It would be lovely to be able to say that, week in, week out, this blog is a well researched, considered piece but, as many of you will have suspected, that’s not the case. I sit down at the trusty laptop – thought it’s been behaving badly this week, making the photos perplexingly smaller than they should be, although I might have sorted that, fingers crossed – and start tapping away, waiting to see what emerges.
There’s been a lot going on in golf in the last week, so where to start? I had to laugh when Jon Rahm picked up his ball and stood there like a statue, stunned, as he and his caddy, gobsmacked, realised what he’d done. The referee arrived and penalised Rahm one shot and from then on the Spaniard was like a man possessed, concentrating so fiercely that he ended up in a play-off with Dustin Johnson, the world No 1, who had to hole a putt of more than 30 feet to tie. Rahm then holed from something like 66 feet to win the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields on the first extra hole.I admit I laughed but only because I remembered that I’d seen Ian Woosnam do the self-same thing – pick up his ball without marking it – in the World Cup in Rome. I think he was desperate to go to the loo and there was one behind the green, so his mind wasn’t on his golf at all. It was manna from heaven for those of us covering the event because the World Cup rarely lived up to its title and was often so dull that it made ditchwater sparkle. There’s nothing like a mega brain fade to brighten up the day.
Even the threat of torture couldn’t have made a wimp like me come up with the winners of that World Cup (in 1991); if you’d threatened my loved ones, I’d have had to yell, “Scatter, head for the hills, run like hell.” The wildest of guesses wouldn’t have come up with Sweden in the shape of Anders Forsbrand and Per-Ulrik Johansson. And guess who won the individual title? Yep. Ian Woosnam of Wales. He’d been the leading individual before, in 1987, when he and David Llewellyn won at Kapalua in Hawaii, beating Scotland (Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance) in a play-off.
The golf at that World Cup passed me by – most of the rounds took a minimum of five hours (or, if they didn’t, they felt as though they did). What I do remember is the joy of staying in Rome, well worth an hour’s coach journey to the course. Some of the agency journalists, with multiple deadlines, decided to move to digs nearer the course but that meant being billeted in the middle of nowhere, more or less and those of us with less taxing deadlines opted for a longer journey to work. And, purely by chance, I discovered the perfect way to cover the World Cup.
If memory (what that?) serves, I was doing the Scottish Daily Record (as it was probably called in those far-off times) and the Scots, who were playing indifferently, were my priority. One day Dai and I explored the catacombs with Kaye Kessler and his wife Ro, guided by a knowledgeable, witty and entertaining priest from Hong Kong. It was a magical morning and Kaye, being an American journo of some influence and considerable charm, had organised a courtesy car to take us to the golf course; luxury. Even more magically, we arrived just in time to see the Scots putt out on the 18th, perfect timing.
I’m not sure if that’s the year that Sam T tried to avoid talking to me by nipping out the back door of the scorer’s hut – a counterproductive move if ever there was one because it just meant I had to pursue him to get a quote (which I later discovered the office were inclined to improve/embellish if they didn’t like the original). He’d have saved himself a lot of hassle if he’d just waited and got rid of me in a couple of minutes. A few years later, more clued up, less mobile, I’d probably have shrugged and made him sound positively eloquent. Anyway, looking more closely at the results, I see that Wales finished one shot behind Sweden, with the Scots (Colin Montgomerie was Sam’s partner) in third place, three shots behind the Welsh.
The United States, who used to dominate the competition, finished in 12th place, alongside Italy and, stung, sent out their big guns in 1992, in the shape of Fred Couples and Davis Love III, a duo who proceeded to win four consecutive World Cups.
These days Woosie is a newly appointed ambassador for the newly minted Legends Tour, the latest incarnation of what was once the European Senior Tour and then became the Staysure Tour. Ryan Howsam, who founded the Staysure insurance firm, has taken a majority equity share in the tour and will oversee the commercial strategy, working with Mark Aspland, the head of the tour. They’ll be targeting wealthy amateurs who want to play with their golfing heroes on a regular basis and Howsam said, “I believe the untapped commercial potential that the Legends Tour has to offer is unlimited.
“Together we will build this into a brand for professionals, including Ryder Cup players and European Tour winners, as well as amateurs, spectators, promoters and sponsors alike. Golf is unique in that it has high profile and lucrative competitions for players in the over 50s age group. This is our expertise. Competitions will be talked about, loved and watched and we will be rewarding and supporting our members with prize money and endorsements each season.”
The tour’s first ambassadors also include Mark James, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Lehman, Michael Campbell and Paul Lawrie, a distinguished line-up who can still play a bit and have a fund of stories. Sartorial elegance is still a work in progress.Lastly but by no means least, congratulations to Erica and Rory McIlroy on the birth of their first child, a daughter called Poppy, who arrived on August 31st.