Was Steve Williams betrayed by Tiger Woods?

It was a pretty amazing outburst from Steve Williams in the wake of his removal as Tiger Woods’ caddy.

I can kind of understand where Williams is coming from here. When news of the scandal broke, Williams was found guilty by association as a lot of people thought that Williams must have known what Woods was up to and covered for him.
Williams obviously denied that and could also have walked away and distanced himself from Woods to help clear his own name.
Basically, at the time, Williams stood by Woods and must feel he was owed a bit more loyalty back.
At the same time, Williams must be a very wealthy man on the back of all of Woods’ successes. In a way he owes a lot to Tiger, and I’m sure Tiger will be quick to point this out when he is eventually questioned about Williams’ response.
Golfers change caddy all the time, Luke Donald relieved his own brother of his caddying duties not too long back, it’s part of the game of golf.
So why is Williams so bitter?
Could it have been a personality clash in the end? Williams, by his own admission claimed he told Woods he would have to earn his respect again.
I also heard a reporter at one of the majors last year who was following Woods’ round, claim the two men hadn’t spoken too each other in a conversational way (apart from about club selection) the whole way round the course, that there appeared to be tension between the two.
At the time I thought it was just a media man trying to make something out of nothing, maybe there was something in it after all.
Williams’ bitterness suggests that it could be more than just a natural parting of the ways for golfing reasons. It says to me that this is a bit personal.
I doubt this is the last we will hear of this story as I’m fairly sure Tiger will hit back in time.

Darren Clarke wins The Open Championship

Congratulations to Darren Clarke on his Open Championship victory at Sandwich, I had my doubts about his ability to hold on and I am delighted to be proved totally wrong (yet again). I couldn’t think of a more popular winner.

In the end it looked quite easy for Clarke and it has capped a remarkable period for Northern Ireland golf, of which there is surely plenty more successes to come.
During Mickelson’s remarkable front 9 charge, I thought he was going to do to Clarke what he did to Clarke’s great pal Lee Westwood in the Masters back in 2010.
Clarke’s eagle at the 7th seemed to knock the wind out of Mickelson’s sails and when Phil missed a short par putt at the 11th, the American’s Championship was effectively over.
Dustin Johnson slightly came back into things on the back 9 to ensure it wasn’t a Clarke procession. There was also a hairy moment at the 17th when there could have been a 2 shot swing back towards the American, but in the end it didn’t materialize.
I’m going to make another prediction about Clarke which I hope proves to be wrong. I believe this will probably be his only major win, given the stage of his career he is at.
I also think if Clarke was offered a major, he would have chosen the Open Championship. Along with his 2006 Ryder Cup performance, it is the defining moment of his career.
I’m sure one prediction I did get right was the one I made at the end of the last post in which I wrote that if Clarke did win, Sandwich might run out of Guinness – and hopefully it did…….eventually.

Can Darren Clarke win the Open?

I certainly hope so. The public seem to love him, he always plays the game in the right spirit and he always has a smile on his face. The hearts of the people of both the Irish and British nations went out to him when he and his family suffered their tragic loss.

I honestly don’t think there could be a more popular winner than the big guy.
He has come close before and too be brutally honest I think he lost his nerve. He’s not the first and won’t be the last too suffer that and better players than Clarke have bottled it in the home straight.

He can also take heart from the successes of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy over the past 14 months, although he’s not in Rory’s class, he must surely look at what they’ve achieved and think he can at least win one major.

There must also be a major feel good factor around Northern Irish golf at the moment which could also help him, it’s certainly a golden period for the country’s golf.

Indeed if you look at the nation of Ireland as a whole, they have been the dominant European golfing nation over the last 4 years. Along with Padraig Harrington, since 2007 Ireland has won 5 majors on both sides of the Atlantic.

We keep hearing about how great the English golfers are, we may well have two players rotating the World Number 1 ranking, but we don’t have any major victories to speak off. Ireland has 5 in 4 years.

My head tells me Clarke won’t do it, but I really do hope I’m wrong – and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve called something wrong on this blog.

One thing for sure is if he does win, I think Sandwich might run out of Guinness and cigars later tonight.

Boylesport paying Eight places on the Open

Golf’s next major is starting in the morning and Irish firms Boylesports and Paddy Power are battling it out in the PR war by attempting to out do each other in the fight to offer the most Each-Way places.

Paddy Power had originally stolen a march on their rivals by offering 7 each way places, only to later see Boylesports steal their limelight by offering an amazing 8 places, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an offer like that before.
And for anyone thinking, ‘Yeah, but I bet you only get an 8th or 7th of the odds for each way,’ then you would be wrong. Both firms are paying 1/4 of the odds.
Behind those two come a number of firms paying out on 6, and there are some other measly ones paying out at 5. Included in the layers at 5 places is Coral, but too be fair to them, they are offering 5 places at a 3rd of the odds, that sounds quite good to me.
Despite the wave of Rorymania so far this week, McIlroy odds seem to be on a bit of a drift. He is now out to between 7 and 8/1, having earlier been backed into 6/1, 13/2.
I imagine this is probably down to the fact that he hasn’t played since winning the US Open about a month back. A fact not lost on Monty.
I do like Monty and of course he is entitled to his opinion, but to be advising McIlroy on how to prepare for majors is a risky business for the Scot. As much as his opinion should be respected, Monty was leaving himself open to getting a good kicking from journalists he has given a hard time too over the years.
When listening Monty’s remarks, I could almost sense the collective pack all rubbing their hands with glee at the open goal he had just presented them with for their next articles. How many majors did you win Monty? etc, etc.
For me it seems hard to pick a winner for this, I did think about a value bet on Sergio Garcia after a recent improvement in form, but he’s 5th favourite at a best price of 30/1, which doesn’t represent great value to me. I did expect him to be somewhere around the 50 or 66/1 mark.
History goes against McIlroy and Luke Donald after their respectives wins in the US and Scottish Opens, while I think Lee Westwood will be another Monty and never win a major. It looks a very open field to me this year and I expect the winner to be another unfancied outsider.

Darts or Golf? Don’t ask Poulter

Which is a proper sport? And which isn’t?

Maybe Ian Poulter knows the answer.

On the whole I like Poulter, but sometimes I do think he should think a bit more before he opens his mouth, or his blackberry.

His recent Twitter outburst against Phil Taylor coming second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award was out of order in my mind, to compare darts to tiddlywinks was wrong.

It’s not as if golf is the most physical and enduring pursuit going, to be attempting to look down on darts from the elevated heights of a bunker is a touch rich. If Brian Moore or Joe Calzaghe had made the remarks, maybe they would have had a bit more credability, but not coming from Poulter.

It was remarkable to see Taylor overjoyed at coming second, it must have been the first time ever he celebrated being a runner up.

There has long been a debate about whether darts should be categorized as a sport, as there has been snooker and even Poulter’s beloved golf.

Whether they are or not is open to debate. Of course none of them are like boxing or rugby. But for me, they are all sports.

If I won it as a golfer or darts player, I would probably be embarrassed to stand next too Martin Johnson or Lennox Lewis, as maybe Phil Taylor would be too. But Taylor dosen’t make the rules.

Poutler has history of making these sorts of stupid remarks. He once said he was the 2nd best golfer in the world, when he wasn’t even ranked in the top 10 and hadn’t won much of any note.

He seems to be good at standing in a glass house casting stones.

US PGA compared to FIFA

Maybe the PGA tour just employs the same voting process as FIFA! says Lee Westwood on his Twitter account. Westwood would appear to be just a touch pissed off with the US PGA for naming Rickie Fowler as their rookie of the year for 2010.

I’m glad Westwood has gone public on this, it makes a change for someone to speak out and say what everyone is thinking, rather than this endless diplomacy we keep getting these days. I just hope Westwood stands by his remarks.

Is Westwood right to think that the fact McIlroy has opted out of next seasons US tour has got something do with this decision? Surely he has a point.

I can see McIlroy’s point of view, that he dosen’t regard himself as a rookie. But the facts are that the PGA did, as they had him on the ballot paper. It’s typical Rory though, he’s just so laid back.

On the course, it was great to see Westwood win the Nedbank Golf Challenge yesterday at Sun City and keep his position as the worlds Number 1 golfer. We all know what he wants and needs to do in 2011.

It was also another brilliant weekend for the understated Graeme McDowell. The manner in which he beat Tiger Woods in the head-to-head play off was good enough, but the way he forced the play-off was out of this world.

When Woods put his iron shot to within 3 feet on the 18th for a certain birdie it meant McDowell needed to produce something special. Most golfers would probably wilt under that pressure from Woods, but McDowell didn’t with his 20 footer to force the play-off.

McDowell has had an unbelievable year and has hardly got any recognition for it. He’s won a major and it was hardly noticed over here, he got more publicity for the way he held his nerve to clinch the Ryder Cup.

He is 2nd favourite at 4/1 with Bet365 to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He probably won’t win it though, as there is a strong campaign going to get AP McCoy the title this time.

I do think it would be fitting for McDowell to win it and he will definately be getting my vote.

Not just the Ryder Cup returning to Europe

It was great to see Rory McIlroy announce on Tuesday that he is joining the growing band of European golfers snubbing the US Tour in favour of a place on the European circuit.

It has been a great year for European golf with Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer claiming two major victories and the Ryder Cup returning to Europe, a new World No.1 in Lee Westwood with Kaymer (No.3) also pushing hard for the top spot.

The mandatory 15 tournaments needed to qualify for a PGA tour card would appear to be putting too much pressure on Europe’s golfers. They would appear to prefer to pick and choose their competitions ‘across the pond’ these days, rather than being forced to spend more time there than they want too.

Along with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, McIlroy’s return will add more prestige to the European Tour. And with bigger names will come more sponsorship and bigger prize money, meaning the possibility of even more of the world’s top golfers plying their trade on this side of the Atlantic.

Lee Westwood – The New World No.1

The news that Lee Westwood’s accent to the top of Golf’s World Rankings was officially completed on Monday and is yet another boost for British and European Golf.

The fact is that no matter what happens over the rest of Westwood’s career, whether he wins a major or not, he can still tell his Grandkids that he deposed the great Tiger Woods from the Number 1 spot in the World Rankings, not too many people can claim to have ever done that.

It was a shame that injury has prevented him from finishing the job actually playing golf – only Martin Kaymer was in a position to do that over the weekend – but it’s still a great achievement.

It also comes shortly after Westwood was the lead out man in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, another accolade he can be very proud off.

For me, Westwood is the best iron player in the game, his consistency from tee-to-green is quite remarkable these days. That seems to be the main foundations on which he has achieved this current success.

People will still question whether Westwood is really the best golfer in the world as he has never won a major. Well, statistically he is, although I’m not totally convinced myself.

He is certainly the most consistent though, finishing 2nd in two of this seasons majors (Masters and Open), but he faded badly under pressure from Phil Mickelson in the Masters and could only shoot a final round 71 when a strong finish was needed.

It might sound harsh, but a solid number 1 would probably have finished that job.

I do though believe that it is just the mental barrier of getting over the line that has prevented Westwood from claiming a major. When/If he gets one, I expect more will follow.

Maybe now his new status will give him that extra bit of self belief to finally get the job done, I certainly hope it does.

Monty’s Major

“This is the greatest moment of my golfing career”, the words of Europe Captain, Colin Montgomerie after his team regained the Ryder Cup from America at Celtic Manor today and who are we to disagree with that.

What a day of golf and drama it turned out to be.

I went on Sunday so I was entitled to go back to witness todays play. But due to me stupidly thinking Europe only had to turn up to win and on the back of a long 14 hour day ending in me getting home at 9.30 on Sunday night and the thought of having to get up at 5.30am to do it all again, I decided against it.

I don’t now regret that decision. Honestly!

Never mind, at least on Sunday I got to see the end of the 3rd session with Europe winning 5.5 of the 6 points available, the session that turned the match Europe’s way in my opinion.

I really am pleased for Monty, this is surely the major that he never won. He has been such a great player in previous Ryder Cups and this is the icing on the cake of Monty’s brilliant Ryder Cup career.

I have always said that if Monty could use four of his Ryder Cup performances in a major, he would have converted one of those second places to a victory.

I know Monty isn’t everyones cup of tea and he can be very petulant at times. I always cringe at the sight of that footage when he turned on a TV cameraman and told him “just remember you’re only here because of me”. It was the bad side of Monty and I’m sure he regrets that incident and many of his other similar performances.

But all in all I think Monty seems a good guy. This is backed up by his continued tributes to Seve Ballesteros over the week which were very humble and emotional.

I watched the highlights on TV tonight and could see that there was a lot more to the day than just a spectacular close finish.

There was some high quality stuff played out there. The standard of the golf between Luke Donald and Jim Furyk was outstanding. We also had Rickie Fowler’s comeback for a draw and Tiger Woods played a great round and looked back to his best.

Then there was Graeme McDowell, how cool did he look in finishing the job, even though he admitted afterwards that he was far from the ice cool figure he cut.

McDowell was chosen to play at 12 for a reason and he proved up to the task by getting Europe over the line. It caps an outstanding year for the Ulsterman after also winning the US Open.

In fairness to them, the USA team gave Europe nothing today. They came out fighting and really made a match out of it. I have to admit, I was guilty of thinking a European victory was a mere formality and they proved me wrong.

Despite all the crap written and said about the time of the year it was played, I believe the tournament was a success. Yes, the weather didn’t help, but in the end we had a great tournament with some great golf and a tense finish.

And Europe won, so what more could we ask for!

Once bitten Rory!

The build up to the 2010 Ryder Cup continues and on Wednesday, Colin Montgomerie felt obliged to explain how Rory McIlroy has been “quite upset” by the way the papers had reported his recent comments about Tiger Woods.

McIlroy said “Once I met Tiger, even before last year or whatever, you sort of realise that he just is a normal guy. He’s probably the best player that’s ever lived, and likely the greatest player that’s ever played the game.

“But you watch so much golf on TV, and you see so many things and you watch so many highlights – watching Tiger winning the Masters in ’97 and winning four majors in a row in 2000/2001, you sort of don’t really believe it. You put him on such a high pedestal and then you meet the guy and you realise that he’s obviously an unbelievable player, but he’s just a normal guy.

“Before I met him, you feel as if he’s superhuman. But once you meet him you realise he’s a normal guy and works hard on his game and gets the most out of it.

“But after what’s happened in the last 18 months, I suppose a little bit of that aura is probably gone.”

Quite high praise from young Rory I would say.

But as usual the press only feel obliged to quote the bit that suits them. They just take out the line saying ‘Tiger’s aura is gone’ and twist it and turn it into a negative situation.

McIlroy’s honesty when being interviewed is refreshing to hear, it is a total contrast to the exhibition of straight batting we were treated too from Woods in his press conference this week.

Sadly due to this exploitation of Rory’s honesty, I fear it won’t be too long before we see McIlroy forced to do the same!