In perhaps the most predictable news ever, Gareth Bale is turning his attention to golf.
The Wales legend, who retired from football at the start of January, has confirmed his participation in the upcoming AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Many expected Bale to launch into some sort of golf career after hanging his boots up at the age of 33.
Some even suggested it was the reason why the former Real Madrid and Tottenham star retired.
But few expected him to be lining up alongside US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Jordan Spieth so soon.
Does this make Bale a professional golfer now? No. It is more appropriate to mention he will be in the same field as Bill Murray and Macklemore.
But if Bale’s garden is anything to go by, he is ready to hang with the pros.
While most amateur golfers must undertake a pilgrimage to play the world’s most famous par-threes, Bale only needs to open his back door in Cardiff.
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There you’ll find the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, and the 12th at Augusta.
These holes are like Mecca for golf nuts. The famous island-green at Sawgrass strikes terror into even the most seasoned professionals.
Bale’s version doesn’t have quite the same amount of water surrounding it, but it looks pretty terrifying nonetheless.
The 8th hole at Troon is the shortest on The Open rota and arguably the most unique.
It asks players to exercise precision rather than power. Anything but a perfectly-placed shot and the ball will wither roll off to the right, where big scores lurk, or find itself in the infamous Coffin Bunker on the left.
You could throw it on the green, but that didn’t stop Tiger Woods making a triple-bogey there in 1997.
Then there’s the 12th at Augusta. The middle of the most famous stretch in golf: Amen Corner.
Again, the amateur would be fooled into thinking this is a simple short iron, and in Bale’s garden, it probably is.
The huge trees and switching wind directions make conditions impossible to work out from the tee box.
Too much club makes for a tough up-and-down from the back of the green, too little club and the ball is going for a swim.
Add in the context of a back-nine of Masters Sunday – and we imagine Bale’s version pales in significance.
Nevertheless, playing the famous 7th hole at Pebble Beach will probably feel like another day of the week for Bale.
But besides a few Pro-Ams in the past, Bale’s garden is the closest he has got to the world of professional golf.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is essentially two tournaments taking place at the same time: one serious, one not so serious.
The 156 professionals in the field will play a normal PGA Tour event – 72 holes of strokeplay, lowest score wins.
They will be paired up with 156 amateurs, many with celebrity status, and compete in a better-ball team event simultaneously.
This is where Bale comes in. Yes, he is technically involved in a PGA Tour event, but his role is to have a hit-and-giggle for charity.
Still, it is yet another reminder that the Welshman is utterly obsessed with golf – much to the annoyance of everyone connected to Real Madrid.
The former Los Blancos winger famously stood in front of a banner which read ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order’, sparking fury in the Spanish capital.
There was already a growing narrative that Bale was more interested in his hobby than earning his £600,000-a-week salary at the Bernabeu.
Bale’s teammates nicknamed him ‘The Golfer’ and he made a number of appearances on golf podcasts, despite a reluctance to discuss football with the Spanish media.
His handicap is thought to be around 2 – which takes a lot of time and dedication.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am will be his biggest golfing stage to date – but luckily, he’s had a lot of practice.
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