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Edwards Rides The Wave Of English Golf

The born competitor, the man who has had considerable success as a golfer, can be past his best and out of practice, yet his innate competitiveness has not shrivelled. A friendly round at Royal Porthcawl with Nigel Edwards, the GB&I captain in the forthcoming Walker Cup? Friendly, yes, in the sense of two friends playing golf, bags slung over their backs, heads bowed in conversation as they amble down a fairway. But friendly, meaning without any air of competition, without one needling the other? Hardly, with a man who was the 2006 South African Amateur champion, who won the individual event in the European Nations’ Cup in 2006, the year before Rory McIlroy did the same, played in the Walker Cups of 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and captained GB&I to an unexpected victory over the U.S. at Royal Aberdeen two years ago. Watch Edwards play golf and you get a fair idea of his personality. How often that is true. As you are in life, so you are at golf. Phil Mickelson has the glinting eye of a born gambler. To him, the challenge is the same, even if his ball lies on pine straw in trees to the right of the 13th fairway at Augusta and the way out is between two trees barely shoulder-width apart. Mickelson’s reaction is nearly always the same. Size it up and go for it. High risk, high reward. Zach Johnson and Luke Donald, on the other hand, are men who always appear to be in control. They play orderly golf, moving steadily from this side of a tee to that position on a fairway, to this side of a green to this precise distance below the hole. Chess on green fairways in other words. Mickelson makes spectators gasp at his audacity; Johnson and Donald cause spectators to clap with admiration at their neat precision. Edwards is in the Johnson/Donald mould. He is their height, too. As he stands on the first tee, he looks flinty, the sort of player who might not crush you but nor will he let you crush him. Just when you are feeling comfortable that you are coping, that you haven’t been outdriven or made to seem too inferior, he shakes your hand having beaten you, 3 and 2. As a player, he was good at evaluating what he needed to do. He was not a powerful hitter so he realised he needed to be straight off the tee and to have an enviable short game. He worked at it, while also working for the Golf Union of Wales, and in the 2003 Walker Cup at Ganton, where he was unbeaten in his four matches, he twice chipped in and holed one roller-coaster of a putt on the 17th green and sank the winning putt. “I always reckoned that if I could get it on the fairway from the tee and be good at chipping and putting I would be OK,” he said. Even knowing this, it took a comment from Retief Goosen when they were playing together in South Africa to bring it home to him. Edwards congratulated Goosen on his putting at Shinnecock Hills, where Goosen had won his second U.S. Open. “You know, the winner each week is usually the person who putts best,” Goosen said. From that moment Edwards redoubled his efforts on his short game until he spent as much as 70 percent of his practice time on and around the greens and 30 percent on the rest of his game. He remembers missing the cut at the Wales Open and doing little but chipping and put- ting for two days. The next event he played in, he set a course record.


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