By Michael Williams
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Some of the best players in the world took some time off to do what most of us would do on an off day; play some golf.
The occasion was the 2012 Tavistock Cup, the ninth edition of the two-day tourney that features the residents of the some of the world’s most exclusive golf communities in a pitched battle of the “Haves” against the “Have Mores”. Six-man teams of tour professionals from four exclusive golf clubs competed for cash, prizes and bragging rights. The team from Lake Nona, led by Graeme McDowell and Gary Woodland, won the competition on its home course over rival Isleworth and two other clubs to claim a winners’ purse of $600,000 to be split amongst the team members. Queenwood and Albany finished in third and fourth place, respectively. Els (Albany), Roger Allenby (Isleworth), Retief Goosen (Lake Nona), Ross Fisher(Lake Nona), and Thomas Björn (Queenwood) tied for low individual score honors, shooting 5-under on the second and final day of the competition.
The competition was spirited, and with luxury cars and private jets as hole-in-one prizes, the players were competing as much for pride in ownership as pride alone. Among the most entertaining facets of the competition is the long drive contest, where Gary Woodland beat out fellow bombardier Bubba Watson with a mammoth 309 yard dive into a stiff wind. Notable among the competitors were Woods (Albany) and Goosen (Lake Nona); both were last seen wincing in pain in their last competitive outings just a few days ago. Both somehow recovered enough to play, albeit not with particular distinction. Woods pattern of good ball-striking and dubious putting continued; one could only wonder what could have motivated Goosen after suffering back pain so severe just two days ago that he decided to take platelet rich plasma injections (PRP).
Known affectionately in some circles as the U.S. Closed, the PGA Tour-sanctioned competition originated in 2004, as the Orlando-based golf pros that lived at Isleworth (Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Lee Janzen, et al.) started talking smack to the pros at Lake Nona on the other side of town (Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Sergio Garcia, et al.). Before a West Side Story-style turf battle broke out, a nice gentleman from Tavistock, the investment company that owns both enclaves, suggested they do their fighting with their clubs, not with their fists; before someone got clocked with a 7-iron, he further explained that he meant they should play golf, not hit each other with golf clubs. And thus the Tavistock Cup was born. In the inaugural competition Lake Nona negotiated the ultimate “sucker bet” when they boasted that they could beat Isleworth “even with a girl on our team”. That girl happened to be Annika Sorenstam, and Lake Nona began their domination of the won competition with a 14.5 to 9.5 romp.
The Tavistock Cup has expanded over the years and now includes Albany from the Bahamas (which is featured in the James Bond thriller “Casino Royale”), and Queenwood in the United Kingdom (if the Queen is in the name, it’s got to be good, right?). The vision is to have the competition become the World Country Club Championships, which means that having the The Donald as a part of the action cannot be far over the horizon.
The event raises a lot of money for charity, and raised a lot of questions about the participants as they prepare for this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters in two weeks. Clearly Woods is struggling with his putting, and he will have to somehow channel memories of the 62 he put up in the final round of the Honda Classic in order to challenge this week and at Augusta. Els faced similar putting nightmares last week, and must finish amongst the Top 50 ranked players in the world after Bay Hill or win the Shell Houston Open the following week. He got some positive reinforcement at Tavistock, draining several of the ticklish short- to medium putts that are requirement for scoring at Augusta.
One thing is for sure; the time for fun is decidedly over. The first major of the year is almost here, and everyone knows that the only club jacket anybody wants is that sporty green number they give out just up the Interstate. Let the games begin.
Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.
You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv