I think it was the BBC’s Iain Carter – like Mo no fan of the Woods v Mickelson boost for Gamblers’ Anonymous – who mentioned that the World Cup of Golf was overshadowed by the over-hyped PGA Tour-sanctioned shindig in Las Vegas. Well, in recent years, the World Cup has tended to limp along in the shadows whatever else has been going on.
The competition, which started in 1953 as the Canada Cup, at Beaconsfield in Montreal, was won by Roberto de Vicenzo and Antonio Cerda of Argentina and the following year, at Laval-sur-Lac, also in Montreal, Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle of Australia won. In 1955, with home advantage, the United States won for the first time, represented by Ed Furgol and Chick Harbert. The USA triumphed again in 1956, at Wentworth, with the more legendary pair of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead wowing large galleries. And, of course, in 1958, in Mexico City, Harry Bradshaw and Christy O’Connor won for Ireland.
As far as I could see, this year’s event, officially called the ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf, was not listed in the European Tour’s media guide but, fortunately for me, all the results were and the names on the immense trophy include some of the greats of the game – Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino, Ballesteros, Faldo, Els, Woods. In Hawaii, in 1987, Wales won with David Llewellyn manfully supporting an imperious Ian Woosnam. They beat Scotland, represented by Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance, in a play-off. Llewellyn, known as Lulu, could play a bit and should have become the first man to break 60 on the European Tour, as long ago as 1988, but three-putted the last at Biarritz.
There was a new name on the trophy this year, with Belgium winning at The Metropolitan Club in Melbourne. Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry held off Australia (Mark Leishman and Cameron Smith, supported by a huge crowd) and Mexico (Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz), to win by three shots.This year the format was two rounds of fourballs and two rounds of foursomes and I have to confess that over the years covering the World Cup was not always the most exciting gig. Watching the Scots one year in Florida (I was the Daily Record’s Dale Rankin No 302, or thereabouts; if their own man wasn’t there, the bod sending in the golf copy was given the byline Dale Rankin) and the most noteworthy thing was a chat with Jim Milligan, the quiet Scot who’d helped GB and I win the Walker Cup at Peachtree and was on his holidays.
I think that was the year that I also had to do The Times unexpectedly and Ian Woosnam ended up writing to the sports editor to complain that he had not, as I reported, been up until three in the morning playing the piano. It turned out to be a combination of rushed writing, changing editions and inexact sub-editing and Woosie was mollified by a bit of grovelling on my part and some nifty diplomacy by the golf correspondent.
I finally cracked how to cover the World Cup when I was doing the Scots again, in Italy this time and they were playing uninspired stuff, well down the leaderboard and losing interest by the stroke. We were staying in Rome, about an hour’s coach journey from the course, which was pretty well in the middle of nowhere and some people moved out of Rome to cut out the commute. It was worth every second on that coach to be able to enjoy Rome and one morning Dai and I joined Kaye Kessler (read his stuff when you get the chance) and his wife Roe on a memorable tour of the catacombs, guided by an ebullient priest from somewhere like Hong Kong.
If memory serves, we had a delicious lunch and hitched a lift in a courtesy car summoned by the formidable and well connected Kesslers (distinguished Americans merited priority treatment), arriving at the golf course just as the Scots were approaching the 18th green, five or perhaps nearer six hours after they’d started. Perfect! Even better, I managed to intercept one of the Scots as he legged it out of the scoring hut by the back door, trying to evade having to say anything at all about their dire performance. Oh happy days!No jetting off to Australia, Hong Kong, Mauritius, the Bahamas, Vegas, or wherever for me these days but I’m hoping to be at Woburn next year to see Georgia Hall defend her Women’s British Open title. Ricoh have finished their stint as sponsors and yesterday it was announced that it’s now the AIG Women’s British Open, with American International Group, Inc (NYSE: AIG) becoming the title sponsor for the next five years at least. AIG is a leading global insurance organisation (I quote the press release but prefer organisation to organization) and this is the company’s first title sponsorship in professional golf. More on this all, no doubt, in due course but let’s welcome what I hope will be good news for women’s golf worldwide.
Meanwhile, lower down the swinging order, it was Christmas jersey day at Whittington and I leave you with one trio’s offering. We got 13 holes (the designated number at this time of year) in before it started lashing with rain and didn’t have to cover our jumpers with waterproofs.