Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Photographers' Blog:

Augusta: A tournament like no other

Augusta, Georgia

By Phil Noble

It was the author Mark Twain who wrote "Golf is a good walk spoiled" and although the persistent rain that dogged the final round play at this years Masters certainly made it tough for both players and photographers alike, the amazing photographs at the final hole of regular play and the subsequent thrilling playoff certainly ensured our "good walk" wasn't ruined.

I was lucky enough to be asked to return to the Augusta National golf club this year for my second Masters tournament. Along with my Reuters colleagues Mike Segar, Bryan Snyder, Mark Blinch and 24 year Masters veteran Gary Hershorn, who would edit our pictures, we pitched up again at the Mecca of golf to cover a tournament unlike any other.

At most other golf championships we cover, photographers are allowed to work inside the ropes that hold the spectators back, making the job of following play and getting into a good position to photograph the golfers a relatively easy one. At Augusta however, we are accorded no such privilege, the hallowed, well manicured and vibrant green turf being preserved only for those playing in the tournament, meaning we are in with the spectators, or in the case of Augusta, the 'patrons'.

With tens of thousands of golf fans all vying to get a view of their heroes, moving around the course and finding a clear vantage point is more challenging than usual, but once you've got your 'masters head' on and a bunch of "Excuse me", "Would you mind awfully if I..." and a liberal sprinkling of "If I kneel can I squeeze in front of you?" in your camera bag the course offers a wealth of angles and pictures unlike anywhere else.

Has ‘Bubba golf’ got the legs for world domination?

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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).

Miami courts too slow – Rusedski

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By Greg Rusedski

All the talk at the Miami Masters Series was again about the top four and if Roger Federer would be able to continue his amazing run. Miami is a tough event to win immediately after Indian Wells due to its slower conditions, heavy humidity and at times; strong winds.

Federer was trying to win Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back for the third time in his career. Federer has been on an amazing run since losing in the semi-finals of the US Open. He has won 6 of his last 8 events and has amassed the most points of any player since mid-September of last year. Unfortunately for Roger, he lost to Andy Roddick in the third round when he ran out of gas with Roddick playing well. This will hurt Roger because he owns Roddick and had beaten him in 24 out of 26 matches up until this match.

Federer makes it 19

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By Greg Rusedski

The Indian Wells masters series is always a difficult event for the players. They have to get used to playing in the desert air as the ball travels a little quicker and further than you expect. Thus they have to move quicker, tighten their racquet strings, or put more top spin on the ball to bring it into court. That is why the top players like to arrive as early as possible.

Roger Federer came into the event in great form having won Rotterdam and Dubai. Rafael Nadal on the other hand hadn’t played a match in 40 days and it would be interesting to see if he was rusty. Novak Djokovic had been playing well all year, even though he lost in the semi-finals in Dubai to Andy Murray. Djokovic looks very confident, he is not as concerned about winning every event as he was last year. He is comfortable being world number 1 and looks more focused on winning majors. This year expect him to balance out his schedule more and play a little less tennis.

Federer at his sublime best in Paris

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By Greg Rusedski

The Paris Masters was going to determine who was going to be the last players to qualify for the ATP world finals in London. The last few places were up for grabs and all the players that were in pole position ended up qualifying. The top eight for the field ended up being Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish.

The other story of the week concerned Djokovic and whether he would play after shoulder problems in Basel. If he didn’t play he would have missed his commitments for the master series events and it would have cost him over 1 million pounds in bonus pool money. He did play!

McIlroy and Woods still have reasons to be positive

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GOLF-MASTERS/One of the most riveting final rounds at the Masters left Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy dealing with bitter disappointment, although they each appear to have bright prospects going forward.

Woods, without a tournament win for nearly 17 months, looked like the Tiger of old as he charged into contention over the front nine at Augusta National on Sunday, banishing any thought he might be a spent force.

Tales from tennis’ fifth major

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Greg Rusedski writes exclusively for Reuters thanks to Thomson Reuters’ sponsorship of the Lawn Tennis Association.

The Sony Ericsson Open tournament is considered the fifth major by most of the tennis fraternity. It became a week with many story lines:

So many story lines at Indian Wells

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The first Masters Series event of the year in Indian Wells, California was absolutely brilliant: so many story lines. How would Rafael Nadal play in his first ATP event after his injury in the Australian Open? Could Novak Djokovic continue his unbeatable form this year having won in Australia and Dubai? How would Andy Murray play after his 1st round loss in Rotterdam? Could Juan Martin Del Potro get back to his best form again after winning Delray Beach earlier this year? Would Roger Federer win Indian Wells for a record 4th time?

Andy Murray of Britain reacts to losing a point against Donald Young of the U.S. during their match at the Indian Wells ATP tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, March 12, 2011.  REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Murray played poorly and lost his first match to American qualifier and world number 143, Donald Young. He didn’t seem into the match and played very passively to lose in straight sets. This sort of performance asks more questions about his mental state after losing again in the finals of the Australian Open in January. He needs to get back on track in Miami because he is in danger of losing his world number 4 ranking. This means he could face Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic in the quarter-finals of events instead of the semi-finals. Let’s hope for a good run in Miami because this could set the tone for the rest of the year for Murray. He needs to play more proactively. Also a change of direction with either a new coach who has worked with the very best or a mentor who has won majors. He needs some freshness brought to his tennis. It has to be fun again.

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