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Ken Borland



Woods chasing records while Grace & Coetzee make debuts 0

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Ken

 

While the revitalised Tiger Woods is favoured to close to within three of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 major titles when the Masters gets underway this evening, Branden Grace and George Coetzee will make their debuts at Augusta, lifting South Africa’s representation in one of golf’s most hallowed events to an all-time high of eight.

The pair will join compatriots Tim Clark, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Richard Sterne and Trevor Immelman in an event that has seen five South African triumphs – Gary Player in 1961, 74 and 78; Immelman in 2008 and Schwartzel in 2011.

The last player to win on his Masters debut was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and, although Oosthuizen was edged into second by Bubba Watson in a playoff last year and Els is the reigning British Open champion, the spotlight has been elsewhere.

Woods, who has risen like the phoenix back to number one in the world, is the clear favourite, bringing both great form – three wins in his last five starts – and tremendous pedigree, having four previous Masters titles, to the tournament.

Even Nicklaus backs Woods to kick-start his quest for 19 major titles again.

“If Tiger doesn’t figure it out here, after the spring he’s had, then I don’t know. I’ve said, and I continue to say it, that I still expect him to break my record. I think he’s just too talented, too driven and too focused on that. From this point, he’s got to win five majors, which is a pretty good career for most people to start at age 37. But I still think he’s going to do it, he’s in contention every year,” Nicklaus said.

The other contenders are Rory McIlroy, who returned to form with a second-place finish in last weekend’s Texas Open, three-time champion Phil Mickelson and, if you believe the British press, perennial favourite Ian Poulter, even though the Ryder Cup star is battling allergies as practically everything is blooming at Augusta at the moment.

This year’s Masters will also see the emergence of a stunning new talent who could not only be the successor to Woods but also the precursor to the Chinese dominance of the game many have predicted.

The 14-year-old Guan Tianlang will smash Matteo Mannesero’s record of being the youngest golfer to play in the Masters by two years and the youngster has impressed all and sundry in the build-up to the Major.

The son of a keen seven-handicap golfer, who knew his boy was something special when he beat him aged seven, Guan qualified for the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in November.

Woods and two-time champion Tom Watson were among the legends he played practice rounds with, and both came away with the impression they were in the presence of future greatness.

“I enjoyed playing with Guan, he has good tempo, his rhythm is very good. Once he grows a little bit, he will be able to get the club faster. He will use a different swing plane when he gets taller and stronger,” Watson said.

“He’s so consistent,” said Woods. “He was hitting a lot of hybrids into the holes yesterday, hitting them spot-on, right on the numbers. He knew what he was doing, he knew the spots he had to land the ball and to be able to pull it off. Good scouting, good prep, but also even better execution.”

The importance of course knowledge is magnified at Augusta, where the slopes on the fairways and greens are far steeper than the television coverage portrays. It really is the thinking man’s golf course.

“There isn’t a single hole out there that can’t be birdied if you just think, but there isn’t one that can’t be double-bogeyed if you ever stop thinking,” was the famous quote of Bobby Jones, the Masters co-founder and winner of seven Majors as an amateur.

The veteran Els gave the rookie Grace some words of advice before the tournament and he used the Jones quote.

“Overall I’d say it’s a tough golf course to learn in a hurry. I’m sure this will be the first of many visits to Augusta in your [Grace’s] career, so try to enjoy it and soak it all up. There are certain ‘crunch shots’ at Augusta where the tariff is very high and from one to 18 there is no other course where the margins between a birdie and a bogey are so small. You have to commit to your shots and be aggressive to your spots, even if that’s 25-feet right of the pin.

“You’ll know already that the slopes are more severe than they appear on television, so you hit a lot of iron shots from sloping lies and you’ve got the big elevation changes coming into some of those greens. The wind can switch around, especially in Amen Corner.

“The short game is the biggest thing at Augusta, though. The grass around the greens is mowed very tight and against the direction of play, so you have to be very precise with your strike. Obviously the speed and the slope of the greens get your attention, as well. Other than that, it’s really pretty straightforward!”

In Grace’s case, his short game, especially his lob-wedge, is impressive, but what is also relevant is that he is comfortable playing a high draw, which Augusta favours.

Apart from the advice from Els, Grace has also played a practice round with no less of an authority on Augusta than Player.

“I’m hitting the ball like I did in January again and I’m ready. Excitement will take care of the rest. It’s an experience I’ve never had before, Augusta and the Green Jacket is the most special of them all because of the history and South Africans having done well in the Masters in the past.

“I’ve been given some great insights in the practice rounds and everyone has just tried to help George and I as much as possible. Obviously I was disappointed to miss the cut in my last Major, but there was a little bit of extra pressure then because I had come in from nowhere really.

“Now I’m not worried that I have to go out and play well, I’m not worried about what people think because I’m number 32 in the world and I can just go out and enjoy myself. I’m in a good place,” Grace said.

Whatever the result, many would say he is in the best place of all for a golfer: beautiful Augusta in the springtime.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-11-masters-preview-tiger-tiger-burning-bright/#.WZLvBlUjHIU

Hockey’s junior stars are talented & transformed 0

Posted on May 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The South African men’s U21 team played in the final of the Greenfields Senior Interprovincial Nationals in Randburg on Saturday, showing that there is plenty of young talent coming through the ranks. But they are also thoroughly transformed with eight players of colour in the squad, including six Black Africans, showing that hockey is heading away from the representivity frustrations that have dogged them in the past.

And while “quotas” is a word bandied about by the older generation, it is not a hip word when it comes to hockey’s rising young talent.

“It hasn’t been difficult at all to find players of colour for the team because these guys have come through the age-groups, they’ve played together in the U16s and U18s, where there is a heck of a lot of good quality. The core of this side have played Tests together for the SA U18s and made the Junior Olympics semi-finals with the SA U17s, both under Neville Rothman, my assistant coach.

“So there are no quota – I hate that word – players in the team. They were all born after 1995 and have played in every national team together, so there is no baggage. They say it themselves in team meetings that the colour of your skin makes no difference. There’s a very positive feeling in this squad, there’s such a positive culture,” SA U21 coach Garreth Ewing said.

The players of colour in the current squad that is beating seasoned professionals at the senior IPT are composed midfielder Tyson Dlungwana, defender Nduduza Lembethe, Ryan Julius, an elusive runner with the ball, forward Khumo Mokale, the skilful Nqobile Ntuli, pacy Tevin Kok, solid Amkelwa Letuka and goalkeeper Siyavuya Nolutshungu, and they would comfortably be playing in this IPT for their provincial sides were they not on national duty.

“Obviously we do pay close attention to the players of colour, but a lot of them are our best players. Some of them are going to be superstars. They have a long way to go, but their ability and decision-making under pressure is already so good. I can’t wait to see where they all go, six of them already have full national caps,” Ewing said.

Ewing, who has considerable experience coaching both locally and internationally, clearly likes the emphasis on bringing through players of colour that has to be there if South African hockey are to get back to where they want to be – in the upper echelons of the world game.

“What is coming through underneath shows that there is so much potential. We’re not afraid of targets, we embrace them. Things don’t happen overnight, but we’re getting there. The guys play with such joy and style, their hockey is so attractive,” Ewing said.

Most encouragingly, Black coaches are also starting to come through. The losing semi-finalists, KZN Raiders and the Northerns Blues, are coached by Sihle Ntuli and Krinesan Moodley respectively. WP Peninsula are coached by Denzil Dolley and the team they played in the B Section final, KZN Mynahs, are mentored by Sharmin Naidoo

Patrick Tshutshani is Ewing’s counterpart with the junior women, Ryan Pillay coached the Western Province women’s team and even the Mpumalanga women’s team have a Black African coach in Brighty Mshaba.

Numerous other players of colour have shone with Jermaine Johnson and Julian Hykes both playing key roles in getting Southern Gauteng into the men’s final, while Pierre de Voux of Western Province and KZN’s Mohamed Mea are two newer players that are going to have the national selectors’ eyes on them.

The story is the same in the women’s section: Southern Gauteng are going to take on Northerns Blues in the final with Sanani Mangisa their stalwart in goal and Toni Marks and Lisa Hawker two of their man threats up front.

Northerns have Mmatshepo Modipane in goal.

But there is a challenge that SA Hockey will need outside help to overcome and, as ever, it is a financial one.

“The financial challenges for the previously disadvantaged players is huge. Consider the cost of going to our world cup – and the players have to pay! My biggest fear is having to leave someone behind because they can’t afford it,” Ewing says sombrely.

Good times to be a gambler 0

Posted on February 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Judging by South Africa’s performance in the World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka this week, these are good times to be a gambler and, seeing as though I am at Sun City for the Chase to the Investec Cup final, I’m going to put R1000 each on three, four and eight at the roulette table tonight, in honour of JP Duminy’s three wickets in three balls, which meant the Proteas got away with only having four specialist bowlers, and Quinton de Kock coming good after previously averaging just eight in the tournament.

Okay, the bit about me gambling tonight is a joke because times are still tough for journos and instead I may treat myself to a lager and ponder over how good it felt to get my predictions for the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka so utterly wrong.

Coach Russell Domingo has never struck me as the gambling type, although he does have a profound love for figures, which is not to say he’s not willing to make tough decisions. He’s done that before and was even willing to leave the great Jacques Kallis out of limited-overs teams when he didn’t fit into the game-plan.

But as far as gambles go, taking on the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up on a flat Sydney Cricket Ground pitch with Duminy as the fifth bowler and AB de Villiers as the back-up ranks up there with the biggest in World Cup history, and, were it not for the brilliance of the pace bowlers and Imran Tahir in taking early wickets, it was a move that could have gone stupidly wrong.

But it worked, as did the faith shown in De Kock. As the confidence seeped back into the young left-hander, emboldened by the support of his management and team-mates, his talent and class was plain to see.

You would rightly expect South Africa to keep the same XI for Tuesday’s semi-final against the winner of today’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies, which means the pressure will once again be on the bowlers to reach the same heights they did in Sydney.

Apart from the pleasure of watching such a complete performance and celebrating South Africa’s first win in a World Cup knockout game, I really liked the send-off given to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Those two great batsmen have given South African bowlers a terrible time over the years but their strength of character, charm and integrity means they will be remembered as so much more than just prolific employees of Sri Lanka Cricket.

In my opinion, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, in the same exalted realms of excellence as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Kallis.

The Proteas obviously hold him and Jayawardene in similarly high esteem judging by the genuine warmth they showed in farewelling them, and Sangakkara’s response when asked how he would like to be remembered speaks to the very essence of sport:

“If anyone can say they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Cricket South Africa sent out a special tribute statement when Tendulkar retired; Sangakkara is surely deserving of the same honour?

 

Seven & eight put Highveld Lions in command 0

Posted on March 30, 2015 by Ken

The bizhub Highveld Lions had their number seven and eight to thank for converting a dominant opening day into a commanding position on the second day of their Sunfoil Series match against the Unlimited Titans at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Friday.

The Lions resumed on 264 for two and centurion Stephen Cook and Neil McKenzie quickly rattled up a fifty partnership off just 54 balls before the second new ball allowed the Titans to strike back.

With JP de Villiers showing good pace and claiming three wickets in five balls, the Lions crashed from 311 for two to 313 for six, with Cook departing for a tremendously solid 122 and McKenzie for 47.

But Dwaine Pretorius and Dale Deeb kept their heads and took the Lions to 396 for six at lunch. Their progress thereafter was interrupted for nearly three hours by heavy thundershowers, but they had managed to both reach their half-centuries within two balls of each other shortly before the delay.

They took their partnership to 137 in 140 minutes before Pretorius was bowled by a Roelof van der Merwe arm-ball for a highly-creditable 67.

Deeb and Vusi Mazibuko (10*) then combined for a quickfire 35-run stand, Deeb finishing with a well-struck 89 not out, before the declaration on 485 for seven.

De Villiers was the pick of the Titans bowlers with three for 75 in 18 overs, while Rowan Richards was less consistent but claimed three for 118 in 26 overs.

Having spent an age off the field due to the weather, it was highly disappointing that the umpires did not extend the playing hours, taking the reluctant players off the field in bright sunshine at 5.30pm with the Titans on 27 without loss. The players were told it was because the allotted overs for the day had been bowled, which is laughable because only 64 overs were actually bowled.

Jacques Rudolph, who was a late inclusion in the Titans team after making himself available for four-day cricket, was looking solid on 18 not out, while Heino Kuhn was on seven.

 



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