I’m going to start with the good stuff, which means that J.B. Holmes and his interminable faffing about on the 72nd hole of the Farmers Insurance Open will be last on the list, long after everything else. And, unlike the tour officials with their seemingly non-existent timings, you’ll have the choice to cut him off early, banish him to the outer darkness, penalise him into irrelevance and not bother about him at all. Whatever they’re like off the course, golf pros can be the most selfish gits on it, citing the will to win as justification for the most unjustifiable behaviour. That’s why most sports have umpires, referees, judges, whatever- for those times when a player’s judgement disappears in a puff of, whatever. To take more than four minutes to decide to lay up suggests that his initials stand for Jelly Baby, all wibble and wobble. I think Chip Beck once called it the crucible of uncertainty – but at least he was in contention at the Masters.
On a happier note, Juli Inkster, the quintessential all-American sportswoman, who has spent her life setting records and inspiring girls to give it their all, has agreed to be the US Solheim Cup captain for an unprecedented third time. It’s quite an un-American thing to do – they tend to limit their golf captains to a couple of goes at most – but Inkster couldn’t resist trying to make it a hat-trick of wins, at Gleneagles next year. After all, the USA have never won in Scotland.
“It was to me a no-brainer,” Inkster said. “I love doing it. I love being around the girls. I love the camaraderie. It’s a lot of work but it’s fun. When you can come together and all of a sudden the week’s there and everything comes together the way it should and the ladies are ready to play, it to me was a no-brainer. The last two years have been really the best part of my golfing career and I’ve been pretty lucky to have some nice memories. So it’s been fun.”Mike Brearley, the former England cricket captain, wrote a famous book called “The Art of Captaincy” and whether Inkster, a non-playing captain, has read it or not, she outlined her laudable, straightforward approach to the task: “I just tried to be myself, tried to be up front, tried to let everybody know where they stand. I feel like I’m pretty approachable and I don’t have all the answers and if I don’t have all the answers, I really look to my team for guidance. So, I think it’s more of a team win than my win. I mean, they’re the ones that are putting their face out there, they’re the face of the Solheim Cup, so I’m just in the background trying to make sure everybody has fun and plays loose. I know I played my best golf when I didn’t really worry about winning or losing. I just went out there and played. And that’s what I tried to get my team to do.”
The Americans came back from four points behind to win the singles and the match on a febrile final day in Germany four years ago. They were riled by a right royal rules rumpus and a sense of injustice that the Europeans failed to defuse. “I really learned a lot in Germany,” Inkster said, “because it didn’t really look like we were going to win but that Sunday I was really proud of the way I handled things and the way the team came together and handled things. I learned that, under adversity and stuff, you just stick to who you are. That’s all you can do. And that’s really what I’ve done the last couple of years, is just stick to who I am and I don’t try to be anybody different…….I learned a lot about myself, to trust my instincts and trust my gut and really trust my heart, what I think is the right thing to do.”She and her team won again at Des Moines two years ago and will be hard to beat at Gleneagles next year but Europe’s captain, Catriona Matthew from North Berwick, will make a doughty opponent. The Scot is calmness personified, a quieter competitor than Inkster, who is a Californian with an exuberant streak, but just as determined. Game on.
Rory McIlroy was fed up after losing out to China’s Li Haotong (or should that be Haotong Li?) at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – the Ulsterman was two ahead with eight to play – but the disappointment should fire him up for the run-up to the coveted Masters at Augusta. I hope he noticed that Caroline Wozniacki won the Australian Open, her first grand slam title, after years of toil, trial and tribulation. And it would be nice to think that he had the good grace to send his former fiancee the congratulations she deserved.Finally, and quickly, back to J.B. Holmes. He is, apparently, aghast at the furore stirred up by his funereal decision making. If he’d been watching, he’d surely just have been aghast at the inertia; no wonder golf was voted the most unwatchable of spectator sports.