Joy of Golf: Revamped events set to energise PGA & European Tours

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Rose and Stenson will hope to take their Ryder Cup success to New Orleans.

There are a couple of tournaments coming up which are creating quite a buzz in the golfing circles – the revamped Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour (April 27-30) and the brand-new, two-day GolfSixes on the European Tour (May 6-7).

That’s because both the tournaments will be using a different format instead of the usual 72-hole strokeplay.

The Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans is a full-field, two-man team event featuring 160 players.

It will have Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the other two rounds.

The GolfSixes goes one step further in introducing a new format.

The tournament, to be played at the Centurion Club in St Albans near London, features two-player teams from 16 different nations, who will play the Greensomes format.

The teams have been divided in four groups, and the first day will feature round-robin matches over six holes, before the knock-out rounds the next day.

The big interest in New Orleans right now is who enters the field, and whom do they chose as partners. As of now, the two most interesting pairings seem to be world No3 Jason Day with Rickie Fowler, and the tried and tested European Ryder Cup duo of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Jordan Spieth with Ryan Palmer is another interesting team, and so is the big-hitting partnership of Bubba Watson and JB Holmes.

The 16 pairs for GolfSixes is already determined, with Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan representing hosts England. Nations were chosen based on the rankings of available players, and it is heartening to note two Asian teams (Thailand and India) in the fray.

While both the tournaments offer an exciting departure from the tried and tested, the only caveat is that performances obviously  will not count towards the world rankings.

And I completely agree with Stenson, who said: “As long as golfing skills decide the winners, I am all game for new formats.”

Tommy’s Honour

After a long, long time, Hollywood has come out with a movie based on golf. Tommy’s Honour, released last week, may not become a cult classic like Caddyshack, but it has got a warm reception from critics and fans.

Directed by Jason Connery and based on a book by the same name written by Kevin Cook, the movie is about the relationship and times of Old and Young Tom Morris, who in between them shared eight Open Championship titles between 1861 and 1872.

The movie has got a very decent 68 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even though it was only 23rd in the US Box Office weekend collections.

However, the critics have loved it, with Hollywood Reporter commenting: “An engrossing and accessible celebration of the game’s modern origins, enhanced by striking locations and a standout cast, led by Scottish actors Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden.”

Tommy’s Honour has already won the Best Feature Film at the 2016 British Academy Scotland Awards, but one factor that goes against the movie, especially for its commercial success in the US, is that it does not have any of the bigname Hollywood stars.

More changes for Ko Just when it looked like Lydia Ko was coming out of her slump – she finished tied second in last week’s LOTTE Championship – she is ringing in more changes to her entourage.

The world No1 player and her new caddie Gary Matthews have split up after being together for just seven tournaments.

Remarkably, Matthews was the ninth caddie used by Ko in her comparatively short career, although, to be fair to the player, she had made it very clear that he was just a temporary appointment.

The 19-year-old New Zealander made some wholesale changes towards the end of last year, dropping her previous caddie Justin Hamilton, as well as long-time coach David Leadbetter. Her new coach is Gary Gilchrist.

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COMMENT: Masters win is just the start for Garcia

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Garcia celebrates in New York.

Ever since Sergio Garcia hit that magical closed-eye, around-the-tree shot at the 1999 PGA Championship, there was never any doubt that he was a supreme striker of the golf ball.

And yet, it took him nearly 18 years and 74 tries to win a much-deserved first major.

All the global outpouring of love that followed his play-off win over Justin Rose at the Masters on Sunday wasn’t because of sympathy for all the heartbreak he has had over the years. It was because of the awe the Spaniard generates when his game is on song – and during the four days at Augusta National, he really was hitting the high notes with aplomb.

Take away the two missed birdie putts on the 16th and 18th holes, and it was a ridiculous exhibition of shot-making from Garcia after the pulled drive on the 13th hole on Sunday.

Under the gun and having fallen two shots behind Rose, Garcia produced one spectacular shot after another, none more phenomenal than his flushed 8-iron second shot to the par-5 15th, which not only clattered the flag, but also climbed halfway up the pin before leaving him with the 14-footer that he made for a crucial eagle.

If he was sensational on the closing stretch, Garcia was solid throughout the 72 holes. He was second in the field in greens in regulation (55/72), one behind Paul Casey’s 56, and also second in fairways hit (45/56), one less than Soren Kjeldsen. He was also sixth in driving distance with an average of 291.5 yards.

However, my favourite stat of his domination last week was the fact that on the first hole, which gave so many headaches to the field and played the toughest –averaging 4.46 strokes – Garcia was two-under par for the four rounds. Those were two of only nine birdies made there the whole tournament.

What an awesome new jacket the members of Augusta National GC gave me, don't you think?😍 #MastersChampion2017

A post shared by Sergio Garcia (@thesergiogarcia) on

And yet, this kind of golf is expected from someone as hugely talented as Garcia. So, what has changed for him? Clearly, from the beginning of this year, he is armed with a new attitude. It was very visible here in Dubai when he won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and it was on show again at Augusta National.

Both the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club and Augusta have not been kind to Garcia in the past. At Majlis, he did not have a single top-10 in his seven previous appearances before he blew the field away this year with a 19-under par aggregate. And, at Augusta, his weekend total from 1999 onwards was 47-over par (he had the worst third-round scoring average of 74.9 in Masters history since 1990). The weekend this year netted him five under par.

They say behind every successful man is a successful woman, and that might be just true in Garcia’s case. His announcement at the beginning of the year that he is going to get married to his fiancee Angela Akins has definitely played a part in the transformation. She has somehow sorted out his priorities, and the fact that Garcia doesn’t believe that golf should be the beall and end-all of his life, has helped him on the golf course.

One also got the feeling that the Garcia of past would raise his hands after a succession of bad holes. Not the new version of him.

That was clearly visible at the Masters on Sunday when he dropped shots on the 10th and 11th, and was in grave danger of dropping at least another on the 13th, and yet fought back with renewed vigour to claim the green jacket.

It was also amazing to see the support he got from the patrons.

And the outpouring of love on social media would make you believe the whole world was rooting for him.

There is only one reason for that – Garcia may have been emotional and have gotten himself into controversies, but he remains a good man at heart.

Garcia will now never again have to answer any major questions.

And, having finally shed the tag of being the best golfer in the world never to have won a major, he can now focus on turning what is a great career into a legendary one.

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IN PICS: The five best golfers without a major

Sport360 staff 10/04/2017

With Sergio Garcia taking his name off the list following his Masters victory, following are the five best players in the world currently without majors…

Hideki Matsuyama

In Matsuyama’s defence, he is only 25 years old. But the world No4 has five top-10s in 19 major starts and considered by many as a favourite to become the first-ever Japanese major champion soon.

Rickie Fowler Fowler’s now up to No9 in the world rankings and the only thing missing from his CV is a major win to elevate his status further in the game. The 28-year-old American now has six top-10s in 29 major starts. Paul Casey Another good finish by the resurgent Englishman, but everyone associated with the sport would agree he should have won a major by now. The 39-year-old now has nine top-10s in 42 majors. Matt Kuchar The American aced the 16th on Sunday for a tied fourth place, but he is yet to ace a major in what has been a distinguished career. The world No17 has now played 45 majors and recorded eight top-10s. Lee Westwood Really, the best player in the world right now without a major. The 43-year-old former world No1 has now gone 76 major starts without success, even though he has a staggering 18 top-10s in them.

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