Thought for the Day:
If an emergency service operator has a heart attack, who does s/he call?
Last chance for glory
Now that the forecasters are finally predicting a high pressure system over the UK, that might lead to sunshine, cloudless skies and temperatures in the 20s (even for us frozen souls living in Scotland), it’s time to dampen your enthusiasm. Thursday sees the start of the last of the season’s majors, the US PGA Championship, so this time next week we face the prospect of eight long months before the Masters rolls around again. Many years ago Greg Norman suggested that at least one of the majors should be held in Australia in January and if memory serves, he cited three main reasons. First, it would give one of the four big events to the southern hemisphere which, largely through Australia and South Africa, has produced so many fine golfers. Second, it would shift the current imbalance which sees America host three-quarters of the major events in the calendar. Third, it would allow one of them to be played in January, allowing a better spread across the year, rather than having all four squeezed into a comparatively narrow timeframe. It will never happen, of course, but the idea certainly has merit.
For all our sakes, let us hope that the championship season finale is a dramatic one because it hasn’t been a vintage year so far and Bubba Watson’s memorably hooked shot out of the Augusta pines is the only real high spot. If you’re going to win a playoff for your first major victory, you might as well do it with a flourish. Webb Simpson’s victory in the US Open was thoroughly deserved but he slipped so quietly through the field at the weekend that he wasn’t really in the frame, or considered a contender, almost until the last hole. And it would be best to try and draw a discreet curtain over Adam Scott’s Lytham meltdown in The Open.
The omens are not good, though. The Ocean Course at Kiawah is a place of brutal beauty that is remorseless in its examination of every aspect of a golfer’s game and psyche. The weather forecast is for it to be hot, humid and with a real chance of thunderstorms, and the wind is bound to be a factor, so the physical test will be pretty ruthless, too. The first two days throw up the usual interesting groupings. Defending champ Keegan Bradley (who I always want to call Bradley Keegan) is playing alongside Tiger Woods and Martin Kaymer, while Rory McIlroy will be in the same group as Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk. Predicting winners this season has become as difficult as getting Monty to stop talking but I’m going to opt for last year’s runner-up, Jason Dufner. Rather than become demoralised by that playoff loss, it seems to have ignited in him a belief that he deserves to be out with the big boys.
Sorry Jason, that probably means you will miss the cut.
Squeaky bum time
In addition to being the last chance to grab a major in 2012, the US PGA also means that we’re coming down to the wire in terms of Ryder Cup selection. The last counting event in Europe is the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, which tees off on the 23rd of this month As it stands at the moment for Europe, previous stalwarts of our team are struggling. Thomas Bjorn (16th), Ian Poulter (20th), Padraig Harrington (29th), Paul Casey (63rd) and Darren Clarke (87th) are by no means guaranteed selection, in fact several of them will certainly not be picked. And although the top half our team looks strong, with McIlroy, Rose, McDowell, Lawrie, Donald and Westwood pretty much guaranteed, further down we have a number of potential debutants in Nicolas Colsaerts, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Right now you would have to say that the American side looks stronger. Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker represent a formidable line-up, and home advantage will play its usual, significant part
Shed a tear
It’s not always easy to feel sympathy for Australians who, in terms of population have always punched well above their weight in the world’s great sporting events. The country has produced a succession of great champions in arenas as diverse as swimming, golf, track and field, rugby and, of course, cricket. But having just witnessed Adam Scott bogey Lytham’s last four holes to drop the claret jug, the country now faces an even more torrid time in the Olympics. At the time of writing they have a total of two gold medals – one fewer than New Zealand. It has been suggested that Australians are magnanimous victors and miserable losers but I will not gloat.
It’s never difficult to get Colin Montgomerie to speak – the problem is in trying to shut him up. But earlier this week he gave a press conference at Gleneagles (he’s chairman of the organising committee of the Johnnie Walker Championship) and we got him to air his thoughts on Tiger’s play at The Open. He said, in part: ‘Woods was almost playing for a place at Lytham, playing for third spot. You’ve got to attack with the driver at some point for heaven’s sake.’ Thankfully The Sun was not represented, so there won’t be any ‘Monty calls Tiger a pussy’ headlines I hope.
Quote of the Week
Rhythm and timing are the two things which we all must have, yet no one knows how to teach either