Our editor-at-large, Bill Elliott, discusses the future battles between Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, marvels at Tiger Woods’ endless positivity and looks at Australian Robert Allenby’s eventful year…
Sitting on the patio at Hankley Common GC the other week and drinking in one of the truly great views in the English game, Surrey’s unique heathland stretching away towards a distant horizon with perhaps a puma purring somewhere, it struck me that the old game is actually quite genuinely interesting at the moment.
Of course there is always some interest somewhere but the other fact is that, for quite long periods, golf, like all sports, goes into a sort of becalmed period when not much happens and when the only thing likely to wake up aficionados is the sound of collective yawning from other corners of the kindergarten.
Well, not at the moment. Many of us were kept awake by our concern for the welfare of Rory McIlroy as the wee man tried to nurse his Achilles heel – ironically, his ankle – back to rude health. Would it be days, weeks or months until he returned? Would he make it to Whistling Straits? Did he require some new trainers? Was his mum on the case? So many questions.
And then there is Jordan Spieth. Is he a bit lucky or just really, scarily brilliant? Is he, in fact, even better than Rory or just not quite as good but actually a lot more consistent? Are Spieth’s worst rounds a lot better than McIlroy’s? Intriguing, isn’t it? See, another question just as I think I’ve go to the end of the questions. Who knew? Oh no, I’ve done it again.
Related: Rory McIlroy – How I Became A Champion
Finding out who is the better is likely to be the most interesting answer in our game over the next few years. Unless, that is, your man comes back into the action. I refer here, naturally, to Tiger Woods. Stop fidgeting at the back in that irritated way. How can I ramble on about what makes our current golf scene interesting without some mention of Woods?
In terms of achievement, stature, charisma and several other things, he remains the most compelling act in town. Even in disarray he is the star turn. Or at least he is until, say, Saturday morning. No one in the history of human achievement has ever worked harder at extracting tiny slivers of positivity out of apparently hopeless situations. Where others see despair, he sees hope. Either that or he is lying through his teeth. Whatever, it’s impressive and deeply, deeply interesting.
Mind you, if you really are fed up with Tiger then there is always the confusing figure of Robert Allenby upon whom to focus. As recently as January 16 this year I had forgotten about the ageing Aussie. At one time good enough to figure in the world’s top 20, Allenby’s recent years have been memorable only for their lack of any sort of distinction.
To suggest he had slipped off the radar was to seriously underclub the situation. Yet this year he is once again one of the most talked-about professionals in this overheated world. To be fair, it’s kind of not been because of his golf, which has mostly retained a reassuring lack of distinction. No, Allenby has gone the controversy/scandal route and done so fantastically well.
First, on January 17, he drew attention to the fact that a golf tournament was being played in Hawaii by going out for a drink in Honolulu and then claiming he was kidnapped, beaten and robbed by person or persons unknown. He had the facial bruising to prove it too, except that quite a few people did not believe his story. These included his caddie, one Mick Middlemo, who said he thought his employer had drunk too much, fallen over, hurt himself and had his wallet lifted. A strip club was mentioned in dispatches.
So far so good, but it was going to get better. A few weeks ago in Canada, Robert and Mick had a frenzied discussion about the correct club to hit at a hole, an exchange that ended when (a) the caddie was sacked or (b) the caddie threw the bag down and stalked off. Who knows? What we do know is that this is the third caddie Allenby has lost mid-round. Unlucky? I doubt it.
No such problems for Inbee Park, whose final-round 65 to win the British Women’s Open at Turnberry contained some of the very best golf of the summer and had her caddie applauding. No wonder, for in doing so Ms Park completed her career Grand Slam and also quite probably achieved her other dream of a sparkly, new kitchen.
An official apology for this last gratuitous comment will almost certainly be published in this magazine next month. Various overly sensitive dullards at the BBC will applaud this action, probably whilst throwing darts at an image of Peter Alliss. This action will in turn encourage an apology to be issued by the Beeb and quite probably bring about the abandonment of the little-known but very powerful People Waiting To Be Offended Where No Offence Is Meant committee.
If this occurs then, happily, my work here is largely done. One may only hope…