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View From The Fairway - Matsuyama's Victory Felt in Japan

By: | Mon 19 Apr 2021 | Comments

Derek Clements shares his latest View From The Fairway...

I MAKE no apologies for returning to the subject of Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at The Masters and the impact it has had in Japan. When the 29-year-old holed the winning putt at Augusta, commentators, led by Tommy Nakajima, choked back tears to describe the denouement of a one-shot win that was more comfortable than the narrow margin suggests. "Matsuyama has won,” Nakajima cried. "A Japanese man will claim the Green Jacket, Matsuyama has done it!” Nakajima is one of several male players from Japan who had the potential but never quite emulated the achievements of the country's only major winners; 2019 Women's Open winner Hinako Shibuno and Chacko Higuchi at the 1977 LPGA Championship. He famously blew his Open chances in St Andrews' Road Hole bunker, known as "the sands of Nakajima", after he putted into the hazard and took four shots to escape during the third round of the 1978 championship. Earlier that year Nakajima ran up a 13 on the 13th hole of the Masters, but this was someone who also spent 85 weeks in the world's top 10 in the 1980s. Isao Aoki, Jumbo Ozaki, Shingo Katyama, Shigeki Maruyama and Ryo Ishikawa are other revered figures from this land of more than nine million golfers. They too never quite made it into the winners' circle on the greatest golfing stages. But they were all idolised and their every move was scrutinised by a huge media presence. "I can't imagine what it will be like for poor Hideki," Ernie Els told the Golf Channel. "It will be unbelievable.” Jack Nicklaus, the winner of 18 majors, and a man worth listening to on any subject, said: "I've been blessed to spend a lot of time in Japan and I know they love the game of golf. They're also very proud people and they're even prouder today! I competed against the great Isao Aoki, and know how revered he was and is. Hideki will also now forever be a hero to his country. This is a great day for him, for Japan, and for the global game of golf!"

IF YOU had any doubts about the impact that the pandemic has had on the game we love they were surely dispelled with the news that Gleneagles, venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup, has reported its first loss in a decade and has received £5m from the Government. Its annual accounts, taking in the 15 months ending in March 2020, show a staggering pre-tax loss of £5.2m, compared with a profit of £55,000 the previous year. While covering the period before the coronavirus crisis hit, the report noted that its emergence at the beginning of last year led to fewer bookings in the first quarter of 2020 - particularly from the group bookings that the resort and its five-star hotel is so reliant on. It closed from March 23 last year until the middle of July, closing again on November 13. It is due to reopen on April 26. The hotel received £5m from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, along with a £3.9m loan from its parent company. The good news is that Gleneagles believes that a strong summer should be enough to allow it to operate for a year without additional funding being required.

A new golf movie is in the pipeline. But even though the producers have persuaded Renne Zellwegger to take a starring role, you probably shouldn’t expect The Back Nine to be a classic. The film, which is being produced by Michael Patrick King, will centre around Zellwegger’s character Casey Jones, a talented golfer who gives up her dreams of playing on tour so that her fellow pro husband can pursue his own. However, when their 25-year marriage collapses and the couple’s son leaves for college, Jones decides to give her golf career another shot. As well as directing, King co-wrote the movie with Jhoni Marchinko and Krista Smith and he’s thrilled to have Zellwegger onboard. “Jhoni and Krista and I are very excited to have the amazing Renee Zellweger do our movie 'The Back Nine',” he said “A stunning actress with incredible range, she can make you laugh and cry and has a great golf swing. What more could anyone want?” A decent golf movie would be a start.

The European Tour has confirmed an additional tournament will be played in Tenerife to replace the cancelled Open de France. The Tenerife Championship will take place from May 6-9 and will be the final event of a three-week stint in the Canary Islands, starting with this week's Gran Canaria Lopesan Open, hosted by Rafa Cabrera Bello. The Golf Costa Adeje club will then host the Tenerife Open, with the same venue being used the following week as the European Tour opted to stay in the Canary Islands rather than add another event at The Belfry ahead of the British Masters in mid-May. Golf Costa Adeje hosted the Open de Espana in 2003, when Kenneth Ferrie won the first of his three European Tour titles, while Tenerife last staged a Tour event two years later, when John Bickerton claimed a five-shot victory in the Open de Canarias at Abama Golf Club. "We are very grateful to Golf Costa Adeje and the Costa Adeje Municipality for their support in creating the Tenerife Championship at such short notice," said European Tour chief executive, Keith Pelley.

AND there is more good news with the announcement that the tour is returning to Belgium in 2022 when the Rinkven International Golf Club hosts the Soudal Open. Belgium's national Open was last held as a strokeplay event in 2000, before being reborn for a two-year stretch as the Belgian Knockout - combining stroke play and match play - in 2018 and 2019. The tournament will take place next May or June, with exact dates to be confirmed, while the event will offer a prize fund of €1 million euros (£867k) and be part of the 2021/22 Race to Dubai schedule. European Tour CEO Keith Pelley said: "Belgium has a strong tradition of European Tour events as well as history of producing some terrific talent, so we are delighted the country's national Open will be part of our schedule again next year.” Sir Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke are among the notable former winners of the Belgian Open, while Guido Migliozzi won the last edition of the Belgian Knockout.

AT A time when so many tour pros are attracting the wrong sort of headlines for childish temper tantrums, it made a pleasant change to witness Callum Shinkwin and his caddie enjoying some sparring between shots during the first round of the Austrian Open. Shinkwin, whose cousin is a former professional boxer, surely gained some new fans. Golf is not a matter of life and death - it is meant to be fun. And it is reassuring to know that at least one pro realises that.

SPEAKING of temper tantrums, Si Woo Kim, who broke his putter in anger during The Masters, was in the news again last week. This time it was because he waited for more than a minute for his golf ball to drop into the hole at the par-four third during the third round of the RBC Heritage. Astonishingly, Kim thought it was fine to wait all that time and believed he had birdied the hole. It took an official to put him right.

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