AN IRISH colleague told an amusing Padraig Harrington story from last week’s HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship. Waiting to start a practice round, the three-time major champion watched some young bucks teeing off
They all appeared to be newcomers to the European Tour this year and, after two of them had hit, the third member of the group glanced across to Harrington to check if he was watching.
He did the same thing, obviously seeking the Irishman’s nod of approval, after smashing his drive straight down the middle but, grinning, Harrington said: “Do you want to hit another one?”
It was Harrington’s way of telling the “dude who looked straight out of Tour School” that it takes something out of the ordinary to succeed at the top level, no matter what they may have achieved before.
Scott Henry, Scotland’s sole rookie on the European Tour this season, wasn’t the said player, but he is learning fast that only A games are good enough when it comes to handing out the cheques.
In his three events since graduating from the Challenge Tour, where he won the Kazakhstan Open last year, the newly-turned 26-year-old has failed to make a cut.
Henry enjoyed a glittering amateur career and has worked hard over the past few seasons to earn his chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, as he did in the UAE capital last week.
The two-time Scottish Boys’ champion is confident he will soon be off and running in terms of being around for the weekend and is almost certainly guaranteed a good run of events to try to build up a head of steam.
He is in the field for the Qatar Masters starting tomorrow, is first reserve for next week’s Dubai Desert Classic, then has three events on the trot when the Tour returns to South Africa next month.
“It’s not so much the level of the other guys (that has stopped him making a more promising start to the 2013 campaign), it’s more down to the level of my play so far,” said Henry.
“It’s not at the same level as I had been playing at the end of last season. It’s about trying to regain that form and if I can do that, then I am sure I’ll be fine.”
At the top of the golfing ladder every aspect of the game has to be working effectively. Just ask David Drysdale. In Abu Dhabi, he led the driving accuracy statistics after two rounds by hitting double the number of fairways found by McIlroy, yet the Scot also made an early exit because he was 72nd for greens hit.
Nerves certainly aren’t the problem for Henry, even in an event that featured the world’s top two players.
“It is such a better atmosphere playing in these type of tournaments and most of the time I feel that brings out the best in me,” added the Clydebank man. “Seeing a lot of people around the first tee normally switches me on more than puts me off.
“Last week, though, I just didn’t play good enough but we’ll keep working on it and get ready for the next event.”
He spent the weekend working with his coach, Ian Rae, at Yas Links. Also there practising last week under the watchful eye of Kevin Craggs were Henry’s girlfriend, Ladies European Tour player Kylie Walker, and Scottish No 1 Catriona Matthew.
Very few European Tour newcomers hit the ground running, no matter how well they have performed either on the Challenge Tour or at the Qualifying School. It is a learning process and, once he finds his feet, Henry is confident he will soon start producing that A game.
“It was a tough course in Abu Dhabi, especially for the first event of the year,” he admitted. “My game wasn’t as bad as my scores suggested, but there’s a few parts of it that are rusty. My short game in particular wasn’t very sharp and I also didn’t putt well on greens that were very fast and slopy. They weren’t exactly what I’ve been used to recently.
“There were still some positives, though. I hit a lot of good shots over the two days. It’s just a case of trying to get switched on for all the shots and concentrating on all of them rather than just half.”
Those upcoming events will certainly give him the chance to build up some momentum, though that cheeky comment from Harrington is something he might want to bear in mind as he bids to establish a foothold in the big league.
Golfers’ lack of awareness of the rules is baffling
Having watched Tiger Woods miss the cut in Abu Dhabi because he suffered a two-shot penalty, it really does make you wonder how many golfers at the top level are actually totally switched on to the Rules of Golf.
You’d imagine somewhere along the line, especially early in his career, that Woods might well have read the laws of the game cover to cover and, even if that wasn’t the case, he’ll no doubt know them better than a lot of his fellow players.
Which made it all the more baffling that Woods didn’t call in a referee before taking a free drop, which playing partner Martin Kaymer also felt was appropriate, from an embedded lie in foliage when the fact it had sand underneath it meant he’d broken the rules.
“The Rules of Golf are complicated but this one is based on logic,” said Andy McFee, the European Tour’s chief tournament referee, of a decision that may have proved unpopular with the sheikhs after they’d paid Woods a whopping appearance fee but one that had to be made to protect the integrity of the game. It led to McFee being asked what was actually done by the European Tour to educate players about the rules. “Not a lot,” was his reply, though that’s not because the powers-that-be at Wentworth haven’t tried.
Rules seminars used to be held, during the week of the PGA Championship, for instance, yet it was only really the PGA professionals in the field who turned up for those and, as a consequence, they were scrapped.
It’s shocking to think that players aren’t all that fussed about knowing the rules of their profession and if that attitude doesn’t change, then we’ll keep seeing instances such as the Woods one that sees golf scoring avoidable own goals.