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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Targeting Tokyo as harnessing rage becomes new policy

Jordan Spieth salvaged some place money with a strong final round
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There was a cheerfulness and optimism on this page last Sunday - paragraphs filled with happiness and hope in the wake of Michael van Gerwen's World Championship triumph - and celebrations were ongoing about being free from debt.

A couple of golf winners, followed by the heroics of Mighty Mike, had seemingly steadied my financial ship. There was one small problem, though, with partying after the supposed Debtspitter. I was, and am, still massively in debt.

This stark realisation came via a letter I received this week, which included my Annual Mortgage Statement. It hit me that thinking I was debt-free was nothing more than gross naivety. They were the thoughts of a madman, in fact.

The miserable mail reminded me that I owe Mr Nationwide £170,000, and further investigation led me to discover that I owe Her Majesty's Government £50,000 of 'Help to Buy' money they lent me in 2013. Liz wants the dough repaid by Christmas, 2018, or she is sending the boys round.

What do you reckon? Almost debt-free, eh? Just £220,000 to see off and I've cracked it. I'll probably have sorted those 220 bags by Valentine's Day and will spend the night joyfully fondling strawberry fondants with the wife, my shoulders almost touching the restaurant ceiling because the weight of debt has been lifted off them.

Then again, I might spend the rest of my life wrestling with this millstone round my neck, get overwhelmed by increasing interest rates, and then be forced into selling organs on the black market until I am an empty vessel comprising nothing but skin and bones. How do you bet?

It punting terms, the awareness of just how awash with debt I really am has had a demoralising effect. The best day of betting returns I have ever had yielded £52,000. If that happened again, I would give £50,000 to the Government immediately.

Betting used to be about trying to win wonderful things. Holidays and hedonism, with retirement from work the ultimate aim. Now it is about trying to avoid a 1.75 per cent Help to Buy interest fee, which rises each year after that by the increase in the Retail Prices Index plus one per cent. That's not quite as catchy as holidays and hedonism, is it?

The disturbing mortgage statement and Help to Buy hell means I have fallen back into a pit of woe, a position deepened by Justin Thomas winning the SBS Tournament of Champions. There could not have been a more painful victor in the opening event of the year.

The golfers who provide by far the most anguish for me, and doubtless other golf punters, are those who win after being the final name axed from punting plans. The X Factor-style process of making selections - typically chopping away from a list of 156 players until you get four or five - means you expose yourself to the ultimate betting disappointment. Ridiculously often, the last name to get a line drawn through it goes on to the trophy.

I quickly narrowed my SBS shortlist to four - Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama. Half an hour later I axed Matsuyama, concluding my second session of evaluation. Given how short Spieth and Johnson were, it felt impossible to justify a stake on Thomas as well. It demanded too much investment. There were only four each-way places up for grabs and I thought Spieth and Johnson were borderline bankers for filling two of them. Thomas, a 22-1 chance, was reluctantly left out.

I had £150 each-way on Spieth at 11-2 with Stan James, and £100 each-way on Johnson at 6-1 with the same firm. Spieth fired a final-round 65 to finish tied for third, while Johnson putted abysmally over the weekend to lollop into sixth. Thomas romped home.

The one positive to emerge from the SBS was a remarkably impressive run. As someone who usually sits at his desk all day, then on his sofa all night, going for a run is a huge physical test. I found out on Sunday, though, that there is an emotion which can act as an incredible running fuel. Anger.

In the early hours, Johnson missed a short birdie putt at the 18th in round three of the SBS just before Thomas rolled in an eagle at the 14th. I lost my mind, headbutted the lounge wall, then did ten press-ups with ease. A few hours later, still extremely angry, I ran, and ran, and ran. Angry men can run much further than unangry men. I was amazed at the correlation.

Maybe I should be relishing debt and golfing heartache - they turn me into a running machine. I'm targeting a million-quid debt and no more golf winners by Tokyo 2020, which should deliver a 10,000 metres Olympic gold medal.

I LOVE . . .

Graham Taylor. I was rocked to the core by news of Taylor's passing on Thursday. The bloke was an absolute legend and will never be forgotten. Regardless of his abilities as a manager - and it must be noted how successful he was in club football - the measure of the man was his decency. He was clearly a good egg who will be remembered fondly.

And as for taking charge of his national side and the criticism that followed, how many England bosses before and after Taylor have enjoyed positive results? Hardly any. Perhaps it genuinely is an impossible job.

I LOATHE . . .

My wife not locking our car. Some people - Her Indoors included - think the world is full of nice people and fluffy bunnies. She sees the best in everyone and does not believe anybody is trying to do her any harm. Why, then, is there any need to lock our car? Nobody is going to steal our car, she asserts, usually swiftly following up with: "Stop being a drama queen."

Typically, with baby or shopping in hand on arrival home, the simple procedure of locking the car is ignored and considered pointless. I know we don't live in The Bronx, but is the risk worth taking for one second of labour? Some people are bad. Cars do get stolen. Facts.

I found out on Sunday that there is an emotion which can act as an incredible running fuel
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