Sunday at The Heritage

Despite the absence of many top names, The Heritage at Woburn provided an entertaining day’s golf and a worthy winner.

13th tee at The HeritageWith only two of Europe’s Ryder Cup winning stars making the cut, and only a handful of otherwise household names in attendance, my expectations for the final day’s play of The Heritage at Woburn were perhaps understandably low. However, my pessimism was unfounded, as the quality of golf played on Sunday not only made for a great tournament, but also (re)opened my eyes to the high standard of golf on tour, not only among the top dozen or so golfers, but right down to 125th ranked player and beyond.

The tournament was won by Henrik Stenson of Sweden by a convincing margin of 4 shots from Spain’s Carlos Rodiles. His stats for the tournament speak for themselves, notably his impressive length and accuracy from the tee, on a tight, tree-lined and slightly damp course. Equally impressive was his run of four consecutive birdies from the 14th (that I was fortunate enough to witness), and the manner in which he made each of them: found the fairway, found the green, holed the putt. Simple. He could have made it five birdies in a row on the par 5 finishing hole, but, deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, laid up and wedged onto the final green, and two putted to close out the win.

Ian Woosnam played somewhere near his best, and he was actually in contention for a brief period before fading on the last few holes. His playing partner, Rodiles, earnt his second place by playing some spectacular golf on the back nine on his way to a 65.

I’d like to share a few of my experiences of spectating at The Heritage. I’ve been to a few professional tournaments before, so while the “ooh” and “aah” factor of seeing booming drive after booming drive has long since worn off, there was nonetheless a lot to take in. Firstly, I’d forgotten how low the pros hit the ball (or at least seem to hit the ball compared to on television). With few exceptions, the players’ hands are kept “quiet” through the ball, ahead of the clubhead and at quite a steep angle of attack, resulting in huge divots, a penetrating ball flight and loads of spin, an action I’ll try and incorporate into my own game.

The quality and variety of escape/recovery shots was most impressive, particularly Trevor Immelman’s approach shot on the 12th. A slightly over-drawn tee shot left him behind bushes, with no direct route to the hole, about 140 yards from the flag (in fact, just behind and to the left of where this photo was taken). Now I’m not exactly cautious when it comes to course management, but even I couldn’t see a shot through, around or over the bushes, and was expecting a pitch out sideways back onto the fairway. What I witnessed was a shot of pure genius, played with heavy draw spin to move the ball 30 yards in the air, over a ravine, over the bunker guarding the flag and onto the green, running just off the back from where he got up and down to save his par. What seemed like an inevitable 5 became a routine 4.

Although I anticipated seeing many shots going round or over trees (an inevitability on a tree-lined course), I wasn’t expecting to see so many shots played through specific gaps in the trees. Retief Goosen played a clever, perfectly flighted wedge between branches on 9; Phillip Price hit a long iron through a gap no greater than 10 feet in diameter fifty yards ahead of him on 16; and Jarrod Moseley played a low cutting iron shot through and under a group of trees on 6. Each of these players, as well as Immelman, made easy-looking pars (except Price, whose par putt lipped out), from situations where the average club golfer would struggle to make bogey. A lot is made of the long drives, arrow-straight irons, and silky putting strokes seen on tour, but it’s easy to underestimate the importance of excellent shotmaking in keeping a tidy scorecard.

Watching high quality shots up close is a rare opportunity, and one not to be missed. I could feel my body subconsciously learning the correct way to move during the swing, and I feel like my own rhythm has improved after seeing so many rhythmical swings. It may have been purely psychological, but I felt a much better golfer as I left the gates than I did when I entered them. Next time a professional event comes near your home town, make sure you go, and I hope you learn as much as I did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *