Clarke’s class, Garcia's genius
- 22 Sep 06, 04:21 PM
K CLUB – We’ve just kicked off again after the interval on day one and there are a few things I noticed out on the course.
One, the Americans are here. They had been a bit scarce during the practice days but they’ve pitched up today. I know, I was standing behind two of them at the 12th as they billowed cigar smoke into my face.
And I’m fairly sure they were Cohibas…aren’t they banned in the US? Oh well, getting a decent smoke is probably worth the journey, never mind the golf.
Michael Jordan was chugging away on an enormous cheroot too as he watched Tiger & Jim take on Monty & Porridge. But I couldn’t get close enough to tell if he was busting any sanctions or not.
Two, it clearly helps to have played in one of these things before but if you’re in form there really isn’t much to worry about. Rookies Robert Karlsson and JJ Henry played better golf than their more experienced partners.
Three, Tiger really doesn’t like this team stuff. I know he has been trying to convince everybody otherwise but he clearly makes more mistakes than we’re used to seeing from him.
But then his standards are so much higher. He didn’t play well this morning – he found the wet stuff at least twice whilst I was watching – but still put in the crucial three-hole spurt around the turn that ultimately won his team their first point. Even his B game is good enough sometimes.
Four, Phil Mickelson didn’t play well or contribute much. His partner Chris DiMarco might not hit it very far but he holes some big putts. The New Yorker’s fist punch is definitely the American team’s most potent gesture and far, far more convincing than anything Tim Henman managed.
And that brings me to Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia, the men who defined the morning.
Clarke, whose private pain has become public knowledge in recent weeks, told everybody he would be ready for this and he was right. He had a tear in his eye on the opening tee and a lump in his throat at the last but in between it was nothing but solid golf.
I was eating my lunch when he and Lee Westwood were winning their game against DiMarco and Mickelson – a victory set up by his birdies at 16 and 18 – and the 20 journalists sitting around me were all transfixed by the pictures.
I’ll spare you the cynical men turned to jelly clichés but when the Americans conceded and the camera focused on the Irishman none of us was eating or speaking. After about 30 seconds somebody finally, and quietly, said “what a story”, not in a ‘hold the presses’ way but in a way that expressed admiration.
Garcia’s story is different. He’s had a few knocks but they’ve all been of the professional variety and he is young and talented enough to take them in his stride.
He might not have delivered in the majors yet but he is a major-league performer in this event. A bit like Monty, he putts in Ryder Cups as well as Tiger putts every week on tour.
And he also pulled off the most remarkable recovery shot I have ever witnessed, and I’m not sure the TV cameras picked it up because his drive was so wayward he was off their radar. The on-course radio commentary certainly knew nothing about it but the 500 or so who witnessed it will never forget it.
The shot came at par-four 11th. It dog-legs left and the Spaniard was clearly thinking about that when he hooked his drive into within 20 yards of the 12th tee, which is what everybody around me was looking at when his ball clattered into us and came to a rest under a tree.
At first nobody could work out where the ball had come from. It was that bad. But then Sergio came bouncing up the hill towards us, politely asked the crowds to part so he could see where the green was and then started to plan a flight path.
What followed was stunning. From an uphill lie, he sent the ball high over a huge oak tree that stood about 50 yards in front of him, blocking his way to the pin. Having cleared that, he managed to bring his ball to a halt, 10ft to the left of the pin.
Middle-aged men were hugging and high-fiving each other all around me. It was pure Seve Ballesteros genius.
Of course, the job was only half done. David Toms had holed a huge putt for a birdie and Olazabal had already missed his. No problem, Sergio stepped up and rapped his putt home. The Spanish pair would go on to win 3&2.
Some day soon he’ll do things like that to win majors. Until then I’ll settle for things like that to win Ryder Cups.
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