I was standing behind the 8th tee at Gleneagles last Saturday – yes, I was there – waiting for Lizette Salas or, more specifically, her coat, when I spotted a text. The phone, on silent, was poised to snap said coat – I’d been tracking it for two or three holes with a marked lack of success – and as I read the message I nearly exploded.
The text, from a friend in the county of Antrim who is not renowned for restraint or political correctness, read as follows: “Hi. Will you FFS take a hot poker to some well upholstered backside out there and tell them to get a bloody move on. Three hours for 9 holes? Yer da is spinning in his grave. I can play 18 holes in that time. It’s a shocking advert for women’s golf and will only produce a circus of jokes about ‘female indecision’. Never mind losing one hole: three strikes and you’re out. Loss of match and point. Yours, Bored of Portrush.”
I responded (I had plenty of time): “Your message arrived just as I was behind the 8th tee watching Lizette Salas!”
“Nearly burst out laughing at v inappropriate moment.”
“Wonderful! As it says in the Good Book (The Rules of Life by the R and A): And the Lord said: ‘Lo, I shall smite the po-faced and the over-cautious while they go about their putt putt’.”
Don’t worry, once this friend gets on a roll, no one has a clue.
Salas wasn’t the only slowcoach on display – Carlota Ciganda’s habit of backing off, as though hoping to take the ball by surprise, is beyond irritating – and if as distinguished a fan as Rory McIlroy is moved to admit he found some of the golf unwatchable, there’s a problem. Golf nerds will, despite themselves, come back regardless, the less committed will switch off or over and go elsewhere, probably for ever.
The players claim to be keen to improve the pace of play but they’re not; they don’t give a toss; after all, it’s their job, so what else do they have to do all day? Anyway, they say, it’s up to the officials to enforce the guidelines but that’s just refusing to accept responsibility.
They’ve forgotten that golf is a moving game, it’s not static, despite the fact that you do stop to hit a ball that is lying there waiting for you to give it a skelp. They’ve stopped calculating on the move, assessing the conditions, considering their options as they approach the ball, almost making a decision on the type of shot, even the club, before they’ve come to a halt beside their ball. It’s the old paralysis by analysis, by the very people who should, given the hours they put in on the practice ground and their ridiculous levels of skill, know their capabilities inside out and be the speediest of us all.
They’re looking for perfection but didn’t someone once say that “golf is not a game of perfect”? Didn’t someone write a book about it? And can we blame the advent of another book, the yardage book, for slowing things down to start with? Gene Andrews, an American amateur, who disliked the fickleness of “feel”, played by yardage and had a little book for all the courses he played. Deane Beman, who became commissioner of the US PGA Tour, picked up on the idea and so did Jack Nicklaus, who could also turn to stone over his putts. Trouble was, he holed most of them and players all over the world gave up missing ’em quick in an attempt to emulate Jack. At least he knew what he was doing; most of the rest of us don’t have a bloody clue.
Come Sunday, Gleneagles was at its glorious best and the golf couldn’t have been more compelling. Most of the matches were too tight to call and the thousands of spectators who pounded their way round some challenging terrain were on tenterhooks. Europe edging on top? No. USA all the way? No. Advantage Europe? No, Stars and Stripes for ever, heading for an unprecedented three Solheims in a row. A European BBU (brave but unavailing). We’re fecked (as they say in Ireland), all impartiality ditched. The USA, the holders, only need a half to retain with three matches still out on the course. Europe still have a glimmer but they can’t do it, surely?
Anna Nordqvist, playing in splendid isolation, more or less, in the last match, always had the better of Morgan Pressel and won on the 15th, away from the mayhem that was brewing further ahead. Bronte Law, all passion and bounce, shrugged off some shocking frittering to finish with a flourish that Ally McDonald couldn’t match and they then stood on the 17th green and watched the denouement on the big screen.
I’d been following Bronte with two friends from Cheshire who’d known her since she was a wee lass and after we’d stopped clapping her victory, we and hordes of others stood looking at Suzann Pettersen standing over a putt on the 18th green. “What’s this for?” we said to the man next to us. “It’s for the match,” he said. “It’s for the whole thing.”
“What!” we said. ”You’re joking!”
I thought of Bernhard Langer at Kiawah but Pettersen had left herself an uphill putt and in it went, right in the middle, no messing. Cue more jumping up and down, screeching, general mania and disbelief. Even Catriona Matthew, the calmest, least demonstrative of captains, went bananas.
Blimey. How did that happen? How did we do that? How did Pettersen even hold the putter? It was Killeen Castle without the rain. (I still don’t know how Europe pulled off that win in Ireland.) Unbelievable.
The bottom line is that my boots (see top) are still unbeaten; whenever they tramp the fairways Europe win. They made their debut at the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in 2010; sloshed their way around Killeen Castle at the 2011 Solheim; Maureen wore them at Gleneagles in 2014 at the Ryder Cup; and here they were again, back in Scotland, where Europe have now won three Solheim Cups.
I’ll leave the last word to my mate, transformed from Bored to Potty of Portrush:-