Thought for the Day
Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?
If it ain’t broke, time to fix it
With the US Open due to start in just over a week it is inevitable that thoughts turn towards the likely contenders yet one name that should be mentioned but will not feature in any list of likely winners is that of Padraig Harrington. Ever since winning three majors in the space of 13 months, the last of which was the 2008 US PGA Championship, the genial, articulate and very likeable Irishman has disappeared down the world rankings quicker than Rory McIlroy can miss a four-foot putt. Since then he has struggled not only to win but to even register his name on the leaderboard and when someone of his ability and experience struggles to make the top-10 in run-of-the-mill tournaments, it is clear that he has a significant problem. And that problem, of course, is that he decided to re-build his swing.
The phenomenon of successful golfers going back to the drawing board is not a new one but to do it in the immediate aftermath of three victories in golf’s premier events may be a distinction that, were it not for Tiger Woods, would be unique to Padraig. I can lay no claim to specific insights into why Harrington felt that a major overhaul was necessary but you can’t help but feel that Britain’s most successful golfer, Nick Faldo, has a lot to answer for. The difference, however, is that Faldo went through two years of agony in order to develop a swing that would land him major championships – while Padraig decided to do it after he had already won three of them. As the Americans would say, go figure.
Getting the excuses in early
Predicting the winner of a tennis grand slam event is pretty easy, especially in the men’s game because there are never more than about six possible winners, and at the moment that list is shortened to three – Nadal, Federer or Djokovic. In golf, especially now that Tiger Woods has climbed down from Mount Olympus to join all the other mortals, the job of forecasting is considerably more difficult because there are so many in the field with the potential to lift the trophy. As Jack Nicklaus once said, golf is the only sport in which the very best lose far more often than they win. Which is, by the way, the only justification I have for my appalling record as a tipster. However, right now Luke Donald has got to be strongly fancied for next week at Congressional Country Club. The US Open, like no other major, favours accuracy over raw power, a cool nerve and near-flawless putting stroke, which is Donald in a nutshell. The confidence that comes with being crowned world number one won’t hurt either.
So re-mortgage your house and pawn all your earthly goods in order to get a bet on for Luke to follow up Graeme McDowell’s success at Pebble Beach last year; you know it makes sense.
Show some respect
One of the greatest pleasures of golf is the banter and craic that comes in a fourball match between like-minded people and I was lucky enough to experience a classic of the genre last week on a press trip to Morocco (which is, incidentally, a fine place to play golf). On the last day myself and three others who had enjoyed each other’s company throughout the week decided to have a clash of the titans to settle bragging rights once and for all. My partner and I got off to a great start, being four-up at one point and three-up at the turn. But as so often happens, our opponents reeled us in and it all came down to the last, where we were desperately hanging on to a one-hole advantage (largely, honesty compels me to admit, because my partner was having to carry me). And incidentally, all the mickey-taking and jocular insults disappeared over the final three holes, as we all tried to focus on the job in hand. But my partner did the business, making the half that ensured we won. In the evening, over a few drinks before dinner, one of our opponents laughingly said that the defeat would rankle for a long time and I had the pleasure of uttering words I have wanted to say for a long time.
‘Suck it up, bitch. And in future when you speak, call me “Daddy”’.
Quote of the Week
When a putter is waiting his turn to hole out a putt of one or two feet in length, on which the match hangs at the last hole, it is of vital importance that he think of nothing. At this supreme moment he ought to fill his mind with vacancy. He must not even allow himself the consolation of religion.
Sir Walter Simpson