Thought for the Day
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump
Crash and burn
We amateurs are well acquainted with the abject feeling of despair that comes from playing the last two holes in six over par – well, I certainly am. In fact, for many handicap golfers, finding increasingly imaginative ways of screwing up a good round is part of our DNA. It took me many years of gut-wrenching experience to learn how to stay, as the pros say, ‘in the moment’ and not let my brain race away with what might be achieved, and in the process make a complete pig’s ear of the last few holes.
You will, I am sure, be familiar with those intrusive thoughts along the lines of: ‘If I could manage no worse than a couple of bogies and a par over the last three, I’ll have a really good score.’ You will be equally familiar with the reality that as soon as these ideas pop into your head your swing goes to hell in a handcart and big numbers become the norm, even on holes you usually regard as among the easiest on the course. There is little consolation in the thought: ‘I was one-over par for the front nine,’ when it is immediately followed by: ‘But I made two double bogies and a triple in the last three.’
In my case salvation came many years ago after a particularly miserable conclusion to a round during which, for 15 holes I had played almost as well as I am capable, before imploding in a style that would make even John Daly envious. I will spare you the car-crash details but once I had the chance to calm down (it only took a few months) I was able, finally, to put a round of golf into some sort of perspective. I concluded that this is something I do for enjoyment but it does not define me or my career. In short, while I want to play well, I am now able to accept those (many) occasions when I don’t.
It is the same mentality that has helped me on the putting green, as a result of advice I received from a man far wiser than me. He pointed out that there are only two possibilities when you stand over a putt – you will hole it or miss it – and once you accept that the latter is possible but not disastrous, you hole considerably more.
I still hit far more bad shots than I should, and playing to my handicap is, more often than not, an unrealised ambition but I can usually take some comfort from a round, even if it’s only one good drive or a particularly tricky putt holed.
Sergio Garcia can have few such consolations because playing the last two holes in level par is an almost derisorily easy task for someone of his gifts. So to complete 17 and 18 in the Players’ Championship in six over, with three balls in the water, must be a mightily bitter pill to swallow. This will be especially true as the man who played those same holes in level par and lifted the trophy is Tiger Woods, with whom Sergio is unlikely to share a consolation glass of wine in the clubhouse. That these two men do not send each other Christmas cards is well-known, and they exchanged uncomplimentary views of each other again during the week. So for Sergio, the desire to win would have burned with even greater ferocity as it also represented a chance to stick it to The Man.
However bad your working days might be this week the chances are they will be better than Sergio’s on Sunday.
What do you think defines a real golfer? It is something I have been mulling over (again) while watching The Players’ but I’m sure you will have many suggestions of your own
1. Real Golfers do not tuck their golf glove into a rear trouser pocket while striding up the fairway
2. Real Golfers do not play pink, yellow or orange golf balls
3. Real golfers do not cry over their fourth putt
4. Real Golfers recognise that the game is about frustrated ambition, not consistent success
5. Real Golfers do not fling their golf clubs
6. Real Golfers judge their fellow players by the quality of their personality, and not their handicap
7. Real Golfers walk
8. Real Golfers use wooden (bio-degradable) tees, and not ones made from plastic
9. Real Golfers never resort to gamesmanship
10. Real Golfers don’t take a Mulligan
11. Real golfers do not scream: ‘Get in the hole’ or other inanities
Quote of the Week
Golf may be played on Sunday, not being a game within view of the law, but being a form of moral effort
Thought for the Day:
Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and when he grows up, he’ll never be able to merge his car onto a motorway
There is nothing more pleasing in sport, or life, as a tale of redemption – the hero who trampolines back from desperate disappointment or failure to eventually triumph (you can add the phrase ‘against all odds’ if you wish because most newspapers and magazines probably will). And so, despite huge sympathy for Angel Cabrera, who epitomised how to lose with grace, let us roll out the bunting and raise a glass or three to Adam Scott. Ever since he emerged as a pro golfer there have been predictions of a glowing future, replete with major championships. The most notable of these came from his coach, Butch Harmon, who famously said that Adam’s basic swing fundamentals were better even than those of Tiger, and he was right. Scott has always had a classically orthodox swing of perfect tempo. And the predictions appeared prescient as the young Australian made good progress, with a steady, if not spectacular accumulation of titles – nine wins in America, eight in Europe – with the most notable of these being the Player’s Championship. But that was in 2004 and the huge hole in his CV was his comparatively dreadful form in the majors. For a full decade he simply disappeared when any of the (more…)
Thought for the Day
Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened
Heading for Augusta
Hands up if you know what connects the following golfers: Russell Henley, Brian Gay, John Merrick, Michael Thompson, Scott Brown and Kevin Streelman. If you can identify them all as having won on the US PGA Tour so far this season, you’re a bit of an anorak. But then, it is that kind of season. They are joined as 2013 winners by Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods (twice), Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar. More relevantly, all of them will be at the Masters in just under a month – with the exception of Scott Brown, who won the Puerto Rican Open, which doesn’t have a full-point allocation for the Tour Championship and therefore doesn’t meet Augusta’s invitation policy. Hard luck Scott.
All of which is designed to let me off the hook by demonstrating how hard it is to predict the winner of any major, especially the season’s first, when there is comparatively little form with which to measure the runners and riders. In the last 10 years, for example, how many punters put their money on Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson or Mike Weir to have a green jacket draped around their shoulders? However, if we ignore those surprise winners and (more…)Add a comment Tweet
Thought for the Day:
Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don’t have film
With the greatest respect to all those involved in the Africa and Northern Trust Opens, which have just concluded on the European and US Tours respectively, the phoney war has ended and the real business is about to start. This week sees the first significant event of the year, the WGC-Accenture Matchplay Championship in Arizona. Its importance can be easily determined by the quality of the field it attracts, and for the first time in several months we have the world numbers one and two, Rory and Tiger, teeing up at the same venue. They are, of course, at the start of the early-season schedule that they hope will get their games in tune for the Masters, which is only eight weeks away. It strikes me as odd, though, that they choose to come out of hibernation for a matchplay event. These are so unpredictable and, in many ways, more difficult to win. Play your best golf and shoot a scorching 64, but meet an opponent who is one stroke better and you’re on the plane to the next venue.
Oh well, ours not to reason why.
A friend assures me this is absolutely true. A pal of his is a keen golfer but not, how shall I put this, the most literate man in the world. Nevertheless he was delighted when his wife (more…)
Thought for the Day:
How did they measure the size of hailstones before golf balls were invented?
Persistence pays off
The concept of heroism has been seriously eroded in recent years. It used to be that someone in the armed forces, for example, had to perform in a particularly selfless way in order to be described as heroic but now they only have to don the uniform. To become a hero nowadays you just have to be there, rather than do something extraordinary. We see the same diminution of the concept in sport, whereby anyone who achieves anything (and many more who fail ‘bravely’) are accorded heroic status. But every now and then we see an example that, in sporting terms at least, raises the person concerned to a particular level of achievement that allows us to legitimately describe them as heroes, at least in their sport. In golf, my vote goes to Jamie Donaldson, who has just won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. In 2004 he was advised to give up the game at which he excels on medical grounds, having been diagnosed with what is sometimes referred to as Pars disease. It is, in fact, a variant of lumbar spondylolysis and is, in effect, a stress fracture of the spine that afflicts active sportspeople and causes considerable pain. It is treatable but not curable and, like the yips, once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for good. Donaldson, however, ignored his doctor’s advice and undertook a punishing regime of (more…)
Thought for the Day:
War doesn’t determine who’s right but who’s left
Desperate times require desperate measures
There has been a lot of comment about the PGA of America’s decision to name Tom Watson as captain of the US Ryder Cup team for the contest at Gleneagles next year, and most of it has been positive. I suspect though, that this largely affirmative response is simply a reflection of the admiration and affection in which Tom is almost universally held, rather than a cool analysis of the decision per se. So let us try to be at least a little objective. By the time the competition comes around, if Tom were a UK citizen he would, at the age of 65, be an old age pensioner. Advanced age is not, of itself, a bar to such a job but what it means is that Tom will have not played on the US PGA Tour, from which his team will be selected, for a decade-and-a-half. Currently the US captain has four wild card picks, a third of the team, but Watson will not be teeing it up with the likely contenders for those picks week in and week out and therefore able to assess their abilities at first hand. Another worry is that, almost immediately after his appointment, Tom was asked his opinion of Tiger Woods, having been scathing in his criticism in the wake of Tiger’s marital problems. Both men say there will be no problem and Watson went on to say that Tiger will be in his team. To make such a call almost two years in advance, especially considering Woods’ pretty shabby record in the (more…)