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GOLF

Karlsson in fine form as Ryder Cup beckons

Sweden's Robert Karlsson fired a second round of 69 to give him a one shot lead at the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Cologne on Friday. The Swede's impressive form bodes well as Europe's defence of the Ryder Cup nears.

Karlsson in fine form as Ryder Cup beckons

Karlsson’s three under par took him to eight under for the tournament at the halfway stage with Jean-Francois Lucquin in second place after the Frenchman added a 71 to his opening 66.

The Swede posted birdies at the third, fifth and seventh in an impressive front nine 33 but managed just one birdie at the 13th on the way in and that was erased by a bogey at the par five 15th.

“I’m obviously extremely happy with that, especially to be playing in the last group,” said Karlsson.

“It’s great to be sort of a little bit more under pressure. The most important thing is to keep playing the way I’m doing and keep building on all of the things I’m doing well.”

Karlsson will join fellow Swede Henrik Stenson when Europe bids to retain the Ryder Cup for the fourth consecutive year at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky from September 16th-21st.

Europe has dominated the United States in the Ryder Cup over the last 13 years, winning five of the last six, including the last three straight tournaments.

The European success is put down by many observers to a “one for all, all for one” team spirit that will have raised eyebrows in Brussels where promoting

European harmony and shared values has proved to be an all but impossible

bureaucratic dream.

Many observers feel that the origins of this team ethic lie in the 1970s and early 1980s when the US PGA Tour was the Goliath to the European Tour’s David.

The US Tour’s off-handed treatment of the European hero of those days Seve

Ballesteros only served to sharpen the sense of resentment and the Ryder Cup

was the perfect vehicle for exacting a satisfying measure of revenge.

It helped also that there emerged at that time in Europe an eclectic bunch of top class golfers who each brought different ingredients to the table.

The dash and bravura of Spain’s Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, the ruthless calm of Germany’s Bernhard Langer, the single-mindedness of England’s Nick Faldo and the Celtic grit of such as Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam.

It is their successors – Sergio Garcia, Søren Hansen, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington and Swedes Karlsson and Stenson, that form the backbone of the team that will defend the cup in Valhalla.

But the Americans will not let this blend of Swedish steel, British pragmatism and Spanish sunshine off lightly and US captain Paul Azinger feels that having something to prove could this year work in the USA’s favour.

“Patriotism is a real element of the matches and it should be – wear it on

your sleeve and sometimes the emotion reaches a level when it can look ugly,” Azinger warned.

GOLF

Sweden’s Noren storms to French Open title as fellow Swede Kinhult falters

Sweden's Alex Noren came back from a seven-shot overnight deficit to claim a dramatic French Open victory at Le Golf National on Sunday, as the difficult closing stretch of the Ryder Cup course saw a host of challengers slip up.

Sweden's Noren storms to French Open title as fellow Swede Kinhult falters
Swedish golfer Alex Noren holds the trophy after winning the HNA Open de France, as part of the European Tour 2018, on Sunday. Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP
Fellow Swede Marcus Kinhult had entered Sunday's play with a two-shot lead but struggled through a five-over final round to end in a three-way tie for fifth.
 
World number 16 Noren fired a brilliant four-under 67 to reach seven-under par for the tournament, before sitting back and watching his rivals falter as he won by a single stroke.
 
The 35-year-old will be a key figure for Europe when the Ryder Cup gets underway on September 28, and he showed all his qualities by playing the last three holes in two-under.
 
The big-name pairing of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm both threatened, but the two Spaniards found water at the 18th, while world number two Justin Thomas never seriously contended.
 
Julian Suri, who was looking to become the first American winner of the event since Barry Jaeckel in 1972, went to the 72nd hole on eight-under but made a watery double-bogey, while England's Chris Wood also blew a late lead.
 
That handed Noren, who finished his fourth round 45 minutes before the final group, a 10th European Tour title and first since the BMW PGA Championship in May 2017, when he also fought back from seven shots behind on the final day.
 
Scotland's Russell Knox carded a final-round 65 earlier in the day to finish tied for second with Suri and Wood on six-under — enough to secure him a spot for the British Open at Carnoustie along with Kinhult and Suri.