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Readers Letters - August/September 2009

(Not so) great expectations

Padraig Harrington has shown that nice guys can win, but I do question Ross Fisher’s (right) dedication given his stated intent to leave the Open should his partner have gone into labour. There’s no doubt that the ‘will she won’t she/will he won’t he’ dilemma added spice to an already intriguing championship. But I found it distracting as a viewer so who knows what it was doing to Fisher’s concentration? One of the greatest winners of all time, Martina Navratilova, drew the distinction between taking part and being fully committed. She’d say think of ham and eggs – the hen is taking part but the pig is committed!

Hopefully Fisher will be challenging for many years to come. Yet with the consensus of opinion suggesting Woods will win at least five more majors to equal Jack’s record, and young guns like Rory McIlroy and Danny Lee coming through, Fisher does need to be around to take his chances when they arise.

Would Sir Nick Faldo have contemplated abandoning a major whilst in contention? It’s a moot point of course, because surely meticulous Nick’s preparations would have begun nine months earlier by keeping himself zipped up!

Bill Peters, via e-mail

Has the BBC given up on golf?

I’m no supporter of the Sky monopoly and I do think the idea of a “crown jewels” of sporting events is a good thing (how on earth do we get to the state of events where the Ashes Series is not screened live on the BBC?).

However one cannot deny that Sky’s coverage of golf has been innovative in many areas. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Beeb. This year we’ve seen four events covered by our national broadcaster and only one was in High Definition, the Masters, and that was only because the host broadcaster in America covered it that way. In addition to this they’ve sold the rights to the first two days to Sky. So the terrestrial viewer has been denied a significant proportion of the coverage. It cannot be a coincidence that this year F1 has reappeared on the BBC and it seems golf has been the sport to suffer. Of the events the BBC cover (excluding the Masters) two are jewels in the European Tour crown and the Open is the world’s premier major championship. To cover these in standard definition is inexcusable – in the case of the Open its probably the only major this year that isn’t covered in HD.

I don’t include the commentary team in my criticism – they are as always first class – but I do believe the BBC’s coverage of golf calls into question their right to cover it at all and that would be a sad day for us all. So I ask the BBC to get its act together and stop treating us like second class sporting citizens.

Sam Robinson Skelmorlie, Ayrshire

Open season for a moan

Tom Watson challenging for a sixth Open at the age of 59 made for compulsive viewing. But I hope the R&A do not make the mistake of thinking a good story equates to a good championship.

For in common with recent Opens they sought, head on, to combat the problem with the pros driving the ball too far by simply taking the big stick out of play on all but the fewest possible holes.

Using the driver is an integral part of the game and surely a championship course should demand that it is used at least eight or nine times per round? If a player opts to take a shorter club off the tee he should be then faced with the real prospect of not reaching the green and having to get up-and-down for par, not the mere inconvenience of a 3- or 4- iron into the green.

With Turnberry seemingly set up to exclude driving we had to suffer players hitting defensive shots off many tees at the par fours, praying to find a lucky lie in the light rough. Then they were trusting on helpful bounces with their mid and short irons as they hoped to keep the ball on the greens and, maybe occasionally, find themselves close enough for a birdie putt.

It’s a testament to Watson’s skill that he was able to do this using longer clubs than his fitter and stronger younger opponents. But of course it’s also a testament to his good fortune through the rounds – except for that one approach shot into the 72nd!

Take out of the Open Watson’s story this year and Norman’s from last year, Harrington’s back nine in 2008, and Chris Wood’s last rounds from both years – and you’re left with tournaments where we had a dearth of birdies and the weather was the most exciting thing. Surely the Open is supposed to identify the champion golfer in the world? But all it does is identify par and who can get closest to it by getting into the least trouble. Contrast that with the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this year! Players using the driver more often, hitting beautiful shots into greens, and aggressively going in search of birdies. Which was the better tournament?

Which leaderboard was filled with some of the best players in the world?

And sorry Tom, but I doubt you’d even have made the cut there.

N Horwood, Surrey via e-mail

Editor’s note: Really not sure where you are going with this line of reasoning. Turnberry was in magnificent shape and those capable of keeping the driver straight – none more so thanWatson – used it on several holes to good effect.With treacherous bunkers to avoid, links golf is a test of strategy, ball-striking accuracy, guile and patience.Which was the better tournament? The Open, obviously.

Now, listen carefully...

Excellent magazine. A pity it’s only published six times a year at present, but hey, better six of yours than 12 of anything else out there!

I started playing golf over 20 years ago, at the age of 26, and I went about learning the game with the help of various books and magazines. First it was Jack Nicklaus Playing Lessons, then another by Hale Irwin (I forget the title). Anyway, it’s all very well sitting down and reading books or watching videos, but as soon as I found myself at the course I would struggle to remember what I had learned, so I had the idea of making a cassette tape, and recorded myself speaking basic instruction from my favourite books and then playing it back out on the range listening to my Walkman (remember those!).

It was just the fundamentals to start off with, useful tips and reminders about how to make a good grip, set up to the ball and work through a basic swing. I also made a tape to help me practice the short game – tips on putting, chipping and bunker play. It was like having my own personal coach, and that was how I went about learning to play golf. And it must have worked, to a degree, because I achieved a handicap of 9.

Back in the real world, with the arrival of our second child in 1999 I stopped playing golf altogether, returning to the game four years ago. And I’m pleased to report that in the space of those four years I’m back down to 9 – thanks (you guessed it) to going through the process again, listening to freshly recorded tapes and so on. And it struck me, in this age of iPods and MP3 players, that the spoken word may have a very real part to play in the process of learning golf.

As a long time supporter of Golf International I’m well aware that instruction is a very strong part of your magazine, and it would be great if the lessons that we read about (both in the magazine and on your website) were perhaps available to download. From basic instruction for beginners (the fundamentals) right through to coaching for better players, the one-on-one sensation you get from listening to someone speaking makes for a genuine instruction session. It’s something your readership could not only do at the range but at home, sitting in a chair, relaxed. Anytime, any place.

I know from my own experience that we all need constant reminders, otherwise bad habits soon creep in. You have such a strong panel of teaching professionals and access to the world’s finest players that you could provide a fantastic menu of lessons covering all aspects of the game. I look forward to your thoughts on this idea.

Mark Redmore, Newport, Gwent

Editor’s note: Your idea is a good one and deserving of further investigation. This issue is dedicated to instruction and we are currently in the process of adding video instruction content to our website – putting guru Paul Hurrion has just finished shooting an exclusive series of lessons for Gi – and including spoken commentary for download would seem a perfectly logical extension to the instruction we can offer. We’re on the case....

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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