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  • Alistair Tait

Prudent role models in troubled times

Take a wee bow Padraig Harrington and Branden Grace. Oh, and feel free to join in Lee Westwood, Shugo Imahira, Eddie Pepperell, Thomas Pieters and Y.E. Yang too.

If only more in society would follow their lead, then we might not be in the mess we are now during this coronavirus nightmare.

Harrington’s decision to skip this week’s PGA Championship wasn’t an easy one to make. After all, the Irishman has a Wanamaker Trophy in his impressive display cabinet in his Dublin home. Plus, as European Ryder Cup captain, pressure would have been on the Irishman to compete in the PGA of America’s marquee tournament.

Harrington decided to put health concerns first and won’t travel to Harding Park in San Francisco. He said:

“After much deliberation, I have decided not to travel to next week’s PGA Championship. As Covid-19 currently looks to be under control in Ireland, I am taking the prudent approach by following the guidelines and reducing the risk as much as possible by staying at home.”

The key word here is “prudent.” Westwood and company have also shown prudence by deciding not to play in the PGA Championship. Grace was equally prudent by withdrawing from the Barracuda Championship. The South African was tied second after two rounds when he alerted PGA Tour officials to mild coronavirus symptoms. He subsequently tested positive.

Grace, the only man to shoot 62 in a major, is 79th on the Official World Golf Ranking and 156th in the FedExCup standings. A good week would have helped his status on both fronts. He could easily have waited until after the tournament to get tested.

As former colleague and good friend Brad Klein notes on his excellent Klein corona diary, these players’ actions are part of a growing trend. Brad notes:

“This is part of a newfound sense among sports figures that they are not just performers but full human beings with control over their bodies and their minds. It should not surprise or anger fans if these athletes are also exercising their awareness of the social conditions under which they live and under which their fans live.”

I'm not criticising player who travel to Harding Park, or the PGA of America. I'm sure all the necessary protocols will be in place, and players will act responsibly. However, it takes courage to go against the grain, so kudos to Harrington and co. If only everyone was aware of their social conditions, and their responsibilities within them, then we might be able to get on top of this virus sooner rather than later.

Rankings be damned

The English Women’s Amateur Championship final at Woodhall Spa looked like a mismatch on paper. Lily May Humphries was 84 positions higher on the World Amateur Golf Ranking than Emily Price. Humphries is the world’s 14th best player. Price is 98th.

Just as well matches aren’t played on paper.

Price won the scheduled 36-hole match 4&3. Pretty impressive when you consider Humphries won the 2017 championship, finished runner-up last year, played in the 2018 Curtis Cup and is the reigning champion for both the Irish and Welsh Ladies Stroke Play Championships. She recently finished equal second among the professionals in a Rose Ladies Series event at Bearwood Lakes.

Price’s CV includes the 2016 English Women’s Stroke Play. She still has two years left at Kent State University. She’ll return there on a high after her impressive win.

They say anything can and probably will happen in 18-hole match play. Ditto for 36-hole match play, which is supposed favour the better player.

Rankings only matter on paper. They often go out the window when balls are pegged up in head to head play.

Feel isn’t real

Had my first lesson in yonks last week. Why did I wait so long?

I found out yet again – as if I needed reminding – that feel is never real.

Best friend and excellent professional Paul Anderson spent two hours with me. The Berkshire’s distinguished professional helped clear my head. Especially when he followed up with a couple of short videos to show what I thought I was doing, and what happened when I put into practice what he told me I should be doing.

What I thought I was doing wasn’t even close.

I’m like a lot of long-standing golfers: aside from thinking I’m a better player than I actually am, I stubbornly work on aspects of the swing on my own and get totally lost. I liken it to getting lost while driving. Often we keep on driving expecting to eventually find the way and get even more lost, when the obvious bloody thing to do is to stop and ask for directions.

Don’t just keep ploughing on in the hope you’ll find the key. Ask your club professional for directions. They’ll stop you getting even more lost.

#JustSaying: “Practice makes perfect they say. Of course it doesn’t. For the vast majority of golfers it merely consolidates imperfection.” Henry Longhurst

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