I was in Antalya for the Turkish Airlines Open last week, and it was easy to see how Rory McIlroy, the posterboy of the tournament, transformed into a villain.
McIlroy’s face was visible everywhere – starting from the food menu of Turkish Airlines flights, to countless banners, hoardings and the event souvenir. Only McIlroy was nowhere in the vicinity of the Regnum Carya course, having pulled out on the Saturday before the $7 million tournament.
Apparently, the Turkish Golf Federation spent close to a million dollars in implementing various safety measures which were asked by the European Tour after reports emerged on October 14 that a couple of rockets were fired at the seas-side resort town from nearby mountains.
The organisers did everything they were asked for, including an extra chartered flight from Gatwick straight to Antalya. However, the week before the tournament, a car bomb exploded in the city (but almost 50kms away from the secluded resorts area).
Those two incidents spooked McIlroy and a few other players. He decided to forego the reported appearance fee of $1.5 million and also his chances of winning the Race to Dubai for a second consecutive year.
Was McIlroy wrong in pulling out? Absolutely not. Personal safety has to be the biggest consideration for any action take by an individual. However, he could have done it in a better way. His biggest mistake was not communicating with the organisers.
Things do get magnified when McIlroy is involved. That has got everything to do with his status in the sport. Obviously, he is a free agent, but he also has the immense responsibility which comes from being one of the best in his profession. Very few players command the kind of appearance fee he gets, which is also the reason why very few players get the flak he gets for similar flubs.
GOLF THERAPY FOR CRICKET
A few years ago, I read a very interesting article about doctors in UK actually prescribing golf as therapy for their patients for a variety of illnesses.
It does make sense. For somebody who needs to exercise (like people suffering from obesity, diabetes), a single round of golf could mean an enjoyable walk of nearly seven kilometers.
But I never knew that golf could also be a cure for poor batting in cricket. England limited-over captain Eoin Morgan completely believes in this, and by all accounts, his advice has come in very handy for opener Alex Hales.
It seems after a poor Test series against Pakistan earlier this year, Hales was despondent about his string of low scores. Enter Dr Morgan, an exponent in alternate therapy.
Laid-back Eoin Morgan prescibes golf and rest to reignite Alex Hales' fire ahead of England's ODI series v Pakistanhttps://t.co/aDRyWssRFn— Sam Peters (@Sam_sportsnews) August 23, 2016
Morgan felt Hales was not relaxed while batting and he was getting too uptight. Knowing Hales’ love for golf, the captain asked him to spend more time on the driving range then at the nets.
Guess what happened six days later? In the third ODI of the series at Nottingham, England smashed the highest total in history of the format – 444 for three. And Hales’ contribution in that? A massive 171 of just 122 balls!
STORM SUBSIDES FOR GRAEME
The sun is shining once again on Graeme Storm after a few days of despair.
The Englishman, who looked like without a permanent job for the 2017 season after failing to keep his European Tour membership by a mere 100 euros, received some great news this week when American Patrick Reed failed to save his European Tour membership by not playing the mandatory five ‘regular’ Tour events.
Reed needed to play 13 events to keep his membership, but missed last week’s Turkish Airlines Open.
The removal of the world No8 from the Race to Dubai has meant Storm secured the 111th and final qualifying place for 2017 season.
The International Golf Federation have revealed that a total of 197tests were conducted – by either the IGF, or the National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) or the IOC – over the 60 male and 64 women who took part in the Olympics in Rio this year.
Despite the majority of field being tested more than once, the good news is that none of the tests came out positive.
STAT OF THE WEEK
335.8 – yards, the average driving distance of Jimmy Walker. That makes him the PGA Tour’s longest driver this season, an increase of 34.5 yards from last year.
The fact that any lead in golf is ephemeral was brought sharply into focus once again. Without doing much wrong, but thanks to a brilliant charge by England’s David Horsey, that advantage of Olesen’s was frittered down to just one shot at the halfway stage on a topsy-turvy day at the Regnum Carya course.
Then, on the back nine, several things happened. First Olesen woke up and made three birdies in four holes of his favourite stretch – between the par-5 12th and the par-5 15th. And as quickly as he caught fire, he started spraying his shots in wild fashion over the last four holes, the 15th included.
Somehow, the Dane battled hard and his wayward drives resulted in only one bogey – on the 17th hole. As the 26-year-old struggled, it was the turn of Chinese Haotong Li to become red-hot. Four birdies from the 14th to the 17th hole put immense pressure on Olesen, but the champion managed to scrape through without further damage.
In the end, he shot a two-under par 69 to finish on 20-under, while Li and Horsey were tied for second place at 17-under par 267.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (69) was two shots adrift at 269, while South Africa’s George Coetzee
“I knew on this golf course you could go out and shoot a really low score if you get it going. Some of the guys did that on the front nine, and yeah, it got really close, put a lot of pressure on me,” said Olesen.
“It was difficult, but I felt like yesterday, I was very good in being patient. Mentally, I was stronger in the middle of the round. I had a bad three-putt there on the ninth which was a bad timing. In the middle of the back nine, I made those few birdies, that was very important, especially the one on 12 was definitely a momentum changer.”
The fourth European Tour win of his career resulted in Olesen moving up to ninth in the Race to Dubai and he is expected to move to No65 in the world today from 92nd.
Horsey was disappointed not to reach the number he had in his mind, but delighted with the way he scored throughout the week.
“I sort of thought, if I could get to 20-under, that would be a reasonable effort and put a little bit of pressure. I wanted to put a little pressure early doors and thankfully was able to do that. Just ran out of a bit of steam there on the back nine,” said the four-time European Tour champion. “I am pleased with how I played. Probably the best I’ve played all week, so yeah, a little disappointed I couldn’t keep it going on the back nine.”
Masters champion Danny Willett walked off with a 75 for a tied 68th. He said he was considering withdrawing from next week’s NedBank Challenge as he wasn’t enjoying his golf, but changed his mind later and will head to Sun City.
Willett, who is second in the Race to Dubai behind Henrik Stenson, said: “It just comes and goes, a couple of good days and a couple of bad days. To be honest I don’t really want to be out there playing golf.
“It could not have happened at a worse time. Things are just not going my way, nothing feels that great.”