Our man looks back at the weather delayed Joburg Open and a veteran's victory in Florida. Read his customary look back at all the action here...
“If Stricker (and O’Hair’s) success was a one-off then the argument that the aging pros have a big opportunity could be dispelled as hogwash but this year’s result wasn’t a one off.”
Stormy weather put pay to play at the Joburg Open yesterday so the fourth and final round has just been completed this morning and the 21-year-old Indian, Shubhankar Sharma, has cruised to a superb and impressive three-stroke win over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.
Sharma was matched before the off at a high of 210.0209/1 but the bulk of pre-event trades were made between 130.0129/1 and 150.0149/1. The runner-up was matched at a high of 75.074/1 but he was a well-touted 55.054/1 chance by the time the event began.
Over in the States, 25.024/1 shots, Sean O'Hair and Steve Stricker, won the QBE Shootout by two strokes over the Irish pairing of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry but it wasn't all plain sailing. The Irish pair led by two strokes after six and seven holes and they were matched at a low of 1.330/100 but O'Hair and Stricker wrestled back the initiative on the back-nine and it was all done and dusted after this superb second shot by O'Hair led to an eagle on the par five 17th.
The Joburg Open was a disaster from start to finish really and once Sharma had slipped the field I raised the white flag. He'd looked so calm and composed on Saturday that I didn't want to take him on in the final round but given he'd never been in such a position before, I didn't want to back him at odds-on either so I've got no complaints about the outcome.
Striker and O'Hair were my only selections in the States so that was a nice result and even though I layed the pair back at 1.222/9 during the final round their victory meant the losses in South Africa were soon forgotten. With hindsight, I obviously wish I'd backed them with a bit more conviction but it's always easy afterwards.
What Have We Learned This Week?
As stated above, given it was an event that's really only a bit of pre-Christmas fun I only had a small bet on Stricker and O'Hair but we have to conclude that we now have a decent angle in here.
It's a very relaxed tournament and I just wonder how seriously the younger players take it. Whether they mean to or not, it must be really difficult for the elite pros to be mentally sharp after a long season of contending in big events and even majors whereas for the likes of 50-year-old, Stricker, who had his wife caddying for him, this an opportunity to show the young pups that there's life in the old dog yet.
If Stricker (and O'Hair's) success was a one-off then the argument that the aging pros have a big opportunity could be dispelled as hogwash but this year's result wasn't a one off. Kenny Perry won with O'Hair in 2012 at the age of 52, Scott Hoch was 53 when he won with Perry in 2008 and there have been a number of winning partnerships in their 40s. This is an event were the old guys get a chance to upstage their younger counterparts and it's definitely an angle-in.
How Good Is Sharma?
South African golfing legend, Ernie Els, first met Sharma 10 years ago when he was doing a clinic at Delhi Golf Club and he spotted his potential even then. This is how Sharma recounted the experience during the weather delay on Sunday.
"At the end of the clinic he asked for two or three kids to come and hit a few shots. I was one of them. The others were really small kids and they had to use his clubs, so they struggled. I was the last to hit and Ernie came up to me and said, 'You see this seven iron, you've got to hit it off the centre of the face'. I took the club and hit two really good shots. He was so happy and everyone started clapping.
"Ernie said to me, 'You're a really good player. I can see from your pre-shot routine as well. Do you want to be a professional one day?'
"I said, 'Yes and maybe I can play with you someday'. Then he gave me his business card and signed it and said, 'Well when you grow up I'll be your agent'. I still have that card."
It's a lovely story that just goes to show how important player interaction with the kids is. Sharma clearly hung on every word his hero had said a decade ago and the Big Easy may well have installed a level of belief that helped drive the talented young Indian to where he is now but how far can he go?
I fancy he can go a very long way. Everything about this week has been really impressive. This was his first time in South Africa and his first time playing with his caddie, Eric, who he only met on Monday! Given Sharma was playing the course for the first time and that the course is at altitude, he was smart enough to have the wherewithal to listen to his caddie's advice on clubbing. He said after his win that he listened to Eric on a lot of holes because he didn't really know how much yardage to reduce. I thought that showed maturity and intelligence that you don't always get with 21-year-olds.
Christmas is coming fast but the golf action hasn't quite finished. Justin Rose will be appearing in the Indonesian Masters live on Sky on Thursday and I'll be back later today or tomorrow with a preview.
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