Sunday, 31 May 2015

Royal County Down on Display This Week

PI love links golf, and one of the world's great links courses was on display this year at the Irish Open. If we were tuned in to see Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler battle it out, we were sadly disappointed. Instead we saw some up and coming Europeans, and some lesser known grinders battle the course, the weather, and themselves, until a diminutive journeyman Dane, Soren Kjeldsen, was the last man standing, winning in a playoff. 

The course, aided by the cold wind and the frequent rain squalls, made life interesting and difficult for the players and the Irish fans who turned out in droves and huddled cheerfully under their umbrellas to watch the players struggle to match par on this venerable old links. Only five men finished under par at the end of seventy two holes. It was a major test, and was surely fun for those players who embraced the challenge, which included unpredictable and sometimes unlucky bounces, which is part and parcel of links golf. 

There is golf, and there is links golf, the purest form of the game; the way golf was meant to be played. Only those who truly love the game would want to be out there in the wind and the rain testing their mettle against a course that was laid out by Old Tom Morris, but designed by the Creator. As I watched those pros struggle mightily, including the best player in the game, I found myself wondering what I could manage if forced, or rather blessed, to play in their stead. Could I break a hundred, or maybe ninety? It looked hard. But it would be fun to try to find a way to negotiate that links, with the humps and bumps, and blind shots; definitely not a track for the faint of heart. 

There are those who would likely argue that Royal County Down was not the winner this week because the cream of the field did not necessarily rise to the top. The course and the conditions may have conspired to send the best player in the game packing, but it did identify a worthy champion. Hats off to Soren Kjeldsen. You played some grand golf, old son.

Rory has once more learned that his game is not currently adaptable to the sort of conditions experienced this week, something he apparently intends to work on. If he does, this experience will only make him a better, more complete player. Messrs Wiesberger and Pepperell had a great chance this week and will likely only improve on their season after their playoff loss. Both seem likely to become better known to North American fans in the future, perhaps eventually finding themselves on a Ryder Cup team. Wiesberger, especially, looks to me to have big time game. 

As for Royal County Down; it's definitely on the bucket list. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

If I Was Rory, I'd Skip the Gym and Get on the Blower

I got up at three o'clock to watch Rory in the Irish Open. I was just one of a legion of golf fans who was anxious to see Rory paired with Rickie Fowler, hoping for some fireworks. What we saw instead was absolutely bewildering. Rory looked lost. I am a Rory fan, and I'm not jumping off the bandwagon, but I am definitely concerned.

It's probably times like this when Rory understands the meaning of the saying, it's lonely at the top. This 80, directly on the heels of a 78 at Wentworth last week, will definitely have everyone talking. How can someone win in such dominant fashion a couple of weeks ago, and then suddenly lose his game? It comes with the territory. When you're the top dog, people have expectations. You will be subjected to scrutiny and, perhaps, criticism.

Last week, Rory stated he was tired. It happens. This week, however, Rory claimed to be refreshed from his weekend off and was ready to go. Now, barring a round in the low sixties tomorrow, he is on the verge of missing another cut in an event he is hosting and is obviously dear to his heart. It's a mystery. Or is it?

Last week I expressed concerns about the things I was seeing and hearing from Rory. The club throwing, the comments about golfers needing to be more fit, and the comment about retiring by forty. I suggested that the golfing gods, not to mention Rory's colleagues, and fans like me, might be getting the impression that Rory is getting just a bit too big for his britches.

It's been said that you can never own your game, you just rent it. It's one of the mysteries of the game. One day you've got it, the next day it's gone. I find it interesting, however, in his post-round interview Rory said he would hit the gym, rather than take it to the range after today's debacle, and try to regroup mentally. The poor weather might have been a factor in his thinking, and perhaps he isn't likely to find the answer in one session on the range, but my concern is that Rory may have become too enamoured with the gym rather than the range.

The golf world has certainly changed. It's become all about technology. The latest and greatest high tech equipment, the computer-assisted teaching, the golf-specific exercise programs, the sports psychologists, all promising to produce a superior player. People believe it. They really believe that today's champions are better players than the champions of old. However, in this technological era, the artistry of the game seems to be forgotten, or, if not forgotten, overlooked because it isn't subject to being measured, and it isn't subject to being taught by using Trackman.

The old time champions were artistic players. The top players could hit every shot in the book. They worked magic with a 56 degree wedge. They could fade it, draw it, hook it, hit it high, knock it down. They had a whole arsenal of shots to get them to the house. They learned from each other. I am mystified when I hear announcers saying that a certain pin is problematic for a top professional because it calls for a fade when he plays a draw. We seem to have produced a generation of one trick ponies, who bomb it and gouge it, and live and die by the draw. That is perhaps an over generalization, but the artistry of the game seems to be on the wane in favour of power.

Can you imagine Lee Trevino, or Jack Nicklaus, struggling to an 80 at the height of their powers, seemingly without a clue as to how to recover? They would have figured out a way to get it to the house. Rory maybe needs to get back to hitting golf shots; to, as Sam Snead would say, painting pictures with his shots, and forget about the gym. If he needs some golf-specific exercise, Rory might follow Harvey Penick and Ben Hogan's advice and invest in a weighted club. The best golf-specific exercise is swinging a club and hitting golf balls.

I may be old fashioned, but I bet the old champions might just have a few things they could teach Rory, should he be inclined to ask. If I was Rory, I'd skip the gym and get on the blower to Jack. I bet Jack could get him back on track. In the meantime, I hope he goes out tomorrow and shoots a low number. It would be very sad for the fans if Rory missed the cut. 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Don't Forget the Golfing Gods, Rory

First of all, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Rory McIlroy, but I'm also a believer in the golfing gods. Today, Rory made a rather ignominious exit from the tournament at Wentworth after being in the spotlight for a few days and making some seemingly uncharacteristic comments. He also displayed his temper and threw another club.

The comments I'm talking about were the remarks about golfers needing to be more athletic and setting a better example by going to the gym, and the comment about retiring at forty. Neither comment, in my mind, reflected very well on this young Northern Irish kid known for his humility. Both comments sounded a wee bit arrogant to me, and while my opinion doesn't amount to a hill of beans, the golfing gods were probably listening and, if I understand the golfing gods, I suspect they weren't very impressed.

One of the things that I love about golf is that, in golf, nice guys don't finish last. Most champions are grounded, hard working, humble people. It reminds me of the time I watched David Duvall being interviewed after shooting his incredible final round 59. He was waiting to see whether a playoff was going to be required for the win and, when asked whether he would go to the range while he waited, David made a tongue in cheek comment about going to the range because he had a few things to work on. At the time, he was at the pinnacle of the golf world. When he made that comment, I shuddered and said to my wife, "I sure hope the golfing gods weren't listening."

Duvall's subsequent descent into golfing oblivion is well documented. I don't know whether anyone ever spoke to David about that comment, or whether he ever regretted it, but it wasn't long thereafter that his game deserted him. It may just be a coincidence, but I don't think so.

Rory's idol has always been Tiger. He has tried to follow in Tiger's footsteps, even securing the huge Nike contract and becoming fascinated with the gym. Now, he's even engaging in displays of temper on the course as well. I just hope he isn't going to make some of the same mistakes Tiger has made, mistakes that don't need to be talked about, but mistakes all the same.

Golfers don't have to be finely tuned athletes, like sprinters or boxers, or even tennis players. They need skill, perseverance, dedication and commitment. They also benefit from being humble. Golf seems a game designed for humble people, or designed to make people humble. Rory's recent comment about golfers needing to become gym rats likely didn't sit very well with his colleagues, or the golfing gods. I suspect his comment about retiring by forty didn't impress a lot of people either. It certainly didn't impress me, and I just hope, for Rory's sake, it didn't offend the golfing gods. 

The game has made Rory rich beyond most people's wildest dreams, and is making him a household name. Rory owes the game something. Talking about wanting to walk away by forty doesn't smack of a guy who realizes just how much he owes the game and the fans. I could be wrong, but it could certainly leave that impression. Rory needs to realize just how lucky he is, and hopefully he does. He also needs to understand that he could lose his game any time. It's happened to enough other great players. He needs to focus on the next round, rather than what he might want to do by forty. In golf, there are no guarantees, so it is best to always remember that, and to remember the golfing gods are listening. 

I just hope Rory isn't getting just a bit too big for his britches. He should be careful who, and what sort of behaviour and attitude he chooses to emulate. The game will always be bigger than Rory, or Tiger, and glory can be fleeting. Careful, Rory, the golfing gods are always listening and watching. Don't ever mess with the golfing gods.

It's a Hard Game Even for Rory

Golf is a hard game. It isn't hard when the stars align and you're making putts, but often it can be a hard slog. I started today with a plan. I thought it was a good plan, and I managed to start off with three easy pars. Actually the par on two was an up and down from a bunker, so it wasn't that easy, but I thought I was ready to go. Two poor chips from the fringe on back to back holes and I'm two over and back in struggle mode. A birdie on six and I'm thinking, okay, I'm back. A tee shot into the water on seven and another bogey that leads to two more, and I'm out in 40.

I'm thinking, this game is hard. I forget my plan, make another swing adjustment, and switch to the Faldo method. I'd describe it, but better you don't even think about it. It's my go to swing when I feel like I'm on the road to perdition, whatever that is. Using the Faldo method I make eight straight pars, including a couple of birdie misses inside five feet, and I'm thinking, maybe this guy Faldo knows what he's talking about. 

I arrive at eighteen, playing about 170 yards, with a healthy cross wind blowing towards the lake. At the last second I decide to try to knock down a four iron, instead of hitting the five I've already got in my hand. The shot fizzles, and a chunked bunker shot and three putts later I've shot 78. I'm thinking, no wonder I drink! I pay my five bucks to Randy, who's delighted with his 76, and being able to pocket my five bucks. I bet he'll have it framed. 

I have made my decision. The 11 wood is going in the bag again, just for hole number 18, if nothing else. My Callaway 58 degree wedge is fired in favour of my trusty, and rusty, Mizuno 56 degree, which I immediately retrieve from the shed when I get home. I've got a new plan for tomorrow. My bag is packed and I'm ready to go. 

When I get in the door and fire up the IPad, I see Rory shot 78 to miss the cut at Wentworth. It isn't much consolation for me. In fact it's no consolation at all, because Rory's my man. I just hope Rory isn't considering an eleven wood. He can't have the number of toys kicking around in his attic that I do,  but I bet even Rory is also thinking it's a hard game. At least he is today.

The good thing for Rory is that next time out, he'll still be number one in the world and he won't be needing an eleven wood in the foreseeable future. The sad thing is, tomorrow, I'll still be me, and I hope that eleven wood works on 18.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Are you suffering from paralysis by analysis? Have you tinkered with your swing to the point that you can't find anything that seems to work? If you have, you've got plenty of company, myself included. 

It's a funny game, this golf. You can get caught up thinking about how to hit it, instead of where to hit it, and the wheels can really come off. I was playing with a friend today who was "working on some things," and "things" were going somewhat haywire. I had caught up with him after nine, and had started the day doing the same thing. I had played the first three holes during which I'd used three or four different swings, none of which worked worth a hoot. 

I mentioned to him that when I get all caught up in mechanics, like I did today, I take a few practice swings with my eyes closed. When I do that, I feel "my swing" again and I can usually get back to just hitting the damned ball. He tried a couple of swings, stood up to the ball, and pured a drive two hundred and sixty yards right down the middle.

He looked at me, smiled, and said, "I hit that one with my eyes closed."

I'm not saying you should hit the ball with your eyes closed necessarily. It could be dangerous to yourself and others if you're not a pretty accomplished player, but, if you're finding yourself searching for your swing again, after having tinkered yourself into golfing purgatory, try a few practice swings with your eyes closed. You just might find your swing and your rhythm again. 

Another good thought is Harvey Penick's "clip the tee" teaching. If you swing the club as though you are wanting to clip the tee under the ball, you will square the club face. Harvey said he didn't know why it works, but it does. Neither idea comes with a guarantee, but if you find yourself not knowing which end is up because of paralysis by analysis, it just might help to close your eyes and clip the tee. 

If you are really struggling, you'll probably try just about anything, won't you?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A Lesson From Gerry

My buddy Gerry taught me lots of things by the way he lived.  He was smarter than your average bear; a big, loveable, mountain of a man.  He was no Ben Hogan, but he taught me a thing or two about how to really enjoy the game.

Gerry helped me appreciate that it is actually not only okay to outwardly take some pleasure from the good shots, it is important that you do so. I had always been one of those guys who acted like a good shot was nothing to get excited about, because I felt I was supposed to hit good shots. I had somehow convinced myself that outwardly enjoying or savouring a good shot was somehow uncool, or in bad taste; that it was being arrogant, or conceited. But Gerry taught me that it was really okay to savour the experience of a good shot or a good round, and really let it soak in. In fact, he taught me that not to do so, means you are missing out on the joy of the game.

I haven't really been wired that way. I have been a guy who preferried to think about the putts I missed, or the shot I hooked out of bounds, instead of the good shots I hit. In retrospect, I really should have paid more attention to Gerry, who could shoot 100, hit a bunch of wicked slices and duffs, but, over a post-round beer, only seem to remember and want to talk about the pure seven iron he hit on number thirteen. It took me a while to figure out that Gerry's approach was the way to really enjoy the game of golf. For Gerry, this came naturally. He was simply being himself. For me, a guy who has traditionally been a glass-half-empty kind of a guy, this approach has had to be learned.

Instead of moaning about the short putts I missed, I want to be immodest enough to talk about the great seven iron I hit, like Gerry. I always loved to hear Gerry recount his great shots. I shared his enthusiasm and his joy. It was infectious. So, from now on, those who don't want to hear about a good shot I hit probably shouldn't ask me how I played, because I intend to try to become more like Gerry and have a selectively good memory when it comes to my game.

I'm going to try never again to whine about the three footer I missed, preferring instead to talk about the twenty or thirty footer I made. That isn't being immodest, or a braggart. In fact, it is whining about shots missed that is really being immodest. Everyone misses three footers, so who am I to whine about missing one? Do I think I'm too good to miss a three footer? If I talk about anything, from now on I hope it will be that great drive I hit, or the chip in on sixteen. I want to be a glass-half-full guy. 

Instead of saying, "I would have shot 75, but I missed three short putts," I'm going to happily say, "I would have shot 80, but I chipped one in on seventeen." It's the same round, but from a different perspective. To stress the chip in that prevented an 80, or 100, instead of the missed putts that prevented a 75, or 95, isn't just being modest. It's being real, and it's being positive, and it's just the kind of thing Gerry would have said. He was a guy who enjoyed his game every time he teed it up. He wanted to play well, but he was also a realist who managed to really understand what golf is all about; having fun and savouring the memories. Thanks, Big Guy. I sure miss you.

Saturday, 16 May 2015


In golf, as in life, one has to learn to accept. Things will not always go your way. The best game plan in the world won't be worth a dime if you suddenly find the ball wanting to draw, or hook, when you've always played a fade. Or suddenly those three footers look to be impossible to make. Some days, as my old father used to say, you just can't piddle a drop. Golf is like that.

If you can resist the urge to get discouraged, and just accept that you are going to hit some lousy shots, sometimes more lousy shots than usual, you have a chance to play your best. And, if you don't, at least you'll enjoy the walk. Yesterday, I went out with the best of intentions and shot a very untidy 80. We were playing three hole matches for a dollar. I won the first three holes with two pars and a bogey, my opponents having troubles of their own. On the second three hole stretch, I missed a two footer for birdie that would have won me another buck. My eyes were watching the putter go back and I hit the putt so badly it didn't even touch the hole. It was so pathetic, I had to laugh.

But, while I laughed, inside I was also disgusted with myself for resorting to watching the putter go back again, a fault that has seen me often resort to putting looking at the hole. Still disgusted, I hooked my next tee shot into a pond and parlayed that into a double. I had not accepted and put to bed the miss on the last hole, made another lousy swing and I was on a the fast track to an 80. 

When I lose my patience, and fail to just accept my limitations, I turn what could be, and should be, a fun day into absolute drudgery. I drove home wondering why on earth I continue to put myself through it. My back was aching. My left arm was burning from my neck problems, and I was about as low as I could be. 

My wife recognized how discouraged I was and, seeing me grimacing from the pain, encouraged me to take my Dilaudid. She asked what she could do for me and, upon being told there was nothing to be done, left me to wallow in my misery. The medication took effect, and eventually I found myself sitting on the deck watching the Baltimore orioles eat the grape jelly from the feeder. I saw a hummingbird at another feeder, noticed the rose breasted grosbeak at yet another feeder, stared at the pond, with the plants coming to life in and around it, and thought life is pretty damned good.

Later I decided to put my old irons back in the bag. Today, I'm going to be a different man out on the course. And, if I do play like a bum today, at least the hummingbirds are finally back. I love hummingbirds.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Golfchannel, You've Got To Do Something

My old mother, born Pauline Jean McMullan, of Northern Irish stock, really had her Irish up tonight. I know everybody's a critic, and nobody hates like the Irish, but she was fit to be tied.

She said, "Somebody needs to talk to the Golfchannel."

When I asked her why, she went on to say, "When are they going to fire that beknighted son of a bitch?"

I said, " You mean, Nick Faldo?"

"That's the one." She replied. "And if I have to listen to one more of those lackeys that work with him call him Sir Nick..."

I laughed and told her I'd get ahold of the Golfchannel for her.

"And then I had to listen to that wannabe comedian, Gary McCord, nattering away. I thought they got rid of him." Granny said.

I told her they hadn't, it was only the Masters people who had fired his ass because of the bikini wax remark.

"He's a prick," Granny said. And, in her books, that's about as low as you can get.

Now, don't get me wrong. My old mother has a soft spot for Frank Nobilo. And she cried like a baby when Rory won his first Major. She loves Jack Nicklaus, too. But if she has to listen to the inane banter between McCord and Faldo for another four hours, she's going to have a coronary. Golfchannel, you've got to do something. Send in Frank, will you please.

Oh, and CNN, you better do something about that prick, Don Lemon. According to Granny, he's got to go as well.

My Swing

One of the things golf either teaches you, or it doesn't, is you have to be yourself. You have to swing your own swing and play your own game. When you learn the game as a kid, you usually learn by imitation. I learned my swing by imitating my father, who introduced me to the game, and then Jack Nicklaus. 

While my swing may not have been a perfect imitation of Jack's, or my father's, they formed the basis for what I imagined to be the best way to swing the club. As a result of being a pretty good imitator, I hit the ball long, high, and with a predominant fade. I played hockey and baseball, and therefore had no problem really giving the ball a good wallop. In fact, for years I hit the ball as far, or farther, than anyone I ever encountered on the golf course. I would routinely have people tell me they had never seen drives find places on the course where mine came to rest. Sometimes that even included places on my own fairway!

I remember, as an eleven or twelve year old, I drove a par four green at three hundred and twenty nine yards on a course in England. I had power to burn from an early age. A club maker clocked my swing at one hundred and thirty five miles an hour when I was about thirty years old. Whether his equipment was accurate, I don't know, but it was the fastest he had ever seen. 

Of course, many of us, as we get older, fondly remember being longer and stronger than we probably really were. I think it was Lee Trevino who said, "the older I get, the better I was." We do tend to have selective memory, and there is nothing more painful, or pitiful to listen to than an old jock talking about how good he used to be. I wasn't a really good player, but I was long, baby! Trust me.

Now, at fifty eight, with a ruined back, and bone spurs and stenosis in my neck that cause my left arm to burn most of the time, and knees hobbled from years of hockey, rugby and soccer, I can't swing hard enough to break an egg. I am lucky to hit a drive as far as I once routinely hit a five wood, despite the advantages of modern technology. It's really rather pitiful. And yet, I can still occasionally manage a round of par or better, although I am more likely just content to break eighty any more.

What really bugs me, however, is that at some point I became enamoured with technique, or swing mechanics. I made changes to my swing over the years, having now reached the point where I can't even find my natural swing. I find myself thinking, prior to almost every round, how am I going to swing it today? Will I swing like Lee Trevino, Freddy Couples, Jack Nicklaus, or  maybe Moe Norman? I've tried to copy them all, sometimes with good results. But, what I really wish is that I could just learn to swing like me. 

I recently came upon the idea that, if I just swung the club with my eyes closed a few times, I would find my swing. If you try it, you will find how smooth and fluid your swing is, and how natural it feels. The problem is that swinging the club and hitting the ball are two different things. How many people don't you encounter who have a smooth, even graceful practice swing, and then, when it comes to hitting the ball, look like a caveman killing his lunch! It isn't really about the swing at all.

Golf is about striking the ball, not swinging the club. The sweetest swing in the world will produce a terrible shot if the strike isn't correct. If the clubface is misaligned, or moving on the wrong path when it strikes the ball, the ball will end up in another county, despite the fact that the swing was mechanically sound. It's all about the strike. Bobby Jones made the strike the object of his intense concentration when playing. He understood how a ball had to be struck to produce the desired result and set about striking it just that way, leaving his swing to take care of itself.

Last night, after much thought about what swing I would try today, I concluded that I would use the Moe Norman, "natural golf" swing today. In the clear light of dawn, I have come to my senses and decided instead to just strike the ball with the definite intent to propel it to the target, and my swing be damned. I don't care if my swing looks like I'm falling off a ladder. I just want to try to strike the ball as it must be struck to make it go to the target. We'll see whether I can keep my resolve and do just that.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Sometimes You Just Have to Believe

Golf is such a strange old game. The longer you're around the game the more you have to love it and believe that just maybe it is governed by providence in the form of the golfing gods.

This week, Rickie Fowler, one of the most popular young players, entered the tournament on the heels of having been maligned by unnamed fellow players as being one of the two most over-rated players in the game. He not only ignored the insult, he played the best final nine holes in the history of the Players and stood tall in four playoff holes, with three straight birdies on the dreaded seventeenth hole. 

He beat what is regularly advertised as the strongest field in golf. His performance was nothing short of magnificent. It was a great day for Rickie, and a great day for golf. I like to think the golfing gods were smiling on a fine young man who is a credit to himself and the game. His performance will become part of the Players' lore. 

Not bad for a kid who some of his peers had the nerve to accuse of being over-rated as a player. This kid is not just style, he's got substance. I had written earlier today that it would be cool if Rickie could win and extend a metaphorical middle finger to his unnamed detractors. Sometimes wishes do come true.

This win may not open the floodgates for Rickie, propelling him to even greater things in the game, but it's a helluva good start. Thank you, Rickie, for a fantastic display of golf; and thank you, golfing gods, for shining on this fine young man. Golf is truly a great game, and golf is in very good hands with a fine crop of young stars, including Rickie Fowler. The future looks bright indeed.

Should Be Good

Things are certainly looking interesting for the final round of the Players. With a host of players within five shots of the lead; in fact the most crowded leaderboard in Players tournament history, it appears to be anyone's tournament. 

It's been a week where we've seen some hot players leave early, including Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose. We've seen a Tiger fist pump because he managed to birdie the last hole to make the cut on the number. We've also seen a continuation of Tiger's woes on the golf course, with wayward driving, a resurgence of that questionable short game, and mediocre putting. After a third round 75, one wonders where it will all end. The magic is simply gone.

A remarkably calm, Chris Kirk takes a one shot lead into the final round. His history with a lead is such that he will not likely spit the bit, and those chasing him will have to make birdies to beat him. Justin Thomas is one back and would make a compelling winner, adding his name to Spieth's perhaps as one of the bright American lights for the future. Bill Haas is one back as well, and we know what he can sometimes produce on the big stage. And then, there's Sergio, fighting a balky putter, but still only two back. His interview after the third round suggests he is not a very happy camper because of his putting woes, but today, the hole might suddenly become as big as a bucket for him. Who knows?

If, however, I had to pick someone to come out of the pack and seize the day, I'd be looking at Rory McIlroy and Billy Horschel. Rory seems to be out to prove he belongs at number one, despite the recent brilliance of Jordan Spieth. Horschel just looks dangerous. He's probably still smarting from his match play loss to Rory last week, and wants to make a statement of his own.

And then, of course, there is Kevin Na and Jerry Kelly, both of whom would be real feel good stories if they could take the prize. The one thing we can be certain of today is that it's going to be a shootout. Someone is going to go out there and win it by firing a great round and surviving seventeen and eighteen on the way to victory. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Rory Shows Why He's Number One

If you were wondering why Rory McIlroy is number one in the world golf rankings, you were treated to another example today in his match with Billy Horschel. Struggling with a balky putter and a tough, fired-up opponent, Rory waited until he was two down with two to play to dig deep and produce a spectacular run of birdies to win the match.

McIlroy is the real deal. He may be somewhat unpredictable, or inconsistent, but, when the chips are down, he's still the man. At least he was today, when faced with a strong challenge by Billy Horschel. I think we are going to see the beginning of a great rivalry between McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. It didn't materialize this week because Spieth ran into a buzz saw in an inspired Lee Westwood today.

There are many terrific players in the game today. But, for now, Rory stands alone at the top of the game. Today, we were once again shown just why that is. But, look out, Rory. There's a new kid in town, and his name is Spieth. 

Lost in Translation

There was a rather disturbing incident today at the WGC Match Play event. Miguel Angel Jimenez elected to offer his unsolicited input into a ruling involving his opponent, Keegan Bradley. His input was flatly rejected by Bradley and his caddie.

Miguel ended up telling Keegan's caddie to shut up, prompting a heightened response from Bradley which came close to getting physical and left everyone feeling quite uncomfortable.

The talking heads on The Golfchannel were quick to criticize Jiminez, a fellow known for his friendliness and good humour on the course, for inserting himself into the ruling and being rude to the caddie. At face value, perhaps they were right. However, my impression was that the whole event was lost in translation. Jiminez was, from his comments after the fact, simply trying to be helpful, not trying to insinuate that Bradley had done anything untoward. His poor command of English caused him to be misunderstood.

While it is clear, given what transpired, that Miguel should have left well enough alone. His attempt to be helpful was interpreted as unwarranted interference, or worse. But, I am of the opinion that it really was an attempt by Jiminez to be helpful, not an exercise in gamesmanship, or bad sportsmanship. Nothing in Miguel's long and respected career would suggest that he is given to, or even capable of, poor sportsmanship. Unfortunately, he is working at a distinct disadvantage dealing in English, and we shouldn't lose sight of that fact.

I, for one, intend to give Miguel the benefit of the doubt in this incident. He has always been a class act and a credit to the game. If the American Press choose to vilify him over this incident, I guess that is their prerogative. But, for me, Jiminez will continue to be one of my favourite players, and one of the really good guys. If Pepsi, the caddie, resents being told to shut up, he can choose to be offended and refuse, as he did, to shake Miguel's hand. If he wants to shun Jiminez, I figure it's his loss. For an American to tell another American to shut up is inviting a punch in the nose. For a Spaniard, not so much. It's all in the translation, boys. Just get over it and remember what a great guy Jiminez has always been with the fans and the players. He's one of the good guys.