Date: April 08, 2014
Author: Mike Clayton /

Mike Clayton: some sort of purple patch

Just imagine the performance if four different Australian tennis players had just won four big men’s events on the tour and a 39- year- old veteran, Karrie Webb, was leading the money list on the women’s tour. In what has been the best run for our players ever on the American tour we have just seen Jason Day, John Senden, Steve Bowditch and Matt Jones win and for all but the already exempt Day, earn a place in the field at Augusta. Jones came up with a staggering finish in Houston to beat Matt Kuchar who took a four shot lead into Sunday never really looked like losing. At the final hole the now seemingly mandatory U.S Tour finishing hole infested with water all the way down the hook side Jones holed from forty feet for a birdie and coming behind the experienced Kuchar whipped a hybrid club second shot into the lake. He eventually scrapped out a five after dropping and they went back to the tee for the playoff where Jones had one more piece of magic left. He drove cautiously right and into the fairway bunker, a bunker not particularly penal unless you find a bad lie, and hit a long iron predictably short and right leaving himself 40 yards from the hole. From there he did what you do under the circumstances and chipped it all the way across the green and into the hole. Kuchar had left himself with a long and difficult bunker shot and was no certainty to make four but nonetheless it was a stunning shot and a reward for seven years of perseverance and a fine method not reliant on timing and good hands. As you get older it is a particularly comforting way to play. At the first women’s major in Palm Springs American television got the dream final pairing of Lexi Thompson and a resurgent Michelle Wie. Both are tall and incredibly physically talented athletes but they play much different games. Wie swings in textbook style with the club on a perfect plane and everything looking to be in complete control. She had for three days dissected the course by hitting greens one after the other with precise and well thought out shots. Thompson, in contrast, looks to do almost nothing right. The club is all over the place, she hits down so steeply you fear one day her wrist won t come back out of the ground in one piece and she slashes around the course in a way that makes Arnold Palmer look conservative. Tied for the lead on Sunday morning there could only be one winner if you were looking for a technique likely to hold up under the pressure. Instead Thompson went out and ripped four birdies out of the front nine and separated herself from Wie by five shots and it was all but over by the time they walked to the 10th tee. Wie played a good round in the end but 71 was not nearly enough. They say in America Thompson is the next big star and she may well be but you wonder if it will be with this teenage method or one more refined. As it is now it perfectly exemplifies the American notion, so suited to their tournament courses, known as bomb and gouge . It won t work in Australia where our best tournament courses are much more sophisticated and where pure length is not the order of the day but that isn t the way of golf in the United States. At least not professional golf anyway. What is amazing to me is you can bet your house no one from tennis will be picking up the phone today and calling someone in golf and asking how our players are doing so incredibly well when, with way more money, tennis so spectacularly fails to produce players of equivalent quality.