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MARTIN VOUSDEN ON THE RIO OLYMPICS

Aug 15, 2016 Posted in Golf NewsGolf QuotesMartin Vousden by 

Thought for the Day
Saying someone is ugly doesn’t make you any prettier

Here comes the Cavalry
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (along with the women golfers of the world) may have just saved golf as an Olympic sport. By fashioning another head-to-head clash of increasing drama – and after The Open Henrik now stands at won one, lost one – they made the battle for the men’s gold medal almost unbearably exciting. Matching each other stroke for stroke, two of the best in the world produced the kind of gladiatorial combat for which the Olympics is renowned.

GoKart Electric Golf Trolley

With the greatest respect, had the title been taken by a relatively unknown golfer, like Thomas Pieters of Belgium or Australia’s Marcus Fraser, who finished 4th and tied-5th respectively, in two months time no-one would remember the result. But because the pre-tournament favourites did that rare thing of living up to their billing, Rose and Stenson have ensured that this gold medal scrap will not be forgotten for some while yet.

The build-up to Rio was dominated by the no-shows, as many of the world’s best golfers decided that Brasil was not somewhere they wanted to be in August. They included, of course, the top-four ranked players in the world – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, and the Northern Irishman added to the controversy with a petulant press conference at The Open. He said he probably wouldn’t be watching the golf but ‘stuff that matters’ such as track and field, swimming and diving. He was rightly criticised but a little perspective is needed here.

For almost two years Rory has been fielding questions about the Olympics – would he represent Ireland or Great Britain, for example if he took part. And then relentless interrogation about his reasons for opting not to go. What he, we and the world and its dog knows is that for golfers a gold medal will never have the same importance as a major. Andy Murray now has two of them but ask him whether he would rather lose those or his Wimbledon title he wouldn’t have to think too hard. Tennis players, like golfers, build their season and career around four grand slam events. That’s the way it has been for our sport since the era of Jack Nicklaus and it’s not going to change any time soon.

Rory’s mistake, at a moment of obvious frustration, was to say aloud what many of his compatriots were thinking. He and they cited the possibility of catching the Zika virus as the reason for their change of heart. And while this may indeed have been the case, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that the odds of a visitor to Brazil in August catching the virus were 500,000 to 1. This implies one of two things. Either the golfers concerned think that they are spectacularly unlucky and those astronomical odds represented a real threat to their health and happiness. Or, they didn’t believe the figure and had access to more reliable information than that supplied by the WHO.

Alternatively, they’re a bunch of wimps, scared to cross the road in case they get hit by a bus. This more cynical interpretation is supported at least a little by the fact that only one woman golfer, Lee-Anne Pace, pulled out, so it seems the women golfers of the world are made of sterner stuff than their male counterparts.

Does it really matter if many of the world’s best golfers were not in Rio? For superstar, super-rich golfers, who are used to being paid handsomely for their time and are therefore loathe to play for nothing, probably not. But the reason the R&A and other governing bodies around the world lobbied so hard for golf to return to the Olympic fold was in order to help the game grow and develop in those parts of the planet where it is not a big deal. To do this you need money and that will either come from your government or the national Olympic committee. Sadly, with so many big names deciding on a no-show, the tournament in Rio could have been a pale shadow and you can imagine that the International Olympic Committee will have serious discussions about whether golf can remain an Olympic sport beyond 2016.

Justin and Henrik are to be congratulated for making that decision more likely to opt for golf to remain and let’s hope that the women can put on an equally enthralling contest.

Sound and fury
One notable omission from the BBC’s otherwise professional coverage of the Olympics was that of familiar voices in the commentary box for the golf. The excellent Andrew Cotter is in Rio (or at least he was because he hosted coverage of the opening ceremony alongside the equally first-rate Hazel Irvine) but didn’t have a word to say on the golf course. Other familiar names and voices, such as Peter Alliss, Ken Brown and Sam Torrance were also absent. Does this mean, now that the Beeb has lost all golf coverage throughout the year that these experienced broadcasters have now been cast into the wilderness?

This year the corporation has sent 455 accredited staff to Rio but that represents a 40% drop compared to London 2012, not surprising considering all the additional costs of an overseas games. In view of this, the Beeb obviously decided to use a few jack-of-all-trades at the microphone, which, as it’s our money being spent, I find it difficult to argue against.

Quote of the Week
The best stroked putt in a lifetime does not bring the aesthetic satisfaction of a perfectly hit wood or iron shot. There is nothing to match the whoosh and soar, the almost magical flight of a beautifully hit drive or 5-iron
Al Barkow

Martin Vousden’s View

Martin Vousden’s View

Feb 29 2016 Posted in Golf NewsMartin Vousden by 

Thought for the Day
The best sermons are lived, not preached

Wentworth at war
It can be difficult to feel too much sympathy when people who are comfortably well-off get squeezed for a bit more cash, whether it is in the form of taxes or some other levy. Nevertheless, it does seem that the members of Wentworth Golf Club, and residents on the Wentworth estate (and by definition you cannot be on your uppers if you qualify to be in either group) have a case when they say that the club’s new owners are hiking their subs at an unacceptable rate. These new owners comprise a Chinese conglomerate operating under the name Reignwood, which has said that existing Wentworth members must pay £100,000 simply to retain membership, and an annual sub of £16,000, which is double what existed before.

wentworth bmw pga

In the first of what promises to be many legal broadsides, those who live on the Wentworth estate have fired off a letter to Reignwood pointing out, in effect, that in order to stage The European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, it needs the residents’ co-operation. At present they allow part of the road system through the estate to be closed for BMW week, but are not obliged to, and if they choose to get real picky they can object to the erection of grandstands, advertising hoardings and the staging of a rock concert on the Saturday night. In essence, having the BMW at Wentworth causes certain inconveniences to the residents, which they have previously been prepared to accept, but their gloves have now come off. The European Tour has expressed concern at this threat to its premier tournament but whether it has the clout to force Reignwood back into line is uncertain.

Too much Too Young
The World Golf Rankings started in 1986, which even I can calculate is 30 years ago. When Rickie Fowler won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January he climbed to fourth in those rankings. As a result, for the first time in three decades the top four in the world were all under 30 years of age, and their average was 26 years. It used to be that a pro golfer’s prime years were his 30s but no more. The youngsters are taking over the world, so get used to it.

Time to buck up
In the first European Tour event of the three that traditionally take place in the Middle East, in Abu Dhabi, all eyes were on the pairing of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Even more attention came their way when Spieth got hit with a slow play penalty during the first round. He took longer than the allowed time over a putt on the 8th green (his 17th) which resulted in a monitoring penalty. Two of those in a tournament and you get a £2,000 fine. Spieth agreed that he exceeded the time limit but pointed out that the group behind was not pressuring his threeball (the rules on his home, PGA Tour are slightly different). Rory waded in by saying that ‘a little bit of common sense’ could have been applied.

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

It was. Jordan took too long and was warned, and he didn’t get the second monitoring penalty or a fine because he bucked up. There’s no point in agreeing you’re in breach of the regulations and then trying to argue the toss and for the sake of us all, let’s hope the European Tour keeps its nerve and continues monitoring slow play, irrespective of whether the golfer concerned is ranked number one in the world or 500th.

Length does matter
A lot of eyes will be on young American amateur Bryson DeChambeau in coming months. It was difficult not to notice him at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after a first round 64 (although he fell away to finish tied 54th, with rounds of 72, 78, 72) and in 2015 he finished runner-up in the Australian Masters, having captured the US Amateur. But what really caught our attention is the fact that he uses a set of irons all with the same shaft length – 37.5 inches, and the same lie and bounce angle; only the loft of the clubheads is different. He therefore plays every club as a 6-iron (it would be 7-iron if he used graphite shafts), so his stance and swing plane are identical on every iron shot. DeChambeau majored in physics at college and has described himself as a ‘golf scientist’. I bet the club manufacturers are hoping he doesn’t start a trend – imagine every set of irons having to be offered in two versions, the standard ones we’re used to, and all with the same shaft length.

Bryson DeChambeau Clubs

Long and short of it
The European Tour has relaxed its rules to allow pro golfers to wear shorts in pro-ams. About time, so why not extend the new, relaxed approach to tournaments?

Would you rather see John Daly in his ‘explosion in a paint factory’ trousers, or some of Billy Horschel’s multi-coloured monstrosities? Pro tours follow the sun, and when golfers around the world play on a warm or hot day they wear shorts, and by that I mean you and me. Are we really so delicate that the sight of Rory McIlroy’s legs will send us into a fit of the vapours?

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Nice try but no coconut
In a tweet at the end of December Darren Clarke said that, come September, Europe will be Ryder Cup underdogs because the Americans already have a strong looking team, they will be led by Davis Love and away matches are always hard.
Keep trying Darren but you’re convincing no-one

Quote of the Week
If God wants to produce the ideal golfer then He should create a being with a set of unequal arms and likewise legs, an elbow-free left arm, knees which hinge sideways and a ribless torso from which emerges, at an angle of 45 degrees, a stretched neck fitted with one colour-blind eye stuck firmly on the left side
Chris Plumridge

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Major Man McIlroy

Posted in Golf News, Martin Vousden by GoKart

Oh we of little faith. Just because the young pup from Northern Ireland had a few lean months earlier this summer, and is involved in a high-profile romance with Caroline Wozniacki that seems to have him jetting all over the place to hold hands, some commentators postulated that last year’s US Open win may have been a flash-in-the-pan. But what he demonstrated above all else at Kiawah Island is that, not only is he the man for the big occasion but that when he runs hot there is no-one – not Tiger, or Phil, or Lee, or Luke – who can touch him. In particular, when he gets into the kind of form he showed a week ago he never seems to miss with the two most important clubs in his bag, the driver and putter. On a difficult course, with a tricky breeze blowing, he demolished a quality field with a display of driving that was superb in being both long and straight, and then backed it up on the greens by seeming to hole everything he looked at. Such total mastery of game and mentality has not been since Tiger was at his 2000 peak, and doesn’t that seem an eternity away? To shoot a joint best-of-the-day 66 in the final round of a major is the stuff of true champions.

But I wouldn’t be quite as quick as some to anoint him as the man most likely to overhaul that Jack Nicklaus record of 18 wins in majors, even though he has captured the first two at a younger age than either Jack or Eldrick. Tiger was born, groomed, prepared and programmed to be a champion golfer from the moment the midwife slapped his backside (and if it had been at all possible, his father Earl would have taught him the Vardon grip when he was still in the womb). From as young as he can remember Tiger has had a golf club in his hands and an absolutely obsessional goal to be the best there has ever been. He might still make it but the clock is beginning to work against him. He cites Jack as winning his 18th at the age of 46 and concludes that he therefore has another 10 years, or 40 chances, to match or overhaul the record. But that final Nicklaus fling in the 1986 Masters came after six lean years and was an age-related aberration unlikely to be repeated, especially as young players today seem able to win almost as soon as they turn pro. By contrast with Tiger, McIlroy seems still, even after two runaway major wins, to be both grounded and rounded, to retain the common touch and have a healthy sense of perspective. The day after he lifted that ugly Wanamaker trophy he batted away questions about becoming the best ever by saying: ‘I’m not trying to emulate anyone or match anyone.’ And he then caught a plane, not to jet off to another tournament but to be re-united with his squeeze. Good for him.

Desperate measures?
One other bit of Kiawah news is that, after missing the cut, Lee Westwood parted company with his long-standing coach, Pete Cowen, while his caddy and friend Billy Foster remains out of action due to a knee injury, and may be replaced permanently. Lee’s long game continues to be unsurpassed (over the first two days of the PGA Championship he led the tee-to-green statistics) but poor chipping and putting remain an Achilles heel. And, although he continues to insist that he doesn’t fret about the absence of a major, this decision to break from one, if not two of his most trusted compadres suggests otherwise.

Close but no coconut
Sergio Garcia who has, of course, famously never won a major, now holds the record among current players for the most consecutive starts in them. He stands at 54, which represents thirteen-and-a-half years of misery.

Mission Impossible
You probably heard a couple of weeks ago (although it was drowned somewhat by our collective Olympics hysteria) that NASA managed to land a rover vehicle on Mars, at a cost of £1.6 billion. If you have ever wondered why it cost so much, the explanation may come from one of the scientists involved. He said that the parent craft had to travel through a window in the planet’s upper atmosphere measuring just 1.8 metres by 7.4m. He added that this was the equivalent of hitting a ball from Los Angeles to Scotland and scoring a hole-in-one.

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The Big Vote.

We asked you whether a Brit would win a Major this year.  Well that’s all the Majors tucked up for another year, so time to take stock. 12% of you said Rory would, you smartypants you.

But 37% said Luke would, and 35% opted for Mr. Westwood so a big failure to deliver on those fronts as far as you’re concerned (and probably how they’re feeling themselves…)

But more worryingly 5% said Jacklin was up for another title.  There is absolutely nothing we can say about that apart from if he does please can he wear that nice lavender sweater again.

Which brings us to a new Big Vote. All about the young prince we think…just how far can young Rory take it?

Heads Up. Recent Rule change

We’ve been sort of reliably informed by Alan Beggs of Portstewart of a change in the Rules. We thought we’d better share before you tee up in the medal tomorrow;

Rule 1.a.5
A ball sliced or hooked into the rough shall be lifted and placed on
the fairway at a point equal to the distance it carried or rolled into
the rough with no penalty. The player should not be penalized for tall
grass which ground keepers failed to mow.

Rule 3.b.3 (G)
There shall be no such thing as a lost ball. The missing ball is on or
near the course and will eventually be found and pocketed by someone
else, making it a stolen ball.The player is not to compound the felony
by charging himself or herself with a penalty.

Well that makes life a bit easier then.