by Jeff Skinner
It is an odd game this game of golf. It is a game of strange bounces and sometimes of even stranger rules that many times can humble the best of players. That was the case today as two of the world’s best players felt the pain and frustration of this very humbling game.
Pablo Larrazabal of Spain played a wonderful round of golf today to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship but Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have to be thinking “what if” as they hop on their private jets and head home.
Larrazabal’s 67 included a closing birdie on eighteen to put him at fourteen under and Phil and Rory then needed a miracle eagle at the last to force a tie. Both managed respectable birdies but fell one short of the Spaniard who claimed his third European Tour victory.
Rory’s “what if “moment occurred in the third round when he inadvertently had not taken full relief from ground under repair. His foot was still on the line as he dropped and the foul carried a two stroke penalty. “There are some stupid rules in golf, and this is one of them,” he said as two strokes were added to his score. Without the penalty he finishes at -15, one clear of the winner.
Philly Mick’s “what if” moment took place today at the thirteenth hole when a wayward drive finished in the desert well under a bush. Mickelson contemplated taking an unplayable but he thought even with his two club drop it wasn’t enough to get clear of the rather large bush.
So Phil, being Phil, flipped over a club and tried to whack it out from the bush right-handed. And then came his “Oh S**t” moment. What was supposed to be a recovery shot turned into disaster as he double hit the ball and it still stayed in the sand. When the smoke cleared he finished the hole with a triple bogey seven which dropped him back to -10 and three off the lead.
But Phil bounced back as he loves to do with a birdie on the next hole and followed that with another at the sixteenth. As he and Rory stood in the final fairway he knew he needed an eagle. But his birdie left him tied with Rory in second place and he had to be thinking “what if” that seven was a six.
That’s the way the ball bounces in golf…sometime you get the breaks and sometimes it breaks you. Two major champions, two of the best in the world, two golfers wondering “what if.”