View From The Fairway - Olympic Confusion
Golfshake's Derek Clements addresses the headlines in his View From The Fairway...
THE battle for places in the Olympic Games was supposedly completed at the US Open. Tyrrell Hatton was meant to partner Paul Casey for Team GB after Casey posted his 12th top-10 finish in a major to edge out Matt Fitzpatrick. The USA already had Justin Thomas inked in for their Olympic team, which will not include Dustin Johnson who made it clear he didn’t want to play. Brooks Koepka's bogeys at 16 and 18 cost him the chance to force his way into the squad, with Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele earning the right to make the trip to Tokyo. US Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen was slated to be joined by Garrick Higgo, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout just missing out for South Africa, and Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners qualify to represent Canada. But guess what? Hatton, Oosthuizen and Spain’s Sergio Garcia were the latest to make it clear they would not be going to Tokyo. Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood had already ruled themselves out, so Tommy Fleetwood will now join Casey. Don’t be surprised to see things change further as the Covid-19 pandemic is almost certain to lead to more players ruling themselves out. You may remember that a host of top players opted to give the 2016 Olympics a miss because of fears over the Zika virus. Perhaps the time has come to admit that golf does not belong in the Olympic Games after all.
ALTHOUGH he ultimately had a disappointing finish at the US Open, Rory McIlroy continues to talk up both his game and his progress. He three-putted the 11th hole for bogey and double-bogeyed the 12th to end his chances and eventually finished in a tie for seventh place, but he refused to be downhearted. “I keep saying, I'm on the right path,” McIlroy said. “I feel way more comfortable with what I'm doing way out on the course, especially in a situation like this.” He added that he got slightly unlucky on the double-bogey on 12, where his second shot from the fairway bunker wound up in a nearly impossible lie in a greenside bunker. He could barely get a club on the ball and watched it squirt sideways into the thick rough. From there he could only manage to hack it onto the green and two-putt. And yet again he struggled on the greens. “The way I hit the ball tee to green I just felt much more comfortable and in control of everything than the previous few times that I've been in this position,” he said. "Considering where I've been the previous few majors, it's a big step in the right direction.” With The Open Championship just around the corner, you just never know...
THERE are not many golfers who have played major championships in four different decades. And there are even fewer who have played in only four majors in four different decades. A month after providing us with one of the most popular wins in recent memory, his first on the European Tour in his 478th start, Richard Bland arrived at Torrey Pines with little to lose, or prove. Many in his position would have been happy just to be in the field for a US Open, with making the cut and a decent cheque at the forefront of priorities for the week. Bland, however, had other ideas and etched his name into the record books. The 48-year-old opened with a solid 70, added a 67 on day two and, when Russell Henley three-putted his final hole, Bland became the oldest player to hold the halfway lead in US Open history. Sadly, his challenge unravelled over the back nine on Saturday as he bogeyed five of the last eight holes to return a 77, and a closing 78 dropped him into a tie for 50th. "A game of two halves," was Bland's apt summary of his week. "The first two days were great, and then I found out what the US Open is really about. But it's been a positive week. I'll remember the first two days more than the second two, but it's been a good week."
THERE was good news last week with the announcement that up to 32,000 fans will be allowed to attend The Open at Royal St George’s next month. The tournament, which takes place from 15-18 July, was cancelled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The government has, of course, delayed the easing of all remaining Covid-19 measures until 19 July but will allow a "significant" number of fans at the Kent course. "These fans will play a huge role in creating a very special atmosphere," said R&A chief Martin Slumbers. "I would like to acknowledge the support and understanding we have received from the government and public health authorities, fans, players, our patrons and partners, as we have worked through this extremely challenging process.” Up to 10,000 fans are permitted at outdoor sports venues but certain events, such as The Open, are being treated as fan pilots as part of the government's Events Research Programme. All we need now is a home winner being cheered all the way to the Claret Jug.
IT WAS a surprise to see Martin Kaymer named as one of Padraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup vice-captains. He is a two-time major champion and former world number one who knows what it is like to win at Whistling Straits. The German insists that he still hasn’t given up hopes of qualifying for the team as a player but he has tumbled down the world rankings and it is now seven years since he last won a golf tournament. He remains a beautiful ball striker but there is still clearly something missing. It is to be hoped that he finds that missing ingredient again because, at the peak of his powers, he would be a huge asset to a team that is going to contain a number of rookies. But wouldn’t you just know it? Days after his appointment was confirmed, the German came within a whisker of winning the BMW International Open. Perhaps this is what he needed. Watch this space.
REGULAR readers will know that I am all for seeing more women given senior positions within the game, so credit to England Golf, who have announced that Chris Pascall is president-elect for 2022. Pascall, who has vast experience of both playing for and captaining her country during a highly successful amateur career, will succeed Lancashire’s Les Wilson as president in 2023. She said: “It was a real honour to be nominated as president-elect of England Golf and I was delighted to accept the role. I feel very proud to represent both the men’s and women’s game through this highly prestigious position. Golf has been a huge part of my life since I started playing at the age of 11. The various volunteer roles I have held have been just as rewarding as my achievements on the course. I am excited for the opportunity to help drive development and progression in English golf, particularly at this important juncture for the sport in a post-pandemic world. I am passionate about making the game accessible for all and nurturing the next generation of golfers. I would like to thank England Golf for giving me this fantastic opportunity. I hope to follow on the great work of past presidents and look forward to starting in April.” The 66-year-old will bring with her an immense knowledge of golf following a lifelong love affair with the game. A single figure handicap player for over 50 years, Pascall played for England girls in 1972 and then went on to represent the England women’s squad between 1979-81. She also represented Durham for over 20 years at county level and then enjoyed great success on the management side of the sport. Pascall spent eight years as an England selector and captained 15 different England teams in their quest for success at home and abroad in events such as the Home Internationals and European Team Championships. Pascall is currently captain of the Durham County Ladies’ Golf Association and also spent four years as the voting member for Durham on England Golf matters between 2015-2018.
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