Martin Vousden and Bad Form

Oct 17 2017

Thought for the Day
Never do something permanently foolish just because you are temporarily upset

Class can be temporary, too
When a tour golfer is going through a bad spell we often hear the mantra: ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ but I wonder. Leaving aside the journeyman pro who hits a vein of form that can last a few months or even longer – do you remember Steve Richardson – there are still those who seem to have everything, be the real deal, and yet they go off the boil never to recover.

Steven Richardson

I’m not talking about the surprise one-hit wonders who manage to pull everything together for one week, which just happens to be the week in which a major occurs. Into these ranks we can add the names of Ben Curtis in The Open and the other one whose name is so difficult to remember (Todd Hamilton). In the US Open we have had Lucas Glover and Geoff Ogilvy; Larry Mize and Mike Weir had their four days of glory in the Masters and the US PGA Championship has seen unexpected winners in Jason Dufner and Yang Yong-eun, the first Asian golfer to win a men’s major, and he beat Tiger Woods into the bargain.

These names represent the fortuitous moments that occur in all sports, where that welcome but rare peak of ability coincides with one of the biggest events of the calendar year, but turns out to be a one-off. Whether Danny Willett joins their number remains to be seen.

What I am thinking about is the golfer who is more than a journeyman; a player whose skill and temperament set them apart from the herd because of innate ability and application. The sort of competitor who becomes a multiple major winner. The most obvious recent example is Padraig Harrington, winner of three major championships in a 13-month stretch. But that was in 2007/08 and since then following this ever-likeable Irishman has been an exercise in endless frustration. And that’s just for us, the fans; imagine what it has been like for the man himself.

Padraig Harrington

He has flattered to deceive, winning the 2015 Honda Classic and 2016 Portugal Masters but these rare glimpses of his talent have been short-lived blips on the radar rather than evidence of a true return to masterful form. Since his last major win, the 2008 US PGA Championship, he has missed the cut or not taken part in more majors (21) than made it through to the weekend (15). As I write he sits 168th in the world rankings.

Another golfer who I thought was the real deal, and would go on to a stellar career is the German Martin Kaymer. His three wins in America are the 2010 US PGA Championship and four years later the Players Championship and US Open. He has also won nine times in Europe between 2008/11 and, of course, sunk the winning putt in the most memorable Ryder Cup of recent times – the 2012 ‘Miracle of Medinah’. That is a career record of which anyone would be proud but while I thought he would kick on to become one of European golf’s most proficient and consistent performers, recent years would suggest otherwise.

In Martin’s case the 2015 Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions tournament may have left the kind of permanent scar from which a career never recovers. Leading by six going into the final round he shot a sickening 75 and lost by three. It was a scale of collapse that brought to mind Greg Norman’s meltdown in the 1996 Masters. Norman did win once in 1997 and once in 1998 but that traumatic day and injuries effectively ended Greg’s competitive career and I sincerely hope that it is not and indicator for Kaymer.

Kaymer-US-Open

The good news for the affable German is that, at the age of 32 he still has time to resurrect himself from his current world ranking of 77th (down from 52nd at the end of 2016). Padraig Harrington, by contrast, is 46 and if he is to taste more glory days it will surely be among the ranks of the seniors.

The other glimmer of hope for Kaymer is that such slumps can be escaped from – just look at Lee Westwood. The former world number one, who has tasted victory more than 40 times, on five different continents, endured the sort of dip in form in the early part of this century that drives strong men to drink or bow-legged women. He changed his coach and caddy (more than once) but eventually decided to stop trying so hard. In an interview with David Feherty he revealed that instead of continually focusing on his score he decided to just concentrate of his swing – if he got that right, the scores would follow.

As is so often the case in golf it would appear that the key to playing better is less, not more.

Quote of the Week
Comparatively few golfers ever show that they are aware that the golf architect tries to design a course that rewards an intelligent golfer and penalises a stupid one.
Tommy Armour

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