Proud Spaniard Sergio looking forward to Olympic experience
Sergio Garcia defeated Brooks Koepka of the USA at the first hole of a play-off to win the Valero Texas Open on the PGA Tour. With four rounds in the sixties, Garcia finished on 265, 15 under par, alongside Koepka but triumphed with a four to a six on the first extra hole.
The victory lifted Garcia to 11th on the Olympic Golf Rankings, three places ahead of his compatriot on the Road to Rio, Rafa Cabrera Bello, who also enjoyed a profitable week, finishing in a tie for eighth place in the Irish Open.
“I couldn’t be prouder of representing my country and become an athlete besides a golfer. The players who preceded me never had this opportunity and I wish to thank all those that made it possible. My father taught me that besides playing well and trying to win tournaments, I must try to leave a little something to make things better. When I retire, I hope to have given my small contribution to golf.
“I don’t know the feeling of actually being in the Games, but I am a big fan and I follow them on TV. I very much look forward to the experience of living at the Olympic Village. These might be my last games, so I want to live them fully. The opening ceremony and actually meeting the athletes that I admire on TV will be awesome.” - Sergio Garcia.
Emotional McIlroy is the perfect host in Ireland
Rory McIlroy claimed the tournament which bears his name when he won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation by three shots from Scotland’s Russell Knox at The K Club in Co Kildare, Ireland.
McIlroy delivered a dazzling finish of birdie-par-eagle to close the deal at the 2006 Ryder Cup venue to retain his position as No.3 behind Jason Day and Jordan Spieth in the Olympic Rankings. It was his first Irish Open win and an emotive occasion which brought him close to tears.
Another leading Olympic hopeful, Martin Kaymer of Germany, showed a welcome return to top form by closing with a best-of-the-day 65 to tie fellow German, Max Kieffer, for fifth place in Ireland to climb four spots from 298th to 25th on the Road to Rio.
“I was trying to hold back the tears. It means a lot for my summer. It's nice to get that first win of the year. I kept telling myself, kept telling anyone that would listen, my game was close. It was just a matter of everything clicking. Maybe those last three holes (at the K Club) are the catalyst for another big summer.” Rory McIlroy on winning his home Open.
“As it (Rio) gets closer, I am relishing the thought of going down there and competing for gold. If there was just a Northern Irish team, I'd love to play for a Northern Irish team. But it doesn't quite work like that. I've always played golf for Ireland. We view golf in this island as the whole of Ireland and it's what I've always done. That's what I'm going to do down there... be proud to put on that green shirt and compete for a gold." McIlroy on BBC Sport.
One week after becoming the first Thai player to win on the LPGA Tour at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, Ariya Jutanugarn followed up in style by completing back-to-back wins at the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Jutanugarn has been the biggest mover in the women’s section of the Olympic Golf Rankings by climbing from 17th to 13th and now 11th on the back on those victories.
There were other significant moves on the Road to Rio after the latest LPGA Tour event, which saw Korea’s Sei Young Kim and the USA’s Gerina Piller tie for third. As a result, Kim jumped from seventh to fourth while Piller’s recent rise in the Rolex Rankings has been rewarded with a place within the top 15 of the Olympic Rankings at No.12. She is now the third player from the United States to be in Rio contention along with Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis. Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland drops out of the top 60.
“(This was) a lot easier. I didn’t get nervous. I didn’t get excited until the last putt. I think right now we have a lot of players starting to play golf, a lot of juniors, and if I can inspire somebody, it’s really great, and I hope a lot of players come here on the LPGA, as well.” Ariya Jutanugarn after her second victory.