Martin’s Crystal Ball

Jan 08 2018

Thought for the Day
If you’d known you were going to live this long, wouldn’t you have taken better care of yourself?

This prediction business is a dangerous thing but nonetheless I’m going to stick my neck out and have a punt on what I think 2018 may bring to the world of golf. Incidentally, the reason why pundits like me continue to prognosticate is because we type with fingers crossed (never easy) in the hope that no-one who reads this now will remember to go back in 12 months’ time to check how accurate we were.

The Majors
Rory McIlroy will win the Masters. After the disaster of 2011 when he hoicked his drive miles left on the 10th en route to a disastrous last day 80 he understandably had a couple of so-so performances. In the last four years, however, he’s finished in the top-10 and clearly loves the Augusta National course. But my main reasons for optimism are that a) he is due another grand slam event, he’s just too good and b) this year he is changing his schedule and playing eight events leading into the first major, rather than two or three. If Rory doesn’t win, Dustin Johnson, who is already showing frighteningly good form, will.

rory masters 2011

Phil Mickelson will win the US Open. I know, this is heart writing, not head because the man has famously finished runner-up in his own national championship more often than anyone else (six times) without winning it. And he’s 46-years-old, and no longer with Bones, the man who caddied for his entire professional career. But because of this I believe Phil knows he’s running out of chances and needs to summon all his considerable talent for one last effort. I’m also a believer in omens (not really) and remember that (more…)

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The Best Shots of 2017

Jan 08 2018

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Martin’s 2017 Review

Dec 18 2017

Bummer of the Year: Tiger Woods
In September on the eve of the Presidents Cup the almost 42-year-old admitted his career might be over. Four lots of knee surgery and four back operations in 18 months, with no tournament appearances between February and November all signposted that one of the great golf careers may be a thing of the past.

tiger woods

Reason to be Cheerful of the Year: Tiger Woods
He’s back. Making his much-heralded return in the Hero World Challenge was enough. That he played four rounds and hit some great shots, pain free, was all that he and we could hope for. More worryingly, everyone commented that he had his old swing speed and was generating a lot of torque but that’s what caused his problems in the first place. Nevertheless, good to see the old boy back in harness

Almost Bummer of the Year: Paul Casey
Sadly, 2017 continued a worrying trend. He went into the last round of the Tour Championship leading by two, shot 73 and finished 5th. He had nine top-10 finishes in 2017 but in five of them his last round score was the worst of the week and his only US Tour win was eight years ago. Perhaps he is consoled by his $21,982,360 career winnings in America

Overlooked Winner of the Year: Xander Shauffele
The magnificently named golfer won the Tour Championship, the finale to the US season but hardly anyone noticed because Justin Thomas did enough to win the FedEx Cup

Xander Shauffele

Lightning Start to the Year: Justin Thomas
In only his third season the 24-year-old showed he is no flash in the pan. Three wins in the first five events and five overall, including the dollar bonanza of lifting the FedEx Cup, with icing on the cake coming at the US PGA Championship. It all makes him a short-odds favourite to win at least one more major in 2018

Player of the Year (worldwide): Justin Thomas
See above

Player of the Year (Europe): Jon Rahm
Tommy Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai but that’s because Rahm played much of the year in America but still finished third in the season long European race and won twice. Leaving aside the majors and WGC events, Fleetwood played 15 events on the European Tour, Rahm played five but won in America and finished the year ranked fourth in the world (Tommy was 19th). Oh, and Jon Rahm was in his rookie season (more…)

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Cruel but very funny…

Nov 15 2017

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It’s a risky business

Nov 14 2017

Thought for the Day
How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Enough Already
Henrik Stenson is going to miss the last two events of the European Tour season. They are the big money bonanzas, the Nedbank Golf Challenge that has just concluded in South Africa and the year ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Both are among the eight tournaments that comprise the Rolex Series and therefore carry significantly bigger purses than run-of-the-mill events.

Henrik has pulled out because of a rib injury – not unusual in itself – but the real cause for concern is that he did not sustain it through too much play or practice but apparently because of a daft publicity stunt for a tournament sponsor. I say ‘apparently’ because initially Henrik hinted, more than strongly, that dangling above a stage in a harness was responsible, although he has subsequently rowed back from that suggestion.

Henrik Stenson fulfils his obligations manfully

Henrik Stenson fulfils his obligations manfully

The WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai has a long history of persuading the leading golfers in the field to take part in frankly ridiculous pre-event publicity shots; so much so that over the years I have been an avid collector of the marketing pictures showcasing them, just a few of which you can see here.

At the end of last month the theme was Golf Superheroes and this involved Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Chinese golfer Haotong Li, suspended above Hideki Matsuyama on stage, in the sort of harness usually worn by an ageing actress in (more…)

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Martin Vousden and Bad Form

Oct 17 2017

Thought for the Day
Never do something permanently foolish just because you are temporarily upset

Class can be temporary, too
When a tour golfer is going through a bad spell we often hear the mantra: ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ but I wonder. Leaving aside the journeyman pro who hits a vein of form that can last a few months or even longer – do you remember Steve Richardson – there are still those who seem to have everything, be the real deal, and yet they go off the boil never to recover.

Steven Richardson

I’m not talking about the surprise one-hit wonders who manage to pull everything together for one week, which just happens to be the week in which a major occurs. Into these ranks we can add the names of Ben Curtis in The Open and the other one whose name is so difficult to remember (Todd Hamilton). In the US Open we have had Lucas Glover and Geoff Ogilvy; Larry Mize and Mike Weir had their four days of glory in the Masters and the US PGA Championship has seen unexpected winners in Jason Dufner and Yang Yong-eun, the first Asian golfer to win a men’s major, and he beat Tiger Woods into the bargain.

These names represent the fortuitous moments that occur in all sports, where that welcome but rare peak of ability coincides with one of the biggest events of the calendar year, but turns out to be a one-off. Whether Danny Willett joins their number remains to be seen.

What I am thinking about is the golfer who is more than a journeyman; a player whose skill and temperament set them apart from the herd because of innate ability and application. The sort of competitor who becomes a multiple major winner. The most obvious recent example is (more…)

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