The Reuters global sports blog
Inspired by Bubba Watson’s brilliance, beautifully encapsulated in that wedge from the pine needles on Augusta’s feared 10th hole en route to winning the Masters on Sunday, I took to the range for a good old clout of the golf ball rather than worrying about a textbook swing.
Ugly noise. Ball darts off right. Left-handed kid receiving a lesson two bays away, who when asked who his favourite player was replies “Bubba Watson”, hits it better with the same club (7 iron).
Try again. Legs and body sway violently. My wrists, better suited for short game artistry (well, escaping from behind trees and the like), bend like rubber while my head is about as stationary as a last-day Masters crowd galloping up the side of the fairway to glimpse a view of the winning putt.
The result of my second shot, or the next 168 balls I hit, is irrelevant. The point is that the unorthodox genius of Watson is unrivalled in the world of golf. Long may it continue.
If American golf is in crisis then it is a crisis every other nation would like a taste of as the sport’s most dominant country made a determined assault on the 140th British Open at Royal St George’s this week.
They came up short as Darren Clarke secured a third major triumph in 14 months for Northern Ireland but the final leaderboard was otherwise littered with the Stars and Stripes as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson shared second and Americans filled five of the top seven places and 12 of the top 24.
The image of Gary Player running the gauntlet of hostile American fans on the way to a first U.S. Masters triumph almost 50 years ago helped to spur Louis Oosthuizen to victory in the British Open.
Player, who in 1961 secured the first of three Augusta green jackets, phoned his fellow countryman on Sunday morning ahead of the final round at St Andrews.
Tiger Woods hacked and shanked his way to a two-round score of five over par at this year’s British Open, missing just the fifth cut of his professional career and only his second in a major championship.
Facing a Tiger-less weekend must have had television executives and sponsors sweating. The 2008 British Open, which Woods missed recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, saw TV ratings of the final round on ABC plummet 13.3 percent from the previous year.
Monday’s British newspapers will be awash with puns about Stewart Cink-ing the putt that won him the Open and his first major.
The American triumphed in a playoff with veteran Tom Watson, who might be the victim of some further tabloid tomfoolery given he certainly suffered a sinking feeling after as his game fell apart on the extra holes.
After giving the players a gentle start, Mother Nature appeared to wake up on the second day of the British Open as the wind strengthened, claiming a number of high-profile casualties including Tiger Woods.
Overnight leader Miguel Angel Jimenez battled hard for a three over 73 which cost him his lead but there were worse cases.
It is fair to say we all expected an American with a surname beginning with W to be soaring up the British Open leaderboard but everyone has been shocked that it is 59-year-old senior Tom Watson topping the strong field and not a certain Tiger Woods.
Whilst the world number one toiled in calm conditions at Turnberry’s Ailsa course on Thursday, five-times Open champion Watson was recording a bogey-free five-under-par 65 to take the early clubhouse lead.
Embarking on my first British Open, I was of the understanding the weather would be wet and windy and the scoring tough but my week thus far has been spent in shorts and t-shirts at a surprisingly benign Turnberry.
As nice as it is for a roving reporter to be out in the warm sunshine, fielding questions to the world’s best golfers on one of Britain’s finest courses, it would be interesting to see the usual wind and rain to see how good these guys really are.
The bushy-haired 20-year old from Northern Ireland is playing only his second Open, and first as a professional. But he is such a talent that he is capable of pulling off the biggest win in a major championship since the 21-year old Tiger Woods ran off with The U.S. Masters in 1997.
Rory’s youth should not hamper his chances. In fact it could encourage him. Only Tiger himself — who only a lunatic would argue is not the greatest golfer who ever lived — has a comparable early career record. Tiger had just turned pro when he won the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational as a 20 year-old, but McIlroy was still a teenager when he secured his first victory as a professional: the high profile Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year.