View From The Fairway - Wilco Nienaber is a Future Star
Golfshake's Derek Clements believes he may have seen the future in this week's View From The Fairway...
I don’t often get carried away about the potential of young golfers because so much can go wrong in tournament golf, but I am convinced that Wilco Nienaber has what it takes to become the next big thing. The 20-year-old South African finished second in the Joburg Open, and will know that he should have won. He is the longest hitter on the European Tour but he also has a fabulous short game. He has a wonderful temperament - he takes the good breaks with the bad and just cracks on with things. He has the look, tempo and demeanour of a young Ernie Els, but I honestly believe he could achieve more in the game than the Big Easy ever did. And, just like Tiger Woods, he hates to lose. Watch this space...
I switched the TV off after Dustin Johnson holed the winning putt at Augusta. It had been a magnificent performance from the world No 1 but I was a little bit disappointed at the lack of emotion he showed. How wrong I was. I later caught the interview he gave, proudly wearing his Green Jacket. He was so emotional that he could not speak. Fighting back tears he admitted that winning The Masters had been the culmination of a lifetime's dream. I have always had a soft spot for DJ. I like him even more now. Too many major champions just don't seem to care enough. Johnson realised the scale of what he had achieved, and is to be applauded. His indiscretions are well documented but he showed true humility. I hope that Bryson DeChambeau was watching.
I make no apology for staying with The Masters. I looked on in disbelief as Tiger Woods ran up a 10 at the 12th hole on the final day - his worst score on any hole since turning professional. It is a measure of the man that, playing purely for pride, he then birdied five of the closing six holes. Again, I hope that Bryson DeChambeau was watching.
After enduring four exhausting days at Augusta National, you have to tip your cap to all those golfers who then headed off to play in the RSM Classic when they would surely have rather been putting their feet up at home. Of course the world’s best players live a privileged life but climbing aboard a plane and heading off to the next venue, checking into yet another hotel and getting ready to put on another show for the folks back home is no easy matter. And a special shout-out to Christiaan Bezuidenhout. He went straight from Augusta to his native South Africa to take part in the Joburg Open in order to support golf back in his homeland. Awesome!
I don’t want to embarrass anybody so let’s just say that the following came from a member of Sky Sports commentary team: “Caroline Hedwall has played a lot of golf on the LPGA Tour this year and has struggled. She is much happier playing here in Europe.” Erm, Hedwall was competing in the Saudi Ladies Team International. Now correct me if I am wrong, but the last time that I looked, Saudi Arabia was not in Europe. Doh!
Ahead of The Masters all the talk was of distance, with Augusta chairman Fred Ridley hinting that something needed to be done. Bryson DeChambeau told the world that he considered the course to be a par 67. It didn’t work out too well for him, did it? Bernhard Langer, at 63, was the shortest hitter in the field but demonstrated that it is not about distance - it is all about experience. The powers-that-be don’t like to see their golf course being brought to its knees but the scoring we saw was entirely down to the conditions, not the distance the ball was being struck. DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, even Dustin Johnson, all discovered the hard way that if you drive the ball into the trees then you are going to be struggling to make pars. And if you don’t find the right part of the greens you will be taking three putts - or more. Or will look on in horror as your golf ball picks up speed and rolls into the water. Augusta National is just fine as it is. There is no need to DeChambeau-proof it. As long as the trees exist, as long as the slopes on the greens ask the questions the world’s best golfers will struggle to find the answers.
I cannot think of too many courses that would have been fit for play after the amount of rain that fell at Augusta on the opening day. But within an hour of the deluge having stopped the players were out on the course. It was a tribute to both the greenskeepers, to the course and to the sub-air system used to suck moisture from those magnificent greens.
Golf clubs around England are currently closed for business. During the first lockdown, subscriptions were either suspended or extended. With another month lost, they now face another difficult decision - do they offer members yet another extension? Remember that they are not making a penny during this difficult time. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Tiger Woods was Masters champion for 19 months. Dustin Johnson will be back at Augusta in April to defend his title. It means he will only be champion for five months. Don’t feel too sorry for him though - would you bet against him making a successful title defence? It is beginning to look like the American might be world No 1 for many, many months.
Speaking of Tiger, I can’t help but wonder when we will next see him in serious competitive action on the PGA Tour. If this year has proved anything it is the fact that even a 15-time major champion needs to play regularly to have any chance at all of being competitive. Wood knows that but his battered body simply won’t let him play as often as he would want to. So don’t put your mortgage on things changing in 2021.
The puzzle continues for Rory McIlroy. For three days in the final major of 2020 he played like the world-class golfer we all know he is. Sadly, after an opening round of 75, he had given himself far too much to do. It is scarcely believable that it is now more than six years since the Northern Irishman won the most recent of his four majors. And the longer it goes without a victory the more it must play on his mind. He is still only 31 years old but he has struggled since golf returned. In fact, his tied fifth finish was his best since the return. But he finished nine shots adrift of Dustin Johnson. Since 2015 McIlroy is a combined 28 over par in the first round in majors and 61 under in rounds two, three and four. Unfortunately, there are no plans to reduce the majors to 54 holes.
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