Sunday, 17 August 2008

Bramble pickers beware - thorny issues have arisen at the KLM Open before

The KLM Open begins this week at the Kennemer Golf & Country Club in Holland with a lot at stake for Ryder Cup hopefuls. They would be well advised to stay away from any brambles while they're out there though, and should they encounter one, leave the blighter well alone. Not just because a prick from one could play havoc with their grip. Allow me to explain...

Last year the tournament was won by young English prospect Ross Fisher with a score of 12 under par. In the end he took the title by a single stroke from Joost Luiten, a little known young home player from the Netherlands. It was a particularly nervous win for Fisher as he took his only two bogeys of his final round on holes 16 and 17. It took a birdie on the last to sneak him in front of Luiten and a relieved Fisher would be very glad to see the recorders hut and record his first win.

The officials were not so happy to see him however and Fisher was not finished his tournament just yet. An incident which had occurred on the 12th hole had been reported by a spectator and duly had to be investigated. Fisher had found a bramble runner in the area of his ball and mistaking it for a loose impediment tried to remove it, which would have been quite legal and of no consequence. However the bramble was well and truly rooted at both ends, would count as part of the course; Fisher dropped it and took his shot, moving on with his round.

The officials had to carry out their duties however and took him out to the 12th to see what had transpired, and then studied video footage before accepting he had not improved his stance and had kept within the rules. Only then was he awarded the victory. Here's how Fisher described it-

"It was a thin strand and I went to move it because I thought it was a loose impediment, but when I realised it was attached I literally left it alone.They deemed it didn't improve my stance or my swing. I feel very fortunate."

I don't know who the spectator was but it's probably quite likely he was a Dutchman and wanted to give young Joost every chance of claiming a precious Dutch victory. He may have remembered what had occured in the 1992 Dutch Open when the unfortunate Mike McLean lost the title when it was shown on video evidence that he had uprooted a bramble in the final round, when it looked like the tournament was his. The two-shot penalty which he was given as a result placed him outside of the play-off which Bernhard Langer won over Scot, Gordon Brand Jr. A costly spot of bramble picking, gardeners up and down the country sympathise with him.

Langer has made his share of history at this tournament, he played last year, managing avery respectable tie for third on -8, but it was special for another reason; he and his son were the first father son duo to both enter in the KLM Open in the same year. The Big Langer overshadowed the little Langer I'm afraid, son Stefan missing the cut - shooting 98 and 91, ouch. Big Langer has also won The KLM Open Championship in 1984, 1992 and 2001, meaning he has won the title in three different decades. Pretty good going. We won't see any Langers on show this year it seems, but Bernard'll probably return for a crack in 2010, see if he can make it a win in four consecutive decades, just to show off.

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