Un­der­cover Tour Pro

The bat­tle of dumb ver­sus smart

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents -

The bat­tle of dumb ver­sus smart. WITH MAX ADLER

An agent—not mine—once told me his se­cret for suc­cess was to re­cruit golfers who were “re­ally smart or re­ally stupid.” Av­er­age in­tel­li­gence, he be­lieved, had a strong cor­re­la­tion with av­er­age ca­reers. Im­plicit in his con­fid­ing this was that he held me in the for­mer cat­e­gory.

Some­times I wish I were in the lat­ter. I don’t be­lieve there’s a sport where more in­for­ma­tion is thrown at the ath­lete than golf. To have an un­think­ing na­ture can be a huge bless­ing. You can just dis­re­gard all the Track­Man and ShotLink data and go play. Of the top-125 play­ers in the world, maybe 30 op­er­ate in this state of bliss­ful ig­no­rance, and there are at least four or five in the cur­rent top 20. The fol­low­ing is a tee­box in­ter­ac­tion I over­heard be­tween one such player and his cad­die, who’s no Mensa can­di­date, ei­ther. player “How far to carry that bunker?” cad­die “310.” player “But we’re up a tee box from yes­ter­day.”

cad­die “Oh, yeah . . . 340. No way to carry it.”

Now, my cad­die and I make small arith­metic er­rors al­most ev­ery week. It’s a mat­ter of the sheer vol­ume of cal­cu­la­tions we do. But come on. This duo even­tu­ally fig­ured it out, but for pretty close to a minute they were 60 yards off.

Some guys don’t un­der­stand their nick­names. One golfer, a re­ally good player, had a last name that trans­lated sim­ply to an­other word in a ma­jor world lan­guage. Years tran­spired be­fore he pulled some­one aside and asked why peo­ple on tour called him that. I knew an­other player who car­ried two phones. He used one for his Amer­i­can email ad­dress and the other for his Euro­pean email be­cause he be­lieved it was im­pos­si­ble to ac­cess both ac­counts from one de­vice. Some­times you won­der how these peo­ple make it through the day.

Of course, we all com­mit the lit­tle blun­ders that come with be­ing road-bleary. I’ve flown home to the wrong air­port and had to get an Uber to pick up my car. Al­most ev­ery week some­one for­gets their golf shoes. I know play­ers who’ve shown up at tour­na­ments only to find they for­got to en­ter.

I think most of the “dumb” play­ers are smart enough to have linked up with a cad­die who re­ally knows the game. In a way, they’re bril­liant for hav­ing turned their golf into a re­ac­tive, in­stinc­tual process. But if they didn’t have some­one telling them where to hit it and how hard, they wouldn’t sur­vive out here.

Over­all, the tour is filled with more golfers who aced their SATs or came close. Lots of guys are just as clever as Bryson DeCham­beau, or more so. They know ev­ery­thing there is to know about golf and will pore through stats to break down any course and de­vise a game plan. As ev­ery­one knows, Phil Mick­el­son is ex­tremely bright. He just tends to ex­press his ideas in un­nec­es­sar­ily com­pli­cated ways, so some­times, it can feel forced. But if you’re not wired like Mick­el­son or DeCham­beau, and you try to im­i­tate their cere­bral ap­proach to golf without truly possess­ing the band­width, it can be dis­as­trous. You start over­think­ing ev­ery shot, and pretty soon you’ve lost what got you to the tour. It’s sad how many guys have cal­cu­lated their card away.

The tour isn’t ex­actly over­flow­ing with them, but there are play­ers who are more than happy to get into a deep con­ver­sa­tion—about the stock mar­ket, pol­i­tics, phi­los­o­phy—right in the mid­dle of a tour­na­ment. Though when in doubt, I don’t stray from the clas­sics: foot­ball, beer and how many good-look­ing women hap­pen to be in the gallery that day. I think the di­verse cross-sec­tion of minds on tour speaks to what a beau­ti­ful game it is.

The agent I men­tioned ear­lier, who tar­gets only the ends of the in­tel­li­gence spec­trum, has a sound the­ory. Most play­ers are wary of not be­ing in the mid­dle. But if I were an agent, I’d scout tal­ent dif­fer­ently. I’d go to col­lege or mini-tour events and watch how play­ers held up on the last nine holes of a tour­na­ment. That’s what re­ally mat­ters, and I’ve seen no link be­tween brains and guts.

— with max adler

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