Just when I thought Justin Rose was looking too solid to lose the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Jamie Donaldson put in a stupendous final round and snatched the Falcon Trophy right from under his nose.
Donaldson, the 2012 Irish Open winner, has been playing well the last couple of years, so his win can hardly be called a surprise, but very few people would have backed him up at the start of the week. It was mostly because of the quality field that assembled at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club course. With the presence of world No 1 Rory McIlroy, No 2 Tiger Woods and No 5 Rose, it was difficult to look past them for favourites.
But Tiger and Rory both missed the cuts and Rose faltered on the final day after playing so well in the first three rounds. These are just the glorious uncertainties of sports, which make golf so special.
I have heard a couple of snide comments this week about Woods and McIlroy after they failed to make it to the weekend. One of the fans commented that they do not care now that they have already pocketed millions of dollars from the organisers.
Believe me, this is never the case. Both Tiger and Rory, and every other top professionals, are too proud to let something like this happen. While appearance fee is a reality in sports and can be easily justified, the players understand that if they just show up after taking money, the sponsors will wisen up soon and the revenue stream will dry.
Let’s not forget that players are human too and it is impossible to perform at their peak level every week. Rory was playing with new clubs this week and he will take a few weeks to adjust to the change, while Tiger was extremely unlucky to misinterpret a rule and get docked a two-shot penalty, which pushed him over the cut-line.
If I was personally in Tiger’s position, I would have definitely asked for a referee and cleared any doubt there itself. I can completely understand the way he approached the situation, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
Just to give you an idea of glorious uncertainty of the game, let me be the example. I was playing so well in Abu Dhabi that after seven holes in the second round, I was just one shot off the leader Rose. Every aspect of my game was spot on, and on the basis of how I played the first seven holes on Friday, a score of 66 or 67 looked very much on.
And then I pulled a 5-iron shot from the middle of the fairway on the 17th hole, which was my eight of the day and made an unexpected bogey. I don’t know what hit me after that as I put together my worst streak as a professional golfer. I dropped seven shots over six holes as both my irons and putters, which could do no wrong before that, just refused to cooperate. By the time I got it right again I was out of the tournament.
So there you have it...golf has so many variables that anything can go wrong anytime, and then, almost as suddenly, things can just fall in place at the click of a finger. It’s just the nature of the beast.
(Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour)