This week's ups and downs of golf
Amazing that so much can take place in one week, especially in the dog days of August. Over here we call this month the silly season, since nothing much newsworthy seems to happen. That can’t be said for golf, not this past week anyway.
Most of this week can be viewed as positive. However, behind every well-struck iron shot there is a shank waiting to wreck a scorecard. While there were winners this week, there were also losers. One, ahem, big player in the game even managed to get into both categories this week.
Here are the winners and losers from the last week:
A good week for… Proponents of fast play. Those of us who can’t stand slow play celebrated when Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington were put on the clock in the final round of the WGC–Bridgestone Invitational. Harrington has been one of the slowest players in professional golf for most of his career. He has speeded up in recent years, but even what he considers quick is still slow by the standards of most fast players. As for Woods, there are times when he seems to take an eternity to play a shot. Ask Chris DiMarco, who had to endure Woods taking forever to play shots during the final round of the 2005 Masters.
Too bad they weren’t handed one-shot penalties instead of just being put on the clock. That would have sent a stronger message to snails everywhere.
A good week for … John Paramor (pictured). He’s the European Tour’s chief referee, and the man who had the guts to put Woods and Harrington on the clock. Well done, J.P., say all of us. Paramor has not shirked away from applying the rules to big stars in the past. He was the referee who refused to give Seve Ballesteros relief on the 72nd hole at Valderrama in the 1994 Volvo Masters, when Seve tried every ruse to try to get Paramor to see his side of the story. If only more referees were like Paramor, then maybe we wouldn’t have a problem with slow play.
A good week for … Supporters of golf in the Olympics. The recommendation from the International Olympic Committee’s executive board that golf should become an Olympic sport along with rugby sevens practically guarantees that golf will be in the 2016 games. It’s hard to see IOC members going against the IOC board.
A good week for … Drew Weaver. His selection to the U.S. Walker Cup team was two years overdue. The High Point, N.C. resident cruelly missed out on Walker Cup selection two years ago after winning the 2007 British Amateur Championship. Justice, finally, has been done.
A good week for …Martin Laird. We Scots don’t get to celebrate professional success too often these days, so it was nice to see one of our own play well in the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open. Laird finished tied for second to earn a check for $264,000. He moved from 180th on the PGA Tour money list to 131st. He still has some work to do, but since it seems like eons since a Scot made any sort of impression on the PGA Tour, it would be nice if he snuck into the top 125 so we’ve got at least one son from the Home of Golf playing on the world’s best Tour on a regular basis.
A bad week for…The Race to Dubai. The European Tour is staying quite, but behind the scenes they seem to be conceding that the much-vaunted $170 million, five-year Race to Dubai has gone from a marathon to a sprint. This year’s planned $10 million Dubai World Championship is to be scaled back to $7.5 million according to players like Lee Westwood. As for the $10 million annual bonus pool, well that would seem a luxury too far for troubled backer Leisurecorp and parent company Nakheel. And the $70 million treasure chest Leisurecorp said was there to help the Tour in times of need? That’s probably now just a piggy bank with a few coppers in it. But we don’t know until Euro Tour chief George O’Grady talks to people in the Middle East. Only then will we find out if there’s a pot of gold waiting in Dubai, or just a mirage.
A bad week for …Tiger Woods. The world No. 1 rarely says anything controversial, but his attack on Paramor for allegedly spoiling the finale of the WGC–Bridgestone Invitational was out of order. Rules are rules and they apply to everyone. Paramor should not be criticized for doing his job.
A bad week for …Olympic idealists. Those who say the inclusion of golf, especially golf professionals, in the Olympics further devalues the Olympic ideal will have rued the IOC’s recommendation that golf be included in the 2016 Games. They’ll be hoping IOC members vote against golf in Copenhagen on Oct. 9.
A bad week for …Matteo Manassero. The 16-year-old Italian was seeking to make history by becoming the first player to win the British Amateur and British Boys’ Championships in the same year. He handled the pressure of playing with Tom Watson and Sergio Garcia in the Open Championship to finish 13th. However, he couldn’t deal with Swiss amateur Andrea Gurini in the third round of the Boys’ Championship at Royal St George’s. Manassero lost, 2 and 1, which just proves that anything really can happen in 18-hole match play.
A bad week for …John Paramor. The Euro Tour’s chief referee does his job properly, and then gets lambasted from the world No. 1. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Just as well J.P. has very broad shoulders.