There’s been a feast of golf to watch and read about this past week and it’s always fun following your favourite players.
The Ladies’ European Tour finishes its 2023 schedule on Sunday down on the Costa del Sol at the wonderful Las Brisas golf course. Caroline Hedwall, who delivered under the most intense pressure in the Solheim Cup in September, is the defending champion.
It’s a fabulous golf course, one of the early ones on the Costa del Sol and still capable of holding its place as a “must play”. I once played there with Sean Connery – or was that at Aloha? No matter, – I do remember we had a halved match and an extremely pleasant, if seriously competitive fourball. Over lunch in the clubhouse afterwards our table was approached by a steady stream of fans with autograph requests and the great man graciously and tirelessly fulfilled every single one. But, I digress.
I had a trawl down the Race to Costa del Sol rankings and was a little disappointed to discover the four home countries only had half a dozen players in the top 30 between them. Five are English players and in 27th spot is the Welsh player Chloe Williams who hails from just up the road from me in Wrexham. My long association with Welsh women’s and girls’ golf means one of my first ports of call is seeking out how the players from the Principality are faring.Chloe’s form since mid August has been very encouraging – and solid – and I thought she just might make her big breakthrough last week in Mallorca. Leading by a shot going into Saturday’s final round she slipped to a round of 76 which dropped her down to a tie for sixth spot, her fourth top ten of the season (not counting team events). Despite her understandable disappointment at her final round I think she’s done remarkably well considering that half way through the season she was in danger of losing her card.
She said she “gave herself a good talking to” which consisted of threatening herself with a return to Q-school. The subsequent hard work to change her mindset certainly seems to have paid off and I look forward to her continuing to fly the flag for Wales next season. There is no reason she can’t follow in the footsteps of previous Welsh winners on Tour, namely Helen Wadsworth, Becky Brewerton and Becky Morgan. (Hope the old grey cells are still working sufficiently not to have omitted anyone – an unforgiveable error!)
The LPGA tour and the two main men’s tours have all drawn a line under the 2023 season and I confess I was looking forward to a break until I discovered (with not a little horror) that the first tournament of the 2024 season on the DP World Tour started YESTERDAY down in Australia, the first competitive action of what now pleases to call itself “the opening swing” of the schedule. What’s happened to an off-season for goodness sake???
I thought the Solheim and Ryder Cup excitement of six or so weeks ago virtually impossible acts to follow, but apparently not. The guys have been doing their utmost to startle us all with their brilliance and boy, have they succeeded. The DP World Tour was playing its Tour Championship on the Earth course in Dubai when Matt Wallace lost the run of himself, went on a tear and and recorded NINE consecutive birdies on the back nine on Saturday!
What on earth?!!! A dazzling, bewitching, other-worldly performance that resulted in a third round effort of 60, four better than anyone else could manage all week. Eventually he finished in joint runner-up position, two behind Danish Ryder Cup twin, Nicolai Hojgaard, who, at 22 years of age, was the baby of the Old World Ryder Cup team in September. Nicolai has now notched three wins but this was easily his most impressive.
This sensational golf was matched stateside by a sublime performance by another European Ryder Cup rookie – Ludvig Aberg – in the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia. Aberg (see pic at top) emerged victorious, snaffling his first PGA Tour win after shooting 61-61 on the weekend, equalling all sorts of records along the way. For goodness sake!How do you even begin to describe the Swede’s first five months of his professional career? In a nutshell, he turned pro in June having become the first player to secure a PGA Tour card through the new university graduate scheme. In the next few weeks he won on the DP World tour; he was a member of the winning European Ryder Cup team and then rounded things off nicely with a win in America. His succinct summing up of things was that it was “six months that I’ll never forget”.
Sounds like he’s a master of understatement as well. Has he won a major yet? The short answer is no – he’s yet to play in one! Ah well, not long now till April.
The world of golf has gone crazy – in a good way. Scoring is lower than it’s ever been before, on courses that are longer than they’ve ever been before and the quality of shot-making and putting is simply off the charts. It’s becoming akin to watching a golf video game and I sincerely hope that increasing familiarity with witnessing sheer, unadulterated brilliance doesn’t inure us all to the skills on show.
The madness of exhilarating performance isn’t restricted to the professionals, however. Even one of our oldest friends is producing some never-to-be-forgotten golf. An excited email thudded into the inbox from him this week. He entitled it “Age Concern”. Here is an extract:-