Phil Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes of the Open Championship at Muirfield to claim the prize that even he had doubted was within his compass. In taking possession of the Claret Jug, another level of professional fulfilment had been attained, a fifth major and the third element of a career Grand Slam. He was a popular winner, the only man to break par over four rounds and three strokes better than anyone else. This famous course does not permit imposters to sully its roll of honour. The company he keeps is consummate with his standing in the game. Now that he has conquered the wild frontier, the exposed links which had prodded his weaknesses with their crooked finger, he deserves a recognition which many were not prepared to concede. When we speak of the greatest, no longer should he remain an embarrassed afterthought.
In football it would be so much easier to score a goal if you just stood in the six yard box and waited for the ball to come. None of that having to make intelligent runs in behind or creating space by shifting defenders around. But they don’t allow such an easy option; that’s why the offside rule was introduced. Similarly, we know how roughing up a cricket ball by lifting the seam or artificially scuffing one side helps exaggerate movement and gets more wickets. Can’t do that either though. As well as being against the spirit it is explicitly outlawed after all sorts of ingenious ruses were attempted. So why do certain golfers think they can fundamentally alter the nature of their sport by using anchored belly putters? The authorities have decided to act by announcing their intention to ban usage of these clubs by 2016. Quite right, only some are refusing to accept the change and battle lines are now being drawn. It is a row which has the potential to cause immense damage.
The spirit of Seve may have been smiling on Medinah Country Club, but a somewhat more prosaic influence underscored Europe’s astonishing Ryder Cup comeback in the watery light of an autumnal Chicago afternoon. Not that there’s anything commonplace about Ian Poulter. The vaguely eccentric Hertfordshire golfer might feel his full potential has not been realised, but when it comes to the biennial scuffle for the famous old trophy he has few peers. This weekend saw him breathe new life into an ailing patient on the verge of the last rites. His refusal to accept it was over, his fizzing intensity as the home crowds mocked and cavorted in premature celebration, suffused his team-mates with a belief that had seemed futile. And once the door was kicked ajar, they stormed through it and trampled the Americans underfoot. Seve might indeed have been in his heart, but that heart was worn indefatigably on his sleeve.