The Longshot: Clubbing up for the Power play in ‘fifth major’ at Sawgrass

The Longshot: Clubbing up for the Power play in ‘fifth major’ at Sawgrass

Seamus Power is capable of really making a name for himself at TPC Sawgrass this week.

LAST weekend I managed to cross a line off the bucket list when I hacked my way around Waterville Golf Links for 18 holes. I am doing myself a disservice there because tee to green I played about as well as I can (there not being even a puff of wind coming in off the Atlantic helped).

The day before I’d gone for a fitting with a rep from a certain brand of club-maker at my home club (I’m ever willing to blame my tools).

He excitedly told me the irons I should purchase would add 30+ yards of carry to my approach play, according to the tracking technology that broke down my swing.

In fact, he recommended a whole new set of clubs, holding especial disdain for my current driver, which he said was a knock-off, a good bit wonky and not too long from snapping in two (during a ball strike rather than over my knee).

It was great to hear all this, right up until the moment it was calculated that swapping for a new set (in the past I’ve inherited cast-offs from more talented family members) would cost just shy of a month’s salary. I’ll take laying up with my heirlooms for another while, over explaining that hole in the joint account to my beloved.

One club I will have to replace is the pitching wedge I broke a few weeks back when I used it as a pole vault to leap a small stream. My short sticks were my downfall in Waterville. My lob wedge would have served me better if I’d left it in the boot. The seaside town is famous for its connection with Charlie Chaplin, whose statue stands on the promenade. However, if you wanted to witness slapstick meets tragedy on Saturday you just had to watch my attempts at chipping. Being on a links, at one stage I decided I’d start using my flat stick from anywhere smooth enough off the green. And immediately took a four-putt.

I finished up with three pars, but five more were missed from within three feet. If Chaplin was renowned for his silent dramas, my ones tend to be loud and full of swearing.

The reason I bring this all up is because I had to relive all this trauma on Sunday evening watching our 50/1 tip Jordan Spieth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

The three-time major winner took a one-stroke lead midway through the final round. His play off the tee was erratic at times but some incredible recovery play kept him in contention. Short putts proved his downfall too. He missed one after another after another.

We’ve been waiting quite a while for a big-priced win on these pages and Spieth letting us down from such a good position was a sickener, especially as no one else grabbed the tournament by the scruff of the neck and surged away. It really was a stayers’ race. Eventual winner Kurt Kitayama (a maiden win from someone who has traversed 12 different tours in his career) persevered despite having two sevens on his card on both Saturday and Sunday (when he took a triple bogey on the ninth hole).

There are only 30 days left to the Masters now, but this weekend we have what is often referred to as the ‘fifth major’, the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Tiger Woods (now World No 984) has withdrawn and Cam Smith won’t be defending after his LIV leap.

While last Sunday’s final leaderboard was packed with big names, the TPC tends to be more volatile and with water hazards on 17 holes some fancied players often miss the cut. The field’s big three of Rahm, McIlroy and Scheffler have combined for just three finishes inside the top 30 over the past five years.

Rahm’s 39th at the Arnold Palmer after a blistering start was the Spaniard’s worst finish since the Scottish Open last July and 8/1 on him seems way too short.

Thomas Maloney Westgård on the slopes for Ireland.
Thomas Maloney Westgård on the slopes for Ireland.

Irishman is leaving it all out there on the slopes

WHAT with indoor athletics, Gaelic football, soccer and golf, Sunday offered plenty of channel hopping and recording-to-watch later for TV sports enthusiasts.

During a brief respite, we flicked over to Eurosport to discover a competitor in green the 50km Cross-Country at the Nordic World Championships that were concluding in Slovenia.

Thomas Maloney Westgård maintained a mid-field position for most of the skiing slog around a seven-lap circuit and finished creditably in the top 20.

That we have any participants at all in winter sports is always something of a wonder, when other than some dusting on the Reeks and Galtees and some slippery roads when the temperatures dip below zero, there aren’t many opportunities to dream of glory on snow and ice.

Maloney Westgård, as his name might suggest, had the benefit of growing up in Norway, home to the most successful Winter Olympians, in conditions most of us on this island would label ‘treacherous’.

The 27-year-old actually grew up on another island that wasn’t that conducive to pursuing his ambition on skis. He has said of Leka, the tiny place where he grew up, just off and a fair way up the Norwegian coast: “t wasn’t the best place really to ski because it was windy and raining a lot, a bit like Ireland.” He only took up the discipline at 16 and had to move four hours away to find suitable slopes to practise on.

A mother from Galway offers the Irish connection to a man who says his sporting hero is Robbie Keane.

He performed admirably at the Olympics last year too, bagging 14th in the 15km event.

He also competed in the 50km in Beijing, in a race that grabbed the headlines 12 months ago when Finnish participant Remi Lindholm suffered a frozen penis.

Maloney Westgård finished one place behind the Finn that day in 29th and admitted the same condition (although condition seems too much of a euphemism in this regard) has affected him in the past.

“I know that feeling. Luckily, it happened me in a 10k and not a 50k so I was able to get in to shelter quick enough. I’ve made some mistakes of not dressing myself suitably for conditions, but I’ve learned!” Cross-country skiing is not only about incredible reserves of endurance; sometimes competitors must really have ice in their veins.

Liverpool bounce back

WHAT is there to say about Liverpool? In less than two weeks they have gone from their greatest European collapse to the biggest defeat of their historic rivals They have moved up to fifth place, just three points behind Tottenham in fourth, with a game in hand. They are now even money to secure a place in the top four, while Spurs and Newcastle are now 2/1. After their 4-0 destruction of West Ham, Brighton are quoted at 8/1.

The defeat stands as United’s joint-worst; the last 7-0 was in 1931 It shatters any aspirations for joining the title race. It also means United’s goal difference (+6) is, incredibly, below Brentford’s (+7)!

And although it preceded my time resuming writing in these back pages, it has torpedoed my 66/1 each-way bet (for two places) on United at the start of the season.

Chelsea need more goals

CHELSEA finally ended their goal drought at the weekend, securing a much-need win for Graham Potter.

They’ll need to find the net again tonight to progress in the Champions League as Borussia Dortmund carry a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge. The Germans are 8/13 to qualify but I think the 6/5 quoted on the Blues might be better as they finally have started sniffing around the net again and now that not scoring an away goal in a first leg isn’t such a hindrance.

In the other game tonight, Benfica are nailed on to qualify.

Tomorrow the big game is PSG against Bayern Munich. The French (or Qatari) side travel to Bavaria with the shadow of allegations against Moroccan World Cup star Achraf Hakimi over them.

Kingsley Coman got the goal (just as he did in the decider between the two in 2020) to give the Germans their 1-0 cushion tomorrow night.

Bayern have a 100% home record this season, two defeats overall, and a perfect run in the Champions League with all wins and six clean sheets out of seven games.

But I have a notion that Kylian Mbappe might mix things up. Having Neymar injured might benefit them in giving their starting 11 more shape. 11/4 on them to finally do something positive in Europe is advised

The Bet

RORY McILROY was almost in a play-off on Sunday evening and is 10/1 but I think I’ll opt for a better-priced Irishman. The course could be better set up for Shane Lowry and 50/1 are decent odds for him, however I think I’ll be greedy and opt for Waterford’s Seamus Power at 100/1, considering this tournament can throw up all sorts of surprises.

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