Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Interesting Week in Golf

It's been an interesting week in golf. Lydia Ko won her tenth professional tournament at the tender age of seventeen. Padraig won again, despite the number of toys cluttering up his proverbial attic, and a ball in the water coming down the stretch. Amy Yang finally gets another win, and a journeyman pro gets his five minutes of fame, or infamy, by making disturbing allegations about Tiger before quickly recanting.

This Lydia gal is simply incredible. She has ten wins as a pro, a full seven years before Jack, Tiger, or Rory could accomplish the same feat. I realize women tend to peak faster in golf, so perhaps the comparison to the men may not be warranted, but she is nevertheless doing something on the golf course, the likes of which we have never quite seen before, and she is doing it in such a low key fashion it appears to be the most natural thing in the world for Lydia Ko. 

She isn't flashy. She isn't especially long. She just hits fairways and greens, and holes putts when she needs to. She makes it look easy. She swings the club effortlessly and never seems to get rattled. It remains to be seen whether Lydia will start adding majors to the list or simply go off the boil as some other world beaters have done. In this game, both are possibilities, so only time will tell. It will probably be a question of how much Lydia wants to be the most prolific winner of all time, and whether she can stay healthy, motivated, and manage to avoid the inevitable array of teachers who will surely come along offering to try to help her change her swing to make her better, or longer, or whatever.

Lydia Ko in some respects reminds me of Matteo Manaserro, whom I wrote about a month or so ago. Matteo was, like Lydia, without much fanfare doing things as a teenager that had never been done before. He wasn't long, he wasn't particularly flashy, but he became the youngest player to win on the European tour after being the youngest player to accomplish several impressive feats as an amateur. He is still just a kid, but he has made what I definitely fear will turn out to have been a mistake, changing his swing in an effort to get longer. Whether he ever gets his game back, only time will tell. But for now, he finds himself in the doldrums, fast descending the ladder of the world rankings. He apparently didn't learn from the experience of his hero, Seve, who ruined his game by making swing changes and being influenced by swing gurus who couldn't hold a candle to him as a player.

American fans were likely somewhat disappointed to see Stacy Lewis fail to get it done after looking like the winner for three days. American fans might have been similarly disappointed to see Patrick Reed falter down the stretch, allowing the compulsive tinkerer, Paddy Harrington, to hang tough despite a ball in the water on seventeen. It was great to see Padraig seal the deal with a picture perfect three quarter five iron on seventeen in the playoff, despite having watched the same shot fizzle in regulation play. This Berger kid looks to be yet another new American to watch. He'll have his chances, but, for now, Paddy is back on top.

If there is a desire to see Americans once more at the top of the world rankings, it appears unlikely to be realized any time soon. Golf can no longer be said to be dominated by Americans, especially with the cooling off of Tiger and Phil and the emergence of Rory and Lydia as the game's top players. While many Americans may lament the end of American domination, perhaps best epitomized by their dismal Ryder Cup record, the change in the landscape, in terms of the players at the top, must surely be good for the growth of the global game.

As for the latest in the Tiger saga, the character making the allegations has recanted and many believe that this should be the end of the story, which included allegations of illegal or banned drug use, a suspension, and use of a non-conforming golf ball by Tiger since 1999. I suppose these allegations are not even deemed to be allegations anymore, since the man making them has recanted. Unfortunately, once something is said, it's out there until it can be established to be pure fiction. A cynic could suggest he recanted because of pressure, not because he fabricated the story. It may not be fair to Tiger or the PGA tour, but I think it behooves one or both of them to do more than simply deny these allegations. They need to make an example of this fellow if he lied. 

I have heard it suggested that silence is golden and Tiger needn't dignify these allegations with a response. While that may be true, a simple denial, with no action taken against this guy by Tiger or the tour, could leave the impression, at least to the confirmed cynics amongst us, that they are simply pleading the Fifth and hoping that this will all just go away. As another person commented recently, we have seen the fall of Lance Armstrong, not to mention all the banned substance use in baseball, so nothing should be considered to be impossible when it comes to sports and big money. Where there is smoke, there is often fire. I for one hope and trust these allegations aren't true, but one wonders, without more being known, how this fellow could have had the audacity to make these allegations if they are totally without substance. Who is he? Is he crazy?

I don't think we've heard the last of this story.