I only saw the highlights of Will Zalatoris vs Sepp Straka in last week’s enthralling playoff at the FedEx St Jude Championship on Monday morning.
My reason for missing such a gripping encounter? A lads holiday. Yes, I am one of those people and that is as close as I will get to revealing my age.
Being a golf journalist has become an exhaustive profession in recent months. It has become almost impossible to watch golf without something LIV related hanging over it so for one week I was able to switch off entirely from golf and the current goings on in a LIVless oasis.
I heard a fantastic line from Rob Heffernan – Ireland’s 2013 World Champion 50km walker and father of AC Milan starlet Cathal – who was reacting to Israel Olatunde qualifying for the 100m European final:
“Sport is about trying to win.”
That is essentially what it is about, competition, trying to enjoy it, giving it absolutely everything whether that be to win an athletics title, a golf tournament, a local football match on a Sunday or just a fiver from your mates.
On Sunday, Zalatoris finally broke through the glass ceiling and notched his maiden PGA Tour win. From an ill-fated spell as Happy Gilmore’s caddy to PGA Tour winner eh?
Zalatoris has made a habit of showing up well on the big occasion with three runner-up finishes in majors in the last two years without doing too much wrong, particularly in the US Open where he was simply beaten by the better player in Matt Fitzpatrick.
Money was far from his mind then, and it was far from his mind last Sunday night when his ball remarkably stayed dry on the rocks off the twelfth green – the third playoff hole.
The passion he showed when holing those two fantastic putts under the most severe pressure, particularly with his much-maligned putting stroke, was a serious two fingers to his critics and in a way, to LIV.
LIV can throw all the money in the world at players and they will continue to prise players away unfortunately. However, the players will never be able to replicate the emotion that Zalatoris showed.
What I love about golf is that anyone can win. After all, the supposed world beater Zalatoris hadn’t won on the PGA Tour until Sunday while Straka, a journeyman, had at the Honda Classic.
LIV takes away the art and enjoyment of competition with its petrodollars. I had the pleasure of being on site for the final of the AIG Irish Men’s Amateur Close Championship this week in Headfort as the little-known Quentin Carew took down the most in-form player in the country Hugh Foley, to climb his Everest.
It was a remarkable story for Carew who caddied for his father in the Edenderry Captain’s Prize nine-hole playoff before finding out he had qualified for the matchplay of the Close in the 64th and final place.
Quentin’s sensational win is one of the great stories in Irish amateur golf and it encapsulated the beauty of matchplay where anyone can win over 18 holes no matter what ability.
What struck me though wasn’t potentially the greatest 2-iron hit under pressure that I have ever seen but the several children following Carew and Foley, carrying their own little nine irons and getting as close to the players’ golf bags as possible.
The Allenwood native captured what sport is all about, enjoyment, having fun, living in the moment. You wouldn’t have known he was in the Close final, the biggest match of his life, knowing that this could be his one and only shot at a major championship.
There he was, lapping up every second of it. Even at four down he was smiling, laughing and chatting to the spectators.
Joining LIV just takes away the point of grafting and working tirelessly to achieve your goals, to get to the top, to win, to compete.
Someone like Carew puts in undoubted effort while balancing a full-time job just to one day be in a position for a shot at glory. That’s why so many players struggle on the mini tours, graft away in Monday qualifiers, go to the feeder tours to try and make the step up. To break through the ceiling. It’s character building and rounds you as a person.
After finding out he had qualified in the Close, Carew took the juveniles to the practice nets to look at their swings. A class act, inspiring the next generation. What golf is all about. That’s growing the game, that’s promotion.
It’s easy to watch the DP World Tour and PGA Tour on the television but everybody should be encouraged to go and watch the amateur championships in Ireland. They are thrilling entertainment and the golf on show is of the highest quality.
Even with all the dark clouds hanging over the world of golf, the sun will always break through and give us the feel-good moments which is why I love this sport so much.