In the government's legislative destruction of the Benson and Hedges International Golf Tournament after 33 years of play there is contained hypocrisy that would be delightful were it not for the fact that it reflects nothing less than vandalism.
As a smoker contributing to the billions that the government annually reaps from my disgusting habit, and being one of those foolish enough to be prepared to die early for the privilege of my addiction, I object. When I think what people like me are prepared to save the state in pensions through our early demise as well as the savings made in geriatric life support systems, the least they can give us in return is a worthwhile golf tournament.
But if there is hypocrisy in the government's action with their ban on fag advertising in sporting events, there is a delicious irony in the last ever B&H being won by Paul Casey. Casey is the best of the new breed of athletic young golfers, passionately non-smoking, non-drinking and non-everything else that could come between him and his goals in golf.
And Casey's goals are impressive but nevertheless realistic. He wants a grand slam of Majors and is quite likely to get them. His B&H win takes him to second spot in the European Oreder of Merit and automatic entry into the US Open where, should he produce his best game, he could cause a few upsets.
He has all of the necessary ingredients in his game for a storming US Open assault. He is long and straight, he apparently has nerves of steel and he relishes the limelight. His apprenticeship has been duly served, having gobbled a couple of minnows in the Scottish Open at Gleneagles and the ANZ in Australia, he has swum in all of the bigger ponds and now, having nicked the B&H big one he is well and truly hooked on success.
It was always clear the Casey would make it big. Spotted early by the ever-vigilant US college golf coaches, he was awarded a golf scholarship to Virginia State. There he quickly excelled and went on to break every record that Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods had set. Indeed, he smashed the Tiger's record score in the Pac-10 Championship by five shots. But his greatest hour was surely the Walker Cup at Nairn when he took four points out of four and in combination with Luke Donald showed us some of the best foursomes golf ever played.
Donald chose to stay in America and cast his lot on the US Tour whilse Casey, now in retrospect wisely, chose to return home and take on the European Tour. After being rookie of the year and amongst only a handful of first year winners, he has emerged as the full blown pro and one of the main men to beat.
Casey's is a class act. His driving is prodigious and consistent in length and accuracy. He is averaging 313 yards and has the Tour record length at over 400! The fact that he was the only player not only to come through but also to challenge the B&H from the worst part of the draw - those that went out on Thursday morning and Friday afternoon had the worst of the conditions on both days - speaks volumes for his composure. The further fact that he was the only player in the top eight after 54 holes to break par says it all.
Casey clearly enjoyed the pressures of the final round at the Belfry. He took the title by four shots with sheer consistency of play. As overnight leader with the rapidly developing Stephen Scahill and Pod Harrington and with Angel Cabrera only one shot adrift, the pressure was certainly there. Cabrera is a seasoned pro but the pressure got to him; after eight holes without a dropped shot, he started to find trees and water where he had previously been nowhere near either.
Scahill faded and Harrington floundered. For a time it looked as if Paul Lawrie would set the stage after making birdies at four and six and acing the seventh, he collected another birdie at the 12th. But after a poor drive at the 18th he was forced into the situation of making a second shot of 234 yards to the pin over the water. Had it come off he would have deprived Harrington of his long accustomed outright second place, but into the wind he found the water and dropped £65K in the process.
Casey is a refreshingly ebullient and buoyant boy who looks as if he is enjoying making £183K over a weekend. And so he should for he can do miraculous things that will surely get him into the record books. At the 262 yard 10th he hit a 2-iron over the water to the green on Saturday. On Friday, at the dogleg 564 yard 17th he hit the ball so far over the trees to the right that he was left with only an easy 6-iron to the green and an inevitable birdie. The risk was terrific but Casey clearly has the confidence to take on such shots - an essential ingredient in the make-up of a great champion.
There is certainly nothing of Paul Casey in Dr Sik's analysis of what makes a golfer, which is published on www.sportspsychology.com. Sik has come to the conclusion that golfers are anti-social, pessimistic loners who dither over decisions and are prone to daydreaming. Casey is a fun-loving highly focused lad given to kareoke and the like. If he is daydreaming about a grand slam of Major titles he has a lot more justification than most.
|| 12 - MAY 2003