The Class of the Field

And so, with Saturday’s 36-hole, marathon-of-a-day shootout behind us, we finally know who our two players are who will be playing for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

With his win in two matches yesterday, German, Martin Kaymer not only won a slot in today’s final match, he also guaranteed that he will be ranked the Number one player in the world in Monday’s rankings. But he didn’t have an easy time of it. He had to go the entire 18 holes to beat both Miguel Angel Jimenez and Bubba Watson 1Up.

England’s (now Chicago) Luke Donald had an easier time beating Ryan Moore 5 & 4 (thus skipping the last four holes) and Matt Kuchar 6 & 5 (skipping the last five). And those matches were as lopsided as the scores indicated. As I said in yesterday’s post, Donald, “just played at a whole different level,” in taking apart Matteo Manassero who played quite well. And a rules official told me it was the best he’d ever seen him swing.

The thing about these two, Kaymer and Donald, is that they probably have the most elegant swings of everyone in the field—all 64 of them. They both have that economy of motion that allows them to deliver the clubhead to the ball in a serial unfolding that causes the clubhead to be dead-square almost every time. That’s what allowed Kaymer to hit these towering tee shots to the middle of the fairway like they were all being directed by GPS. Donald hits it shorter than Kaymer, but I watched two days of irons to the pins that looked like there was a miniature radar in the ball.

So there you have it, class against class. Kaymer knows that he is the Number one player in the world after two gritty victories yesterday and Donald knows that he is playing like an effortless, tireless machine. This will be good. NBC, 2:00 Eastern.

Fanny Sunesson

The day before yesterday, a weird thing happened. I saw a woman in the gallery exuberantly following Kaymer who looked just like Fanny Sunesson, the great Swedish caddie who caddied Nick Faldo to all of his success during his championship heydays. Couldn’t be. And just as suddenly, she launched down the next fairway, disappearing in the large throng.

And then yesterday I heard someone say on the broadcast that Fanny was Kaymer’s “mental” coach, working on course strategy among other things.

So when I was walking down the first hole after Kaymer’s tee shot, there was Fanny again, walking down the cart path, cell phone to her ear. So I kept an eye on her as we walked the 300 yards down to Kaymer’s ball. She was in a quiet, animated conversation the whole way.

Finally, she wrapped her call up, I moved the few remaining feet between us and whispered an introduction to her that included displaying my media credentials to her. I told her that I thought I had recognized her yesterday, but thought that it couldn’t be (I had forgotten that she was now caddying for Henrik Stenson who was in the field as the first alternate; duh). So I told her that I had heard that she was Kaymer’s mental coach and could she say a little bit more about that?

It was a strategic blunder in that I had established no relatedness with her at all save for flashing my credentials. She was very polite and said that she really didn’t like to talk about it other than to say that she worked with him in a coaching relationship on the whole of his golf. She politely stood her ground until Kaymer hit his shot and then, just as politely, said as she turned to continue walking, “It was nice to meet you.”

“Thank you for saying hello,” I responded.

So in the media interview room after Kymer’s round, somebody mentioned Fanny in their question. Kaymer had worn a fashionable neck warmer during the round rather than the predictable turtleneck and the reporter, also coming across Fanny, asked her what it was about. To her credit, he didn’t get very far either.

 Q. Fanny said we had to ask you about the scarf?

Why did she do that? I don’t know how it’s called in English, snood? And I heard a lot of guys in soccer they are using that. I just got it yesterday in order to stay warm. And maybe it’s a European thing. Maybe we’ll see it more often on the PGA TOUR.

And I thought, “Ha! Here’s my chance.” And so two questions later I asked:

Q. Could you it talk a little bit about how Fanny is helpful to you?

Well, Fanny and me, we know each other since seven or eight years now. She was helping out us in the national team when I was an amateur. And she was talking about course management and strategy and some experience that she had with Nick Faldo, and I found it very interesting.

And then when I played the qualifying school five or six years ago, I could always call her and then we talked about a few suggestions for the golf course, how I felt about certain golf shots.

And then since 2008, when I won my first tournament, you know, we were talking about why I won, why I screw up some tournaments, you know, just to find solutions for things.

And in the end of the day, I found the solutions by myself but only through talking to her. And the experience that she had and the right questions that she asked me, they made me to the golf player I am today.

If you want to read a great story about a fascinating woman in the game of golf, this April 3, 2005, feature from the Sunday Times of London makes for a perfect Sunday read.

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