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All in all, a dream season...

Speculation as to whomight walk away with the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award was as irrelevant as ever around the time this issue went to press – although at least this year golf was included in the discussion. How could it not be? Fully forty years on since Tony Jacklin lifted the US Open trophy, Graeme McDowell’s epic victory at Pebble Beach not only inspired a glorious season for European golf but established the boy from Portrush as a bona fide superstar, a status he would underline with that sublime, history-making birdie-three at the 16th in his singlesmatch with Hunter Mahan at Celtic Manor – one of the greatest holes of golf ever played under such pressure. GMac’s legend is far from written, but whatever happens in the future it is hard to imagine he will ever scale such heights as he did in 2010 – a performance that earns himour vote as golf’s World Player of the Year.

For the cover story to this Annual Issue, John Hopkins travelled to Dubai to interview GMac as he prepared a last-ditch assault on overhauling Martin Kaymer’s lead at the top of the Order of Merit. As it turned out, however, his season was done. [At least as far as Europe was concerned – a week later he out-played Tiger in his own tournament. Oh joy!] “I wanted to finish strong, but there was just nothing left in the tank,” he told Hoppy during the course of an interview originally scheduled to last just 30 minutes. An hour and a half later he was still talking, and, when you consider the demands that have been made on him these last few months, his generosity alone gives you as indication as to the character of one of Europe’s most engaging and popular of golfers. One of the more thoughtful and erudite, too, as you will discover in a far-reaching and entertaining interview that begins on page 50.

Talking of awards, what self-respecting magazine wouldn’t hand out a few other gongs at this time of year? The categories were being finalised as the entire staff here at Gi (on a good day a fourball) assembled for a pint in the local. Ten minutes later we had nailed it.

* Best Dressed Player of 2010? GMac. Natty cardigans, immaculately cut strides, crisp collared shirts...and all set off with that rather jaunty cap.

* Worst Dressed Player of 2010? (And he’s dangerously close to making this a perennial award). Sergio Garcia. Seems to have a thing for wearing trousers that look like tracksuit bottoms and shiny shirts you normally see on a sprinter. If he’s really serious about taking a sabbatical, perhaps he should try Track & Field?

* Best Celebration of 2010? No contest at all here. When Jeff ‘Boom baby, yeah!’ Overton holed his approach to the 8th in the fourballs on Ryder Cup Sunday, Bubba Watson produced possibly the funniest 30 seconds of television this year with a double fist pump and repeated echoes of ‘boom baby!’ long after the ball had settled at the bottom of the cup. Watson, as it happened, was a revelation at Celtic Manor, a whacky genius on the golf course and a breath of fresh air off it. Find it on YouTube.

* Best Pressure Putt of 2010? A few contenders, obviously: GMac’s at 16 in that deciding singles was monumental. As too was Edoardo Molinari’s snaking 30-footer for a two at the 71st hole at Gleneagles during the Johnnie Walker Championship – a putt he knew he had to make to keep alive his hopes of winning the tournament and making Monty’s side. But Kaymer’s cool-as-youlike last-gasp 15-footer to get him into the playoff at the USPGA with Bubba was pure class.

* Most Improved Player of 2010? Applying the theory that the better you are the harder and harder it gets to lower your handicap, this one goes to Ian Poulter, a player who increasingly appears to have the game to match the hype, not to mention the wardrobe. As for Lee Westwood, well the quality of his ball striking simply gets better and better. And to anyone with the temerity to suggest the 37 year-old was not worthy of the top spot in golf, Worksop’s finest delivered the perfect riposte: in the three tournaments he played immediately after toppling Tiger on October 31, the newly installed World No 1 was a cumulative 48 under par.

Here’s to more of the same in 2011.

Enjoy the issue – and best wishes for a very Happy New Year.

January 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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