Monday 23 October 2017

Short Chips - Muirfield Diary

Karl MacGinty

DUSTIN JOHNSON is a big hitter on the fairway, but he has a reputation for coming up short as far as the mental game is concerned.

At the 2010 US Open, which he had led after 54 holes, Johnson shot himself out of contention with a wayward 82 that included an infamous attempt to chip left-handed from a bunker.

He blew his chances at the 2011 Open at Sandwich by driving out of bounds at the 14th, while his 2010 PGA Championship prospects were dynamited by a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.

Rick Reilly, the renowned American sportswriter, described Johnson as "so dense, light bends round him."

Many of Johnson's problems have come down to the fact he plays at breakneck speed and does not stop to think, something caddie Bobby Brown has been trying to address.

"We've changed, as a team," Brown said. "We have one watchword now: slow down." One watchword? And Johnson trusts this man to calculate his yardages?

IN THE SIMULATION ZONE

ONE of the most popular sideshows has been the HSBC Zone in the tented village, where spectators have tried their hand at a variety of golfing challenges – bunker escapes, long drives, awkward putts, etc.

However, the longest queues have been for the nearest-the-pin competition at a computerised simulation of Muirfield's par-three 13th. Nobody aced the hole, but one effort hit the pin and another stopped 10 inches from the flag.

BIG STARS ESCAPE PENALTY

AS more than two decades have passed since a slow-play penalty was handed down in a regular PGA Tour event, there is a powerful suspicion that the sport's big names are given more leeway than the lesser lights.

Paul Azinger added weight to that point of view when he reflected on the one-shot penalty added to Hideki Matsuyama's score on Saturday, the Japanese player being singled out even though many other groups were put on the clock.

"It's a lot easier to give Matsuyama a one-shot penalty than it is to give Tiger Woods or Lee Westwood a one-shot penalty in this situation," said the former US Ryder Cup captain.

TIGER FAN CHANGES STRIPES

THERE did not seem to be any doubt about which player Clive Kirkham was rooting for. The 56-year-old was one of a group of friends who made their annual pilgrimage to the British Open in head-to-toe Tiger outfits (£12 at Primark apparently).

However, you can't judge a book by its cover or a golf nut by his stripey suit. "I'm rooting for Lee actually," said Kirkham.

CINK SETTLES FOR PIZZA

Miguel Ángel Jiménez enjoyed a hearty meal in a local restaurant on Saturday evening – an occasion made all the heartier by the standing ovation he was given by his fellow diners when he left.

Stewart Cink took a more low-key option. The 2009 champion was spotted walking along Gullane High Street carrying a stack of five pizza boxes.

NUMBER OF THE DAY

20 The number of attempts it has taken Phil Mickelson to finally win the British Open.

Irish Independent

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