Rory McIlroy picked up golf’s richest prize -- a check for $2 million -- as he won the Shanghai Masters on Sunday, then set his sights on becoming European Number One.
The U.S. Open champion beat American Anthony Kim on the first playoff hole in China. The prize money won’t count on the European Order of Merit as it was a non-tour event, but McIlroy believes it will boost his confidence as he chases down leader Luke Donald.
McIlroy will play in Shanghai again this week at the HSBC Champions Event which Donald will miss due to the imminent arrival of his second child.
Donald is currently on target to top the money list on both the U.S. and European Tours but McIlroy, third in the world ratings, wants to push the Englishman all the way before the season ends in Dubai.
“I want to get closer to Luke,” declared McIlroy. “I know he’s not playing in Shanghai this week and I feel I am playing well enough to contend there. A big week could put me in the frame to win the Race to Dubai.”
Victory on Sunday came just over week after McIlroy announced his shock decision to break away from manager Chubby Chandler and switch to the Dublin-based Horizon Group. It was also the 22-year-old’s first win since his U.S. Open triumph in June.
“The thing that will help me get over the line more is by putting myself in these positions to win golf tournaments,” said McIlroy.
“I’ve been close in two or three tournaments and had two thirds and two seconds and was finally able to get myself over the line. This was the third playoff of my career, and I was able to win this one, so at least my record in these events is getting better!
“This is my fourth win and second of the year and I feel like I could have won more. But I am delighted and it gives me great confidence going into the HSBC Shanghai Champions. I want to try and chase top place in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.”
KENYA’S Geoffrey NDungu set a new course record as he won the 32nd Dublin Marathon in a time of two hours, eight minutes and 32 seconds on Monday. Helalia Johannes from Namibia won the women’s race in a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 13 seconds while Armagh’s Paul Hannon was the first wheelchair athlete home as he retained his title.
Sean Connolly was the leading Irishman while Linda Byrne won the Irish title and made the Olympic qualifying time.
IRELAND are red hot favorites to win the Cormac McAnallen trophy after demolishing Australia by 44 points in the first Compromise Rules test in Melbourne last Friday night.
The visitors triumphed on a record 80-36 scoreline at the Ethihad Stadium in front of a disappointing crowd of just over 20,000.
The action moves to the Gold Coast for the second leg this Friday night, but Irish boss Anthony Tohill insists his team won’t take anything for granted.
“If we can win by 44 tonight, Australia can win by 45 in the next game. We’ll not be getting carried away and we don’t consider the series to be over at this stage,” said Tohill.
“If we’re anything less than we were on Friday night, then we run the risk. We’ve got ourselves in a good position to win the series but it’s no more than that. It’s halftime. We won’t be getting carried away.”
Aussie Rules stars Tommy Walsh, Pearce Hanley, Tadhg Kennelly, Zack Tuohy and Colm Begley played a huge role in the Ireland win as acknowledged by their boss.
“I’ve been saying that last year and I’ve been saying it again this year. You saw the performances we got tonight out of our AFL players, they were superb, absolutely superb,” said Tohill.
“We accepted from the outset we’ve got players who can’t tackle and we’ve got players who can tackle. The players that can’t tackle, we focused on their strengths and tried to encourage them to help them out with their tackling.
“I probably sensed two or three weeks ago that we were going to be very difficult to beat. You know these things when you’re involved with teams and players.
“You just get that sense among the group that the lads mean business. They were very focused and determined.”
Australian-based Kennelly starred for the visitors and claimed Ireland had beaten the Aussies at their own pressing game.
“Irish footballers are always learning from the AFL and we have learned the press. That’s what we did, we actually pressed a team up,” said former Kerry star Kennelly.
“In Gaelic football, the natural tendency is to sit back and flood back. For the first time ever for Gaelic footballers to press up, it’s a big learning curve for those players to do that as well, in a couple of weeks to try and execute it.
“We were very good in our structures. It’s the size of the field, getting used to where you stand on the ground; they’re used to that and it’s obviously foreign to the AFL boys.”
Laois captain and former Brisbane Lions star Begley is concerned about the future of the series after a lack of interest from the Australian public in last week’s game.
“In some way I am a bit worried about it at this stage,” Begley told the Irish Examiner. “I’ve seen a few comments on Twitter and a few people writing things back home and on the radio and they always have something to say about it.
“Some Irish journalists are even putting it down saying it’s not really an Irish team and it’s not an Irish game.
“But for me, you ask any sports person if they want to play for their country in any sport and they’ll jump at the chance. It could be table tennis and I’d put on an Irish jersey. We have an opportunity to play with some of the best players from our country against professionals. I don’t care what you say - that’s an unbelievable experience.”
Kildare’s Emmet Bolton was taken to hospital suffering from concussion after an early collision but was released on Saturday morning.
NEW Cork hurling boss Jimmy Barry Murphy has wasted no time in appointing goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack as his new captain with Patrick Horgan as his vice captain.
“It’s a great honor for myself, my family and friends and for Cloyne to be made captain of the Cork senior hurling team,” Cusack told the Irish Examiner.
“I’d like to thank Jimmy Barry Murphy and the management team for giving me that honor, and I’ll be giving it everything I have -- Corcaigh abu.”
Barry Murphy said, “We felt Donal Óg was the obvious choice. He has the experience to bring to the job, particularly given the present situation, he’s a very experienced player and he’s been there a long time.
“With Patrick, we felt we wanted to give him some extra responsibility, that he can show some leadership up front as well. He’s shown fantastic form for his club in recent years and we wanted to share the responsibility around.”
KILDARE veteran Dermot Earley has vowed to return to inter-county football next season despite a recent operation for a cruciate ligament injury.
“Being out for so long really makes you hungry to get back playing, so, if anything, it’s given me an added appetite for playing,” Earley told the Irish Independent.
“I always felt I wasn’t ready to hang up my boots yet and seeing how well the team played again in the summer only underlined for me how much I want to contribute still, if I can at all.
“Of course, there’s no guarantee yet of how well I’ll get back, but I am working hard on my rehab and it’s going well.”
GALWAY veteran Padraig Joyce has confirmed he will make a decision on his inter-county future after Christmas as he recovers from an ankle injury. “You don’t want to be playing forever or outstay your welcome. I’ll decide in January or February what’s going to happen,” said the 34-year-old Joyce . . .
ANTHONY Cunningham has been confirmed as the new manager of the Galway senior hurling team with Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny as his two selectors. Cunningham, a McCarthy Cup winner as a player, also coached the Galway under-21 team to the All-Ireland title this year . . .
OFFALY star James Rigney could transfer to the London team after moving to the England for work . . .
COLM Cooper is in line to captain the Kerry team after his Dr. Crokes club retained the county football title . . .
MEATH won the Fitzsimons Cup on Saturday night with a one point win over Armagh at Pairc Tailteann . . .
BALLINGARRY’S Willie Maher is the new Tipperary minor hurling manager . . .
CRAIG Rogers has announced he is quitting the Laois football team.