Don Riddell CNN’s ‘World Sport’ anchor talks to Alex Jenkins about interviewing Tiger Woods, playing golf with Seve Ballesteros and why he thinks 2014 is going to be Rory McIlroy’s year. When did you start playing and how often are you teeing it up? I never had any lessons and just hacked it around in my teens. Golf was just a fun thing to do, although I really enjoyed watching it and discussing the Ryder Cup and other events with my Dad. I started taking the game a bit more seriously after I joined CNN and started hosting Living Golf, but it was too late really to make the most of the amazing courses I got to visit. I then slipped a disc in my back when playing at Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand which put me out for a long time. But I’m getting back into it, which being based in Atlanta, where there’s loads of golf, is easy to do. What was your earliest tournament golf memory? I remember watching Larry Mize win the Masters [in 1987] after holing that chip to beat Greg Norman vividly. The same goes for [Nick] Faldo when he won The Open with 18 consecutive pars in terrible weather. Sandy Lyle winning the Masters from the bunker in 1988 also stands out. I’m a Scot so that was very memorable for the family. What’s been the best event you’ve ever covered? I love the Ryder Cup. In terms of intensity and dynamic competition – the ebb and flow – there’s not a sporting event like it. I covered the K Club [in 2006] and Wales in 2010. Celtic Manor was just unreal. The World Cup [football] is great but it takes a long time. With the Ryder Cup – even when a team wins by nine points it can still be entertaining.
What was your most memorable experience on a golf course? Playing two holes with Seve Ballesteros on a course he designed in Tenerife was a highlight. It was around the time he was 50, just before he started to get ill, and I got to see all the things that made him great. He hit one shot from an impossible position off an old farm wall to about 10 feet. That was an amazing experience. 86
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A f ter i nter v iew i ng M ichel le W ie i n Hawaii I got to play her home course, and I remember birdying one hole from miles off the green. I’m not a great golfer – my handicap would be in the high 20s – but that was a great moment. Seve’s aside, which interviews stand out? I interviewed Tiger [Woods] five times before the fire hydrant incident. Those were always pretty special and it is interesting looking back at them with the benefit of hindsight, listening to the things he used to say. For instance, he would freely talk about how lucky he was to have his wife and family. I recall asking him once how he’d like to be remembered and he replied along the lines of not wanting to be remembered for being a golfer but for his actions as a human being. That was when we now know he was misbehaving a bit. I guess he thought he’d never get found out. Will Tiger win a major this year? The major courses favour him this year and despite not winning one for so long, you still wouldn’t bet against him. But when he was away and not playing [post scandal] he allowed everyone else to get used to others CONTINUED ON PAGE 85 HKGOLFER.COM
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winning majors. Nobody fears him anymore. That’s the key. You have to look at all the other players who are capable of winning. He d id n’t have it ea sy when he wa s dominating; he earned it. But that aura of invincibility just evaporated. People saw him as human, whereas up until that point he was seen as being superhuman. If you were a betting man, who do you think will win? [Rory] McIlroy will surely win another one. He’s not going to have another year like last year and he’s started off this season very well. What I like about him is his honesty; he tells it like it is. I expect he’s going to become more careful and corporate in what he says now he’s with Nike, but he’ll admit when he’s wrong and give you an honest answer. He’s probably looking back at all the things he tried to embrace last year – not having enough time to play with new clubs – and regretted it. I’d definitely put him down for another major this year.
Do you have a favourite golf course? Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand (pictured on page 86) … what’s not to like about that place? HKGOLFER.COM
Part of the allure is getting there after being on a plane for a long time; it feels like you’re at the end of the world. They call New Zealand the Land of the Long White Cloud and that’s exactly what we saw when we were there: a long white cloud spreading across the horizon. Another course that I went to but didn’t play is Old Head in Ireland. We were doing a shoot profiling rich Americans playing helicopter golf. That looked amazing. You’re a keen photographer. Is there a golfing image that for you perfectly encapsulates the sport? That shot of Seve in full flight (above, taken by Dave Cannon at the 1988 Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes). If you don’t know a lot about golf you might not think it’s really a sport – it’s just a man swinging a stick. But in that picture, Seve really does look like an athlete on the charge! HK GOLFER・MAR 2014
Golf journalists tend to have a list of players they don’t particularly enjoy interviewing, but how do golfers compare to other sportspeople in terms of making time for the media? Golf is a sport where by and large players have got to be on their best behaviour – they’re representing themselves, not hiding behind a team. If you’re a jerk to a journalist you run the risk of damaging your brand and losing your endorsements, so golfers compare very well to other sportsmen. If I can generalise, they tend to be well educated and most of the experiences I’ve had with them have been very positive.