Wednesday 21 March 2018

McGinley drives forward in fitness battle

Paul McGinley in action during the first round of the Avantha Masters in India yesterday where he shot a round of 70
Paul McGinley in action during the first round of the Avantha Masters in India yesterday where he shot a round of 70

William S Callahan

PAUL McGINLEY'S battle to regain full fitness after yet another winter grappling with knee problems resumed in New Delhi yesterday as the Dubliner posted a satisfying first-round 70 at the Avantha Masters.

Advised by doctors not to play consecutive tournaments in the first three months of 2012 as he gently coaxes his ailing knees back into tournament condition, McGinley teed it up for only the second time this year at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

Fortune hardly favoured the 45-year-old as he set out in breezy conditions yesterday morning, but he still managed to turn in two-under courtesy of a splendid eagle three at the 568-yard ninth hole.

Though he'd slip up with a bogey at 12, McGinley brought his day's work to an upbeat conclusion with a birdie four at the 537-yard final hole.


By the day's end, he lay just four off the pace set by joint-leaders Alejandro Canizares of Spain and Scotland's Peter Whiteford with sweet 66s. Ulster's Gareth Maybin, who was also a morning starter, posted a level-par 72 for a share of 47th.

Significantly, Canizares, Whiteford and their closest pursuer, Italian Federico Colombo who shot a five-under 67, all played in the afternoon, by which point the wind had died to a gentle zephyr.

Playing in idyllic conditions after lunch didn't do John Daly much good as he posted a calamitous 79, the two-time Major champion's problems really coming to a head as he racked up a nightmare eight on the par-five 14th hole.

After driving into the hazard at 14, Daly had a short discussion with a couple of tournament referees before taking his penalty drop. Clearly annoyed, he then carved his next shot out of bounds with a three-wood.

Another dropped shot at 15 and a bogey six at the last, where he dumped his approach into the water, brought Daly's round to a miserable conclusion.

By contrast, 22-year-old American Peter Uihlein, the reigning US Amateur champion who has opted to open his professional career on the European circuit this season, birdied his final two holes to complete a pleasing 69 on his Tour debut.

Canizares and Whiteford are both 29 and each had just one bogey on their cards yesterday. However, the Spaniard, son of former Ryder Cup star Jose Maria, has won on the European Tour, triumphing in only his third event as an associate member, the 2006 Russian Open. The more recent of Kirkcaldy native Whiteford's two Challenge Tour victories came at the 2009 Grand Final, when he clinched his card.

Meanwhile, Annika Sorenstam has turned down an invite to captain Europe's Solheim Cup team in 2013. She wants to keep her diary clear while a joint-bid she made with Jack Nicklaus to design the course for golf's return to the Olympics at Rio in 2016 is still being considered.

The Swede contributed greatly to Europe's winning cause as a vice-captain to Alison Nicholas at Killeen Castle last September, but would be prepared to work with the 2013 team only in an advisory role.

As for skippering Europe in future, Sorenstam said she would consider it, but didn't feel the job was a perfect fit. "I'm not wired to do this, it's not my style. It takes a lot of coordination and a lot of commitment."

Avantha Masters,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 8.0am

Irish Independent

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