Heard the one about the Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman? Well, it’s no joke for the Scotsman because Colin Montgomerie also has Spaniards, Swedes, an Italian and a Welshman to choose from when he picks the wildcards for Europe’s Ryder Cup side on Sunday.
It’s almost too much choice and I have some sympathy with Monty’s claim that this has been the toughest ever team to qualify for.
Just look at the quality of European players relying on a captain’s pick – England’s Justin Rose, twice a winner this season on the USPGA tour, the toughest on the planet. Paul Casey and Luke Donald haven’t qualified either and they are ranked 9th and 10th in the world.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington isn’t guaranteed a place and he’s won more majors than any player on either side, bar Phil Mickelson (at the time of writing Tiger Woods wasn’t a definite starter either).
Is it ever right to challenge the status quo? Should you not say yes when you mean no? Should you ignore the consequences to question, criticize and reject that which you find unpalatable?
Well, if you’re anything like Nicolas Anelka, you should. "Le Sulk," as he’s known, has just completed a typical period of extremes in which he was banned from international football for 18 games following his dismissal from the French World Cup squad for insubordination.
His response was to laugh at the French Football Federation’s (FFF) public show of righteous indignation before promptly showing that he’s unaffected by their finger wagging. Two goals in Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat of Wigan in the English Premier League, followed by a mock act of contrition with Didier Drogba during one of the goal celebrations, suggested the Frenchman remains unbowed.
Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) - Now the sun has set on the first World Cup to be held in Africa, I'd like to share my abiding memories of a month spent following football's showpiece around the "Rainbow Nation."
From the highs of hospitable South Africans, the inconspicuous but much-hyped violent crime and the on-pitch artistry of Germany and Spain, to the lows of vuvuzela noise, lack of video technology and abysmal showings by heavyweights such as France and England, this tournament had it all...
Everyone can learn from an act of sportsmanship. And golfer Brian Davis gets the gold medal so far this year for his example.
Henry, you might remember, infamously and knowingly, handballed during a game against Ireland that possibly cost them a spot in the World Cup finals.
The ref missed it, Henry didn’t call it despite the Ireland team’s outcries and France went on to secure a spot.
The ref also missed Englishman Davis clipping a reed at the Verizon Heritage during his backswing in a play-off with Jim Furyk.
Without getting too technical the incident cost him a two stroke penalty and had he not called himself it more than likely would have gone unnoticed. Only slow motion television pictures picked up the foul.
It was an inspiring act of sportsmanship that upholds the core values of golf – honesty and integrity no matter what is at stake.
Henry suffered a huge backlash but Davis has been warmly embraced by his fellow pros for the sacrifice.
Davis’s act should be used as example for school children and aspiring athletes of what should be done and how those of you will react under such circumstances.
Then they should observe the Henry incident and take note too.
I have met Davis a few times before he headed to America and I am not surprised he called himself out as he is a genuine sportsman and gentleman.
It surprises me that he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour after six years of trying but with this act he has won massive credit for himself and the sport.
Sadly it’s a rare thing to see across all platforms these days.
I don’t want to say ‘ I told you so” but late last year I confidently blogged Phil Mickelson would be the main man when it comes to 2010.
All the hype at last week’s Masters predictably surrounded Tiger Woods and in my view that was just fine by Phil! As Woods struggled awkwardly and at times nervously in front of the world’s media, “Lefty” was able to quietly go about his business with little fuss and to quite devastating effect by week’s end!
With one major down and another three to go this year, I stand more than ever by my convictions.
As the personable Californian approaches his 40th birthday, I honestly feel he’s about to embark on what we could all one day look back on as his golden years.
I sense the next three to four years will be ones of huge opportunity for Mickelson and more pertinently, I’m certain he does too.
Woods is far from being a spent force of course and while his time will certainly come again, there’s no doubt in my view - for reasons well documented - he’s making hard work of surpassing the record feats of the game’s all-time leading player Jack Nicklaus.
There may well once have been a time when what Tiger did - or didn’t do - was of concern to Phil. Those days are long gone.
Come next April, Woods will be seeking his first green jacket in six barren years while his Ryder Cup team-mate will be going all out for his fourth since 2004.
Quite simply, Phil now knows he can stare down his compatriot face to face and emerge top dog. Just look at what’s happened the last three times they’ve both competed in the same field.
Mickelson blew Tiger away with ease in the final round at East Lake last year at the Tour Championship, romped to victory in China and was never seriously threatened by him at any point at Augusta.
The U.S. Open at Pebble Beach looms large on the horizon. In short, it’s an event Mickelson is desperate to win.
He has the most unwanted of records when it comes to the season’s second major with five runner-up finishes including last year at Bethpage but I really do feel the man with 38 PGA Tour successes to his name is primed to shatter that undesirable stat.
Woods fans will doubtless point to the fact their man was so dominant the last time the Open was played at Pebble Beach, when he won by 15 shots, but they should be reminded Phil is hardly a novice on that track having won on it no less than three times himself!
If “lefty” can take a first U.S. Open come June, may I be so bold as to ask what might the odds on a Mickel-slam be this season? On curent form, don’t rule it out!
If anyone had not yet formed an opinion on Tiger Woods, the return of the world number one to the game that made him a champion will surely provide food for thought.
The extra-marital affairs which forced the self-imposed exile of the 34-year-old is one thing, but the return of a great to the arena they once dominated will always attract interest.
Muhammed Ali picked a fight with Jerry Quarry in 1970 following his ban from boxing, Michael Schumacher drove a Mercedes around the tarmac of Bahrain to show the world there was speed yet in his racing boots, and Tiger has picked the venue of his first major triumph - the Augusta Masters - to rejoin the fray.
It was typical of the 14-time grand slam champion to skip warm-up tournaments and go straight to the first grand slam of the season - like all the names mentioned above, once the limelight of the big-time has been sampled, it is hard to get it from under your skin.
The move suggests life really can’t be that bad for Tiger Woods, in just under a month he has gone from publicly stating that he didn’t know when he would return to golf, to announcing his comeback - hardly the 43 months suffered by Ali for refusing the draft to Vietnam.
Instead of easing back into the game he is diving head first into a major championship - arguably the one everyone wants to win the most out of the four available in any given year.
Augusta is a highly-charged atmosphere even without the dynamite of a Tiger Woods return. So, is Tiger feeling mentally strong? Or was he never really weakened by the outcry over his affairs?
His rehabilitation, for whatever it is that he is suffering or been suffering, must be going remarkably well for the world number one to suddenly feel his personal life is in decent enough shape for a return to the game in such a fashion.
If that’s the case, it’s great news for Tiger and his family. Some professionals I know quite well have told me that Tiger and wife Elin have been playing tennis together.
But I, along with many others I have spoken to during my travels, have always felt his act of self-flagellation on February 19 was a plea for sympathy in order to rehabilitate his public image.
Just maybe the big speech too, as his playing agenda becomes clearer, was about making a return to The Masters less harrowing for him. Those in his camp would also want the crowd to be less aggressive towards him.
Funnily enough, just days after Tiger’s apology, his caddie Steve Williams spoke of his anger and sympathy for the boss while Tiger was back practicing with his coach Hank Haney.
In my view, Williams would not have spoken without the direct approval of the Tiger camp. The timing and tone of his comments were all part of the carefully stage-managed plan to get everyone ready for his return to The Masters.
Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but I don't believe Tiger is fooling anyone with this all to transparent approach.
Looking forward to Augusta, I wonder if Tiger will hold a press conference at The Masters and allow questions about his return? The concept now seems laughable given the way Tiger and his team continue to go about their business.
But it would be nice to know how he is feeling about his game upon his return and whether he thinks he can win or not.
Whatever happens it will be great to watch Tiger’s first tee shot -– I suspect it will fly down the middle as if nothing’s ever changed or even happened.
That’s just the way Tiger would like it too, but the jury is out as to whether he can reclaim the adulation of the fans in the way that Ali did and Schumacher is attempting too.
If Landon Donovan is the key to the USA having even a half decent run in the upcoming World Cup isn't it in the interests of every member of the American soccer fraternity to have him playing at the highest level in the lead up to the tournament? You'd think so wouldn't you? But, sadly for the USA the Los Angeles Galaxy, and more specifically Galaxy head-coach Bruce Arena, think otherwise, having moved to deny Everton's request to extend his loan spell in England for the remainder of the Premier League season.
Not that Arena is acting alone in demanding that Donovan returns on March 15 as scheduled, as nothing happens at the Galaxy without the approval of the club's chief executive, Tim Leiweke. But Arena of all people, having been the boss of Team USA from 1998 until 2006, should know the chance for Donovan to stay in the zone as an integral part of the Everton squad is exactly what the USA needs to keep their captain in peak of form for South Africa.
Footballers thrive on big matches, because big matches demand the best of them mentally and physically. And if they can get the momentum going, as Donovan has certainly done during his 10-week stay at Everton, their performances usually improve exponentially. The fact is you can't replicate the pressure and atmosphere of a big match if the game doesn't fall into that category; and when compared to the 11-games he'd play for Everton in the lead-up to the World Cup, the 11 games he'd play for the Galaxy just can't compete in intensity.
Obviously, he's made a commitment to the Galaxy, having signed a four-year contract extension just last December. But as his Galaxy teammate, David Beckham, realized when he sought to extend his first loan move to AC Milan, playing with the big boys can be very seductive. Beckham, of course, successfully fought to stay with Milan, and indeed won the right to return this year. Why? Because Fabio Capello said he had to be competing regularly at the top level to be eligible for the England World Cup squad. Doesn't that send a message to the USA? If Bob Bradley, the national team boss, wants Landon at his best in South Africa, he has to arrive on a high. I'd suggest that he's more chance of doing that coming from the Premier League than he does from the MLS. So, is it too much to ask the Galaxy to make the sacrifice?
Tiger Woods cheated on his wife. John Terry seems to have done the same and now Ashley Cole is allegedly the most recent to fall off the morality wagon. Shocked? Or just shockingly bored of all the fuss?
The media certainly isn’t. In recent weeks, the “outrage” in the British tabloids about celebrity adultery has been a daily affair.
Ask the man on the street, and you’ll find he is not all that indignant. Not to worry. The press has been offended enough for all of us.
But being famous is not the same as being a role model. To my mind, John Terry and Ashley Cole have one responsibility - and that is to perform on the pitch.
That is why clubs pay millions to buy them, that is why fans around the world adore them. Their job is to play good football. And they should be held accountable for that and that alone.
Ashley Cole is a Chelsea defender. He might be able to teach children how to tackle. But why should he have to teach them how to live?
Children should take an example from those directly involved in their own lives.
From the coach of their under-11 football team. From their father on the sidelines. From the men and women who have a direct impact in their lives on a daily basis. Why the buck should be passed to their favourite footballer is beyond me.
From John Terry or Ashley Cole I expect a purely sporting example. Their level of achievement requires dedication, discipline and team spirit. Let’s let the footballers be good at football. Moral guidance can be sought elsewhere.
Watching Tiger Woods apologize to the world was proof enough to me. These sportsmen shouldn’t have to go through the humiliating process of resigning as role models. A position forced upon them simply because of fame and fortune. We just shouldn’t appoint them on those grounds in the first place.
Let me ask you a question, is there still a place for national pride in professional sport?
Andy Murray’s Australian Open run has, once again, sparked a lot of interest in his homeland, with Brits salivating over the prospect of the nation getting its first male winner of a Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936.
All well and good, Murray is a Scot, and after being starved of success by their countrymen for so long it’s understandable if the Brits relish having a real contender to fly the flag.
The only thing is, while his passport says “British”, Murray’s talents are a product of Spain, as he moved there as a 15-year-old with the specific purpose of honing his game in a system with a far better pedigree than anything on offer in Britain.
That is not a criticism of Andy. In fact it’s the opposite, as he was single-minded enough to make the sacrifice of leaving his home and family in order to realize his goals. But it does beg the question as to which nation, if any, should take credit for his achievements?
Of course, Murray is not the only tennis player or indeed athlete who’s gone overseas to launch or further his or her career.
In the United States, the colleges are full of foreign students who’ve gone to America to benefit from the superb training facilities and coaching expertise on offer in Track & Field, in which the country excels.
Still, at subsequent Olympics, World and European Championships you’ll seldom hear those foreign athletes acknowledge their debt to the United States, because it’s all about national pride.
But I just wonder whether all that flag-waving is really warranted, when your home country has done little or nothing to help you achieve your goals.
Football is another sport where national pride is possibly misplaced. Naturally, after this year’s World Cup in South Africa, one nation will be crowing about being the best in the world.
But will that be the case, as so many of the players on display at any major international football tournament do not ply, or in some cases, even learn their trade in the country of their birth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against patriotism per se. I just feel it’s something for sports fans to exhibit more than the athletes themselves, because in the 21st century there are no national boundaries or characteristics in the sporting world. It truly is a global village.