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 And Another Thing

Going for a gong and golf’s swap shop

Following last year’s “great summer of British sport”, we now have another one – Justin Rose, Andy Murray, Chris Froome, the Ashes and so on.

A great summer of British sport means, ineluctably, a winter of gongs being handed out in the New Year’s Honours List. Including knighthoods. If you have won the Tour de France and Olympic cycling gold in the same year, as (now Sir) Bradley Wiggins did in 2012, you have actually accomplished something quite marvellous. In that circumstance, a tap on the shoulder with a sword isn’t so much no big deal as a side issue, one that ranks you alongside a few spivvy businessmen and dodgy bankers who are busy greasing themselves up the political pole.

There’s also the question of timing. If any sportsman deserved to have his achievements acknowledged with a knighthood, then certainly Nick Faldo, six times a major champion, did, and he was duly rewarded – after he had finished competing.

Similarly Steve Redgrave, who was knighted after he had won his fifth Olympic gold rowing medal in 2000. I am sure Justin Rose will be offered something or other in a few months time, and rightly so. But it won’t begin with a K. However, that might be the fate of Andy Murray, who is now a two-time Grand Slam champion as well as a gold-medal winning Olympian. And Wimbledon occupies a unique place in British sporting lore. But I hope that someone, somewhere is sensible enough to hold off for a while. I suspect I am not alone in thinking it sounded somehow inappropriate that Sir Chris Hoy was invariably referred to as such when competing in the London Olympics. His award should have happened later than it did.

As an institution, Wimbledon can be a stickler for protocol. If Murray is knighted in January, it would be simply incorrect to address him as “Mr Murray”. Which means that in future he, and we, would have to put up with stuff like “Sir Andy has two challenges left.” Cue much mirth in the locker room. For now, let’s leave him to compete and the knighthood in the drawer.

AS YOU KNOW, PHIL MICKELSON WON THIS YEAR’S OPEN AT Muirfield. It was his first victory in the championship; indeed, on the only occasion in which he had genuinely threatened to win it.

What a contrast to the US Open, where his near-miss disappointment at the hands of Justin Rose at Merion in June was the sixth time he had been runner-up in his national championship, and with no consolation of ever having won the thing.

How galling that must be for him.

So welcome to eBay for golfers.

Clearly, what Phil should do is open negotiations with Ernie Els. Ernie has two US Opens but no Augusta green jackets, having been famously frustrated at the 2004 Masters by Phil’s back-nine heroics. The obvious move here is for Phil, who has three of them, to swap one of his Masters titles for one of Ernie’s US Opens. Phil thus gets the Grand Slam and Ernie adds lustre to his wardrobe. (OK, sartorially an arguable point, but you know what I mean.)

The more you think about it, one realises the huge scope available here. Consider the cases of Greg Norman and José Maria Olazábal. The former has two Opens, the latter two Masters. How much happier would they be with one of each? Of course, notoriously left out of all this, on the outside looking in, like a child not invited to a marble-swapping party, would be Colin Montgomerie. But then again, perhaps not.

How many of his eight Orders of Merit would he give for a major championship? He might say only two or three, but let’s put it this way. If you asked Paul Lawrie would he exchange his one Open Championship for Monty’s eight money-winning prizes, I’m sure the answer would be ‘No’ in a nanosecond. Put the question the other way around, however, and you know that at least Monty would need to think about it…

…and, oh my goodness, it’s just occurred to me. We have now recently left Ernie Els holding a US Open, a Masters and two Open titles. But he doesn’t need both of those. What he should do is have a conversation with Vijay Singh, who has twice won the USPGA Championship, and bargain away one of his two Opens for one of Vijay’s PGAs. It’s a win-win situation. Sitting in front of his computer, Ernie has just completed the Grand Slam.

ePlay away, gentlemen!

August 2013

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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