It’s great fun being an armchair golfer, don’t you think? For one thing, you never, ever get wet and for another, you never hit a bad shot.
Last week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, played over three courses – the Old at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns – the weather ranged from tolerable, autumnal fare to downright brutal and intolerable. The caddies were worth far more than their normal percentage and last Friday, in particular, was a day to be in by the fireside. Only the fittest mentally thrived and survived and no part of a player’s game was left untested. It was a very relieved and emotional Kiwi, therefore, who holed out on the last to win on Sunday.
This was Ryan Fox’s second victory of this, his most lucrative season to date. Alongside his two wins sit two play-off losses and a host of other high finishes and he is finally stepping out from behind the not inconsiderable sporting shadow of his father Grant, an All Black fly half. Fittingly, Grant and the rest of the family were there to embrace the winner as he came off the 18th, to make the celebrations all the sweeter.Fox had played in this pro-am format tournament with his great mate, the late Shane Warne, finishing runner-up in the team event last year. This year, in the individual tussle, he felt the great cricketer’s presence helping him down the stretch when he was understandably getting a little nervy. In his post-round interview he said all he could think of at that moment was “Warney”.
It really was an emotional, bittersweet victory but when it all sinks in Fox can look forward to an invitation to next year’s Masters. Starting the season at 213th in the world rankings, he is now 25th. I hope when he next bumps in to Trevor Immelman, he’ll ask him why he didn’t get one of his picks for the International team in the recent Presidents Cup. They could have done with him.Meanwhile, in infinitely better weather conditions over in Texas, at The Ascendant LPGA Benefiting Volunteers of America, Charley Hull (pic at top) was putting the finishing touches to her second LPGA victory and her first in six years. She and Fox have one thing in common, apart from being winners, that is. They are both extraordinarily quick players, constantly on the move and therefore both have to deal with the sometimes interminable waiting required on the professional tours – just another factor to add in to the mix.
Charley becomes only the fifth English player to have won multiple times on the LPGA and the only surprise, perhaps, for those of us who have followed her progress since junior days is that she hasn’t won more often – and sooner. I’m not saying it’s easy to win – it’s insanely difficult – but Charley has it all. Her talent is unquestionable but she also works hard, is supremely fit and has the superb Adam Woodward on her bag, who can steer her to the top of the podium if anyone can.As I mentioned, Hull plays refreshingly quickly and is a joy to watch when she’s under pressure. Of all the golfers I have watched down the years she exhibits no fear whatsoever. She was two ahead with two to go when one of her nearest challengers, Xiyu Lin of China (known as Janet), with whom she was paired, holed for an eagle three, forcing Charley to hole a slippery five-footer for birdie, to maintain the slenderest of advantages.
Coming through the TV screen at me at that moment was how much she was looking forward to hitting that putt. She said afterwards she really enjoyed it when Lin holed for her eagle, saying she “found it exciting”. That’s rare, I would suggest but it is indicative of how much Charley loves the purity of competition. She finished with a 64, seven under par, to hold off Lin, who has yet to win on the LPGA Tour and Lydia Ko, a former world No 1, who both had 65.
Charley’s still only 26, so, hopefully, there’ll be loads more opportunities to watch her in contention in the big events.Closer to home, I’ve just signed another contract with Sirius/XM, the satellite digital network, to work at the men’s majors for them next year. They have been amazingly loyal to me considering that the last time I worked for them was at Pebble Beach at the 2019 US Open, won that year by Gary Woodland. Unforgettably, 2020 was a wipe-out and then in 2021 the US borders were closed to me, so no transatlantic travel was possible. Then in November last year I caught the dreaded Covid which subsequently resulted in me having to withdraw from each of the majors in turn – so that was that for 2022.
Immense thanks to Sirius for their patience and loyalty and fingers crossed that I can get out of the armchair and back to watching exciting, live golf that is only available to me at the moment through a screen.
Armchair golf? Yes, it’s great, but I’m looking forward to getting out and about again – even if it does mean getting wet!