Thought for the Day
Money isn’t everything – but it does make sure your children stay in touch
There’ll be another along in a minute
Left-handed major winners are like the apocryphal London buses – you wait ages for one to appear and then a whole bunch turn up together. We had to be patient for 103 years before anointing the first left-handed winner of a major championship, when Bob Charles took the 1963 Open, over a century after the first major championship was held in 1860. And for we golf writers with a limited memory and even more limited originality, he was always referred to as ‘the only left-handed major winner in history.’ Certain bits of information attach themselves to certain players and we’re never allowed to forget them because lazy scribes find the words flowing from their fingers unbidden, and once they’re on the page or computer screen it’s too late to take them back because we get paid by the word. Robert Lee, the Sky TV golf presenter once made the mistake, during an interview early in his career, of mentioning that when he was out for a social evening he liked to dance. For the remainder of his days as a touring pro golfer he was ‘disco-dancing Robert Lee.’ Similarly, Costantino Rocca would always remain ‘the man who beat Tiger Woods in Ryder Cup singles,’ and Nick Faldo would be forever labelled ‘miserable git.’
After Bob Charles’ breakthrough we had to wait a further 40 years before he was joined by a second lefty – Mike Weir who took the 2003 Masters. But then just 12 months later, Phil Mickelson won the first of his four majors and now Bubba Watson is the fourth member of the southpaw club to claim one of golf’s biggest titles. Are we seeing the start of a trend?
Now that the Masters is a few weeks behind us, I have been reflecting on some of the incidents from the week. First, of course, is that astonishing shot played by Bubba Watson on the 10th. Most commentators have expressed admiration for the way he managed to hook the ball 40 yards but to me, even more impressive is that he hit a 55° wedge 140 yards. That’s a 7-iron shot.
On the 2nd hole in the last round Louis Oosthuizen holed his second for that rarest of birds, an albatross two (as he’s South African, would it be the ‘short heard around the veld’)? But why do the Americans insist on calling it a double eagle? If an eagle is two-under par, then logic dictates that a double eagle would be four-under. Sorry, I’ve answered my own question because we’re talking about the Americans and therefore logic doesn’t apply. Incidentally, If you’re not envious already of 59-year-old Wayne Mitchell, who has a ticket to the Masters every year, you should be. When Oosthuizen made that albatross he tossed the ball into the gallery (sorry, patrons) and Mitchell caught it. He was later approached by officials from Augusta National who want the ball for its clubhouse display of memorabilia (it’s a tradition that every winner donates a club used in the victory). No-one’s saying how much Augusta is willing to pay for the ball but if Mitchell has any sense it won’t come cheap.
The last eight majors have been won by first-timers. Counting backwards they are: Bubba, Keegan Bradley, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Charls Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell). The streak stops at the 2010 Masters, won by Mickelson.
Lee Westwood has now finished in the top-three of a major seven times – the highest number of anyone who hasn’t won one.
The Masters is the only major to feature sudden-death in its playoffs. In the nine there have been, none has gone beyond the second extra hole.
During the week Sergio Garcia said that he’s not capable of winning a major. It seems that his problems on the greens are terminal (or he thinks so, which is the same thing), which is an enormous shame for a golfer who is still one of the best ball-strikers in the business.
Too tough to tango
At the recent Valero Texas Open, played over the notoriously difficult TPC San Antonio Course, designed by Greg Norman, only two of the world’s top-50 players competed. As a direct consequence the US Tour has confirmed that some of the faintly ridiculous greens are going to be bulldozered in order to give competitors at least some chance of holing a putt, rather than send their ball on a roller-coaster ride. I have played several Norman courses and one of them, Playa Mujeres in Mexico, is among my top-10 favourites in all the world. But I’ve also experienced his penal layouts, most notably his signature course at Mission Hills in China and if my choice were to play that course every week or give up the game, my clubs would now be in a charity shop somewhere. Every now and then, it seems, Norman gets the urge to have some payback time for all the indignities that golf has heaped on him over the years.
Quote of the Week
Good players find that a mixture of equal parts of tension, hatred, and self-loathing ensure a good round