The weekend brought more excitement than I can cope with. I discovered the 'mute' button on the remote control for the TV. Now, relieved of the tedium of commentary while watching otherwise good golf coverage, I await some wizard inventing a device that will click in when the advertising is imposed upon me, and will click off again when the ads are over. Only Colin Montgomerie's monologues are more irritating than the inane ads that interrupt the golf on Sky TV. But what makes the commercial interruptions particularly damaging to the psyche is Ewan Murray's address to camera when the action resumes.
The events at Malmo in the Scandinavian Masters event, however, were worth the suffering. Luke Donald's (pictured) play was particularly refreshing, and was all the more so because his long-awaited appearance in a European Tour event has been eagerly anticipated. Donald chose his venue to stake his claim for a Ryder Cup place well. The Malmo course is as American as mom's apple pie, perfectly suited to the target golf at which the Chicago based Englishman excels. Donald led from his second round 65, which, together with three rounds of 69, saw him win comfortably. But while he was making all the play, Colin Montgomerie was making clear to Bernhard Langer that he is still at the forefront of the European-based target golf masters. Monty took equal fourth place with some very consistent golf and not a lot of luck with long putts. If Langer had any doubts about his two wild cards for the Ryder Cup team before Malmo, Donald and Montgomerie's play should have helped him clear his mind.
Both Monty and Like Donald are seasoned campaigners. Luke may yet look like a boy but he is 26-years-old. His US collegiate golf was record breaking - surpassing both Woods and Mickelson - and his Walker Cup record is brilliant, he won seven of his eight matches in the 1999 and 2001 events. He won on the US Tour in his rookie year and has won again this year. He has missed only two cuts to date and has pocketed a fortune from his consistency. Reunited with Paul Casey, his Walker Cup partner, Donald could play a major part at Oakland Hills.
If my discovery of the mute button and the re-appearance of Luke Donald was not enough, George Murray's winning the Scottish Amateur Championship brought pure joy.
George Murray is a name to watch for this is only the start of his major winning ways. George is a 21 year-old Fifer who hails from Anstruther and plays out of the Earlsferry Thistle Club at Elie. He is a big strapping, loose-limbed lad who plays his golf with dash and zest. Having watched him mature over the last 10 years, winning in an almost routine and casual way, his national title win came as no surprise. He has always had the ability and certainly the nerve - now he has shown that he has the will to win bigger things. George Murray will go a very long way but so too will the 17-year-old Paul O'Hara from Motherwell who Murray overcame on the last green of the 36 hole final over the mighty Gullane No1 course in East Lothian.
The Murray/ O'Hara final will be long remembered. The Fifer was four down with 12 holes to play before turning on an exhibition of golf that saw him cover the last 12 holes in five under par. This included an eagle with a 10-foot putt at the 537 yards 15th following birdies at the 7th, 10th and 12th holes to level the match. His finish was even more dramatic than anything that had gone before. All square through 15, the 16th and 17th holes were halved in par before Murray sank a 15-foot putt on the last green to take the title.
There was a time when Earlsferry Thistle could have fielded a team to beat the rest of the world. That was some 120 years ago when Douglas Rolland and the Simpson brothers were stomping over the British Isles. Rolland was James Braid's uncle and he was runner-up in his two Open Championship appearances. Twenty years separated these appearances but Dougie was hardly inactive in the interim; he left his impression in many English Clubs, particularly on the lady members. The Simpson's reigned long at Carnoustie and made their impression as course designers.
It is reassuring that, after an interval of 33 years, the Scottish Amateur Champion is again a Fifer. It is even more satisfying that he is an Earlsferry player, and comforting that Elie's great old links is still producing players capable of taking on the best.
I hope that the Walker Cup selectors are aware of the gutsy George Murray and that he is only the first of a new wave of great players spawned on the links lands of the East Neuk of Fife.
With patriotism, I never feel really comfortable. With parochialism, I am entirely at ease and heart-warmingly at home.
|| 2 - AUGUST 2004