SportTV View

Tension rises as Irishwomen face world’s best at the old haunt of a murdered Dutchman

TV View: With Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow vying for the Women’s PGA title, watching from the couch was anything but comfortable

The thunder rolled. A bit like Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow’s challengers in the final round of the PGA Championship, a heap of them breathing down the necks of the Irish pair by the time play was suspended during the final round in New Jersey.

It’s not that we needed to be told, but Sunday was a reminder that there’s no pleasure at all in watching golf when you’re emotionally invested, the experience going from being a relaxing curled-up-on-the-couch chill-fest to one that reveals your demonic side.

So, yes, having an Irish player in contention for a Major brings the very worst out in you. Twice as bad when there are two. Remember those times when you watched the likes of Pádraig, Rory and Shane at Majors down the years and instead of sportingly shouting ‘IN THE HOLE!!’ at their rivals, you were howling ‘IN THE LAKE!!’? Yeah, same again.

A thunderstorm alert for later in the day necessitated an early start for the field who barely had time to digest their breakfasts before being called to action.


The final group out was a case of Cavan v Antrim with Seoul sandwiched in between, like an Ulster championship fixture with a stray South Korean turning up at Clones.

When this couch tuned in on Saturday, Maguire was being hotly pursued by Xiyu Lin, Ruoning Yin and Jenny Shin, a three-pronged Asian attack on Ballyconnell. Although it was hard to focus after our commentator Tom Abbott told us how the Baltusrol course got its name.

“It was named after a Dutch farmer, Baltus Roll, who once owned the property and who came to quite a gruesome end when he was murdered by thieves who came to his house to rob him back in 1831 ... now, Xiyu Lin for a birdie.”

And he just left it there. Like this was run-of-the-mill info. A Major sporting venue named after a murdered man from the Netherlands who grew apples and raised cows for a living.

No matter. Stuff happens.

Our focus was soon redirected to a leader board that had Cavan on top, with Antrim in hot pursuit, prompting the Golf Channel, brought to us by Sky, to show a 2011 pic of Maguire and Meadows after the former had held off the challenge of the latter to win the Irish Women’s Open Strokeplay. They both looked about three.

So, Sunday. First, a sorry from Trish Johnson in the Sky studio. “I just want to apologise, I think I mentioned that Leona was British – of course she isn’t, she’s a very proud Irish woman.” No bother Trish, apology accepted. But try that again, and ….. (Legal department: “Please desist from making violent threats against golf pundits.”)

Dan Hicks reckoned the weather warning wouldn’t make Maguire blink, “if you wait for good weather in Ireland you’re not going to play a hole of golf,” he, somewhat scurrilously, alleged. “In Ireland, there are not a lot of thunderstorms,” Kay Cockerill countered, just after the third one in a week made the reception from Baltusrol go a bit haywire. A bit like the dog.

“This is a VERY big day for Irish golf,” said Tom. “This could be just the best day EVER for Ireland,” said Trish, making our tummies rumble a bit like the thunder.

And then Maguire couldn’t buy a birdie for love nor money in the opening seven holes, Meadow snaring one to go level with her pal, Shin and Lin – but not Yin – joint leaders. And all the while, scary folk such as Carlota Ciganda, Ayaka Furue, Rose Zhang and, lord have mercy, Anna Nordqvist were closing in.

And then the heavens intervened.,Trish, with her fingers crossed behind her back, hoped the break would allow the Irish pair to reset and, as they have a habit of saying in the sporting world this weather, go again.

But the New Jersey weather has, evidently, zero respect for Irish deadlines, so there’s a chance when you’re reading this, you’ll know if either Cavan or Antrim prevailed in the PGA, rather than the Ulster, championship.

If neither did, break it to us gently. We’ll update you when the thunder stops rolling. Either way, they’ll both have fared better than Baltus Roll at the venue.