What a glorious autumn this little part of our world is enjoying in terms of female players from these shores triumphing on the LPGA tour. Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh (top) is the latest to become an LPGA champion (and the first Scot since Catriona Matthew in 2011) winning the TOTO Japan Classic last weekend. She joins Englishwomen Charley Hull and Jodi Ewart Shadoff in giving us three winners on that tour in the space of the last four weeks. That’s a first, so let’s enjoy it and celebrate these players, not forgetting Ireland’s Leona Maguire and her win earlier in the season.
Gemma is in her fifth season on the LPGA and prior to this tournament her best finish had been a fifth place. She smiled her way round the golf course, seemingly impervious to the relentless pressure exerted by numerous, logo-bedecked Japanese players who kept hitting hybrids in from around 200 yards and holing the putts. Gemma just smiled and followed suit and even the thundering sight of a rampant Linn Grant in her rear view mirror, a winner six times in the last fourteen months, didn’t shake her.Prior to this tournament the Scot’s aim was to make the season-ending CME Championship which takes place next week and for which the top 60 players on the LPGA tour qualify. That’s nicely checked off the list now and there are a few other experiences from the week in Japan that will stand Gemma in good stead. Playing professionally in that country for the first time, she found herself leading an LPGA event for the first time in her career. That was late in the third round during which, by the way, she was playing with Atthaya Thitikul, the 19-year old sensation from Thailand who is the current world No 1. Unfazed, Gemma shot 65.
The Japanese fans just adore their golf and despite understandably pulling for the home players the respect afforded to all the competitors was something the players all mentioned in their post-round interviews. Whatever the reason, it was apparent that the Scotswoman was very comfortable out there in the heat of battle and when the pressure was at its greatest she covered the closing eight holes in five under to put the finishing touches to a superb second 65.I asked Lawrence Farmer, Gemma’s long-time coach, if this win was out of the blue and he told me that she’d been playing very well since the end of July, had been a very solid player for quite a while, so, no, not really. Having coached major champions, Lawrence is someone whose opinion I value and he agreed with me when I said Gemma reminded me of Cristie Kerr, the nine-time American Solheim Cup player, who was the bane of many a European Solheim Cup team.
When the celebrations die down, the Solheim Cup will now undoubtedly be on Gemma’s radar and I’m quite sure that Europe’s Solheim Cup captain Suzanne Pettersen will have been paying very close attention, particularly to the Scot’s calmness under pressure.
We’re honing in at a rate of knots on January 2023…………which means a revision of the Rules of Golf. For years and years nothing seemed to change but in the last decade and a half or so since I did the R&A rules exam quite a lot has changed. And when you’ve had a year like me without dusting off the clubs at all, the new rules can quite easily pass you by.
I took note therefore when the sister forwarded me an article highlighting a couple of changes and clarifications coming into play in January. Firstly, Rule 10.2b(4). This states that a caddie must not “deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason”. There was always the implication that a player’s partner shouldn’t crowd the line of a player either in order to see what way his own putt might break if on a similar line. This has now been made much more explicit and is worth remembering if you play a lot of foursomes or fourballs at your club. It’s simply not allowed and the penalty in stroke play is two shots (Rule 22.6) and in match play loss of hole (Rule 22.8). Do read the rule for a fuller explanation.Now, perhaps some of you recognise the putter in the picture above? The implement, I mean, not the person. Maybe you even have one in the bag, or perhaps in the garage? Yes, it’s the self-standing putter – that club which enables a player to set the blade down, walk behind the putter to check the aim and then return to take his stance happy in his alignment. From January you may no longer use the putter to aid your alignment. This is completely consistent with the rule banning caddies from lining up players. Quite rightly too. Aiming is a massive part of the game and psychologically removing that doubt is an enormous help to the player, taking away a large part of the skill of the game. NB however, the actual putter is not banned, only its use as an aid to lining up. This is similar to the broom handle putter not being banned, rather there are restrictions on how it can be used.
Finally, before I fall into the trap of moaning about the rules and how they still seem as complicated as ever, the following, doing the rounds of Whittington Heath members, served as a great reminder to me of how golf really does teach you to take the good breaks with the bad and just get on with things, no matter how difficult.
Now, any complaints about your current circumstances?….