With The Masters taking centre stage this month I’m pulling for and predicting that Rory McIlroy will win his first Green Jacket and complete the career Grand Slam to become the first player since Tiger Woods to achieve the feat back in 2000. He’s got all the experience in the world and he’s hitting his peak at just the right time.
He’s learned how to handle himself the hard way and he’s got the game and the mental strength to make the clean sweep of all four Majors, having won the US Open in 2011, the PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and the Open Championship in 2014.
Rory’s Grand Slam
Rory’s currently number two in the Official World Golf Ranking, although he’s a good way behind Dustin Johnson. Winning The Masters and completing the Grand Slam would be great for Rory and undoubtedly good for the game.
Willett needs to adapt
It’s curious that after Danny Willett won The Masters last year his form suffered. Winning any Major can have a different effect on different players as your life changes, and you have to learn to adapt accordingly.
Winning made me more determined
Winning the first of my three Masters titles in 1961 was something special but then it made me all the more determined to win another, along with more Majors. I know it was also the same for Nicklaus, Hogan and Woods. But everyone is different and we all react differently.
Emotional moment without Arnold
This is going to be an emotional Masters for Jack and me when we step up for the ceremonial tee shot at Augusta without Arnold. It will bring back memories of a great friendship that lasted for more than 50 years.
Aim to beat Jack
It will certainly feel very strange being at Augusta without him. But it’s an honour to start The Masters with the drive off the first tee and I’ll be aiming to get it further than Jack if I can just catch it right.
Most scary hole at Augusta
I’ve always thought that the most scary hole on the Augusta National course is number 12, Golden Bell. Although it’s the shortest hole I was always relieved to get off the green with a three. Par felt like a birdie and even bogey was a good result.
How to play the 12th
Standing on the 12th tee I would take a line to the back of the trap and try not to bother about the swirling wind. Being the lowest point on the golf course it’s tough to judge the wind and distance on the 12th because the tee box is in a wide-open space alongside the 11th green.
Take on the big hitters
This hole is a good example of the importance of course management. If you can plot your way around Augusta, it’s more rewarding than hitting the ball miles. Mind you, in my day I had to rely on my course management as I was so small and, although I was fit, I couldn’t match the big hitters. I don’t know why players are obsessed with hitting the ball so far. It takes so much skill and strategy out of the game.
I was pleased to see the recent Rule changes that the R&A and the USGA are considering but one rule that I always find hard to comprehend is that if you hit a drive off the tee and it hits a sprinkler head and flies Out of Bounds, you have to play three off the tee. But if you take a fresh-air shot, you play two off the tee.
Worst shot in golf!
A fresh-air shot is the worse shot in golf and only the player is to blame but if the ball is diverted Out of Bounds from a sprinkler head the player has no control over the outcome. Where’s the justice in that?
Yardage books slow play
The controversy about whether players should keep referring to the yardage book before playing their shot is another issue. We didn’t have yardage books in our day and they certainly slow up play. Golf is all about using your eye and ‘seeing a shot’ and making a judgement. That is the point of having practice rounds.
When everyone is looking at ways of speeding up the game, the use of yardage books on the course in tournament play should be banned altogether.
Women are equal in this game
I’m pleased that Muirfield has finally agreed to allow women to become members of the famous East Lothian links. The Club has certainly done the right thing in welcoming women members, enabling Muirfield to get back on the Open Championship rota.
We must all try to ensure that there are no rules against men or women becoming golf club members where a Major championship is played. I campaigned strongly against the ban on women members at Augusta which, thankfully, was overturned.
First for Sharjah
I was pleased to see South African Chris Williams winning the inaugural Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq last month in a play-off with England’s Gary Marks. It was the first European Senior Tour event to be played in the UAE since Denis O’Sullivan won the Abu Dhabi Seniors Tour Championship back in 2000.It was the first time a Senior Tour event had been played on a 9-hole course – at Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club.
It would be good to see more Senior Tour events following suit in the UAE.