From rabbit ears to the nappy factor

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Golf Majors Records & Yearbook 1998 By Alun Evans (Brassey's Sports, paperback, pounds 12.99) Elliott's Golf Form 1998 By Keith Elliott (Portway Press, paperback, pounds 18.95)
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The Independent Online
Although golf has long had an answer to Wisden in the Golfer's Handbook - it even picks its five players of the year - further statistical references, the equivalents of Playfair and the Who's Who, if you like, have been missing until recently. But here are two books that are the perfect antidote to Sky's coverage of the US Tour when the host American broadcaster tries its hardest to show as little golf as possible.

Alun Evans' newly compiled, comprehensive record of the four major championships fills a massive hole in the market. Never have details for the game's four biggies been collected together in one volume. Each major is organised by a different governing body, and the records of their own tournaments vary in completeness, let alone those of the others.

Apart from some historical background and a look ahead to each of this year's championships, the heart of the book is a year-by-year summary of the top 30 scores in each major, dating back to the 1860 Open Championship although some of the early records are a bit sketchy. In addition, a full list of top-30 finishes are given for over 2,000 players, plus a summary of feats and scoring records for each major.

Of course, no sooner had Evans compiled his database than Tiger Woods came along to provide much cutting and pasting, which is why the author is intending to publish annually. But Woods has a long way to go to catch up with Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 majors and the man who tops Evans' Hall of Fame points list. Nicklaus ended up with almost double the points of second-placed Gary Player, and between the 1970 and '78 Opens, both of which he won, the Golden Bear never finished worse than 13th in any major. Yet even Nicklaus could not manage the Grand Slam in a single year, and Keith Elliott cannot see Woods achieving the feat either.

Elliott, author of How to win at Golf Betting, notes that Woods' victories mostly follow a week off, and he also says that Colin Montgomerie needs to improve his mental skills to win a major. In the latest in his series of Golf Form annuals, Elliott pinpoints three problem areas for Monty: putting pressure on himself by talking himself up; having a negative focus through having not won a major; and cutting off his "rabbit ears" - hearing anything and everything on the course.

As usual, Elliott covers both the European and US Tours, with a round- up of last year, plus pointers for this season and profiles of all the players. Apparently, such things as a significant birthday and the "nappy factor" can influence when a player hits form. Far-fetched? It is worth knowing that Elliott's golf betting winnings run into five figures for the last two years.

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