Notebook: O’Connor Jr interview and Donald considered quittingJanuary, 2016
Howell strips off and the equipment merry-go-round
A very sad farewell to Christy
Two months ago I was lucky enough to speak with Christy O’Connor Jr. We had met once before when playing two holes together at the opening of his new course at Amendoeira on the Algarve.
Then I had spent the majority of both holes trying to unveil every piece of information he had on chipping as I continued to knife one chip after the other across each green.
Then we spoke again just before Christmas. The setting up of the interview was close to a shambles as neither of us could hear a word the other was saying and we agreed a time for the following day. Two hours later he rang back to apologise for the lack of phone signal and to say how much he was looking forward to speaking.
The next day he held court for half an hour and it was magical. We learnt that he was the first Irish pro to play at the Masters, how he should have won the Open at least twice and, of course, about the 2-iron at the Ryder Cup.
And then he brought up his son, Darren, who died in a car crash in 1998, the sadness all too obvious in his voice despite the passing of time. He wanted to talk about him and you got the impression that he didn’t want the interview to pass without singing his son’s praises.
He died suddenly this week in Tenerife at just 67 and everyone in Irish golf and beyond, quite rightly, had nothing but good to say about him.
The interview with Christy O’Connor Jr
Donald: I was thinking of quitting
Luke Donald has revealed in an interview with The Telegraph that he seriously considered giving up the game.
The 38-year-old said that in May last year he wondered if it was all worth it after a run that saw his last victory come at Wentworth in 2012, when he regained his World No 1 spot, and not making it to Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup in 2014. He had also fallen outside the world top 50 for the first time in a decade.
“My confidence had taken a big knock and I asked myself if I wanted to continue doing this,” Donald said.
“I wasn’t enjoying it, finding it so very hard and could not see much light at the end of the tunnel. But then I told myself not to be a baby, to grow up and realise how lucky I was. I was still playing golf for a living.”
He then got together with sports psychologist Dr Michael Gervais and is slowly putting back together the pieces along with going back to his long-time coach Pat Goss.
“He (Gervais) just reminded me that it’s up to me what mood or mindset I’m in. When you’re in a slump it’s easy to forget you’re still the one who is in control.
“There was a time where I kept looking at the world rankings and kept seeing myself slipping. And I think that’s the wrong approach. I’ve always been most successful when I have a plan and stick to it. Every day I try to get a little better, incremental improvement. Of course, the goal is to get back in the top 50, then get back in the top 25, start getting some top 10s again, start winning tournaments again and just get back into that feeling.”
Howell strips off
This was something like out of a Diet Coke advert from the mid 90s as David Howell stripped off, though not quite to Henrik Stenson proportions and his ice-white undercrackers, to escape a bit of bother at the 10th hole in South Africa.
He managed to get away with a bogey but then birdied the next three holes and eventually tied for 38th.
"I told myself not to be a baby, to grow up and realise how lucky I was" – Luke Donald PXG join the big boys
There’s a new equipment brand in town with Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG) making the biggest waves with the signing of Open champion Zach Johnson from Titleist.
They also picked up former FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel, James Hahn, Chris Kirk and Charles Howell III on the PGA Tour as well as LPGA players Cristie Kerr, Gerina Piller and Alison Lee. Already on board were Ryan Moore, Rocco Mediate, Sadena Parks and Beatriz Recari.
Johnson explained: “The decision to put PXG clubs in play was not one I took lightly. My entire team, from caddie to coach, was part of the discernment process. We all agree that PXG is undeniably the best equipment to help me achieve my goals.”
If you’re looking to get your hands on some of this kit then you will need to dig deep. Its drivers sell for $700 in the States, its fairway woods for $500, hybrids for $400 and irons at $300 each.
Koepka and Leishman the big movers
Nike were also busy with the additions of World No 16 Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and, amongst others, Tom Lewis, Lucas Bjerregaard and Walker Cup star Ashley Chesters.
Last year on the PGA Tour Koepka was a top-10 finisher in driving distance and won the Phoenix Open while Finau is currently ranked second in average driving distance and was 14th and 10th in his first two Majors.
And Callaway also have two newcomers in Marc Leishman and none other than Tom Watson. Leishman arrived from Titleist after losing a play-off for the Open Championship at St Andrews while Watson had been with Adams since 1999.
Never had a hole-in-one? Turn away now.
Margery Hadar began playing three ago and she now has two holes-in-one which she made on the same day and with the same club, her driver.
First the 73-year-old, who plays off a handicap ‘above 30’, holed out from 164 yards at the 5th hole at Granada GC in South Florida and then, two holes later, followed it up from 112 yards.
Those, who most likely have never had an ace, wanting to rain on Margery’s parade will point out that it was on a par-3 course.
But she said: “It’s very exciting to have a hole-in-one, but to do it twice is something nobody else would believe. I used a driver on both holes, which I know sounds unbelievable. But, the 7th hole was uphill, and I felt I should throw caution to the wind. We thought the ball flew the green. We walked up looking and there it was in the hole.
“There wasn’t a bar in the clubhouse, otherwise I’m sure that I would have been obligated to pick up the tab.”
Top shot for Lowry
Speaking of wonder shots Shane Lowry’s wedge approach to the last hole at Firestone, to win the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, has been voted the European Tour Shot of the Year.
The Irishman led by one but then found the left rough and had 127 yards to go.
“It was actually a pretty horrific lie,” he said. “It was sitting down in a hole. It was almost like someone had stood on it, but it was where the crowd was walking. And I just said to Dermot (his caddy), I’ll try and hit sand wedge and just get it down to the front of the green. I pulled it a bit too low and went into the tree. The rest is history.”
The history part is that it kicked out to 12 feet and his birdie gave him a two-shot win and over $1,400,000.