By Rod Crowley: The 2011 “Race to Dubai” reaches its conclusion this week with the Dubai World Golf Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates and at the end of the four days, there will be two champions crowned, firstly the winner of the tournament itself and the 2011 winner of the “Race” itself, which was previously known as the European Tour Money list, will also be decided.

It is even possible that the same golfer could be crowned both! The event is only open the top sixty players on the tour and with $10,000,000 up for grabs in prize money, including $1.6 million to the winner, a competitive end to the season is guaranteed. 

Twelve months ago, the Race to Dubai was won by Martin Kaymer but it was Sweden’s Robert Karlsson who won this final tournament.

Having played most of his golf on the US PGA Tour this year, Karlsson only managed to qualify in 42nd place which means he is well out of contention of topping the money list whilst Kaymer, although consistent form on the tour in 2011 is currently in third place he is unable to overtake the current leader, Luke Donald.

Donald has also played much of his golf in the States this year but his performance have seen him establish a comfortable lead at the head of the Race to Dubai having earned €3, 856,394 from just 12 tournaments! World number one, Donald, also finished top the money list on the US PGA Tour and could become the first man in history to win both the American and European Tours in the same season.

His consistency has been truly remarkable with four wins and a host of high placed finishes, which has kept him at the number one spot in theworld golf rankings for most of the year even though a major win still eludes him.

Fittingly, the only man who can leapfrog Donald in the Race to Dubai is the current world number two, Rory McIlroy, who will need to win the final tournament this weekend and hope that Donald does not make the top ten. Any other outcome would result in Donald winning.

McIlroy has also had a remarkable year, the highlight being his record breaking victory at the US Open in June, earning the 22 year old a first “Major” and huge acclaim in the process.

There are many golfing commentators who believe that McIlroy can reach the same heights that Tiger Woods has done and the Ulsterman heads to Dubai on the back of a great win in Hong Kong last weekend and is the favourite amongst bookmakers to win but Luke Donald is also amongst the front runners.

Luke Donald, who suffered the loss of his father recently, during the same week as his wife gave birth to their second daughter, only returned to playing last week.

He was one of 12 golfers invited to compete in the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City but could only manage seventh place, leaving some questioning his frame of mind and current form. However, he knows what is on the line this week and he will be surely be in determined mood to deny McIlroy his slim chance of finishing ahead of him.

Winner for the second successive year in Sun City was Lee Westwood, who in the process broke the course record with an amazing third round of 62. He too has been in terrific form for most of the year which has secured him, along with Donald and McIlroy, in the top three in the world golf rankings.

Westwood won both the tournament and the Race to Dubai in its inaugural year in 2009 and although he is too far behind Donald this year to top the list, he still poses a major threat to both Donald and McIlroy in the tournament.

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Former Brazilian captain Socrates had died in hospital when being admitted for food poisoning after eating a meal at a hotel. The hospital then placed the midfielder in intensive care after it was discovered he had suffered septic shock resulting from an intestinal infection in which bacteria from an infection seeps into the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body.

The idol of the 1982 World Cup had been rushed to hospital on Thursday, it was the third time Socrates has been taken to hospital since August when he spent nine days there due to a digestive haemorrhage caused by excessive drinking.

Socrates who racked up 60 caps for his country scoring 22 goals, played for Brazil at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

The bearded, lanky Socrates, a leading player of his era played alongside fellow midfielder Zico.

Socrates spent most of career at Brazilian side Corinthians, with spells with Botafogo, Fiorentina, Flamengo and Santos, while in 2004 he famously came out of retirement at the age of 50 to make a one-off substitute appearance for English lower-league side Garforth Town.

 
By Peter Wells: In a weekend full of intriguing rematches its undeniable that Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito is the biggest of the lot. The controversy of the last fight won’t be settled after this fight but it will defiantly die down a bit.

The first fight I remember very well, and not for all the same reasons as everyone else. After watching the build up to Ricky Hatton-Floyd Mayweather, I had suddenly fallen for boxing. I then brought my first Boxing Monthly magazine and there was a preview of Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito. I watched all the build up on HBO and was shocked when I saw that Margarito had won the next day. It’s hard to imagine that that was over 3 years ago now.

I was even more shocked when I watched Mosley-Margarito on Setanta Sports and saw Toni annihilated the way he was. But it all came clear later when it was announced that Antonio Margarito was caught with illegal padding in his hand wraps. It left him and trainer Javier Capetillo banned for a year in America, but the reminder will last forever.

HBO 24/7 was solely built on the hand wrap scandal and whether or not Margarito used those hand wraps in their first fight. Watching the fight though shows it was more to do with Margarito’s resilience and continual pressure that stopped Cotto, he was out on his feet at the end and all it needed was a few solid punches to finish him off. Illegal hand wraps or not I feel the conclusion of that fight would have been no different.

This fight though could be a lot different, Cotto seems to have moved on better, picking up the WBA Light Middleweight title. Both have lost to Manny Pacquiao since but Margarito’s defeat which was over a year ago seems to have had more effect.

Still Antonio’s all pressure style will cause Miguel problems all over again. Cotto can get a large lead by round 7 but then Margarito will come back, and at 153lbs his punches could be very effective. Cotto may hit the deck late on but if he survives could sneak a very tight decision.


By Peter Wells: You have to give it to Brandon Rios, after failing to make the weight yesterday, he still for now wants to carry on with the fight. By the time you read this the fight could be off and this preview will be completely irrelevant, but for now it is still on. Brandon has already been stripped of his WBA Lightweight title but may lose a lot more if John Murray defeats him tonight.

I hadn’t gave John much of a shot when first reviewing this fight but now it becomes a chance he can’t miss. Brandon Rios will come out like the warrior he is and taking out Murray early may be his best bet. Murray will make him miss early and when the time is right and Rios starts to slow down, John can step it up and force a stoppage in 8 rounds or less.

By Peter Wells: In a card that is packed with great fight, this one may just be the best of them all. Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez have already dazzled us once on ESPN, but they’ve now been upgraded to HBO PPV undercard. Wolak come forward style always makes for classics and also his none stop punching forces his opponents to trade blows. That’s exactly what he forced Delvin to do last time out as Rodriguez boxed off the back foot landing impressive counters.

The result was a satisfactory draw, and while the fight will be the same, the result may not. Wolak’s eye swelled up like a golf ball last time and it’ll probably look similar this time out, as he has a habit of swelling. I see Wolak pushing a little more this time though and maybe adding a bit more head movement to his game. The 12 rounds may help him a bit more as well, so i see Wolak winning in a close entertaining fight.

By Peter Wells: It’s hard to believe it was only in August that Abner Mares controversially defeated Joseph Agbeko in the Bantamweight tournament final. Just before writing this preview I was thinking that the first fight had happened in the first half of the year as so much has happened since that fight that put a black spot over refereeing.

Abner Mares won the fight against his handicapped opponent, to take the IBF belt around his waist. Below that waist is where most of Mares’ shots landed. The referee might as well have worn an Abner Mares shirt, as he painfully refused to deduct a point for these clear illegal blows. But, that wasn’t the worst thing he did in the fight, as when in full view of the ref, Mares landed a blow lower than all the rest and as Agbeko went down in pain, the ref called a knockdown. I could easily tear apart this referee all week but I feel his name shouldn’t be mentioned in boxing ever again.

The rematch should give us the real truth as to who is better, and that is still a very hard one to call. Agbeko struggled early with the younger man’s speed but came on impressively and some feel he could have nicked it.

Both fighters have said in the build up there will be no low blows this time, but I have to wonder whether Mares’ tendency to go to the body makes him unable to keep all those punches about the belt line. One thing is for sure is that he won’t get away with it this time and a disqualification can’t be overlooked in this fight.

But I’d prefer to imagine a clean fight which I see Mares winning in a close, action packed contest. Agbeko can make a fight of it but I feel Abner’s speed and skills should be enough to keep him the title and win him back a few fans.

By Daniel P from Wish.co.uk

The year 2011 has, without a doubt, been Northern Ireland’s best for golfing triumphs. Darren Clarke’s success at the British Open and Rory Mcilroy’s US Open victory were the highlights of this great year. Both are nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011.

Little wonder that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, has expressed his support for the region to host the Open: “As well as world-class golfers there are world-class golf courses in Northern Ireland and It would be great to see the Open played here” Over 150,000 people are members of golf clubs in Northern Ireland and anyone one of them could become the next Clarke or Mcilroy. But who’s had the better year? That’s the question we’ll be answering in this article.

At the age of 43, Darren Clarke is the older of the two golfers. He’s a golfing veteran, having started his career playing collegiate golf for Wake Forest University in the US and went professional in 1990.

Like Mcilroy, he was a promising young golfer set to make his mark. He finished joint 64th at the 1991 British Open and came second at the 1992 Honda Open. He won his first European Tour in 1993 and again in 1996.

In 2000, he defeated Tiger Woods at the World Golf Championship and won another European Tour in 2001. However, 2004 – 2007 proved to be his most difficult years; a combination of personal difficulties and a loss of form led to a slump in success.

2008 saw a resurgent Clarke winning the BMW Asian Open and coming second in the 2010 Joburg Open. 2011’s British Open win was the icing on the cake for this golfer’s long and distinguished career. He had tried to win it for over 20 years and it was a well deserved success.

Clarke proved that older golfers can still make their mark. You don’t have to be a Mcilroy, Woods or Day. For that reason, it could be argued Clarke has had the better year.

The argument might have swung in favour of Clarke were it not for his young rival, Rory Mcilroy. Often compared to Tiger Woods, he turned professional at just 17. He made a name for himself with successes on the European circuit, winning at the Madrid Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Victories at the 2009 US Open and 2010 Quail Hollow Championship cemented his reputation further.

It was in 2011 that Mcilroy really made his mark. At 22, he was the youngest player to win the US Open since Tiger Woods’ 1997 victory. His 268 aggregate score was the highest US Open record yet, beating records set by Jack Nicklaus, Lee Janzen, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk.

Further success came with a win at the Shanghai Master’s, taking home the $2 million prize and a fourth-place finish at the WGC Champions tournament.

This success at such a young age shows that Mcilroy has had the better year. More success is to come and he could eclipse Woods as the best golfer of his generation.

A Sports Personality of the Year win would help re-affirm his talent as one of the best golfers in the world.

Who has had the better year? Veteran Clarke or young gun Mcilroy?

Whilst Clarke’s British Open win was the pinnacle of a long and distinguished career, Mcilroy’s record beating US Open victory at the tender age of 22 makes it the better year for him in my opinion.