Colin Byrne: Underdogs starting to nibble at heels of superstars

Reality in top golf, as with any other sport, is that it is increasingly narrow margins that separate best from rest

Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay on his way to victory at  the BMW International Open at  Gut Larchenhof GC in Cologne last weekend.

Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay on his way to victory at the BMW International Open at Gut Larchenhof GC in Cologne last weekend.

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 06:00

I think we are living in a sporting age that is getting less predictable. The old days of the usual suspects lifting trophies is not a given any more. What a privilege it is to watch the depth of talent there is on the PGA and European Tours challenging and winning against the titans of the game.

I recall Shane Lowry telling me, when he arrived in style on the European Tour, that it was only when he started playing with what were his idols as elite players on television that he realised that they were actually no better than him as golfers.

Of course what he learned in his apprenticeship on tour was that what separates you from the rest is how you deal with yourself under pressure, how you manage your schedule, how you practice, ultimately how you squeeze your talent dry, how you treat your profession.

The reality in top golf as with any other sport is that it is increasingly narrow margins that separate the best from the rest. Look no further than the World Cup of soccer this year and the apparent infiltration of the old ascendancy of world football. Five of the last eight games went to extra-time. With teams like Costa Rica getting through to the quarter-finals, it must give every other underdog team new hope. After Argentina’s win over Switzerland the other night, Lionel Messi said “you have to win games on minor details”.

Even those who have not prevailed in the latter stages have lost by the narrowest of margins. Algeria, not the biggest profile in world football, were beaten by a whisker by the relentless but far from perfect Germans.

Obvious victors

I would imagine if you simply looked at the results of say Brazil and Chile and Germany and Algeria you would have assumed, by habit, that they were the obvious victors. Those who watched know the reality.

Now that we are in the midst of yet another Tiger Woods media revival perhaps it is finally time to let go and enjoy the exciting prospect of the depth of talent on tour instead of pre-programmed star gazing and assumptions that the old guard will always come through. It is hard to let go I admit.

As an appreciator of the skill of soccer but not a soccer fan I found it hard to think that a Columbia/Uruguay contest was going to enthrall. Of course it did. From the heart-pounding patriotism of the pre-match Uruguayan national anthem to the last second of a rare 90-minute game at this tight end of the event, I was captivated.

In Germany last Sunday the all-conquering Viking, Henrik Stenson, set off in a four-man play-off with Rafa Cabrera Bello, Gregory Havret and Fabrizio Zanotti.

Smaller fish

Fabrizio is from Paraguay. He was his country’s top amateur for six years in a row before he turned pro and the reality of being a smaller fish in a bigger pond became apparent. He took some time to reach his first title but when he got his chance, no matter how intimidating the play-off may have been with the world’s number two golfer and two other European stalwarts surrounding him, the charming Paraguayan seized his moment for victory on the fifth extra hole.

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