Watching the Olympics is bad for your body image if you’re a bit of a couch potato and it doesn’t take many seconds of taekwondo or rugby sevens or hockey to get me out of puff, so I’m trying to concentrate on the mental side of things and calm my mind – hence the lavender at the top of this piece. One, two, three…..breathe; exhale; relax…
On top of everything else, it’s not easy trying to watch the Olympics with an eight-hour time difference and most of the events in the middle of the night here in England. Even worse, the Beeb haven’t got unlimited rights so the wall-to-wall, sport-to-sport coverage we’d got used to during Olympics past just isn’t there….I gave in and signed up to Eurosport but it’s not quite the same, although it’s less GB-centric, which is good for the overall, less edited view.
Many years ago, when the Olympics were in Seoul, I worked nights for a week – couldn’t even manage the full fortnight – and one of the best things was heading home at eight in the morning when everybody else was trekking in to work. I ate dinner with the rest of the household but it was my breakfast really and as they settled down for the evening I headed out to work. The killer was when I had to switch back to normal hours the following week and my system was out of kilter for days.
This time I stayed up once to watch the rugby sevens but decided that some sort of hybrid sleep pattern was unsustainable and that I wasn’t going to commit to the full creature-of-the-night cycle. Several days later I’m still recovering…..so goodness knows how people in Skibbereen are coping and rowers all over Ireland, what with the women’s four of Emily Hegarty, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe and Fiona Murtagh winning bronze and Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan confirming their favourite’s billing by winning gold in the lightweight men’s double sculls. Wow.To me, Skibbereen was always Eileen Rose McDaid (now Power) territory but golf seems to have been superseded by rowing, for the moment. Nothing much trumps Olympic gold, silver and bronze after all. A major just might and you never know, now that golf is in the Olympics (for who knows how long), it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that golfing gold could end up in Skibbereen one day. Over to you Mark Power, son of ER and Eddie (and golfing boys and girls yet to be inspired) and, of course, the IOC.
And, for the meantime, over to Shane, Rory, Leona and Stephanie. Oh, what a pity that there’s not a (mixed?) team element to Olympic golf, it would be so much more fun than individual 72-hole strokeplay. Add in a mix of formats – foursomes, fourball, singles – well, that would be terrific. A bit complicated perhaps but well worth the trouble, something different, something special, which is exactly what the Olympics should be.
Japan should have been the perfect place for Olympic golf to make a statement, to establish itself as something worth watching, even before Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters and launched himself in to the sporting stratosphere and beyond. The Japanese love their golf and have for years, revering their stars, women and men, perhaps well beyond what is good for any human being. This year, however, people are competing in a near vacuum with no fans, not even teammates from other sports. My goodness, Rory’s not even wearing a hat (head too small for team issue apparently).Sepp Straka, of Austria, who’s in the 160s in the world rankings, was in the gold medal position after the first round of the golf at Katsumigaseki Country Club. He managed a round of 63, eight under par (no bogeys), aided and abetted by his caddie, his twin brother Sam, the elder by a couple of minutes. If that isn’t special, I don’t know what is.
Jazz Janewattananond, of Thailand, the man with possibly the best name in golf, was second, one behind, with Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Carlos Ortiz of Mexico two behind. Paul Casey, who’s been in good form in recent weeks, had a 67, a solid start to his bid to emulate Justin Rose, who won gold in Rio. McIlroy had a 69, as did Open champion Collin Morikawa and Shane Lowry had a 70, alongside Tommy Fleetwood. It’s all to play for.
Many miles from Tokyo, in a more accessible time zone, in county Antrim, there’s another very special tournament, with a name that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue: the ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management. It’s a tri-sponsored event, with players from the European Tour (men) and the LPGA and the LET (women) – 144 men and 144 women playing for the same prize money at Galgorm Castle GC and Massereene GC. Well done Niall Horan for using your passion for golf to help others achieve their golfing dreams.Finally, the very best of luck to Janet and David, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who are now in charge (?!) of Barney, an eight-month old springer/collie cross. Not much relaxation in prospect for them. Pass the smelling salts.