Tag Archives: augusta

Masters 2013: Jamie Donaldson shoots hole-in-one on sixth hole

Xbox practice pays off as Welshman Donaldson hits hole-in-one on debut

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

17:50 GMT, 11 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:07 GMT, 11 April 2013

MASTERS ESSENTIALS
Follow live action from day one hereHole-by-hole guide to Augusta National
Full list of tee timesFull preview: Tiger must wake up and smell the azaleas: he'll need his driver to win a fifth Green Jacket this weekVIDEO: greatest shots in Masters historyAll the latest news from Augusta

Welshman Jamie Donaldson made a flying start to his first Masters with a sensational hole-in-one on the sixth hole at Augusta.

The 37-year-old was one over par by the time he reached the 180-yard, par-three sixth before his amazing shot on the hole known as Juniper.

He became the fifth golfer record a hole-in-one on the sixth, the first since Chris DiMarco in 2004.

Donaldson's shot was the 24th ace in Masters history after Bo Van Pelt and Adam Scott made holes-in-one on No 16 last year.

Delight: Jamie Donaldson celebrates his hole-in-one as Martin Laird watches on

Delight: Jamie Donaldson celebrates his hole-in-one as Martin Laird watches on

High five: The Welshman celebrates with his caddie

High five: The Welshman celebrates with his caddie

All smiles: Donaldson waves to spectators after his hole-in-one on the sixth

All smiles: Donaldson waves to spectators after his hole-in-one on the sixth

Modest: Donaldson was one over through five

Modest: Donaldson was one over through five

Appreciation: Donaldson raises his cap

Appreciation: Donaldson raises his cap

The Welshman, who was priced at 300-1 before the tournament, prepared for his first trip down Magnolia Lane by playing on his Xbox.

Donaldson won the Abu Dhabi
Championship in January, his first victory on the European Tour.

Elsewhere, Englishman David Lynn was the early leader in the clubhouse thanks to an opening round of 68.

Playing only the third major of his career after securing his place by finishing second to Rory McIlroy at the US PGA Championship last year, Lynn carded a four-under-par 68 in the first round at Augusta National.

The 39-year-old from Stoke, who has just one win in almost 400 European Tour events, carded six birdies and two bogeys during his round on Thursday.

Follow Sportsmail's live coverage from day one at Augusta HERE.

MASTERS 2013 BETTING GUIDE: Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar among our top tips for Augusta glory

MASTERS BETTING GUIDE: McIlroy and Kuchar among our top tips for Augusta glory

and the likeable 34-year-old, with his length off the tee and touch on the greens, can go close again.

Already a winner this year at the Accenture Match Play, Kuchar is 40-1 with Bwin.

Ian Poulter

Lee
Westwood, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose led the English charge with
top-10 finishes last year and a case can be made for all three this time round.

Westwood has settled well since moving to America and Justin Rose is up to No 3 in the world but our money is on Poulter.

Don't
expect the fist pumps and bulging eyes from Medinah but if he can play
like he did at the Ryder Cup he can better last year's seventh place.

Get on him at 40-1 (widely available) and take advantage of Coral offering 11-2 on him being top Englishman.

Augusta
National is often a graveyard for rookies – Fuzzy Zoeller was the last
man to win here on his first visit and that was way back in 1979.

Eighteen
debutants tee it up this Thursday and bookies have Nicolas Colsaerts at
the head of the betting for this market. We won't be arguing.

The
Belgian bomber has been like a kid in a sweetshop since driving down
Magnolia Lane for the first time and while a Green Jacket might be too
much to ask, expect his to still be wearing that big grin on Sunday
night. He's 5-1 to be top rookie.

* All prices correct at time of publication – subject to change

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hole guide

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National

PUBLISHED:

08:55 GMT, 8 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:02 GMT, 8 April 2013

The waiting is over for the year's first Major as the best players in the world arrive at Augusta National for The Masters.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy stroll down Magnolia Lane as the top two in the world while Bubba Watson is defending the Green Jacket he won 12 months ago.

Woods is the man to beat with three wins under his belt already in 2013 while McIlroy looks like he's finally getting used to his Nike clubs following a fine display finishing second at the Texas Open.

But this is Augusta National where anything can happen and here, Sportsmail has everything you need to know in our hole-by-hole guide.

The Masters: Hole by hole

Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National – everything you need to know ahead of the season's first major

*Holes ranked from 1 (most difficult) to 18 (least difficult) based on how the course played in 2012

1st (Tea Olive), 445 yards, par four: A deep bunker on the right of the fairway and trees both sides make for a daunting start, while long and left of the undulating green both spell big trouble. Unsurprisingly played the hardest hole on the course last year. 2012 average: 4.39 (rank 1)

2nd (Pink Dogwood), 575 yards, par five: Driving into the trees on the left cost Padraig Harrington a nine in 2009, but Louis Oosthuizen memorably holed his second shot for an albatross in the final round last year before losing in a play-off to Bubba Watson. Important early birdie chance.
2012 average: 4.64 (rank 18)

3rd (Flowering Peach), 350 yards, par four: Shortest par four on the course but a pear-shaped green with steep slope in front allows for some wicked pin positions. 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel pitched in for eagle in the final round. 2012 average: 3.90 (rank 14)

4th (Flowering Crab Apple), 240 yards, par three: The back tee – not always used – turns it into a beast with the green sloping from back to front. Phil Mickelson took six here in the final round last year and finished two shots outside the play-off. Jeff Sluman's ace in 1992 remains the only hole-in-one here in Masters history. 2012 average: 3.22 (rank 6)

5th (Magnolia), 455 yards, par four: Jack Nicklaus twice holed his second shot in 1995 and Colin Montgomerie did it in 2000, but it is another devilishly difficult green. To clear the fairway bunkers requires a 315-yard carry. 2012 average: 4.21 (rank 7)

6th (Juniper), 180 yards, par three: From a high tee to a green with a huge slope in it. Four holes-in-one, but Jose Maria Olazabal took seven in 1991 and lost by one to Ian Woosnam, while Arnold Palmer has also run up a seven. 2012 average: 3.17 (rank 8)

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year - the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year – the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

7th (Pampas), 450 yards, par four: What used to be a real birdie chance has been lengthened by 35-40 yards, while trees were also added and the putting surface reshaped. More bunkers – five – around the green than any other hole. 2012 average: 4.17 (rank 9)

8th (Yellow Jasmine), 570 yards, par five: The bunker on the right, about 300 yards out, pushes players left and from there it is harder to find the green in two up the steep hill. Still a good birdie chance and Bruce Devlin made an albatross two in 1967. 2012 average: 4.86 (rank 15)

9th (Carolina Cherry), 460 yards, par four: The tee was pushed back 30 yards in 2002. The raised green, with two bunkers on the left, tilts sharply from the back and anything rolling off the front can continue down for 50-60 yards. 2012 average: 4.25 (rank 4)

10th (Camellia), 495 yards, par four: A huge drop from tee to green on this dogleg left and over all the years of the Masters the most difficult hole. It was here that Rory McIlroy began to fall apart in 2011 with a seven, while Watson clinched the title 12 months ago by making par in the play-off from the trees. 2012 average: 4.249 (rank 5)

11th (White Dogwood), 505 yards, par four: The start of Amen Corner. Toughest hole in 2011, with the water front and left scaring many. Best remembered for Larry Mize's chip-in in 1987 and Nick Faldo's back-to-back play-off wins. 2012 average: 4.32 (rank 2)

12th (Golden Bell), 155 yards, par three: Probably the most famous par three in golf. Narrow target, water in front, trouble at the back, it has seen everything from a one to Tom Weiskopf's 13 in 1980. McIlroy four-putted it in 2011. 2012 average: 3.06 (rank 13)

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National - measuring just 155 yards - is probably the most famous par three in golf

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National – measuring just 155 yards – is probably the most famous par three in golf

13th (Azalea), 510 yards, par five: The end of Amen Corner. Massive dogleg left with scores ranging from Jeff Maggert's albatross two in 1994 to Tommy Nakajima's 13 in 1978. Watson's crucial run of four birdies in succession last year started here. 2012 average: 4.72 (rank 16)

14th (Chinese Fir), 440 yards, par four: The only hole on the course without a bunker, but three putts are common on the wickedly difficult green. Course record holder Nick Price took eight here in 1993, while Phil Mickelson holed his approach en route to 2010 victory. 2012 average: 4.09 (rank 12)

15th (Firethorn), 530 yards, par five: Often a tough decision whether to go for the green in two across the pond on the hole where Gene Sarazen sank his 235-yard four-wood shot for an albatross in 1935. There have also been three 11s here. 2012 average: 4.67 (rank 17)

16th (Redbud), 170 yards, par three: Tiger Woods' memorable chip-in in 2005 came the same year as 73-year-old Billy Casper's 14, while Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter are among 15 players to record holes-in-one. 2012 average: 3.11 (rank 11)

17th (Nandina), 440 yards, par four: Tee shot is played over the Eisenhower Tree on the hole Justin Rose double-bogeyed when one off the lead in 2007. Jack Nicklaus birdied here to take the lead as he won his 18th major in 1986. 2012 average: 4.16 (rank 10)

18th (Holly), 465 yards, par four: The drive through an avenue of trees was made much harder when the tee was moved back 60 yards in 2002. The fairway bunker from which Sandy Lyle got up and down to win in 1988 is now 300 yards away. 2012 average: 4.31 (rank 3)

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hoe guide

THE MASTERS: Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National

PUBLISHED:

08:55 GMT, 8 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:55 GMT, 8 April 2013

The waiting is over for the year's first Major as the best players in the world arrive at Augusta National for The Masters.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy stroll down Magnolia Lane as the top two in the world while Bubba Watson is defending the Green Jacket he won 12 months ago.

Woods is the man to beat with three wins under his belt already in 2013 while McIlroy looks like he's finally getting used to his Nike clubs following a fine display finishing second at the Texas Open.

But this is Augusta National where anything can happen and here, Sportsmail has everything you need to know in our hole-by-hole guide.

The Masters: Hole by hole

Hole-by-hole guide to Augusta National – everything you need to know ahead of the season's first major

*Holes ranked from 1 (most difficult) to 18 (least difficult) based on how the course played in 2012

1st (Tea Olive), 445 yards, par four: A deep bunker on the right of the fairway and trees both sides make for a daunting start, while long and left of the undulating green both spell big trouble. Unsurprisingly played the hardest hole on the course last year. 2012 average: 4.39 (rank 1)

2nd (Pink Dogwood), 575 yards, par five: Driving into the trees on the left cost Padraig Harrington a nine in 2009, but Louis Oosthuizen memorably holed his second shot for an albatross in the final round last year before losing in a play-off to Bubba Watson. Important early birdie chance.
2012 average: 4.64 (rank 18)

3rd (Flowering Peach), 350 yards, par four: Shortest par four on the course but a pear-shaped green with steep slope in front allows for some wicked pin positions. 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel pitched in for eagle in the final round. 2012 average: 3.90 (rank 14)

4th (Flowering Crab Apple), 240 yards, par three: The back tee – not always used – turns it into a beast with the green sloping from back to front. Phil Mickelson took six here in the final round last year and finished two shots outside the play-off. Jeff Sluman's ace in 1992 remains the only hole-in-one here in Masters history. 2012 average: 3.22 (rank 6)

5th (Magnolia), 455 yards, par four: Jack Nicklaus twice holed his second shot in 1995 and Colin Montgomerie did it in 2000, but it is another devilishly difficult green. To clear the fairway bunkers requires a 315-yard carry. 2012 average: 4.21 (rank 7)

6th (Juniper), 180 yards, par three: From a high tee to a green with a huge slope in it. Four holes-in-one, but Jose Maria Olazabal took seven in 1991 and lost by one to Ian Woosnam, while Arnold Palmer has also run up a seven. 2012 average: 3.17 (rank 8)

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year - the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

Say your prayers: Amen Corner claims many victims each year – the 11th green is on the left with the 12th in the distance towards the back right

7th (Pampas), 450 yards, par four: What used to be a real birdie chance has been lengthened by 35-40 yards, while trees were also added and the putting surface reshaped. More bunkers – five – around the green than any other hole. 2012 average: 4.17 (rank 9)

8th (Yellow Jasmine), 570 yards, par five: The bunker on the right, about 300 yards out, pushes players left and from there it is harder to find the green in two up the steep hill. Still a good birdie chance and Bruce Devlin made an albatross two in 1967. 2012 average: 4.86 (rank 15)

9th (Carolina Cherry), 460 yards, par four: The tee was pushed back 30 yards in 2002. The raised green, with two bunkers on the left, tilts sharply from the back and anything rolling off the front can continue down for 50-60 yards. 2012 average: 4.25 (rank 4)

10th (Camellia), 495 yards, par four: A huge drop from tee to green on this dogleg left and over all the years of the Masters the most difficult hole. It was here that Rory McIlroy began to fall apart in 2011 with a seven, while Watson clinched the title 12 months ago by making par in the play-off from the trees. 2012 average: 4.249 (rank 5)

11th (White Dogwood), 505 yards, par four: The start of Amen Corner. Toughest hole in 2011, with the water front and left scaring many. Best remembered for Larry Mize's chip-in in 1987 and Nick Faldo's back-to-back play-off wins. 2012 average: 4.32 (rank 2)

12th (Golden Bell), 155 yards, par three: Probably the most famous par three in golf. Narrow target, water in front, trouble at the back, it has seen everything from a one to Tom Weiskopf's 13 in 1980. McIlroy four-putted it in 2011. 2012 average: 3.06 (rank 13)

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National - measuring just 155 yards - is probably the most famous par three in golf

Dangerous: The 12th hole at Augusta National – measuring just 155 yards – is probably the most famous par three in golf

13th (Azalea), 510 yards, par five: The end of Amen Corner. Massive dogleg left with scores ranging from Jeff Maggert's albatross two in 1994 to Tommy Nakajima's 13 in 1978. Watson's crucial run of four birdies in succession last year started here. 2012 average: 4.72 (rank 16)

14th (Chinese Fir), 440 yards, par four: The only hole on the course without a bunker, but three putts are common on the wickedly difficult green. Course record holder Nick Price took eight here in 1993, while Phil Mickelson holed his approach en route to 2010 victory. 2012 average: 4.09 (rank 12)

15th (Firethorn), 530 yards, par five: Often a tough decision whether to go for the green in two across the pond on the hole where Gene Sarazen sank his 235-yard four-wood shot for an albatross in 1935. There have also been three 11s here. 2012 average: 4.67 (rank 17)

16th (Redbud), 170 yards, par three: Tiger Woods' memorable chip-in in 2005 came the same year as 73-year-old Billy Casper's 14, while Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter are among 15 players to record holes-in-one. 2012 average: 3.11 (rank 11)

17th (Nandina), 440 yards, par four: Tee shot is played over the Eisenhower Tree on the hole Justin Rose double-bogeyed when one off the lead in 2007. Jack Nicklaus birdied here to take the lead as he won his 18th major in 1986. 2012 average: 4.16 (rank 10)

18th (Holly), 465 yards, par four: The drive through an avenue of trees was made much harder when the tee was moved back 60 yards in 2002. The fairway bunker from which Sandy Lyle got up and down to win in 1988 is now 300 yards away. 2012 average: 4.31 (rank 3)

Why can”t the R&A see sense on women members? – Derek Lawrenson

If Augusta can see sense on women members, why can't the R&A

|

UPDATED:

22:59 GMT, 12 November 2012


Open season: R&A chief executive Peter Dawson will be under fire

Open season: R&A chief executive Peter Dawson will be under fire

Watching grown men defend the indefensible is never a comfortable experience and so it was with Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National, at the Masters this year.

One minute he was waxing lyrical about all the initiatives the club were doing to grow ‘the great game of golf.’ The next he was being skewered by a very reasonable question: ’If you’re that keen on growing the game, why haven’t you got any women or junior members’

Let’s say this about Mr Payne. Sure, he squirmed and shifted in his seat and tried to save face, like so many of his predecessors. But here’s the difference. He then went away and made sure he was never put in such a position again. A month later, the first two women members were invited to join the club and Billy Payne had put right the obvious hypocrisy.

Now we come to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. They are already bracing themselves for unfavourable headlines next year. A men-only club taking The Open to another men-only establishment in Muirfield At least over the past week they’ve had a warm-up, as one former Minister of Sport in Colin Moynihan and then present incumbent Hugh Robertson laid into them over their anachronistic stance.

Breakthrough: Augusta National, home of the Masters, which was won by Bubba Watson in April, have now admitted women members

Breakthrough: Augusta National, the world-famous home of the Masters, which was won by Bubba Watson in April, have now admitted women members

Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, believes this subject to be simply a Press obsession, that most golfers couldn’t give two hoots, and he’s at least partly right. Most golfers couldn’t care less.

But it doesn’t make the R&A’s stance right. There’s no hiding from the fact it is embarrassing for the sport to have a governing body who don’t have any women members, and that will not change until the R&A do. It’s all well and good to allow juniors to attend The Open for free but what message are you sending out if you then take the event to clubs that don’t allow juniors to join

And so next summer, like so many before it, we’ll watch grown men defend the indefensible – and pray silently for the day when the R&A finally comes up with its own Billy Payne.

Another side to the glamour game

‘Rory McIlroy leads a galaxy of stars to Hong Kong’ proclaimed the main headline on the European Tour’s website on Monday. He also leads a cavalcade of dead men walking.

No disrespect to the leading players like Rory at either the Hong Kong Open or the South African Open being played at the same time on another continent this week, but these final full-field events of the regular season are all about the men at the other end of the table.

Men like the English trio, Tommy Fleetwood, Jamie Elson and Richard Bland, all within agonising touching distance of the top 115 who keep their cards for next year but in need of a good last week to seal the deal.

Last year in Hong Kong I sat in a courtesy car with two of the fallen, Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson, and the devastation they were feeling at missing out was plain.

No-one would seek to minimise the pressure that McIlroy so adeptly copes with as the world’s No 1. But that is surely a nice kind of pressure. Down among those worried about keeping their jobs, the pressure exerted by a game that is supposed to be all about relaxation must be hell.

Quote of the Week

’When Luke Donald won both money lists last year we thought “how good was that” Now Rory has done it and won a second major as well at the age of 23. The sky really is the limit.’

Eight-time Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie eloquently sums the feelings of a sport regarding the extraordinary Rory McIlroy.

Remarkable talent: Life just gets better and better for Rory McIlroy

Remarkable talent: Life just gets better and better for Rory McIlroy

Challenge Tour goes East

The Middle East has become such a vital part of the regular European Tour over the past two decades it is surprising that no event is staged in the region on the Challenge Tour.

That will all change next year when the Sultanate of Oman joins the party, with the National Bank of Oman Classic becoming the penultimate event, complete with a very respectable 200,000 prize fund.

One nice thing about the tournament is that there will be a reciprocal arrangement with five other Challenge Tour events during the season whereby promising Arab National players, both amateur and professional, will have the opportunity to gain some invaluable experience.

Beljan's Miracle moment

They say the traditional closing event on the US Tour might not take place next year, which would be a great shame. ‘Where Dreams Come True,’ declares the slogan outside the gates at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and so it has proved these past two years at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic.

Last year, Luke Donald complemented the fireworks seen at the Disney theme parks with some of his own, as he won the final event when nothing else would do if he were to clinch the US Tour money list.

Fairytale: Charlie Beljan won the Children's Miracle Network Classic

Fairytale: Charlie Beljan won the Children's Miracle Network Classic

This time it was 28-year-old American Charlie Beljan making the headlines. On Friday, he was rushed to hospital after suffering a panic attack on the course that left him fearing he might die. Two days later he was in heaven all right, as he claimed his maiden victory to end all thoughts of anxiety for at least the next two years.

‘You never know what’s going to happen in this game or this game of life,’ he said. ‘You just keep plugging away.’

Keep plugging way like this, Charlie, and you might even become that rarest of creatures. A famous Beljan.

Royal and Ancient Golf Club must "get real" and allow women members, says Lord Moynihan

Royal and Ancient Golf Club must 'get real' and allow women members, says Lord Moynihan

|

UPDATED:

20:39 GMT, 8 November 2012

Lord Moynihan has told the Royal and Ancient Golf Club that it is time to 'get real' and allow women to become members.

'It should be an embedded
characteristic of 21st century sport, especially when you see the
contribution the athletes make,' said the outgoing chairman of the
British Olympic Association.

Traditions: The Royal and Ancient Golf Club

Traditions: The Royal and Ancient Golf Club

'It is remarkable that Augusta has changed, but the Royal and Ancient is still there having not entitled and allowed complete equality of opportunity for women in this country.'

The Royal and Ancient, based at St Andrews, was founded in 1754. Sportsmail revealed earlier this year that the Augusta National had lifted their ban on women.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Lord Moynihan added: 'Let's get real and let's get on with the job of providing equality of opportunity across sports, sports administration as well as sporting opportunity.'

Augusta made the decision to
admit its first two female members in August – one of whom was Condoleezza Rice,
the former US Secretary of State.

Over
the past 80 years, the home of the Masters has played host to some of
the greatest golf ever played. But it has also been a bastion of
bigotry, racism and sexism and now the last of these has gone the way of
the first two.

'This is a
joyous occasion,' said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, raising
the question that if the membership consider it that joyous, why on
earth did it take them so long

Now pressure has fallen on the Royal and
Ancient and other men-only British clubs that host The Open, such as
Muirfield and Royal St George's, to follow suit.

Rather sensibly, Augusta has admitted
two female members rather than have one subjected to the taunt of
tokenism. South Carolina financier Darla Moore was the other new member.

ends

Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore become first female members of Augusta

Rice and Moore become first female members of Augusta National

|

UPDATED:

20:26 GMT, 20 August 2012

The final stain against the reputation of Augusta National Golf Club was removed with the historic decision to admit its first two female members – one of whom is Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State.

Over the past 80 years, the home of the Masters has played host to some of the greatest golf ever played. But it has also been a bastion of bigotry, racism and sexism and now the last of these has gone the way of the first two.

‘This is a joyous occasion,’ said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, raising the question that if the membership consider it that joyous, why on earth did it take them so long Now pressure will fall on the Royal and Ancient and other men-only British clubs that host The Open, such as Muirfield and Royal St George’s, to follow suit.

Change in policy: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice becomes one of the first female members at Augusta

Change in policy: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice becomes one of the first female members at Augusta

Golf blog

Rather sensibly, Augusta has admitted
two female members rather than have one subjected to the taunt of
tokenism. South Carolina financier Darla Moore is the other new member.

In statements released by the club on
behalf of both women, neither made mention of the historic significance
of the occasion, settling for platitudes instead.

Policy change: Augusta National has only allowed male members up until now

Policy change: Augusta National has only allowed male members up until now

Sixteen-handicapper Rice, 57 and now
professor of political economy at Stanford School of Business, said: ‘I
have visited Augusta on several occasions and look forward to playing
golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones. I have immense respect
for the club’s commitment to grow the game of golf.’

Moore, 58, commented: ‘I am fortunate
to have many friends who are members, so to be asked to join them
represents a very happy and important occasion in my life.’

Jeff Stelling and Co provided perfect backdrop to Manchester City title victory – Edge of Box

Stelling and Co provide perfect backdrop to 'Squeaky Bum Sunday'

|

UPDATED:

22:12 GMT, 13 May 2012

If it's the box for you on a Saturday afternoon rather than the being there then for you, like many a football fan, the next best thing is provided by watching a bunch of gentlemen of a certain age, watching something you can't watch, for you.

I think it is safe to say for a format that was clearly borne out of sheer necessity, Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday coverage – on this Sunday, Gillette Soccer Special – is now a genuine telly phenomenon, led by the imperious plate-spinner of pundits, games and facts that is Jeff Stelling.

It has become compelling viewing for fans who want, yes, goal updates, but also a real sense of occasion to go with it.

Rollercoaster ride: Stelling and the team brought all the thrills and spills

Rollercoaster ride: Stelling and the team brought all the thrills and spills

More from Mark Webster…

Edge of the Box: The FA Cup is not what it used to be… but fair play to ESPN
06/05/12

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship
30/04/12

Mark Webster: BBC show off the city during London Marathon ahead of Olympics
22/04/12

Edge of the Box: ESPN and ITV should deliver Cup cracker after Wembley warm-ups
16/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC and Sky competition means F1 and the fans are the real winners
15/04/12

Edge of the Box: Masters is pure TV gold (and green, yellow, pink, purple) as Augusta National bursts into life
09/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC4 go through the gears to deliver Rally's Craziest Years
02/04/12

Edge of the Box: Old Firm fire burns as strong as ever but Sky still turn up the heat for Rangers against Celtic
26/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

And what better way to finish yet another humdinger of a season than with, as Jeff put it as 3pm arrived, 'squeaky bum Sunday' – with titles, relegation and Champions League spots all up for grabs.

For the show, Stelling had his favourite far-from-flat back four in place: namely (from right to left) Charlie Nicholas in black jacket and grey tie, his sparkling diamond stud occasionally catching the studio lights from his left earlobe.

Phil Thompson, in a tie of the palest salmon pink; Paul Merson, man in grey, his neckwear featuring what appeared to be a 633 Squadron formation; and Matt Le Tissier, ever the cavalier, his shirt defiantly open-necked.

Mind you, in all of the days these
lads have had together, I think it's comfortable to say that they’d
never had one quite like this; a couple of exhilarating hours during
which Jeff Stelling continually endeavoured to update the standings.

But was more often than not
interrupted by a scream or a yelp from the panel as yet ANOTHER goal
went in to change the picture as it was being described.

And it all kicked off, well, when
they kicked off – the first few minutes of the day providing nearly as
much drama as the last (well..).

No more than two minutes were
underway when Merson, in the middle of describing how The Etihad was
'rocking', found himself rudely interrupted by the scream of 'it's a
goal' from his next door neighbour.

It's a goal! The temperature was raised early in the piece through after Adebayor scored for Spurs

It's a goal! The temperature was raised early in the piece through after Adebayor scored for Spurs

Thompson – covering the Tottenham game – who no sooner having crowed 'are you watching Arsenal', was trumped by Le Tissier with an even higher-pitched screech of 'oh Jeff, it's a goal', as Benayoun put Arsenal one up at The Hawthorns.

Fifteen minutes on, and Jeff managed to get in one he had prepared earlier, telling us it was Elvis day at Swansea, then adding 'but a little less conversation from me' as he threw to Charlie who confirmed 'squeaky bum Sunday had come alive' with United going one nil up. The day was indeed living up to its billing.

Indeed, so into it was Matt, at 3.30
The Saints favourite son positively saw the light at The Hawthorns,
letting rip with a Gospel shout and raising his hands in praise to the
god of football as he proclaimed 'Oh Desmond! It's in. 2-2' (Tutu, for
the great unwashed).

In fact, there may indeed have been
Greater Forces operating when a few minutes later, Ian Dowie – over in
the Potteries – was suddenly frozen solid in his gantry and the screen
turned black as Merson brought us a City goal from The Etihad with a
quick, throaty burst of 'blue moon, you saw me standing alone'.

Stelling's explanation for this loss
of pictures was 'there's a lot of wind, I'm told. not from Ian Dowie,
from Stoke' which raised a chorus of approving guffaws from his quartet.

That was pretty much it for a
scintillating first set of 45's – save for Merson saying Toure was so
crocked he was 'moving like Tiss used to'.

Drama! Makckie's goal put QPR in front at the Etihad Stadium

Drama! Makckie's goal put QPR in front at the Etihad Stadium

Of which Tommo pondered aloud, 'that quick' – and after a much-needed half time breather, we were straight back at it.

At 4.08, the cry 'Goal! Goal! GOAL! The title race is back on again' went up, as QPR equalised.

Stelling then gave Nicholas an opportunity to describe the corresponding atmosphere over at United's game, but no sooner had he begun to wax lyrical on the subject, than the increasingly frantic Le Tissier was in again – hollering 'Oh my God, goal – shut up Charlie' as Arsenal took the lead and pushed themselves back into third place.

Never normally one to miss out on the melodramatics, Joey Barton was now to make his entrance stage left as Merson proclaimed 'red card Joey Barton. Oh no, as he’s going off, he's knee-ed Nasri, he's head-butted De Jong' – thus being absent when QPR took a remarkable lead.

This found Stelling in his pomp as he summed up the day so far: 'City-itis – will it strike again But QPR are down to ten men, with barely a player on the field (Barton) didn’t assault'.

More approving laughter from his four top pundits.

Final result: City's late comeback sealed the title to send the fans into raptures

Final result: City's late comeback sealed the title to send the fans into raptures

Final result: City's late comeback sealed the title to send the fans into raptures

But of course this was not to be the end of the drama, which went all the way to the last few seconds of what Stelling breathlessly described as 'an astonishing, incredible, amazing day' – his team of pundits all now drawn to the screen bringing the final whistle, and thus the title to the blue half of Manchester.

'As long as I've been watching football, this is the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen', exclaimed a bemused, exhausted Merson.

Something I can echo having thoroughly enjoyed watching it through his, and his fellow pundits eyes. Phew!

WEDGIES

Monday on BBC2, and John Inverdale and Sir Steve Redgrave are perched by the side of a river for the Rowing World Cup in Belgrade, like two anglers short of some tackle…

Tuesday night on BBC2 and Louis Saha was on Newsnight to bring some thoughtful reflections on the French election, whilst adding that in comparison to many countries, England 'was paradise for footballers of any colour'…

Wednesday on Channel 4, and the racing show from Chester spotted Michael Owen offering some tips to fledgling owner Wayne Rooney, Perhaps prophetically, his horse didn’t win…

ESPN FA Cup coverage was good – Edge of the Box

The FA Cup is not what it used to be… but fair play to ESPN

|

UPDATED:

07:16 GMT, 7 May 2012

There’s no denying it, they have been screaming it from the rooftops for years. They probably even had a bit of a yell about it from the twin towers when they still stood proud at the top of Wembley way: the FA Cup isn’t what it used to be.

Ask anyone who knew their football before the blue chip days of the Premier League and satellite games, and Cup Final Day was not just about the two teams who made it to north-west London (and the lucky blighters who could get a train home afterwards!) – it was a football beano for all the fans.

Football feast: ESPN's FA Cup Final Day coverage was extensive

Football feast: ESPN's FA Cup Final Day coverage was extensive

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And it was A DAY; broadcasts starting in the morning from team hotels and on the coaches to the ground, and including the fun and frolics of special shows like It’s A Cup Final Knockout and Question Of Sport – memories so engrained that even the most hardcore fan can still get a little misty-eyed at the thought supporters trying to score penalties past a keeper on a trampoline.

Well, they may be the new kid on the block here regarding football coverage, but that has not stopped ESPN deciding that the spirit of Cup Final Day was not only up for grabs, but worth placing both hands firmly upon, and on Saturday at 8am they launched into a marathon of FA Cup broadcasting – culminating in ad free coverage of the game itself.

For their Big Day Out, the broadcaster decided not to go for a Grandstand finish; namely base everything at an HQ and include a range of features. Instead they themed each segment, often with a version of one of their staple programmes, and like a good midfield general, left no blade of grass uncovered in the process to bring us the FA Cup Experience.

In the space of about eight hours, ESPN were everywhere, exemplified perfectly in their Breakfast Show.

At one extreme, they were deep inside the arena with the amiable Jason MacAteer who walked us from the Chelsea dressing room to pitchside – taking in a smart ‘kitchenette’, John Terry’s tiny shin pads and some scrunched up newspaper that had apparently been inside Didier Drogba’s wet boots on the way.

Back in AVB’s days, this may also have given Frank and Fernando something to read as they warmed the bench.

Key: Frank Lampard (bottom left) might have been on the bench under AVB

Key: Frank Lampard (bottom left) might have been on the bench under AVB

Then at the other extreme, we were thousands of feet about the stadium as (if ever there was a) roving reporter Nat Coombs revealed from inside the cockpit that the pilot of the Goodyear balloon steers it with his feet. Two good one’s he had, too, it has to be said.

In the space between bowels and blimp, there was, let us not forget, lots of hours to fill before their well-honed pre-game coverage – given an impressive dry run last time they were at Wembley for the semi finals – took over proper, and I suppose it should come as no real surprise that it didn’t always necessarily ripple the back of the net.

The fact is there are just so many ex-footballers and archive clips you can see and hear, and only just so many ‘why is it so special’-style questions a presenter can ask before you start to get that dj vu feeling all over again. And after nigh on nine hours of it – and again, even!

Beaten: Viewers saw Chelsea beat Liverpool

Beaten: Viewers saw Chelsea beat Liverpool

Nevertheless, this does not preclude the fact that each programme definitely brought something to the party; and each with their own individual variation on the theme retained in spite of the unfamiliar surroundings (so that you’ll still easily recognise them when they return next season.

Aha – you see what they did there!). The only one that suffered there, I felt, was Talk Of The Terrace which was at the back end of the coverage and flitted between Mark Chapman and Kelly Cates chatting with guests (and because of the time they were on, revisiting questions and clips for the umpteenth time) high in the empty stands and a live band in a hospitality suite playing what looked like their worst gig ever to about half a dozen slightly bemused fans.

Spot on: The Brunch show with James Richardson and Robbie Savage (above) was perfect

Spot on: The Brunch show with James Richardson and Robbie Savage (above) was perfect

Getting it spot on though was the Brunch show hosted by James Richardson with Robbie Savage.

This mixed a literal roundtable chat (Alex Stewart revealing he wore number 4 for England as a tribute to his football hero, John Hollins) with a bit of cooking with Wembley chef 'Cockers' and the resultant scoffing.

It was the kind of relaxed atmosphere
and jaunty jibing that sat perfectly in the day – and left you with a
real hankering for scallops marinated in lime.

Also
of particular merit was the documentary Kings For A Day, which
beautifully analysed the magic of the Cup through the eyes of
giant-killing heroes and football minnows. Or as Fleetwood’s Micky
Mellon put it ‘if it’s David and Goliath stuff, we’re David’s little
brother’.

This was a show that underlined the fact that the FA Cup is competition, institution and a special date in the calendar all in one. And well played ESPN for setting out early and going all the way on the day to remind us of that fact.

WEDGIES

Monday Night Football and the Manchester derby provided its own little set of mini Unmissable Wedgies namely: Monday lunchtime on Sky Sports News and Jim White refereeing a battle of words between Gary Owen at the Etihad and Norman Whiteside in the city centre, rendered totally bizarre by the sound delay.

Later in the afternoon, there were more words from the streets of Manchester, this time with a fruit stall owner who while explaining why he had no red fruit on display, had an orange nicked by a passer-by who raised it triumphantly like a winner’s medal.

Guest: Didier Drogba appeared on the Graham Norton show

Guest: Didier Drogba appeared on the Graham Norton show

Minutes later, Jim White was even more excited than normal as the groundsman let him paint on a penalty spot.

Friday night on BBC1 and Graham Norton welcomed Didier Drogba to the show (‘you’re surprised!’, cracked Graham) and made Julie Walters' night by doing the ‘Drogbacite’ dance with the host.

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we"re all snooker loopy

Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship

|

UPDATED:

07:50 GMT, 30 April 2012

Unless I am missing the point, I would suggest we are in the middle of a green baize drought (although everyone seems to be ignoring the snooker cue ban) judging from the amount of stick on ball action that is pouring out of the TV at the moment.

And the eye of the storm is of course the legendary Crucible in Sheffield where the BBC and Eurosport (in voice only, but with a lend of Auntie's graphics) are camped out to bring us a positive deluge of World Championship snooker.

Or, to put it more pointedly, as mentioned on Eurosport's commentary after Stephen Maguire went 11-7 up against Joe Perry on Saturday morning: 'Five hours, eh And these aren't even the longest matches. Wait for the quarters and semis.'

In it for the long haul: Glasgow potter Stephen Maguire

In it for the long haul: Glasgow potter Stephen Maguire

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Indeed, you only had to look into the dark, ringed eyes set in the heavily stubbled face of Maguire to realise just how relentless this tournament is.

It was the same look, in fact, that Paul Newman had, slumped in his chair, as Minnesota Fats talced his hands and calmly suggested 'Fast Eddie, let's play some pool' in The Hustler.

That the tension is palpable is clear to see – cameras glaring straight into the faces of the players as they either stare intently along their cue at the impending shot or gaze off into the distance from their chair as their opponent works the table – and it is surely this that makes the game such compelling viewing.

No better example of this could be seen than on Sunday morning on Eurosport during frame seven of the match between Andrew Higginson and Jamie Jones.

Played as ever in a cauldron of intense silence (broken only by the splashes of educated applause from the ever knowledgeable crowd, and the loudness of Jones' roaring pink silk waistcoat back), both men made basic errors, with Higginson smiling nervously at a simple miss, and Jones gritting his teeth and banging away with his cue as he was forced to watch on from his seat.

As co-commentator Joe Johnson put it during the frame: 'If John Higgins (the defending champion lost to Stephen Hendry) can fall apart, anyone can'.

Hair-raising stuff: Ronnie O'Sullivan in his match with Mark Williams

Hair-raising stuff: Ronnie O'Sullivan in his match with Mark Williams

Meanwhile, over at the BBC, there was no way all this raw energy and tension was not going to get the full treatment.

As you'd probably expect for an event that is an enormous swathe of their output, they really laid on the drama with the heavy roller.

The tournament of course opened with a bang with Hendry's 147 accompanied by John Virgo's triumphal commentary – a moment nearly matched by the two-part harmony he and Dennis Taylor lapsed into as they exclaimed simultaneously, 'oh the cue ball' during the Peter Ebdon/Ronnie O'Sullivan game.

But just in case the action at the tables wasn't enough, the Sunday afternoon programme opened with a rather surprising pre-recorded package that dug deep into the dirt of what had gone on in the previous few days.

First there was Mark Allen's somewhat bitter 'pusher' recriminations, rebutted by none other than his own coach Terry Griffiths who referring to his charge's gift at speaking his mind, responded very straight-faced 'some people find (his comments) funny. I don't laugh at them'.

Then there was Mark Williams admitting: 'I never liked the venue, to be honest. (There are) better venues out there.'

This prompted a rather thin-lipped Barry Hearn to say: '(That) was way, way below the belt and not what I expect a former champion to come up with'.

Time for a change: Mark Williams is not a massive fan of The Crucible

Time for a change: Mark Williams is not a massive fan of The Crucible

Not exactly the keep-smiling-and-brush-it-under-the-carpet approach we often see from sporting hierarchy flogging their wares on the TV.

But frankly this isn't really an event that needs to stir up controversy to grab and keep our attention.

All it really needs is something like it had on Sunday – namely Ronnie O'Sullivan, sporting an Arnie-style Terminator quiff, blitzing Williams all afternoon, accompanied by a rhapsody of approval from Taylor who was arguably more obsessed with O'Sullivan's new cue tip than a grown man should be.

Les Dodd had seemingly 'come down from Southport' to do the job, he told us, and for several frames he couldn't quite believe how he just 'got on with it' and that he was 'so comfortable with (it)'.

Steady on there, Dennis. And here's another good tip. Keep watching the action from the Crucible.

Like those dark clouds you can probably see lingering overhead, there's still plenty more where that came from.

WEDGIES

Tuesday morning on BBC2 and it was the baffling, bungled hour of fish bowls, Spice Girls and sound lapses that was the Olympic football draw draw. Even if Gary Lineker's mic had been working, we still probably wouldn't have been able to make sense of it. His joke with the punchline 'two Peter Crouchs' may never be fully explained.

Tuesday evening on Sky Sports and one of Chelsea's Nou Camp heroes Branislav Ivanovic has his night of triumph brought crashing down by reporter Geoff Shreeves in a post-match interview. 'You know that means you don't play in the final now', prodded Shreeves. If there weren't tears before…

Wednesday night on ITV and there seemed to be a surprise substitution on the cards during extra-time in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich's Champions League semi-final. An anxious looking Mark Austin was glimpsed fiddling with his jacket buttons on the touchline in the News At Ten studio.

Friday night on Sky One, and a League Of Their Own is back. And even though the show boasted all-star teams, F1 action and even Usain Bolt, it was all about Peter Crouch 'breaking out the robot' once again to the strains of Harold Faltermeyer's 'Axel F'.