Joy of Golf: A welcome shot in the arm for Presidents Cup

Joy Chakravarty 09:39 15/10/2015
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Thrilling finale: Bill Haas and Sang Moon-Bae delivered the perfect ending in Incheon.

Even the best writers in Hollywood could not have scripted it any better. As a team event, the Presidents Cup last week finally delivered the drama and the excitement that is normally associated with the Ryder Cup.

The biennial tournament between Team USA and the Internationals went down to the wire.

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Despite a horrendous start when they were down 4-1 after the first session of Foursomes on Thursday, the Internationals staged a stirring fightback to eventually lose by the narrowest of margins after taking the final singles match to the last hole. There have been 11 tournaments so far, and except for the tie in 2003, the Presidents Cup has never managed to take the spectators and fans to the edge of the seat. But all that changed in Incheon.

And more than anything else, it was the last singles match that forced everyone to bare their emotions. In one corner was Bill Haas for the USA, the most controversial pick considering he was captain Jay Haas’ son.

Facing him was Sang Moon-Bae, a local hero and someone who was playing his final competitive round before taking a two-year break to join the mandatory military service.

A half would have shared the trophy (unlike Ryder Cup, where equal points means the defending champions get to keep the trophy), while a win for either player would have won it for their team.

It was a close match, before Bae duffed his chip shot from near the green to hand it over to Bill. It was heartbreak for the Korean and the 20,000 strong crowd that was following the final group, but it was also an amazing moment for Haas. You normally do not see such uncontrolled tears of joy in golf, but it was special for Jay and he cannot be blamed.

But apart from the emotions, there was so much more to this Presidents Cup. There were stunning shots, and there were some downright amateurish ones. There was controversy, with Phil Mickelson and the US losing a hole twice for playing a wrong ball, and then there was Mickelson atoning for his mistake by holing shots from the fairways and bunkers.

The success of the Ryder Cup has proved that world golf can certainly do with more team events. Hopefully, this is the shot in the arm that Presidents Cup needed as it tries to follow the same path.

At the nation’s service
Sang Moon-Bae is the reigning champion in this week’s Open, but the Korean will not be able to defend his title. He will be spending the next two years serving in the military – a mandatory requirement in his country.

There have been several golfers who have interrupted their careers, or have joined the services on their own accord. A name in that list is Ahmad Al Musharrekh, the only Emirati professional golfer, who is currently in the midst of his mandatory service and hence missing this season’s MENA Golf Tour.

But arguably two of the greatest names in the game who have been in the uniform are Arnold ‘The King’ Palmer, and the legendary amateur Bobby Jones.

Jones served his time after he had given up competitive golf and in his 40s, during the World War II. The American, the only player credited with a calendar grand slam in golf, was part of the battalions that landed at Normandy and survived heavy shelling. In fact, Jones started as aerial map analyst, but urged the military to give him a more actionbased service.

Arnold Palmer.

Palmer, on the other hand, preferred the sea, even though he was a qualified pilot who flew his own plane to all parts of America when playing on the Tour. But the King dropped out of college and worked with the Coast Guards for three years. Even to this day, Palmer maintains those three years shaped his life like none other.

The most famous military involvement in golf right now is Bill Hurley III. The American, who currently plays on the PGA Tour, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2004, and has made a reverse journey from the Navy to golf.

Quote of the Week
“Phil can be a pretty energetic guy. He likes to let some stuff out, and I’m a pretty mellow guy out there. I said, rather than getting up there and doing a chest bump or the big ‘ol whatever, we just kept it simple. Just a nice, classy handshake when things went well.” – Zach Johnson on the rather subdued celebrations between him as Phil Mickelson during the Presidents Cup in Incheon last week.

Stat of the Week
9.5 – combined points won by the South African stars Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen in the Presidents Cup. Grace won all matches, while Oosthuizen halved his singles.

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