It’s a risky business

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 pantomime pretending to be Fairy Godmother. The Daily Telegraph suggests that several other big name stars refused to participate.

In 2013 (L-R) Jason Dufner, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and Rory Mcilroy try not to look too embarrassed
In 2013 (L-R) Jason Dufner, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and Rory Mcilroy try not to look too embarrassed

Stenson managed to finish second in Shanghai despite not feeling 100% but the rib soreness was worse the following week at the Turkish Airlines Open where he was 35th. Having to now withdraw from the last two events of the year will be a big blow for a man who is traditionally a slow starter and who really hits his stride towards the end of the season.

When he initially announced the withdrawal he said: ‘I’m no superman even though certain people thought I was Superman. If you saw the promotion in Shanghai, you know what I mean,’ which seems a pretty clear attribution of where he thought the problem arose.

Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood line each other up
Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood line each other up

Later, however, he wrote on Instagram: ‘My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event, and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal.’

Rory McIlroy survives a bump from Jordan Spieth
Rory McIlroy survives a bump from Jordan Spieth

This is diplomatic and of course, neither Henrik nor any other golfer would be forced to do something against their will but pressure comes in all sorts of ways. And when we consider that Rory McIlroy has suggested his own rib injury woes have been exacerbated this season by ‘outside expectations’, widely interpreted to mean pressure from sponsors to continue playing, we see that golfers are not always completely in control of their own destiny.

And it was McIlroy who laughed off the fact that he was nearly wiped out by Jordan Spieth when the pair were involved in a stunt on motorised GolfBoards in January, ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. No-one wants to be a spoilsport but sanity needs to prevail.

Quote of the Week
If you could eliminate the occasional bad shot you would be the first person to do so.
John Jacobs

All pictures courtesy of Getty Images


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