The genius of Christy O’Connor

Christy O’Connor is a genius. I would not wish his swing on anyone as he cocks his wrists so much on the backswing that the club falls down almost onto his neck. “Wristy Christy” I used to call him.Then he sways forward into the ball on the downswing. But he has every shot in the book and I would rate him as being one of the world’s finest players.

Westward Ho! Centenary in 1963. Max and Christy O’Connor (right) in traditional gear

The only reason I can think of to explain why he did not win the Open is his Irish character. He has always enjoyed his social life and if he had some friends with him he would not think of taking an early night, even if he was leading the field. His putting has also been a bit suspect, although he holes them from all over the place if he is on form.

But who else has been selected ten times in succession, over a period of 18 years, to play in the Ryder Cup? Christy also dominated the Seniors circuit, winning the World Seniors Championship twice.

One of the best shots he plays is a short chip from a few feet off the green. He uses an old, narrow-soled lofted niblick. I swear you could shave yourself with it. It is a treat to watch him nick the ball off even the hardest of ground and put it stone dead.

I remember playing a practice round for an Open Championship at St. Andrews with Christy and two Americans. At the 6th hole one of the Americans found himself in one of the little hollows in the fairway.

“Say, what do I do now?” he asked, and began to take a 7 iron out of his bag.

In reply, Christy put a ball down in a similar hollow, got out his 4 wood and whipped it out of the hollow and onto the green with his tremendous wrist action. They couldn’t believe it.

Westward Ho! Centenary. Max putting, Peter Alliss in modern gear.

In the centenary year of Westward Ho! Golf club in 1963, a challenge match was arranged between Christy and myself against Peter Alliss and Brian Huggett. Nothing startling about this, except that Christy and I had to wear clothes in the style of 100 years earlier and play with 100-year old balls and clubs.

These balls were so soft that you could only hit them 160 yards off the tee. By the time you were on the green, after three hits, the balls were almost square. When Peter was featured on the TV programme ‘This is Your Life’ I kidded him that I had never seen him putt better than with these square balls.

We all entered into the spirit of the thing, despite the sore necks from having to wear starched collars. Christy clinched the match on the 18th by holing a 50-yard pitch. He felt perfectly at home with the razor-sharp, hickory-shafted niblick.

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