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God Save The Green?
Over a weekend where every other institution in the country was celebrating the prosperity and success of the last fifty years, golf played out a lacklustre weekend at Woburn without even a nod of acknowledgement to its royal and ancient origins.

In accounting terms the Belfry is positively post-graduate; in terms of imagination it is not even at the potty-training stage.

The PGA has probably more to celebrate for the last fifty years than most and a lot more to be thankful for.
Fifty years ago only a handful of pros could make a living at tournament play and even the best had to augment their earnings serving a club.
Today, a few top ten finishes in mediocre tournaments puts players into the millionaire bracket.

It would not have been an expensive undertaking to mount a one off Jubilee Tournament. Indeed, with their management skills they could even have made a bob or two out of it.

Old hands like Norman, Parnevik and the host of Commonwealth players who cut their pro tournament teeth here might even have been persuaded to return and show their gratitude and shake hands with Prince Andrew.

But possibly more important, they may even have been able to hold the event on a proper golf course and, in the process, return some credibility to the European Tour.
Last week's British Masters event comes close to epitomising the sort of dreary places that the tour washes into and out of week after week, gradually eroding the game as a spectator sport in the process.

Woburn is a nice place. A few may associate it with the stately pile of the Abbey but the majority will associate it with the dulcet tones of Alex Hay, Woburn's principal promoter and resident professional at the established Duke's Course.
Woburn is a nice place to visit and it must be in the top rankings of recreational golfing venues.
But the Duke's course, although very nice, is very like great many others in Michigan and Ohio.

Its younger sibling, the Marquise Course is less distinguished and very like many more less salubrious venues in Michigan and Ohio.
These are not exactly the most testing places for the best golfers in Europe and certainly not the place to decide who is the British Master.

It should come as no surprise to learn that the Marquise Course, like the majority of other European Tour venues, was designed and built by a subsidiary company of the European Tour.
It should come as no surprise for why on earth would anyone, other than for the lucre involved, chose to hold a principal golfing event there?

A modern parkland course is bread and butter to the touring pros. Scoring becomes even more improportionaly determined by putting.
Given that the ball is kept out of the trees, hitting greens, and even recovering from misses, poses little problem. A hot putter on the day is all that is required.

Sandy Lyle's day in the sun with Musgrove back on his bag proves the point. Musgrove restrained big Sandy to a driving iron and, with a putter so hot it was searing, he returned his best score in years.
Had Colin Montgomerie brought along a putting touch he would have reduced the Marquise to a mere peasant.

Both Justin Rose and Ian Poulter managed to retain a putting touch for four rounds to finish so far under par that they made the place look like a pitch and putt venue.
The real danger of this is that punters will rush to the bookies to get value on these two for the Open at Muirfield, forgetting along the way that Muirfield is an altogether different sort of place from Woburn.

On the face of it, Rose may look to be a good bet. He did after all make his name in the Open of '98 when he took fourth place.
He had posted his intentions even earlier at Scotscraig when yet a schoolboy qualifying for the '95 Open.
Expectations of him remained high despite 22 missed cuts on turning pro, but he has finally come into his own with four wins world wide this year so there is perhaps reason for optimism on his Open chances.

Rose's last Muirfield appearance, however, was not auspicious. The seventeen-year-old Rose was trounced in the Amateur Championship by St Andrews New Club's James Bunch.
Sergio Garcia went on to show how a great links course should be played and it is not unlikely that he will do the same again this year.

It is sad that the pros play links golf only twice in the tournament year - at the Open and the Dunhill - and I'm sure that Paul Lawrie finds it particularly sad.
Celebrating the Jubilee was a golden opportunity missed for the Tour to mount and run a one-off big event and give the lads a chance to hone their links game in preparation for the Big One.
Royal Porthcawl, the scene of this weeks Amateur Championship would have been an excellent place to test the best in the Bristol Channel breeze.

©    6 - JUNE 2002

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