Brother-in-law Brian won our Masters sweep so he scooped the dosh, not quite on the scale of Jon Rahm but a triumph nonetheless. None of us saw Phil Mickelson coming but even if he’d won his fourth green jacket/coat, B would still have won our money as the nearest challenger.
The LIV blokes didn’t do badly, so perhaps it suits some of them to be lightly raced. In time, however, their lack of top-class 72-hole competition will tell. I remember, many years ago, at The Tradition in Arizona, the seniors’ event that preceded The Masters, Gary Player, never averse to exaggeration, was adamant that Jack Nicklaus was playing so well that he could win his seventh green jacket. I snorted so loudly that Gary called me out publicly at his clinic later on and the following week, when Jack was doing rather well early on, I was a little worried. It was many years after 1986, when Jack astounded everybody, himself included, by winning and he duly faded away, lacking the intensity of regular competition at the highest level.
Rory McIlroy, with so many months to stew on the tournament he needs to complete the Grand Slam, crashed and burned, scoring horribly in the best of the weather. He wasn’t playing badly going in to what has established itself as his most important week of the year but my heart sank when I saw that he was in the second last group in the first round; and it sank even further when several players zoomed round in 65, 7 under par. Oops. Don’t look Rory; 68 will do nicely. In benign conditions, that’s about level par really, given the par 5s that are reachable in two. Even 69 or 70 would work. Theory is all very well but practice is another matter.
Hey ho, golf’s very easy from the sidelines but championship golf is hard work, it’s not fun, it’s mostly a grind, when every shot counts. It’s not easy giving every shot your full attention. How often do even the best come off the course and say, “I couldn’t have scored any better.” In other words, they hadn’t lost concentration or focus on a single, solitary shot, however they’d been hitting the ball.
Rory has won four majors but the last one was in 2014, when he was a swashbuckling young thing. He’s won lots of big events since and been world No 1 but has he lost his edge, is he done? Has he taken on too much off the course? Is he destined to be one of Ireland’s all-time greats but a world very, very good – even a very, very, very good, a deserved Hall of Famer but not quite a great?
Wonder if he could manage a few months with Dave Alred, who worked so successfully with Jonny Wilkinson and helped Francesco Molinari win the Open? Apparently it’s a pretty brutal regime and not for everybody but it might be worth a shot. I’ve just been reading Miss Truman To Serve, a memoir by Christine Truman Janes, one of Britain’s best tennis players and she and her coach Norman Kitovitz devised a pretty intense regime. It led to many triumphs but not the Wimbledon title that she craved. And when Christine took one of her daughters, a keen and promising player, to Norman, it didn’t work – his intensity was too much.
If Rory were to win three more majors, of whatever stripe, he’d overtake Nick Faldo and if he were to win four more, he’d move ahead of Harry Vardon and become the British, Irish and European golfer with the most major championships. Every sportsperson has to keep dreaming.
And in the unlikely event that Rory wins nothing else, who are we kidding, he’ll still be marvellous and a decent human being. Why should we ask for more?
Watching Spurs play Brighton last Saturday was even more painful than watching Rory at Augusta, although Sonny scored a wonderful goal – his 100th in the Premier League – at our end and the sainted Harry slotted home very neatly. We won 2-1 but it could easily have been 5-2 to Brighton who had two goals disallowed and two penalties turned down. I haven’t met a Spurs fan yet who knows how we won that match.
Bournemouth will surely fancy their chances this Saturday.
Finally, congratulations to Marta Figueras-Dotti, LET chair, PGA of Spain member and president of the WPGA of Spain (among many other accolades) on being the latest recipient of the Confederation of Professional Golf’s Christer Lindberg Bowl for her services to the game in every capacity, from player to coach to administrator. The CPG, formerly the PGAs of Europe, has no higher honour.
“These are the moments that are very special,” Marta said, “and give me the strength and the desire to keep working on the things that I’m doing and keep working on golf in Europe…
“I definitely have the ‘baby’ of mine which is bringing the Solheim Cup to Spain, which was a huge, tremendous effort. So, although I’m not planning to quit any time soon, I would like to be remembered as somebody that has really given back to the game of golf in general, not only in Spain, but in Europe.”
This year’s Solheim, at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia from September 22nd-24th, should be a cracker. Europe, captained by Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, will be attempting to win the match for the third time in a row against a USA team led by the redoubtable Stacy Lewis.
It’s not going to be dull.Viva Espana.