Monday, December 3, 2007

Asmer, Villa to test for BMW

LONDON: Estonian Marko Asmer and Spaniard Javier Villa will test for BMW Sauber in Spain next week as part of the Formula One team's search for a 2008 reserve driver.

The team, who finished second overall this season after McLaren were stripped of their points, are looking for a replacement for German test driver Timo Glock who has secured a race seat at Toyota.

Their other 2007 test driver, Sebastian Vettel, is now racing for the Toro Rosso team. – Reuters

Loeb stays on course to win world title

LONDON: Sebastien Loeb had a fourth successive world rally championship in his sights on Saturday after settling into third place in Britain's title-deciding season-ender.

The Citroen driver, who will match Tommi Makinen's record of four successive titles if he finishes fifth or higher on Sunday, was 1:15 behind Ford's pace-setter Mikko Hirvonen at the end of the second leg in south Wales.

Hirvonen's team-mate and fellow-Finn Marcus Gronholm, whose slight hopes of preventing Frenchman Loeb celebrating in Cardiff on Sunday looked ever fainter, was in second place and 35.5 second off the lead.

Loeb is six points clear of Gronholm and, with more wins than his rival, need take no risks to be sure of the championship.

Norway's former world champion Petter Solberg, winner four times in the last five years in Britain, was more than a minute behind Loeb in fourth place.

“The conditions are not bad this morning, I've got no problems today,” Loeb said after completing the day's opening Crychan 1 stage in cold but bright conditions after fog and rain on Friday.

“For the moment I'm braking very early and trying to be as smooth as possible. Everything is going to plan. I'm doing what I have to, there will be no attack.” – Reuters

New putter helps Saltus clinch Cambodian Open

SIEM REAP: American golfer Bryan Saltus secured his maiden Asian Tour title at the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open after a solid five-under 67 in the final round yesterday.

Saltus reaped the rewards of his new putter, firing six birdies against a lone bogey for a winning total of 17-under 271 at the Phokeethra Country Club.

The 36-year-old champion walked away with the top prize of US$47,550 and rose to 30th place on the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit.

“This is awesome. I would like to dedicate this win to Grateful Dead as they have inspired me all the way. Siem Reap is right up my alley so I've enjoyed my time on and off the course this week,” said Saltus, who is an avid Grateful Dead fan, having been to 153 concerts.

Overnight leader Adam Groom of Australia posted a 71 to claim lone second spot as he finished three strokes behind the winner.

The Thai duo of Thaworn Wiratchant and Prom Meesawat recorded matching 70s to claim joint third position after a 277 total.

Thanks to a new putter that he picked up this week, Saltus got off to a flying start, chalking up three birdies in his first three holes. He extended his lead with a birdie on the 10th and ended his captivating run with a final birdie on the 17th hole.

“My putting has been the winning formula this week. It's also nice to be one stroke off the lead coming into the final round as all eyes would be on the leader and not me,” he said.

“I told my caddie (Phal Savern) that if I win, I would buy her a motorbike and now that I've done it, I will get her a brand new motorbike,” said the Californian-based golfer, who has been playing on the Asian Tour since 2004.

Malaysia's Danny Chia posted a 67 for his best finish this season in joint fifth spot alongside Korea's Kang Ji-man, who shot a 66. – AFP

Rose falters as South African wins by one shot in Sun City

SUN CITY: South Africa’s Trevor Immelman won the 27th edition of the Nedbank Golf Challenge yesterday, in spite of bogeying the final three holes on the Gary Player Country Club course.

He outduelled England’s Justin Rose, who blew up with a double-bogey six at the last, in what turned into a nervy two-horse race between the two players in the final round.

It’s mine: Trevor Immelman holding up the trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa yesterday. – AFP
Immelman shot a 72 for a 16-under-par aggregate of 272, with Rose signing for a 73 and 273.

South Africa’s Ernie Els was third on 277 after a 72, and Swede Henrik Stenson fourth on 279, also following a 72.

“I’ve always been very determined to be a world class golfer and winning the World Cup for South Africa was one highlight, and outplaying Tiger Woods to win the Western Open on the PGA Tour last year was another,” said Immelman.

“But this event is what we in South Africa have always regarded as Africa’s major. Ever since I was a kid I’ve watched it on television. I dreamed of playing it one day, and then I dreamed of winning it.

“Today, that dream has come true and it is a very special moment for me.”

Immelman and Rose started the day sharing the lead on 16-under 200, but the South African bogeyed the first hole, and Rose birdied the second.

Suddenly, Immelman was two behind but he played superbly for the next 13 holes – chipping in twice, at 10 and 14, for birdie – to pull two ahead.

Then he went bogey-bogey at 16 and 17 and suddenly it was all square again.

The pressure was now mounting and Rose hooked his tee-shot into deep rough at the treacherous par-4 18th and had to lay up short of the 100m stretch of water that fronts the green before “airmailing” his third over the green into the grandstand.

He was allowed to drop out under penalty but ended up making six.

Immelman split the fairway with his drive and then hit a seven-iron into the fringe just over the back of the green.

He fluffed his first chip before hitting the next chip two feet past the hole and sinking that for victory and the US$1.2mil that goes with it.

Immelman has had an almost unique relationship with Gary Player over the year.

Player, winner of nine majors, has taken an interest in Immelman’s golf ever since he was a young boy.

The South African legend congratulates his young compatriot when he does well, commiserates when he doesn’t, and offers advice and criticism when the occasion demands.

“Perhaps it is because we are similar in stature and both really work hard at our game. Maybe he sees something in me that reminds him of how he was at my age.”

Els, who was chasing a record fourth title here, started the day five strokes back and in third position but much to the disappointment of the home fans he bogeyed the opening hole to fall six back.

He also dropped shots at No 8 and No 12, and three-putted the island green at the ninth, admittedly from about 30m – for a par five when he desperately needed a birdie. – AFP