Duel in the sun as black takes on green in Dubai

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Oh dear, that didn’t quite go to plan…

It’s a beautiful day in Dubai, one that I’m almost certainly going to ruin about 4 hours from now when I tee off on day 2 of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup.

Despite all my bravado, my game yesterday resembled a shipwreck. Well, make that simply a wreck – no ship would be allowed to sea in such condition.

What made it worse was that I was playing with Dubai Duty Free boss Colm McLoughlin, who was in sparkling form and his son Niall who hits the ball practically all the way back to Ireland, except straighter, and scored a leaderboard-topping 47 stableford points (I scored 18, so am going to need a sizzling start today to haul him in).

Still there was some consolation. At one point of the round I drove well – after I picked up my ball, that is, following two in the water and Colm said “Bring the buggy up to the green please Martin while I putt out.” Even then Colm expressed surprise that I did not veer into the lake.

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Like the All Blacks before playing the Irish at Soldier Field in Chicago a month ago, I talked a good game. The result, alas, was the same. Everywhere I looked on the golf course there were Irishmen, all doing better than me. I felt like Beauden Barret in Chicago, overwhelmed by a frenzied green wave of back row forwards.

And you know what? It’s about to get worse. Today I’m in a head-to-head showdown with my Irish publishing partner-in-crime Dermot Divot – a former winner of this Championship, I might add.

Two nights ago when I learned the draw I told him he had no chance. Wagers were laid. After all, I’d just taken my first golf lessons back in London. Not once had I missed the screen on the golf simulator where I was undergoing my advanced adult education. My instructor had quickly identified what was wrong with my swing (“it’s everything after you pick up your golf club Martin”) and begun the work of straightening it out. There had even been signs of progress. And he texted me some “swing thoughts” before yesterday’s round. “Focus on set-up and weight,” he said.

The second bit was easy. I’m around 70kg and have been for a long time. Set-up? Yes, I had been. Who would possibly pair me with the McLoughlins? At one point Niall smoked the ball almost to the green on a par 4. I got so much under mine that it just missed my head coming down.

And now, I fear, it’s all about to get much worse. Today we’re playing at the Dubai Creek and Yacht Club. How many golf courses, I ask you, do you need a yacht to get around? That suggests water. As in Pacific Ocean swathes of water. And where there’s not water, apparently there’s sand. And only where there’s neither water nor sand is there green. And with my luck that will turn out to be a bloody Irishman.

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There’s so much water on today’s course that they use yachts rather than buggies to get around
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That’s me on the course last time I played here. It is believed to be the last surviving picture of that golf ball.

My only possible hope is that I left the Dubai Duty Free Irish Village party at a comparatively early hour (as in early in the morning) and Dermot Divot (below, extreme right, though let’s not bring politics into it) was still going strong. But given that he finished at 3a.m after consuming more pints of Guinness than there is water in the Liffey the year he won, that offers scant hope.

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And yet… and yet. The pride of my nation sits on my shoulders today. Redemption for that day on Soldier Field awaits. This time it is the Kiwis cast as the underdog, the Irishmen the brooding, long-dominant, seemingly invincible force. What was it my instructor told me? “Turn your shoulders Martin.” That’s it! That’s the bit I forgot yesterday. Feel those shoulders. Shoulder feel…. There’s a kind of Chicago ring to it isn’t there?

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“Seconds out!” Black v Green is about to begin. “I want a good clean fight,” says Referee Ian Williams of Pernod Ricard

Oh yes folks, in the short period it’s taken me to write this Blog, my confidence has flowed back. I’ve got my putter ready for some practice in my hotel room. If I can hit that little plastic tub of milk (pictured) then I can surely hole out time and time again on a real course. Set-up, weight, shoulder turn. I can do this. I really can. Forget Soldier Field; forget the Thriller in Manila (Ali v Frazier); forget the Rumble in the Jungle (Ali v Foreman), forget the duel in the sun (Nicklaus v Watson); this is plain and simple Black on Green. And there’s only going to be one winner.

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