THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

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Links golf is the original form of the game . Developed in Scotland by mother nature and Scottish pragmatism , links courses are located next to the sea and are characterized by firm , sandy fairways , long , wispy rough , pot bunkers and plenty of wind . The Open is the oldest golf tournament in the world . It was first played at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland , in 1860 . The first championship had a field of eight professionals and was held over three , twelve-hole rounds , in a single day .

Greatness can be achieved over time , over a career of excellence . Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors or Gary Player’s 140 worldwide wins . It can also be achieved in a day , or even a moment . Ben Curtis started the final round of the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St Georges (Sandwich) , a complete unknown . Mike Weir , the Masters champion that year , had sat down opposite Curtis , in the clubhouse before the start of the championship and a friendly conversation started between the two . Weir innocently asked Curtis if he worked at the club and was suitably embarrassed when Ben sheepishly told him that he was in fact playing in The Open .

A few days later , Curtis stood on the first tee early on Sunday afternoon , not knowing that the next 5 hours would change his life . He played 11 holes of scarcely believably golf and then hung on , holing a 10 footer on the 18th to card a final round 69 , to post 1 under par . Less than an hour later , he was Open Champion . Not until Thomas Bjorn’s ball slid past the hole at 18 , could Ben Curtis ever have allowed himself to dream , let alone believe , that he would write his name alongside the greats of the game and forever be etched in golfing history . All this in his first ever major championship start .

Eleven years on and 156 players , the great and the good , will be looking to write their own chapter in Open Championship history . This year , The Open returns to Royal Liverpool Golf Club (Hoylake) , for the 12th time , the first since 2006 . That year , Tiger Woods put on a long iron clinic , eventually prevailing by 2 shots over fellow American Chris DiMarco . Tiger is back to compete in his first major of the year and will headline a star-studded field .

Players to look out for this week :

Dustin Johnson : The big hitting American has been quiet of late , after a hot start to the year . A T4 at the U.S. Open though , shows signs are good . I feel that Hoylake will fit his game beautifully and I think the time is now for the talented 30 year old to break through and win his first major . Dustin is my number 1 tip to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday .

Justin Rose : Justin is coming off wins in his last 2 starts , at Congressional in Washington and at last week’s Scottish Open . He is looking to become the first Englishman to lift the Claret Jug since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992 and judging by his current form , he might just do it . One hurdle he will have to overcome is a very disappointing Open record . He hasn’t had a top 10 in the championship since that remarkable T4 as an amateur in 1998 and has missed the cut in 3 of his last 4 starts . I personally don’t feel this will be his week , but he is certainly one of the favourites .

Henrik Stenson : The powerful Swede is the number 2 player in the world and has shown signs of late of returning to something close to his unbelievable form of last year . A T4 at the U.S. Open and a playoff loss in Germany a couple of weeks ago prove his game is starting to click into gear . With three top 3′s in his last 6 starts at The Open , it will be a surprise to no one if he becomes the first Swedish man to win a major,  this week .

Martin Kaymer : It was remiss of me to leave Martin out of my U.S. Open picks and he proved it in empathetic fashion , with a Tigeresque display , blowing the field away by 8 strokes . With wins in two of the three biggest tournaments of the year so far , The Players and the U.S. Open , Martin is in my mind the best player on the planet at the moment . Known as Martian to some of his contemporaries because his golf is out of this world , he has had 1 top ten in 6 starts at The Open , but with his swing changes now on automatic pilot and his confidence at an all time high , this could be the week he completes the “Kaymer triple crown” .

Rory Mcilroy : Golf’s newest playboy , Rory is always going to be a factor in the game’s biggest events . He’s got power and talent to burn and  if he can get over a nasty habit over 2nd round blow-ups , he’ll be right in the hunt come Sunday afternoon . He would be my 2nd favourite this week .

Phil Mickelson : Phil has had a dismal 12 months on the golf course , since perhaps his greatest triumph , at Muirfield last year . With just one top ten this year , it will take an inspired performance to reclaim the Claret Jug .

Sergio Garcia : It’s time for Sergio to step it up at a major again . He hasn’t seriously contended in one since the 2008 P.G.A. Championship and has been left behind by many of his contemporaries . A solid year , including a T2 in his last start proves that if he can get out of his head and just play golf , free and easy , like in his youth , then this could be his breakthrough week . Sergio is my 3rd favourite this week .

Tiger Woods : I couldn’t really leave Tiger off the contenders list , despite him having no form and being just back from injury . In his only start since his return from back surgery , he missed the cut in his own tournament in Washington D.C. . Tiger is Tiger though and with his last Open triumph being that win at Hoylake in 2006 , one can never write him off . Winning a 15th major title after over 6 barren major years is a long shot though , despite the bookies having him as their favourite .

That’s my shortlist of players to watch , but there are many more could claim the fabled Claret Jug and be read out as “The Champion Golfer of The Year” come Sunday night .

Josh Greybe

 

 

World Cup fever

Spectacular. Mind-numbing. Exasperating. Euphoric.

These words describes the 2014 edition of the Fifa World Cup. Association football at its best. For the millions watching and the thousands in attendance, no one can argue that this has simply been brilliant. Thank you Brazil.

The tournament kicked off with a bang, Croatia came to play ball as Brazil eventually soured through the opener. Their passionate anthem nearly brought the world to tears. I do not like a single player in their squad, but boy did I enjoy their passion.

Day 2 brought a shock , a quite superb performance from Die Oranje, as Louis van Gaal and his beloved Robin van Persie unanimously ripped the raining world champions to shreds. Quite pleasing to see Tiki-Taki football being unanimously countered tactically.

England flattered to deceive once more as they played much better football than previous tournaments, or at least this is what we have been lead to believe by the so-called well known press journalists. Mario Balotelli gave them the proverbial kiss of death in an outstanding game of football.

Soon it was time for ALBICELESTE, the Argentina national squad. Leo Messi graced The Maracana for the very first time. How ironic it is that Brazil’s biggest enemies play at their home of football. He scored a screamer, Will this be Leo’s time to shine?

Die Mannschaft also arrived, a mindless act from Portuguese defender Pepe made things much easier as another rather big country gets pummeled. Thomas Mueller with a outstanding hat-trick.

Belgium like the shortness of this paragraph flattered to deceive. They just might not be ready. Watch out for them nonetheless!

Brazil kicked off Round 2 with a hard fought 0-0 draw with Mexico. Love the Mexican fans whenever a opposition goalkeeper kicks the ball, they shout “Putooooo” to try and put him off. Never works!

Australia v Netherlands was another outstanding game. My favourite moment being petulant Van Persie getting booked, and gaining expulsion from the last game due to 2 yellow cards. Tim Cahill scored a screamer, so did Arjen Robben. The boy just has class.

Later that evening, raining world champions again got well beaten and the era embarrassingly came to an end against Chile. I love the Chileans and I’m a huge fan of Alexis Sanchez. The Spanish looked dejected as Vicente del Bosque looked like a Spanish Bull with a lot of pent-up aggression. Adios Spain.

Luis Suarez returned from injury against the country of his employment where he singlehandedly sorted the Poms out. England on the periphery of Elimination. They really are NOT that good.

Costa Rica went on to qualify after beating Italy. Hardworking and a well drilled team. They do the basics well and they have a gem of a forward, Joel Campbell.

Alles les Blues rang around the Arena Fonte Nova as France annihilated Switzerland. Olivier Giroud simply unplayable on the night, so too Karem Benzema. They are going to hurt teams with their dynamism and trickery. Sad Ribery had to be injured.

The game of the tournament so far took place at the Estadio Castelao. Germany played Ghana on a barmy evening. The outcome 2-2. Such alot happened in this game. The standout factor being the African spirit and togetherness, which would later become non-existent. Great game though. Well done to Klose for emulating Ronaldo’s record of 16 WC goals.

Italy v Uruguay. Horrendous game of football marred by a talented idiot finding the time to GNAW on a professional athlete. Luis oh Luis. Suarez bites the dust on Giorgio Chiellini. Sad end to the World Cup for an astoundingly talented forward. Uruguay eventually progressed as England and Italy take early flights home.

The Ivorians and their so-called golden generation flatters to deceive again. Poor display from them as they get knocked out, albeit via a dodgy penalty by Greece.

The worlds player of the year flattered to deceive too. Cristiano Ronaldo 10 minutes before Portugal’s elimination scores a goal. Where for art thow Christy?

16 teams said goodbye, while 16 remains to fight it out for the famous trophy. A lot will still take place at this world cup let’s just hope for more goals and alot less controversy.

SEMI FINAL PREDICTION

Brazil v Germany
Argentina v Holland

Enjoy fans of the football.

@arsenalroni

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Wimbledon

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What a lot of massive sport there is coming up in the next few weeks . The Tour De France , Test Rugby , The Open Championship , the culmination of the Fifa World Cup and of course Wimbledon .

This year Andy Murray will be defending his long awaited title . The first Brit in 77 years to capture the Wimbledon Men’s Singles crown , he won in fine style , defeating then World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets in last year’s final .

The Women’s Champion was far more of an upset . Marion Bartoli achieved her childhood dream , winning Wimbledon . In a stunning run to the title , she defeated Sloane Stephens in the Quarters , Kirsten Flipkens in the Semis and then took down Serena Williams’s conqueror , Sabine Lisicki , 6-1,6-4 in the final . She then retired less than 2 months later , sighting constant pain during matches and a lack of motivation having now achieved her tennis dream .

The men’s side of the draw is , in my opinion , more open than the French Open . In Paris , realistically it was between Nadal and Djokovic  , but on the lawns of SW19 , I’d throw in Murray right alongside the two big boys . I also give Federer a reasonable shot at creating history and winning a record eighth Wimbledon title . Throw in the mercurial talents of messes Wawrinka , Berdych , Raonic and a revitalized Ernests Gulbis , as well as players like Tsonga , Isner, Janowicz and Dimitrov , who can all cause major upsets on grass and you have a cracking Championship in prospect .

The ladies side of the draw is even more open than the men’s , providing of course Serena Williams doesn’t find her best form . She’s been knocked out early in the first two Grand Slams of the year , by Ana Ivanovic  in Australia and then by Ana’s Spanish look-a-like , Garbine Muguruza in Paris . I count as many as ten players who are capable of lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish presented to the ladies champion . Williams , Li , Halep , Sharapova , Bouchard  , Azarenka , Ivanovic , Kvitova , Cibulkova and Lisicki all have the weapons necessary to go all the way .

My key matches in the men’s draw (if things go to plan) :

ERNESTS GULBIS vs TOMAS BERYDCH is a mouth watering 4th round clash , that could be a repeat of the Roland Garros Quarter-Final in which Gulbis dismantled Berdych . Should these two get through their first three matches , it’s anyone’s guess who will win out on the day . I’m anyone and my guess is Gulbis to come through .

NOVAK DJOKOVIC vs ERNESTS GULBIS : Should Gulbis come through as I just assured everyone he would , he has the exciting prospect of Novak Djokovic in the Quarters . Gulbis’s coach doesn’t even believe that Ernests is good enough at this juncture to beat Novak , so who am I to argue , Djokovic through to the semis .

STAN WAWRINKA vs ROGER FEDERER is a likely Quarter-Final match-up that will pit the two Swiss maestros and friends in a dogg eat dogg battle . The prize , a Semi-Final spot in the biggest tennis tournament in the world . This match will only come to pass though if they can both get past tough 4th round opponents . Stan has the giant American , John Isner to deal with and Rog has the giant Pole , Jerzy Janowicz in his path . These two big serving goliaths will prove very tricky , but I feel the shot making and guile of the Swiss men will prove decisive .

So to their match-up . The two men both have similar styles . Strong serves , big forehands , one-handed backhands and an easy elegance that make them a joy to the eye . Federer is probably still a better mover than Stan , but Stan has more power these days . Roger obviously has a huge edge when it comes to experience , but Stan has more power and that , in my opinion will be the deciding factor . Wawrinka through to the semis .

MILOS RAONIC vs RAFAEL NADAL is the quarter-final at the bottom of the draw that I expect to see happen . The tennis juggernaut against the young pretender . A clash of styles . The big serve and forehand of Raonic against the energizer bunny with that huge buggy-whip forehand , Nadal . Everybody knows about the brilliance of Rafa , but on grass Milos will be more than a handful . Expect to see some tie-breaks in this one , but I’m still going for the experience in big matches of Rafa . Nadal into semis .

NOVAK DJOKOVIC vs ANDY MURRAY : I expect Andy to come through his Quarter handily , which will most likely mean a rematch of last year’s final in this year’s semi . These two men have met 20 times on tour , with Djokovic prevailing 12 times and Murray 8 . Everyone is interested to see what Andy’s new coach , Amelie Mauresmo will bring to his game , although it might be a bit to soon to see major changes . Novak will no doubt be his consistent self , but if Andy can play aggressively , up near the baseline , then I give him the edge on the lawns . MURRAY into his third consecutive Wimbledon final .

STAN WAWRINKA vs RAFAEL NADAL : A lot of people will be hoping this semi turns out to be another Nadal v Federer classic at Wimbledon . They haven’t met on grass since that epic 2008 final and this might be one of the last chances for another Wimbledon battle to happen . Wawrinka against Nadal could be a classic in its own right though . It would be a repeat of this year’s Australian Open Final , which turned out to be one of the strangest grand slam finals in memory . Rafa will want to erase that memory with a victory that will take him back to a Wimbledon final for the first time since 2011 . Stan will have other ideas though and with the grass keeping lower than the other surfaces , it will help his one-handed backhand against Nadal’s big top-spin forehand . I think the encounter will hinge on the form of Wawrinka . If he’s striking the ball crisply and moving sharply then he might have Nadal’s number on the grass , but he’s inconsistent and thus I’m picking Nadal’s consistency to prevail . Nadal through to his sixth Wimbledon final .

ANDY MURRAY vs RAFAEL NADAL ” The Final” : These two have never met in a grand slam final , but they have met 8 times in grand slams , with Nadal leading 6-2 . This one’s going to be different to most of those matches though . Murray’s going to step in and be aggressive , he’s going to shorten the rallies , he’s going to out serve Rafa , quite simply , he’s going to win . MURRAY Wimbledon Champion .

On the women’s side , there are far to many upsets and unpredictable results for me to foresee key matches . So I’m just going to give a quick rundown of each of my contenders .

SERENA WILLIAMS : Serena is the out and out favourite in every grand slam she enters . With 17 grand slam titles , she is far and away the dominant player of her era and perhaps the greatest of all-time . Her early exits in Australia and Paris will only serve to motivate her . She is after Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles and a win at SW19 this year will put her one step closer . Serena will be very tough to beat and I tip her to win it all .

LI NA : The darling of Chinese sport , Li is now the number 2 player in the world . She has 2 grand slam titles , including the Australian Open this year . On her day she is a devastating player , good off both wings , she produces piercing ground strokes that leave her opponents breathless , but as she showed in Paris , losing in the first round to Kristina Mladenovic , she has quite a number of off days . Which Li Na will show up this fortnight is anyone’s guess , but if she brings her best stuff , she will be final bound .

MARIA SHARAPOVA : Maria captured her 5th grand slam title in Paris a fortnight ago . It was a grueling two weeks that no doubt took a lot out of her both physically and mentally . I think it will be hard for her to bounce back from such a high , so quickly . She is seeded to meet Serena in the Quarters and with her disappointing record against the American , I can’t see her winning that match . For Maria to go all the way , I think she needs some easy early round wins and then hope Serena gets knocked out early .

SIMONA HALEP : Simona was magnificent in Paris , she played inspiring all court tennis that took her all the way to the final . She lost to Sharapova in the final , but the little Romanian proved herself as a future grand slam champion . Her game reminds me a lot of Justine Henin and that ain’t no bad thing . She has quite a favourable quarter so I would be surprised if she didn’t go all the way to the semis , where she will probably have to face Serena . I personally would love to see that match .

EUGENIE BOUCHARD : The Canadian is the new pin-up girl of tennis and she has a lot of game to go with her looks . She made the semis in the first two grand slams of the year and at 20 , is a star in the making . She finds herself in a really tough quarter , with Serena and Maria , so it will be an unbelievable achievement if she can match her performances in Melbourne and Paris .

VICTORIA AZARENKA : The tall Belarusian has been out for 3 months with a foot injury . She will want to work her way back into tournament play with a couple of comfortable wins and then put her best foot forward and cruise back into her old form . She has a fairly favourable draw and with her talent , I wouldn’t put it past her to make a semi .

ANA IVANOVIC : The Serbian stunner has had a resurgence of late and her attacking , go for broke style , makes her a dangerous opponent for anyone , just ask Serena Williams . Ana won her first tournament on grass a week ago in Eastbourne and with her confidence surging , she will look to match her best finish at Wimbledon , a semi-final in 2007 .

PETRA KVITOVA : After her commanding win at Wimbledon in 2011 , I and many others expected her to kick on and become a dominant force in the women’s game . She hasn’t been able to duplicate that form though , with inconsistency plaguing her . She’s in the bottom Quarter with Li Na . a match-up that seems to crop up regularly . I wouldn’t be surprised to see them battle it out again and from there , who knows , I certainly wouldn’t want to play her .

DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA : The pint-sized powerhouse has come into her own as a player this year . She lost in the Final of the Australian Open to Li Na and will be looking to go one better this fortnight . She’s drawn in a Quarter with Radwanska and Azarenka , two players I really think she can beat right now . Look for Dominika to make another grand slam semi at Wimbledon this year .

SABINE LISICKI : Last year’s finalist seems to save her best tennis for Wimbledon . She hasn’t done much this year , but with her power and her love of SW19 , don’t put it past her to rediscover that Wimbledon magic and make another run this year .

With the players primed and ready , it promises to be another enthralling two weeks at the most prestigious of all the slams .

Josh Greybe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. OPEN PREVIEW

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It’s back , back again . The U.S. Open returns to fabled Pinehurst No.2 for the first time since Michael Campbell had the Sunday of his career in 2005 , overtaking overnight leader Retief Goosen and mid-round leader Tiger Woods to capture his improbable major title . This year , while the Big Cat’s away the mice will play and there are some pretty talented “Mice” in the field .

BUBBA WATSON aka “Big Daddy” . The Masters Champion and in my opinion one of the most talented people ever to pick up a golf club . With just one top ten finish in 7 starts , a T5 in 2007 , he’ll be looking to solve the riddle that is U.S. Open golf this year . If he can manage to capture the 2nd leg of the Grand Slam and his third major title , he will start writing his name alongside the greats of the game .

ADAM SCOTT aka “The Matinee Idol” . It’s been quite a month for the handsome Australian . Gets married , becomes World No. 1 and wins The Colonial . His encore ? U.S. Open Champ perhaps . To achieve this though , he’s going to have to improve drastically on dismal past performances . With just one top 20 finish in 12 starts this has been by far his weakest major . He’s playing the best golf of his life now though and a win will solidify his spot as the premier player in the game .

JUSTIN ROSE aka “The Reigning Champ” . Rosie has been working his way back from a shoulder injury and has been starting to find some form in the past few weeks . A T4 at THE PLAYERS when he wasn’t quite on his game , proves not only how classy a player he is , but also that he is close to being back to his best . Along with the win last year , he has two other top tens in this Championship and you can be assured he won’t be giving back his trophy without a fight .

RORY MCILROY aka “The Man Who Would Be King” . Like Adam , it’s been quite a month for Rory . Broke up with his fiancé , tennis player Caroline Wozniacki , won the European Tour’s flagship event , the BMW PGA and hurt his knee at the Memorial while shooting a 63 . The 2011 Champ , Rory has one other top ten in 5 starts . This year he’ll be aching to wrap his arms around that beautiful trophy one more time and in the process quieten his critics , getting people focused back on his golf .

JORDAN SPIETH aka “Boy Wonder” . What can one say about Jordan Spieth . First “man” in 82 years to win a PGA TOUR event as a teenager , top ten in the FED EX Cup in his first year as a pro , finishes T2 in his first Masters and all this before his 21st birthday . He hasn’t got the picture perfect swing of an Adam Scott and he doesn’t wear flash threads like Rickie Fowler , but he can sure play . Bright , well spoken and focused , he’s sure to be a fixture on leaderboards for many years to come . Don’t be surprised if he’s fighting it out for the title this week .

JASON DUFNER aka “JDogg” . Jason Dufner is as unlikely a looking lover of Hip Hop as he is a major champion , but he is both of those things . The PGA Champ had a slow start to the season , but has been starting to find form in recent weeks . His playoff loss to Adam Scott at The Colonial a couple weeks ago , was a good sign that he is starting to peak at the right time , ahead of a busy summer schedule .  Two T4 in the U.S. Open in the last 2 years also proves that this style of golf suites the supreme ball-striker . If he can manage to overcome his issues inside 6 feet with the short stick this week , he will go very close to capturing his second major title .

CHARL SCHWARTZEL aka “Teeth” . Charl hasn’t kicked on in the way he would have hoped after capturing The Masters title in 2011 , only managing one win outside South Africa . The sweet swinger has perenially popped up on leaderboards , but faded on Sunday afternoons . He has a solid game that is suited to the difficulity of major championship set-ups and it’s only a matter of time before everything clicks into place and he captures another big one .

PHIL MICKELSON aka “Phil The Thrill” . After his round for the ages in the final round of the Open Championship last year , coming from 5 back to capture the title , he has had a very diasappointing last 11 months on the course . That round however sets up Phil as the story of the week . He is the first man since Tiger Woods to have a chance to capture the career grand slam and with a win would be only the sixth man in history after Sarazen , Hogan , Player , Nicklaus and Woods to achieve this momentous feet . A recent insider trading case brought against him is not going to help his mental state , but as Phil showed in the 2010 Masters Tournament , he has an uncanny ability to put personal problems aside when he’s on the course . With six second place finishes , including last year , it’s hard to believe he hasn’t won this championship already . For it to happen this year , the real Phil Mickelson needs to please stand up .

Expect the winning score to be around Even Par , in the two previous Championships held at the Pinehurst No. 2 course Payne Stewart won with a 279 (1 under-par) total and Michael Campbell finished on 280 (even par) in capturing his title . This year the course has been lengthed by over 300 yards , but equipment has moved on and the guys are getting bigger and stronger so I expect a similar winning score .

Josh Greybe

World Cup : Group E – Group H Preview

I just cannot explain the excitement I’m feeling towards the upcoming World Cup, just cannot predict who the winner will be. Expecting major upsets. May the best team win.

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SWITZERLAND

RANK : 6
Coach : Ottmar Hitzfeld
Player to Watch : Xherdan Shaqiri

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ECUADOR

RANK : 26
Coach : Reinaldo Rivera
Player to Watch : Antonio Valencia

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FRANCE

RANK : 17
Coach : Didier Deschamps
Player to Watch : Paul Pogba

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HONDURAS

RANK : 33
Coach : Luis Fernando Suarez
Player to Watch : Noel Valladares

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GROUP PREDICTION : France Switzerland

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ARGENTINA

RANK : 5
Coach : Alejandro Sabella
Player to Watch : Lionel Messi

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BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

RANK : 21
Coach : Safet Susic
Player to Watch : Edin Dzeko

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IRAN

RANK : 43
Coach : Carlos Queiroz
Player to Watch : Javad Nekounam

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NIGERIA

RANK : 44
Coach : Stephen Keshi
Player to Watch : John Obi Mikel

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GROUP PREDICTION : ARGENTINA BOSNIA

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GERMANY

RANK : 2
Coach : Joachim Low
Player to Watch : Mesut Ozil

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PORTUGAL

RANK : 4
Coach : Paulo Bento
Player to Watch : Cristiano Ronaldo

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GHANA

RANK : 37
Coach : James Appiah
Player to Watch : Christian Atsu

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USA

RANK : 13
Coach : Jurgen Klinsmann
Player to Watch : Clint Dempsey

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GROUP PREDICTION : GERMANY PORTUGAL

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BELGIUM

RANK : 11
Coach : Marc Wilmots
Player to Watch : Eden Hazard

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ALGERIA

RANK : 22
Coach : Vahid Halilhodzic
Player to Watch : Islam Slimani

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RUSSIA

RANK : 19
Coach : Fabio Capello
Player to Watch : Victor Fayzulin

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KOREA REPUBLIC

RANK : 57
Coach : Hong Myungbo
Player to Watch : Son Heungmin

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GROUP PREDICTION : BELGIUM RUSSIA

Enjoy

@arsenalroni
FB : Roni Armstrong

World Cup : Group A – Group D Preview

The biggest showpiece in world sport is upon us. 2014 Football World Cup. It’s going to be a lot of fun, heart-breaking and emotional. Expecting a massive spectacle.

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BRAZIL

RANK : 3
Coach : Luiz Felipe Scolari
Player to Watch : Neymar

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CROATIA

RANK : 18
Coach : Niko Kovac
Player to Watch : Luka Modric

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MEXICO

RANK : 20
Coach : Miguel Herrera
Player to Watch : Javier Hernandez

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CAMEROON

RANK : 56
Coach: Volker Finke
Player to Watch : Eric Choupo-Moting

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GROUP PREDICTION : Brazil Croatia

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SPAIN

RANK : 1
Coach : Vicente Del Bosque
Player to Watch : Diego Costa

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NETHERLANDS

RANK : 15
Coach : Louis van Gaal
Player to Watch : Robin van Persie

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CHILE

RANK : 14
Coach : Jorge Sampaoli
Player to Watch : Alexis Sanchez

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AUSTRALIA

RANK : 62
Coach : Angelos Postecoglu
Player to Watch : Tim Cahill

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GROUP PREDICTION : Spain Netherlands

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COLOMBIA

RANK : 8
Coach : Jose Pekerman
Player to Watch : Carlos Bacca

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GREECE

RANK : 12
Coach : Fernando Da Costa Santos
Player to Watch : Dimitrios Salpingidis

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COTE D’VOIRE

RANK : 23
Coach : Sabri Lamouchi
Player to Watch : Yaya Toure

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JAPAN

RANK : 46
Coach : Alberto Zaccheroni
Player to Watch : Keisuke Honda

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GROUP PREDICTION : COLOMBIA COTE D’VOIRE

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URUGUAY

RANK : 7
Coach : Oscar Tabarez
Player to Watch : Luis Suarez

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COSTA RICA

RANK : 28
Coach : Jorge Afanador
Player to Watch : Joel Campbell

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ENGLAND

RANK : 10
Coach : Roy Hodgson
Player to Watch : Wayne Rooney

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ITALY

RANK : 9
Coach : Cesare Prandelli
Player to Watch : Mario Balotelli

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GROUP PREDICTION : Uruguay England

End of Season Premier league awards

An Amazing season of Guts and Glory

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The league I love has finally ended. For a long time my beloved Arsenal was still involved in the race for glory, however injuries and tactical ineptness in big games would eventually cost The Arsenal.

I must commend Liverpool on an excellent season. They took advantage of other “Big teams” having other competitions to focus on, and their sole focus became the Premiership. Yes, they faltered. They gave an excellent account of themselves and they can be proud.

I predicted CHELSEA would win the league based on this idiotic misconception that they are managed by “THE SPECIAL ONE”. More like “THE MORONIC ONE”. A sad excuse for human existence. HE would go on to label Arsene Wenger as a “Specialist in failure”. I lost all respect for the man when he continued to vilely express his frustration at his own failure and thus directed it to another manager with more class under his armpit than Mourinho ever would have. Sad really.

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I must admit I don’t like the way City does their business, throwing money at problems. However they have more class than United. They actually play decent football and take risks. I’m an admirer of Pellegrini and I am happy that he finally achieved the top prize at a club in a top league. I don’t like them but CONGRATS

I always enjoying ripping at Manchester United. They are the most successful club in Premiership history but boy do their fans lack class, embarrassing really. They gave David Moyes “the impossible job” and well done to Sir Alex for realizing that he couldn’t achieve anything further within current squad, and HIS decision brought joy to many. Even had Robin van Persie sulk and go into injury mode. LOL

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To the newly promoted clubs , they tried and conquered. A lot of fun and going to old grounds was refreshing. Special mention to Tony Pulis. I used to tease him for wearing that ridiculous baseball cap. However he was won me over. He still looks ridiculous in that cap.

AWARDS TIME..

GOLDEN BOOT

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Excellent player with dodgy teeth. We’ll deserved Golden Boot winner with 31 goals.

GOLDEN GLOVES

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Wojciech Szczesny and Petr Cech both had 16 clean sheets, thus they share the award. Thought Szczesny the most improved keeper this season and statistically the best. Arsenal’s defence not entire reason for leaking goals in big games.

MOST CLEAN SHEETS

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Joke of a club, can’t even find a proper high resolution image of their crest. However well deserved as they had 18 clean sheets.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

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A man criticized for his style of play while at Stoke (and that baseball cap). Rightly so, however he has been simply excellent at Crystal Palace. They have identity again. Well done to Tony Pulis and team.

IDIOT OF THE SEASON

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Wow words fail me with this guy. Utter moron. The lack of respect when publicly calling out Arsene Wenger as a “Specialist in failure”. However Wenger replied: “I feel sorry for him”. Class.

CHANT OF THE SEASON

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My favorite award. Love the funny chants and I think the following will go down in folklore. Stoke City fans to Steven Gerrard

You look like a girl,
You look like a giiiiiiirl,
Steven Gerrard, you look like a girl

Sorry Steven.

Premiership Ground of the year

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Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium easily wins this award hands down every season, quite an impeccable venue and the playing surface “By far the best The World has ever seen”.

Bell-End of the year

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Very little to say, Daniel Sturridge celebration. Horrendous

GOAL OF THE SEASON

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I’m not a fan of individual goals. I chose Jack Wilshere’s goal against Norwich. The illustration says it all.

Team of the season

SZCZESNY
COLEMAN MERTESACKER KOSCIELNY SHAW
LALLANA Y.TOURE RAMSEY HAZARD
SUAREZ STURRIDGE

Player of the Season

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I do not agree with the PFA awards. I feel Yaya Toure has carried Man City’s midfield in a big unanimous way. He has had help from Fernandinho. I feel Suarez has been excellent, but the big game performance tipped it for me and Yaya was much more prevalent and consistent throughout the season.

NB! This is totally my opinion, based on stats. Everyone deserving of this.

Enjoy

Roni Armstrong (Facebook)
@arsenalroni (Twitter)

Taming The “Dye”-Abolical TPC At Sawgrass

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It’s PLAYERS Championship time again , a tournament conceived and implemented in 1974 by then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman , largely in the hope that it would grow in reputation and prestige and eventually be regarded as a Major . The PGA Tour’s dream of owning one of the majors hasn’t quite come to fruition , but The PLAYERS as it is now known is regarded particularly in America as “The Fifth Major” . An unofficial title that has somewhat waned in recent years with golf’s globalization . If there is to be a fifth major somewhere down the line , Asia is the place where it has to be held .

That being said , as a young boy , this was my favourite tournament to watch on T.V. . played on my favourite course of them all , The Stadium Course at TPC at Sawgrass . I think all the water and dramatic finishes , were what drew me in and then there is of course , the 17th . Anyone who has any interest in golf , more than likely has seen or heard about the 17th at Sawgrass . A diminutive par 3 , measuring around 125 metres (depending on tee placements) , it sounds rather tame , that is if you weren’t shooting to an island green , surrounded by alligator infested water . Swirling winds and a Dye-abolical (the course was designed by Pete Dye ) Sunday pin placement , back right , with a landing area not much bigger than a family size dining room table , if you fire at the pin , make it a pulse racing finish to an exciting event .

The Stadium Course is not just the 17th hole though . it’s a test from first tee shot to last putt . Not long by modern standards , it’s tight , with trouble lurking on every hole . Water , sand , palm trees and rough strategically positioned to make the golfer position his tee shot in the right portion of the fairways , not just bomb away with a driver . It’s a ball-strikers golf course that doesn’t favour the long hitters like most courses do these days .

Jamaican Rum , a lovely girl and a Waterford Crystal trophy sounds like a nice way to spend a Sunday evening after 4 grueling days at The Stadium Course . I should imagine Tiger was doing something similar a year ago , after capturing his second PLAYERS title , following Sergio Garcia’s double dip at 17 on Sunday . Sergio came to the famous hole tied for the lead with Tiger , who was playing a group ahead , but after deciding to try and replicate the shot he hit in the playoff in 2008 against Paul Goydos (he stiffed his tee shot after Goydos found water) he found water twice , trying to play the perfect shot .

Tiger unfortunately won’t be defending his title this year as he’s still recovering from back surgery . Nevertheless it’s still shaping up to be a cracking tournament , probably more open than ever , with a bunch of new names coming to the fore so far this season . The more established stars will be rattled and will be doing their utmost to come out of hibernation and reassert their dominance on the rest of the “rank and file” .

My tip for the top : LUKE DONALD .

Josh Greybe

Fading South African challenge

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A frustrating campaign thus far has seen South African Super Rugby teams struggle for momentum, cohesion and structure. Attacking Rugby is non-existent for a country boasting of the most talented Rugby players on the planet, however our coaching structures and government interference doesn’t allow for our teams to emphasize style of play on attack.

The Cheetahs however , despite their struggles with English, are trying to at least play a bit of footie and can be inspiring for a fairly dull kick-orientated system called SA Rugby.

I have mentioned before that entertainment should trump the need to win. Financially it’s difficult to attract sponsors if you are losing, but an attacking brand can cater for more people watching the sport.

This upcoming weekend foresees the biggest game on the South African roster. I have aptly called it the “Blood-Derby”. Formerly known as Noord-Transvaal teen Westelike Provinsie. Now it’s BULLS v STORMERS. How boring!

Games between these sides are never spectacles, however believe me when I say they are brutal. I’ve seen most of them live in the past few years and cannot honestly say I have been entertained as a spectator, but the history and tradition has me glued to the on-field events.

Most of my rugby legends have featured highly in these games. Names that slips off the tongue: Ruben Kruger, Joost van der Westhuizen and Bakkies Botha, to name a few. I have witnessed some almighty games but I love reminding the Cape faithful of that day at Loftus. 14 May 2005, a normal day for most people, however the biggest slaughter in Western Province history took place when the Bulls annihilated them 75-14.

It’s vital for the Bulls to start playing enterprising rugby and scoring tries as the log can be jammed within a couple weeks. The Sharks have some monstrous classes against the Brumbies, Crusaders and Blues. Therefore I feel the time to hit is NOW! The Bulls are inexperienced , their decision-making, shocking. They do however have a chance. So go for it!

Kudos to the Stormers for trying to play some rugby against the Highlanders. However they will need to be stopped this weekend. Tough games ahead for most South African teams and if they continue to kick away the ball , they will allow teams to continue to score tries.

Let’s be smarter

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RONI ARMSTRONG
@arsenalroni

Tiger vs Jack A Major Legacy

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In my next post I’m going to try do a hopefully educated thumb suck and calculate the odds of Tiger Woods catching and breaking Jack Nicklaus’s Major Championship record . So to preview that I’ve written a little major championship comparison between the two men .

The facts as they stand :

Jack Nicklaus: 18 majors in 102 starts between first start and last win (first 5 starts as an amateur) .

Interesting Stats: Besides his 18 wins , Jack had 19 seconds and 9 thirds in majors .

Between 1970 and the end of 1979 (known to most as the 70′s) Jack played in all 40 majors , finishing in the top 10 an extraordinary 35 times , 28 of them top 5′s , 21 top 3′s , including the 8 wins in the decade . Consistency beyond belief .

Between 1962 and 1975 (age 22 to 35) he had his most productive winning years , claiming 14 Major titles in 55 starts , which included 42 top 10′s , 37 top 5′s and 32 top 3′s .

Between 1976 and his last major win , the memorable 1986 Masters (age 36-46) , Jack won 4 majors in 41 starts , including 24 top 10′s , 17 of them top 5′s , 13 being top 3′s .

Tiger Woods: 14 majors in 70 starts to date (first 6 starts as an amateur) .

Interesting Stats: Besides his 14 wins , Tiger has had 6 seconds and 4 thirds in majors .

Tiger is the only man to hold all 4 major titles at the same time , The Tiger Slam .

Between Tiger’s first major as a pro , the famous 12-shot win at the 1997 Masters and his knee surgery after the perhaps even more famous One-legged win at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open (so from first win to last to date) , Tiger played in 46 straight majors , accumulating 29 top 10′s , 25 of them top 5′s , 22 being top 3′s and of course the 14 wins . Amazing numbers .

So that’s 14 major titles in 46 starts between 1997 and 2008 (age 21 to 32) .

Since his comeback from his knee injury in 2009 , Tiger’s played in 18 majors , notching up 9 top 10′s , 2 of which have been top 3′s , but that 15th major still eludes him .

Those stats for both men are staggering , but let’s delve a bit deeper . In Jack’s career he had 4 main rivals at various times during his major years , Gary Player , Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino .

From Jack’s first major as a pro , the 1962 Masters , up until Gary’s last major win , the 1978 Masters , Gary played in 62 Major Championships  , notching up 31 top 10′s , including 17 top 5′s , 13 top 3′s and 7 wins in that period . (He of course won 2 majors before Jack turned pro) .

Arnold Palmer won 4 of his 7 majors before Jack turned pro , although Jack was in the field as an amateur for 2 of those wins , including finishing 2nd to Arnold at the 1960 U.S Open at Cherry Hills . Arnold won his 7 majors in a 6 year time span , accumulating 16 top tens , 14 top 5′s and 12 top 3′s in the 23 starts it took him to win his 7 Major Championships .

Tom Watson was the one man who got the better of Jack , beating him into second place 4 times in the majors , never himself finishing second to Jack . It’s no coincidence that Jack “only” won 5 more majors after Tom claimed his first . Tom won 8 majors in 33 starts between 1975 and 1983 , of those 33 major starts , he finished in the top ten 22 times , including 15 top 5′s and 13 top 3′s .

Lee Trevino won 6 majors , beating Jack into second a remarkable 4 times . That being said , unlike Tom who knocked Jack off his perch at the top of the game , Lee certainly couldn’t match Jack week in , week out and would be the first to admit that . A brilliantly consistent ball-striker , Lee won 5 majors in 6 years between 1968 and 1974 . Then 10 years later , after being struck by lighting , he produced a minor miracle at Shoal Creek in the 1984 PGA Championship , winning his sixth major title at the age of 44. He played in 57 majors between first and last victories , accumulating 18 top 10′s , 12 of them top 5′s , 8 being top 3′s .

Tiger’s three main rivals during his major winning years were Phil Mickelson , Ernie Els and Vijay Singh .

Phil was the best player in the world never to win a major for a long time , until he finally broke through just before his 34th birthday , at the 2004 Masters . He was no mug in the majors before that though . In his 42 starts as a pro before his first win he managed 17 top 10′s , 9 being top 5′s , 8 of those top 3′s . Since that first win , Phil’s gone on a tear , winning 5 majors in 40 starts , notching up 18 more top 10′s , 15 of them top 5′s , 12 of which have been top 3′s .

Unlike Phil , Ernie got his first major early , winning the 1994 U.S Open at the tender age of 24 . This happened to be 2 years before Tiger got out on tour . Ernie has won 3 more majors since that first win , amassing 34 top 10′s , 23 being top 5′s , 15 of them top 3′s including of course those 4 wins in 85 major starts .

Vijay played in 19 majors before Tiger turned pro picking up 5 top 10′s , 2 being top 5′s . From Tiger’s memorable  first start as a pro in 1997 until 2006 Vijay played in 40 majors , winning 3 of them , collecting 17 top 10′s in the process , 7 being top 5′s , including 5 top 3′s .

Total stats overload I know , but I’m trying to compare eras by looking at the greatest players of those eras . So let’s get to the nuts and bolts of all these stats . For me the most telling stat other than wins of course , is top 3′s , getting yourself right in the mix on Sunday . So what I’m going to do is break down the major top 3′s of each of the 9 players we’ve been looking at . For Generation Jack and Vijay I’m just going to look at their prime years in calculating a top 3 percentage because of course they played in many majors once they were well past their best .

Jack Nicklaus: 46 top 3′s in 108 starts (prime years) 42.6% .    

Arnold Palmer: 19 top 3′s in 79 starts (prime years) 24.1% .

Gary Player :18 top 3′s in 103 starts (prime years)  17.5% .

Tom Watson: 17 top 3′s in 94 starts (prime years) 18.1% .         (I’m not counting Tom’s remarking 2nd place at age 59 in the 2009 Open Championship) .

Lee Trevino: 9 top 3′s in 67 starts (prime years) 13.4% .

 

Tiger Woods: 24 top 3′s in 64 starts (as a pro) 37.5% .
Phil Mickelson: 20 top 3′s in 82 starts (as a pro) 24.4%
Ernie Els: 15 top 3′s in 85 starts (as a pro) 17.6% .
Vijay Singh: 5 top 3′s in 54 starts (prime years) 9.3% .
It’s a commonly held belief that competition is stiffer in the modern era . That the players of the 60′s , 70′s and 80′s generally weren’t as good as today’s guys . Thus saying that it was easier for Jack to win his majors than it has been for Tiger . These “top 3″ stats just don’t back that up . Sure Gary , Tom , Arnold and Lee have won more majors than Tiger’s rivals , but the percentage of top 3′s for both generations is strikingly similar . In fact Phil is third , only behind Jack and Tiger themselves in number and percentage of top 3′s in majors .
Now a lot of you might be sitting there thinking , what does that prove exactly ? To me it says two things , firstly , that Jack was well ahead of his rivals , not just in major wins , but also in terms of consistency and how often he put himself right in the hunt come the back nine on Sunday . It also says to me that there must have been more depth in Jack’s generation than a lot of people might think because otherwise the other great players of the day would have had far more top finishes in the majors .
I unfortunately never had the privilege of watching Jack dominate the majors in his prime . I have though watched Tiger in all his majors and because of that I’ve been guilty of respecting Jack’s achievements , but not really believing that he could match up to Tiger . These stats however tell a different tale .
Tiger at his best was a dominating figure , a man who cast doubt and fear into the mind’s of many of his most talented rivals , a man who once he got his nose in front could not be overhauled . Jack was respected and admired by all his contemporaries , but not feared to the extent Tiger was . Then he was closer with his rivals than Tiger , who deliberately distanced himself from those players who he saw as threats to his dominance . 
As we can all see just from looking at the stats , even if you’ve never watched either swing a golf club , they both special . Tiger had two stretches where he was virtually unstoppable , winning 7 majors in 11 starts between August 1999 and June 2002 , then again 6 majors in 14 starts between April 2005 and June 2008 . Both stretches coming right after fairly extensive swing changes with two different coaches , first Butch Harmon , then Hank Haney . Jack’s majors were much more spread out . His first 7 came in 21 starts , then he went winless for 12 , then won 7 in 22 , then went winless for 12 again , then won 4 in 29 starts . 
It’s clear to me now how I should define the Major Championship Legacies of the 2 greatest Major winners of all-time . Tiger when he had his swing in a good place was the most dominating force in golfing history (with the possible exception of Ben Hogan who won 9 majors in 16 starts after discovering “The Secret”) , he blew fields away , especially in the Harmon years and probably played golf that nobody in the history of the game could have dealt with . Jack just played Jack golf , major after major , year after year . He invariable put himself in contention on Sunday afternoon and by sheer weight of numbers won 18 majors . A level of consistency and longevity that I can safely say won’t ever be touched .
So who’s the greater champion ? The answer I guess depends on whether you value consistency or periods of genius . I guess their lives are a microcosm of their golf games , but whichever you choose , it’s a great privilege for golf fans that we’ve had two such different golfing geniuses grace this great game .
Josh