Thought for the Day
The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get to work
The Raging Storm
Cognitive behavioural therapists will tell you that no incident is necessarily bad in and of itself – it is the way in which we deal with it that determines its effect. Try telling that to Rory McIlroy who, following the last round of the DP World Tour Championship, ripped his Nike shirt almost to shreds in anger and frustration.
It was almost justified. Going head-to-head with Collin Morikawa in the season-ending event, they were level pegging as Rory played the 15th, where he suffered an abysmal piece of bad luck at the as his approach shot rebounded off the flagstick and into a bunker. From there he went into meltdown, playing those last four holes in three over par and slumping to tied sixth.
Subsequently ripping his shirt, while petulant and a little pitiful, is nevertheless understandable to everyone who has ever played the game. And although Rory has flung the occasional club into a water hazard, he’s a bit of a lightweight when it comes to temper tantrums on the course.
Of the modern-day professionals Sergio Garcia has his own place in the pantheon of immaturity. His offences include spitting in the cup after a missed putt, throwing his shoe into the gallery and then kicking it down the fairway, breaking his putter on his bag, exacerbating a shoulder injury after a wild swipe at a bush, numerous club-throwing tantrums, and deliberately damaging greens in Saudi Arabia, for which he was disqualified.
But even his efforts do not bear comparison with the early pioneers of the American pro game, who lived or died by their efforts every week, on often sub-standard courses, before the PGA Tour even existed. The modern pro can become a multi-millionaire on relatively modest talent, yet moans if his dietician, physiotherapist and colonoscopist are a few minutes late. They should be regarded with the same disdain as would be shown to a celebrity who appeared on Desert Island Discs and selected eight tracks by Gary Glitter.
Not surprisingly, the circumstances in which golf’s pioneers played produced a host of extraordinarily talented, but in many instances, idiosyncratic golfers. The wonderfully named Ky Laffoon is one, and myths and legends have attached themselves to him as iron filings to a magnet. Although it is sadly not the case that he once tied an under-performing putter to the rear bumper of his car and dragged it to the next tournament venue to teach it a lesson, he did give Ben Hogan the second biggest fright of his life. Laffoon and Hogan were sharing a car and Hogan fell asleep stretched across the back seat. He was awakened by a terrible screeching sound and to his horror could see no-one at the wheel. Ky had his right hand on the steering wheel and was bent over, leaning out of the open driver’s door, dragging a golf club along the concrete pavement to grind down the flange on the back of the clubhead.
Once in Sacramento he shot 67, 69, 65 to be in a strong position and on the final green he faced a six-foot birdie putt. He missed, picked up his ball and walked out of the tournament because that putt was his 72nd stroke of the round and the previous week he had been so disgusted with himself that he vowed never to shoot more than 72 again.
Clayton Heafner took a particular dislike to those who mispronounced his name – using ‘Heefner’ rather than the correct ‘Heffner’. More than once if the announcer performing introductions got it wrong, he walked off the first tee of a tournament, never to reappear. One time Clayton hit a ball into the cabbage, instructed his caddy to find it and marched off to the clubhouse. He was intercepted by a little lady who said it was improper to retire in the middle of a tournament. Heafner bellowed across to his caddy: ‘Don’t pick it up, just leave the f***ing thing there,’ and continued his march.
Lefty Stackhouse was another cursed by the combination of perfectionism, a delinquent putter and a volcanic temper. When he fell short of the (admittedly high) standards he set himself, he would single out the part of his body that he considered most responsible and beat it against the nearest tree. He also once beat his putter against the radiator of his car; he may have been a talented golfer but in terms of competitive nerve he had the breaking strain of a Kit Kat.
Then there was Ivan Gantz, who was celebrated for his habit of hitting himself in the head, particularly if he held a putter in his hand. He maintained, though, that although these stories were true, and he often bore the scars to prove it, he never knocked himself out cold, as legend insists. You cannot help but conclude that Ivan should not have been allowed access to shoe laces or metal cutlery.
A final bravery award, however should go to Shane Lowry’s caddie. In the car crash event that was the 2015 Irish Open, played at Royal County Down in ferocious winds, Shane missed a three-foot putt on the 12th green on the second day. He was so angry that he smashed his putter against a metal stanchion, damaging it to the extent that he couldn’t use it for the remainder of the round. His caddy, testing the limits of the relationship between player and employee as far as they might go, said: ‘It’s hard enough caddying for you without having to club you on the greens.’
Quote of the Week
There are two things you can learn by stopping your backswing at the top and checking the position of your hands: How many hands you have, and which one is wearing the glove