Thought for the Day:
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research
Reasons to be cheerful?
Ernie Els is my favourite golfer in the world and has been for a long time – for many different reasons. And while his Open victory is welcome, it cannot be celebrated too joyously because any elation occasioned by his win is inevitably counter-acted by feelings of enormous sympathy for Adam Scott. The young(ish) Australian, who wept at the age of 16 when he watched his hero Greg Norman fall apart like a cheap suit in the 1996 Masters (when he blew a six-stroke lead on the final day to hand the green jacket to Nick Faldo), had a similarly bad day at the office. The pundits are predicting that the scars will cut deep and that he will take a long time to recover – assuming that he ever does – but I want to sound a more optimistic note, for several reasons. First, in the immediate aftermath of the worst day of his career he seemed to handle what must be a bitter disappointment with great maturity. Perhaps he was in a state of shock but the way in which he composed himself for the presentation ceremony and inevitable post-round interviews was admirable. Second, he has the recent example of Rory McIlroy to possibly offer a bit of solace; the youngster’s collapse in last year’s Masters followed by a record-breaking win at the US Open has hopefully demonstrated that one disaster does not necessarily blight a career. Third, although most observers, especially Butch Harmon, have swooned about Adam’s swing for a decade or so, until recently his record in the majors has been appalling for one so talented. But over the past couple of seasons that has turned around and he has been a genuine contender. In the last seven majors he has finished tied second and tied eighth in the Masters, tied 15th in the US Open, runner-up in the Open and seventh in the US PGA Championship – not too shabby a record. Third, let us wish that he can take solace from the fact that over four days and 68 holes at Lytham he swung the club beautifully and seemed to be in almost complete control of both his swing and the ball. And unlike Tiger, he took driver and 3-wood where appropriate with the same confidence that he showed with all the other clubs in his bag.
It was Friedrich Nietsche who said that what doesn’t kill us makes stronger. Then again, what did he know about holding up a 7-iron into a stiff cross-wind?
But on the downside…
Of possibly even more concern to Adam Scott than his four-hole collapse, if that is possible right now, is a meeting that the R&A will have with the USGA later this year, at the US PGA Championship. They have already met several times to discuss long putters of the type that Scott uses and Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive said during Open week: ‘I think it’s incumbent on us to make our position reasonably clear in months rather than years.’ Considering that the broom-handle has been wielded since the early 1980s, and Rocco Mediate was the first player on the US Tour to win with one (in 1991), that could be regarded as an under-statement.
In truth, both of golf’s governing bodies were reluctant to initially issue a ban for two reasons. First, the USGA (and US Tour) had just resolved a lengthy and costly dispute with Karsten Solheim, owner of Ping, regarding the legality of square grooves and did not want to impose a ban on putters that would tie them into another nightmare of litigation. Second, for quite some time it was older pro golfers, particularly on the senior tours, who favoured the longer club. So discreetly allowing their continued use was seen as a way of letting them – and Bernhard Langer was the most visible example – extend their competitive career. But now even youngsters are using the ugly things, particularly in winning two of the last four majors (Keegan Bradley at last year’s PGA Championship and Webb Simpson in this year’s US Open). Adam Scott, and everyone else who wields a broom-handle putter, whether it be anchored at the belly, chest or chin, should be very concerned.
It’s always a bit of an anti-climax when the victor of any tournament, but particularly a major, cannot accept the winner’s ovation as he walks up the 18th. And when Els came to the final green and sank that superb putt, the odds were still very much on the Australian, who still had a healthy advantage over the field. For most of us watching, it was a case of: ‘Close, Ernie, but no coconut.’ Not surprisingly, he seemed, to me at least, a bit subdued at the presentation ceremony. Some of that was no doubt due to his feelings of sympathy for his friend but I think a little was because he had been denied that victory stroll.
Quote of the Week:
The less said about the putter the better. Here is an instrument of torture, designed by Tantalus and forged in the devil’s own smithy