Personal Reflections of a Golfing Year
IT HAS been a strange golfing year for me on a personal level, one that I will not forget in a hurry.
It all started well enough but then the rheumatoid arthritis that had lain dormant in my body for some four years flared up again. At one stage I could barely walk. We have all heard about the incredible pressure the NHS has been under this year but my experiences with them have been outstanding. Within a couple of weeks I found myself sitting in front of a consultant who confirmed that my condition had returned and I was prescribed a medication called Sulphasalazine which quickly brought it under control again.
I was able to get back on the golf course again and one of the highlights of my year was playing 18 holes at Barnham Broom in Norfolk - not because the course is especially outstanding but because I was able to play with an old friend I hadn’t played golf with for almost two years. We didn’t stop talking from the first tee until we came off the 18th green. And then we sat outside and enjoyed a couple of beers and carried on talking again. It reminded me exactly why I enjoy playing golf so much.
We all play for different reasons. I used to be incredibly competitive but as I have grown older the game is all about the social side for me. I love playing with like-minded people, individuals who just enjoy being out there.
As I write this, it is four months since I was last able to hit a golf ball. I have developed a shoulder issue and am awaiting an MRI scan to find out what is causing it.
As somebody who spends so much time writing about golf, I am not ashamed to admit that I am desperately missing not being able to get out and play the game I love. But it does mean that I have spent a huge amount of time watching golf.
And what a time this is for golf.
The achievements of individuals such as Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Hideki Matsuyama, Leona Maguire, and the Korda sisters have been sensational.
We also saw the return of Jordan Spieth. This time last year he could not hit a barn door.
And Phil Mickelson winning the US PGA Championship? At Kiawah Island? Did that really happen? Yes, it did. Lefty kept telling anybody who was prepared to listen that he could still win a major.
My personal highlight was watching Richard Bland win the British Masters at The Belfry. It was his first European Tour victory at his 478th attempt and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as he secured the title in a playoff. I will never forget his interview with Tim Barter, who had worked with him for 20 years.
And then there was that 15-13 win for Europe in the Solheim Cup, with Maguire holing putts for fun. Catriona Matthew steps away having twice captained Europe to Solheim Cup glory. What an achievement.
It wasn’t all sweetness and light. There was the continuing and unedifying spectacle of the ongoing feud between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, who spent most of the year behaving like a couple of spoilt children. It is to be hoped that they have finally put it to rest.
Europe surrendered the Ryder Cup to an American team that finally played like we all know they can. They were magnificent. It marked the end of an era for many of Europe’s 40-somethings. We still wait to find out how will succeed Padraig Harrington as the next European captain and one thing we can say for certain is that the team that lines up in Italy in 2023 will have a very different look. But let’s not be too despondent. There are some wonderful young European prospects.
And to those who think that the Ryder Cup doesn’t matter to the guys who take part in it, I would urge you to seek out Rory McIlroy’s interview after he won his singles match. McIlroy had a wretched week and was so emotional that he could hardly speak. Trust me, it matters. A lot.
The saddest news of all came early in the year when Tiger Woods nearly died in a horrendous car crash. It later emerged that he was travelling at 80mph and was fortunate not to have his right leg amputated. Tiger was accepted that he will never again now be the player he was. But how good was it to see him back in action at the PNC Championship alongside his young son Charlie.
We also lost Lee Elder, a pioneer and the first black man to be invited to play in The Masters. Without Elder, we may never have seen Woods.
I personally can’t wait for 2022. We have a DP World Tour that sees Europe’s finest playing for vast sums of money, a PGA Tour that is also seeing a huge increase in prize money and mind-boggling sums being pumped into the game by Saudi Arabia. And, best of all, the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
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