View From The Fairway - Inclusivity is Vital for Golf
Golfshake's Derek Clements reveals his latest View From The Fairway...
We have just come to the end of Black History Month. When Tiger Woods first emerged on the scene way back in 1996, there was huge optimism that it would lead to more black players taking up the game. So here we are in 2020. Woods has certainly inspired many people and viewing figures always increase for any tournament in which he is in the field. But here’s the thing…guess how many black players there are on the PGA Tour? Four. And that includes Woods. In a country with such a large black population, how can that possibly be right? Golf portrays itself as being an inclusive sport. Zane Scotland, a mixed-race former European Tour golfer, says he routinely experienced racial abuse throughout his playing career. Golf is a sport that should enrich people’s lives, regardless of their background or their colour. I live in Suffolk and earlier this year a local golf club kicked out two members for some comments they made in the car park about ex-England footballer Kieron Dyer. They claimed it was “banter”. Dyer certainly didn’t see it that way. And the golf club in question is to be commended for taking the right action. More’s the pity that it had to.
Phil Mickelson has won his first two starts on the Champions Tour - and has done so in some style. If you doubt that the courses the over-50s play are easier than those used by the PGA Tour you should look no further than Mickelson’s performance in the Zozo Championship last week. Faced with proper fairways and rough, Lefty hit the ball all over the place and finished with a closing round of 78. He was 26 shots behind the winner, Patrick Cantlay. Mickelson still insists he has the game to win on the PGA Tour. Don’t bet your mortgage on it.
There was more proof, if anybody needed it, at the Zozo Championship, that there is simply no substitute for competitive action. Tiger Woods won the tournament last year. He finished nowhere this time. There were flashes of the old Woods but, by and large, he struggled horribly as he continues to look for some signs of form. When all is said and done, he hasn’t played enough golf in 2020 to be considered a serious contender to make a successful defence of his Masters title. The shame is that he actually looks fit and well. But his game isn’t… and so it came as a huge surprise to your correspondent that Woods has opted to give the Houston Open a miss. Putting aside the rights and wrongs of the PGA Tour’s decision to allow fans in (and I think it is crazy), it is the final tournament before The Masters and if there is a golfer who needs more competitive action under his belt it is surely the man who heads to Augusta as the defending champion. Woods claims to be fit, so why on earth would he not take this golden opportunity to tune up his game?
Can you believe that Martin Kaymer’s last tournament victory came at the US Open in 2014? It beggars belief that the German’s drought continues. The good news for the former world No1 and his fans is that he is finally starting to show signs that he is on the way back. There have been some highly encouraging performances in recent weeks and he is now back in the top 100 in the world rankings. When you look at his swing it doesn’t appear to have changed one iota. Golf can be a cruel game. Just ask Jordan Spieth. When he won The Open in such astonishing fashion at Royal Birkdale in 2017 he seemed to have the world at his feet. He hasn’t come close since. Maybe a return to Augusta, where he has enjoyed so much success, will signal an upturn in his fortunes.
Why do so many tour pros believe it is a good look to play golf without wearing socks? Personally, I can’t think of anything worse - other than wearing sunglasses on the back of my cap in the pouring rain, just because my sponsor insists that I have to! Not that I have a sunglasses sponsor! But I remain open to offers...
The cut at the Italian Open fell at four under par. This on a golf course that measured 7,400 yards. So you would imagine that it would favour the bombers, wouldn’t you? And yet it was won by Ross McGowan, who “only” averages about 285 yards off the tee. This was his first victory in 11 years and 15 days. It just goes to prove that when it’s your week it really doesn’t matter how far you hit the ball. It is all about holing putts, and McGowan did that better than anybody else. He also celebrated better than anybody else. Apparently, he and his caddie shared “six or seven” bottles of Champagne on the flight back to England. And when he landed, his girlfriend was waiting for him with…another bottle of Champagne. He then got home and some neighbours turned up. Yep, you guessed it - they had more Champagne. It is safe to assume that McGowan didn’t play much golf last week!
The star of the show at the Cyprus Open was the magnificent Aphrodite Hills, and the good news is that we get to see it again this week at the Cyprus Showdown, a tournament that has attracted some criticism. The top 32 play on Saturday, after which the field is reduced to 16, the scores are reset and they go again on Sunday, with the man who shoots the lowest score collecting the big euros. Yes, it’s a gimmick, and yes, the best player over the course of the week may not win. But it is a one-off and the format encourages everybody to play attacking golf. And if Covid-19 ever goes away the best news is that you can head off to Cyprus and play this magnificent golf course.
Tom Lewis says that he is going to abandon the European Tour to focus on trying to establish himself on the PGA Tour. The Englishman has suffered at the hands of this game more than most. He won shortly after turning professional but then struggled for years before winning the Portugal Masters. And he surprised even himself by securing his playing privileges in America. He has tried to juggle both tours but found the travelling too much. Lewis is an admirable young man who deserves any success that comes his way. There will be those who will criticise him for his decision. But Lewis has to do what he believes is right for him. And I have a feeling that he is doing the right thing and could yet contend for a place in Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team.
And finally…just when we all thought that we were over the worst, Covid-19 takes a deadly grip and we face another lockdown. I understand why it is happening, and I fully endorse it. However, Boris Johnson tells us on one hand that we can still mix with one other person from outside our own household and it is fine to go for a walk or share exercise with that individual. But from Thursday we can’t play golf with him or her. It is stark raving bonkers. And I have my fingers firmly crossed that common sense will prevail and there will be a U-turn that will allow us to continue to play in two-balls.
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