All the golf talk is of the Masters and the big buzz around this year’s tournament, which starts next Thursday, weather permitting.  Can Tiger conjure up the comeback to end all comebacks and win again; will Rory complete the coveted grand slam; what chance Sergio celebrating Azalea’s arrival with another green jacket;  is Danny Willett still a major factor or a busted flush; can anyone beat Bubba at Augusta if he’s at his idiosyncratic best; can a fireman make the cut?  [Matt Parziale, a firefighter from Brockton, Massachusetts, won the US Mid-Amateur to qualify.]  So many questions and all being well, we’ll have all the answers a week on Sunday.

Not an implement you’re likely to see at Augusta this year but useful enough if your stroke has got a little out of kilter. Worth a try Rory? [Actual putter is smaller than image above]

Luckily for all of the above, I’m not putting any money on anyone or anything, having learned from bitter betting experience.  My men/women/horses/50-50 chances invariably come to grief, so I’m giving up, even on the Grand National – I think Team Spirit, in 1964, was my last success, a fluke of mythical proportions but I was too young to realise that that sort of luck couldn’t hold.  Lee Westwood, a golfer who likes a flutter and takes more than a passing interest in horse-racing, had an amazing punting run at Cheltenham the other week but I suspect he’d swap it for another four competitive rounds at Augusta National.  I believe he has to win in Houston this week to get in.

In the meantime, over in California, the first major of the season is already under way:  the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, hard by Palm Springs, started yesterday.  Hard to believe I used to go there every year, starting in the days when Dinah Shore’s name was still in the title and she was the hostess with the mostest.  I’d drive across the desert from Phoenix, home of the Standard Register Ping of blessed memory, won four times in a row by the inimitable Laura Davies and the event where Annika Sorenstam posted her record-breaking 59 [I was there!].  The course was called Moon Valley, so perhaps there was a certain mystical magic in the air.  Dame Laura is still competing in California, on the Dinah Shore Tournament course, in an event she has yet to win, a particularly irritating gap in her formidable resume.  Will she win this week?  Doubtful, given that the best players in the world, younger and fitter, make up the opposition and LD started with an 81 but golf is a funny old game.  Keep an eye out.

The 1st tee at Whittington Heath, with the adjacent 18th lurking close by, invitingly, embarrassingly….

To lower the tone and the skill level considerably, I am feeling a tad overgolfed this week.  It was the captains’ drive-in at Whittington Heath on Sunday and there was a 9-hole comp, not won by me and my long-suffering partner.  She used to class me as a good player – until she saw my opening effort at the 1st.  I was lucky to make any sort of contact and my ball ended up on the 18th green, a holeable 15 feet from the pin.  I’d driven all of 30, perhaps, being generous, 35 yards.  “I’d have gone and picked it up for you,” my partner said, “but I didn’t want them [the guys playing the last] thinking it was mine!”  Steps: 1,537 [forgot to put my phone in my pocket].

Fortunately, the following day, in the final of the Winter Foursomes, I was playing the evens, though we did start at the 10th because the golfers of the West Midlands Fire Service were out in force.  I made a better fist of my drive and avoided most of the trouble, though my partner Bev Chattaway and I were outhit (well, I, of the non-existent swing speed, was) and outlasted by two of Whittington’s many Sues – Spencer and Sims in this case – who won the final three holes to win 2 up.  Congratulations to them, it was a good battle.  And thanks to Bev for her equanimity in the face of adversity.  Steps:  14,150.

The final of the Winter Foursomes in glorious sunshine. My partner’s all in black…;

Tuesday was the Grandmothers’ comp, with a stableford for those of us who aren’t grannies.  I played like a particularly decrepit great, great granny whose chosen sport was bowls – or bridge, or bagatelle, anything but golf.  I don’t often change my putter but my stroke had been so peripatetic that I’d rooted out The Little Swan, a minute, aged mallet by John Letters of Scotland, that is dwarfed by the ball.  If you don’t make a decent strike, the ball goes nowhere, so it concentrates the mind wonderfully.  Not that it worked on Tuesday.  Steps:  12,873.

Spot the difference. If your striking has gone a little wonky, try The Little Swan, left, just visible behind the yellow ball.

On Wednesday, it was off to Moor Hall in Sutton Coldfield for the first round of the Annodata, a five-a-side team event off handicap.  We had hail, torrential rain, ordinary rain and beautiful spring sunshine, so my opponent and I, who hadn’t the luxury of a caddie between us, were kept busy juggling towels, brollies, hats, gloves, specs, whatever.  No wonder our golf was a trifle sclaffy.  The course wasn’t quite as wet as the Loch Lomond of the 2000 Solheim Cup but it was soggy enough and striking the ball cleanly was cause for celebration.  When spring is properly sprung and everything is blooming, Moor Hall is a lovely place to play golf and it’s where Maureen once had so many birdies that the scoreboard ran out of red numbers.  Oh happy days.

For the record, WHGC won 4-1 and can still dream of the finals in Spain.  Steps:  17,642.

Yesterday, blog day, I contented myself with tai chi and a trip into Birmingham to give blood.  I’m up to donation number 48 – it was a sluggish effort but we blamed the slow flow on the cold – and I’m hoping to hit the half century by the end of the year.  Steps:  10,018.