x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Weekley: Phil is doing the right thing

Ryder Cup teammate says Mickelson's decision to opt out of the British Open to stay with family was the right decision.

Boo Weekley will travel to Turnberry immediately after the final round to get some practice.
Boo Weekley will travel to Turnberry immediately after the final round to get some practice.

LOCH LOMOND // Golfers are curious, pampered creatures of comfort. In common with most professional sportsmen or women trying to earn a living from their aptitude, they tend to be run by the moods. Trying to speak to a golfer after a round gone awry can be a wholly thankless task. Boo Weekley, the American Ryder Cup player, was not in a talkative mood yesterday after carding a one-over 72 in the third round.

Amid a course that was most poignant for the large fountain of sunshine from which it drank, it felt like a joy to be alive, but do not try telling that to a golfer who departs such a track bereft of several birdies. Weekley was left at one-over par for the tournament, but he seemed slightly under the weather even in such gratifying elements. The usually boisterous "Boo" gives off the impression he does not care, portraying himself as a sort of simpleton with a Southern Drawl, but he would not be a professional golfer if he did not care. With a couple of US PGA Tour wins over the past few years, this man is hardly a Redneck.

The usual hackneyed story of wayward shots and missed putts dominated Weekley's "frustrated" thoughts until one raised the somewhat depressing issue of Phil Mickelson's withdrawal from the impending British Open Championship at Turnberry. Mickelson's wife, Amy, continues to receive treatment for breast cancer after undergoing surgery earlier this month. Worse, six weeks after the first shock, came the news that his mother Mary is suffering from the same ailment. She also underwent surgery on Friday.

What is a missed putt or two compared to fighting serious illness? "Nothing," responded Weekley. Weekley was a teammate of the world's second-best player when the US regained the Ryder Cup from Europe with an emphatic 16½-11½ victory at Valhalla last September. Mickelson is a winner of two US Masters and the US PGA championship. He has played in the past 61 majors, a record without compare in his sport.

He has been a regular visitor to Loch Lomond before the British Open in recent years, but will miss the third major of the season. "It is a sad loss for the tournament," said Weekley. "Your prayers have just got to be with Phil and the family right now. "It's a tough thing what he has got going on in his life. I think he is doing the right thing by staying home and taking care of your family. Taking care of your family is the most important thing in life, not golf."

The US have enjoyed a notable run of winners at the British Open since John Daly overcame Constantino Rocca in a play-off at St Andrews in 1995. Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, David Duval, Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Tiger Woods, on more than one occasion, have all claimed the Claret Jug. Such a record tends to belie the belief that Europeans are better equipped to handle the demands and the nuances of playing a links course in sun, wind and relentless rain that can sometimes blow a player off course.

Weekley says another of Ryder Cup companions, the audacious US player Anthony Kim, has the assets to make the British Open his first win in a major. "I think Anthony Kim is playing quite well right now," said Weekley. "I think he has the game for that type of course because he can hit the ball low." Weekley will travel to Turnberry after concluding his final round here today rather than indulge himself in the sights of Scotland.

"I will practice and play, and see what comes of it," said Weekley. "I'm struggling with a bit of everything right now, but that is just golf. I won't be doing any sightseeing, and right now I have to get some lunch." Even in his birdie famine, it was at least reassuring to know that Boo had not lost his appetite. dkane@thenational.ae