It would be remiss of me not to start this week’s blog with a heartfelt thank you to all who got in touch with their best wishes and advice as to how to get over a bad dose of the dreaded Covid.  I am so much better but perhaps not quite ready to rejoin the human race fully.  I’m on my way, though…..and all your messages cheered me up enormously.  Thank you.

Inhabiting this nether world that hovers between being unwell and being healthy is a strange experience.  Once out of bed I decamped to the sofa in front of the logburner and drowsily took in the delights of watching the SA Open from the Gary Player Country Club.  The added bonus of numerous fabulous pictures of the wildlife and Tony Johnstone’s informative commentary was just what the doctor ordered.  I remember Mum just loving watching the golf at this time of year – she loved seeing the players in shirt sleeves in the sunshine as the weather clattered against the windows outside.  For her it was an escape from the LDDBC – the long, dark days before Christmas.

Christmas will surely be sweet for Daniel van Tonder, winner of the South African Open – the second oldest Open in the world [Sunshine Tour twitter feed]

For me, however, it’s about the only time this year (aside from the majors) that I’ve been interested in having the golf on on a Thursday or Friday.  In the majority of tournaments the first two rounds are pretty much unwatchable in my opinion – just a really, really, long time filler of a production.  I feel for the television guys – it’s impossible to be fresh and stimulating week in, week out with Thursday and Friday broadcasts.  I’d get rid of them altogether except for the majors.  A short highlights package would suffice and perhaps the sponsor could get more bang for their buck by having more local community initiatives on during those two days.  Just a thought.

A very welcome parcel arrived on the doorstep earlier this week from my good friend Karl Morris.  It was a copy of his latest book, written with his colleague, Gary Nicol:  The Lost Art of the Short Game.  Karl has been a performance coach and mental guru to a host of sporting aficionados for the thick end of three decades.  We first met back in the late 1990s when sports psychologists were viewed with not a little suspicion and those of us who worked with them tended to keep things quiet as if hiding a guilty secret.

Nowadays, it is recognised as being essential to have a Karl on your team if you really are serious about getting the most out of yourself and your game.  My own view is that the last remaining frontier for man to excel in is in the mental side of things.  In golf in the last quarter of a century the physicality of our sport has burgeoned beyond belief.  Running in tandem with this has been an explosion in technological advancement and surely only marginal gains are remaining in these two arenas.  Not so, methinks, in the mental side of things.

Treat yourselves – it’s a little gem.

Be that as it may, this slim, easy-to-read volume is bursting with gems and is perfect for any golfer in your life – and don’t forget to put it on your own Christmas list as well!

One of my favourite times spent with Karl was a three day mini tour of seminars that we delivered to fellow professionals alongside the four Harmon brothers, Butch, Craig, Dick and Bill.  We started with a couple of days at the Belfry and then were whisked by private jet to Dublin where we spoke to a full house at Portmarnock.  I found it a nervewracking experience addressing a room full of peers but the time spent in the company of Karl and the Harmons and the hilarious dinners we enjoyed more than made up for any squirming tummy.

This was the spring of 2004 and Butch had just recently been fired as Tiger’s coach – I’ll never forget the merciless ribbing he endured from his brothers.  The four of them didn’t get much opportunity to spend time together and their delight in each other’s company was obvious.  Sadly, Dick died not long afterwards and I think that trip was the last time they were all together.

The incomparable Butch Harmon – a great coach but even better company [Golf Digest twitter feed]

I was due to get married a couple of weeks later and had a honeymoon planned for after the Ryder Cup in September.  When Butch discovered we were including a trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas he insisted on getting involved with the arrangements on his patch, .ie. in Vegas.  He said to leave everything to him and he booked us a hotel for three nights in Vegas prior to our unforgettable hike down to the bottom of the Canyon.  On the morning we were checking out we went to pay the bill.  There was nothing to pay – it was all taken care of, courtesy of Butch.  We’ve never forgotten it.  Thanks Butch.

It’s hard to believe but this ole blog has staggered through another calendar year and we are now limbering up for our seasonal break.  Five and a half years we’ve been going now, which is little short of remarkable – especially as Patricia promised me we could stop after the Open at Portrush in 2019!  What a wonderful way it has been to connect with you all and keep in touch – that makes it all worthwhile for us.  Thank you for reading.

So, have a lovely festive season and we’ll be back to bother you in the New Year.