The Open Golf 2016: Henrik Stenson outduels Phil Mickelson

July 18, 2016

The Open Golf 2016: Sweden’s Henrik Stenson outduels Phil Mickelson

by Michael Bamberger

TROON, Scotland–In one of the greatest displays of golf this championship has ever seen, Henrik Stenson, at age 40, became the first Swede to win the British Open, or claim any major title, on Sunday at the stern Royal Troon Golf Club. The final round was a stunning display of mano-a-mano golf, as Stenson and his playing partner, Phil Mickelson, 46, going off in the last twosome of the day, completely distanced themselves from the rest of the field and matched each other almost shot for shot in what amounted to golf theater as its most thrilling.

Stenson won with a final-round, record-tying 63, playing the final five holes in four under par. He finished with 10 birdies, and it marked the 29th time that 63 had been shot in a major championship. (Johnny Miller, at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, is the only other champion to do it in a final round.) All Mickelson did was post a bogey-free, six-under 65. For 14 holes, the two were never more than a shot apart, one player repeatedly matching the other with a stiff approach shot or a birdie hole-out.

At the start of the round, played under unexpectedly welcoming conditions after two cold and blustery days, Stenson enjoyed a one-shot lead, as he stood 12 under par, a shot ahead of Mickelson. Both men had played spectacular golf for three days, but there was nothing to suggest the Sunday fireworks they both produced. Stenson, a tall and lean Swede who will surely be on the European Ryder Cup team in late September, has a long history of mediocre play on Sundays. Mickelson, who had not won an event since his surprising victory at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield, has been experimenting with putters and putter grips as the part of his game that was once his greatest asset had become a liability.

But then came Sunday, a final act to a national title that made you almost forget about the debacle of Oakmont, where a confusing rules situation and unsteady play by the 54-hole leader, Shane Lowry, made the day less than glorious. When Stenson bogeyed the short and straight par-4 1st and Mickelson made an almost gimme birdie, the 54-hole scoreboard totals were suddenly meaningless. Mickelson led by a shot as the two went to the 2nd tee.

A shot is nothing in links golf, where bad luck in any bunker can mean a 7 on your card, where balls get can lost in gorse and in the hay. But a one-shot lead at that moment seemed significant. Mickelson had all the advantage. He has won five majors. He has played in last groups of big events many, many times. He knows how to rise to the occasion. With the winds calm, he was in position to plot his way around the course with precision. With the opening bogey for Stenson, you had the feeling it would be dejavu all over again. Would he go for 80 on the par-71 course where Americans had won the last six Opens held on the seaside course?

But then came the next nearly four hours, and a reminder of why we watch and love sports in the first place. There were no rules issues. (The pace in the final group was slow, but the R&A rules officials let it slide. The final group on the final day, playing for the oldest championship in golf, is never anything like a horse race. There are a lot of moving parts.) This was simply a fantastic display of driving, iron play, putting and thinking that showed the best of the best today are nearly as good as Tiger Woods. Between the two of them, hitting tee shots nearly the same length, smiling at each other by way of wordless compliment, there was barely a single missed shot.

Stenson birdied the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes. He gave the fifth a break—he made a routine par there—and made another birdie on 6. Bam, pop, boom. A lesser opponent might have folded up the shop by that point.

Mickelson did anything but. When he missed maybe a four-foot birdie putt on 3, he did something you seldom see in a professional tournament. He took a practice putting stroke from the same spot—flagstick in, no ball—apparently trying to work out a kink. On the next hole, the par-5 4th, Mickelson holed a roughly 10-foot putt for an eagle. He matched Stenson’s birdie on 6.

Photo: Getty ImagesPhil Mickelson has collected more runner-up finishes in major than any other golfer besides Jack Nicklaus.
And so they came to the most famous hole at Troon, No. 8, a tiny par-3, playing about 120 yards. A sawed-off nine-iron or wedge for these guys, who by this point both stood at 15 under par. Mickelson had the honor. He was dressed in the manner of his forebears, in charcoal-gray trousers and a black jumper. His face was reddish and wind-burned. His tee shot was a thing of beauty, leaving him a 15-footer. Stenson hit his to about 20 feet. The Swede made. The lefthander just missed. The advantage went Stenson, who went out in 32 despite the bogey on the 1st. Mickelson did too. Two 32s. Proof, among other things, that there is nothing wrong with letting the players play and if the scoring conditions lend themselves to scoring, and if the players can handle themselves, low scores will follow.

They both birdied the 10th. When Stenson three-putted the 11th and Mickelson got up and down for par, the two were tied again.

The stakes for Mickelson were enormous. For one thing, he would love to play on this year’s Ryder Cup team; he has been on the past 10. Also, he is trying to distance himself from an SEC investigation in which he was charged with no crime but was discovered to have had large gambling debts to professional gambler Billy Walters, who was charged with insider trading. Not that he was likely thinking about any of that, but golf is a decidedly mental game.

But golf offers no defense. It is the game’s greatest strength and why so many ordinary sports fans cannot relate to it all. Stenson, whatever Sunday problems he has had in the past, went on another three-hole tear, to match his one on the front. Birdie on 14, on 15, on 16. All Mickelson could do was watch and, because he is Phil, smile, while making a two pars and a birdie on those same holes. Stenson, who once stripped to his undershorts to play a shot from a murky pond at Doral, who has a quirky and quick sense of humor, had a two-shot lead. A two-shot lead with two to play has proven, often, to be nothing. Not on this Sunday, which was a study in steadiness. Stenson’s birdie putt at the 17th singed the lip, and he curled in a 20-footer at the home hole. Again, Mickelson could only smile.

But golf offers no defense. It is the game’s greatest strength and why so many ordinary sports fans cannot relate to it all. Stenson, whatever Sunday problems he has had in the past, went on another three-hole tear, to match his one on the front. Birdie on 14, on 15, on 16. All Mickelson could do was watch and, because he is Phil, smile, while making a two pars and a birdie on those same holes. Stenson, who once stripped to his undershorts to play a shot from a murky pond at Doral, who has a quirky and quick sense of humor, had a two-shot lead. A two-shot lead with two to play has proven, often, to be nothing. Not on this Sunday, which was a study in steadiness. Stenson’s birdie putt at the 17th singed the lip, and he curled in a 20-footer at the home hole. Again, Mickelson could only smile.

How good was their golf? The third-place finisher, J.B. Holmes, was at six under. The PGA Championship is next, in two weeks, followed by the Olympics and then the Ryder Cup. You’ll be seeing a lot of Henrik Stenson. Not matter what he does, he’s the champion golfer of the year.


US Open Golf at Oakmont–Dustin Johnson is 2016 Champion

June 20, 2016

New York

US Open Golf at Oakmont–Dustin Johnson is 2016 Champion

Dustin Johnson after winning the 116th United States Open. He had lost two other majors in unusual ways and found himself in a bizarre situation Sunday with a potential penalty hanging over him. Credit Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

OAKMONT, Pa. — As Dustin Johnson teed off in the final round of the 116th United States Open, his mind-set was simple.

He would ignore the ghosts of majors past. Forget about Shane Lowry’s four-stroke lead. Ignore top-ranked Jason Day and all the other players giving chase at Oakmont Country Club. “It’s just me and the course,” he told himself.

But on the way to victory Sunday, it would become more complicated for Johnson, seemingly one of the most uncomplicated athletes to roam a golf course. Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, described Johnson this month as “a freak golf athlete,” and it is true. His opening drive of the fourth round traveled 378 yards. Enough said.

Aside from being known as a freak athlete, Johnson had a reputation for losing majors in freaky fashion. He lost the 2015 United States Open to Spieth when he three-putted the 72nd hole from 12 feet. He lost the 2010 tournament with a final-round 82 that was like a summons server, materializing out of nowhere.

Johnson held the lead at the halfway point of last year’s British Open, but finished tied for 49th when he could not break par in the final two rounds. He lost the 2010 P.G.A. Championship when he grounded his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole and incurred a penalty that kept him out of a playoff, won by Martin Kaymer.

After his brain cramp at the P.G.A. Championship, Johnson drew criticism for not summoning a rules official to assess if the spot where his ball had come to rest was in one of the hundreds of bunkers that pockmark Whistling Straits.

Fast-forward six years to Sunday, when Johnson saw his ball move on the fifth green. He did not believe he had caused the ball to oscillate, but to be on the safe side, he called a rules official. After a brief discussion, the official determined that no infraction had occurred, and Johnson stepped up and made the par putt to remain one under for the round and four under for the tournament.

Johnson made the turn in two-under 33. On the 12th tee, he was approached by United States Golf Association officials, who explained that a video review had indicated that he might have caused the ball to move in the process of placing his putter behind it at address. He was told that he most likely would be assessed a one-stroke penalty after his round.

Shane Lowry, who led by four strokes after 54 holes, after a missed putt in the final round. Credit Andrew Redington/Getty Images

At that moment, Johnson was two strokes clear of the field, but it was not just him and the course anymore. It was him and the course and the U.S.G.A. rules committee and his 0-for-28 record in the majors. There were enough factors to clog his head and cloud his thinking.

But Johnson kept calm. Despite a bogey at the 14th hole, he played the final seven holes in even par, making clutch par putts at Nos. 16 and 17 and a birdie at the 18th, which rendered the one-stroke penalty a moot point.

Johnson finished four under par at 276, three strokes ahead of Jim Furyk, Scott Piercy and Lowry.

In the final round at Chambers Bay last year, Johnson had hit two of his best shots of the week on the 18th hole, only to miss a 12-foot putt for eagle to win and three-footer for a birdie that would have forced an 18-hole playoff with Spieth.

On Sunday, with the crowd lining the 18th hole chanting his initials, Johnson hit two of his best shots of the week and made the five-foot putt for birdie to finish with a 69 (with the penalty).

Furyk, the 2003 champion who tied for second at the 2007 Open when it was at Oakmont, closed with a four-under 66 and was the leader in the clubhouse for almost two hours at one under.

Lowry and Piercy were the last two players with a chance to pass Johnson, but Piercy played the back nine in one over for a 69, and Lowry bogeyed three of the last five holes en route to a 76.

Johnson, Furyk, Piercy and Lowry were the only players to break par. Sergio García (70) and Branden Grace (71) tied for fifth at even-par 280.

In his first major, Andrew Landry, who had been at or near the top during the first three days, closed with a 78 to finish in a tie for 15th at five over.

Lee Westwood, who started the fourth round one stroke behind Johnson, with whom he was paired, posted an 80 and tied for 32nd.

With his victory, Johnson, who turns 32 on Wednesday, took himself out of the running for the “best player never to have won a major” honorarium, leaving Westwood (0 for 73) and García (0 for 71) to duke it out.

“Feels well deserved,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I didn’t quite get it done. So this one definitely feels good.”

When Johnson came off the 18th green, scooped his 18-month-old son, Tatum, in his arms and embraced his fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, he had no idea whether he would be signing for a 68 or a 69. He was glad that it didn’t matter.

“Because that would have been bad,” he said. “But you know, it worked out.”

2016 US Masters: UK’s Danny Willett Wins The Green Jacket

April 12, 2016

2016 US Masters: UK’s Danny Willett Wins The Green Jacket

Danny Willett-2016 Master Champion

The agony of Jordan Spieth admitted the ecstasy of Danny Willett. One hour which surely imposed psychological scarring on the 22-year-old Texan shaped a path for Willett to etch his name into the record books. That a 28-year-old vicar’s son from Rotherham walked it without so much as a wobble is worthy of immense credit.

More importantly for Willett, Masters champion, it befits winning a Green Jacket. The cruelty element is that Spieth was obliged to present it to him.

This fairytale began on March 30, when Willett became a father. Owing to that unpredictable but impending circumstance there had been a question mark as to whether or not he would even take part in this tournament. Less than a fortnight after the arrival of baby Zachariah James, daddy was at the epicentre of one of the most jaw-droppingly exciting afternoons in Masters history. Bare statistics of Willett’s final-round 67, five-under total and three-shot win belie exceptional stuff.

Willett is only the second Englishman to win the Masters, the first European to take that prize since 1999 and he is suddenly catapulted into a level of scrutiny completely alien even when he was in the hitherto hardly insignificant placing of 12th in the world.

No tale of this event, though, can pass without deep mention of Spieth’s tribulations. Shortly after 5pm on Sunday the defending champion reached seven under and held a five-stroke lead. Spieth subsequently bogeyed the 10th, which barely registered with the crowds, but a dropped shot on the 11th combined with Willett’s birdie three holes ahead prompted collective cries of “hang on”.

Spieth, 20 years on from Greg Norman’s epic capitulation to Nick Faldo here, was to feature in an uncharacteristic horror show of his own. The 12th provided 155 yards of abject terror for Spieth and the first quadruple bogey of his professional career. Willett was three clear by the end of it. American golf fans checked Wikipedia.

Typically, as befitting a champion, Spieth summoned the only instinct he knows but he was to fall short; tied second for a second time in three years will offer absolutely no consolation. His closing stretch became painful to watch.

As the defending champion battled in vain, Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson did likewise. Westwood, who shares a management company with the champion, was also Willett’s playing partner and will take heart from evidence that the claiming of a major title is still not beyond him but elements of jealousy and hurt would be only natural. He shared second place with Spieth.

On an inside wall of the Augusta National clubhouse a series of bronze plaques show the celebratory poses of Masters winners. Willett’s image will join them and the fact that it will would have defied belief from the moment Spieth made the 50-yard walk from 9th green to 10th tee, cheered every step of this narrow corridor by adoring crowds. They thought they were acclaiming the 2016 champion.

The improbability of a Spieth meltdown to anything like what transpired will resonate. He showed no mercy when sealing Masters success one year ago, just as glory at the US Open two months later demonstrated the matching of God-given ability with ferocious competitive spirit. When Spieth leads, he wins; he had been in front at Augusta since Thursday. The breaking of that run came in front of an astonished audience.

And yet traces of impending trauma had been visible. Spieth did not seem wholly content all week – and rose to the top of the pile when clearly displaying his B game – to the extent that he called back his coach, Cameron McCormick, from Dallas between rounds three and four. On each of those instances Spieth had appeared on site three hours before tee time to iron out flaws. His driving had proved erratic, as offset by a recurring ability to pull off escape acts.

There had been routinely good fortune, such as at the 4th on Sunday when a horribly carved tee shot, apparently bound for a different zip code, instead rebounded from a tree into semi-rough. Spieth was to make par. This was far from an isolated incident; begging the obvious question as to how long he could continue unscathed.

Willett was the man to take advantage when Spieth’s wheels flew off. Any onlooker could only admire the nerveless manner in which he played the last two holes, with straight pars after making birdie at the 16th, when doubtless aware of the life-changing prize within view. Willett grasped opportunity with confidence.

Wake Forest University Honours Arnold D. Palmer

January 17, 2016

Wake Forest University Honours Arnold D.Palmer


Arnold D. Palmer (born in 1929) was responsible for making me a golfer with “Go for Broke” golfing style. I started playing golf when I was a graduate student at The George Washington University in 1968-1970. I had the opportunity of meeting him during one of his visits to The White House. My classmate, Guy B. Meeker, who went on to be a very successful Investment banker in New York City,  encouraged me to play the game.  And I have been hooked on the game ever since.


Guy Meeker and I admired (and we  were also inspired by) Arnold Palmer, the handsome and charismatic golfing friend of President Dwight David Eisenhower, who was on the way to being named Player of the Decade for his contributions to the game of golf and American sports.  It  is the indeed appropriate that his alma mater should  honour of this outstanding athlete and pride of Wake Foresters. My rather belated congratulations to the “King”and his family.–Din Merican

Islamist extremists pose a threat to Asian statehood

January 15, 2016

Islamist extremists pose a threat to Asian statehood

by Victor Mallet 1/13/201

 Do not forget the menace of violence and religious bigotry in the east, says Victor Mallet



 The first self-styled Islamic state of the postwar era was established not in the Arab world but in South Asia, in Pakistan. It was followed by Mauritania in West Africa, Iran and then Pakistan’s neighbour, Afghanistan.

 While the world frets over the spread of violent Islamist extremism through the Middle East, most recently under the banner of Isis, there is a tendency to forget the menace of violence and creeping religious bigotry among the vast Muslim populations of Asia. It is in Asia, after all, that most Muslims live.



In Asia, as in Europe and the Middle East, Isis is a popular brand among young Islamist militants. But the puritanical and bloodthirsty Sunni ideology it represents has been extending its influence there for decades under the guidance of other groups and governments, including al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and a plethora of local organisations.

Many westerners — because their own troops have been fighting and dying there in the recent past — are aware of the savagery of the civil war in Afghanistan between the ultraconservative Taliban and the government in Kabul.



But how many recall that Sunni extremists in Bangladesh have in the past few months hacked to death liberal writers and attacked foreigners, police officers, Shia Muslims, Hindus and Christians? That scores of recruits from the Maldives have gone to fight for Isis in Syria? Or that Pakistani terror groups routinely slaughter the perceived enemies of Sunni puritanism at home as well as launching occasional murderous raids into neighbouring India?


Red Shirt Malays

With Ameno wanita supporter, Isa Samad cannot afford to lose in Bagan Pinang


Worrying trends in Najib’s Malaysia

East Asia is not immune either. Just as south Asians once revelled in their religious diversity and syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture, so it was long argued that the brand of Islam practiced in Indonesia and its neighbours was “milder” than the harsh versions of the Gulf. Yet in recent decades we have seen terrorist bombings in Bali, Islamist separatism in the Philippines and Sumatra, the burning of churches in Java and increasing Wahhabi religiosity that runs counter to the tolerant and heterodox traditions of Islam in the east.

Analysing the role of postwar nation states and their constitutions is crucial for understanding the crisis of Islamist violence in Asia: the very name of the country is one reason why the problem is so severe in the pioneering Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

 When Muhammad Ali Jinnah separated Pakistan from the rest of India in 1947, it was to protect the Muslim minority of the Raj. He envisaged a secular, tolerant state where Christians, Hindus and others could worship freely.

When Muhammad Ali Jinnah separated Pakistan from the rest of India in 1947, it was to protect the Muslim minority of the Raj. He envisaged a secular, tolerant state where Christians, Hindus and others could worship freely.

That was not the way it turned out. Pakistan has become a place where the supposed will of the religious majority is imposed by violence. By becoming an “Islamic” republic, it by definition discriminated against non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are vilified not only in madrassas but also in government school textbooks.


Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of the Pakistani national assembly, describes in her book, Purifying the Land of the Pure, how the non-Muslim share of the population dropped from 23 per cent at independence to 3 per cent today.

But the “drip, drip genocide” — 60,000 Pakistanis, she says, have been killed by jihadis — did not stop there. Members of the Ahmadi movement were persecuted and declared non- Muslims. Extremists then started massacring Shia. Now the targets are Sufis and other “soft” Sunnis considered insufficiently orthodox by clerics.

There is, nevertheless, a glimmer of hope that Pakistan might, one day, become a moderately open Muslim society. The army seems to have realised that violent Islamists who slaughter Pakistanis pose an existential threat to the state itself.


The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of Malaysian Politics

Unfortunately, the generals make a specious distinction between “good” and “bad” jihadis, supporting the “good” who stage terror attacks on Pakistan’s neighbours. The four men who crossed the border and attacked the Indian air base of Pathankot this month were believed to be from a group supported by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

 Yet, as Ispahani points out, the same people who kill Indians or Afghans in the summer will return home when the fighting season is over and murder Pakistani Shia or persecute the few remaining Hindus and Christians.

If Pakistan and other Asian nations want to survive as modern, constitutional states rather than descend into the communal violence now common in the Middle East, they will have to enforce a minimum level of religious and cultural tolerance and suppress all their extremists.


GOLF: Great News for NIR’s Rory Mcillroy at Dubai

November 23, 2015

Great News for NIR’s Rory Mcillroy  at Dubai

by BBC Sports

DP World Tour Championship: Final leaderboard
-21: R McIlroy (NI) -20: A Sullivan (Eng) -15: B Grace (SA) -13: BH An (S Korea), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), E Grillo (Arg), F Molinari (Ita), C Schwartzel (SA), D Willett (Eng) -12: M Kaymer (Ger), S Kjeldsen (Den), P Reed (US) Selected others: -9: L Donald (Eng) -7: J Rose (Eng) -3: I Poulter (Eng), L Westwood (Eng)
Full leaderboard

Rory McIlroy wins the World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The Northern Irish former World Number one shot a six-under-par final round of 66 to finish on 21 under, one clear of England’s Andy Sullivan.

Victory means 26-year-old McIlroy retains his Race to Dubai title, the third time he has won it in four years. England’s Danny Willett finished tied for fourth in Dubai, and second to McIlroy in the season-long standings.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the 2nd hole during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the 2nd hole during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

McIlroy said: “It’s the best way to finish 2015 and I can’t wait for next year.”

The four-time major winner carded eight birdies in Sunday’s first 15 holes to open a two-shot lead over Sullivan, only to find the water with his tee shot on the 17th. But McIlroy holed a 30ft putt to salvage a bogey and stay a shot ahead of overnight leader Sullivan.He maintained that advantage down the last to win his fourth title of the year and first since May.

McIlroy missed three tournaments this summer, including the defence of his Open title at St Andrews, because of an ankle injury sustained while playing football.

That meant he needed an exemption to compete in the European Tour’s season finale, having not played in enough events.

McIlroy said 29-year-old Sullivan, who finished eighth in the Race to Dubai, would be an “asset” for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

“Luckily I came out on top but he’s a fantastic player,” said McIlroy, who added a £822,828 bonus for winning the Race to Dubai to the £934,599 he banked for his World Tour Championship victory.

“He kept holing putt after putt and I just kept chipping away, and thankfully I holed a few good ones of my own coming down the stretch.”