To play, or not to play: Mc Ilroy won’t play in Premier Golf League, but here’s a Covid-19 checklist for weekend golfers

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March 22, 2020 5:45 AM

The weather in Delhi is still quite lovely and the air has really cleared since the travel restrictions came into play. It seems like a real shame not to tee it up.

Mc Ilroy, Premier Golf League, Rory Mc Ilroy, Covid-19, weekend golfers, Greg Norman, Brandel ChambleeIf you must play, then sharing a golf cart is probably not a good idea right now

Matters of honour are difficult and can become abstruse. As a golfer, you can’t learn them from the Book of Rules. But you can learn them by watching the pre-eminent player of the millennium turn down a fortune on what are, at least for him, ethical considerations. I’m talking about world number one Rory Mc Ilroy’s unambiguous rejection of the newly-minted, Saudi-backed Premier Golf League.

Even though he carefully couched it in politically correct language, stating, ostensibly, his reservations about playing in a league in which members had little independence when it came to participation in and scheduling of events, McIlRoy’s rebuff clearly had to do with the source of money for the lucrative new tour—something most pro golfers don’t feel the need to question let alone turn down. “I would like to be on the right side of history with this one just sort of as Arnold (Palmer) was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the 1990s,” McIlRoy said.

That statement gives me more insight into the Irish golfer’s psyche than any of his significant on-course achievements. So let me paraphrase it here: he idolises Palmer the person, not just the golfer. And I can’t think of a taller individual anyone would want to measure himself against. It’s an extraordinary testament not just to McIlroy’s sensibilities and awareness, but to his self esteem and ambition. Palmer was a giant of the game in every way possible, the least of which was how well he played the game.

McIlroy’s response won the Ulsterman instant thumbs-ups from around the world. Admittedly, less from peers than from the last generation of golfers who recognised the Ulsterman’s decision flowing from a place that they recognised and respected.

Golf Channel analyst and former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee was colourfully articulate in his gushing admiration: “So if water is flowing downhill from a sewer, and because the volume is so great, its contamination is diffused such that you can’t really tell that it’s contaminated, and everybody is telling you to take a drink— Rory stands alone in saying, ‘Don’t drink the water. It’s contaminated.”

McIlroy wasn’t quite that explicit, but he did clarify that… “ I value a lot of other things over money.” As you should, Rory. Bearing the mantle of the top-ranked player in the world takes a lot more than game.

But that’s old hat. Unfortunately, the story of the day is one that has been occupying the minds of most readers—the scourge of Covid-19 that’s sweeping across the globe. As I write this, a travel show that I produce has been stymied indefinitely. I mean of all the things you can do in the wake of this dastardly virus, a travel show comes right at the bottom of the pile of probables.

So given new-found time on my hands and driven by a well-grooved habit of playing every chance I get, I’ve been itching to go hit the course. It doesn’t help that I continue to be inundated by golfing memes that try and trivialise the situation (‘all six-footers are gimmes’). I suspect, though, that convenient good humour isn’t going to last as golf courses start downing their shutters. By now, we all know that this virus is not to be taken lightly and even though social isolation while playing golf, compared to most other sports, is entirely possible, there really is no room for complacency.

The weather in Delhi is still quite lovely and the air has really cleared since the travel restrictions came into play. It seems like a real shame not to tee it up. So I thought I’d read up on what golf courses and players around the world are doing. And now, for the benefit of all of us out there who’re finding it hard to be cooped in or those who resolutely continue to hit the links, here’s a quick reckoner to stay safe. In case you’re a stickler for the Rules, then rest easy in the knowledge that these have been recommended by none other than the Royal & Ancient.

Forget the scorecard: that takes care of the complications of trying to exchange it with your playing partner and, for heaven’s sake, don’t borrow tees, balls or markers. Don’t share a cart and, if you can, then just walk. On the green, just please leave the pin in—the rules allow you to now, so that’s a no-brainer. Bunkers in the time of Covid-19 present a bigger hazard than you’d care to negotiate. Most courses around the world have closed traps for play on account of the rakes being potential hotspots for the virus; if your home club hasn’t done that, then you just play from an un-raked bunker or, better still, just take a penalty and get out. Goes without saying that you don’t need to rake it.

If you hole a putt, put your glove back on before pulling it out of the hole. Don’t use the air hoses to clean your shoes after the round. Last but not the least, don’t shake hands after the round—doff your cap and be on your way. No one’s going to mind.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game


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