I am indebted to the new issue of McKellar magazine for the information that, appearing on Desert Island Discs in 1994, the author Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, said of the one luxury item that would accompany him to the fictional island: ”I would probably take an omnibus of all the P.G. Wodehouse golfing stories. I’ve never played golf in my life and don’t know anything about it. But I actually think P.G. Wodehouse is one of the greatest writers ever to use the English language.”
As it happens, a new Wodehouse anthology called Above Average at Games was published late last year. In a preamble to one essay, the book’s editor explains that in order fully to understand Wodehouse one has to know some old terminology. For example, in the 1920s a 1-iron was called a driving iron, and through the bag the clubs had more interesting names than those we use today. So there was a cleek (2-iron), mid-mashie (3-iron), mashie iron (4-iron), mashie (5-iron), spade mashie (6-iron), mashie niblick (7-iron), pitching niblick (8-iron) and niblick (9-iron). A wedge, or 10-iron if you will, was a jigger. To add to the fun/confusion, in those far-off days the words ‘par’ and ‘bogey’ were synonymous, meaning the score a scratch player would be expected to make on the hole in question. Yet another number to be noted.
And so to events at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday, where (in modern language) the champion had distinctly more pars than bogeys. With reference to the title of this piece, I accept it may sound rather grandiose to speak of Lee Westwood having an ‘era’. He has never won a major championship, having played in 82 of them, the most anyone has without a victory. He has, however, placed in the top-ten on 19 occasions, three times being a runner-up and six times third. He has topped the European Tour Order of Merit twice, in 2000 and 2009, by which point it had been renamed the Race to Dubai, and in 2010 he became the No. 1 ranked player in the world. At the age of 46, as he showed this past weekend, he is still a golfer of tremendous talent. His latest win was his 44th overall, his 25th on his home circuit. Impressive numbers, indeed.
“Sport is all about setting targets for everybody else to follow,” the victor observed, “and it shows the level I’ve played at for such a long time. Longevity in sport is difficult to achieve.”
Westwood’s first victory came at the 1996 Volvo Scandinavian Masters. He can now boast a winning career spanning a quarter of a century. He is only the second man, after Mark McNulty, to win on the European Tour in four different decades. Should he claim that excruciatingly elusive first major at the Masters in April (his tie for fourth in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush last July earned him his place at Augusta), he would be the oldest first-time major winner in history, less than a fortnight before turning 47. That would be a couple of firsts well worth celebrating. Happy numbers, indeed.
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