Jet Setting shocks Minding to claim the Irish 1,000 Guineas

Jet Setting ridden by Shane Foley (front) bests Minding and Ryan Moore at the Curragh

Jet Setting ridden by Shane Foley (front) bests Minding and Ryan Moore at the Curragh

Jet Setting inflicted a shock defeat on Minding in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Minding was a red-hot 4-11 favourite following her runaway victory in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago.

Jet Setting (9-1), trained by Adrian Keatley, was back in ninth at Newmarket, but emphatically reversed the form under Shane Foley to claim Classic glory by a head, with Now Or Never 10 lengths back in third.

The winner was supplemented for the race on Monday at a cost of €30,000.

"It's a dream come true," said Foley.

"She's a tough little filly and the ground came right for her – she ran a blinder at Newmarket but it was too fast for her

"Soft ground and a stiff mile was ideal for her."

Rory McIlroy in confident mood as he sits one behind leaders at Irish Open

Rory McIlroy on Day 2 of the Irish Open

Rory McIlroy on Day 2 of the Irish Open

Rory McIlroy believes he is yet to hit top gear in pursuit of a first win of the year after setting up a weekend battle with Masters champion Danny Willett in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

McIlroy had missed the cut in his home event for the last three years but added a second round of 70 to his opening 67 at The K Club to finish just a shot behind Willett and Scotland's Marc Warren.

Warren surged through the field with a superb 66 to join Willett on eight under par, the world number nine carding five birdies and four bogeys in a 71 in his second tournament since claiming a maiden major title at Augusta.

McIlroy is the only member of the world's top five without a win in 2016 and admitted he was frustrated at what he felt was "negative spin" being put on his results, which include six top-10 finishes in 10 events.

After 36 holes:

-8 Willett
-8 Warren
-7 McIlroy
-5 Southgatehttps://t.co/HVAzD9vgZZ pic.twitter.com/eGlYEzVd7S

— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 20, 2016

"I knew I was coming in here playing pretty well so I never thought the cut was going to be an issue. I'm excited to be up there with a chance to win," said the world number three, who has slipped more than four points behind number one Jason Day in the rankings after the Australian's seventh win in his last 17 events in the Players Championship.

"The Irish Open is one of the most important tournaments of my year and I'd dearly love to win it one day. I feel like I've given myself a great chance."

Asked if he could find another gear over the weekend, the tournament host added: "I do. There's definitely more in there. Whether I get to show that could depend on the conditions, but I just feel like there's something waiting there to click and when it does, I could be off and running and that could be the catapult or the momentum that I need to have another great summer."

Willett beat the scoring average for the field by an incredible 8.9 shots with an opening 65, but struggled to reproduce that form despite again getting the best of the weather conditions.

"It wasn't bad, a little bit scrappy," the 28-year-old said. "It was windy at times and there were a couple of sneakier flags out there as well so you can't come off being joint leader and be too unhappy."

Asked what he can go on to achieve in his career, Willett added: "I have no idea. I really don't. You practice, you work hard and you do what I've already done and it's just now more of the same.

"You kind of re-evaluate things and make sure you don't get too complacent. We've worked very hard to get where we've got, so don't stop working hard and hopefully you can rack up a few more.

"Other people think you're able to come out and win every week because you won a major, but we know that doesn't happen."

Warren has yet to record a top-10 finish on the European Tour this season and had missed the cut in five of his last seven starts, but hopes a run of events will help him recapture the form which took him into the world's top 50 last year.

"I felt in the last three events as if I was close to some decent form," said the 35-year-old from Glasgow, who has fallen to 132nd in the rankings. "But the schedule feels as if I've been stop-start a lot by not being top 50 in the world and getting into the events in America to fill in some of the downtime we have on the European Tour.

"I worked extremely hard to get in and around the top 50 and it's nice to know you can do it, so it's just about finding the right formula to do it more often."

England's Matthew Southgate shared second place with McIlroy before two late bogeys meant he had to settle for a 69 to finish five under par.

Southgate missed six cuts in his first seven events this season after regaining his European Tour card via the qualifying school in November, just four months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The 27-year-old from Southend said: "Looks like I'll be playing with Rory tomorrow, so that will be an experience in itself playing in the circus that will follow Rory. I'm looking forward to it, fingers crossed.

"There's a very good chance I'll just be shaking his hand on the first tee and going about my business, to be fair. I think if I get caught up in the moment of watching Rory and playing with Rory, it's not going to help my game. We'll have lunch afterwards and have a chat then maybe.

"I feel like the last few weeks on the Tour have been tough weather, so I think that's definitely helped coming in here. When I play my best generally is when it's a bit windy and a few other players don't deal with it so well. It suits me, it's not a big deal."

Rory McIlroy two off the lead after his best ever Irish Open start

McIlroy ponders a missed putt on 16 today

McIlroy ponders a missed putt on 16 today

Masters champion Danny Willett and tournament host Rory McIlroy capitalised on a favourable draw as the cream rose to the top in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Willett carded eight birdies and a solitary bogey at the K Club in a seven-under-par 65 to finish two shots ahead of McIlroy, who has missed the cut in this event for the last three years.

South Africa's Jaco van Zyl and England's Callum Shinkwin were a shot further back, with defending champion Soren Kjeldsen, two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, 2010 champion Ross Fisher and Brett Rumford on three under.

Fisher and Kaymer were the only players in the first half of the field to break 70 as heavy downpours lashed the 2006 Ryder Cup venue before giving way to bright and breezy conditions in the afternoon.

"It did not look pretty when I opened the curtains and I think today was a tale of two halves really," said Willett, who missed the cut by a shot in the Players Championship last week in his first event since Augusta. "Three under this morning was a fantastic score and to be able to do four better this afternoon I'm very happy.

"Last week didn't quite go as we planned but we were still a little bit tired, a little bit rusty with all the things we had to do. This week has been trying to get back to what I do and try to get grinding and it's obviously paid off thus far.

"I got off to a pretty scrappy start but got a bit hot with the putter on the back nine and holed a lot of footage. You can't really go out there and expect to shoot any kind of number and 65 was far beyond my expectations for today."

McIlroy has recorded just two top-10 finishes in nine appearances in the Irish Open and was frustrated at what he felt was "negative spin" being put on his failure to win so far in 2016.

However, the 27-year-old admitted the prospect of getting that win in front of his home crowd gives him "goosebumps", adding: "To win here, no matter what the circumstances are, whether I've won the week before or whether I haven't won in six months, would be something be very special and I've got off to a great start towards doing that this week. Just have to keep playing the way I did today.

"We definitely got the better of the conditions and I think there was more out there. I thought it was a very comfortable 67. I got to five under after 13 with a couple of fives to come in and had a bit of a blip on 14 with a three-putt. But apart from that, I felt like I played pretty well."

Kaymer, who has slipped to 64th in the world rankings after two years without a win, was delighted with his score of 69 and revealed he had spotted a flaw in his swing on television during last week's Players Championship, an event he led from start to finish in 2014.

"It was very difficult to hit the fairways because you had so much water on the clubface," the 31-year-old said. "Overall, shooting three under par is a great round.

"I played really good golf today. I gave myself a lot of chances and missed three or four putts within six, seven feet and still shot three under par, which obviously says a lot about the ball-striking.

"I was very happy the way I hit my drives. They were long and straight, and that's always a positive.

"In Sawgrass last week I found something on Sunday because my clubface was too open on my backswing. It's a very little change but sometimes you're not aware of that, and I saw it on TV. I just fixed it on Sunday and it felt good."

John Brennan: Goodbye to ‘The Don’ of Irish golf

Christy O'Connor Senior strode hugely above the sport in Ireland

Christy O’Connor Senior strode hugely above the sport in Ireland

He was ‘The Don’ – the Godfather of Irish Golf.

For decades Christy O’Connor Snr, who passed away at the age of 91, strode hugely above the sport in Ireland.

It’s hard to fathom now, but he was not just Ireland’s greatest golfer, but one of our greatest sportsmen. 

Just as every Irish person of his time knew then who Ringey was, or Ron Delany was, or what Arkle stood for, so too they knew who was, simply, Christy. And when you are known by your first name you have it made.

In recent years he revelled in the victories of Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell as they conquered the sport’s Majors. There was no jealousy in O’Connor’s thoughts as he watched the quartet triumph repeatedly.

He knew how hard it was to win a major, and seeing the seed he had sown bear fruit gave the Galwayman the utmost pleasure.

What did long-time Sunday World columnist Christy do to be this great hero? 

Well, he won 25 times on the European Tour, back when there were far less chances to win. He was the first to bag a winning cheque worth £1,000 on tour. The first to win one worth £5,000. And the first to win one worth £25,000.

He played in a then-record ten successive Ryder Cups, 15 World Cups for Ireland – winning in Mexico City in 1958 with Harry Bradshaw – and he won numerous Irish Championships, both for stroke-play and matchplay.

He was known often as ‘Wristy Christy’ for his wonderful touch when putting and chipping, while his swing with the longer clubs was described as ‘like watching wine falling from a bottle – it just flows.’

American champion Billy Casper, a multiple major winner himself, said: “Thank God O’Connor never came over here (to the US Tour). Otherwise I’d never have knocked a living out of golf. He’d have won everything and I’d have been a plumber.”

There were three disappointments in his career, one self-inflicted, the other pair Christy could do nothing about.

It seems strange to say it now, when an invite to the Masters is the most coveted of all in golf, but O’Connor turned down numerous offers to head to Augusta. His family reckon it might have been as many as 20 over the years.

Christy’s reasoning was simple. 

“Back in the late ‘50’s and all through the ‘60s, the European Tour didn’t start until May,” he said. We pros would spend the winters at our courses, as I did at Royal Dublin, giving lessons, mending clubs and looking after our shops.

“But the Masters, then and now, was in early-April. 

“All the American pros would play in California in the winter and then head out for the famed Florida swing in March to be ready for the Masters. 

“To compete there properly I’d have had to go to Florida too and all that would have cost too much money when you were bringing up a young family at home.”

Whatever about the Masters, O’Connor should have won the British Open, the major tailor-made for a man brought up on links golf. He finished tied second in 1965 and tied third in 1958, the latter being the one he reckons got away from him.

But in 1958 he played in the third and fourth rounds in the group behind Peter Thomson, the great Aussie golfer who knew full well how O’Connor played and slowed his game down to annoy the Irishman.

O’Connor complained to rules officials, but they did nothing and our hero lost out by two shots and let his feelings be known afterwards to anyone within hearing range, Thomson included.

Christy played golf the way Arnold Palmer said the game should be played, ‘hit the ball, find it, and hit it again.’ 

The other massive omission from O’Connor’s CV was his disgraceful snubbing, repeatedly, by the PGA when it came to the Ryder Cup captaincy.

The honour was not the huge thing it is now, but it still should have been extended to O’Connor for his ten successive appearances, a record that stood until Nick Faldo broke it a few years ago.

Instead a crew of British golfers, not fit to fix O’Connor’s clubs never mind swing them, were put in charge.

Christy was never a man to call a spade an agricultural implement, as the incident with Thomson above shows. 

He was never backwards about coming forward when it came to discussing something that would help the game or his fellow pros. That didn’t help his cause for the captaincy, but it was still a notable lapse on the part of the PGA.

Even 10 years ago, when the great competition finally came to Ireland, it was discreetly suggested by more than one person in the know that the then 81-year-old O’Connor be given some sort of honorary role at the K Club. But it didn’t happen. 

In his retirement, Christy could often be seen down in his beloved Royal Dublin out on the practice ground – still honing the swing that flowed like wine.

Earlier this year Christy suffered a tragedy in his life, when his nephew, Christy Jnr, another wonderful golfer, passed away at the age of 67. It knocked Senior back.

He passed away peacefully in hospital Saturday morning.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis. One of Ireland’s greatest is gone.

Irish golf great Christy O’Connor Snr has died

Christy O'Connor Snr

Christy O’Connor Snr

Christy O’Connor Senior, the man who blazed the trail for Irish professional golf, has died at the age of 91.

'Senior' was a major figure in the professional game in the 20th century, turning pro just after World War II.

The Galway native competed on the British Tour, the fore runner of the European Tour, all through the 50s, 60s and 70s, and he is best known for appearing in 10 consecutive Ryder Cups between 1955 and 1973.

O'Connor also finished second in the 1965 British Open behind Peter Thomson.

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.

His equally skilled nephew Christy O'Connor Jnr sadly passed away aged 67 in January of this year.