One of the perils of having a column – apart from the appalling guddle that goes into concocting the ruddy thing – is that you must have a byline photo. 

The problem with that, of course, is that you’re stuck with a certain facial expression. 
If that happens to be a cheery, beaming grin, for instance, then that cheery, beaming grin has to accompany everything you write about, which can be particularly awkward if your copy includes the decidedly downbeat words “and he will be laid to rest a week on Tuesday.”

So what do you do? Well, you try to display some kind of featureless, inscrutable countenance that will be suitable for all manner of subjects and occasions 
whether it’s a reflective piece on the thrilling final day of a major championship or a heart-felt valedictory in your final column before a mega-meteor obliterates the entire human race. 

And the result of this quest for an image of neutrality? That’s right, you end up captured in a strained, tortured rictus that looks more like you’re trying to avoid breaking wind in the nervous, hushed surrounds of a doctor’s waiting room ...

CAN SAUDI SOJOURN BE A FORCE FOR GOOD?

HeraldScotland:

When it comes to issues surrounding morality, top-level sport will never be confused with Mother Theresa. 

Any areas surrounding conscience tend to be sacrificed on the altar of commercial realities.

The European Tour’s maiden visit to Saudi Arabia last year was the circuit’s most controversial expansion yet and they are back in the Kingdom this week, with hefty appearance fees luring in some of the great and the good. 

Clearly, in one of the world’s most conservative, restrictive cultures where torture and death are the price for dissent and basic human rights are routinely abused, there is much to appal. 

Golf has copped the kind of flack that used to be reserved for B52 bombers and the fire directed at the game has been, arguably, far more withering than anything aimed at the myriad other sports which have already accepted, and intend to accept, the cash-sodden Saudi carrot on a stick.

When western governments and global businesses do all manner of lucrative deals with the Saudis, can we really expect a bunch of golfers to take up the role of moral arbiters?  
Golf continues to try to preach diversity, inclusion and accessibility, all things that are alien concepts in Saudi society. 

But perhaps sporting events can shine a light? Perhaps they can promote scrutiny and help change outlooks?  Isolation, after all, can only preserve the status quo and discourage progress, no matter how small those transformational steps are.

If, years down the line, sport has somehow helped play a part in eliminating the abhorrent aspects of the Saudi system, then perhaps it’s a price worth paying.

HERE COME THE GIRLS...

HeraldScotland:
Not so long ago, peering at the schedule for the Ladies European Tour (LET) was about as uplifting as reading an eviction notice. 

Back in 2010, the good ladies could add 17 events in Europe to their diary. Last year there were just eight in the circuit’s home continent while events with modest purses in the far east, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand led to a dilemma for many. 

Players, essentially, had to fork out more money to play for less reward. At times, the business plan must’ve looked as perilous as the one devised by the inventor of the inflatable dartboard.

Following the merger of the LET with the LPGA Tour, last week’s news that the LET members will now play for a record-busting $18million in 2020 with 15 of the 24 events on the schedule in Europe was greeted with justifiable fanfare. 

During the LET’s ravaging trials and tribulations, tales of players having to take other jobs to supplement their income were commonplace and sobering. 

The demands of professional sport requires more than enough hard graft, sacrifice and commitment without the added burden and distraction of so many hours of other work on top of that. 

Thankfully, it now looks like those on the LET can move forward with hope and opportunity while being financially rewarded for their talent and ambition.

MacINTYRE OFF AND RUNNING… AGAIN

HeraldScotland:

After what he achieved during his maiden season on the European Tour in 2019, 
plenty of folk were expecting Robert MacIntyre to conjure the kind of rousing encore Jimi Hendrix performed at Woodstock.

His eighth-place finish in his first start of 2020 in Dubai at the weekend – his eighth top-10 on the circuit in a year – was certainly a sturdy statement of intent.

At the top table of golf, with its daunting strength in depth, you need to improve 
just to consolidate your position.

MacIntyre has hit the ground running again. Hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards.