I was looking forward to a record-breaking and record-equalling sporting bonanza last weekend, but, as is inevitably the way with sport, things didn’t quite pan out as I had hoped.

First on the menu was the Six Nations rugby which I have loved all my life – right from the time it was just the Five Nations and Willie John McBride was one of Ireland’s most decorated forwards.  He was our local boy, working in the bank in Ballymena just up the road from Portstewart and post his rugby career he became a very accomplished and much sought-after after-dinner speaker.  He was the guest of honour at the council dinner in Portstewart when Dad was the captain, which was quite a coup for the club……….and Dad.

I remember a few years ago Willie John was being interviewed about his own career and the current state of the modern game.  He made me chuckle with his remark that the forwards nowadays regularly ran further in one half of rugby than he himself ever did in the entire Five Nations series!

Anyway, be that as it may, this Scottish/Irish household was a gloomy picture after Italy and England’s respective victories on Saturday, the latter putting paid to my hopes of elusive back-to-back grand slams.  That is a very rare achievement indeed and despite receiving a text from Patricia before kick-off telling me she was nervous, I was, in fact, quietly confident.  Strike one.

Bravely putting that disappointment behind me I tuned in on Sunday to the Jonsson Workwear Open on the DP World Tour, which was played at Glendower golf club just outside Johannesburg.  My initial interest was in following Northern Irishman Tom McKibbin’s progress as he attempted to win his second DP World title, which would best Rory McIlroy, who a decade or so ago, had won his second DP World title by the age of 22.  McKibbin won’t turn 22 until the year’s end and he started Sunday’s final round four behind the leader Matteo Manassero.

An opening triple bogey pretty much put paid to Tom’s chances but a stout recovery saw him finish with a 69 and tied ninth – very creditable indeed, but not the win I was seeking.  There’s still time for that second win to come before he turns 22.  As for me…………….strike 2.

More than a decade between DP World Tour wins for the likeable Matteo Manassero. What a testament to his resilience and determination. [DP World tour.]

That disappointment was softened by seeing Manassero win for the first time in 11 years.  The Italian is 30 years of age now and had won four times on the DP World  tour, but never in his twenties.  He plummeted from 25th in the world rankings to 1800 and something and has spent the last decade trying to reproduce the brilliance of his teenage years.  Two wins last year on the Challenge tour helped him regain his card on the big tour, all of which has led to this dream comeback and, finally, the sweetest win of all – number five.

Meanwhile, over in China, one of this blog’s favourites, Kiwi Lydia Ko was entering the final round of the Blue Bay LPGA tournament tied with the American duo of Bailey Tardy and Sarah Schmelzel.  Ko, winner of twenty tournaments on the LPGA and former world No 1, needs one more victory to gain enough points for induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame, arguably the most difficult H of F in all of sport.  A closing 71 was never going to get it done, however, so the search for the last remaining points continues.  Strike 3 for me.

Bailey Tardy put the after burners on in the final dozen holes hoovering up an eagle and birdies galore and shooting a superb 65.  This gave her a four-shot cushion over Schmelzel in second place.  The beaming picture of Tardy enjoying her first LPGA win is in stark contrast to the tear-stained player who was docked a hole for slow play in the 2016 Curtis Cup played at Dun Laoghaire golf club.  It came very late in the match and she was distraught – but it’s good to know she has found calmer waters in her professional career.

Bailey Tardy, not slow to smile while holding her first LPGA trophy. [LPGA.com]

Next, it was over to Bay Hill and Arnie Palmer’s tournament where, for a second consecutive Sunday, Shane Lowry was in contention, making this Irish heart beat faster.  Tied for the lead with the incredibly talented Scottie Scheffler, Shane opened up bogey, bogey against birdie, par from the American.  With eight holes left to play Shane was five back and Scottie had a four-shot lead over Will Zalatoris.  Strike 4.

Time to switch over to the Ladies’ European Tour and the Aramco Team Series playing at Feather Sound Country Club near Tampa in Florida.  Charley Hull was leading this three rounder after two days of competition and trying desperately to better her six runner-up spots since her last win in the States in late September 2022.  When I joined her, however, she had lost ground and was a couple adrift of German player Alexandra Forsterling as they were making their way into the heart of the back nine.  Bronte Law, however,  gave me a flicker of hope with an amazing final round of 67 and a total of eight under the card which saw her finish in third place.

Alas, too little too late for both Bronte and Charley and the efficient play of Alexandra saw her coast to a final round 67 and a three-shot victory.  And that, my friends, made it strike number 5 for me.

Alexandra Forsterling with her third LET victory in the last nine months. She comfortably kept Charley Hull and Carlota Ciganda, two of Europe’s Solheim Cup stars at bay. [Tris Jones, LET]

One footnote re last week’s blog about the Sunningdale Foursomes.  This year’s worthy winners were Harley Smith and Dylan Shaw Radford who eased to a 5 and 4 win in the final over William Shucksmith and Darryl Gwilliam.  Congratulations to all four and perhaps this quartet will head north to Wilmslow in April where the Cheshire club will be hosting the third playing of the Wilmslow Foursomes.

This new event is played along similar lines to its older brother at Sunningdale and is well worth supporting.  Check out the club website for details and I would urge all good female players to enter.  Can’t have the boys having it all their own way, can we?!