Date: November 18, 2016
Author: Mike Clayton

CLAYTON: Reflections on a lap of Royal Sydney

The last thing most former pro-golfers want to do is walk around golf tournaments they used to play in watching golf. Odd ones like yours truly properly enjoy it because it’s interesting, at least to me.

There are always people to run into. Invariably interesting conversations ensue about things golf and things not golf.

Mark Nicholas, the cricketer turned sage commentator used to write golf for a broadsheet newspaper in London and was mates with a few of the European Tour players. Walking the course on Thursday watching Jordan Spieth, Geoff Ogilvy and Curtis Luck we discussed the worth of ‘systems’ and how successful they had been at producing players in both cricket and golf.

His view is they were terrific at turning the good cricketer into something better. But the danger was taking the extra-talented and beating out of them the very thing that makes them different in order to comply with the formula and the conventional wisdom of what good players do.

Put Severiano Ballesteros in a program at fourteen and tell him he will never be successful driving the ball all over the shop and you would quickly produce nothing more than a nice tour player. Or, worse, someone who never saw the outside of the caddie yard at Pedrena.

Nicholas has other views on the state of cricket and it’s a pity the viewer misses the unfiltered opinion of an expert. Everything you hear on the television is filtered to some extent.

The second round was time for Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley to play their way into the tournament and both did with 65 and 66 respectively. Too many were watching them for comfort and the group behind was one of past winners, Steve Allan, Pete Senior and John Senden.

Senior’s career came to an end as Ben Hogan’s did in the middle of a round. As Hogan drove from the Champions Club in Houston in 1970 he said to no one in particular, ‘don’t ever grow old.’ Senior with his bad hips is probably thinking the same tonight.

Senden’s coach Ian Triggs was following his man and the talk turned to the 45-year old’s future and how much longer he can reasonably expect to play the American tour.

He is one of perhaps three or four players who have made the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list for fifteen consecutive seasons. That’s impressive and testament to an enduring swing, one that reliably hits green after green, year after year. He has never been known for great putting but he looks the same player he was twenty-plus years ago when he first arrived on tour in Australia.

One group behind was the attraction of the longest drivers here this week, Todd Sinnott and Jamie Sadlowski. They don’t have much of a chance to use their power on what is an eminently scoreable course given how far they can drive. At the ‘long’ 7th Sinnott drove way right and onto the 8th green where Senden and Allan were putting and the Canadian was almost as far to the right but in the trees. Both scrambled birdies but right in the middle of the fairway he had been aiming at from the tee was Min Woo Lee.

I’d seem him hit balls in Perth eighteen months ago and knew he was good but to say he has improved would be an under-statement. He flew a drive all the way onto the uphill par 4 8th hole, ended up the day in 67 and not for much longer will be ‘Minjee Lee’s brother.’