If history is to remember the conclusion of yesterday’s Vivendi Cup, it will probably be as the first real statement of intent from a promising young English golf pro by the name of John Parry. Only 23 years of age, he entered the final round with a slim lead over a handful of players. What complicated a pretty bog-standard tour free-for-all, though, was the fact that at the previous week’s Austrian Open, Parry had suddenly emerged from a year of mediocrity to seize the third-round lead, only to squander the opportunity with a final day of loose swings and tentative putts. Would history repeat itself?
Answer: no. As brutal as the previous week’s lesson in humility might have been, it was one to which the rookie proved he was more than equal. The Parry of yesterday, serenely determined, painted a stark contrast to the jittery, forlorn figure of Sunday last and he diligently set about the task of quietly matching pars to the occasional birdie, unperturbed by a chasing pack that succeeded in reeling him in on more than one occasion. When the dust settled on a frenetic day’s activity, Parry’s name sat atop the leaderboard, his nearest challenger two shots distant. Glamourous it might not have been, but watching a player conquer his demons and win a career in the process makes for compelling viewing; more compelling, certainly, than watching Jim Furyk find a way to pay for that extension to the beach house.
Scanning down through the rest of the leaderboard, one can’t help but notice the presence of Padraig Harrington in a tie for eighth. His second-round 74 early on Friday rocketed him down the field and left him staring into the abyss of another missed cut—this time in what was supposed to be a relaxed tune-up for the Ryder Cup! PR disaster loomed! Journalists far and wide used the opportunity to lament his wildcard selection and couldn’t but glance longingly stateside, where St. Paul (Casey) was again within striking distance of a massive FedEx Cup reward. So far, so predictable. Granted a stay of execution by some tougher afternoon scoring conditions, Harrington made the most of the weekend, shooting 69 and a best-of-the-final-day 64 on Sunday to climb into the top-ten. The gamble having paid off, the three-time major champion can now claim to be entering the Ryder Cup on the crest of some genuine form.
Sentimental favourite Jarmo Sandelin threw a double bogey into the mix at precisely the wrong moment on Sunday’s back nine dogfight. A genuine contender for much of the round, he had to settle for a cheque for €53,000 (tragic, I know) and a five-way tie for third. He’s got some serious work to do to save his card. Even though he didn’t win, he did give us a surprisingly affecting pre-round interview.