Last week's golf tournaments gave us far and away the two
most exiting winners of the year so far.
In the States, Camilo Villegas closed out a superb victory ahead
of a solid field at the Honda Classic in Florida.
And at the Malaysian Open, teenager Noh Seung-yul produced one of the
classiest shots under pressure that BM has seen since Shaun Micheel's
outrageously astonishing shot to win the US PGA Championship back in 2003.
The amazing thing about both wins - other than the
thrillingly ruthless manner in which they were pulled off - is that the winners
are respectively Colombian and Korean.
We're not just talking about two young, up and coming
players winning a one-off tournament.
We're talking about two players who have proven they can win
in the past, but who are now proving that they are genuinely worthy of places at golf's top
You may have never heard of Noh - BM certainly hadn't before last week - but
the 18-year-old has already enjoyed a victory and two runner-up spots on the
Asian Tour. From a lad who has barely started shaving that's impressive stuff.
Villegas is a different matter: the poster boy of the US
Tour smiles like a rockstar, reads his putts like an acrobat (see the picture) and draws crowds
of girls following him wherever he plays. After a couple of years of showing promise, he broke through to win twice in two weeks last year - and this latest victory shows that those successes were more than just an isolated purple patch.
Either - or even both - could end up doing for golf in Asia
and South America as much as Arnold Palmer did for it in America.
Before Palmer came along golf was widely played and enjoyed,
but nobody made it sexy until the American came along. With his film star looks,
aggressive shotmaking and off-course lifestyle - think champagne and private
planes - he gave the sport the sort of glamour more usually associated with
Hollywood than St Andrews.
For all the admirable brilliance of the golfing geniuses that
followed - Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and so on - only
a tiny handful of players have ever had that same X factor.
Seve Ballesteros had it; and he almost single-handedly brought
the game of golf to prominence in Europe.
Greg Norman had it; and he got Australians excited about the
sport for the first time since Peter Thompson dominated The Open in the 1950s.
Tiger Woods had it; and he brought the Playstation
generation on board with the Royal and Ancient game.
Villegas, too, has that same glamour - and in spades. In 10 or 15 years'
time there is every chance that we will look back in awe at how he got Latin
America into the sport.
It's a part of the world that has given the world some great
golfers, such as Masters champion Angel Cabrera. But those players have always
been Argentines, and Argentina has always been the most European of the South
Colombia is different, literally a nation that brings South
and Central American together, and a place where golf is a little-known
curiosity; and yet the Villegas effect has already seen a rash of new interest
and development in the Colombian game.
As for Noh, well, he is more about cheeky
charm than pin-up glamour; but that hasn't stopped Rory McIlroy becoming a star, and in golf-mad Korea he will be equally important
as Villegas will be in Colombia.
Koreans have enjoyed huge success in women's
golf, KJ Choi has been a top player in the US for several years, and Yang
Young-eun's victory at last year's US PGA gave Asian golf its Major
But they have lacked a young, up-and-coming talent to really
get behind in the men's game. Until now, that is, because Noh's heroics suggest
he can be the flagbearer for the Korean game.
And the world of golf will be a more exciting place because
Nonsense of the week:
Tiger Woods, for two reasons.
First up is the news about the timing
of Tiger Woods's live, televised apology to the world for his philandering
raised plenty of controversy. It was held slap-bang in the middle of a tournament
being sponsored by Accenture, one of the companies that pulled its lucrative deal
with the world number one. The excuse given at the time was that Tiger had to
leave for a new, lengthy bout of sex counselling and that the apology had to be given beforehand. 10 days
or so later - and not 45 days, as you might easily have inferred from his apology
speech - it turns out that he is back out of counselling and on the golf course
practising his heart out. It makes it look more than ever as if he was
intentionally getting one back on a company that dumped him.
Secondly, the fact that Tiger turned down £50 million from
Paddy Power for a new five-year endorsement deal. The Irish bookies got some
outstanding free publicity with their move, all the while knowing that Woods
could not possibly accept it at a time when he was trying to rebuild his
squeaky-clean reputation. But boy oh boy would we love to have seen Woods call their bluff!
Quote of the week: Unrepeatable
here due to legal reasons, but the winner is John Daly's Twitter
messages - sorry, 'Tweets' - posting the private mobile phone number of a journalist who had
published details of Daly's 456-page US Tour disciplinary file.
Surprise of the week:
The English players made the top 10 in the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens,
but it was Justin Rose's third place finish that gave us the biggest (and nicest)
surprise. Rose shot a final round 64 to secure a first top-three finish since
last year's Dubai Desert Classic.
Shot of the week:
Noh's pitch shot was truly superb, but we'd just about give the edge to
Villegas's miraculous recovery from the rough after a bad drive on the 10th
hole of the final round in Florida:
Stat of the week: American
Michael Connell needed just 26.50 putts per round in Florida, or less than a
putt and a half on every green. Connell has struggled since a brief appearance
as a rookie on Tour back in 2006 and returns in 2010 after battling through
Qualifying School. If his putter stays that hot, however he will surely start