Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thoughts on US Masters and Golf Generally

I'm increasingly enjoying watching major golf tournaments on TV. Over Easter I was well tuned in to the four days of the US Masters in Augusta, Georgia. BBC had coverage in High Definition via the Sky HD box and the golf course looked glorious on our 50 inch HD plasma TV. Taking in the many panoramas of this beautiful location (example photo on left) sometimes made you forget about the golf and agree with the spirit of the sentiment associated with Mark Twain...that roaming a golf course is a beautiful walk - but spoiled by having to hit balls!

Personally, I only play golf once per year at a nice annual event organised by a company whom I do business with. I don't even own a set of clubs and I've a hopelessly short golf swing - spawned from my youth of playing short pitch and putt courses. It's just as well that the yearly event is in a team scramble format as I would not be allowed near a golf course otherwise. Thankfully my putting is average enough to escape total embarrassment. Overall I find golf a very frustrating game to play and I'm a great admirer of people who can play it properly. As an active tennis player I'm used to hitting the fast moving target of a tennis ball. In a golf drive the ball is a pleasingly stationary target and there is plenty of time to prepare for the shot.....yet it is still so hard to do it right!

So, I'm a keen golf watcher rather than a golf player. But I'm beginning to think I've been watching too much of it recent years. This fact just dawned on me because by middle of the third day of the tournament by some miracle I actually successfully picked Angel Cabrera to win the Masters. Why? Well my reasoning was twofold. During Saturday two average guys who had never won a major before were leading the tournament (Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry). I also noticed that Angel's score was creeping up to get nearer. I had watched Angel play and win the 2007 US Open. His demeanor always gives me the impression of a guy who is relaxed and doesn't tighten mentally on big occasions. So I felt...well Angel might not be as skilled as the best in the game but he should be mentally better than Chad and Kenny when it comes to the crunch on the final day.

On a slightly different subject, an observation stuck me when it got to the exciting 3-man playoff. The three finalists were all technically overweight with varying sized bellies! Kenny Perry is 48 years old and could have made history by being the oldest winner of this - or indeed any - major tournament. Both he and to a lesser extent Chad Campbell had visible paunches. But Angel Cabrera (photo left) is even more overweight and at 40 later this year he is not exactly in the flush of youth either. His shape and mannerisms on the course reminded me fondly of my late father (who was a keen golfer himself). The three of them were such a contrast to the superbly trim, athletic and toned Tiger Woods. It all re-enforces the commonly stated joke that playing golf well is 50% mental....and the other 50% is mental too!

There were plenty of other interesting players to watch in this years Masters. Tiger Woods was coming back, we had the great Phil Mickelson and of course the wonderful Irish interests with Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and the exciting new force of the teenager Rory McIlroy.
Looking forward to the US Open in June!