Martin Dempster on golf: Appetite growing for 2010 majors

THIS is a poor time of the year to be a golf fan. The last major of the current season was almost three months ago and the first one of the new campaign is still more than five months away.

Don't get me wrong. I certainly don't cocoon myself in a world where only the majors matter. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact. What's going on at the bottom end of the golfing ladder interests me as much as the 'big four'.

My appetite for the next round of majors, though, was certainly whetted by the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, where Tiger Woods came out to play yet, for the second time in the space of a few weeks, was eclipsed by Phil Mickelson.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For a start, wasn't it nice to see a WGC event played outside the United States? I was beginning to think that those tournaments were being run by the same people in charge of baseball's World Series, which, of course, is really nothing more than the American League title decider.

More of these events need to be held around the world in years to give them proper credence and it's high time one was heading back to these shores, the 2006 American Express Championship at The Grove being the only WGC tournament to have been staged in mainland Britain to date.

You can be guaranteed a cracking field and, on this occasion, we had the added bonus of seeing Woods and Mickelson, the top two players in the world, fighting it out over the final 36 holes and, for the last 18, being joined in the mix by Ernie Els – remember him?

For my money, Mickelson and Els have been the game's biggest under-achievers over the past few years. Both possess as much talent as Woods, yet their return in the majors in particular has been pretty pathetic in comparison to the world No1.

And while 'Lefty' certainly looks as though he's finally got something going, trust him to pick now to show it. You won't see him again on a golf course for another three months, and who's to say he'll still be firing on all cylinders when he returns to the fold.

Golf fans should be hoping he is at his best, and also that the closing 63 from Els in Shanghai is a sign that, at long last, the big South African is about to start producing the sort of golf he was able to produce with his eyes shut around the time of his Open Championship win at Muirfield in 2002 – his last major success.

Just imagine what an exciting season would be lying ahead if Mickelson, Els, the whole host of exciting young Europeans led, of course, by Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, the rising star on the other side of the pond, all came out with guns blazing and showed Woods that he's certainly not going to get things his own way over the next few seasons.

When you think about Kenny Perry and the play-off at Augusta, Tom Watson's emotional effort at Turnberry and a little-known South Korean standing up to Woods and beating him in the USPGA Championship, no-one could say this year's majors lacked excitement. Yet, with all due respect to Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y E Yang, the recent 'Grand Slam' event involving them in Bermuda didn't quite get the juices flowing, did it?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After drawing a blank this year, Woods will be more focused than ever on those majors in 2010 and he'll be licking his lips, no doubt, about the fact the US Open and the Open are returning to Pebble Beach and St Andrews respectively.

Remember the last time those courses staged them a few weeks apart? The year was 2000 and Woods was probably in the best form of his life. He destroyed the field in the US Open, winning his third major by ten shots, while he was just as impressive in securing victory by eight shots at the home of golf.

The latter saw him break Jack Nicklaus' record of being the youngest player to win all four majors and, at various times over the past nine years, hopes have been that Woods would be heading back to St Andrews in 2010 with a chance of eclipsing Nicklaus once again by beating his record of 18 majors.

Unfortunately, that is no longer possible and, in the eyes of many, Woods isn't as good these days as the player who was clearly in a class of his own in 2000.

He's still on course but, if he was to come up empty-handed again in the big ones next year, it might, just might, lead to some doubt creeping in about his chances of scrubbing another of Nicklaus' records from the history books.

Roll on 8 April – the start of the new majors season.

Portmarnock legal win is step back to dark ages

WHAT is it about some golf clubs? The news that Portmarnock has just won a legal battle to prevent women from securing full membership left me shaking my head in utter disbelief.

A few weeks ago, golf was celebrating after supposedly taking a step forward by what most people in the game – not me, I'm afraid – believe to be an exciting development when the sport secured a place back in the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Yet, judging by what's going on over at Portmarnock – and, of course, a lot closer to home – it appears some clubs still want to live in the dark ages.

"It (the judgment by Dublin's Supreme Court] sends out a message that discrimination continues and this judgment upholds inequality for women," said Joanna McMinn, of the Equality and Rights Alliance. "The exclusivity of Portmarnock is just a symptom of that."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Women can play at the course and pay green fees, but are not allowed to become full members. Golf really does need to give itself a massive shake on this one. It's embarrassing for those who play the game whenever this topic raises its ugly head and, frankly, it has to be dealt with once and for all.