Harrington makes 'bold' Olympic bid
RORY McILROY has been urged to do his bit for Ireland and play for Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
This tongue-in-cheek suggestion was made by Padraig Harrington in a TV interview with recently retired European Tour player Gary Murphy.
McIlroy and fellow Major-winning Ulstermen Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke can represent Ireland or Britain when golf returns to the Olympics in four years' time.
Back in 2009, as golf's bid to rejoin the Olympic family gathered momentum, McIlroy said he was excited about the prospect of being on the same team at the Games as Britain's diving star Tom Daley.
Yet, he sat firmly on the fence when the subject came up again at last year's US PGA Championship.
"Basically, if I'm going to be very honest, which I usually am, whatever I say is going to upset someone," said the world No 2 at the time, adding: "So I may as well just say 'I don't know' and wait until four or five years' time, whenever I have to make a decision."
Commenting on recent media speculation on this matter, Harrington said: "I'm fascinated with all this conversation about who we declare for. If Rory and Graeme opt for Britain, it means we get two more Irish guys into the Games -- as in myself and Darren Clarke get to play.
"The way the system works, if you're in the top 15 in the world, you can have more than two from one country," added Dublin's three-time Major winner.
"So if someone wants Rory to be as Irish as he can be, he'd better declare for GB and we get two more guys in. When it comes down to it, it'll be a complete no-brainer because nobody is losing out and you're actually just gaining a couple more spots for Irish golfers."
The hour-long interview with Harrington is the first in a series by Murphy entitled 'The Cut Line' and will be screened on Setanta tomorrow evening.
wild thing weathers sandstorm in qatar
HIGH-FLYING John Daly described playing conditions during yesterday's first round of the Qatar Masters as "brutal".
And leader Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano said after his stunning 66 in the sandstorm: "Now I know what it feels like to be a Wiener schnitzel".
Unlike the Spaniard, who had three bogeys and nine birdies on his card, second-placed Daly was one of only four players not to drop a shot yesterday as he emerged from a wild and windswept first round at Doha Golf Club with a five-under-par 67.
Remarkably, the only golf Daly had played in his five-and-a-half-week winter break was a few chips and putts with his young son.
"It was so difficult out there, you really felt like you were eating sand," he said. "That has to be one of the best rounds I've ever played in the wind."
Ireland's best were Michael Hoey and Peter Lawrie in a share of 15th on one-under after impressive opening 71s.
Having abandoned his experiment with the belly putter after last Friday's missed cut in Abu Dhabi, Dubliner Lawrie had every reason to be pleased with his performance with a conventional putter in blustery conditions on Doha's grainy greens.
McDowell had a couple of early three-putts as he stumbled to three-over through six holes, but the Portrush man recovered well to post a one-over 73.
However, Paul McGinley (75), Shane Lowry (75), Gareth Maybin (76) and Damien McGrane (78) have work to do to make today's cut.
Live, Sky Sports 3, 7.0, 11.0
simpson sets early pace in phoenix
Webb Simpson fired a six-under-par 65 to set the pace at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The 26-year-old American had seven birdies and a lone bogey in his round.
Hot on his tail were compatriots Derek Lamely and Harrison Frazar, and Australia's Rod Pampling.
Phil Mickelson hinted at a return to form after recent woes, finishing with a 68.
Live, Sky Sports 3, 9.0
royal portrush to host 2014 'amateur'
ROYAL PORTRUSH will host the British Amateur Championship for the third time in 2014.
Significantly, this prestigious event is promoted by the R&A, organisers of the British Open. Hopes that the British Open itself soon will revisit Portrush should be boosted by next summer's staging of the Irish Open on the famed Co Antrim links.