Friday, 12 February 2010

Lee loses out to the Mechanic - eternal conundrum settled - Pot belly really does beat barrel gut.

Miguel had asked for an ashtray, though it proved so cubersome he had begun to regret it...
Okay, I'm playing catch up this week. It was a thrilling finish to the Dubai Desert Classic last weekend. Miguel Angel Jimenez, a player who is probably in everyones top five favourite pro's got back to winning ways after an eventful play off with Europes big hitter Lee Westwood. It took several holes to seperate them, some superb clutch long putts from Jimenez keeping him in it, some nervy pushed makeable ones from Westwood keeping his hands off the prize. In the end it was a stroke of luck for Jimenez that helped him over the line, his ball just managing to stay on dry land, perilously close to the water. A fine chip and a putt and the Classic and it's rather demure and understated trophy, ahem, was his.

Yet another playoff loss for Westwood who's struggled in mano a mano deciders of late. Still, it's another top five finish for him as he continues to prove one of the most consistent performers in World Golf. He was playing at a very high level towards the back end of last season and he's kept that up - don't be surprised to see him take the big step he's so often threatened to this year. My tips - US Open for Lee, Open for Rory. Two of our boys in one year? Wishful thinking perhaps.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Sweet Jesus - low score shattered in Dubai - they've gone so low it's a limbo show!!! Muted response from BBC suggests they know nothing about golf...

Print this out, put it on your wall, make a t-shirt with it, treasure this momentous day in sporting history

In all my years I have never seen a more exciting start to a tournament than the one which the BBC have just reported on at the Dubai Desert Classic. Not only have we got a six way tie for the lead including rising supertar Rory McIlroy, in-form Saffa Charl Scwartzel and um Stephen Dodd amongst others, but they've each gone an broken one of the last great barriers on the European Tour. No one has previously bettered 60 shots in a round before - Darren Clarke one of the holders of that record having hit it twice. But just look at that leaderboard - No fewer than SIX players getting around in 15 UNDER PAR! 57 shots - the lowest round on the PGA is 59!

Which is why I'm posting that screenshot for posterity. I'm sure one or two of the guys must have thought when they got to 15 under par they'd be streets ahead, but nay, such is the competitiveness on tour that there's six of them duelling it out. The standard is incredible.

Unfortunately they have yet to get round to updating their full leaderboard which is still showing them at only four under - repeating the mistake in the main article also - a frankly shocking oversight which has undermines completely the stunning acheivement of these brave lads and is a sad indictment on the level of attention the BBC is paying to it's golf coverage these days. Makes me sick to my craw, it really does.

Paul Casey currently lies joint seventh on three under, in such record breaking conditions, a pitiful score, completely put to shame by McIlroy et al. How will he get to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Hey Phil, quit swinging your Ping Eye 2 around, it might be legal but it ain't right in front of children.

At a time when Tiger Woods has completely ruined his reputation and Golf is seeking another star to step into the breach as its new leading light, you would think that the big boys would want to do everything possible to make sure there is not a negative word said about them in the press. Which makes the decision of Phil Mickelson to jump so willingly through the bizarre loophole in the new law regarding U-groove clubs so amazing to me.

The ban on U-grooves was meant to have an impact on players scores by punishing wayward tee and approach shots which find the rough. The sharp edges provided by U-grooved clubs cut through grass caught between clubface and ball at impact, allowing players to have much greater control over shots from the rough and even impart spin on the ball too. To put the penalty back into finding the long grass, the decision was made to not allow pros to use these clubs anymore and revert back to V grooves, whose edges have shallower angles and thus do not cut through to the ball as effectively. This reduces the control the player has on the shot and leads to unpredictable flyers over the green and other such hilaritys. But as it was to be the same for all, it was going to bring an emphasis back on accurate iron play.

But a side effect of a 20 year old court ruling has kind of scuppered this brave new dawn. The Ping eye 2 wedge, which has square grooves, is not affected in this new era of V-shaped grooves because of a lawsuit Ping filed against the USGA that was settled 20 years ago, in which the USGA showing an amazing lack of foresight allowed the Ping eye 2 golf club to be sanctioned "approved for play" forever. Having started the ball rolling on the V-groove issue, someone must have realised that this was going to come and bite them on the bum.

And now it has and has sparked a debate among the golfing elite which is becoming quite venomous. And the main target of the venom is Big Phil.

One of the most effective weapons in Mickelson's armoury down the years has been his incredible deployment of the flop shot. High, towering shots, hit with almost a full swing from just off the green which may travel only ten yards forward and land almost dead on the spot. It's of no surprise then that it's the Ping Eye 2 60 degree lob wedge which Phil has begun packing. It's a crucial part of his game and clearly he wants to retain that advantage. But at what cost to his reputation?

He has stoutly defended his decision but I can't agree with his reasoning.

"The only thing that matters is are they approved for play. So I don't feel that there's any problem if I were to play those clubs or if anybody else were. All that matters is that it is OK under the rules of golf."

The thing is, if it wasn't for some daft legal case twenty years ago, presumably undertaken just for a marketing advantage, the clubs would not be legal. That they are allowed for play is down to a legal technicality, not because they have some sort of midway design that is borderline and they just scraped through. The design is illegal under the new laws of the game. If Callaway made a completely identical club to it it would be illegal. If you put any other U-groove club from 1990 in the bag it would be illegal. If you put any other club with a U groove design by Ping from any year, in any condition, it would be deemed illegal. Which means that really, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to agree not to use it.

Do I think that he's gaining an almighty advantage by using it, not really. But if he's not, then why use it. Why put yourself in that position.

Cause you're gonna get your Robert Allenbys who will be less than impressed -
"I just believe that even if they are legal, you still shouldn't be using them. Just because someone has a couple sitting in their garage somewhere or they've got them off eBay or whatever, I just don't think that's the integrity of the game. I think 'cheating' is not the right word to use, but it's definitely an advantage."

And then you'll get your Scott McCarrons who will be a tad more outspoken.

"It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play...all those guys should be ashamed of themselves for doing that. As one of our premier players, (Mickelson) should be one of the guys who steps up and says this is wrong."

Now Phil's response is, surprise surprise, to get all legal on it and accuse McCarron of slander, when all Scott wanted was for Phil to lead the way in saying "Hey guys, this club, it might be legal but lets not use it, right, lets be all that we can be". I think that's a little sad. Because at the end of the day, if Scott McCarron turns up with a 60 degree Taylor Made Lob Wedge from 1990 next week, he'd be breaking the laws of the game, while Phil flops away merrily. Just cause you can get away with it, doesn't mean you should do it. It ain't right Phil, think of the kids.

Rob can see clearly now the fluids gone - It's a bright sun shiny day in Qatar for Karlsson

Robert was very pleases to find that the trophy had been based on the Little Mermaid, a movie he watches "twelve times a year - at least - I love that crab and Ariel's smokin' hot"

It's always surprising to me to find out just how old Robert Karlsson is - he's forty - he doesn't look it. I know Golf has it's fair share of oldie's but still goodies, but they mostly look old. No one would look at Kenny Perry and think hes early thirties now would they. But apart from defeating Old father cronos and defying the aging process, Rob's had a few other issues to contend with this past year. Off the back of becoming the first Swede to claim the Order of Merit in 2008 he was expecting big things in 2009. But a problem with blurred vision caused by fluid behind the retina of his left eye kept him out of the game for four months. Only toward the end of the season did he show signs of the form which had made him European No.1.

But he was back to winning ways at the weekend. His flawless round of 65 saw him safely home, three shots clear on 15 under at the Qatar Masters in Doha. The big man easily fended off the chase from Alvaro Quiros, who finished with a 67. Lee Westwood would likely have been the biggest challenge for Karlsson but a cracked driver head during the third round deprived him of probably his biggest asset forcing him to change the club for the final round.

"It's hard to imagine anything else going wrong this week so 11 under is an unbelievable score," said Westwood. "Long, straight driving is one of my strengths and if you take someone's strengths away from them it is going to very difficult to compete." Still, Lee has now notched up 12 top 10 finishes in his last fifteen outings. Incredible consistency.

This is Karlssons first win since the Order of Merit clinching Dunhill Links he won in 2008 and he was understandably elated to get back in the winners circle after his lay-off.

"It was a tough time coming back. I had a couple of good finishes at the end of last year with Henrik (Stenson) at the World Cup and with a second in Japan, but it is fantastic to be back now.
I am really happy to be back playing well, it is the first time I have played really well for a long time and the way I finished off today was very satisfying."