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Readers Letters - Jan/Feb 2013

Bank-rolled lunacy

In issue 113 Richard Gillis tells us that HSBC have put $300m into golf over the last 10 years. That’s a period where we have had cuts to salaries, welfare, health and education because of the financial mis-management of – yes – the banks! Anyone else experiencing some qualms over this?

Also in the news is Rory McIroy’s desertion of Titleist to a preposterously lucrative deal elsewhere. (I can just see him striding the fairways in a Nadal-like bandana and pirates-of the- caribbean capri pants…) Am I alone in fearing that every time I now purchase something from this new sponsor I am going to be paying an additional pound or two to support their bank rolling of McIlroy and his stablemates?

Golf is a wonderful game and come the revolution it will survive. But it’ll be in the form of us common folk nudging a ball around a field, not multi-millionaires playing strokeplay over pampered grasses for the Yet Another More Money Than Sense Conglomerate Open.

A Snell, West Ewell, Surrey

Where’s the spirit, Tiger?

My goodness, even in an inconsequential match at the tail-end of the Ryder Cup, Tiger can make news. And just by conceding a putt! The match was over so Tiger was right in saying the result between himself and Francesco Molinari was irrelevant (for all but the bookies!).

Perhaps the real problem was the way he did it. Had Tiger smiled and congratulated Molinari then it would have been seen as a sporting gesture. But wearing his game-face scowl (and losing game-face scowl at that!) it appeared merely petulant.

The poor guy just doesn’t ‘get’ PR, does he? Maybe that’s our fault given that when he was winning everything in sight we (all too readily) excused him his childish behaviours. But times have changed Eldrick…

Nonetheless, this concession and Tiger’s view does raise an interesting debate. Personally, once the overall result is known I don’t see why the matches out on the course continue. A hooter should sound and points attributed to the teams as at that moment. We’ve spent three days watching some of the world’s best performing under intense pressure, why watch them play through to the 18th with nothing at stake?

R Holiday, Swanley, Kent

Communication breakdown?

I read with interest the Prize Letter that appeared in issue 112 (‘Not Your Finest Hour, Stevie’), and not just because it was penned by my good friend, Mike Reynard. In looking for someone to blame in the aftermath of Adam Scott’s meltdown at Lytham, caddie Steve Williams caught the flak. But is this entirely fair? If you turn to page 50 of that same issue, Peter McEvoy raises interesting points of his own regarding the role of those in a position to help a player in the decision-making process, and McEvoy’s reasoning – as you’d expect of a winning Walker Cup captain – was compelling enough to make me question whether or not Williams was to blame, as Reynard insinuates.

McEvoy’s belief is that a captain/ manager’s presence can be there, but should not be too evident and never too obvious. The two-time Amateur Champion then tears a strip off a National Coach who was somewhat over-zealous in his role, supplying a yardage to his player, assessing the wind, selecting the club, giving an impromptu lesson on how to hit the perfect shot, and so on. Quite apart from the issue of slow play, the irony here, argues McEvoy, is that the player is denied the most valuable thing he or she can learn from the experience of competition: self-reliance.

The inability to make a decision!

So, back to Scott and Williams at Lytham. If self-reliance is the key to competing under pressure, surely the world No. 5 shouldn’t need to be told that an adrenalin-fuelled 3-wood will reach the fairway trap – he knows that! As Reynard points out, only the day before Scott had fired a long-iron into the perfect position. Golfers draw on positive memories and repeat them; the responsibility is Scotts, he is hitting the shot, the buck stops with him.

Peter McEvoy and Mike Reynard are both hugely successful amateur golfers and command our respect.

However, this Cornish minnow couldn’t help but throw the cat amongst the pigeons on this tantalising subject! So, what does the Editor think: who is to blame?

Ian Veale, Tehidy, Cornwall

Editor’s note: My immediate reaction? The buck always stops with the player. But the rider here is that a caddie earns his pay when the heat is on, as pressure can befuddle the mind. Scott doesn’t need telling how to hit a shot, but over the closing holes at Lytham, a string of mental errors – such as taking an iron off the tee on 16 – cost him the Open. For that, Williams has to carry the can.

Damned if you do...

The R&A have been disingenuous in allowing anchoring of the putting stroke to continue to the next rules change in 2016. Because by stating that anchoring will become illegal in three years time they are effectively branding anyone using it up until the ban as a cheat in all but name.

I have dabbled with the broomhandle putter over the last year for two reasons; it feels a more natural stance for me, and I have enjoyed the challenge of mastering it. My putting stats have remained the same, a few less holed from long range balanced by a few more made from shorter range. Its advantage, as far as I can tell, is that I am more inclined to make a technically correct swing (which still doesn’t guarantee the ball going in the hole!). That and the fact I’ve had fun with it.

Now, should I use it, I can only imagine the thoughts running through people’s heads. I say this because, in my experience, the perceptions of other golfers have been negative over the last year. On the occasions I’ve had an ‘average’ round on the greens, everyone assumes I’m using a broom-handle because I’m a poor putter, and this level of performance is probably the best I can hope for. If I have a good putting round then my success is entirely down to the fact the long putter makes it all so easy!

As it happens, I am a good putter. I was before long putters came along, I was with the broom-handle, and I will be again with whatever I choose to use next. I just regret having the choice on its length made for me when I was enjoying what I had.

N Tapping, via email

Indulging Tiger costs the US team dear

With the dust now finally settled on a fabulous Ryder Cup for Europe, I remain perplexed by the way in which Tiger Woods influences these matches. Woods has received a lot of criticism about his attitude to the Ryder Cup but I think the fault lies with the captains. Being such a great player means that he casts a long shadow and the way he is used (you could say indulged) by successive captains has, in my view, cost the US at least the last two Ryder Cups. This time, in particular, Captain Love made some serious errors:

* Selection. There must be a suspicion that Love picked Steve Stricker solely because he was amenable to partnering Woods, especially as he didn’t partner anyone else. Stricker’s late season form hardly warranted his selection and he scored zero points out of 4. I believe his presence weakened the team significantly and Rickie Fowler, for example, if selected could not have performed worse.

* “Resting”. This was the first Ryder Cup where Woods did not play all five matches – given his form he was lucky to play four. However, Love disguised this enforced rest by announcing that no player would play five matches. This meant that he was prevented from playing his incredibly hot and undefeated pairing of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in the Saturday afternoon fourballs, despite the fact they had thumped Westwood and Donald 7&6 in the morning foursomes. The rest didn’t do them much good as they both lost on Sunday.

* Foursomes. Anyone who has watched Woods in the last year will know that he has become incredibly inconsistent. He plays some holes like the true champion he is and others that make him look like he will struggle to break 80. I know from bitter experience that this is not the sort of game that you need in a foursomes partner. Woods and Stricker duly lost the only foursomes they played.

Far be it for me to offer advice to the next US captain, but looking at the way the teams are likely to stack up next time round I think he will need all the help he can get! So, two things: Firstly, he selects the best four players for his captain’s picks and then decides which of his team will partner Woods – not the other way round. Secondly, he should take Woods aside early on and advise him he will only play the fourballs but tell him he has free rein to ignore his opponents and his partners and just play his own game as he does in all the other competitions – he’ll be a lot happier and will get a lot of birdies.

Aside from this the only other alternative is that the visiting captain at Gleneagles may well be hoping that his best player on paper turns an ankle stepping off the plane at Gleneagles.

Philip Reeves, via e-mail

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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