Monday, 3 August 2009

A good summer of sport - and a single figure golf handicap is now within my grasp!

I am always a little sad when July is over, since it sees the end of the intense flurry of activity that is (for me, at least) the great summer of sport. Roland Garros, Wimbledon, The Open and Le Tour have all come and gone, not to mention a host of exciting motorsport events (mainly the two-wheeled variety). Even in a year without a major international football tournament, there is plenty to go at - for a few short weeks

Roland Garros and Wimbledon were classic tournaments, with lots of really exciting matches and plenty to get excited about if you were British (or, more specifically, Scottish) and with Federer back to his best. Frankly, the less said about the women's game, the better - as ever, there is plenty of screaming and grunting and lots of average tennis, followed by the inevitable win by one or other of the Williams sisters. They are a league apart from the rest, which serves only to make things extremely boring. It isn't the Williams sisters' fault, of course - they can only beat what is out in front of them.

The Open could have been a classic, if only Tom Watson could have completed the fairytale with a par on the 72nd hole. A club too much and/or an unlucky bounce with his approach to the green put paid to that, and his chance had gone. The feeling of utter deflation during Watson's play-off with Stuart Cink was almost too much to bear. And that was just for me and the millions that were praying for a Watson win. Goodness knows how the great man himself felt! And so it was that yet another journeyman American with God on his side won The Open. That said, it really is time that one of our lot lived up to the hype and started winning major championships. Until they do (and there are a good few with the ability, though seemingly not the belief in themselves) we have to accept that even your average journeyman American deserves it more. I just wish they would leave God out of the equation, occasionally!

The 2009 Tour de France was not a classic in the true sense of the word - once Alberto Contador had asserted his authority on the first serious mountain stage, the result was never really in doubt. But it it is still, in my opinion, the greatest annual sporting event. And it was great to see Lance Armstrong return and prove the doubters wrong. Irrespective of whether he can win another Tour (and I certainly wouldn't rule him out in 2010, once he has another year's competititive race fitness under his belt) his presence certainly rejuvinated the Tour and drew the best out of the other contenders. And with Mark Cavendish proving himself to be one of the greatest sprinters of all time and the emergence of Bradley Wiggins as a truly world-class stage race rider and climber, it all looks good for the British riders in years to come. I can't wait for the 2010 Tour - it should be a cracker.


Talking of golf, I think the enforced lay-off due to my holiday (not to mention my recovery - almost - from this horrendous virus I have been suffering from) has done my own game the world of good. After a pretty average performance in the previous week's competition at my local club, I returned on Saturday with no great expectations. My usual double-bogey on the 1st hole was followed by a bogey on the 3rd. 3 over par after 3 holes is hardly disastrous for a 12 handicapper, but hardly a dream start, either. However, 3 birdies in the next 9 holes saw me standing on the 13th tee at level par - i.e. with all 12 shots of my handicap still to play with. And by then, it had even stopped raining!

That's when I started to wobble a bit. I am not a great front-runner, and the mere notion of having effectively played scratch golf for 12 holes started to take its toll on my nerves. However, I still managed to reach the par-3 16th tee at only 2 over par - and then the wheels started to come off. A duffed tee shot and another iffy approach shot, followed by an average chip and two putts meant a double-bogey 5. Another birdie on the 17th settled the nerves, but a pushed tee shot on 18 saw me out of bounds and playing 3 off the tee - and finishing up in the trees, with no option but to chip out sideways. It all added up to a triple-bogey 7 and a final total of 75 (nett 63, with my handicap taken off). I thought I'd blown it. Fortunately, though, the next best score turned out to be nett 66.

So I am now the proud winner of the Eric Perry Cup (my third prize of the season so far, having won my division on two other occasions) and the proud owner of a handicap of 10.1. Single figures has never been so close to being a reality for me. And without the slightest help from God, I might add!
Tiger Woods, watch out!

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