A friend mailed me as to any reason for the total blank on my blog since early January. My only excuse was lack of inspiration when the England Cricket Team careered off the rails after the glorious Ashes victory. Time may tell a story of two very ordinary teams doing battle earnestly enough but at a modest skill level. When you compare England's World Cup batting strength (or weakness) compared with the more successful teams, there are clearly questions to be answered.
So my inspiration has come not from cricket but from the riveting golfing entertainment from Augusta, Georgia. I was lucky enough to play there every day over a long week-end some 15 years ago which makes the TV coverage that much more interesting.
One of the many delights of that visit was having my very own caddy for the period of my stay. There was no requirement to let anyone know what time we wanted to tee off. We just turned up ready to play and, as if by telepathy, there were the caddies ready to go.
Playing off the members’ tees off a 2 handicap, i was able to hit most of the fairways and greens but then the trouble started. 3 putts and 4 putts were the norm despite my caddy giving me the lines. There were downhill fast putts but then there were flattish putts which seemed twice as fast again. Puzzled, I asked my caddy about the “grain”. “Sure there is plenty grain here Sir. If you don’t know the grain – forget it” came the ready answer. And yet I have only heard the word grain used once in about 16 hours of commentary from all the experts. Intriguing.
My other particular interest arose from my pre-Masters selection of Luke Donald as the likely winner. My reasoning was that, even with the lengthened holes, all the players were long enough to hit the par fives in two. That the days of picking someone who could hit long high draws off the 2nd, 10th and 13th holes were over. It was going to be down to the short game and finding someone who could hole those chilling 8 footers day after day.
And yet the current leader, Rory McIlroy is the master of the long high draw and has used it to good effect. And he has certainly missed as many 8 footers and possibly more than anyone in the field. How come he could stay on top of the leaderboard? Even if he was clearly the best iron player.
It suddenly dawned on me that there may be the little matter of the change in the permitted groove profile on the pitching clubs starting to have exactly the effect it was designed to produce. The man who was hitting the most fairways and greens was getting his reward because the less accurate guys were unable to spin the ball out of hairy lies and get the ball up and down from anywhere.
Arguably the best “scrambler” in the world is/was Podraig Harrington. Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson are two others that come readily to mind. None of them has shown much form since the “groove” change. Could Jose-Maria Olazabal have possibly won two Green jackets under the present regulation? Who knows?
Events over the next few hours of the 4th and final round may well kick my theory into touch. But if Rory wins, he will be the first to do so for many a year- since Jack Nicklaus perhaps - by simply striking the ball better than anyone in the field.