Your six-week break from us is over! Welcome back.
In the interim I’ve been on the golf course a total of four times – one full round and three nine-hole outings, the last of which was on Christmas Eve. I bet you think I’ve taken advantage of this latest edition of lockdown life to hone my golfing skills as much as possible for re-emerging on to the fairways – whenever that may be.
Well, I haven’t done a tap. Not a single swing in the practice net (which has been permanently up in the garden since last March), not a single putt on the carpet, not a single effort to work on my mental game. Fanatical as I am about the game, it is an easy game not to play – particularly when there isn’t the prospect of even a few holes. And when the diary is startlingly white and empty there’s no urgency to do anything at all. I think it’s called drifting. Am I the only one who is suffering from this?
Those who earn their living from playing the game are doing anything but drifting. They’re working hard, building their confidence, their fitness, their mental strength, their technical games brick by brick, piece by piece. Nothing new there, then – folk have been doing that for decades.But, hold on, one person is working to the point of blacking out such is their effort level. Who else could that be but Bryson DeChambeau? He is heaving and grunting his way into the history books as far as physical training undertaken by a professional tour player is concerned. His winter training has included swinging the club so quickly for so many repetitions that he has lost consciousness. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a golfer training with that intensity. I do remember years ago watching a training regime followed by (Sir) Steve Redgrave and (Sir) Matthew Pinsent which resulted in them both throwing up at the end of the session, but a golfer blacking out?? That’s a whole new frontier in our sport and it is fascinating to see where it leads. So far it has led to one major and Bryson is eyeing up many more. Are we witnessing the Gary Player of the modern era, I wonder, and will it yield the American a career grand slam, just as it did for the diminutive South African? It’s going to be fun to watch how he fares in 2021. It’s not possible for me to mention Gary Player without wondering why on earth he and Annika Sorenstam went to the White House the day after the attack on the Capitol to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump. I was very disappointed in them both and as representatives of our sport it was another instance of golf missing the bigger picture.
One piece of news that did gladden my heart was the recent engagement of Mel Reid to her partner Carly Grenfell. The couple have recently moved to Jacksonville in Florida where Carly has started a new job working for the social media division of the PGA tour. It surely signals the end of a tumultuous near-decade for Mel which started with the tragic loss of her mum Joy in a traffic accident in Germany. Ensuing disenchantment with her life and golf resulted in some tough times but with the help and support of good friends and family Mel turned things around. In 2020 she came out as gay and won for the first time on the LPGA tour and hopefully there are more happy, fulfilling times ahead.It will be very interesting to see what 2021 brings us in terms of golf – in our own games, of course, as well as in the golf we watch and follow.
There are nine professional majors slated, five women’s and four men’s, an Olympics, a Solheim Cup and a Ryder Cup. That has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again. With nothing too exciting to occupy me at home (aside from freeing up storage space on my devices and trying to limit the amount of time I spend watching utter rubbish on telly) I have decided to publish my wish list for each of these events. I have two self-imposed rules. I must select someone I really think has the capability to win the event and I can’t nominate the same player for more than one victory.
So, in calendar order, here are my hopes and purely emotional picks for golf in 2021.
ANA Inspiration – Charley Hull. Time for this uber-talented player to step up and really assume the spotlight.
Masters – Rory. Who else? A career grand slam would give us all something to smile about. Cue another Irish major championship party!
PGA Championship – Hideki Matsuyama. Am beginning to think the majors may pass him by and I don’t want that to happen.
US Women’s Open – Carlota Ciganda. Have admired her and her game since first meeting her when she was 14.
US Open – Tommy Fleetwood. This would be sensational for the “rockstar” and his incredible coach Alan Thompson, both fairly local to where I live.
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – Anne Van Dam. Such an exciting player to watch and the maturity she will gain from contesting and winning a major will lead to even greater things, I feel.
Open Championship – Rickie Fowler. One of the most gracious interviewees in the game and a sensational bad weather player. Also, it’s criminal he is, so far, major-less.
The Evian Championship – Minjee Lee. The Australian is one of my favourite players to watch in women’s golf and as a nod to all my Aussie friends from tour days I’d love to see Minjee bring joy to her sports-mad country.
Olympic Men’s Golf Championship – Justin Rose. A successful defence for the Rio gold medal winner and a thank you for all he and his wife Kate did for the women’s game in 2020.Olympic Women’s Golf Championship – Mel Reid. Has always viewed herself as an athlete first and a golfer second. Suspect she would cherish this above a major.
AIG Women’s Open – Lydia Ko. This former world No 1 has had a revolving door of coaches and advisers over the past few years but has stayed in the game with endless grace and class. Carnoustie may well give her the opportunity to show off her supreme shotmaking and re-enter the major winners’ circle.
Solheim Cup – Europe, of course. To hole the winning putt and achieve only the second ever victory on away soil – Emily Kristine Pedersen, Europe’s No 1 player. This would help erase the unhappy memory of her Solheim debut in 2017.
Ryder Cup – Europe. Need you ask? To hole the winning putt – Bob McIntye and another special golfing moment for the bonny country.
And that would conclude my perfect golfing year. What about yours?