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 RICHARD SIMMONS
 Editor
 Golf International

Tiny margins, a gulf in class

Such are the vagaries of golf: two weeks after his performance at Muirfield, Yorkshire’s Matt Fitzpatrick battled his way to the final of the English Amateur in the rain at Frilford Heath, where large galleries turned out to see him add this prestigious title to the silver medal he won as low amateur at the Open. Callum Shinkwin had other ideas; the 20 year-old defeated Fitzpatrick 4&3 with some gloriously composed golf and in so doing became the first Hertfordshire player since Nick Faldo in 1975 to put his name on the magnificent trophy.

A quick glance through the Final Qualifying scores ahead of this year’s Championship at Muirfield reveals the extraordinary depth of talent that exists in amateur golf right across the country. And the more ‘linksy’ the conditions, the more likely it is that one of these days an amateur will have a serious tilt at winning the Open. As it was, and this just a few weeks after studying for his ‘A’ Levels, Fitzpatrick (+10) finished 13 shots behind the new champion Phil Mickelson (-3) – and he dropped seven of those on the par-five 17th over the first three days. Think about that: three-and-a-bit shots per round over four days is the difference between a young college kid and the best players in the world who are used to the tournament circus, the course set up and the TV cameras. The margins really are incredibly small.

Talking of TV, in an otherwise excellent week’s broadcasting, it’s a shame the BBC didn’t deem it worthwhile showing a little more of Fitzpatrick and Mullen over the weekend. But then it must be difficult to slot in any peripheral action amidst shots of Tiger Woods emptying the contents of his mouth with such apparent disdain for his immediate surroundings. Why do we concern ourselves with whether or not he will win 18 majors? Unless I am missing something here, Tiger is light years removed from the class of the man who will remain the greatest player in the modem era right up until the time someone with the same respect for golf, for the fans and for his fellow professionals comes along and beats him. Can you imagine Jack Nicklaus ever behaving in remotely the same manner on a golf course? And while Rules officials continue with their phoney war on slow play – this time handing out a penalty to Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (incidentally one of the most impressive young players in world golf today) – wouldn’t it have been so wonderfully refreshing if Muirfield’s secretary had summoned Tiger to his office and informed the world No. 1 that if he violated basic etiquette just one more time he would be ejected from the course. Permanently.

The Major would have had no hesitation, you can be certain about that.

My idea of a role model? British golf is lucky to have Ian Poulter. Smart, articulate, not in danger of taking himself too seriously, a man with solid values – and one hell of a gutsy player. For an hour or so during that final round, with distinct echoes of Medinah, he looked the man to beat. Had that tee shot of his on 15 somehow wiggled its way past the fairway bunker, well, who knows what might have been. His 67 looked like it might be good enough to question a playoff, but as soon as Mickelson put his foot on the gas, Poults gathered his family and made their scheduled evening flight to Luton. He had an early start Monday. At 8.30 the next morning he was at Woburn hosting 80 junior players from across the UK for the annual IJP Invitational, a day in which he gives entirely of himself for their benefit. All smiles.

Sheer class.

September 2013

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 






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