“Not necessarily the henchman of Liberian president, Charles Taylor.”
“”Not necessarily the henchman of Liberian president, Charles Taylor who?”
You’d think that with the majority of the silly-pants wearing season over, we’d be heading into the USPGA Championship with a good idea of what to expect. Ian Poulter looking like a tit, Sergio Garcia behaving like a tit, Monty having tits yadda, yadda, same old gags etc. But to be blunt, we’ve reached the final Major of the season and we’re more confused than that time our golf coach got a little too gyrationy as he enthusiastically demonstrated the importance of hip movement in the swing. 6 places will come in very handy indeed.
As he has since the first revelations about his silly-pants dropping exploits went public, Tiger Woods is once again the big story. Almost a year on from the not at all suspicious crash that Elin heroically rescued him from thanks to a conveniently placed golf club, the embarrassments continue for Tiger at regular intervals – most recently that goatee he unveiled in Ohio. It’ll be of cold comfort to Tiger, but for a change, the news is regarding his shot-dropping rather than his pants-dropping as at the WGC Bridgestone he recorded the worst total score of his professional career. Of course, subconsciously Tiger may be trying to go back to the good old days when things were less complicated and the silverware flowed and there are few things more 2003 than a goatee beard.
It’s got so bad that Woods is in real danger of missing out on that one week long obligation he loves so much otherwise known as the Ryder Cup. Even if handed a wildcard, his form is so poor Tiger questioned what value he’ll be to the team. He may not contribute a whole lot of points to the cause, he’ll give the crowd another reason €“ if it was needed €“ to hurl abuse at the Yanks and worst of all, he’ll hog all the women and in turn decimate team morale. [Note to Elin €“ that may not be true.]
As always when someone we think is actually quite good is playing with all the accuracy of a Naomi Campbell testimony to a war crimes tribunal, we start to wonder if it’s all just a clever ruse and Woods is saving his best for the big occasion. Fair play to Tiger if it is because not since Be Here Now have we seen rusing of this calibre. 16/1 for possibly the greatest golfer of all time to win any event is around the type of price worth taking the risk that this is all part of a wacky scheme to make him look vaguely ridiculous – a la Joaquin Phoenix.
Even if Tiger is taken out of the equation, it’s not clear who is best positioned to take advantage. Phil Mickelson is the obvious candidate, but he has been less than flawless in recent weeks. He has recently become a vegetarian and that may explain why with the scent of blood in his nostrils, he has been someway short of predatory in his pursuit of Tiger at the top of the rankings. With the position of World No. 1 at his mercy he has pounced with all the enthusiasm he normally reserves for an invitation to leave the good ol US of A.
As his long term rival floundered, essentially all Lefty needed to do was keep breathing, turn up and avoid whacking himself in the face with the golf club, but he has fluffed it so far. Ironically, being stiff a lot of the time may also have hindered Lefty’s game, but in a less home-wrecking way than Tiger. Mickelson has been suffering from a form of arthritis for much of the summer and although he doesn’t want to use it as an excuse, he has told everyone just so you know there is an excuse.
With Lee Westwood absent, Rory McIlroy takes main responsibility for getting people’s hopes up before dashing them. After collapse at the Open, there were suggestions that mentally he was softer than those lovely locks of his after a good shampooing and conditioning and he didn’t do much to disprove that theory by recently saying something along the lines of ‘eff you in the eye, I couldn’t care less.’ We may be adding a slightly dramatic slant to give this non-story a sensationalist angle, but there may be some truth in it somewhere.
Padraig Harrington did well at the Irish Open a couple of weeks back, but his being in good form has rarely been a precursor to success in a Major. Pod seems to like his problems prior to a victory. Wrist injuries, ladybird infestation, high cholesterol – he’ll take the lot just as long it means the pressure is off and he can swing the club with carefree abandon. Heaping any level of expectation on his shoulders is possibly the worst decision in golf since Tiger left his mobile phone unattended one evening last November.
Being an event on US soil, it’s always difficult to discount the threat of non-descript young American player. Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Sean O’Hair, Matt Kuchar – we’re looking at you €¦ if we knew what any of you looked like. N-D.Y.A.P. has been in some decent form on the US PGA Tour this year and we’ll conveniently overlook the fact that for most of the season he has been playing glorified pitch and putt to earmark him as a potential Major winner. The fact that N-D.Y.A.P. will enjoy home advantage is seen as a big positive, but the fact that very few of them will realise they have home advantage somewhat negates it. With sheep, lots of blue wet stuff and a mixed weather forecast, many of them may be wondering what part of Scotland Wisconsin is in. Surely excessive amounts of shouting “get in the hole” are required to remind these N-D.Y.A.Ps that they are still in fact on the more boorish side of the Atlantic.
And if all that uncertainty wasn’t enough, in background is the competition to win a trip to Wales for a few days in October. When it comes to qualifying for the Ryder Cup, Majors are like golf’s version of the triple word score. Oh sure, you can have all the €˜adulterers’ and €˜photosynthesis’ you want, but one perfectly placed €˜zigzag’ will have you racking up the points and hurtling towards an obligatory photo call of you and some other golfers holding Charlotte Church in a golf visor aloft. Better get working on the weights boys. The drive to secure that plane ticket will be enough to spur the more patriotic players on to good performances.
In our customary nod to history, Vijay Singh won this tournament the last time it swung by Whistling Straits and for those of you fond of reading something into numerical coincidences, there he won his first USPGA in 1998, his second in 2004 so another victory after a 6 years interval would suggest another Vijay victory is written in the stars. Or you have reasonable grasp of basic mathematics. Of more concern to the numerically astute of us maybe how from 1998 to 2008 he never finished the year outside of the top 5 on the US PGA Tour, but in the last two years, has slumped to 66th and 77th. Form wouldn’t suggest he’s a genuine contender, but there is a possibility that Singh has somehow mastered blocking out the sound of the baaing and the links-like conditions to master the challenge of this unforgiving course.
With no-one standing out, there’s lots of outsiders at big prices you could make a case for. Sometimes you land a diamond from the most unexpected of places. Just ask a certain supermodel.
USPGA Championship Betting – Paying 6 Places