x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

19th hole: Historic prizes still golf's major focus

Encased by glass, but protected by the annals of time, they could be found on Saturday at a dusty main entrance of the Abu Dhabi golf club - the four major trophies.

Encased by glass, but protected by the annals of time, they could be found yesterday at a dusty main entrance of the Abu Dhabi golf club. At such an innocuous viewing area, there they stood, perched and proud, giving the uninitiated a glimpse at the ways of the game, but not a hint of from where they have come, or where they will be going over the next 12 months. The four major trophies boast the sort of significance that Christie's would find difficult to put a value on at auction.

Such sporting statues remain diminutive pieces of memorabilia with a towering standing in this worldwide sport. The Green Jacket for the US Masters, the US Open trophy, a Claret Jug for the British Open and the Wanamaker trophy representing the US PGA championship. From the days of Bobby Jones to Bobby Locke, from the time of Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods, from wooden clubs to graphite shafts, these are lights that have never gone out.

It is said that the first US Open trophy perished in a fire in the 1940s, while the British Open was first played for in 1870 or thereabouts. Like a quartet of inextinguishable Olympic torches, such silvery baubles have been handed down through time. Through world wars and great depressions, they have made it to the Middle East this week. Like a good band reforming, this is apparently the first time such a group have found harmony, finally getting together in the same resting place.

The airline Etihad Airways helped to fly in the trophies from various parts of the world. Such trophies tend to be reserved for high flyers. At times it seems like the wealth running through the emirate of Abu Dhabi has the purchasing power to buy anything it desires, but tradition tends to come without a price tag. A value cannot be put on the reservoir of memories that winning a major title must provide. It was interesting to see Colin Montgomerie wander up the 18th hole to complete his third round. The Scot has eight European order of merits to his name, but no majors. Montgomerie would love a major, but his chances of sating such a craving seem to be rapidly drifting.

The champions of Abu Dhabi over the past two years, Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer, were the dominant parties at this event on Saturday. They would both love a major. As Monty wound up his day, Trevor Immelman signed autographs at the hospitality tent adjacent to the 18th green. He signed them as the defending US Masters champion. Such a feeling must give his gait a special type of lift. Padraig Harrington enjoyed the sun and his blistering play was just as incendiary, but one would expect such form from the holder of the British Open and US PGA gongs. Sometimes running into luck can deliver such a trophy.

Michael Campbell dropped out of this tournament after pulling a tee shot and his shoulder early in the second round. Paul Lawrie has also participated here. Campbell may never win another US Open or Lawrie a British Open, but they can retreat in the knowledge that they embraced one of the big ones. Richard Green is a left-hander of some elegance. Green once won a yellow jacket for winning the Australian Masters, but how Green would love to try on the jacket of his surname. The Spanish player Alvara Quiros curiously won a room at the Emirates Palace after nailing a hole in one at the 12th hole. Golf remains generous in its ability to hand out prizes, but it is the irrepressible heritage of the game that continues to swirl around its major days out, and the pieces of cloth and silver that this week winged their way to this part of the world.

dkane@thenational.ae