First of all, an apology. A humble, grovelling apology to Anders Hansen.
In Saturday’s blog I mentioned a few great champions of the PGA and suggested with light mockery and a rather dull wit that the Dane might not be considered the mightiest winner of this tournament.
To be honest, I had options on that front. I could have gone with Oldcorn, Garrido or Drummond. Instead I went with Hansen and today he proved what many people already know – I am an idiot.
Although the vast majority in the crowd at Wentworth and watching at home desperately wanted Justin Rose to win, there can be little argument that Hansen thoroughly deserved his second PGA title.
Of the players in the last four groups he played the best golf – not dropping a shot after the 3rd and picking up four more birdies, as well as rolling in a 15-footer for four on the 18th in sudden-death.
Justin Rose, as ever, was a gent with his congratulatory words for Hansen when the deed was done and the Englishman can be very pleased with his trip home. An enormous cheque and a few world ranking points always help and the manner with which he secured a place in the play-off, knocking a wedge to about a foot, will help his frame of mind. If his back holds out in the future, surely more tournaments and possibly Majors will come.
A word of praise also for Vijay Singh who, like Rose, made the trip from sunnier climes in the United States and so nearly stole in at the death with a remarkable final round of 66.
But today was all about Anders Hansen, adding a second PGA title to that which he won in such convincing fashion five years ago. As I left Wentworth two chaps from Danish Television were getting very excited in their broadcast point in the media centre.
Meanwhile, those around the 18th green were treated to the strange sight of my colleague Gary Lineker talking to A Hansen without once discussing Blackburn Rovers’ back-four or Steve McLaren’s chances of holding on to the England job.
Perhaps instead this Hansen was admitting that he was spurred to victory by some clown on the internet belittling his achievement in winning his first title five years ago…
England has some great golfing talent lined up. Players who are going to be competing for the game’s top titles over the next 10 or 15 years.
Sometimes it pains me to think about it, as a petty and bitter Scot who wishes there were the same calibre of players emerging from north of the border.
So, in fact, let’s just call them all British. I’ll trade you a Justin Rose and a Paul Casey for one Andy Murray. You’ll notice that I haven’t laid claim to Luke Donald and that’s because I don’t need to. His father Colin is Scottish and that’s good enough for me (I’ve told him this many times and he just smiles politely and wishes that I’d leave him alone)
But the point I’m coming to is that another player at Wentworth this week may well soon join the wave of bright young British things.
At 26, Ross Fisher is three or four years younger than Donald and Casey, about the same age as Nick Dougherty and Justin Rose and his third round in this year’s PGA suggests that he has the talent and resolve to take him as high as any of them.
I was following his group today and did think that we were losing him at the turn. Dropping shots at the 7th and 8th and two at the 9th and reverse gear was firmly engaged.
But on the back nine he was deeply impressive. Never more so than when he hit his second shot to about six feet on the mighty, par-5 17th. No eagle, but the birdie there was one of five on the way back in and from the depths of despair on the 10th tee he was leading the tournament.
With that comeback he showed a lot of people what a great heart he has. Sunday may well show us if he truly has the powers to compete at the very highest level. Major-contender, Tiger-slayer etc etc.
Fisher has been a member of Wentworth for half of his 26 years – picking up range balls during PGA victories for so many of the greats: Olazbal, Langer, Montgomerie, Hansen (hmm, perhaps not that last one). He is steeped in the history of this Championship, which may or may not be helpful as he tries to control his thoughts and his game in contention on the final day.
But if his first European Tour victory were to come in the Tour’s flagship event, on his home course, another star would be born.
And I would be asking him if he had any Scottish relatives.
Plenty of people within the BBC team would be quite happy if Angel Cabrera doesn’t win a second BMW PGA title on Sunday. Not because they are massive fans of Justin Rose or Ross Fisher or whoever else may deprive the man from Argentina. Nor because they dislike Cabrera either – he seems like a perfectly nice chap. It’s because there are certain duties that a tournament winner has to fulfil and giving interviews is one of them.
I have heard Cabrera talk plenty of times and often he does so fluently and with plenty of passion. But in Spanish. Only ever in Spanish.
In fact, his final green interview as champion two years ago tested even the magnificent Steve Rider to his limits.
The official line which he always gives is that he doesn’t speak English, which is not strictly true. I am reliably informed that he knows enough to get by, but of course it is a very convenient excuse for not speaking to the press.
Think of all the players who would have loved to have been able to fall back on that one: “Monty, could you tell us about your 75 today?”
“Sorry guys. No habla ingles.”
But anyway, I was the unfortunate commentator who was billeted with the Cabrera group in the afternoon.
There’s no doubt that he’s great fun to watch but with every birdie he picked up, my sense of dread grew as I knew he would be near the lead at the day’s end and my editor would ask the fateful question: “Andrew, could you do an interview with Cabrera?”
When the moment came I assured him that the interview would not be live, but he would still only do it through his interpreter, Manuel.
It wasn’t ideal, but I asked the questions, Cabrera answered them and Manuel translated – possibly adding a few flourishes of his own, I have no idea – while the player nodded thoughtfully.
And at the end when Cabrera said he was confident of winning, I asked whether Manuel might get a percentage. “Porcentaje?” asked Manuel hopefully. “No.”
No translation required and poor Manuel looked just a little bit dejected.
I thought I heard him muttering as he walked away: “Vamos Rose……. Vamos Fisher…………”
Don’t ever imagine that covering a golf tournament is straightforward.
The day started with our chief engineer announcing that we had lost camera coverage on parts of the back nine because squirrels had been chewing through our fibre-optic cables.
Fortunately they were all back and firing by the time Justin Rose romped round on his way to a 66 and the first-round lead. That back ailment is clearly causing real problems.
His injury is well-documented, rattling with pain-killers through his challenge at the Masters and not playing competitively since then.
In fact, I remarked to him earlier this week that I thought he had bulked up a little bit (in that strangely homoerotic way that young men greet each other – “So what are you benching these days? 120 kgs? Excellent.”). His reply was that he had probably just put on weight because he’d been forced to sit on his sofa for four weeks since Augusta.
But his treatment is working and his talent still shines through.
It was in racing out on to the course to follow the group of Montgomerie, Goosen and Edfors (more of whom in a moment) that I bumped into Rose’s coach, Nick Bradley, who said that his back is recovering well and he expected good things this week.
He also stressed his side of the argument with Justin’s former coach, David Leadbetter, that swing changes are not damaging the back, but his action is more sound in that respect than ever before.
Monty’s swing remains very much his own (and I have never asked him how much he bench-presses). But this season things have been slightly out of kilter. His form this year, he says, has been “awful” and he desperately needs to turn things round.
When he was down in the 80s in the world rankings a couple of years ago he made the remark that the task of getting back into the world’s top 10 was possible, but would be like “eating an elephant”.
He subsequently did it, of course, but he has now slipped down to 35th and regurgitated a tusk or two. It’s a worrying slide for a man who will be 44 next month. Can Major success still come at that age?
As for Goosen, his hate-affair with Wentworth continues. For someone with his record in the game, his performances round the West Course have fallen a long way short of expectations over the years. I watched as two balls sailed towards the out of bounds to the left of the 17th and wondered how a great player can struggle so badly on one particular course.
I then turned my wonderings instead to how I could scale the fence to get his ball for my collection. I may go back under the cover of darkness.
And take out some squirrels while I’m there.
Pro-am days at tournaments can be strange affairs and so it was on Wednesday at Wentworth.
On the eve of the flagship event on the European Tour, with a high-class field ready to do battle for one of the most prestigious titles in the game, the players’ preparations are rudely interrupted.
Vijay Singh is on the practice ground but only shoe-horned in alongside a 22-handicap financier who displays only moderate embarrassment when one of his mid-irons travels all of a couple of feet.
A few yards away Paul Casey has settled in behind one of his playing partners for the day, model Jodie Kidd ? and who can blame him?
Colin Montgomerie is chatting away about the Ryder Cup to the press and anyone else within earshot, then breaks to talk cars with a member of his fourball, Nigel Mansell.
Meanwhile Andriy Shevchenko cuts a solitary figure ? the left-hander working ferociously on his game and possibly wondering when he can leave Chelsea.
And none of the Tour players seems to mind too much.
It’s relaxed and informal. It is, of course, a day for the sponsors and guests, but it is also a day when you see the best golfers in the world with their guards down ? more at ease and perhaps more akin to their true selves before the serious business begins.
And what of the serious business to come? A pro-am doesn’t reveal too much but I can report that the team led by Justin Rose emerged winners with a staggering best-ball of 17 under par.
Rose himself weighed in with a couple of eagles and two or three birdies but also worryingly required treatment in the evening on his ongoing back problem.
I can also report that the footballers’ team of Shevchenko, Ray Parlour and Lee Dixon finished second with their pro Ian Poulter, yet were all strangely absent after 7.45. Come to think of it, so too was Jimmy Tarbuck.
And the most stunning revelation of the evening was that Jodie Kidd did not promise to elope with me despite my very best efforts.
Here’s to the proper golf getting underway tomorrow.
Andrew Cotter is part of the BBC commentary team covering the 2007 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth which can be seen on BBC 2 on Thursday and Friday starting at 13.30, and on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 13.00.