Wednesday, June 21, 2017

justin time for tee

Another major golf championship completed, and another round of 63 to report on. This one was at the US Open and was posted by Justin Thomas, a man with some previous form this year in posting super-low rounds after shooting 59 at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. That was in the first round of a tournament he went on to win, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills put him a shot off the lead going into Sunday, but he shot a disappointing 75 to finish in a tie for ninth, thereby making the score 24-7 in favour of a round of 63 in a major not yielding a win.

The US Open prides itself on its reputation as the hardest major to shoot low scores at; it's therefore slightly surprising that three of the first five 63s (Miller, Nicklaus, Weiskopf) were posted at that tournament. Since then, though, there have been two in thirty-seven years - Vijay Singh at Olympia Fields in 2003 and now Thomas.

Thomas' 63 was of the long-putt-on-the-last-green variety, rather than the missing-a-putt-for-a-62 variety, as he achieved it via the fairly extraordinary feat of eagling the last hole, which measured 667 yards. I don't know off the top of my head whether posting 63 by eagling the 18th is a unique feat; I strongly suspect that it is. Slightly surprisingly Greg Norman's 1986 feat of posting a 63 by bogeying the last hole is not unique; Mark Hayes in 1977 did the same thing.

PlayerTournamentYearRoundResultWinner
Johnny MillerUS Open1973finalWONJohnny Miller
Bruce CramptonUSPGA1975second2ndJack Nicklaus
Mark HayesOpen1977secondtied 9thTom Watson
Jack NicklausUS Open1980firstWONJack Nicklaus
Tom WeiskopfUS Open1980first37thJack Nicklaus
Isao AokiOpen1980thirdtied 12thTom Watson
Raymond FloydUSPGA1982firstWONRaymond Floyd
Gary PlayerUSPGA1984secondtied 2ndLee Trevino
Nick PriceMasters1986third5thJack Nicklaus
Greg NormanOpen1986secondWONGreg Norman
Paul BroadhurstOpen1990thirdtied 12thNick Faldo
Jodie MuddOpen1991finaltied 5thIan Baker-Finch
Nick FaldoOpen1993second2ndGreg Norman
Payne StewartOpen1993final12thGreg Norman
Vijay SinghUSPGA1993second4thPaul Azinger
Michael BradleyUSPGA1995firsttied 54thSteve Elkington
Brad FaxonUSPGA1995final5thSteve Elkington
Greg NormanMasters1996first2ndNick Faldo
Jose Maria OlazabalUSPGA2000thirdtied 4thTiger Woods
Mark O’MearaUSPGA2001secondtied 22ndDavid Toms
Vijay SinghUS Open2003secondtied 20thJim Furyk
Thomas BjornUSPGA2005thirdtied 2ndPhil Mickelson
Tiger WoodsUSPGA2007secondWONTiger Woods
Rory McIlroyOpen2010firsttied 3rdLouis Oosthuizen
Steve Stricker USPGA2011firsttied 12thKeegan Bradley
Jason Dufner USPGA2013secondWONJason Dufner
Hiroshi Iwata USPGA2015secondtied 21stJason Day
Phil MickelsonOpen2016first2ndHenrik Stenson
Henrik StensonOpen2016finalWONHenrik Stenson
Robert StrebUSPGA2016secondtied 7thJimmy Walker
Justin ThomasUS Open2017thirdtied 9thBrooks Koepka

A couple of vaguely contentious observations to finish with:
  • Erin Hills was the second new US Open course in three years. Now I know that Chambers Bay in 2015 copped quite a bit of criticism from everything from the quality of the greens (which were atrocious) to the unfairness of some of the run-off areas (criticism which could equally well be levelled at Augusta, but never is, because, you know, tradition and that). I think in general bringing new courses into the rota (which the USGA also did with Bethpage Black in 2002 and Torrey Pines in 2008) is a commendable thing to do, though, and something that the R&A could learn from with regard to the Open Championship. Course-wise the most revolutionary things they've done lately are to bring back some previously-used courses into the rota: Royal St. George's in 1981 (after a 32-year gap), Carnoustie in 1999 (after a 24-year gap) and Royal Liverpool aka Hoylake in 2006 (after a 39-year gap). They've done the same with Royal Portrush (after a 68-year gap since its only previous Open) for 2019, which I applaud, but what about introducing something new? Maybe an old traditional links course like Royal Porthcawl, or something a bit funkier like Kingsbarns? No choice would meet with universal approval but it would at least demonstrate the ability of the fusty old farts who comprise the R&A to think outside the box a bit. Some more food for thought here
  • Secondly, as magnificent as the two shots were that Justin Thomas hit to get on to the 18th green in two and give himself the eagle putt that he subsequently holed for a 63, it is somewhat ridiculous that he could go 3-wood, 3-wood, putt on a 667-yard hole. The discussion about golf equipment improvements and the constant increases in length that they bring is an old and hoary one and never seems to go anywhere, but most people seem to agree what the answer would be: specify some standard ball composition that all the pros have to use. Many people are wary of this, primarily as it might kill the golden goose of lucrative golf ball endorsements that the players currently make a fortune from, but, you know, they don't let Andy Murray bring his own balls to Wimbledon, he has to make do with what he's given. The obvious sporting precedent here is javelin-throwing, where numerous regulation changes regarding composition and aerodynamic properties of projectiles have been made over the last thirty years or so. Admittedly the consequences of doing nothing were rather more serious, involving members of the public being literally impaled in their seats, and the market of amateur javelinists wanting celebrity-endorsed products is rather smaller than it is for golf balls. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

election night special with david quimbleby

Hey, there was a general election recently. You might have missed it, so here are a couple of snippets. What I'm going to try and do is bring you a flavour of all the excitement solely through the medium of female journalists saying the c-word.

Firstly, in the grand tradition of many journalists who have gone before her, including Naughtie and Marr but many others as well, here's BBC reporter Ellie Price calling Jeremy Hunt a cunt.


And here's the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg mangling the word "re-count". To be fair to her it was nearly 3am, about the time I was switching off and retiring to bed.



Tuesday, June 06, 2017

if only I could have dunmore to help

Generally, Electric Halibut is fair and proportionate and equitable in his dealing out of death - the last five literary victims of the ongoing Curse Of Electric Halibut have all been over 80 - but just occasionally he likes to pluck someone younger to his icy bosom just pour encourager les autres. Don't get complacent, younger novelists. he says, this could happen to you.

Sure enough the latest victim, Helen Dunmore, was a fairly youthful 64, which makes her the third-youngest novelist on this grim list (Iain Banks at 59 is the youngest), and one of only five under 80 of the seventeen that are now on the list. Here's the latest list:

Author Date of first book Date of death Age Curse length
Michael Dibdin 31st January 2007 30th March 2007 60 0y 59d
Beryl Bainbridge 14th May 2008 2nd July 2010 77 2y 50d
Russell Hoban 23rd August 2010 13th December 2011 86 1y 113d
Richard Matheson 7th September 2011 23rd June 2013 87 1y 291d
Elmore Leonard April 16th 2009 20th August 2013 87 4y 128d
Iain Banks 6th November 2006 9th June 2013 59 6y 218d
Doris Lessing 8th May 2007 17th November 2013 94 6y 196d
Gabriel García Márquez 10th July 2007 17th April 2014 87 6y 284d
Ruth Rendell 23rd December 2009 2nd May 2015 85 5y 132d
James Salter 4th February 2014 19th June 2015 90 1y 136d
Henning Mankell 6th May 2013 5th October 2015 67 2y 152d
Umberto Eco 30th June 2012 19th February 2016 84 3y 234d
Anita Brookner 15th July 2011 10th March 2016 87 4y 240d
William Trevor 29th May 2010 20th November 2016 88 6y 177d
John Berger 10th November 2009 2nd January 2017 90 7y 55d
Nicholas Mosley 24th September 2011 28th February 2017 93 5y 159d
Helen Dunmore 10th March 2008 5th June 2017 64 9y 89d

You'll notice that Dunmore's curse was the longest to take effect of all, it being a little over nine years since the solitary book review, Talking To The Dead in March 2008. Your Blue-Eyed Boy remains the only other novel of hers that I've read.

She is also the third victim this year, which matches the three in each of 2015 and 2016, though of course the year is only half-gone, so it could be a massacre by December. 2013 is the deadliest complete year so far with four victims. Of course as time goes on and more new authors appear on the list the pool of potential victims increases, assuming that my acquisition of new authors to read books by outstrips the rate of their subsequent demise.