Amid all the head-shaking, nail-nibbling, teeth-grinding, hair-tugging, fist-clenching, vein-throbbing and general self-loathing that goes into coaxing a small, dimpled ball into a hole, it’s hardly surprising that someone once said that golf can best be described as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle. Funnily enough, that’s what some of my readers often say about the Tuesday column.

In many ways, it’s been a bit of a miracle that we’ve actually had a season to enjoy on the globe-trotting professional tours. And it’s not done yet. That we have a major championship starting on Thursday – the US Women’s Open – illustrates the logistical muddles and guddles that the pandemic has brought to the golfing calendar.

Here we are, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, and we’re still hastily packing things in like someone shovelling the remnants of a selection box down their thrapple before the Queen’s speech.


Given all the coronavirus-induced chaos and cancellations, the journey to the European Tour’s Race to Dubai finale has been about as smooth as one of Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky whatdoyoucallthems.

Trying to fathom out who was actually going to make the cut-off point for this week’s cash-sodden showpiece, meanwhile, generated the baffled looks you’d get when folk catch a glimpse of those large, mirrored monoliths that have been mysteriously popping up around the world.

Is it the top 50 on the rankings like last year? Or is it 60 like the year before? Yes, I’m sure it’s 60. But hold on, the qualifying mark has suddenly gone down to the player ranked 72nd?

There was also a category on the entry list which has allowed the brilliant young Norwegian, Viktor Hovland, to travel to the Middle East from Mexico where he won on the PGA Tour on Sunday.

In terms of star attraction, Hovland’s presence, along with Patrick Reed and Collin Morikawa, will be a boost for the European Tour in the absence of some of its marquee names. Last year’s European No 1, Jon Rahm, isn’t there, neither is Rory McIlroy or Justin Rose to name but three.

The pick-and-choose, take-it-or-leave-it approach at the top of the tree has been a long-standing issue for the European Tour in its unwinnable battle with the might and lure of the PGA Tour. In the midst of a pandemic, there’s a ready-made excuse not to hop on a plane. For those of a Scottish persuasion, meanwhile, the expansion of the field at least opens the door of lucrative opportunity for Connor Syme (67th), Grant Forrest (68th) and Scott Jamieson (69th) who now join Robert MacIntyre (22nd) and Marc Warren (52nd) in the line-up.

MacIntyre is now at a career high of 59th on the world rankings. The top 50, and all its trappings, is tantalisingly close for Scotland’s newest tour champion. Whatever happens this week, the Oban man has enjoyed another year of terrific prominence, purpose and progress.


A Masters in November and now a US Women’s Open in December? As the winter days here shorten to the length of a resigned sigh, at least we’ve had some world class golfing comfort food to keep us going through the encroaching darkness.

This week’s US Women’s Open in Houston brings the curtain down on a very strange major year. They may have lacked the major sense of occasion – the lack of spectators has been sorely felt - but there’s been no shortage of, well, major moments.

The AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon, for instance, produced one of the tales of the season as unheralded Sophia Popov won the title. The ANA Inspiration, meanwhile, featured an absorbing, tense tussle involving Mirim Lee, Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.

Who will emerge victorious this week remains to be seen but keep an eye on Lydia Ko. Not so long ago, the New Zealander was the world’s dominant force but, in this age of rapidly rising stars who seem to peak younger and fade faster, she has not had her troubles to seek.

Ko, who broke more records than a bull at a vinyl fare with her teenage successes, is still just 23 and has managed to arrest a downward spiral which at least has not affected her engaging, infectious joie de vivre.

She has just one win since 2016 but countless top-10s. Ending her drought this week would be another feel-good sporting story in this trying year.


Reading the many tributes to the late Peter Alliss was an exercise full of warm, reflective poignancy as we leafed through his back catalogue of wisdom, wit, and whimsy.

“It is not a matter of life and death, it is not that important,” Alliss once said. “But it is a reflection of life, and so the game is an enigma wrapped in a mystery impaled on a conundrum.”

Alliss never lost sight of the fact that golf is, indeed, just a game. A maddening game? Without doubt. But in Alliss, the abundant charms, challenges and curiosities of this great game had a very unique voice. It won’t be quite the same.