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Strictly Seve, Lee, Rory and Tony

Maybe I come from a different age. That doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t tried to stay modern, but I do enjoy good manners, consideration, doing honourable things and trying to live a decent life, ever mindful of the wants of others. That’s why I was disappointed to see the huge drop-out of players not wishing to compete in the Seve Trophy. It only seems moments ago in the Ryder Cup at Medinah that many of those players, looking distraught and tear-stained, were singing the praises of Seve, the man who resurrected the Ryder Cup, battled with authority and forged the way ahead by laying down the foundations for many of the great events that players compete for today.

Seve was very much his own man. He battled against authority on a number of occasions, both here and in the United States, but he did have star quality and did some amazing things on the golf course and (I’m told, one or two rather racy things off it). But to those players who didn’t compete in the Seve Trophy (and part of me understands exactly their reasons for not doing), please, in the months or years ahead, if the occasion arises, don’t parade in a nice suit and a black tie shedding crocodile tears, eulogising about Seve and what he did for you and the game of golf. It’s too late.

I am also intrigued by the attitude of golfing pundits towards those players struggling with their form – Lee Westwood doesn’t hole enough putts, Rory McIlroy can’t hit a fairway with a driver, Tiger Woods would appear to be getting the jitters in the majors, and so it goes on. I’d say that Westwood hits the putts well enough but they don’t go in, rather like Paul McGinley, who has surely struck more decent-looking putts that missed the hole than any 10 men in living memory.

Perhaps Westwood can’t quite see the right line? If he can, perhaps he can’t line-up properly? Perhaps his eye-sight needs checking? Should he find the best green-reader among the caddies of the world and give him a try?

What an array of experts were lined up for the final major of the year, the USPGA Championship. Westwood did not enjoy some of their comments and tottered on to Twitter rather late at night. From the tone of his tweets, perhaps one or two fizzy drinks had been taken. Anyway, his tweets became a rant, which became rather foolish, antagonising a lot of people and suddenly getting him featured in most of the newspapers where they spoke of his ill-advised antics. Why intelligent people use Twitter when a lot of what they talk about is bordering on the farcical is beyond my comprehension.

The wrong sort of Twitter leads to condemnation and criticism which, after some build-up, creates aggravation and nervous tension.

Simon Barnes, a writer in The Times and a person who admits he doesn’t enjoy golf, wrote that Westwood should follow in the footsteps of Andy Murray when he loses. Mr Barnes, with respect, you should stick to writing about sports you like, or at least know something about. In the past, Murray would throw his racket, smash the ball into the crowd, use profane language and storm about looking like fury when he lost. What should Westwood have done at Muirfield in the Open last July? Snap his putter? Throw his clubs in a bunker? Kick his caddie up the backside? Swear at the golfing gods? Snap the flagstaff and stick one end into the captain’s nearest orifice?

Golf is not a game like that. It’s not a shared ball game. It’s not physically aggressive. It’s the mental side that aggravates and annoys and which you have to conquer and control. Like that temptation to take to Twitter…

As for McIlroy, by the way, a year or so ago I spent some time in Northern Ireland doing a documentary on why Irish golf was going through such a glorious period (what with Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke as well) and it was a delight to meet some of McIlroy’s relations and the friends he’d grown up with. He was liked and admired by all and if that image has been dented by recent events in his life I hope it will soon be straightened out and that his golf starts to flow again and the smile returns. I wonder if in his quiet moments Rory ponders how much fun and enjoyment it was in those early days when Chubby Chandler was looking after his affairs.

Finally, I’m sorry I was right about Tony Jacklin. He didn’t last long in Strictly Come Dancing but why oh why did they dress him up in a golfing pantomime outfit, and why oh why would you ask a man who is a whisker overweight and nudging 70 years of age to do the Charleston? He surely would have had a much better chance in white tie and tails doing a gentle waltz. I’m very surprised his wife, Astrid, didn’t put her foot down and say: “My husband will do his best but not dressed in a comedy golfing outfit!” Never mind Tony, as long as the cheque doesn’t bounce, all is well.

Jan/Feb 2014

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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