Our mother was a great watcher of sport right to the end of her life. She particularly enjoyed the golf on television at this time of year – seeing the lovely courses, the good weather and the players in shirt sleeves. It helped to shorten the British winter for her. I’ve inherited this trait and last weekend was avidly awaiting the final round of the BMW South African Open which was being played at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg. Graeme Storm had produced some amazing stuff to hold the lead going into the final round of this venerable tournament but the ominous figure of Rory McIlroy was large in his rearview mirror. My expectation and enthusiasm was somewhat dampened, however, because we were spending the weekend at Patricia’s and since falling out with Sky a year or so ago, she is resolutely Sky-less, refusing to have any dealings with them. Drat!
Necessity is the mother of……..trying something new and so it was that I turned to the European Tour website and discovered the Live Hub. This is, as the name suggests, a blog with up-to-the-minute written reports on the action and the state of play, supplemented by snippets of video showing some of the shots seconds after they have taken place. Presumably they are contractually forbidden from showing the action live.
Sounds a dull way to watch the climax of a tournament? It was riveting! A different sort of screen had captivated me and I was unable to tear myself away, “watching” the three-hole play-off and providing a running commentary to husband and sister.
It resulted in a life-changing victory for the genial Graeme Storm a matter of months after believing he’d lost his tour card. It was a disappointment for McIlroy, of course, but a crucial victory for the Englishman and it was fantastically brought to life by the Live Hub team. Give it a go if you find yourself TV-less.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in Hawaii, Justin Thomas, a great mate of Jordan Spieth’s, started with a sparkling 59 and never let up, winning his second consecutive tournament on the islands and vaulting to a career-high world ranking of eighth. This was his third win in his last five starts, at the ripe old age of 23.
Dad used to dismiss very low scores with the rather caustic comment “these courses must be wee buns” but I believe we will be seeing plenty more of them. Equipment has improved, the condition of the courses has improved, the players are now serious athletes with superlative techniques and the main area left for breaking barriers is in the development of the mental side of the game. When Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott formed their company Vision 54, which dared to suggest a gross 54 was possible, they were subject to a fair degree of ridicule. They’re not looking so daft now. Never ones to be constrained by perceived limitations, their influence on the modern game cannot be underestimated.
Last year Jim Furyk shot 58. What price a 57 this year? Remember when Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile? It shortly became almost commonplace and the world record at the moment is 3:43.13.
We are currently enjoying an exciting time in golf and have a chance of seeing history in the making. I, for one, will be watching closely. Live Hub anyone?