The only thing I’m going to promise this week is that there won’t be a bracket in sight. It was pointed out, by a woman who’ll remain nameless, that there was far too much stuff in parentheses last week, that it was confusing and sometimes, horror, the brackets were in the wrong place. Now, that is confusing and I apologise for any aberration. I’ve spent years trying to curb my penchant for convoluted constructions, not always successfully and since blogs are the ultimate self-indulgence and I’m the editor, things have gone from bad, bad, bad to worse. And, a word of warning, it’s likely to continue….There’s often nothing nicer than golf on a brisk autumn day but that’s off limits for a lot of us in another lockdown. Still, I was delighted to see that Darren Clarke, now, officially, an old codger, managed his first win on the PGA Tour Champions, in the TimberTech Championship at Boca Raton in Florida. He finished one shot ahead of Jim Furyk and Bernhard Langer, so it wasn’t easy. It’s hard to imagine but Darren’s last win was the Open Championship at Royal St George’s, way back in 2011, a long time for a player of his talent. That Sunday in Kent was a magical day, filthy weather, blowing a hooley, Darren in his element and uncharacteristically, preternaturally calm, playing beautifully, in the zone. Me out there in every item of clothing I had with me, cheering silently when I saw Dustin Johnson, a real danger, launch his second shot at the 14th miles out of bounds on the right and take a bogey 6 instead of a birdie or, even worse, an eagle. It was worth delaying the long, tedious journey home from a venue that’s best reached from France to see DC lift the claret jug and wait even longer to congratulate him in person.
It’s taken him 40 attempts to beat the old boys, who can still play and are as fiercely competitive as it is possible to be. He’s got a new caddie, with a famous name, Sandy Armour, brother of PGA Tour player Tommy, who’s having to adapt to the Ulsterman’s ways, as his boss explained: “He’s getting to know me and that’s pretty difficult to do with my tantrums. At 52, sometimes I act as if I’m 12 or 13. It’s just getting to know your player, when to speak and not to speak, how much help to give him. He’s adapted unbelievably quickly and he’s done an amazing job.”
Ah, so the infamous Clarke tantrums are still alive and well and bubbling under, just waiting to erupt. Double bogeys at the last hole used to guarantee an explosion, though, in fairness, few golfers, at whatever level, are at their most affable after a bad finish. Ideally, you leave them be to cool off but sometimes that’s not possible. In Japan once, covering the event for the Irish papers, Darren was the man I had to speak to and I trekked down to the 18th and waited patiently, getting colder. It did not go well. Yer man barrelled past me, head down like an angry bull on the charge, muttering “the head’s off, the head’s off,” and I tramped back to the press room, muttering imprecations. “If the arrogant git ever does that to me again,” I said to Dai, “I’ll go through him for a shortcut.” At least as furious as Darren, I ranted on and Dai, sensibly, took me at my word: he did the Irish interviews for the rest of the week. Happy days!
On a less uplifting note, I played in our stableford competition on Tuesday and trailed in a sorry 34th with a measly total of 24 points, just 14 behind the winner. There was a lot of pre-comp confusion over the handicaps because we were operating under the new system and some of us had no clue what we were meant to be playing off, so our long-suffering handicap team told us just to write down the gross score and they’d do the rest. What stars. Many, many thanks. Devotion above and beyond. Anyway, I seemed to be off 11, down from 13 and well out of anything remotely resembling a comfort zone. Shouldn’t have taken the team too long to tot up my total…I’ll either have to take up tai chi full time or put Mo’s tips into practice.
By the way I forgot to mention P. G. Wodehouse on my reading list last week, a ridiculous oversight. His characters may be from another world but you’ll recognise their modern counterparts nonetheless. The other morning, in bed with a cuppa, I started reading Stephen Potter’s “The complete golf gamesmanship” in bed and couldn’t stop. What’s not to love about this, talking about his mixed foursomes partner Mrs King-Porter, when they were playing a match against the Rimmings: “Another thing Kingers did even I found quite deeply distracting. Rimming and I were pretty silent in this foursome because we knew our concentration would be taxed to the uttermost. But Kingers, as if to show how superior women were as a social animal, and what fun they had in life generally, would during the match start four new subjects of conversation with Mrs Rimming with such bubbling enthusiasm that I must admit that I have slipped unobtrusively behind them to find what it was about; but somehow the words bounce off one’s brain, and I forget them instantly…”
Or this nugget, in the chapter “Primary Play”: “In the twenties the average age at Mid Surrey was high, and they knew it. There was said to be a Death Expectancy Chart above the Secretary’s desk. I do know that in the doorway, only half hidden, was a hand ambulance in wickerwork for collecting coronaries in the summer months.” Perhaps, on reflection, not such a laughing matter for many of us of maturing years….
I’ll end with a moniker that Potter or Wodehouse would have swooped upon: Miss Jones, who appeared in the blog last week in the arms of her proud parents, has been named exuberantly. She is now Jemima Persephone Rose. Exult.