This year’s Masters had its fair share of quiet periods, but in the deepening Augusta gloom it finally delivered the climax for which everyone had been hoping.
A worthy, popular winner, great sportsmanship, some phenomenal shot-making - not least Angel Cabrera’s stunning approach to the 72nd hole when he knew nothing less would extend his challenge - and a final explosion of Aussie joy as the nation’s 77-year Masters curse dropped into the 10th hole along with Adam Scott’s ball in the sudden-death playoff.
Last July, Scott’s family and friends stood, silent and stunned, some in tears, as they watched a TV behind the 18th green at the British Open. Their man had walked off the 14th with a firm grasp on the coveted claret jug, but as they stood there, was proceeding to bogey each of the final four holes, relinquishing what would have been his first major victory. FULL POST
The decision late last year by Augusta National to break with tradition and allow its first ever female members has been widely applauded with the general consensus being " about time too!"
Current world No.1 Tiger Woods described the news as "fantastic" while three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson said Condoleezza Rice is one of his favourite people to spend time with.
"Lefty" even played an Augusta practice round with the former U-S Secretary of State who impressed all watching by reportedly sinking a huge 40 foot putt on the very last hole!
Rice - along with South Carolina financier Darla Moore - remain the only female members at the private Augusta National Golf Club - as far as we're aware - and ahead of this year's Masters, club chairman Billy Payne described their joining as a joyous occasion adding "it's just awesome". He added he feels his club is a "beacon in the world of golf".
There's certainly no question that after years of intense focus on the club and its all-male policies –the admittance of two women is very much a step in the right direction but is it enough and will it indeed trigger other iconic venues to see the light of the Augusta beacon and follow suit?
This year's British Open championship venue Muirfield in Scotland for example still doesn't allow women members.
At a packed media press conference on Wednesday I asked Chairman Payne if he felt other clubs should now follow Augusta's lead. He responded that any such move would have to be their own decision while Mickelson declared he doesn't get involved in the "politics" of the game.
Here at Augusta fans out on the course are known as patrons. In truth, while the majority do fully agree it's high time to move on and adapt to the times, I did find a couple of female voices united in their belief that membership issues are down to each individual club.
That said, it's certainly not going to change the growing pressure of that majority to change. In addition to Muirfield - the world governing body of the game outside the USA - The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at Saint Andrews - is also male only.
Since its beginning in 1754, it's simply never had a female member! After almost 260 years - and following the recent example of Augusta - is the time now right for us to even dare to dream of change?
And so Tiger’s reached yet another level of “back.”
It’s been, in the phrase he almost copyrighted, a process. Back playing (remember when that was a serious question?), then back contending, back sticking three or four good rounds together, back winning and now back at world No. 1.
But underpinning everything at the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament at Bay Hill, Tiger was back putting like the best player on the planet.
Not how, but how many, runs the truism. Yet both sides of that oft-coined phrase hold the answer to Tiger’s return to the top. FULL POST
Actions speak louder than words. So for Rory McIlroy, a missed cut in Abu Dhabi in his opening event of the 2013 season was far from ideal. The world No.1 was the talk of the sports world at the beginning of the week as Nike Golf announced his arrival as their newest and most significant signing. He is believed to have signed one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sports history with figures of $200 million over five years being suggested.
At the heavily stage-managed launch by Nike, McIlory confirmed he was making a wholesale change to Nike products throughout the bag. After an eight-week break since he closed out the 2012 season in stunning style up the road in Dubai, the plan for the new year was all about change. He would be playing a driver, fairway woods, irons, putter and ball, all made by Nike. Except that by Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he had reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for the second round.
It’s a new phase in McIlroy’s life and career. An established professional of five seasons, with so many expectations realized and so much hype justified, the two-time major champion and undisputed world No.1 was ready to move to a new level. Part of this was his long-held dream to become a sporting brand ambassador on a par with the likes of his heroes Tiger Woods, tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and footballer Wayne Rooney of McIlroy's beloved Manchester United.
With the Nike deal signed and no more logos or brands on public display other than the “Swoosh”, McIlroy is in the perfect position to focus all of his attention on his true goals, those of winning major titles and in the short term, gearing up for the Masters at Augusta and the realistic ambition of winning his first green jacket. No longer does he play for money, he has riches beyond his wildest dreams and he’s only 23. All that he lacks are air miles in the competitive sense with his new equipment.
Mcilroy’s performance in this pipe opener for his season in Abu Dhabi was far from satisfactory, but he will take it on the chin. He’s too good not to sort his game out and as his caddy JP Fitzgerald has stated, “he could play with a hockey stick and orange and still win!”
By the sound of it McIlroy’s off-season was far from relaxing. High altitude training and some downtime in Colorado with his girlfriend, the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki was followed by trips with her on the tennis circuit to South America.
After a few relaxing days celebrating Christmas at his new home with his parents and the Wozniacki family, he was quickly into some club testing with the Nike gurus at the Bear’s Club in Palm Beach near his Florida home, before flying to Australia to support his girlfriend as she warmed up for the Australian Open.
He returned to Dubai where he began an intensive week-long series of club fitting and testing at the Els Club before driving to Abu Dhabi for a busy few days of hype regarding his launch as the new face of Nike Golf and another distracting day of speculation over the election of a new Ryder Cup captain. One in which he became very much caught up in as a major supporter of Paul McGinley.
McIlory's very public show of support and outward displays of a conviction regarding how the captaincy issue should be dealt with, gave us a glimpse into the strength of mind which he possesses.
He will be smarting at his poor display and missed cut at Abu Dhabi. With four weeks until his next appearance in Arizona at the Accenture World Match Play, we should expect to see a more commanding performance from McIlroy as he truly begins his build-up to Augusta.
This performance was far from perfect and not what Nike will have desired, but at the end of the day there’s only one man that matters and he will be ready to continue his march towards his sporting destiny. The time for talking is over. Let’s see some action Rory. Just do it.
Paul McGinley emerged as the new European Ryder Cup captain after receiving the very public backing of the key members of last September's winning team at Medinah.
Led by world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the core group of stars such as Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari made their opinions known after it appeared that Colin Montgomerie might make a surprise return to the role for 2014. FULL POST
As a Brit who followed this year’s Ryder Cup every step of the way – I take immense pride in the European team’s come-from-behind victory. It was a fantastic achievement, but did Jose Maria’s Olazabal’s men win it or did the U.S. blow it?
The Americans were without question the better, hungrier team over the first two days and there will be many who will feel Davis Love III’s players deserved to win back the prestigious trophy.
Events during Sunday’s dramatic final round certainly conspired against them. They simply didn’t get the rub of the green when it mattered most. FULL POST
While both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy fell by the wayside during Sunday's final round at the Tour Championship - on current form there's no doubt which player carries more momentum into the Ryder Cup, and Tiger Woods knows it.
Prior to the Tour Championship, former world No. 1 Woods jokingly called current incumbent McIlroy "the great intimidator".
But during that pre-tournament press conference at East Lake, it appeared Woods was simply not comfortable with even talking about the game's top-ranked player. FULL POST
Two major championship wins at 23 years of age: Rory McIlroy’s validation as a world-class golfer continues to grow and grow.
He has become the sixth youngest multiple major winner in history, and how timely that he pushes Tiger Woods to seventh on that list, eclipsing him by a mere five months.
McIlroy is not targeting Woods' records however and is emphatic when discussing his own potential to carve out a distinguished career: “I mean, I've won my second major at the same age as he had. But he went on that incredible run like 2000, 2001, 2002 and won so many. FULL POST
I'd say American golf has much to be proud of right now, ahead of this week's British Open.
Tiger Woods may have continued his own personal major drought at last month's U.S. Open, and Phil Mickelson looked as far away as ever from winning it, but the stage was cleared for another crop of young talent from the States to shine. And how!
Webb Simpson's triumph was significant not just because at the age of 26 it was his first major, but because it was the third straight grand slam title won by an American player - and in a Ryder Cup year that's one huge boost to team captain Davis Love III. FULL POST
And so it goes on. The era of first-time major winners, the age in which golf's biggest prizes are shared around, the Olympic Club's tendency to favor the underdog and even, in perhaps God's little joke, the trend of deeply religious men winning U.S. Opens in San Francisco.
Webb Simpson did what few others have managed before in a U.S. Open – and what no-one else managed this weekend at Olympic - when he shot a closing pair of 68s to win his first major. He thoroughly earned his elevation - and proved he has the game and temperament to win another.
Whether he does so given this unprecedentedly democratic run of changing champions - 15 different major winners in a row, the last nine of them first-timers - remains to be seen, but for now there's time to enjoy his achievement, and the profile and security it will bring. FULL POST