Tag Archives: swathe

Olympic Torch makes its way through Bath

I was swept along by a river of people as I carried the Olympic Torch

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UPDATED:

21:59 GMT, 22 May 2012

Runner 93 – aka Sportsmail’s Olympics Correspondent Jonathan McEvoy – sees the beautiful city of Bath fall in love with the Games as he carries the flame through the West Country.

Grin and bear it: McEvoy lopes through the streets of Bath

Grin and bear it: McEvoy lopes through the streets of Bath

The greatest inaccuracy relating to the coming Games appears to be contained in the reference books. There the boffins put the population of Bath at around 80,000.

At least travelling through the beautiful spa city yesterday brought to mind one of the greatest lines written in the Daily Mail, when Vincent Mulchrone reported the scene on the eve of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral. ‘Two rivers run though London tonight, and one of them is made of people,’ he reported.

Well, if Bath’s population is truly just 80,000 then every single one of them was out there close to the Avon, cheering and waving flags, as the Olympic torch relay called by.

They were young and recording the day on iPods and smartphones. They were old and leaning on walking sticks. They were babies carried in their mothers’ harnesses.

They were peering out of sash windows three storeys up. Some wore school uniforms, some were suited and booted, others simply clad in T-shirts and shorts.

A swathe of middle England was falling in love with the Olympics before our very eyes.

On the buses: Our man Jonathan arrives in Bath

On the buses: Our man Jonathan arrives in Bath

FOLLOW THE TORCH

Wednesday – Day 5: Bristol-Cheltenham via Swindon and Stroud.

Celebrity bearer: Didier Drogba.

Jason Gardener, gold relay medallist from the Athens Olympics, is Bath born. And as the bus carrying him and the other torch carriers pulled out of Bath University, the campus was lined perhaps a dozen deep. I swear his eyes were moist. That is, at least, how it looked to me.

I was runner 93 on Day Four as the torch relay snakes its way across Britain on its journey to the Opening Ceremony on July 27. Runner 93 is also a cynic when the situation demands. I should also add that I was running as a guest of Coca-Cola. I can assure you my approval cannot be bought for anything so soft, or fizzy.

But having seen the flame lit in ancient Olympia and having flown over with the lanterns last week, I can only attest that this was the most special moment.

Streets ahead: Bath was full of spectators as the relay went by

Streets ahead: Bath was full of spectators as the relay went by

Here in Bath, warmed in mood by an unbroken blue sky, I was reminded of what Daley Thompson (if you will forgive the name-dropping) told me as we drove over here. I asked that most infectious of sports enthusiasts what it would mean to him if he were selected to light the Olympic cauldron in the Stadium. ‘You know what,’ he said, aware the identity of that person is as yet unknown and will remain a closely guarded secret. ‘It would be better than being made a Sir or a Lord. It would be the best thing in the world.’

That feeling would be understood by my fellow runners yesterday. They all had their achievements to commend them: James Eynon, the teenager I succeeded in the relay, helped save his school from closure. Kate Pocock (nee Allenby), to whom I handed the flame, took the bronze pentathlon medal in Sydney 12 years ago and is now a teacher in Bath. One man had lost 16 stone and runs marathons. A mother had beaten a brain tumour and dedicates herself to charity work in Africa.

Humbly, I can only claim to have got the torch my 300 metres without incident.

Derek Lawrenson: Americans in form, so it won"t be an easy Ryder

Americans in form, so it won’t be an easy Ryder

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 30 April 2012

When the UK’s finest were cutting a swathe through Florida in March, the golf correspondent of America’s best-selling newspaper turned in my direction and said: ‘This year’s Ryder Cup could get ugly for the US.'

What seemed a pessimistic viewpoint at the time bears no relation to reality come the first day of May. Make no mistake, the revival of American golf is in full swing.

Two years ago, the sport’s most powerful nation was in such a bad way that 11 out of 15 tournaments staged during the middle of the season were won by players from overseas. Only last year, a plaintive American voice asked Lee Westwood: ‘Do you think in our lifetime an American will win another major’ Now look at the transformation.

States of play: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are two of those leading America's resurgence on the Tour

States of play: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are two of those leading America's resurgence on the Tour

States of play: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are two of those leading America's resurgence on the Tour

More from Derek Lawrenson…

Derek Lawrenson: Former Open champion Curtis finds his salvation with a victory to savour
23/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Euro stars strike it rich as 130m Tour goes global
16/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: The pride and passion of 'Blubber' Watson
09/04/12

Derek Lawrenson's Masters countdown: Jack's doing his bit for Luke and Rory
02/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Woods is back, but the UK's finest can defy his bid to be Master
26/03/12

World of Golf: Donald is back on top and enjoying the view
19/03/12

Derek Lawrenson: Rose can bloom into a Major winner like Nick
12/03/12

Derek Lawrenson: Seve was special… but magnificent McIlroy is my No 1
05/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

In 19 events staged on the US Tour this year, the only non-Americans to get inside the winner’s circle were the trio of UK players — Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Luke Donald — who won in successive weeks in the Sunshine State, and the Swede Carl Pettersson, who just happens to be an American citizen.

On Sunday in New Orleans it was the turn of Jason Dufner to keep the internationals at bay, winning a play-off against South African Ernie Els for his first victory on tour.

Dufner is getting married on Saturday, so it is safe to say this week will go down as a life-changer. He and his wife are planning to take their honeymoon in the autumn but they might want to think about a further delay considering he seems a certainty to make America’s Ryder Cup team.

Masters champion Bubba Watson, US PGA champ Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Dufner, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.

That’s not a bad core for captain Davis Love to work with, as he waits to see what the summer holds for Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler, plus the immensely promising Kyle Stanley and John Huh.

This American renaissance, together with home advantage, points towards a tense beauty in Chicago in September rather than an ugly one-sider.

Luke who is top of the tree again

Thanks to the grit and class of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy’s second stay at the top of the world rankings lasted no longer than his first.

The Englishman’s third-place finish in New Orleans on Sunday was sufficient to limit the Ulsterman’s latest residency at the summit to just a fortnight. Don’t expect this to-ing and fro-ing between the pair to end any time soon, either.

Luke who's back: There is a familiar face at the top of the world rankings once again

Luke who's back: There is a familiar face at the top of the world rankings once again

McIlroy returns to action this week at the Quail Hollow Championship, the scene of his first American victory in 2010 and a course right up his alley.

Then both players will compete the following week at the Players Championship in Florida on a course that favours Donald’s strategic gifts over McIlroy’s naked aggression.

Then again, what price neither of them leading following the Players, with third-placed Lee Westwood bagging the biggest title of his career to leapfrog them both

Fascinating, isn’t it

Good enough

How good is the standard at amateur level these days For this weekend’s Lytham Trophy, those entrants playing off a handicap of plus 2.0 were balloted out of the original 144-man field.

'Makings of a great player': Javier Ballesteros

'Makings of a great player': Javier Ballesteros

Callum Shinkwin, 18, winner of the Hampshire Hog last week and a likely England international who plays off that mark, only got in as third reserve. Mind you, how many will play to their handicap around Lytham

I’ll certainly be impressed if the German Marcel Schneider — who plays off plus 5.2, would you believe — manages to do so.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

‘Javier has started very strongly. He is close to joining us very soon. He has the makings of a great player.’

Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, after watching Seve Ballesteros’s son Javier notch a notable top-12 finish while competing as an amateur in a minor pro tournament in Barcelona last week. Javier, 21, is completing a law degree at Madrid University and has yet to decide whether to become a lawyer or a pro golfer.

Pain in Spain

‘There will be a reckoning,’ warned a Spanish journalist friend of mine after Spain was overlooked for the role of host for the 2018 Ryder Cup in favour of France.

As the European Tour sets down in Spain this week at the beginning of an extended stay on its home continent, it would appear to be already in place. Five events will take place in Spain this year, down from seven last year — and two of those scheduled to take place in the autumn currently have no venue listed or sponsor.

Indeed, the number of events to be staged in Europe as a whole is down from 27 last year to 23 at best. Meanwhile, another big event attracting all the stars was announced last week for Shanghai in October. Right now, watching Europe trying to compete against the Far East is a bit like watching the BBC taking on Sky.