|The par five 6th skims along the highest |
ground at Lough Erne
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Lough Erne Resort launches inaugural Winter Series
Winter is coming but that doesn’t mean you should put your clubs away. Far from it. Golf clubs are running all manner of competitions and the inaugural five star Lough Erne Resort Winter Series which will be played on the Faldo Championship Course.
On the first Thursday of each month, from November 2018 to March 2019, competitors will battle it out for a place in the Grand Final on March 28, 2019.
This six-event Stableford Winter Series is open to all and the four leading male and female
Sunday, October 14, 2018
This is a blog I should have written some time ago. That’s the nature of things when you end up writing for several publications – your own ‘channel’ gets forgotten or ignored. Instead of writing you put your feet up watching Strictly Come Dancing.
I’m kidding of course. I never put my feet up when I watch Strictly*.
|The 16th green getting a heavy watering in July after weeks of no rain.|
There’s also an exceptional stay-and-play type offer from the Diamond Coast Hotel that
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
|The par four 6th at Doonbeg|
The changes made by Hawtree have improved the course and I was very impressed when I played the 'new' Doonbeg in 2016. It has to be said that greens have lost their 'Greg Norman character' but then several greens lost that
Sunday, October 7, 2018
The Ryder Cup has gone for another two years. It seems to build for an eternity and then vanish in a couple of days as other events take over. The victory never lasts long... although the back-stabbing and recriminations take a lot longer to wither away.
One of the sideshows this year was a certain American writer, by the name of Alan Shipnuck, who published an article last year writing off Team Europe.
It is therefore ironic that it was 48 year old Phil Mickelson who handed Europe the point that determined the destination of the 2018 Ryder Cup. Ironic, too, that it was a tee shot that sank in the water.
On the golf.com website, last November, Shipnuck made it clear that Europe was a spent force and that the lustre of the Ryder Cup was set to fade. Why? Because the USA would win the biennial match for years to come.
“The Ryder Cup is dead — you just don’t know it yet,” he wrote.
His opening gambit continued thus:
“One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefiting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris. This will be the first American win on European soil in a quarter century and, coming on the heels of an overpowering U.S. win in ’16, will set the stage for a decade-plus of blowouts, sapping the intrigue out of the Ryder Cup. It’s going to get so lopsided that you can expect future Ryder Cups to have all the dramatic tension of…gasp!…the Presidents Cup.”
The Americans are young and brilliant, he believed – and of course they are – while the Europeans are plucky and past it. He listed off the ages of four big European stars: Henrik Stenson (42), Ian Poulter (42), Sergio Garcia (38), and Justin Rose (38). Hardly past it when Garcia won his first Major last year and Rose recently peaked as the number one golfer in the world.
How well did these guys perform! Compare their results to the USA’s two veterans: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, with a combined age of 90. Two Captain’s picks, six matches and zero points. The four Europeans listed above delivered 8 points from a possible 13, and you can pretty much guarantee that three of those four will be on the next Ryder Cup team. Thanks, but I’ll take them over Johnson, Spieth, Thomas and Koepka.
There’s no doubt that Shipnuck’s logic is sound: the talent and youth of the USA side is irresistible… but such logic misses the most important element of this clash of the titans.
The Americans – the golfers, the writers, the captains, the fans – simply don’t comprehend the importance of team spirit… or certainly can’t generate it. They might have switched tactics with their fabled ‘Task Force’ ahead of the USA victory in Hazeltine, but team spirit is not a switch you can flick on as required; it is not something as simple as a sign that says ‘Leave Your Egos at the Door’. Team spirit grows and thrives through time, friendship and respect.
Patrick Reed demonstrated perfectly how this spirit is lacking in the USA team… never mind the confrontation between Johnson and Koepka. In a New York Times interview shortly after the USA lost, Reed tore in to Jordan Spieth:
"The issue's obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me," said Reed. "I don't have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don't care if I like the person I'm paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success.”
‘I don't care if I like the person I'm paired with...’ Seriously!
Try telling that to Molinari and Fleetwood, or Garcia or Rory. You play with Ian Poulter and he is as much invested in your shot as he is his own. That’s what a team does. Garcia epitomises the European spirit. The Captain’s pick who raised the most questions proved that, as a Ryder Cup player and comrade, he excels in this event. And his reward for delivering three points from four is to be the leading Ryder Cup scorer of all time, beating Nick Faldo’s record of 25 points.
More importantly, perhaps, it was Poulter, on Friday afternoon, and Garcia on Saturday morning, who inspired Rory back to the form that saw him winning majors by eight strokes. Compare that to the body language of Tiger Woods… and those who were paired with him. Here is the greatest golfer of all time who simply cannot excel in this competition. From 37 matches he has won just 13. Jack Nicklaus played 28 Ryder Cup matches and won 16 of them. Individual greatness does not necessarily translate to a team format.
There are other moments to consider. Did you see the smile on Fleetwood’s face when he was congratulating Tony Finau for thrashing him 6&4 in the Singles? It was huge and genuine. Win or lose, he loved the competition. Away from the Ryder Cup, do you remember how pleased Justin Rose was for his teammate Sergio Garcia when the Spaniard beat him in a play-off for the US Masters in 2017? There are friendships that run deeply through the European team that only skim the surface for the Americans.
If the Americans appreciated that and embraced it more then winning would come more easily. Individual brilliance is only one piece of a larger puzzle.
During the post Ryder Cup press briefing, Shipnuck was jeered by the European players and he took it all with good grace. He has since issued an apology – which is not an apology to Europe, I might add – and has, conveniently, moved his prediction on two years, to 2020, when the Ryder Cup returns to American soil.
We look forward to watching him sink on that one as well.
If you want to read Shipnuck's article... click here
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
I played golf with Padraig Harrington two weeks ago. There can’t be many golfers who have that on their CV, and it came completely out of the blue. One day I’m talking to the Portuguese Tourist Board, the next I’m lined up to play in the Portugal Masters Pro-Am alongside Ireland’s greatest golfer. With luck like that I should play the Lotto.
I flew over for two days – well you would, wouldn’t you – and stayed in Vilamoura where the Dom Pedro Golf Collection of five courses is located. One of those is the Arnold Palmer-designed Victoria course where the Masters is played.
Our team of four met on the 1st tee. Dermot from Destination Golf, Michael from Golfbreaks.ie, myself and the man himself. Introductions were made and then Padraig looked at the scorecard.
“Lads,” he said, shaking his head, “I need 1s in front of these handicaps.”
The Texas Scramble type format preferred by the European Tour does not favour handicaps of 4, 4 and 8. Birdies and better are all that matter so from the best drive the high handicappers have the best chance of bringing in the scores… especially on par threes.
|Padraig tees off on the 11th.|
Was I star struck? Probably. I had all these questions I wanted to ask Padraig but once we were on the course those questions were crushed by an overwhelming desire not to make a fool of myself… which lasted until my second shot. I duffed it. Badly. And yes, you can duff a shot in a good way.
Watching Padraig hit the ball up close is something special – especially his irons and his fabled short game. From around the fringes he got up and down almost every time. He played the front nine with Pete Cowen, the renowned golf coach, in tow and one of our team sought a couple of tips from Pete along the way. The other member of the team asked Padraig for advice. I asked nothing… I know a lost cause when I see one.
Padraig is so focused it’s almost scary. He would read our putts… all of them… on every hole. On the 6th he stopped us on the green and explained how to read a green by looking at the colour of the grasses. This wasn’t a five-second thing, it was more like two minutes. Then, when I said I was going to hit a putt at the hole with pace to negate the break, he shook his head at me (again). Why bring another variable (speed) into the process, he asked. All putts should be hit in the same way. He said the media commentators’ constant refrain of hitting putts with pace to avoid the break was nonsense.
I took a photograph of the beach-sized bunker in front of the par three 8th and he asked why I was taking the picture.
“That is the worst bunker out here,” he said without hesitation. His rationale was simple: it’s bad design when the only people who are punished by such a hazard are high handicap golfers. Aesthetics don’t come into it.
|Ball in a bush. Padraig finds trouble on the par four 14th. He dropped |
for a penalty and still made par.
Around the course he was constantly stopped for selfies or autographs or interviews. He smiled for each one and was out enjoying himself. Ronan, his caddie, was entertaining too, and our little entourage soaked up the heat (28 degrees) and had a great day.
Despite not having ‘1’s in front of our handicaps, we scored well and often. Our team score was a hefty 31 under par standing on the 18th tee. We all had a shot on the index four 373 metre par four and we reckoned 34 under would be in with a shout.
“What are you doing with that?” barked Padraig, as I stepped onto the 18th tee with my cherished 3 iron. The crowd of about 60 fans fell silent. The man has always spoken his mind.
I was going to play safe, I explained, so that the two big hitters I was playing with could give their drives a lash.
Padraig wasn’t having any of it. “The first two go for it and then the third plays safe if necessary,” he said. I skulked back to my bag and took out the driver.
“I bet you wish you’d played that 3 iron now,” Padraig remarked as I sent my best drive of the day straight down the middle.
|Our team on the 18th fairway|
We finished on 34 under but didn’t even manage 3rd place (-36). The winning score was 44 under (that’s 2.5 birdies on average per hole) and the amateur handicaps were 16, 17 and 17.
After our 18 stiflingly hot holes, Padraig joined us for lunch. I should have written my questions down but I did manage to remember one:
“What’s your favourite Irish golf course?”
“Royal Portrush,” he said without hesitation.
Roll on the 2019 Open Championship.