WORLD OF GOLF: Cut out the dawdling and women's Open can shine

WORLD OF GOLF: Cut out the dawdling and the women’s Open can shine even without crowds

  • Some women golfers must pick up the pace for the goodwill to continue
  • Stacy Lewis was left in an uncomfortable position in final round of Scottish Open
  • Tiger Woods could play three tournaments in as many weeks despite injuries
  • Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy is well-placed to defend FedEx title this month 

In a strident rallying call last week, Georgia Hall urged her fellow women golfers to use two big tournaments in Scotland as an opportunity to ‘show how good we are’. Sadly, the big talking point in week one at the ASI Scottish Ladies Open proved to be how slow they are.

There is a long overdue groundswell of goodwill being shown to the ladies’ game, not least by the R&A, who are putting on the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon this week, the only major to be staged on this side of the ocean this year. But it all won’t add up to very much if the women don’t help themselves and continue to dawdle, thereby making the product as unwatchable as they managed last week.

As we’ve seen in the men’s game, one of the few pluses in having no crowds is that it offers the opportunity for a dramatic improvement in the pace of play. Not at the Renaissance Club near North Berwick, it didn’t.

American Stacy Lewis celebrates with the trophy at the ASI Ladies Scottish Open

The final pep talk American Stacy Lewis gave herself before the last round ought to have been about seizing the moment. Instead, she told herself not to let the snail-paced players get her down and affect her performance, as they had during the third round. How sad is that?

‘I’ve long been an advocate of changing our pace of play and getting people to play faster but unfortunately we’re still going the other way,’ said the 35-year-old, who mercifully came out on top following a final round that took a ridiculous five hours 16 minutes.

You only had to watch the four-woman play-off to see some familiar problems. Emily Pedersen from Denmark took for ever to play her approach, and yet when the camera cut to the Spaniard Azahara Munoz she was still nowhere near ready to play. The only way to watch was to record it and then have your finger hovering over the fast forward button.

Lewis admits the women’s game must do more to move away from snail-paced play

So to the big one. The women’s Open. The Koreans have largely decided to stay at home but the Americans have made it over in gratifyingly large numbers. The talented home ranks must be bursting to make amends for last week’s basic no-show, where the top 10 was a Brit-free zone. Sky Sports are doing their bit, with plenty of coverage.

Everything is set, therefore. As Hall said, what a chance to show how good they are. Let’s hope this time they take it.

Having played just four times so far this year, is Tiger Woods about to play three more events in as many weeks? That’s the plan, anyway, as the 44-year-old with the chronic, fused back sets out on Tuesday for Boston and the start of the FedEx Cup play-offs.

Tiger Woods could be set to play in three tournaments in as many weeks despite injury woes

The first event is open to the top 125 before that number is whittled down to the top 70 for the second event in Chicago and then the top 30 for the finale in Atlanta where Tiger achieved his 80th win and one of his most heartwarming successes of all in 2018.

He’s starting out in 49th place, so will clearly need to perform decently even to make it to Atlanta this time. Ten days after that it’s the US Open, followed by the defence of his Masters title at patron-free Augusta in November.

The mammoth $15million FedEx Cup first prize was claimed by Rory McIlroy last year and the Northern Irishman is well placed again, starting out in eighth place, despite his post-lockdown difficulties. Justin Thomas is currently first, followed by this year’s only major winner so far, Collin Morikawa.

Rory McIlroy is well-placed to defend his FedEx Cup and claim mammoth $15million prize

Tyrrell Hatton, who claimed the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March for the only British win in America this year, begins in 19th spot.

Who knows if the American golfer Jim Herman has ever heard of the Saw Doctors but their evocative anthem To Win Just Once really ought to be his theme tune.

Every year it’s the same. Week after week, Jim either misses the cut or finishes nowhere. But then from out of the blue, he puts in a blessed four days when he becomes the poster boy for that lovely chorus: ‘To win just once against the odds, and once be smiled on by the gods.’

It happened at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday. He travelled there having shot the worst round of the final day of the US PGA Championship, the only cut he’d made since the end of lockdown. No matter. He still won to quintuple his earnings for the season.

In 195 tournaments, 42-year-old Herman has mustered just four top-three finishes — but three of them have ended up as wins. That’s the same amount of PGA Tour victories as Paul Casey.

Golf really is an unfathomable game.

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