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Groundhog Day
Today is Groundhog Day, an American corruption of Candlemas Day, which is still celebrated in many parts of Europe, particularly in the south and especially in Andalusia. All sorts of beliefs stemming from medieval times are associated with Candlemas, all presaging or prophetic. In America the focus of Groundhog Day is Philadelphia where powers of prophecy are currently attributed to a groundhog named Punxsutawany Phil who is not known to be related to Mickelson.

In Andalusia it is generally held that the events of Candlemas day indicate the fortunes of the year ahead. Miguel Angel Jimenez will certainly not have missed the significance of his win on the eve of Groundhog Day and will doubtless be lighting a few candles to the patron saint of the astonishingly named Alpine Golf Club in Bangkok.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is a good Catholic 40-year-old from Malaga but there is little of the conservative Andalusian about him. Indeed, he presented himself for the last day's play in the Johnny Walker Classic in bright orange attire like a Buddhist monk or hari krishna devotee who had got his tie-dye wrong in both the sartorial and tonsorial departments. Miguel Angel, with all of the vanities that tend to beset the 40-year-old has had his hair tinted orange in an attempt to restore its natural ginger colour and to be 'a little different.' Why Not? I'm all for that. But Miguel Angel has also had his hair permed after quite extensive growth, requiring him to wear it in a ponytail on the golf course. And why not? I'm all for freedom of expression.

Thomas Bjorn and Colin Montgomerie started the week in Bangkok by expressing their concerns about the increasingly fashionable inclusion of women in men's Tour events. 'Where will it all end?' was the question that they both left the already bewildered to ponder. Well, their first round was not yet completed before they gave us a hint by having a tiff, as they have done before and are not unlikely to do again. It was a sort of handbag waving incident that occurred when both were under some stress, having had difficulty reaching a green. Under such circumstances Monty can become slightly preoccupied and, as he stomped across a bridge like a petulant mannequin while Bjorn was trying to line up a shot, the latter simply snapped. Apparently Monty snapped back and it was not until a mutual friend, in the form of a Tour official, had them sit down and make up that they could confirm their mutual admiration and respect.

Gosh, where it will all end nobody knows, but clearly the whole issue of women playing on the men's Tour is an issue that will have to be addressed.

Bjorn looks imperturbable on the course but he clearly is not. His demeanour is one of apparent cavalier calm; his haughty manner gives him an air of dismissive confidence. Yet clearly what you see is not what you get. The frequency of his errors and their dramatic consequences belays an internal spring that is often over-wound and is all too ready to snap. Monty, on the other hand, presents the image of stolid, determined resolution last seen in a traditional Scots primary school headmistress who, in her perception of herself, cannot accept her own failings.

Monty was well in contention starting the back nine holes in Bangkok before he lost the plot. Bjorn led the event for three days and stood level with Jimenez on the 17th tee before carving his tee shot into a lake. It was an offence that he had already perpetrated at the 14th hole and it was the penalty drop into rough on both occasions that cost him the title. Haughty he may be but hasty he certainly is for at both holes his prodigious length off the tee was uncalled for.

If the events of Groundhog Day in Bangkok presage great things for Jimenez this year they do little for Ernie Els. He made birdies at the last five holes to drag himself into ninth place. It augers well for the Asian Tour players, however, for Randhawa finished joint second with Bjorn and Jaidee tied for fourth place with Scots born, Thai resident, Simon Yates.

Groundhog Day also proved to be a beast for Phil Mickelson at Scottsdale in Arizona where he lost the FBR Open over the last few holes. Doubtless some sports psychologist will draw the parallels between Mickelson and Bjorn and elucidate the capacity to blow it in golf as the Mickelson-Bjorn Syndrome so that we can all put a name to our failings.

©    2 - FEBRUARY 2004

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