x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A hole in one can mean a whole lot more

The thing about these holes in one in Dubai, they do tend to be pertinent. Kaymer's fuelled a 67 that fuelled his ascent on the leaderboard.

Martin Kaymer acknowledges the crowd after his first professional hole in one yesterday.
Martin Kaymer acknowledges the crowd after his first professional hole in one yesterday.

When the late Kim Jong Il reportedly shot a 38-under-par 34 at Pyongyang Golf Club in 1994, his fine round featured five holes in one according to some accounts, while others through the years stretched it all the way to 11.

This just shows what scant regard some people have for the truth, seeing as how the accurate number probably would be closer to five than to 11.

Holes in one have a finicky history, such that it's feasible that Martin Kaymer never had one until yesterday and curious that the UAE has grown lush with them lately.

Merely two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, Kaymer played alongside Sergio Garcia when Garcia made a hole in one that earned him a three-night stay in the Emirates Palace every year for life, adding to the reasons to sustain a healthy diet so as to continue breathing. "Then I asked him how many hole in ones did he have, and he said something, eight, nine," Kaymer said. "Then Miguel [Angel Jimenez] said, 'I stopped counting.'

"Then I thought just once, it has to happen."

So he waited and waited - for more than 300 hours - until marching to hole No 7 yesterday at Emirates Golf Club, hitting an eight iron 180 yards, thinking it a bit short, watching it roll and saying later, "It was my first hole in one ever."

So it was weird - and the fifth hole in one in Abu Dhabi and Dubai these past three weeks - but then, it's always weird.

Miller Barber made 25 of them. Jack Nicklaus has made 20. Tiger Woods made one at six years old, Michelle Wie at 12. The great Gene Sarazen made one at 71, in the British Open, in 1973, on the storied Postage Stamp, at Troon.

When Nick Faldo made one at the 1993 Ryder Cup, it was only the second in any Ryder Cup. The 1989 US Open in Rochester, New York, suddenly featured four of them on the same No 6 on the same Thursday, such that the American sportswriter Rick Reilly wrote that you just knew some novice golf viewer was at the hole saying, Wow, some of them can't even make it on the first shot. Young Tom Morris made the first recorded one, 144 years ago, in the ninth British Open, at Prestwick, although YouTube evidence proves scarce.

People always said Ben Hogan never made one - and some have disputed that - but Andrew Magee made one on a par-4 in Phoenix in 2001 when he thought he couldn't reach the green on No 17, swung his new driver, had the ball bounce, reach the green where a threesome still putted out, and had it carom off Tom Bynum's putter and eight feet into the hole.

Hole-in-one authorities in the United States refer to a Californian amateur named Norman Manley, whose 59 holes in one between 1964 and 1979 apparently included two on consecutive par-4s which would, on balance, brighten a day. A James Simpson of Dorset, England, reportedly played for 81 years - from the age of eight to 89 - before making one.

Now comes Kaymer, and now comes the watch he won for making it - humanity just cannot stop giving these guys more stuff - and now the watch goes right to his physiotherapist, with whom he had a deal awaiting his first hole in one. "It's a beautiful watch, yeah," Kaymer said, "but he deserves it. He does a good job."

And the thing about these holes in one in Dubai, they do tend to be pertinent. Kaymer's fuelled a 67 that fuelled his ascent on the leaderboard that fuelled the appeal of a Saturday-Sunday with Kaymer and Rory McIlroy and Thomas Bjorn up top. Meanwhile, the defending champion remains Alvaro Quiros, whose one-shot win in 2011 traded largely on his hole in one on No 11, after which he said, "It's difficult to believe, but I have a few."

Pertinently, Kaymer said, "I think I was four behind and then all of a sudden only two behind."

So sometimes, holes in one do matter, and they matter crucially whenever shooting 38-under par.

They just never mattered quite as much as the one in April 2007, at the 100-yard No 4 at Bidwell Park in Chico, California.

That's where the avid golfer Elsie McLean finally got her hole in one after hitting a yellow ball with a driver and hunting it briefly with two playing partners before checking the cup.

Ms McLean was 102 years old at the time, and soon told National Public Radio, "Of course, I already said if I ever got a hole in one, I'd be ready to die."

With that, she laughed, the only appropriate response.