MUR­DER­ING YOUR GOLF CLUBS

‘SOME­TIMES A CLUB JUST HAS TO DIE’

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Play Your Best - by dave shed­loski

Equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers might want to avert their eyes from the forth­com­ing para­graphs. This is a story of ex­or­cism, ex­co­ri­a­tion and ex­e­cu­tion, and it might be too grue­some to bear.

As Jones so elo­quently ex­plained, there is an ir­re­sistible dy­namic to the game of golf that pro­vokes its prac­ti­tion­ers into parox­ysms of pique and petu­lance. Even the most skilled, most lev­el­headed player can fail to quell the fes­ter­ing frus­tra­tion and anger per­co­lat­ing in­side. The re­sult is an erup­tion of emo­tion ac­com­pa­nied by a need for a tem­po­ral re­lease.And be­cause there is an im­ple­ment read­ily avail­able to help al­le­vi­ate the grow­ing stress – an im­ple­ment, mind you, that shares the blame for the poor out­come, if it is not out and out re­spon­si­ble for it – it’s a safe bet that a golf club is go­ing to suf­fer some kind of un­timely demise.

Let’s face it: Killing a golf club is a pre­dictable re­sponse when a golfer finds dis­favour with the “ir­rev­o­ca­ble crime” of a poor stroke.The tra­di­tion of al­ter­ing a club’s con­fig­u­ra­tion likely dates to only a few min­utes af­ter the first club was in­vented.

Long be­fore Rory McIl­roy drowned his 3-iron for all to see at Trump Do­ral with a per­fect he­li­copter-style launch that would have made the late Tommy Bolt smile, golfers have found ame­lio­ra­tion for their be­reave­ment through equip­ment erad­i­ca­tion.

Jones was a se­rial abuser in his younger years. Gen­tle Gene Sarazen had his mo­ments. Bolt, nick­named Ter­ri­ble Tommy, re­mains the all-time poster boy for tem­pes­tu­ous­ness and an un­re­pen­tant, un­re­strained ap­petite for de­struc­tion.The game has been pop­u­lated by scores of play­ers whose skills were only slightly su­pe­rior to their scald­ing on-course tem­per­a­ments.

“Even­tu­ally the game is go­ing to get to you.The game is go­ing to beat you to death be­cause it’s so hard. I think it’s a nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to beat some­thing in re­sponse,” says Paul Goy­dos, who once fired a 59 in a PGA Tour event but has fired his clubs on count­less oc­ca­sions, some­times quite imag­i­na­tively. “If you don’t feel like tak­ing out your anger on a club from time to time, you’re prob­a­bly not do­ing it right.”

“Guys snap,” says 1993 PGA cham­pion Paul Azinger, who had a stand­ing $100 bet ev­ery year with Mark Cal­cavec­chia on which man would break a club first. “Any­body who plays golf knows: Guys are hard on them­selves,” Azinger says. “But it’s usu­ally a quick burst, and it’s over.”

“De­stroy­ing a club is al­most healthy some­times,” says Ben Cur­tis, the 2003 Open cham­pion, who has been in and out of love with golf since he was 3 years old. “I hon­estly think that’s what’s miss­ing for me now. Be­fore I had kids, I had a re­lease. I don’t want my kids – or any other kids – to see me be­have that way, throw­ing a club or what have you, so I’ve stopped. But I think that’s why I haven’t played as well.You have to have a re­lease.You play with fire out there, and a lit­tle bit of a re­lease keeps the fire un­der con­trol.”

As Jones said, “Some emo­tions can­not be en­dured with a golf club in your hands.” He rou­tinely threw clubs, in­clud­ing a fa­mous dis­play at Brae Burn Coun­try Club in 1917 when, af­ter shank­ing a shot, he be­gan throw­ing clubs and balls in all di­rec­tions as the crowd gasped. Sports writer Grant­land Rice once said the young Jones had “the face of an an­gel and the tem­per of a tim­ber­wolf.”

Jones’ most fa­mous out­burst oc­curred at the Old Course at St An­drews dur­ing the 1921 Open Cham­pi­onship, when he stomped off the par-3 11th hole and tore up his score­card upon fail­ing af­ter four tries to ex­tri­cate his ball from the Hill bunker. That year he was guilty of an­other lapse when he threw a club at the US Open that struck a fe­male spec­ta­tor in the leg. USGA pres­i­dent Howard Whit­ney re­port­edly de­liv­ered a se­vere re­buke to the 19-year-old Jones.

The serene, soft-spo­ken Sarazen once ad­mit­ted “a bad shot was some­thing to drive me into a tantrum, with the re­sult that my rep­u­ta­tion for club-throw­ing some­what ex­ceeded my pres­tige as a golfer.” But Sarazen had imag­i­na­tion, too. Af­ter one par­tic­u­larly per­plex­ing round of way­ward short putts, he placed the de­fec­tive put­ter into a vice and sawed it into three sec­tions. The sin of it was that the club be­longed to a club mem­ber.

Pos­sess­ing an acute dis­po­si­tion for rage, Bolt, the 1958 US Open cham­pion, so filled the air with fly­ing shafts that the PGA of Amer­ica in­sti­tuted the so-called “Tommy Bolt Rule” in 1957, which es­tab­lished fines for thrown im­ple­ments.The day af­ter the rule went into ef­fect, Bolt flung a put­ter sky­ward. Re­port­edly, he wanted to be the first man fined un­der “his” rule.

THE COST OF CRIME

To­day, such open fits of frus­tra­tion like McIl­roy’s are con­sid­ered con­duct un­be­com­ing and costs the of­fend­ing tour pro an “in­ter­me­di­ate-level” fine, around $2 000 to $10 000 on the PGA Tour. John Daly made a 10 on the par-3 sev­enth hole dur­ing the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits and tossed his 6-iron into Lake Michi­gan. “I should have thrown the 4-iron – that was the club that got me in trou­ble first,” Daly said. Re­minded that McIl­roy threw a club into the wa­ter at Do­ral, Daly replied, “I’ve got him beat by about 180.”

Jeff Sluman, the 1988 PGA cham­pion, is about as even­keeled as any­one in the game. “Usu­ally, we all are pretty much the same.We don’t get that mad. When a club stops work­ing, we usu­ally just put it away.We bench it,” Sluman says. “But,” he adds, “some­times a club just has to die.”

The golf world wit­nessed a pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion when McIl­roy’s synapses snapped and he flew his 3-iron into the lake ad­ja­cent to the eighth hole at Do­ral’s Blue Course af­ter hook­ing his ap­proach into the wa­ter. A chas­tened McIl­roy was of two minds about it later, ad­mit­ting it wasn’t “one of my proud­est mo­ments.” But in the same breath he said it “felt good at the time. I don’t feel good about it now. It’s frus­trat­ing when you feel your game is close and you keep hit­ting shots like that in the wa­ter, things I rarely do.”

Justin Rose could only laugh. Sev­eral years ear­lier he’d done the same thing at Do­ral, on the same hole. “But I flung

—bobby jones, on his anger and out­bursts on the golf course " I never lost my tem­per with my op­po­nent. I was only an­gry with my­self. It al­ways seemed such an ut­terly use­less and id­i­otic thing to stand up to a per­fectly sim­ple shot, one that I know I can make a hun­dred times run­ning with­out a miss – and then mess up the blamed thing, the one time I want to make it! And it is gone for­ever – an ir­rev­o­ca­ble crime, that shot"

it so far that it nearly reached the other side. It was sort of half-sub­merged in the bank,” Rose re­calls. “So we come to the (par-5) 10th hole, and I’ve got a per­fect 3-wood dis­tance to the green. I send Fulchy (cad­die Mark Fulcher) 50 yards across the fair­way, and he wades in and gets it back. I hit the mid­dle of the green. Ob­vi­ously, it had learned its les­son.”

While play­ing with friends at Whis­per Rock in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona, two-time US Open cham­pion Andy North was test­ing a new driver. But af­ter a se­ries of poor tee shots, in­clud­ing a snap-hook at 18, North marched off the front of the tee­ing ground, laid his driver on the stone fac­ing, picked up a large rock, and pul­verised the club­head.

He had calmed down by the time he sat down for lunch, but his friends helped him re­live the mo­ment. “I or­dered a chef salad,” North re­calls. “When the waiter took the top off the plate, there were shards of the driver head sprin­kled over the top of the salad.”

Ryan Moore lost it at Oak­land Hills in the 2008 PGA, and it cost him his favourite club, a 3-wood. He flung it against the can­vas-cov­ered fence along the perime­ter of the golf course and watched in hor­ror as it broke into three pieces. “I loved that club,” he says. “I don’t know what I was think­ing.” Well, be­cause of golf. Even nice guys 86 a few (Amer­i­can slang for get­ting rid of some­thing). And with­out shoot­ing 86.

At the 2006 Me­mo­rial Tour­na­ment, Cur­tis, ex­e­cuted a 14-club throw-down in the ninth fair­way af­ter rins­ing his ap­proach short of the green. “I took the whole bag and chucked it,” he says. “Prob­lem was, I still made the cut. Had to make sure they were all okay.”

Steve Stricker went full Judge Smails on the 11th tee at Do­ral – what is it about Do­ral, guys? – and flung his driver high into the trees af­ter a poor poke. His wife, Nicki, was on the bag. She said noth­ing. Steve fi­nally broke the si­lence. “Don’t get that,” were his only in­struc­tions.

Rocco Me­di­ate was so frus­trated by his putting at The In­ter­na­tional in 2000 af­ter hit­ting 32 greens in reg­u­la­tion and miss­ing the cut that he ground his put­ter into the cart­path with his metal spikes. “I smashed it.And then I thought, Why did I do that? I like that put­ter. It was a beau­ti­ful Scotty Cameron Big Sur. So the next week at the Buick, I have to put the backup in play, and I made ev­ery­thing for four rounds and won.”

Sim­i­larly, Kenny Perry re­calls with re­mark­able clar­ity suc­cumb­ing to an out­burst at the 1994 New Eng­land Clas­sic. On the range well past dinnertime, Perry be­came so en­raged at his seem­ing in­com­pe­tence that he picked up his golf bag, raised it over his head, and slammed it on the ground. No clubs were bro­ken – thank good­ness for metal shafts – but the strap was toast.

“Oh, yeah, I lost it,” Perry says.“I didn’t even care. I dragged the bag back to the club­house by that bro­ken strap and just flung it into the bag room.Then I came out Thurs­day morn­ing, took a few swings, made one that felt per­fect, and I thought, That’s it! I ended up turn­ing that into four great rounds and win­ning the golf tour­na­ment. Ever since then I al­ways say, you’re never as far away as you think you are.”

Or never far away from rough rage.

“This was a while ago when I was play­ing in Europe, and I had a very frus­trat­ing six to eight weeks, so I went home to Aus­tralia to un­wind,” says 2006 US Open cham­pion Ge­off Ogilvy.“I went out to play atVic­to­ria Golf Club with a few friends for like $5.And I bo­geyed the last three holes to lose that $5. I took one of my clubs and just started beat­ing my bag with it. I bet I hit it 100 times. I broke six or seven clubs just hack­ing at this stand bag.Then I started pulling them out to see which ones were still in­tact. It was a com­plete flip-out. I bet it would have been fun to watch.”

IT WASN’T THE CADIL­LAC’S FAULT

Some­times, there is col­lat­eral dam­age to re­port.

Long be­fore Elin Woods un­der­clubbed go­ing for an SUV with a 9-iron, there was Rocky Thomp­son.Af­ter a Mon­day qual­i­fier for the New Or­leans Open,Thomp­son climbed atop the bon­net of his Cadil­lac, still wear­ing his metal spikes, and pro­ceeded to re­model it with a 7-iron.“We’re all sit­ting there on the boots of our cars wait­ing for the re­sults,” says Gary McCord, who wit­nessed the car­nage.“Next thing you

‘IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE TAK­ING OUT YOUR ANGER ON A CLUB FROM TIME TO TIME, YOU’RE PROB­A­BLY NOT DO­ING IT RIGHT.’ —PAUL GOY­DOS

know you hear this God-aw­ful sound, and there’s Rocky flail­ing away. It was great en­ter­tain­ment.”

David Feherty ad­mits to run­ning over his clubs with his car af­ter triple-bo­gey­ing the fi­nal hole to lose the 1981 Ir­ish Na­tional PGA Cham­pi­onship. “I drove over them length­wise so that I got all of them from grip to club­head,” he says. “Un­for­tu­nately, I left my watch in there.”

Speak­ing of Tiger, he has tossed clubs in dis­gust here and there, but at the 2012 Masters he em­ployed a drop­kick to his 9-iron af­ter a poor tee shot at the par-3 16th hole. It would be a 9-iron, right?

Per­haps the most com­mon form of golf-club ex­e­cu­tion is known as the “Bo Jack­son.” For a how-to on snap­ping a club over your knee, please re­fer to Kevin Cost­ner’s per­for­mance in the film “Tin Cup.” McCord, who ap­peared in the movie and served as a tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant, coached him on the proper tech­nique.

A recita­tion of var­i­ous Bo Jack­sons would re­quire a list­ing of phone-book-size pro­por­tions. How­ever, we must sin­gle out Dustin John­son’s ef­fort af­ter the 2011 Open Cham­pi­onship at Royal St George’s. No one wit­nessed the mo­ment when John­son turned his trai­tor­ous 2-iron into two irons, but the club had it com­ing. Its be­trayal was un­for­giv­able af­ter steer­ing John­son’s sec­ond shot out-of­bounds on the par-5 14th hole, end­ing his bid to catch Dar­ren Clarke.

“That was the only time I had ever bro­ken a club,” John­son says. “I just left it there in the trash can. I never wanted to see that club again.”

PGA Tour rules of­fi­cial Slug­ger White, a for­mer tour player, has seen his share of throws, slams and break­ages. He was even guilty of one at the 1976 Cana­dian Open when he tried to turn his 7-iron into a sledge­ham­mer on a cart­path. One of his favourite sto­ries hap­pened long ago at a mini-tour event when Frank Con­ner broke all 14 clubs over his knee in the park­ing lot. “No one got out alive,” White says with rel­ish.

WHY PUT­TERS NEED PRO­TEC­TION

Which brings us to put­ters, the most cher­ished and re­viled club. Some­times, a player needs a quick sep­a­ra­tion, which means locker-room at­ten­dants or a lucky mem­ber of the gallery might re­ceive a sur­prise gift. But on many oc­ca­sions a put­ter has to be tor­tured in a man­ner com­men­su­rate with the pain it has in­flicted.And let’s be hon­est: Put­ters are guilty un­til proven in­no­cent.

“Put­ters take the brunt of our frus­tra­tions, for good rea­son,” Goy­dos says.

Woody Austin per­formed one of the most fa­mous ex­hi­bi­tions of put­ter abuse caught on cam­era in 1997 at Har­bour Town. He re­peat­edly head-butted the shaft while ex­it­ing the 14th green.“What peo­ple don’t un­der­stand is that I wasn’t try­ing to abuse the put­ter, I was try­ing to abuse my­self,”Austin says.“What no one knows about that day is that I was play­ing with Tom Watson, and on the sixth hole he ab­so­lutely tom­a­hawked one into the ground, and his cad­die is fight­ing to get it out, and I think he even had to use an­other club to dig it out. I mean, like I said, it hap­pens to all of us, even the best of us.”

Dur­ing the 1987 Ry­der Cup at Muir­field Vil­lage, Ben Cren­shaw banged his put­ter, Lit­tle Ben, on the ground as he ex­ited the sixth green dur­ing his match against Eamonn Darcy. Cren­shaw blamed rust in the shaft, but dis­gust abet­ted the im­mo­la­tion. Us­ing his 1-iron and sand wedge the rest of the way, Cren­shaw lost to Darcy, 1 up, as Europe won 15-13 for its first tri­umph on US soil.

Drown­ings, not sur­pris­ingly, are the surest and most con­ve­nient method of dis­posal. “I wish I had a dol­lar for ev­ery put­ter that I’ve seen thrown into a wa­ter haz­ard,” Skip Ken­dall says.

Charley Hoffman pitched his in the wa­ter at TPC Saw­grass in 2008 af­ter miss­ing a tap-in on the 13th hole. Azinger flung one in the wa­ter at the Honda Clas­sic on the sev­enth hole at TPC Heron Bay, and on the ninth he found a kid hold­ing it. “I signed it for him and told him, ‘I hope you have more luck than I did.’ ”

Me­di­ate has been a party to count­less buri­als at sea, in­clud­ing one con­ducted dur­ing the 2007 Fry’s.com Open in LasVe­gas, when he ex­horted his cad­die, Martin Cour­tois, to pitch it into the lake at the 12th hole at TPC Sum­mer­lin. “We’re wait­ing for Scott Ver­plank to putt out, and I said it to Martin twice: ‘Throw the eff­ing put­ter into the eff­ing lake.’ But I’m think­ing he’s not go­ing to do it. All of a sud­den I see this thing out of the cor­ner of my eye. He whirly-birded it in. I’m like, ‘Did you re­ally throw that in the wa­ter?’ He thinks I’m go­ing to fire him. Why would I fire him? He did what I said.”

One tour vet­eran, who re­quested anonymity, sim­ply drowned the head of his put­ter in his ho­tel-room toi­let bowl overnight. This, of course, af­ter he had de­posited his daily con­sti­tu­tional.

Though many choose wa­ter, Ernie Els opted for fire. “I burned one,” he ad­mit­ted sheep­ishly af­ter turn­ing it into a glo­ri­fied marsh­mal­low stick. “I stuck it in there, and then I used it to move the em­bers around.The head melted off, and I just let it roast.”

An­drew Magee can beat Els’ flame­out, hav­ing ig­nited sev­eral dozen put­ters in a bon­fire be­hind the home of his good friend and neigh­bour, McCord. Though they be­longed to McCord, Gary didn’t ob­ject. He and Magee and a host of other tour play­ers toasted the roast­ing. “That was af­ter an en­tire year of bad putting, and he wanted to do a com­plete purge so that I would start over with some­thing new,” says McCord, who cops a plea of guilty about his sor­did past.

“I did a Ky Laf­foon once,” he says.“That’s where you tie a put­ter to your back bumper and drag that thing on the road.”

Goy­dos steps for­ward for a sim­i­lar trans­gres­sion.“It was al­ready bent a lit­tle bit, some­how,” Goy­dos says with a grin.“I at­tached my put­ter to the back bumper at a mini-tour event, the Golden State Tour, and I dragged it around the park­ing lot and drove it down the ser­vice road.Then I pitched it into the bushes. It added a bit of loft to it by the time I was done with it; turned it into a chip­per.”

A few weeks later, Goy­dos watched one of his play­ing part­ners chuck a Spald­ing 8802 into a tree af­ter three-putting a par 5.The club got stuck, so the player, whom Goy­dos would not name, tried to free it by throw­ing his 9-iron at it. Very soon the player had four clubs hang­ing from the tree.The group was play­ing out of carts. “As we were leav­ing,” Goy­dos says,“I turned around, and the guy was now ram­ming the cart into the tree.”

Cal­cavec­chia, how­ever, is the king of the Ky Laf­foon pla­toon. Af­ter the fi­nal round of the 2006 Mercedes Cham­pi­onships at Ka­palua, the 1989 Open cham­pion de­cided that seven three-putts war­ranted ac­tion. Speed­ing down the steep hill from the course to his ho­tel, Cal­cavec­chia opened his car door, plunged the put­ter out and dragged it along the pave­ment at 80 kilo­me­tres per hour. “I made sure I hit the re­flec­tors in the mid­dle of the road, too, for ex­tra pun­ish­ment,” he says, “but that was stupid, be­cause then I hurt my wrist.”

But he wasn’t done. He pulled off to the side of the road and started throw­ing the club against a brick wall.“Peo­ple thought I was go­ing berserk. And I was,” he says, laugh­ing at the mem­ory.“But that’s the game for you.”

DAVID FEHERTY ONCE RAN OVER HIS CLUBS WITH HIS CAR. ‘I DROVE OVER THEM LENGTH­WISE SO THAT I GOT ALL OF THEM FROM GRIP TO CLUB­HEAD. UN­FOR­TU­NATELY, I LEFT MY WATCH IN THERE.’

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