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Why I love Golf

Phil Mickelson strolled his second US Masters success but the final result was up in the air for the vast majority of this Tournament and it was only with the inability of others to put the pressure on in the final back nine, that the big lefty was able to relax and enjoy the adulation of the huge galleries.

Fred Couples made an unexpected challenge and at the age of 46 would have become one of the oldest winners had he not done the expected thing and choked by missing an absolute tiddler at the 12th.

He has plenty of previous in this respect, the Ryder Cup in 89 springs readily to mind, and he only has one Major to show for a great talent, winning the Green Jacket in 1992.

This is one of the great attractions of golf to the sports fan as it really is blend of skill and nerve that is being tested. As a result it is never certain before a tournament about who is going to win, more unpredictable than say tennis or football.

The tension can be literally unbearable, worse than a penalty shoot out, especially when the Ryder Cup is up for grabs.

So many butt clenching moments, Langer in 1991 at Kiywah Island, Phillip Walton in 95 and of course Paul McKinlay at the Belfry in 2002 and his dip in the lake that followed.

Who can forget Van De Velde chucking away a three stroke advantage at Carnoustie at the climax of the Open in 1999, ending up barefoot in an vain attempt to exit the burn that had claimed his ball. The relative un known Paul Lawrie claiming the crown in a play off to show volatile nature of this game.

As for the Masters high points for the Brits include Lyle’s stupendous second to the 18th out of a fairway bunker, replete with backspin to leave a nerve jangling six footer which the Scot nailed to send the late night Sunday audience wild.

It’s amazing to think how Lyle’s career completely imploded in subsequent years, leaving him feeling lucky to make the cut in mickey mouse Tour events despite winning the Open in 1985 (the first Brit since Jacklin in the sixties), contributing in back to back Ryder Cup triumphs as well as donning the Green Jacket.

Ian Baker-Finch is another, more extreme example of what golf can do to the psyche.

The Aussie had a near miss in the Open of 1984 (he led going into the final round but carded 79) but finally lifted the coveted Claret Jug in 1991, holding off a late charge American charge led by Couples and Mark O’Meara. The golfing world seemed at his feet, but fate took a nasty twist and he suffered a cataclysmic loss of form which culminated in the Major Winner quitting the game both on the Tour and for pleasure, in 1997.

Ian Woosnam’s only Major was landed at Augusta with the iconic image of the Welshman down on one knee punching the air in sheer unbelieving delight.

However the diminutive, yet exceedingly long hitter will forever be remembered for his caddie’s horrendous cock up in 2001, when handily placed going into day four, the bag man packed an extra club which cost a stroke, but more importantly his bosses cool and Woosie ended up carding a 71 on a day of low scores at a benign Lytham.

I was never much of a player only coming to it seriously from the age of 22, playing regularly for 10 years, mainly in Farnham and on the Isle of Man.

I got down to playing off 18 and recorded a miracle round at Mount Juliet on the Isle, including 3 birdies and NO lost balls!!!

A strange game for a Socialist? Absolutely. I have never seen such snobbery as that displayed on English private members courses.

My best moment was turning up at some snooty Country Club establishment near Southampton driving an old banger and parking between a Beemer and a Merc, only to see some jumped up bell boy come rushing over.

“You can’t park there mate!”

“I’m with the Hempsall Party”.

The guy’s jaw literally hit the floor, he went puce with embarrassment and carried my clubs into the locker room. Marvellous.

I read a brilliant tip by Greg Norman and it revolutionized my game.

Always take two clubs more than you need and swing at 75% of what you feel is required. Bingo.

If only I could have learnt how to putt…. And play a good short game…. And use a driver without shanking it into the car park at Blacknest…..

As I only watch the Majors and the Ryder Cup I invent totally false personas for the players based on nowt but predjudice, just to add a bit of interest.

Thus Corey Pavin and Tony Johnstone are the most irritating people you could imagine, driving their playing partners mad with hyperactive irrelevant chat.

Retief Goosen vows to beat his servants every time he makes a poor shot, whilst Couple is the cigar totting King of Cool and a Rat Pack Crooner in his spare time.

Woosnam is always battling the course handicapped by a monumental hangover and Nick Faldo is Darth Vader scaring his opponents into mental collapse (as happened to Norman in the 96 Masters).

And Jim Furyck is a fan who forged ID to get out on the course as he has the most untidy and amateurish swing you will ever see in Major golf. But it repeats and that’s all that matters.

As for John Daly, he is a redneck alcoholic violents wife beater who is "longer than Norman, longer than Woods, longer than War And Peace". Oops that’s true!

I used to like Mickelson in the early day, a fellow lefty with a languid swing and a short game to die for, but his appalling behaviour at the Brookline Ryder Cup when he led a mad charge across the green to congratulate a team mate (Mize I think) on a brilliant putt when Ollie had yet to go, sees him transformed into a Red Neck, Republican Neo Con Bush cheerleader. And he has crap hair.

My fave. No contest. Just watch Ernie Els’ swing and tell me a better sight in sport.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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