BELFRY NOTEBOOK: THURSDAY
Matt Cooper brings you the inside stories on day one of the Quinn Insurance British Masters at The Belfry.
12 MONTHS ON
This time last year I followed Rory McIlroy’s first nine holes of professional golf and there was a certain sense of déjà vu at 7.30 – another gloomy start from the 10th tee.
But his nine-iron to the front pin had just enough backspin to trickle into the water and the resulting double-bogey, soon followed by a bogey at 11, left him facing an uphill battle to shoot level par 72.
But McIlroy admitted afterwards that his first year of professional golf has taught him a lot about himself and even more about crafting a score so he remained patient and ground out the pars whilst waiting for the three birdies which corrected his scorecard.
His measured on-course response to the disappointment of missing out on victory in Crans earlier this month was reflected off course, too: “After I failed to win at Crans everyone I met was asking me why I bogied the final hole so I went to Spain with some mates because no-one there knew who I was.”
Those two shots lost to par on the 10th were unfortunate and he insists that his ball-striking remains pure so don’t be surprised if he makes a move on Friday.
CAN’T SEE WOOD FOR THE TREES
Paired with McIlroy this morning was Chris Wood, his successor as top-performing amateur in the Open Championship.
Wood also turned pro in the aftermath of that glory and like McIlroy he had his battles today.
On the 13th tee he drove his ball into a hedge and out of bounds.
His second drive cleared the hedge.
His third effort cleared the West Midlands.
He found the fairway with his fourth ball and eventually holed out for a 10. It seems absurd to say it, but the general view of those watching was positive because his scrambling and putting were not just brave but very skilful.
According to two marshals the standard of play in the pro-am was at an all-time low this year. “We used to get Alan Hansen who played off six, but none of them were very good this year. Will Greenwood and Jonathan Davies weren’t all they were cracked up to be.”
Nor were they impressed with the celebrity factor. “One of them was called Vernon Kay, whoever he is. And Jeremy Kyle – have you heard of Jeremy Kyle? I haven’t.”
Gregory Bourdy started the day in superb form helped by an eagle three at the third and a wonderful approach to the 10th which earned him a birdie.
He is something of an enigma as a player because his physique and stroke – especially his putting stroke – are rather fragile, but he is deceptively long and has a very sure touch around the greens.
He is also unusual in the modern game in having a pronounced shape of shot – right to left – which got him into trouble on the 12th when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds.
A female fan told me that he is one of the most elegantly-dressed players on tour, but after his mistake, in his grey jumper, under grey skies, with his rather large nose and careworn expression he reminded me of President Charles De Gaulle being told some especially bad news about the Maginot Line.
THE BELFRY MATURES
During last week’s coverage of the Ryder Cup I saw some footage of the first match held at the Belfry and the contrast with today was astonishing: the course is now a very different proposition to 1985.
Instead of wide-open farm-fields on the edge of Birmingham the course is now genuinely tree-lined with the lakes and streams feeling significantly less artificial than they once did.
And this year it is offering a stiff test. Players and caddies agreed that the rough was much longer than last year and with softer fairways the course is playing longer – very few even attempted to reach the 17th in two, never mind achieve it.
A blustery wind is predicted for Friday afternoon so the early starters may have an advantage, although there is almost no chance of a repeat of last year’s wild Friday wind which caused higher than average scoring.
Tiger Woods backs up Rory McIlroy and says LIV Golf boss Greg Norman ‘has to go’
Woods called McIlroy a ‘true leader’ as he spoke out about the Saudi-funded breakaway.
Tiger Woods withdraws from Hero World Challenge due to foot problem
The former world number one has not played since the Open Championship in July.
Tiger Woods to partner son Charlie in next month’s PNC Championship
Woods has not played since the Open Championship in July.
I want to fulfil my dreams – Adam Scott in no mood to lower expectations
Scott is seeking a third Australian PGA Championship title this week in his native Queensland.
Nicolas Colsaerts named a vice-captain for Europe’s Ryder Cup team
The Belgian joins Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari on Luke Donald’s staff.
Ireland’s Ancient East: Golf attractions alongside stunning beauty of Kildare
Ireland has a rich mix of tourist attractions across its varied and beautiful terrain.
Rory McIlroy crowned top golfer in Europe despite Jon Rahm claiming Dubai title
The Spaniard’s two-shot victory over England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden’s Alex Noren was his third in six years at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Leona Maguire shoots day’s best to tie Lydia Ko in chasing LPGA’s largest prize
Maguire is chasing her second title while Ko is close to claiming her second straight LPGA Tour player of the year.
Rory McIlroy edges ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick in race to be European number one
McIlroy’s third round of 65 at the DP World Tour Championship put him back ahead of his rival in the rankings.
Lydia Ko firms lead for biggest prize in women’s golf history at LPGA finale
The 25-year-old turned a one-shot lead into a five-shot edge as she chased down the two-million-dollar (£1.6million) prize.