GOLF: MONKEY’S BUSINESS

There are many strange things about the game of golf.

For instance, it is bizarre that a land-dwelling species like the homo sapien which is generally happiest when it is dry, should willingly choose to leave the comfort of a warm house in the middle of a snowy December, to spend four and a half hours slowly walking in the rain.

The feeling of having a wet jacket on whilst you trundle to Asda to pick up some Doritos is one thing. But the feeling of approaching a 13th green and being soaked through to your boxer shorts to the extent to which no incontinence sufferer hath ever experienced, is something entirely different. Does the rain stop us though? No, not for a second.

Seemingly week after week, we wake up on a Sunday morning, we notice the drizzle on the windows, we glance up at the porridge-thick sky, we grimace, we breathe out heavily, we eat breakfast and the rain strengthens, we pack the boot and the rain refuses to relent, we turn the car on and the windscreen wipers squeal across the glass, we drive to the course and the wipers wipe faster. We play. We get soaked.

But, in a strange way, we enjoy it. We are rugged. We are golfers. We were born for adverse weather.

This is – you must admit – pretty strange.

It is just one of a number of curious golfing phenomenons with which nobody will ever be able to fully get their head around. Others include the classic:

“I was going against the wind on the 9th, and then on the 10th, which goes in the opposite direction, I was against the wind again!
 

It is a complete golfing-cliche but the wind which blows over a golf course must be a different wind to the one which blows through our city and town centres because it changes its mind faster than a child in a sweetie shop! And, unfortunately, the wind rarely seems to blow us in the right direction.

I like to think that it is the working of somebody on high, not necessarily God, just anybody; surely nothing could be quite as fun, as watching from on high a matchstick man use a metal stick with an open faced blade hit a tiny white ball a hundred feet into the air and then blowing on to the ball to make it land thirty yards away from where the matchstick man had wanted it to go. Maybe I am just slightly sick, but think of the fun!

These two curiosities pale in comparison however to what I believe, is the most bizarre and incomprehensible thing about golf. That being, the fascination we collectively have with inconsistency and the way in which we persevere as a group in the face of it.

I am talking about inconsistency of the most annoying, golfing kind.

Scorecards recorded every weekend up and down the country are made up shots which for whatever reason, have borne ludicrously discrepant results. A perfect seven-iron, drawing in with the wind, can land and stop within ten feet of the pin to set up a birdie on a par-four; yet at the very next hole  – even a Par 3 which requires a seven-iron off the tee – a mid-iron can cause you grief unbeknown.

The same is true with driving, chipping, putting, punching, splashing, pitching and floating.

We are fascinated by our inconsistencies because we don’t know what causes them. Every swing feels the same and yet sometimes the ball goes too far left and sometimes the ball goes too far right. The mystery bewilders us, but far from putting us off the game, it actually does the opposite. It keeps us coming back for more and unites us all under one big baffled and bemused umbrella.

When you really take the time to think about this, it is the strangest of phenomenons.

If we stepped in to a car and put the vehicle into what we thought was reverse, but every time we did this and hit the accelerator the car actually went forward, we would take it to the garage quickly. If we enrolled at college and took Spanish classes for ten years and spent hundreds of pounds on individual lessons and yet still, after all of this education, could not remember how to order a jug of sangria, we would take the hint that perhaps we were never going to be able to order that sangria and just give up!

So, why don’t we give up? How can we complain that after hitting the sweetest five-iron of our life we followed it up by putting three balls in the water on 18 with the very same five-iron and yet continue to be devoted to the sport.

My suggestion is simple. It can all be explained with monkeys.

If you have been gripped by the game of golf I think you are somebody who is deeply in touch with the elements that have come together throughout the course of history to make us who we today. Because, you see, the act of trying to move a golf ball from A to B using an inanimate object is something which appeals to our most basic, elemental urges. It is akin to the art of catching a ball; something about that act, about not letting that ball hit the ground, resonates strongly with our core and makes us feel, good. We all want to be able to move that little white ball, which lies two and a half feet infront of us and halfway between our left and right foot as we set up to hit it, and we want to move it to a specific location. This is as basic as it gets. It is elemental and when we were monkeys, we were driven by the exact same desires.

At the very first stages of human development we had to be strong to survive. Only the fittest were selected to breed and advance the human condition and as a result we had to be able to catch that bird as it flew past our head and then devour the beast whilst it was still squawking and this is why it still, to this day, feels great when you catch something.

So what am I saying here…monkeys invented golf? No.

What I am suggesting is that the reason we are fascinated by our inconsistencies is because like it or not, we were born with certain human urges deeply imbedded into our genetics. Some people have more of one urge than others, some have less. If you love the game of golf, I am betting that thousands of years ago you were a monkey who was desperate to get back to his family by swinging on as few trees as possible and you were fascinated by it. Two thousand years later this is expressed in the basic desire to put a ball in a far-away hole in as few shots as possible.

So next time you are tempted to call your mate a monkey on the golf course, remember – if it wasn’t for our primate ancestors, those three shanks you hit yesterday on holes six, seven and eight might just have put you off pulling on your Footjoys forever!

By Ross A. Fox

POULTER’S GOLF SCORCHES IN THE DESERT

IN a week dominated by Tiger Woods’ world address and the media fallout that followed, Ian Poulter staked his claim to become the best golfer currently playing on the planet, in dominating fashion.

The Hitchin-born Englishman beat fellow countryman Paul Casey 4&2 in the thirty-six hole final to win the Accenture World Matchplay Championship and round off a more than memorable week. The title is his first World Golf Championship win and importantly, his first win on American soil.

Ten days ago, the name Ian Poulter may have been synonomous in many people’s mind with crazy clothes, messy hair and shanks at Augusta; but after last week in the desert, his name should now be mutually exclusive with one word only – Matchplay. 

Between the Wednesday and Sunday of last week’s WGC event, Poulter beat Justin Leonard, Adam Scott, Jeev Milkha Singh, Thongchai Jaidee, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey. This list of players which the victor defeated en route to the trophy is impressive, but the manner in which those victories were achieved was without doubt what stood out most about Poulter’s winning week.

Ian possesses a very certain swagger on the golf course which seems to be exaggerated in matchplay. In Arizona he came across as being as fearless and ferocious as normal, but there seemed to be an added focus to win which seemed to permeate his game; a focus, quite simply, to be the best golfer.

He left everybody watching him in no doubt that even if Tiger Woods had of been there, the sky-blue Walter Hagen Trophy would have been coming back to Enger-land and nowhere else.

Poulter has always been cocky and more than once the now-34 year old has stated his belief that – one day – the two-biggest hitters in the world of golf, will be Tiger Woods and himself.

The claims have always amused the media and have certainly helped heighten Poulter’s image as a mouthy fighter, willing to talk up to anyone and pick a scrap. But they seemed a bit nonsensical. How could they not? Woods was continuing to win major after major whilst Poulter’s biggest win remained the Volvo Masters (a very fine tournament but no major championship).

Things are a little different now though.

Whilst the golfing world was busy decrying Woods for his media appearance at Sawgrass last Friday, everybody missed what should have been a big talking-point; namely that in the indefinite absence of Woods, the World Matchplay Championships was the perfect tournament to help us – the golfing universe – work out which of the current crop of top-65 golfers in the World were playing well enough and were currently in the right frame of mind, to take up the mantle as the best golfer currently competitive on the planet.

Considering its context, the tournament should have been billed as the modern-day equivalent of the week of games and spoils with which the Romans used to revel in. The Emperor (Woods) after announcing he would be leaving indefinitely, needs a replacement to lead the Empire (golf) forward, into the future; it is settled that the top-65 contenders for the crown should compete one-on-one, man-on-man, to be the last man standing – an epic matchplay tournament of symbolic importance.

But before the event even started, the only thing anybody seemed to want to talk about concerning the WGC was the fact that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were not there. Once it became clear that Woods would speak to the world on the Friday, the event seemed to fall completely from the lips of Sport.

Whilst the Woods affair dominated the headlines, the World Matchplay Championship was talked about so sparingly you would almost be excused for thinking that the top-65 golfers in the World were walking around Arizona in solemn melancholy, quietly despairing over Woods’ continued non-attendance.

There was one man, though, who looked determined all week to not just ‘get on with life without the world number one,‘ but to win and to be the best and, without doubt, that was Poulter.

The Arsenal-supporting Englishman was a man on a mission at the Ritz-Carlton golf course and his efforts have been rewarded with a new career-high world-ranking of 5th.

These are exciting times for Poulter, especially considering the absence of the world number one. Almost everybody in golf is expecting that Tiger Woods will return to the game one day and resume almost exactly (after a couple of weeks of match practise) where he left off. Surely this is a presumption we are not in the position to make.

How can we be sure that Woods will be able to mentally overcome his troubles?

We can’t and every golfer currently competitive on the European and PGA Tours, with any modicum of ambition, has to realise this. If the world number one does not return for another year, then that means somebody has twelve whole months to have the best year of their golfing life and put themselves in the mental position to feel ready to never again let Woods reign over the golfing world in the same, dominating manner, with which he used to.

Poulter wants to make 2010 the Year of the Well-Dressed Gooner and why not?

It’s time for the golfers on the PGA Tour and the European Tour to stop saying ‘we just want Tiger back as soon as possible,’ to wake up,  to smell the roses – which have all the potential to bloom in the absence of Woods – and to be the best.

For years one man has ruled over the game of golf and his professional colleagues have been left clueless time and time again, baffled as to how one guy can be quite so good and ruesome that they have to come up against him week in week out.

For the time being Tiger isn’t going to be around, so who wants to be the best player on the planet without him?

Ian Poulter has put both hands up. Who will follow in the run-up to the Masters?

 

By Ross A. Fox

THE DAY TIGER LAID IT BARE

What a difference a day makes.

Twenty-four little hours ago, most commentators in the sporting world were predicting something along the lines of this:

  • Tiger Woods speaks from Florida
  • He apologises for his misdemeanours
  • He makes a comeback either at the Tavistock Cup or the Pheonix Open
  • He faces some tricky questions from the media
  • Woods wins soon after his comeback
  • He challenges for the Masters

Pundits and sporting personalities alike, were basing their predictions with the traits and character-qualities of the old perception of Tiger Woods in mind.

The world number one has always had an uncanny ability to bounce straight back from a bogey with a birdie; the general consensus was that somehow, Woods would be able to get his personal life back on track in the same rapid manner.

It is perhaps surprising given the furore that the scandal surrounding Tiger has caused, but few people – until now – have stopped to think that Tiger’s misdemeanours in his personal life, could seriously de-rail his professional career. This is because through all of the years in which he has dominated the world of golf and lived at the forefront of the public eye, he has always projected an image of impeccability; an unstoppable train which nothing can halt. These personal failings, although they seemed very serious, did not really make anybody think Tiger would leave golf and – as ridiculous as it sounds – especially the majors.

Today’s media event from the TPC at Sawgrass gave us a true insight into the gravitas of this whole situation.

There will be no quick comeback for Woods and definitely no Green Jacket.

Opinion will flood newspapers and news channels over the next few days as the sporting world attempts to digest today’s latest development and let there be no doubt – there will be serious criticism of what happened in the Sunset Room at 16.00 GMT.

Criticism not at what it was that Woods said, but of the media event itself. They will suggest that it was overly-staged and will pass negative judgement on the way in which the audience in the room was specifically selected (by not making the event a traditional press conference – in which journalists are invited to ask questions – Tiger’s media-handlers have left themselves wide open for criticism). Censurers will condemn the event as being nothing but one big public relations exercise. They will insist it was entirely custom-designed; everything from the pre-written speech, to the fact that Woods was stood on the stage by himself – surely to enhance the perception of him being on his own in this juncture of his life, in need of sympathy, help and guidance.

To take this view would be selfish. What were these critics holding out for? Did they want Tiger to be sat down whilst the world and his wife looked down on him, passing judgement and asking only the most awkward questions? Did they want his manager Mark Steinberg by his side, so that they could grill him too?

A story and scandal such as this, will always have the media smelling blood; to send Tiger Woods out to face a traditional press conference, would have been a kin to sending a man out to the slaughter, or worse, public execution. It was never going to happen. Anybody who feels the need to criticise the  event, needs to take a reality check.

No PR agency would have let Woods answer journalists’ questions today, if they did, they would quickly lose a client.

Before the media event at Sawgrass, people were already criticising Woods’ camp for scheduling the meet. They insisted that if Tiger was not going to invite questions, why ‘stage an event at all, why not just release a press statement on his website‘?

Anybody who watched the speech will now know, exactly why Woods did not just post a statement online.

They will know now that today’s media event was organised to make certain points clear clear; most notably, that Woods has been undergoing a course of therapy and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Therapy? Tiger Woods…therapy? The three words do not seem to sound right in the same statement.

But times change. And the perception we now have of Tiger Woods in 2010 is different to the perception we had of the man even in early 2009. The old perception was false, that much is now clear. In order to create a new image, more based in reality and on truth, Woods needs help.

Thanks to today’s speech we now know that it was an essential baby step in what will be a much larger healing process. It was not organised to absolve Woods of all his previous wrong-doings, but to assert some sort of control on the situation.

Tiger needed to bring some transparency to the affair and to disspell certain allegations rife in the media.  Accusations have been made suggesting Woods took performance-enhancing drugs in his early career and allegations were made after his car crash on Thanksgiving Day, that there had been a physical fight between himself and wife Elin Nordegren. Both of these were confirmed by Woods today as being completely false.

In his speech, Woods said ‘I was unfaithful, I had affairs and I cheated‘. And that was all he needed to say regarding the specific details of his wrong-doings.

Compared to yesterday, Tiger now has a relatively clean slate from which to move forward from. The public know what happened – he cheated. The public know how the golfing star feels – he is deeply sorry. And perhaps most importantly, the public now know what to expect in the coming months – therapy, healing and more time away from the golf course.

Now that he has dispelled certain rumours and come clean with the sporting world, the planet’s number one golfer can concentrate on getting his head around his actions in previous years and the consequences that will follow them.

Tiger told us today that whilst he intends to return to golf sometime in the future, he does not know when.

The rest of the PGA and European Tour may want Woods to return as soon as possible and the media world may want to know the ins and outs of every single one of his misdemeanours but what is important now is that as an audience and as fans of his golf, we allow Tiger the time he needs to find a fit and proper state of mind.

He has done enough for the game of golf to deserve this time off at least.

The scandal surrounding Tiger Woods will alter the way we view sporting celebrities forever. Never again will a revelation concerning a sportsman or sportswoman’s personal life shock us as much as it did with Woods. Today’s media event was hard to watch and whilst it put certain allegations to bed, it certainly was not positive – nobody should have to defend themself to the world in the same way that Woods chose to today.

The situation is truly bizarre. Woods has built a career on being faultless. He spoke today of how in the past, he had felt he deserved a little slack in his personal life, because of all of his hard work in his professional life. The man convinced himself he was impeccable to the extent to which he actually thought he was entitled to be not-so-impeccable now and then in his personal life.

He is going to need time to re-evaluate who he really is and this could well prove to be the hardest stage of his therapy course.

When Woods first burst on to the golfing world, Nike ran an advert in which children of all ages from around the World, spoke four very clear words to the camera. They said ‘I .. am .. Tiger.. Woods’ . The words empowered the children.

Now, in 2010, the world’s best golfer needs to look inside himself and ask a very simple four-word question; ‘Who is Tiger Woods?

Hopefully he will find balance in his life once more and return to golfing greatness. Tiger Woods is a gifted-child born to play golf. Thankfully for us, the golfing universe, class is permanent, not temporary. With eager anticipation, we will wait.

By Ross A. Fox

WOODS ADDRESSES WORLD

 

Tiger Woods has spoken.

At a 16.00 GMT media event especially created to give the superstar an opportunity to address the World, he spoke of his deep regret and ‘personal disappointment’ and confirmed that he does not yet know when he will return to golf.

Speaking in the Sunset Room on the second floor of the TPC at Sawgrass, Woods emphasised his sorrow for his personal misdemeanours in the past and stated his determination to ‘regain his balance‘ both personally and professionally.

The audience of  ‘friends, colleagues and close associates‘ – which included his Mother, PGA Tour Commisioner Tim Finchem and long-time friend Notah Begay – sat in silence as the World, in turn, watched and listened.

The World number one spoke candidly and honestly throughout the statement and embraced his Mother at its conclusion.

In all Woods spoke for fourteen minutes and gave a speech which revolved around key themes of regret, disappointment, heartbreak and sorrow.

The media event represented Tiger’s first public appearance since the beginning of his self-imposed exile from the game of golf in the aftermath of a car crash he was involved in on Thanksgiving Day. Nobody in the press knew quite what to expect; as Woods opened his speech with the words  ‘Good Morning, and thankyou for joining me…’  – the sporting world stood deathly still.

Throughout the speech Woods seemed keen to emphasise his self-acknowledgement that what he had done, in the past, was wrong. He said ‘everyone, has good reason to be crtical of me‘, ‘I have bitterly disappointed all of you‘ and was ‘embarassed to put [all of those people] in that situation‘.

He told his audience that in the past he had felt he ‘was entitled to do whatever‘ he wanted and that for all of his hard work and dedication on the golf course, he said he felt he ‘deserved’ to be able to succumb to the temptations that ‘money and fame surrounded‘ him with. He repeated ‘I had affairs, I cheated’.

Woods acknowledged that he had let down his business partners, his sponsors and The Tiger Woods Foundation.

He was perhaps most keen however, to strongly refute media allegations that on the night of his car crash, he and his wife Elin Nordegren had been involved in a physical fight. Woods told those watching that Nordegren deserved nothing but praise for her ‘grace and poise‘ throughout the affair.

On a similar note, Tiger distanced himself from media rumours that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs in the past and criticised the media industry for pursuing and hounding his family over the past three months. He said photographers had ‘followed his two and a half year old Daughter to school and reported its location‘ and had ‘staked out [his] Wife and pursued [his] Mum‘.

Golf seemed the last thing on Woods’ mind and devoted only thirty seconds to the game. He said ‘I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that will be‘.

Woods thanked the well-wishers who have supported him since news of the scandal first broke and looked and referred to the future on a number of different occasions. He told of how somebody had once told him ‘it’s not what you achieve in life, it’s what you overcome’ and said he would be returning to the Buddhist values he was once brought up on but had quickly grown away from.

The golfer – who is arguably the greatest living sportsman – finished the event by repeating how disappointed he was that he had let down all those who had believed in him over the years; to those individuals he had one request – ‘I ask for your help, to find the room in your heart, to one day believe in me again‘.

The speech was followed by his Mother’s embrace, cuddles and handshakes to those closest to him in the room. Then, with his head down, Tiger exited the Sunset Room.

By Ross A. Fox

TIGER TO SPEAK

The sporting World waits with baited breath after Jim Steinberg, the manager of Tiger Woods, said the golfing superstar will address the media at 1600 GMT tomorrow afternoon.

It will be no ordinary press conference as the only journalists allowed to attend the event will be those hand-picked by the Golf Writers Association of America. Tiger will speak in the clubhouse at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra, Florida and everybody in the World will watch the event via the same camera feed.

Steinberg has been keen to emphasise that the event is being staged to give his client an opportunity to come clean, to talk about past, present and future and to apologise to those that Woods believes he has hurt, including his family, fans and corporate sponsors.

It remains to be seen whether Tiger will confirm when he will return to competitive action; he has been on a sabbatical ever since the car crash which seems to have acted as a catalyst for the whole scandal to begin.

By Ross A. Fox

Ross Fox

IF

Every golfer needs inspiration. Whether you are trying to win the Desert Dubai Classic or the Belton Woods Weekly Stableford, belief is key. Some people look to Rudyard Kipling’s epic poem ‘If’ when they need a dose of courage.

Read this classic piece of writing through the link below, it will send shivers of the good kind right up your spine:

If

If you don’t have the imagination to see how the poem is relevant to golf, observe my re-working below. All together now…

If you can keep your head when all about you
are watching you from the clubhouse,
If you can trust yourself when your foursomes partner doubts you,
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait for the painfully-slow group ahead of you, and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied to by a nine handicapper who says he plays off eighteen, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated by a greenkeeper for churning up divots colossal, don’t deal in hating,
And yet don’t play too well, nor think too wise:

If you can dream of a Club Championship – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think about winning after just four holes – and then start playing poorly,
If you can meet with eagle and quadruple-bogey
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to think back on how you should have chipped out sideways,
“a little five iron underneath that tree” – a trap for over-ambitious fools,
Or watch the perfect scorecard, ruined,
And try desperately to weave more magic with worn-out Titleist tools:

If you can eye-up the green 205 yards away over the lake,
And risk a penalty drop by hitting the metal three,
Plonk it in the water, take the drop, start-again two club-lengths infront of the hazard,
And never breathe a word that the ball you lost was a Pro-V1;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn after four three-putts in a row,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the unrelenting-desire to throw your putter in the pond.

If you can play with a useless beginner and keep your virtue,
Or walk with pros in pro-ams – nor lose the common shank,
if all holes and all courses can hurt you,
and if all scorecards haunt you, all too much;
If you can fill the next unforgiving four and a half hours,
with 270 minutes of ball-searching, “Fores” and fun,
Yours is Golfing mediocrity and everything that comes with it,
And – which is more – you might just find a Ladies Pinnacle, my son!

By Ross A. Fox

BROOKLINE BOYS FORGOTTEN

Later on this year, the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales will host the 2010 Ryder Cup.

As we sit here on the 14th February, there are a few questions about the forthcoming Ryder Cup that every golf fan would love to know the answer to:

Will Tiger Woods be playing?

Will Rory McIlroy take his first Cup by storm? 

Will Monty be as inspiring as Captain as he was a player?

Just three of many questions which will be thought and speculated over in the coming months.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s look back. Let’s wind the clock back ten years (and five months).

The 1999 Ryder Cup at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, will forever be remembered for that putt, that fifty-foot monster of a sunken putt and the American team’s celebrations which followed.

Whilst most golf fans will be able to recall that putt, you would be forgiven for not being able to remember who was on that losing European team for one simple reason – some of the team that played in 1999 have disappeared entirely from our radars. In particular, the rookies of 1999 have never been able to recapture the form that sent them to Brookline.

So, of those involved in the European team in 1999, who might you have forgotten about?

The captain: Mark James. In the first few years following the event James found himself in the public eye repeatedly.

Initially the captain was criticised by many for his tactics at the Country Club; before the event he had picked Andrew Coltart as his second wildcard-pick ahead of European legends Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo and then provided his critics with even more ammunition by refusing to play Coltart in any of the Cup’s pairs matches. James also chose to not play two of his other rookies Jarmo Sandelin and Jean van de Velde in the Friday and Saturday matches.

Going into the final day the European team had led 10-6  –  by the end of the day they had lost the Ryder Cup 14.5 – 13.5. All of the rookies had lost their respective singles and Captain James was denounced for not having given his rookies more experience before their one-on-one Sunday matches.

In 2000 Mark James wrote and released a book entitled Into the Bear Pit. The book caused serious controversy in the golfing world. It slammed the actions of the US team on that final day in Brookline and it included comment on his tense, strained relationship with Nick Faldo. Perhaps most strikingly, James wrote of how he had thrown in the rubbish bin a note of encouragement that Faldo had personally written for the European team, before the Cup had begun. A media storm followed in which both James and Faldo refused to apologise to the other and the 1999 captain was relieved of his position as one of Sam Torrance’s vice-captains for 2001 Ryder Cup.

In 2000 James was diagnosed with testicular cancer but successfully returned to golf the year later having made a full recovery. By this point the argument between James and Faldo had begun to quell. In 2002 he released a sequel to his first book entitled After the Bear Pit in which he wrote of his recent illness and a little more about the events in Brookline.

In late 2003 James earned his full playing rights to compete on the 2004 Champions Tour in America. In July of 2004 he won the first major of his career when he won the Ford Seniors Players Championship. Since then Mark James has continued to compete on the Champions Tour and has added two tour wins to his major championship. Last year he earned a cool $500,625, finishing 77th on the Order of Merit.

The Rookies:   For Jarmo Sandelin, Andrew Coltart, Paul Lawrie and Jean van de Velde, Brookline was their first Ryder Cup. Whilst three of them did not play before the Sunday singles, Paul Lawrie was one of the major revelations of 1999 Ryder Cup.

Lawrie was paired with Colin Montgomerie in all of the pairs matches and had picked up two and half points before he even teed off on Sunday. In his singles match he came up against the experienced Jeff Maggert and won the tie 3&2 to become one of only three European players to win their one on one match. In 2000 Lawrie struggled to maintain the form which had won him two titles in 1999 and slipped down to 26th on the European Order of Merit. In 2001 however he was victorious in the Dunhill Links Championship and in 2002 he won the Celtic Manor Wales Open and finished ninth and tenth respectively in these two seasons. Unfotunately for the Scot has not won since the victory in Wales and has failed to compete consistently for wins since. In the seven years since 2002 Lawrie has only broken in to the top-50 of the European Order of Merit twice, lost his PGA Tour exemption in 2004 and is no longer even the best Lawrie on the European tour; Peter Lawrie (no relation) is now the top-performing Lawrie.

For Jarmo Sandelin the decade since Brookline has been even tougher. Despite his win at the 2002 BMW Asian Open Sandelin struggled to even maintain his tour card in the early years of the new millenium. Between 2001 and 2004 he finished outside of the top-100 of the Order of Merit and in 2005 he finished 140th and lost his tour card. Thankfully for the Swede he won his tour card back straight away at Qualifying School and went through something of a resurgence in 2006 eventually finishing 44th on the Order of Merit. This resurgence did not last long and once again Sandelin began to struggle; after three disappointing years on tour the Swede lost his tour card once more last year.

As with Sandelin and Lawrie, the new millenium has not been kind to another of the 1999 rookies, Jean van de Velde. In 2002 the Frenchman lost his tour card and did not appear at all the year after having injured his knee in a serious skiing accident. In 2004 he returned to golf and won just over 50,ooo Euros – enough to only finish 170th on the European Order of Merit. 2005 was van de Velde’s standout year in the decade since Brookline thanks to a surpise runners-up finish to Jean-Francois Remesy at the Open de France. The Frenchman regained his tour card in 2005 and kept it until 2008 with a win at the 2006 Madeira Open his personal highlight. The former Open runner-up could not retain his card in 2008 however and last year failed to earn over 30,000 Euros. Van de Velde’s future in golf looks uncertain at best.

Andrew Coltart’s only match at Brookline was a 3&2 loss to Tiger in the singles. Following the Ryder Cup, the Scot managed to maintain solid performances on the European Tour and in relation to Sandelin and van de Velde he remained successful in the five years after the Ryder Cup. Coltart has struggled to keep his playing rights since 2004 however and has had to attend Qualifying School four times in the past six years (thankfully every time he has been to ‘Q-school’ he has obtained a full card for the following year). Coltart has become the personification of the ‘journeyman’ in recent years and will be hoping that when he turns 40 in May this year, the birthday will represent the beginning of a much more settled and successful decade.

The Ryder Cup is hugely important and qualifying for it is an achievement which will remain on a golfer’s CV forever.

What it does not do is guarantee future success. Just ask Andrew Coltart, Jarmo Sandelin, Jean van de Velde and Paul Lawrie if they would swap their one Ryder Cup appearance for better fortunes in recent years and some the answers might surprise you. At the time the Cup is the be-all and end-all and was undoubtedly for all four of the golfers above but ten years on it must seem a distant memory.

Many golfers have had great years and qualified for a Ryder Cup. Maintaining the sort of form that sees you qualify for two, three or four Ryder Cups is, however, a very different thing altogether.

By Ross A. Fox

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.