Black History Month: Tiger documentary

I’ve now had a chance to watch the Tiger documentary a second time. It needed a second viewing because on the first take it was a lot of impressions about how it was all put together. The second time I appreciated the content a lot more.

Subtitled The Rise, The Fall, The Return, it didn’t really live up to that billing because it was so top heavy with the first two parts of the story. But optimistically, the story is still being written.

The Return part should ideally have been a separate part three as there was not enough dramatic pause between Tiger’s 2017 arrest and moving on to the Masters win under two years later. To me, that is the most dramatic part of the story, the miracle of the turnaround and it should have been treated in much more depth than a cursory 15 minutes at the end. No mention of the incredibly significant win at the Tour Championship. But maybe there will be a revised ending in the future.

It seemed that it wasnt a golf film as such, more for a wider audience who wanted the shock of the fall from grace to be the crescendo. The fact that Tiger magnificently turned his life round and came back wasn’t given enough emphasis.

But golfers watching the shameful shaming of Tiger speech by former Masters Chairman Hootie Johnson know that the 2019 Masters win was revenge on that. Johnson shouldnt have spoken like that, it wasn’t his business, it was Tiger’s family’s business, not his. You wonder if Hootie Johnson was Masters Chairman right now whether he would slam the current Masters champion Dustin Johnson for his transgressions and failed drugs tests that also led him into rehab or former Masters Champion Patrick Reed, just to jump on that most unfair bandwaggon. Would he have criticised Arnold Palmer, who really wasn’t a saint either? I think not. And that underscored the sickening racial observations of the film.

I did feel there was way too much emphasis on the salacious. It became the Rachel Uchitel show at one point. But to see the separate films of both Elin and her being catcalled by paparazi reporters in such nasty terms was an eyeopener to how they were treated. I also thought there was a bit too much emphasis on Earl Woods – I would have been just as interested to hear about Tida Woods, We only hear that she wasn’t Mickelson’s number one fan and she called him hefty (she also called him Plastic Phil in the early 2000s so no love lost there).

It seems that the film maker brought forward so many “exes” and let them have their say. Ex caddie Steve Williams seemed quite upbeat recounting his past with Tiger on film (different from the bitterness in his own book when he says “it was as though I was his slave”). He seems to be over it. Bring forward Tiger’s teenage girlfriend was fairly interesting for the home movies of Tiger acting normally goofing around. There was the ex wife of and the neice of Mark O’Meara, Tiger’s great friend on tour, the neice is now an ex friend. The ex teacher who covered up Earl Woods’ liaisons with other women while Tiger practiced and all the women, so many of them, had screen time, who were now all exes, “compartmentalised” as Tiger would think, out of his life.

Two things really interested me in this story. Firstly that the sexual addiction and multiple affairs may have been a form of physical pain relief. It’s clear from Tiger’s 2017 arrest that he was yet another statistic in America’s shameful opiod addiction crisis. He was clearly addicted to pain relief medication. I would have liked to have heard in a proper part three from the doctors who performed the successful spinal fusion surgery, a bit more about this and his physical rehabilitation.

The other fascinating insight was Tiger’s regular forrays to extreme train with the US Navy Seals. What he put himself through psychologically and physically doing this training and how it may have caused multiple injuries. Fascinating that he ran away to join the navy.

Many of us who play golf for a long time have back injuries. I have a damaged L5 disc which on and off causes a lot of pain. But for Tiger who has rotated his body in the swing for nearly 43 years, the pressure must have been tremendous.

So, engrossing in parts, tedious in others, flawed and yet interesting, it’s worth watching, but hopefully the story of the return isn’t done yet.

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Handicaps for independent golfers

It had seemed that last year the idea of the national golf bodies offering handicaps to golfers who aren’t attached to a club had been abandoned. But with the introduction of the World Handicap System last year changing the game, England Golf announced last month that handicaps will be offered to independent golfers later this year. Scotland, Ireland and Wales will also follow suit.

There are nearly 2 million independent golfers in England and England Golf Chief Executive Jeremy Tomlinson says “we must reach out to these golfers. We must look after all amateur golfers”.

A working group of 6 female and 4 male regional representatives are meeting virtually on a weekly basis to develop the concept which they call an “Independent Golf Connectivity Platform”. Independent golfers will pay a fee for the handicap as well as green fees ro play. But it does seem the uktimate aim is to encourage these players to take up club membership.

It’s encouraging to see this new flexibility from the governing bodies capitalising on the big upsurge in interest in golf in the UK following the ending of the first national lockdown last May.

Mr Tomlinson stressed that clubs would choose individually how they interacted with independent golfers but it seems unlikely they will be allowed to play in club, regional and national competitions just yet. There may be a separate category of competition for them in the future.

Club membership in golf is unlikely to be eroded by this new recognition of nomadic golfer, indeed it is an opportunity to reach out and connect and make the game more inclusive. Because of the capital assets of golf course and club house needing to be funded, club membership will always be the preferred model in the sport and affiliated members who pay fees to the national bodies will have priority.

One of the main arguments against the concept of independent handicaps was that it would lead to a decline in club membership. One of the ideas being discussed is to have a time lapse between leaving a club and being able to seek an independent handicap.

It’s going to be so interesting to see how this pans out in practice. There could be a lot of variation in how clubs treat independent golfers with good experiences and not so good. But it is a real breakthrough to see some outreach, inclusivity and a proper spirit of growing the game.

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Dustin and Jason take on Matthew Wolff’s swing

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Viktor Hovland’s huge advantage

Listen to this…the Norweigan TV commentators when Viktor Hovland won his second victory, the Mayakoba Classic last year.

Imagine them in the gallery when he plays himself onto the European Ryder Cup team. They are loud! The monotonous chants of U-S-A U-S-A will be drowned out.

We in England remember the Norweigan TV announcers well, and those in the clip below probably trained Hovland’s TV supporters today. We remember the bonkers TV commentary whrn Norway beat England 2-1 to knock us out of the World Cup. The commentator threw everything at us “Can you hear me Maggie Thatcher, Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana… your guys took a hell of a beating!”

Viktor doesn’t seem to mind them, he loves metal music as loud as you can play it and explains that he likes the bleeeuggh, sound that’s often in the middle of songs. If that’s the sound he makes when he hits a bad shot or misses a putt he’s not going to be fined for swearing. Golfers do need a new sound vocabulary instead of using the same old swear words which get them into trouble when caught on TV. Altogether now bleeeeugggh! And perhaps some might take a leaf out of his book and smile -all the time.

Extraordinary swing with a head bobbing similar to Lee Trevino. He’s coming off a good run of form with 17 rounds in the 60s and a tied 6th in Saudi Arabia, but with a laugh said that he had eight bogeys in a row the first time he played this week’s tournament course Riviera.

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Bryson practising at Riviera -swing positions!

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The new Top 50

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The most talented teenage twins in golf

Still only 19 years old Danes Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard came on to the European Tour in 2019 after helping Denmark win the Eisenhower Trophy as amateurs. See the welcome home Nicolai got at Billund Airport.

As an amateur Nicolai got to play in the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie and on turning professional played well on the Challenge Tour, He was runner up to Sergio Garcia, one shot behind, at the 2019 KLM Open.

Rasmus had outstanding start scoming 5th in the European Tour qualifying tour. He quickly won the 2019 Mauritius Open and followed up with a second win in August 2020 at the ISPS Honda UK Championship after making his major debut at the US Open.

They say they push each other on and aim to play together in the Ryder Cup. When Edouardo and Francesco Molinari played together in the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales the European fans sang to them “There’s only two Molinaris”. Their Danish brothers surname doesn’t really scan in the same way. But, as having Danish heritage myself, perhaps the lyrics of the Olesen Brothers from Denmark might make their Ryder Cup singalong

Flyv på kærlighedens vinger
Flyve baby flyve
Nå ud til stjernerne ovenfor
rører ved himlen

Held og lykke drenge!

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Hoodies and Shoes

Xander Schauffele, Tyrell Hatton and me to name but three love the golf hoodie. Mine hasnt been seen on the golf course yet but I’m wearing it anyway. Can’t understand the controversy about this garment. The stretch fabric makes it easier to swing than a normal sweater much easier to move in and they are warm. Snobby blazer wearers who are sniffy about them enjoy being uncomfortable and uptight in their power blazers, the garment of authority. Dont see the issue if the hoodie is changed before going into public areas in the clubhouse. They’re hear to stay now professionals are happy with them. Favourites are Under Armour, Galvin Green and Puma. Most have 4 way stretch fabric

Found a great site on twitter called @golf_shoes_info which has photographs and links to buy a huge range of golf shoes. Interesting to read what the recent PGA Tour winners are wearing.

Foot Joy Dry Joys – Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Harris English, Justin Thomas

Adidas – Tyrell Hatton, Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger

Nike -Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland

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A New Dawn For The Ladies European Tour

It has taken three days to process the news since it was announced on Friday. It was something which exceeded all expectations. But here we are. Commissioner Mike Whan of the LPGA has pulled out all the stops to regenerate the Ladies European Tour which some of its players will tell you was on its knees two years ago. The three year strategic alliance of the two tours set up in late November 2019 has delivered a miracle to the LET membership. The players who start again in May will be the new founders, as Mike Whan likes to refer to. The pioneers of a fresh start for women in sport. Let’s hope they grab the opportunity and everyone commits to making the best experience. Because with this, more women will want to start to play and slowly break down the dominant culture in the game. As a female European golfer I felt quite emotional thinking of the possibilities. Finally, our time has arrived.

This morning a new sponsor, Titelist, came on board as official ball supplier for the next three years. A record-breaking prize fund of 19 million euros over 27 events in 19 countries. A European defence of the Solheim Cup in America and the Olympics in Tokyo all covered by over 200 hours of live broadcast.

The lucrative Aramco Team Series to be played in New York, London, Singapore and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the season ending Race To The Costa Del Sol with the biggest ever LET bonus pool. And all of the postponed tournaments from 2020 to be returned to the schedule. Remarkable. Nine new events including the 1 million euro Scandinavian Mixed event hosted by Annika Sorenstram and Henrik Stenson. the first of three events in Sweden. Solheim Cup star Anne Van Dam hosting the Dutch Ladies Open.

Alexandra Armas, the Chief Executive of the Ladies European Tour said she was “extremely excited…thrilled to offer some good news to our membership after a difficult season last year”. She acknowledged how the sponsors, partners and federations had shown belief, vision and perserverance. Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew, who this year has 6 captain’s picks, has committed to playing on the LET tour alongside potential team members so she can see them play close up.

Dame Laura Davies said “it’s been great for us to get mentioned in the same breath as the LPGA. The women feel better, the sponsors are impressed and the fans love it. I can’t wait to get started again, so much is so exciting”.

It’s a huge transformation from barely two years ago. Although the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles brought in a fantastic 90,000 spectators, at the Scottish Open there were more people inside the ropes than out. With sparce attendences and scant tv coverage sponsors thought there wasn’t demand for the tour and stayed away. Many players had to take on part time work to support themselves or leave professional golf altogether. And there were complaints that those in charge were in denial.

It is thus a marvel what Commissioner Mike Whan has done for the LET, providing the LPGA’s support and investment and most of all getting sponsors excited in backing womens professional sport. The players hugely appreciate and respect his trust and genuine support. He is certainly leaving his post this year on a high after turning this round.

We must also recognise how important Justin Rose’s contribution was last year setting up the Rose Ladies Series, giving the LET players somewhere to play and giving them recognition. He and his wife Kate have committed further support this year in a scaled down version of one day warm up events in April before the tour starts in May. To have such support from the current Olympic and former US Open champion has done wonders to raise the profile of womens golf, showing it respect. I’m sure the LET players will look after their Pro Am partners, and care about this new tour. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life – and they’re feeling good.

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Will Zalatoris: the next big thing

I’ve just watched Will Zalatoris’ press conference at Pebble Beach and was as impressed with him as everyone is at his statistics. On Monday he broke into the Top 50 in the World Rankings and has locked in his card to play on the PGA Tour for next year. He really captured everyone’s imagination when he tied 6th at last year’s US Open. But he is one of the most dominant players in the world at the moment. Since 2020 he’s had 14 top 10s across multiple tours including a win on the Korn Ferry Tour.

He currently has a scoring average of 69.5, making him 6th on the PGA Tour and 12th in driving distance, At 6ft 4 he has a big swing arc generating a lot of speed with unusual technique – he has closed shoulders and open hips at impact.

He was part of the Walker Cup team that included Cameron Champ and major winner Collin Morikawa, and at 24 he is clearly catching them up. He credits playing alongside his friends Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth as a junior for motivating his own improvement. When Jordan, who is 3 years older, turned up “it was here we go, what is he going to do, he was ridiculous”. He was a freshman at Wake Forest when Spieth won the Masters in 2015 and it motivated him to play better.

But it was the influence of another golfing legend that helped shape him in his childhood. His father was a member at Cal Club in his home city of San Fransisco and started Will playing and Ken Venturi took an interest in Will’s game. The 1964 US Open champion would stay and watch him hit balls and he told Will’s father “this boy can play. Your job is to stay out of the way”. And Will’s father has never attended any of his lessons with his coaches Josh and Troy.

Jordan Spieth observes that Will isn’t afraid of going low. There seems to be a huge mental strength there, patience. At the moment he says he is focussing on learning his golf game and taking opportunities to get better. Good golf takes care of a lot of things he says. Here is his swing in slow motion.

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