Last Sunday came very close to being one of my all-time most enjoyable sporting days, in fact, it was so close as to make no matter. Nothing to do with my own prowess, of course, though I did go to tai chi in the morning and joined Esther “8 Steps to a Painfree Back” Gokhale (pronounced Go-clay) for her 1-2-3 Move session in the early evening (0945 Pacific time, 1745 for me, perfect). I’m one of Esther’s fans and am just sorry that more people, especially golfers, who are prone to backs, don’t know about her. They’re missing a trick. You can find out more about her at gokhalemethod.com.
To stop digressing, my beloved (sometimes) Totspurs won 6-1 at Old Trafford (empty, admittedly) after conceding a penalty in the first minute and were so all over United (down to ten men early on, with our man Lamela lucky not to be sent off too) that I spent most of the second half laughing in disbelief. My Man Utd-supporting bro-in-law was lucky enough to miss most of the debacle because his sister and her husband called in at just the right time.
Then it was time for another unbelievable scoreline: Aston Villa 7 Liverpool (champions-by-miles last season) 2….Not a misprint, not the wrong way round, just another of those football-bloody-hell moments. So I had one happy bro-in-law, the Villa supporter, who couldn’t help WhatsApping me: “Had to get one more than Spurs.” Not mentioning that we were away, of course. Though being away without thousands of the opposition’s fans baying for your blood must be quite pleasant….unless you’re Liverpool at Villa Park. What a gloriously daft day. Nothing like sport for bringing you down to earth with a crash.
On the golf front, Mel Reid and Sergio Garcia, two of the blog’s favourites (though Sergio’s sulks do him no favours), won in America and the only blot was that Robert Rock, a lad (well, man) local to us at Whittington Heath, didn’t win the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, a lucrative Rolex Series event, at the Renaissance Club near North Berwick. Then I discovered that Aaron Rai, who beat Tommy Fleetwood at the first extra hole, was from Wolverhampton, so we can claim him too. That’s Aaron in the wee pic at the top of this piece, thanks to Getty Images and how can you not feel happy for a young man who’s just had the biggest win of his career?
On Sunday, however, I was cheering for Rob Rock and he came to the last needing a birdie to win. He was short of the green with his second shot and after a bit of faffing about and a free drop from something, he hit his pitch beyond the hole and just missed his par putt, to finish third, one shot behind Rai and Fleetwood. On the telly, Radar Riley was astounded that Rock hadn’t used his putter but it transpired that he’d been going for the outright win and had been determined to play aggressively not defensively, trying to hole his pitch. Perhaps it wasn’t the percentage shot but you’ve got to admire his chutzpah.Rock, a real student of the game, is already a highly respected coach and the fact that he can still play a bit won’t do his teaching cred any harm at all. In the first round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth yesterday he had a more than respectable 69, three under par, so he’s still playing well, presumably content with his decision to go for it on Sunday. Richard Boxall, one of Sky’s commentators, remarked that Rock, who last won in Dubai in 2012, had cost himself a lot of money – Rai won nearly 975,000 Euro, Fleetwood won 630,000-odd and Rock a measly (!) 361,083.74 – and was then chided for always thinking about the dosh.
Boxall is not easily cowed, however and had a classic retort: “Money isn’t everything,” he said, “but it’s right up there with oxygen.” Brilliant. It made me laugh anyway. Thanks Richard.
It was lovely to potter about and watch some of the world’s best players tackling Wentworth, so familiar from many years of tramping its fairways but you can have my share of the West Course, the brutal Burma Road, much changed over the years and getting ever longer (why, oh why won’t they rein in the ball…?). I’d just jotted down that the East is my favourite of Wentworth’s courses, human-sized and eminently playable for us normal mortals, not a slog but a delight, a joy to play, with some lovely holes, essentially much as the great (not an exaggeration in this case) Harry Colt designed them; then I scrolled through my emails and found that Alistair Tait was of the same mind. Have a look at alistairtaitgolf.com – he writes every day and is always worth reading.
This week the world’s best women are at Aronimink Golf Club, a classic course near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, playing in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, one of their majors. In an article entitled “The Sink at the Mink”, Andy Johnson said it was “like building a course in a bathroom sink”. Apparently, the course is in a bit of a bowl, with some holes going up, some going down, some going across and some at the top, on the flat. It’s a real test and Donald Ross, who designed it, in 1928, was suitably impressed when he went back 20 years later: “I intended to make this course my masterpiece,” he said, “but not until today did I realise I built better than I knew.”
High praise from a man who had Pinehurst No 2, Seminole and Oakland Hills to his name.
Finally, birthday greetings to the incomparable Annika Sorenstam who is 50 today. Seems like only yesterday that a shy, fresh-faced young Swedish rookie pitched up at the Ford Classic at Woburn with her dad Tom on the bag and nearly won. What a career it turned out to be, what a journey.