Posted by Rob Weider on

2018 review – a year in golf

2018 review – a year in golf

Wow – 2018 was quite a year for golf fans. For me, it was a real vintage year, and I wanted to give you my thoughts on just a few of the best bits. The Majors delivered some great performances, we saw the return of Tiger Woods and of course it was a Ryder Cup year – but more of that later. Here are just a few of my highlights from a truly memorable 2018.

Francesco Molinari wins the Open.

I challenge any golf fan, however partisan, not to have felt a warm glow when Francesco Molinari managed to seal his first Major title after sealing victory in the 2018 Open Championship on a dramatic day at Carnoustie. It was just a great moment, one where he kept his cool impressively, despite feeling a resurgent Tiger Woods breathing down his neck to add to the pressure. A proud moment for Molinari, but also for Italy, who now have a Major winner in their ranks. While I’m on the subject of Molinari, I have to also mention his remarkable five matches he won for the European Team in the Ryder Cup.

Europe triumphs in the Ryder Cup

Truly the highlight of the year for any fan of European golf – the team’s incredible (and, if we’re honest, a bit unexpected) victory over the United States in France. Europe’s 17½-10½ win was crushing, and made all the more exciting by a spirited USA fightback that, fortunately for my nerves, didn’t last too long. The scenes at the end of this thrilling competition, with the crowds mobbing the players, is something that I’ll never for get. And what a way for Molinari to cap off a truly special year.

Seeing Justin Rose finally get to World Number One

Justin Rose can sit back and reflect on a quietly brilliant year – twelve months of consistent performances at the very highest level. Again and again the Englishman managed to finish in the top two or three of many of the competitions he entered, and remarkably he only missed the cut once all year. It was great to see him secure the number one spot – something that must mean a huge amount to him personally – and round off what has been a great 2018.

The return of Tiger Woods

I’ve personally never really been a huge fan of Tiger Woods. Some players capture your imagination as a spectator and for me there was just something about Woods that I could never really connect with. But that aside, it is impossible to deny the influence on the game of someone who is clearly one of the greatest players of all time, and so it has still been great to see that some of the old Tiger magic is still there. After a tumultuous few years, expectations really weren’t that high for Woods, but he has shown what a competitor he is, as he has begun to really find form as we’ve come to the end of the year. Love him or hate him, Woods is one of the greats, and on the evidence of 2018 he may well be on his way back in 2019.

Phil Mickelson’s moment of madness

The ensuing uproar in the media and the golf establishment was almost as entertaining as the moment itself. For those of you who might have missed it, Mickelson was on the 13th green of the US Open in Shinnecock (four over, with five bogeys already behind him), when his 18 foot putt rolled past the hole. Instead of just shaking his head and carrying on, Mickelson chased after the ball and hit it while it was still moving – a pretty fundamental breach of the most basic rules of golf.

It was something that some people saw as just a momentary rush of blood, while others put it in the context of Mickelson’s long running feud with the US golf authorities. Whatever it was, I’d imagine Mickelson will want to put it all behind him for 2019.

2018 has been a wonderful year in golf – not just for the professionals, but for myself as well. I’ve had the chance to play on some great courses when I have the time, and I’ve made good progress in certain areas of my game thanks to being able to practice regularly on my local courses in Hong Kong.

Here’s hoping that next year will bring as much excitement for golf fans as this one has.

Rob Weider 

Posted by Rob Weider on

Reflections on a remarkable Ryder Cup victory for Europe

Reflections on a remarkable Ryder Cup victory for Europe

So, Europe didn’t stand a chance. I think in the weeks leading up to this year’s Ryder Cup I must have heard this a million times. The accepted wisdom was that this US team was just too strong, too experienced, too Tiger-ish, for Europe to cope. How wrong we all were. (Well, at least I am able to say that I did predict Ryder Cup success for this European team – I just wasn’t expecting it to happen this year).

An incredible effort

‘Unbelievable’ is a much over-used word in sport, but I think that in this case, with this performance, we really did see a performance that merits the word. The USA weren’t just favourites – they were red-hot favourites, with a host of exciting young players and the aforementioned resurgent Tiger Woods. Of course, the Europeans had world number one Justin Rose in their ranks, as well as home advantage, but no one predicted the kind of beating that was meted out to the US team at Le Golf National this autumn.

After a strong start, a slight wobble in the middle and then an assured finish, Europe ended up winning back the Ryder Cup 17½-10½, the second biggest defeat the USA has ever had in the competition.

Captain fantastic

I want to start first though with what, for me, went right for the Europeans – because there is no doubt that this was a case of them winning it, rather than the US team simply throwing it away. Clearly, a huge amount of the credit for this remarkable win needs to go to captain Thomas Björn, who stuck his neck out to pick a few players – Sergio García in particular – who weren’t exactly in Ryder Cup winning form going into the tournament. But he stuck to his wildcards and won an incredible victory with their help.

It really struck me that Björn somehow managed to hit on the secret of getting the best out of his players, not just by some smart picks, but also by combining them well. The combination of Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter in particular worked brilliantly. After McIlroy and Thorbjørn Olesen were roundly beaten by Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in the Friday morning fourballs, things were looking a little underwhelming for Rory, with the US leading 3-1. McIlroy had been nowhere in the morning, but combined with Poulter in the afternoon he was a new man. It was an inspired decision by Björn that helped Poulter and McIlroy lead the European team to end the first day with a 5-3 lead after a 4-0 whitewash in the foursomes.

Fantastic Molinari

Of course, there is also another man who certainly deserves a mention – the remarkable Francesco Molinari. Fresh from his win at the Open a few months ago, Molinari stormed through the final day of the Ryder Cup, winning a remarkable 5 points out of 5 to put him up alongside only four other players in history to have achieved such a result. Fittingly, Molinari even got to apply the coup de grace to a floundering Phil Mickelson and the US team on the Sunday, beating him 4&2 with the American finding the water on the 16th. It was just one of those weekends for the US team.

US woes

So what went wrong for the Americans? Well, despite getting off to a good start on that opening morning, they stuttered in the afternoon and never fully recovered. It may have been fatigue – Mickelson and Woods aren’t getting any younger – or it might have been the distraction of having Tiger Woods back stealing the headlines that disrupted the team dynamic. I also think that it came down to local knowledge – a factor that I though might have some impact, but not to this extent.

The Europeans were ultimately just a bit more savvy on the greens when it came to their putting, and that, I think, points to the real reason why the Europeans rolled over the Americans.

The preparation put in by Björn and his team really paid off -and was a stark contrast to the US team – only six of whom had even bothered to play on the course before. That simply isn’t good enough, and in the end, thanks to a fantastic effort by the European team, they were made to pay for their mistakes.

Robert Weider