Sam Torrance has joined the criticism of Sir Nick Faldo for labelling Sergio Garcia “useless” on the eve of September’s Ryder Cup.
– #Quiz360: WIN a bungee jump with Gravity Zone
Faldo caused controversy by questioning Garcia’s attitude during the 2008 contest when he led Europe to their only Ryder Cup defeat since 1999.
The Spaniard insisted he was happy to “forgive and forget” in the wake of Europe’s 16.5-11.5 victory at Gleneagles but Torrance, who served as one of Paul McGinley’s vice captains, was not so willing to forget the slur.
“To say that right in the middle of the Ryder Cup, what was the a***hole thinking about?”, he told the latest issue of Bunkered magazine.
“Really, it was pathetic from Faldo. I’ve no idea where he was coming from with that stuff. You can even quote me on that, I don’t care.
“It was beyond belief that one of our greatest-ever players would come out with a comment like that. Garcia’s not a team player? Have a look in the mirror, pal. Garcia’s one of the best team players we have. Really, I’ve just no idea where those comments came from.”
Torrance captained the Europeans to victory at the Belfry in 2002 and, while he criticised Faldo, he was full of praise for McGinley, who was crowned Coach of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday.
“I think Paul McGinley is the best captain there has ever been, there’s no question about that in my mind,” he added. “He was absolutely extraordinary.”
Know more about Sport360 Application
In a new column on Sport360, Alex Dimond brings you a light-hearted look at the world of golf; this week, Adam Scott’s dry run Down Under, the ‘Nappy Theory’ and Lucy Li the ice-cream assassin.
DRIVES FOR SHOW, PUTTS FOR DOUGH
The year-ending run of Australian events have started to become a very happy hunting ground for Adam Scott.
In 2012 he won the Australian Masters, securing just his second professional win on home soil (and picking up a snazzy gold jacket to boot). Twelve months later he defended that title, added the Australian PGA Championship crown, and was then only denied a clean sweep of his country’s biggest prizes by a brilliant display from Rory McIlroy at the Australian Open.
It was little surprise, then, that Scott found himself in contention going into the final day of last week’s Australian PGA. It was no real surprise when Scott edged into the lead on the back nine, ultimately only being denied victory in regulation by Wade Ormsby’s dramatic 30-foot birdie putt at the 18th and an out-of-nowhere final round of 64 from Greg Chalmers.
What was a surprise, however, was that Scott did not go on to win in the play-off; Chalmers, a 41-year-old journeyman, instead getting the better of the world No. 3 at the seventh extra hole after Scott three-putted from barely 25 feet.
For the first time in three years Scott finished the Australian swing without a victory to show for it (he also finished in a tie for second at the Australian Masters, and fifth at the Open).
“The story of the week,” Scott bemoaned, after a play-off where he always seemed to be a better position than Chalmers, but could never find the birdie to finish him off. “I didn’t make any putts. I had so many looks. When you have putts to win the tournament you have to make them.”
As he puts away his clubs for the holiday season, those missed putts will continue to gnaw at Scott. At 34 he remains somewhere within what most would broadly define as ‘the prime’ of a golfer’s career, yet some observers are already wondering if he actually only has 12 months to make hay where it really counts for any golfer: in the majors.
It is no exaggeration to say that the long putter—one Scott anchors to his chest, making it easier to make a smooth back-and-through stroke—has turned the Australian’s career around. Since adopting it in 2011, the previously major-less Scott could have won two of them (the 2011 Masters and 2012 Open Championship), before finally breaking through at Augusta National in 2013 in such memorable fashion. At the start of 2016, however, the method will be banned, as golf’s rule makers attempt to roll back the use of a technique that, before younger adopters like Scott, was initially seen as the preserve of seniors with fading motor skills (and Bernhard Langer).
Putting was the missing piece in Scott’s puzzle; with the long putter (that undoubtedly harmed his speed control, but made him significantly more consistent from inside six feet) he was suddenly a genuine major contender.
Nine of Scott’s 13 career top-ten major finishes have come in the four years since he switched to the new approach.
Come 2016, however, he will have to revert to a short putter, with the uncertain effect that will have on his game. It is telling that, unlike other prominent PGA Tour players who have anchored in recent years, Scott hasn’t embarked on a process of ‘phasing in’ a new technique anticipation of the ban—like the Wolf of Wall Street trading stocks, he is obviously intent on making the most of his secret weapon while it remains legal (except, in Scott’s case, presumably with far less of the drug-taking).
That makes 2015 a hugely important year for Scott, where the four majors will be prioritised above all else. His record at Augusta makes him an obvious threat to McIlroy’s pursuit of the ‘Rory Slam’, even if his previous results at St Andrews and Whistling Straits are relatively mediocre (Chambers Bay, host of next year’s US Open, will be a new experience for almost the entire field).
Contending at any of those courses depends on his putting being on form, however. If he is struggling, as he did last week, then he’s suddenly the 2000s Adam Scott who could never get it going in the biggest events. No-one wants to be that guy.
On Sunday Scott discounted any suggestion he would tinker with his putting technique, saying: “I didn’t hit it close enough today to the hole. It wasn’t like I missed 10 footers today all day long—you have to hit it closer.”
Scott may be wary of inviting any significant changes in his golf game specifically because they are about to arrive in his private life. Before last week’s tournament, Scott revealed he will become a father for the first time in February.
That will cause a lot of upheaval in his lifestyle, especially in the short-term, with Scott indicating that his wife and child will travel with him around the world as he competes, at least in the initial stages.
“Nothing was really planned but of course incredibly excited,” he said. “It’s got to that point in life and it will be a new challenge and hopefully a lot of fun. I’m sure there are no secrets and you learn as you go along, but I might have to ask for some nappy-changing advice.”
Intriguingly, Scott’s impending fatherhood might actually have a positive effect on his golf, one to match the boost his putting switch previously made: golf is littered with examples of players who only found their greatest success after enjoying the thrill of becoming a parent.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 14, 2014
Both Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman made their major breakthroughs at the Masters mere months after becoming fathers for the first time, while Bubba Watson’s teary first win at Augusta in 2012 came just days after he and his wife adopted their son, Caleb.
Only recently, of course, Billy Horschel claimed the $10 million FedEx Cup a week before welcoming his firstborn into the world—further evidence to support a 2000 economic research paper that revealed men, presumably imbued with a primal urge to provide for their burgeoning family, increased their income by an average of 5% following the birth of their first child.
In golf that phenomenon was deemed ‘the Nappy Theory’ by one professional golf bettor, so confident was he that a new child could be a factor in tournament results—whether it be that additional motivation to provide, or indeed the changing perspective that welcoming new life into the world subsequently brings to those testing downhill six-footers for par (suddenly such putts are less scary once you’ve been confronted by the contents of a baby’s diaper).
Scott will be hoping the same theory might work in his favour—a 5% improvement in his play would make even McIlroy sit up and take notice.
The Australian’s trophy cabinet might be bare after his latest trip back home, but in 12 months’ time Scott will be hoping it’s not just his obsolete old putter that he will be able to decorate the baby’s bedroom with.
QUALIFYING NOT A GIMMIE
While Scott is among a select handful of pros with realistic hopes of winning a major next year, for most players the aim first and foremost is to qualify for them.
The Masters is the first major of the year, with a notoriously select field of invitees. One way to get into the field at Augusta is to finish the year inside the top 50 in the world rankings, something that added an extra excitement to last weekend’s events.
Both Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood had the chance to secure an Augusta berth through the world rankings last weekend, before ultimately finishing fourth in their respective events in South Africa and Thailand. That elevated Willett, who won the Nedbank Challenge earlier in the month, to 51st and Fleetwood to 52nd in the rankings, making it seem that Louis Oosthuizen’s runner-up finish (and rise from 54th to 46th) in South Africa had ended up stumping both of them.
That would have been additionally galling, considering Oosthuizen was already assured of his Masters place as a recent Open champion. However, due to the way the rankings are calculated, current No. 50 Kevin Streelman is guaranteed to drop out of his spot before the end of the year, meaning Willett is in the field at Augusta—for now.
There is only one event left in 2014 that can have an impact on the world rankings: this week’s Dubai Open at the Els Club. Fleetwood is in the field, Willett is not—so if the former man finishes inside the top-16 on Sunday he will punch his ticket to a debut Masters appearance at the expense of his compatriot (who is also yet to play in the event).
Favourite to win with the bookies, Fleetwood’s chances look reasonable. Willett must already be regretting the double bogey-bogey-triple bogey finish that cost him second place last weekend.
“I actually went to the Masters to watch this year,” Fleetwood said. “This is the last event of the whole year of any tour. It’s keeping me occupied trying to get into that top-50. It would be great to do it this week.”
TODDLER’S TANTRUM: BEST OF SOCIAL
If one video clip can sum up the pain of golf, then this is it. Give up while you still can, son—we promise you it never gets any less infuriating!
Having said that, maybe that kid will put in the hours of practice and quickly grow up to be like Lucy Lu—the 12-year-old Women’s US Open starlet who ate ice cream after every round and then casually destroyed her old man in the media centre…
Lucy Li provides one of the best sound bites of the year. https://t.co/BKuHnBb4V7
— Pinehurst Resort (@PinehurstResort) December 16, 2014
Watch out Adam Scott, all this lies in store for you…
South Africa's Branden Grace strengthened his lead going into the weekend at the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club on Friday with a second-round 66 to move to 16 under.
Grace followed up a stunning 10-under-par opening round of 62 on Thursday with a six-under-par 66 that was marred only by a bogey at the short fifth hole.
Three clear overnight, the 26-year-old's round, which started on the back nine, featured seven birdies, including a long putt to gain a shot at the ninth, his last hole.
As a result, Grace, who won all four of his European Tour titles to date in 2012, is five shots clear of Italy's Francesco Molinari, with South African Tjaart van der Waalt third at 10-under.
"This is a golf course that suits me and if I keep hitting everything in play the way I have been the first two days then it should be a good weekend," Grace, who hails from Pretoria, told europeantour.com. Former Ryder Cup star Molinari moved up the leaderboard with a 65 that included an eagle at the par-five 13th hole.
It was a good day for another Italian, with 17-year-old prospect Renato Paratore shooting five birdies in a row on the front nine on the way to a four-under-par 68 that allowed him to make the cut on three-under altogether.
Further forward, Shaun Norris, Lucas Bjerregaard and England's Danny Willett, who won last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge, are all tied for fourth at nine-under. In contrast, defending champion Charl Schwartzel's hopes of winning the event for the third year running were not helped by a 70 which left him 11 shots off the lead.