Well, last month was a good one for us. Danny Willett won the Alfred Dunhill Championship and Matt Fitzpatrick was victorious at Valderrama.
Danny is great player and knows how to get the job done, even when he’s not hitting it 100 per cent. Most players only think they can win when all the stars align in their game. Great players just know what is needed to get over the line and adjust to how they are performing.
I was not surprised either to see Matt win in Spain. He had a great Ryder Cup and even though he lost in the singles, he had seven birdies on that final day. I messaged him straight away to congratulate him and said that if the Tour was to play on challenging courses like Valderrama every week he would be World No.1. Matt is a class act, and you just need to see where he’s been positioned on the Official World Golf Ranking for the past six years to know the calibre of golfer he is. He’s not one for shouting from the roof tops and promoting himself.
Down to earth
He just goes about his business quietly and gets the job done. Matt has a great team around him. With Billy on the bag; Mike Walker keeping an eye on his swing; Phil Kenyon looking after his putting; Ted Brady managing him; Matt Roberts keeping him fit and strong; Steve Robinson managing the performance aspects of his game but most importantly myself, the ‘chairman’ who sits back and just admires what is going on! Another player from Sheffield that might hit the headlines soon is Lee Westwood who I expect to be the next European Ryder Cup Captain. The 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy will be tough for the Europeans, as there are only a few trees and the only defence against the Americans will be growing the rough to different lengths. But Bryson Dechambeau proved at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot that when you drive the ball that far, you can gouge a wedge out of the deepest rough and still take on pins.
Europe have always won on tricky tree lined courses such as Valderrama and more recently Le Golf National in Paris. So why on earth the course in Italy wasn’t designed in such a way to give home advantage I just don’t know.
Course design is key to distance
On the topic of length, the recent shaft length ruling from 48 to 46 inches is just a joke. Players have tried the 48 inch shaft over the years but you just lose too much control and unless you are hitting it 350 yards like Bryson there is no real advantage. Bryson has experimented with the 48 but plays a 46, so who is the new ruling being aimed at? All the big hitters will not be affected by the ruling, so they will keep on hitting the ball just as far. Course designers have the answer to distance. It’s not the manufacturers that need to be scrutinised. When you have players that can hit it 350 to nearly 400 yards you need a course designed to make sure when they hit it offline it stays offline and the player picks up a two shot penalty. Just take the seventh hole at Valderrama. You just need to hit it slightly offline to the right and it will probably go out of bounds and miss it left and you are chipping out of the trees. When did you last see a tournament when I player took a provisional off the tee or lost a ball?
The game in general needs to turn the clock back in many ways. We have far too many exempt players these days. It needs to return to just 60 exempts for each event and the rest must fight it out in Monday qualifying. In America they have less exempt players, and it allows more players the chance to shine, plus it would generate money for the tour. Just look at Corey Connors on the PGA Tour. He came through Monday qualifying on the PGA Tour and now he’s 35th in the world. So last month when I was saying the European talent will probably come out of the American college system, like Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick, the Monday qualifying route would give Europe’s young talent another way to rise to the top. Otherwise they would have gone unmissed, due to lack of opportunity. The current system protects too many players who should really be giving the chance to the youngsters. That is how it was in my day, and it made players hungrier but also kept the dream alive for so many that just wanted a chance to prove themselves.