Friday, 26 December 2014



The Victorious Ryder Cup Team 2012

EUROPEAN CAPTAIN Paul McGinley was hoping most of his team could play in the Welsh Open at Celtic Manor this weekend as he himself set out the course to resemble Gleneagles.  “It would be good practice, but I appreciate some of the lads are tired, and rest is just as important,” he told reporters.  As long as they don’t rest on their laurels next week; and we see more happy snaps like this.

THE 2014 VOLVO WORLD MATCHPLAY returns to England for the first time since 2007, but not at Wentworth, its original home.  The London Golf Club in Kent will host the October 15th championship on it’s International Course, reputed to be one of the finest downland courses in Europe.

The first Volvo World Matchplay was won by Arnold Palmer at Wentworth in 1964, and has recently been played in Spain and Bulgaria.  Defending Champion Graeme McDowell said: “It will be nice to have the Volvo back in England for this 50th anniversary.”
THIS IS WHAT you could have won:  Desolation for Frenchman Romain Wattel at the European Masters in Switzerland. The BMW i8 sports car awarded for a hole in one on the 11th green had been snapped up the day before by a delighted Graeme Storm.  BMW mopped Wattel’s tears and invited him to take his pick and drive for a year one of the cars on display in the tented village.                

At the Dutch KLM Open last week the prize for a hole in one on the 15th was a trip to outer space offered by XCOR Adventurous Expeditions.   Unfortunately the winner, Andy Sullivan, suffers from altitude sickness, so he wasn’t exactly over the moon with his prize.  Like Wattel, he would have preferred the BMW.

THE NIKE VAPOR IRONS, comprising the Vapor Pro, Vapor Pro Combo and Vapor Speed, were launched in New York last month.  Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who apparently had a ‘big input’ in their creation, were there to help promote them. 
The irons feature “Modern Muscle Technology” (well they have to call it something) that moves the CG closer to the toe, positioning it in the centre of the face.  This apparently puts more weight behind the ball at impact to improve precision and stability.  “Designed by the world’s two best players!” boasted a Nike spokesman,  “Yours for just under a thousand dollars, and suitable for golfers of all abilities.”  Yeah, right. 
AFTER THE RYDER CUP some of the European team will be heading to China for the ”Final Series” of the Race to Dubai. The BMW Masters on 30th October is the first of the four “Final Series” tournaments followed by the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.  The Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya is next, and finally the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah  on 20th November.  Rory McIlroy is leading the rankings comfortably, with Sergio Garcia and Jamie Donaldson trailing in his wake. 

After China, Turkey and Dubai McIlroy will be heading down under to defend his 2013 Australian Open title on 27th November, while Adam Scott will be doing his best to wrest it from him and win the Triple Crown.  Perhaps the globe trotting golfers can all go home for Christmas then, if they can remember where ‘home’ is.

 “I’M HITTING THE BALL as well as ever, it just needs a bit more work.”   Phil Mickelson was still upbeat after his unspectacular PGA Tour season effectively came to an end at Cherry Hills; where he withdrew after a 6 over par 76 in the BMW Championship.  After recent comments from his rivals about his age and winding down Mickelson (45) says he wants to end the season with a win somewhere.  OK Phil, just not at Gleneagles.



 EASTLAKE G.C.  ATLANTA.   The final 30 in the FedEx playoffs will battle it out here in the Tour Championship on September 11th.    After last week’s Barclays Championship the next in line is the Deutsche Bank  for the top 100 (29th August) followed by the BMW Championship for the top 70 (4th September.)  The prize: $10.000.000 plus.  Ian Poulter could treat himself to a private plane if he won, he has been moaning on Twitter how much his wife suffered flying first class recently without the childrens’ nanny!  Life is hard.
RORY MCILROY’S awe inspiring drives are achieved with his Nike Covert 2.0 Tour driver.  Nike claim the greater distance is due to the “Fly Brace technology” stiffening the walls of the cavity back.  This increased stability enables  more energy to be transferred to the front of the club, adding another couple of mph to his ball speed.  Also, a 460cc face size, slightly larger than on his previous drivers gives him better contact; even Rory McIlroy doesn’t hit the centre every time at 120 mph.

THE LONG DRIVE COMPETITION was revived at this year’s USPGA Championship, on the 590 yd, par five 10th.   It was won by Louis Oosthuizen with a 340 yd. drive.  In 1963 Jack Nicklaus won the contest with an incredible  341 yd drive using a persimmon driver with 11 degree loft and Titleist wound ball.  Apart from his winnings he received a special money clip, a replica of which he presented to Oosthuizen.  "I’ve kept mine in my pocket for 51 years,” Jack commented.  Must be time he bought a round.
Another player noted for hanging onto his wallet is Tiger Woods, unlike Phil Mickelson, who is apparently an ‘outrageously generous tipper.’ Out of America’s ten worst celebrity tippers Woods came in a comfortable first.

A BOGEY FREE ROUND, in fact a bogey free tournament at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open carried Bernhard Langer to his 23rd Champions Tour victory.  Langer beat Mark O'Meara and Woody Austin by one shot, finishing with a 16 under 66, his 5th Champions Tour victory this year. 

U.S. RYDER CUP CAPTAIN Tom Watson has announced that nine players have qualified automatically for the team: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson, with the three wild cards to be announced on September 2nd.

In the other camp Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Victor Dubuisson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson and Graeme McDowell would compose Mark McGinley’s nine automatic picks as of this week.   The final qualifying event, the Italian Open, finishes on August 31st.  McDowell could yet be out; Ian Poulter is praying for a wild card, I’m rooting for Jimenez.  Pity we can’t have Langer.
STEPHANIE MEADOW (22) is Northern Ireland’s female equivalent to Rory McIlroy. Stephanie, from County Antrim made a stunning professional debut in June by finishing joint 3rd in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, after Rory gave her some course tips.  Their success seems to be inspiring youngsters in Ireland; golf participation is on the rise.

UNFORTUNATELY, it’s going in the other direction in America. Dick's Sporting Goods, largest retailer in the U.S. of TaylorMade and Callaway products, last month fired all the PGA professionals employed in the golf departments of it’s 560 stores.   Dick's installed a PGA pro at every store to combat the competition from online retailers, but the decline in golf participation in the U.S. and too many new products flooding the market meant they were overstocked.  Dick’s suffered more than most after  buying all four models of the driver TaylorMade released last year plus the three new Callaway drivers produced in quick succession.  I can guess what the departing pros called the Head of Dick’s as they left!



JUSTIN ROSE RAISES the Scottish Open trophy.  After his recent triumph at Congressional will he add the Claret Jug and make it a hat trick?
2013 OPEN CHAMPION Phil Mickelson said: "I've loved having the Claret Jug this past year, letting people who really appreciate golf drink from it.  The best was a 1990 bottle of Romanee Conti, which cost about $40,000!” 
IN 1936 A NEW ASSISTANT  Pro called Sam Snead arrived at the Greenbriar G.C. in W. Virginia.  Raised in the backwoods he had taught himself golf using clubs made from tree branches.  Sam nearly lost his Greenbriar job when he struck his tee shot on the 335yd 5th hole, and the ball bounded onto the green striking the rear end of Alva Bradley, one of the directors, who was furious until he learned he had been hit by Sam’s tee shot, not his second.  He promptly made Sam his personal trainer.
 Sam could average 320 yard drives with his hickory club, and was said to have “The Perfect Swing.”  He won 82 PGA Tour championships, and 7 majors.  The “Sam Snead Festival,” a 36 hole pro am, is still held at the Greenbriar annually in honour of “Slammin’ Sam.”

PING INTRODUCED their G30 driver at the Greenbriar Classic for the pros to try out.  Angel Cabrera promptly won with it, averaging 331 yds in the final round.  It makes you appreciate Sam Snead’s shot even more, considering the club he would have used. The G30 features six curved raised lines on the crown called Turbulators, which apparently improve the clubhead aerodynamics. They actually increase drag, but using fluid dynamics (smoke tests) engineers found that they made the air flow closer to the clubhead, reducing the wake produced.  Result: more clubhead speed.
Cabrera’s average distance improved by roughly 6 yards with the G30.  Unfortunately, for those with a normal swing speed the distance gained will be barely a yard. Anyway, distance isn’t everything, as Rory McIlroy, who hit a 435 yd drive in the Scottish Open, could tell you.
GRAEME MCDOWELL came from 8 shots behind to retain his French open title, shooting a four under 67 in pouring rain.  He said: “It reminded me of going out in all weathers in my teens.  I’ve been playing a little too much in America, and I’ve got a bit soft, I needed a day like today.”

 SCOTLAND’S BRADLEY NEIL (18) earned his ticket to the next three majors and became the youngest ever to hold the Amateur title with his victory at Royal Portrush.  After Garrick Porteous won the British Amateur and Matthew Fitzpatrick the U.S. Amateur in 2013, British youngsters have now won the Amateur, U.S. Amateur and the Amateur again in succession for the first time since 1912.  Bradley’s home club is  Blairgowrie GC. Perthshire, which has two Championship courses, the 9 hole “Wee Course,” and ‘the most beautiful inland greens in Scotland,’ according to old Tom Morris.

TOM WATSON told reporters at Hoylake that his Ryder Cup team is taking shape.   “The guys currently in the top places in the standings will probably be on the team.  I'm getting to know them all so that I can make informed decisions come September.  To that end I personally invited whoever could make it of our top 20 players to join me at Gleneagles the week before the Open Championship so we could all get a look at the Centenary Course.”  Must have cost him a bit.  Hope they didn’t drink any Romanee Conti!

THE UNKNOWN FEMALE sunbathing au naturelle on her balcony at Las Ramblas last week probably heard the crunch as three buggies shunted into each other when their mesmerized drivers approaching the 11th green caught sight of her.  After untangling themselves they all took at least four putts.

Thursday, 25 December 2014



The Royal Liverpool Golf Course.

THE ROYAL LIVERPOOL GOLF CLUB (Hoylake) was laid out in 1869 on the racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club; it was both horse racing venue and golf course for the first few years. Close to the town of Hoylake, hence the name, the links course sits on a peninsula separated  from Liverpool by the Mersey Estuary and from N. Wales by the river Dee.
In 1885 the first Amateur Championship was held at Hoylake, and the Walker Cup began life there in 1921 as an amateur contest between Gt. Britain and Ireland and the USA.  In 1930 the then amateur Bobby Jones won his third Open at Hoylake, the second leg of his grand slam, and returned to New York for a ticker tape parade. 
In the 2006 Open the notorious Hoylake winds were conspicuously absent.  In a week of heatwave weather on a terrifyingly fast course Tiger Woods kept his driver in his bag and navigated his way to a two shot victory with supreme skill.  Will he be back in July?

MATTHEW FITZPATRICK (19) has decided to turn professional.  The first amateur golfer since Bobby Jones in 1930 to simultaneously hold the low amateur honours at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and the only amateur to make the cut at Pinehurst, Fitzpatrick finished a one under 69 that left him 11 over for the tournament. Not a bad start to his career.

TO GO ROUND PINEHURST on the final day of the U.S. Open never less than four strokes ahead was a great achievement for Martin Kaymer.
To tie for second place, playing on level terms with the best golfers in the world, was an even greater achievement for Eric Compton.  After two heart transplants most of us would be happy to stagger to the sofa to watch the tournament on the box, let alone play in it.  Eric visits hospitals and encourages the disabled in his spare time, “Never write yourself off,” he advises.   As an example of practising what you preach, it could hardly be bettered.
THE WEEKEND OF 4th JULY sees the return of The Celebrity Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort, South Wales.  Teams of six from England Scotland Ireland and Wales will once again compete for the coveted trophy.   Bradley Walsh is the latest member of the England team, and Brendan O’Carroll of Mrs Brown’s Boys joins The Irish team,  who apparently played hard and partied hard last year.  Comedian Rob Brydon returns to captain Wales, and Gavin Hastings the reigning champions, Scotland.   In 2013  thousands of fans enjoyed a weekend of golf themed entertainment, watched the celebrities in action, and visited the “Interactive Retail Village.” (Shops.)
THE ROYAL AND ANCIENT golf club of St. Andrews, founded 1754, has been a men only club since before Napoleon was born.  That could all change in September when the members are asked to vote on whether to accept the ladies.  R & A chief Peter Dawson is urging them to vote in favour, saying society is changing and golf must keep up.  The indications are that the vote will be carried.  Open Venues Troon and Royal St. Georges still bar women members, will they be the next bastions to fall?

WE’VE HAD SOME pretty windy conditions this year; on the course we’re tempted to hit the ball harder into and across the wind.  The pros always say it’s better to hit it a touch easier, like a second serve, to keep an element of control and not too much spin on the ball.  So don’t forget the old adage: “Swing with ease into the breeze!”

Having tried out several new drivers in and out of the wind I’m convinced the only way to increase my distance is to hit the ball and run backwards.