliner to force his way into Olazabal’s reckoning and Harrington – who has launched his iPhone app this week – believes he has finally put his finger on the problem with his putting that has hindered him for much of the past year. “I haven’t putted well in a long time,” Harrington said yesterday.

Now, he contends the problem on the greens arose on working on mid-range putts from 12 to 25 feet. “I was a good long putter and a very good short putter. I spent two years practising my putting in that (mid) range. My 15-footers have improved, statistically-wise, the past year and, while I was concentrating hard on those mid-range putts, my short putting was being affected in that my back stroke was too slow and everything, rhythm-wise, was a bit too slow.”

The first test of Harrington’s short-range putting stroke will come here on greens which traditionally deceived him. “I now like the set-up tee-to-green and this week will depend on where they put the pins,” he acknowledged.