TEED OFF
By Robert Bicknell
 

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April 8, 2007

Back into the breech once again…

By Robert Bicknell

I have, once again, landed in HCM City, all prepared to do battle in the prestigious Norfolk Invitational Golf Tournament.

The other two tournaments which I never miss down here are, of course, the Swing For Life Charity event and the Gannon Vietnam Open Championship. In fact, I have time-off for these three events written into my employment contract just to ensure that I can attend without any hassles.

You don’t catch Pearl Harbour sleeping twice.

Flying south to golf events has become second nature to me at this point. Yes, I know I have no chance of winning due to my complete lack of practice. Great players try to emulate Vijay Singh and put in endless hours at the range. Others want to be Tiger…my nickname, when it comes to practice, should be the Great White Sloth.

I also have an amazing ability to choke like a dog in clutch situations.

After thousands of rounds of golf and hundreds of tournaments, I still have the killer instinct of a puppy. My biggest problem is that I always feel sorry for my opponent or the other people in my group and inadvertently let them off the hook.

Needless to say, this is something that I am going to have to overcome if I want to compete on the Asian Senior Tour late next year after I hit the big 5-0.

I figure a good sports psychologist or a whack in the head with a heavy sand wedge should help matters considerably. My wife would be happy to whack me with the wedge…she’s good with wedges.

The Norfolk Invitational is a fun event put together primarily for people who have good business relationships with Norfolk Hotel and Norfolk Mansion. Being a friend of Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hoang doesn’t hurt either.

Every year I get a phone call from him inviting me down and only once was I not able to attend…which explains the latest amendment to my employment contracts.

For me, it’s a great chance to see old friends, enjoy shopping, emcee the tournament, and send Blair Cornthwaite screaming up the walls at Vietnam Golf & Country Club. I have checked and can confirm that Blair no longer has to take Valium when I visit…which is a good thing as it means he’s acclimated himself to life in Vietnam quite nicely.

I also enjoy playing at VGCC and seeing all my former employees, but if truth be known, I prefer the East Course over the West Course because it allows me to swing as hard as I want and still be able to find the ball. The West Course has too many trees for my liking and forces me to use a three wood or long iron off the tee just to ensure that I can find my ball.

Anytime I can finish 18 holes on the West Course with the same ball I started with, it’s a major accomplishment. The difference between me and John Daly is that he occasionally hits the fairway and has a few million dollars in the bank.

Another good thing is that the Masters tournament is this weekend and it’s shaping up to be a potential classic, primarily due to Tiger and Phil Mickelson. Granted, they haven’t even teed off as I write this, so I’m assuming a lot. Yet, Mickelson is the defending champion and Tiger is hotter than Hell right now.

Golf Digest rated Augusta National in 1990 and the rating was something like 76.2, which put it in the top ten toughest courses in the US at that time. The greens alone will kill most players.

How tough are they? The USGA calculates that adding the green surface ratings for each of the 18 holes on the average US Open course produces a difficulty figure of 110, as compared with a figure of 72 for all US courses. Augusta National's total is an astonishing 148, the highest in the country.

And that was before they "Tiger-proofed" the course and made it even more difficult over the last few years. Mickelson will be carrying two drivers again this year because the square-head gives him 20 more yards…

Hmm, maybe the West Course isn’t so bad after all…


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