Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harrington by Default

Now it's clear that Sergio Garcia lost the British Open because he hardly sank a putt of significant length for most of the tournament and certainly not when it counted in the last round. So in the ranks of who fucked up the most, Romero, Harrington or Garcia (or even Els) he loomed large. And he will carry away the biggest nightmare from the whole absorbing event. His final putt on the 18th missed the cup by a whisker and so saved Padraig Harrington from taking the mantle from Jean Van de Velde as the biggest choker in Open history. It also called into question the quality of Harrington's triumph. He won by default - like Paul Lawrie. And yet, and yet.

I watched it in Santa Barbara where the Yanks did their best to fuck up the stone drama of the final few holes by interjecting commercials every 10 minutes - how I longed for the BBC (even that old fogey Peter Allis) - but the drama won through. (Incidentally, the most prevalent ad was for Cialis, a hydraulic aid for men of a certain age, how apposite was that for a golfing audience.)

Harrington was rescued from infamy by Garcia's narrow miss. Here was a man who had come second 31 times in his career. A statistic that suggests a certain lack of intestinal fortitude. However I never bought into that and saw it more as him often coming with a late flourish and gaining a higher placing than his earlier rounds had promised. There's little in Harrington's record to show he chokes.

But then we get to the last few holes of the open. The rookie Romero blows it on the 17th as he should at his age. And it's down to Harrington and Garcia. Harrington is one ahead and has only to par the last to win - nobody birdies the 18th at Carnoustie. And what does he do faced with immortality? He finds the water not once but twice. He Van de Veldes it. At this point he must have felt like disembowelling himself on the 18th fairway, knowing that he had thrown away one of the biggest prizes in golf and his first major. Instead, however, he hits an exquisite wedge to about 10 feet and holes the tricky putt. So he ends up with a 6 when a 7 looked likely. But still he must know it will not be enough. And then we have the pathetic fallacy of his badly managed child running on to the 18th green to hug his deeply traumatised father. To his eternal credit he doesn't cuff the little pup sharply and send him back squealing to his mother but rather gathers him up warmly as if he had just come to the end of a friendly fourball - knowing what tragedy looms. Pure class Padraig.

And then Garcia rescues him from endless ruin and bottomless perdition. First the excellent drive into prime position. Now only a solid shot into the fat of the green to prevail. But a nervous tweak puts it into the bunker. Not bad when greater hazards looom - and Garcia is a master of all irons. The bunker shot is sound rather than brilliant leaving him a very makeable putt for the British Open. Harrington lurks in the scorer's cabin hoping for redemption - but feeling the die is cast. But Garcia's career so far has suggested he will never make a putt like this and sure enough it slides past after flirting with the cup. The 4-hole play off is an anti-climax. Harrington is back from the dead and Garcia has blown his best chance. There can be only one winner. But despite our pleasure at Padraig's triumph you can't help but feel it wasn't won like Faldo won, or Norman won, or Watson won, or the great Nicklaus won (or Player, or the great Peter Thompson). Rather, when faced with the greatest challenge of his career (standing on that 18th tee), he fucked up royally and was rescued by the weaknesses of his opponents. A win by default.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Santa Fe

God it's such a drag flying these days - especially when going through US airports. Flying from LA to Albequerque yesterday I strip down to essentials for going through security - slip ons, shorts, a loose shirt, minimal luggage. But it's still not easy: a queue about 70 yards long with all kinds of hysteria at the top of it as late arrivals try to jump it for their impending flights. The security staff are hardened to it though and no one bucks the system. I arrive at the gate and warn the virago in uniform that my metal hip will go off. She immediately calls in the male search squad and I'm removed to an adjacent area for the usual tedious pawing and frisking with a metal detector. "Any idea why we are alarming today sir?", are his immortal first words.

And so to Albuquerque from where we're driving to Santa Fe. A debacle at the Budget counter where I luck out and get the trainee. She asks me for my details at least 4 times before a merciful colleague comes over to assist. However, she has made such a hames of it that eventually she need the whole team to sort out the mess - all the other customers being long since departed. Eventually we get on the road. Huge thunder heads are building up around us as we set out and there is one huge cylinder of cloud touching the ground in the distance with gigantic flashes of lightning emanating from it. We wonder are we in cyclone country - it looks like those twisters you see on the National Geographic channel. And then the hailstones start. Maybe we should have stayed in Santa Barbara. Shaken we eventually make Santa Fe and start hitting the margaritas.

First stop the next day is the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. This is a first-rate collection of her work and makes IMMA's recent show look very paltry indeed. As well as a good assortment of her flower paintings, they have a lot of her less well-known abstract works. A Texan sunset and some dark pieces suggesting cross sections of a tree stood out. The place is patrolled by the most fascist security team I've ever encountered in a gallery - they were constantly hassling people for getting too near the paintings (all behind glass by the way) and even had the temerity to scold me for sending a text message.

There are galleries everywhere in Santa Fe and their contents range from the most exquisite and expensive craft work to generic Indian (sorry Native American) tat. The town itself is pretty and low-slung - with faux adobe the prevailing motif.

Inspired by the O'Keefe museum we head off to the Ghost Ranch and her latter home in Abiquiu - some 50 miles north of Santa Fe. We arrive at the office in Albiqu that arranges tours and are told that we should have booked last January. Nothing daunted we head off for the Ghost Ranch. This however appears to be a conference centre for fat Baptist lesbians - who are hanging around the grounds munching cookies and talling about some impending hymn session. We make enquiries in the office and sure enough the former O'Keefe residence is now private property and you can maybe book a tour an eon or two in advance.

But you know it doesn't matter. Why should we want to visit a musty mausoleum when just by looking around us we can get much closer to what made her the artist she was. In the distance looms the Pedernal (which inspired O'Keefe like Mont Saint Victoire inspired Cezanne) where her ashes were scattered). Above us are the towering cathederals of cloud that inspired her cloudscapes - and again a flash of lightning in the distance. And all around us are the red rugged mountains and deserts of New Mexico where she roamed and gathered her source material.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Theme for Reason

Other people's dreams - don't you hate them. There is no excuse for recounting your dreams to your friends or to anyone else. People are, in general, not really interested in you or your doings; so they are certainly got going to be interested in the random ramblings of your mind while you sleep. So, if tempted to recount a dream, for pity's sake desist. Unless of course you're Carl Gustav Jung, whose autobiography "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" inspired a flood of lurid and symbol-laden dreams for many months after I read it. Just try it.

Last night I dreamt I was in a horse race, a sprint. I was waiting at the start in a high draw close to the rails. I moved from my alloted slot into a slightly better draw even closer to the rails. When the stall gates opened I got a flier and hugging the rail had an early lead. Then out of nowhere another sprinter flew by (our horses had disappeared) and was clearly going to win. His name (I know the horses had gone, but dreams are supposed to be irrational) was Paddy's Place - there is such a horse but he's no star. About 50 yards from the winning post, he swerved off the course and began to play football with some kids nearby. I swept by to victory, breaking the tape (like in a sprint) in style. I immediately began to worry that my changing stall would be spotted when the race was rerun on TV.

Afterwards in the changing room I encountered a surly Kieran Fallon who started berating me for taking advantage of a fixed race. "You're one to talk" I responded indignantly. A bit unkind that as he hasn't been tried yet. He didn't however mention the change of stall so I was confident I'd keep the race.

Maybe I need to lay off the horse racing for a while.