Not much has happened in my absence (The Lexi Rule, the Christie Kerr debacle, Paul Dunne missing out on victory by the most slender of margins, the Zurich Classic in New Orleans amongst other things…) but with the change in time comes the best period of golf. After the brief slow down post-Masters, the other Majors come thick and fast, with the anomaly of the US Open being held on a links style course that no one has been to in Erin Hills, and the Open Championship returning to the scene of Padraig Harrington’s success over current green jacket holder Sergio Garcia (that statement still takes getting used to) at Royal Birkdale.
Later on, in August, the USPGA takes place at Quail Hollow, where last weeks Wells Fargo is usually located, and where Rory bounced back in 2011 to obliterate the field. The casual observer is usually only interested in the Majors and the Ryder Cup. Is it fair that this is the case? For long enough, Sergio was considered the best player to never win a major.
Despite having thirty-one professional wins, placing him into the pantheon of golfs luminaries, he was essentially deemed a failure for not having a major. You can argue that for the talent levels that he possesses, this could be true, but this number places him high on the record books. Indeed, many that play never reach double digits in the win department, but aren’t labeled as bottlers, lacking clutch or whatever colloquialism you wish to use. But is Sergio a worse player than say a Trevor Immelman? Todd Hamilton?
These guys have one Major each but haven’t won a fraction in comparison and aren’t likely to enter the Hall of Fame. Take analogous cases from other sports. This year, the NBA’s MVP will be announced after the finals. It looks to be a two-horse race between James Harden and Russell Westbrook. As good as these guys can be, they won’t be winning the main prize. So should we admonish them as a result?
Cristiano Ronaldo can be at times deemed to not turn up under the brightest lights, offering nothing in big games and looking ineffective in overall play, until…BANG…he finds the net. He has spent a good chunk of his career having his detractors, but his record on paper stands for itself. So who is right and who is wrong? One of the best quotes I have heard in some time comes from Butch Harmon, when he says “You don’t have to be good all the time, but you do have to be great at the RIGHT time.”
Would you rather see a player score freely against a lowly ranked team, or come up with the winning performance or score on the biggest days of the sport itself. It is my humble opinion that though the Majors are slightly overblown in comparison to other tournaments, the cream way more often than not rises and shows the talents of the best in the world. It is the same in any walk of life, as students will inform you. As good a student as I have been, there have been exams where I stunk the building out. I could blame the pressure of the exam itself and the all or nothing approach that many modules take, but the long and short of it is it was my fault for not handling the pressure. Being a professional athlete means you will be subjected to the critique of the public eye, but you know what you signed up for.
This will be the case at the famous Seventeenth at Sawgrass. As I write this, the groupings have ben revealed and there are some beauts here. The premier group has to be Rory, Justin Thomas and World Number One Dustin Johnson. Talk about a gang of gunslingers, especially as new renovations at the course, such as the now drivable Twelfth, are turning the Dye design back to the intended idea of the course. Jason Day won on caked greens in 2016, but these have been wholly replaced, along with less penal rough and more sizable green areas. I can’t imagine it being too easy, but it hopes to reward creativity. It usually breeds strong winners, so it should be an exciting weekend. And it’s always fun to watch the drama of the Seventeenth!