‘Cook has no flair’

Ge­of­frey Boy­cott and Michael Vaughan re­flect on Eng­land’s topsy-turvy 2016

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - tele­graph.co.uk/sport

GOLF Tiger Woods This is it. No more wait­ing, no more ex­cuses, re­gard­less of how le­git­i­mate they have been. If it is to hap­pen again for Woods then at the very least he will re­quire an in­jury-free sea­son as well as a cam­paign in which he shows he can be com­pet­i­tive.

Ranked out­side the world’s top 650, Woods, 41, needs an early win to en­sure he qual­i­fies for the WGC Cham­pi­onship in Mex­ico City and the WGC Match­play in Austin. How­ever, his fo­cus will cen­tre on the Masters, where he has man­aged to fig­ure on the leader­board even while he has been stuck in this in­jury-rav­aged, self­doubt­ing trough. If his back and mind con­sent to stay strong, then ex­pect a Woods cir­cus at Au­gusta, as the Tiger re­turns to his most nat­u­ral habi­tat. Su­perla­tives will bounce around those cathe­dral pines.

Not every­one is con­vinced, how­ever, with Paul McGin­ley, the for­mer Europe Ry­der Cup cap­tain, sug­gest­ing: “The new gen­er­a­tion of play­ers are sim­ply not afraid of Tiger any more.” Rory McIl­roy

When a liv­ing leg­end such as Jack Nick­laus is telling a multi-mil­lion­aire, multi-ma­jored 27-year-old that he needs to “work hard” if his ca­reer is to get any bet­ter to take the next step to great­ness, then it is easy to as­cer­tain that McIl­roy is at a crit­i­cal junc­ture. While he will in­sist he is al­ready do­ing ev­ery­thing he can, he would also agree that the past two years have been a let­down. It is a gauge of McIl­roy’s tal­ent

‘If Woods’ mind and back stay strong, ex­pect a cir­cus at the Masters in Au­gusta’

and, in­deed, his stan­dards, that a ma­jor­less cam­paign is con­sid­ered a lost one. Un­re­al­is­tic, un­fair? No doubt. But that is where he is. Cer­tainly, a fifth ma­jor in 2017 should be the very least of his am­bi­tions. He fin­ished 2016 well enough but the same was said in 2014 and 2015. The pos­i­tive as­pect this time around is that he now has a fine putting coach in Phil Kenyon and has at last recog­nised that he must fix the weak­nesses in his short game. McIl­roy has a busy start to the year, with three starts in five weeks. He could do with hit­ting the ground run­ning – and not stop­ping. Charley Hull

Not ev­ery girl won­der is in a rush. While Ly­dia Ko has raced to the top, Hull (below) has taken on the air of a non­cha­lant teenager am­bling to­wards a party as she has given no­tice of her outrageous po­ten­tial. How­ever, now she is ap­proach­ing her 21st birthday, Hull ap­pears ready to quicken into the sprint which will surely lead her to the top of the game and, who knows, per­haps to lay claim to be­ing the best Bri­tish fe­male golfer in his­tory. There is no doubt she has the ar­moury and, af­ter her vic­tory in the LPGA’s Tour Cham­pi­onship two months ago, she pos­sesses the qual­ity ti­tle on her CV to take ma­jor glory. Hull fin­ished sec­ond in the ANA In­spi­ra­tion at Ran­cho Mi­rage, Cal­i­for­nia, last year and must be fan­cied to go one bet­ter this time in the year’s first ma­jor. Some have ques­tioned the English­woman’s de­sire, con­fus­ing her laid-back per­sona with in­dif­fer­ence. In truth, her spirit-level tem­per­a­ment should prove a tremen­dous at­tribute. Ian Poul­ter

The English­man says his goal for the year is “to start en­joy­ing golf again”. But such are the de­mands of his com­pet­i­tive psy­che it must be queried if Poul­ter could ever have fun with­out, at the very least, be­ing in con­tention.

In truth, Poul­ter will again sum­mon the mo­ti­va­tion from his love of prov­ing peo­ple wrong. And, at the age of nearly 41, he is not yet ready for his ca­reer to slip into the ir­rel­e­vance many are pre­dict­ing. How­ever, in the con­text of last year’s in­juries, a re­turn to the elite will be a tough ask. He is 184th in the world rank­ings and not qual­i­fied for any of the year’s ma­jors. He also has his PGA Tour card to worry about and this must be his pri­mary fo­cus.

An early win would fix ev­ery­thing but Poul­ter, a for­merly peren­nial cham­pion, has not won in more than four years and his game plainly re­quires ur­gent and rapid im­prove­ment. To this end he has bro­ken the habit of a life­time by em­ploy­ing renowned swing coach Pete Cowen. His putting needs a marked up­turn as well. Keith Pel­ley

When Pel­ley took over as chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Euro­pean Tour in early 2015 he said he should be judged from 2017. So, here we are and the sched­ule is in­deed im­pres­sive with seven tour­na­ments with at least £5.7 mil­lion in prize money each, linked in the ‘Rolex Se­ries’ ti­tle.

Pel­ley, a Cana­dian with a huge suc­cess record in pro­fes­sional ice hockey, has de­liv­ered his pitch. “This pro­vides a strong fi­nan­cial of­fer­ing so our young play­ers don’t have to go to the United States,” he said.

Like ev­ery good sales­man, the spiel does not tell all of the story and, like ev­ery sales­man, his plan re­lies on the tar­get tak­ing up the deal. The Tour is sub­si­dis­ing some of the purses so needs the Euro­pean stars to show up and maybe at least a few of the Amer­i­cans, too.

Pel­ley pal­pa­bly needs the spon­sors to be im­pressed at McIl­roy and co turn­ing out in force. He needs this to work and for it to show that his Tour can be some sort of al­ter­na­tive to the PGA Tour.

Crunch time: Tiger Woods needs to hit the ground run­ning if he is to re­vive his ca­reer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.