with Robert Bicknell
It's not often that a club, or individual can change the image of a country's image overnight, but The Bluffs at the Ho Tram Strip has done exactly that with the announcement of the US$1.5 million "Ho Tram Open" to be held on December 3-6.
First of all, it's the biggest single-sponsor event ever for the Asian Tour, but more importantly, it's WHO will be coming to play. Better sit down for this… Darren Clarke was the first to commit to the event, joining the club's Tour playing representative, Robert Rock (who also has a golf academy on the site). They'll be joined by Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Brett Oglivy, Timothy Low (FOX Sports Asia and Asian Tour player who has been deemed a menace to air traffic control, birds and low orbit satellites due to his drives), local Tour professional Michael Nhat Tran and more to be announced later.
Suffice it to say that Greg Norman's premiere design is gonna be put to a serious test that week, but if the wind kicks up, it will be the players who are begging for mercy. The Bluffs can be as friendly, or as badass, as it wants to be. It all depends on the wind and you know that Ali MacFayden will have those greens rolling like a billiard table made of glass.
Viet Nam has held various Asian Tour events in the past, but nothing of this magnitude. It's like comparing a.22 calibre pistol to a Howitzer: bigger bang - much bigger impact. This is Iron Man wearing "Hulkbusting armor", OK? Get the picture? Massive for Viet Nam.
Nobody in Asia has ever put up a $1.5 million purse in a golf tournament solo, they always have multiple sponsors, yet The Bluffs did it themselves. OK, sure, being owned by a casino doesn't hurt either, but there ain't nobody else in Viet Nam who could do it and it's not a one-off either. This is a multi-year Asian Tour event (Sergio signed on for this year and next year).
How the hell Ben Styles pulled this off is a mystery, but we're very glad he did.
Just a note to those who want to come and watch the event: Please don't embarrass yourselves. Remember some golden rules such as: Stay silent and don't move when players are making a shot; If you have a phone with you, make sure it is on SILENT (best to leave it in your car, or hotel room safe because there is a good possibility they might be banned from the course but there has been no news on this as yet); Do NOT talk on your phone while on the golf course. Sound travels a lot further than you think it does. Need proof? Go to your nearest course and just listen. You'll get the point real fast; Remember to wear sunblock and drink a lot of water. It will not feel that hot on the course because of the constant ocean breeze, but trust me that you'll get baked like a lobster without protection.
Lastly, find a player or group who you admire and follow them. Watch what they do. Pay attention to their pre-shot routines because they are like clockwork. In short... "learn." Onwards... Jason Day had a hilarious comment during a recent press conference when he said: "It's like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth had a kid... and I was it." Ya gotta love the guy. He worked hard, paid a lot of dues and it's all coming together for him. Pity Ben couldn't get him for the Ho Tram Open but he's so hot right now that his management team must be losing their minds.
I'm really getting tired of golf magazines asking if Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth (insert the name of ANY pro who won something) is the next Tiger Woods. Give it a rest already.
Jack Nicklaus wasn't Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods wasn't Jack Nicklaus and whoever comes up isn't the next Tiger Woods, OK? They are from different generations, played on different courses and against different competitors. They are all great for their generation and let's leave it at that.
But Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones are a different story. — VNS