Gary Player: McIlroy, Bryson and Westwood have Georgia on their minds

I was really pleased to hear that Rory McIlroy has joined Pete Cowen’s coaching team, particularly in the run-up to The Masters. Michael Bannon has been Rory’s coach since he was eight years old and he will continue to work closely with him on his game in general while Pete gets involved with his short game, particularly his wedges.

Pete has been widely recognised as a world-class coach for many years throughout golf and it could be just what Rory needs to help make his short game more consistent.

Pete has coached many of the game’s greatest players and I’ve admired his coaching methods. I’ve long been a fan of the Yorkshireman’s knowledge and Rory’s outstanding ability and I’m sure the combination of Michael Bannon and Pete will pay dividends. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Rory could win The Masters next month and complete the career Grand Slam?

Another of Pete’s success stories was Lee Westwood. Lee remains one of the European Tour’s finest players and I’ve been so impressed with his recent achievements as he approaches the age of 48 later this month.
In the space of a couple of weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and The Players at TPC Sawgrass Lee collected $2.6million in prize money for his two runner-up finishes. It would have taken me half a lifetime to earn that sort of money but good luck to Lee, he deserves it.

Another outstanding player who has been hitting the headlines is Bryson DeChambeau, who regularly breaks the 200mph ball speed barrier. Bryson has attracted various nicknames through his career, such as ‘the Scientist’ because of his analytical approach, but he is a gentleman of the game and although he has made his name through his long-driving, he’s steadily improved his short game and his putting to make them formidable assets. He’s certainly tremendous box office and has a growing band of followers on television and wherever in the world he plays. DeChambeau has won eight times on the PGA Tour including last year’s US Open and will be making his fifth Masters appearance. Though he is yet to contend, he has made the cut every time and has accrued plenty of knowledge of how the course plays. I believe he’s in good form and should go well this year.

Rory’s record at Augusta is superb with only one finish outside the top ten since 2014 while Westwood also has plenty of course experience having finished runner-up twice in 19 appearances. The Masters has proved a difficult hurdle for both players in the past, but with Westwood’s recent form and McIlroy hopefully turning a corner with a new coaching input, plus all their Augusta National know-how, I expect them to be in the mix for the Green Jacket this year.

It will be a Major milestone at Augusta National with a limited number of spectators allowed on the course and I am looking forward to hearing their reaction to the drama as players make their way down the back nine, it was sorely missed in November.

Golf worldwide is in for a tough time and I believe that the ongoing rumours about the formation of a ‘World Tour’ by the ‘alliance’ of the PGA Tour and the European Tour is inevitable. When the end of lockdown finally happens globally and the pandemic is overcome, the world economy will take a long time to recover, which means that sponsors will be hard to find.

On a positive note, I was thankful to hear that Tiger Woods is recovering steadily from his horrific car accident but although I believe that we can never write him off Tiger will still be an influence on world golf. n

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