Mentality can't help wondering if Ian Poulter made it back to his Bedfordshire base
last night rather than heading straight to LA for Tiger's tournament.
he did stop off in the UK, we like to imagine him coming into the house, then putting his feet up to
watch TV with the kids; and assuming he did that, we'd like to think that he flicked
onto the Spiderman film which was on in the evening.
because we'd love to imagine the spiky-haired clothes horse with a wry smile on
his face at Spiderman's motto: "With great power comes great responsibility".
phrase could better sum up golfers' relationship with the rules of the game - and after he was penalised during the Dubai World Championship play-off for accidentally moving his marker by dropping his ball on it, he could no doubt do with the soothing balm of putting everything in context.
Whenever a player ostensibly loses a tournament after a rules gaffe, it hits
the headlines (as it has on this very website), with everyone wondering how it is
that such a meaningless and seemingly petty infraction should have a say in determining
the outcome of a ferociously-competitive professional sports event.
point, in itself, is fair; but it misses the wider context of how the sport is
all too easy to forget that the golfer is granted the almost unique privilege of
being the arbiter of his own behaviour out on the course. Sure, at professional
events there is always a referee armed with a walkie-talkie and a golf buggy ready
to answer questions; but those officials are literally just walking, talking
rule books giving the players the information they need to record their own
is this very thing - the ability of golfers to play competitive matches without
supervision - that sets the sport apart. Throughout the world and at all levels, players' self-reliance and the importance of honesty is an integral part of the sport. In golf, as in no other sport, you are trusted to go out and play with no supervision or nannying.
the downside of being your own referee is that you are morally obliged to
penalise yourself in situations where a blunder results in no advantage being
other sports, the officials have the power to let infractions go unpunished, so
long as there is no advantage or injury. Football referees wave play on after
rough tackles that could technically be punished; rugby refs allow put-ins
at scrums that your school team coach would have bellowed at you for, and
basketball's travelling rule appears to be no more than the flimsiest of
guidelines in the NBA.
lets anything go in golf, regardless of whether or not it makes any difference,
for the simple fact that it is a matter of honour. Only Poulter saw his marker move, and it could have moved further away rather than closer for all he knew; but there was no question that he could do otherwise than call the penalty upon himself.
To all those who might say that Poulter's gaffe made no difference since Robert
Karlsson birdied that play-off hole in any case, I simply say this: try
standing over a four-foot putt for £350,000 with one go at it, then try
standing over the same putt for the same cash but knowing you're allowed two
shots. Then come back and tell me that Karlsson would have made his
birdie either way.
- - - -
Kaymer winning the European Tour Race to Dubai is far more than simply some good news
for the talented young German. It's a surefire sign that the new generation of
European stars is ready to take over.
likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and co are still the European
elite, but they are now officially the old guard. Kaymer and his ilk have as good as taken over already, and without anybody realising the significance of the moment.
McIlory almost completed the changing of the guard at the Dubai World
Championship last year, when only the best performance of Lee Westwood's
professional career kept the old boys on top for 12 more months.
however, is 25. It's over 20 years since anybody was crowned king of Europe at
such a tender age, and it's an achievement which invites comparisons with Europe's 'golden generation' of Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Ian
Woosnam and Nick Faldo.
of that batch won the Order of Merit title at the same kind of age as Kaymer:
Ballesteros won it at 19, Lyle at 21, Langer at 24, Faldo at 26. Woosnam, always
thought of as the late developer among that generation, only needed until he
that to Colin Montgomerie, who was 30 when he won the first of his seven
consecutive Orders of Merit. And, though we tend to think of Lee Westwood as having been a
babe in arms when he pipped Monty to the title in 2000, he was actually 27.
always the fear that a young golfer hitting it big at a young age will be
followed by them hitting the skids as quickly. Poor old Ronan Rafferty, a truly
wonderful ball striker, won the Order of Merit aged 25 in 1989 but saw much of
his career blighted by injuries and mysterious loss of form, while Paul Way - England's Jose Maria Olazabal at the 1987 Ryder Cup - saw his career fall off a cliff after his 26th birthday.
Kaymer already seems beyond such worries: a player who has won a Major and three
tournaments in a row - he has no more questions to answer.
than the obvious one: what on earth will he do for an encore?
- - - - -
Stat of the Week: Four. That's the number of statistical categories that Luke Donald led on the 2010 European
Tour. The Englishman came out top of putts per green in regulation, one-putts
per round, sand saves and scrambling. What he would pay for some sort of potion
to help him actually finish the job and win the odd tournament... he picked up
the Madrid Masters in May, but that was his first tournament win for over four
Quote of the Week: "It's been a fantastic
year I think. All of the goals that I set for myself, for my career - everything
happened this year. To win The Race to Dubai, number one, and to play The Ryder
Cup, and to win a Major" - Is it just me or does Martin Kaymer come over like a modern Alexander the Great weeping
at the sight of his conquered lands?
Nonsense of the Week: The setting of the Earth
Course at Jumeirah Estates, which is more than living up to its name: with the UAE's
boom economy having slowed right down, the golf course is now reportedly marooned
in the middle of a giant construction site that has little or no construction
going on. Alistair Tait in Golfweek reports that even those houses which have
been built are lying empty. (http://www.golfweek.com/news/2010/nov/25/lousy-turnout-dubais-opening-round/)
Shot of the Week: Martin Kaymer began his
week in Dubai with an eagle two at a par four, while Robert Karlsson enjoyed a
slightly fortunate eagle during the final round to help get him into the
play-off. But the award goes to Charl Schwartzel's hole-in-one on the opening
day at Jumeirah - a perfect strike that laughed in the face of a sucker pin
perched on the edge of the water. Watch the video below.
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