Monday 1 October 2012

Autumn golf

As the cricket season was a bit of a washout, both in terms of the weather and in getting a decent team out, I've been keen to play more golf as I can see that carrying me into my old age as the cricket tails off. September has been a traditional golfing month for me and I had a good run at it this month, playing five new courses. First off was Pumpherston with workmate Martin Campbell. It was an interesting layout albeit a little damp in places which is to be expected this year. Next up I played Falkirk Tryst with Paul Last, losing on the last. I liked the course and its sand-based fairways made for a links feel. The following week Paul and I played Falkirk which was close to being waterlogged after a day and night of torrential rain. The greens were slick but there were puddles aplenty on the fairways. I clicked to finish with three pars and win the match.

The highlight of the golfing calendar is the Ryder Cup and to coincide with the 39th staging of it being held at Medinah in Chicago, I was able to play a couple of rounds at Gleneagles. Steve Caldwell was over from Canada and I played with him and Pete Bell at the Kings Course on the Friday. I was driving the ball well and striking my irons too so I thoroughly enjoyed my round in the heartland of golfing country. Pete is a member at Gleneagles so afterwards we lunched in the Dormie House and watched the first session of the Ryder Cup. 2-2 was satisfactory. Steve and I drove down to Scott's for the second session but the US were on fire and we did well to escape 5-3 down at the end of the first day.

On the Saturday I picked up Scott and we drive up to Pete's palatial residence at Ballingall Farm just outside Leslie. The US dominance continued (8-4) and they went further ahead in the evening (10-4) as I tried not to watch while the Lasts were here for dinner and a sleepover. Things started to turn after midnight when everyone bar me had gone to bed. Ian Poulter almost popped his eyes out roaring as birdie after birdie went in, five in all to finish with and win his fourball. Luke Donald hit some stunning irons too as Europe closed to 10-6 down by the end of play. Still too big a deficit but at least Europe were making a fist of it.

I was up early on a wet and windy morning to zoom back up to Gleneagles for a 0900 tee-off time on the PGA Championship Centenary Course, the venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup. Despite going 2 up early on, Scott and I never really got into it and lost 4 & 3. I didn't like the course. The weather improved but the damp, sand-based turf was hard to strike off and the strong wind made the long holes even longer. We were using buggies which made it impossible to get a feel for the course and meant you were often carrying the wrong clubs across to play your shot.

Steve treated us to lunch afterwards then I bowed out of going back to Scott's to watch the singles session of Day 3, partly because I felt Europe were on a hiding to nothing, partly because I was tired and partly because I knew Scott would be either too excitable if Europe came back or crushed if the US served up more of the same. And I wanted to see the boys. Finn was at Brodie's birthday party, ten-pin bowling, but I took the other three for a late afternoon runaround in Morningside Park. I recorded the golf and started watching it once the boys were in bed.

Gradually the scoreboard began turning blue as Europe's front-loaded order began to take control in the top matches. Still, it only looked like it would delay the inevitable as the middle-order matches weren't going our way. But as the gap closed down to 10-7, 10-8 then 10-10, it seemed the impossible might happen. Suddenly the Americans were looking worried and the putts that had inexorably zeroed in on the centre of the cup on days 1 and 2 were now slipping past and lipping out. Rose and Garcia both turned round matches from 1 down on the 17th tee to 1 hole victories and more and more matches were coming to the 18th and finishing in Europe's favour. It was 13-13 and all German Martin Kaymer had to do was preserve his one hole lead over Steve Stricker up the 18th for Europe to retain the trophy. It came down to a six foot par putt and he slotted it into the centre of the hole! Sharon was in watching by then and we cheered the result, made sweeter when Woods bogeyed the last and conceded Molinari's putt to seal a 14.5-13.5 victory for Europe.

So unexpected, but a great tribute to late, great Seve Ballesteros who was so passionate about the Ryder Cup and a fitting end to this "greatest summer of sport".

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