Bunker Men­tal­ity

As Mike Wil­son writes, the richly-re­warded young men blessed with a God-given tal­ent need to take a re­al­ity check and ac­cept the adage that who­ever pays the piper calls the tune.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Mike Wil­son

The richly-re­warded young men blessed with a God­given tal­ent need to take a re­al­ity check and ac­cept the adage that who­ever pays the piper calls the tune.

Imag­ine an English Premier League match be­tween Liverpool and Manch­ester United, the Old Traf­ford out­fit win­ning a last­minute penalty in front of an out­raged and up­roar­i­ous Kop. Spot-kick-taker Romelu Lukaku is plead­ing for si­lence be­fore lin­ing up his at­tempt on goal, or com­plain­ing to the ref­eree about the in­evitable jeers, boos, brick­bats and in­sults dur­ing his run-up as he at­tempts to snatch three vi­tal – and po­ten­tially cham­pi­onship­win­ning – points for the Old Traf­ford Out­fit.

Or Roger Fed­erer is stop­ping play and plead­ing for calm dur­ing a vi­tal rally in the fi­nal set of the Wim­ble­don fi­nal against his archri­val No­vak Djokovic with the US$3mil­lion win­ner’s check and world num­ber-one rank­ing up for grabs.

Yet, that’s ex­actly what is emerg­ing in men’s pro­fes­sional golf. Cur­rent world num­ber-two Justin Thomas bleat­ing on course and later in the me­dia room about au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Ge­n­e­sis Open. Rory McIl­roy also claimed the gal­leries fol­low­ing gave him a headache and that he needed, “A cou­ple of Advil,” to com­bat fan be­hav­iour on course.

And all be­cause of a few rowdy fans or for the sake of ar­gu­ment, let’s call them pay­ing cus­tomers - whoop­ing and hol­ler­ing. Al­beit mind­lessly as this richly tal­ented and even more richly-re­warded young man out of Louisville, Ken­tucky went about his busi­ness

on the tees and greens of the lux­ury re­sort that is the Riviera Coun­try Club in Cal­i­for­nia in Fe­bru­ary, he might be well ad­vised not to bite the hands that feed him.

“I guess they just think it’s funny,” said the 24-year-old, adding, “It was pretty wild [those] first cou­ple of days, the fans’ be­hav­iour got a lit­tle bit out of hand.”

Thomas, who even­tu­ally fin­ished tied ninth and earn­ing a more than de­cent US$180,000 be­moaned af­ter it was all over, in­clud­ing the shout­ing, “It was al­right for a lit­tle bit to­day,” be­fore belly­ach­ing, “But there at the end, it got a lit­tle out of hand.

“It might be funny to them, and ob­vi­ously peo­ple think of it dif­fer­ently, and I could just be over­re­act­ing,” he con­cluded.

Just what would his fel­low Ken­tuck­ian, the late, great ‘Louisville Lip,’ Muham­mad Ali have made of it all? The mas­ter of spin be­fore spin doc­tors had been thought of, Ali knew what box of­fice was, putting bums on seats and sell­ing pay-per-view TV. And young Mas­ter Thomas, a very nice young man by all ac­counts would do well to take a leaf out of the great man’s book and be thank­ful for what he’s got.

Thomas even took mat­ters into his own hands by per­son­ally eject­ing a heck­ler from the fol­low­ing week’s Honda Clas­sic which he won, adding a more than healthy US$1,188,000, tak­ing his ca­reer earn­ings to close on US$40m - not bad for a man of just 24-years-old. Ex­cel­lent work if you can get it and surely worth putting up with the oc­ca­sional taunt from a few fans?

But Thomas is not alone.

Ear­lier in Fe­bru­ary, at the at­trac­tively-named Waste Man­age­ment Open in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona, where the PGA TOUR has cre­ated a rod for its own back by nom­i­nat­ing the 16th hole on the Sta­dium Course for player-and-fan en­gage­ment. Where, it seems, any­thing goes, Thomas’s Ry­der Cup team­mate Rickie Fowler was be­moan­ing the con­duct of a small but vo­cif­er­ous mi­nor­ity of the 719,179 pay­ing pub­lic.

“I may be some­what of a fan favourite, but they weren’t hold­ing back,” Fowler said, adding “I was a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed with some of the stuff that was said, and I don’t want much neg­a­tiv­ity. The nor­mal boos for miss­ing a green, that’s fine, but leave the heck­ling to a min­i­mum.”

Even Aus­tralian Marc Leishman’s wife

took to the air­waves slam­ming US fans abu­sive con­duct as last year’s Pres­i­dent’s Cup. Par­ti­san US fans - fu­elled no doubt on weak beer, fine wines or strong vodka cour­tesy of of­fi­cial spon­sors Mich­e­lob, David Frost Wines and Grey Goose vodka - call­ing for In­ter­na­tional play­ers’ to hit their ball into the vast Lib­erty Straits water­ways.

Mild stuff com­pared to the vile racist and ho­mo­pho­bic abuse dished out at ev­ery foot­ball ground in the UK ev­ery week­end, in­clud­ing taunts about Manch­ester United Mu­nich air crash, re­cip­ro­cated by abu­sive songs about the Hills­bor­ough dis­as­ter, even the mim­ick­ing of hiss­ing gas Nazi death camps aimed at the tra­di­tion­ally Jewish Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

Rory McIl­roy re­cently ven­tured the view that crowd in­volve­ment from the ‘Get-in-the­hole,’ and, ’Mashed potato,’ bri­gade cost Tiger Woods at least a cou­ple of shots per round. But, in all fair­ness to the back-to-form star, he took it all in his con­sid­er­able stride, and it didn’t do him too much harm, did it?

And, talk­ing of the Ry­der Cup, where hos­til­i­ties be­tween Europe and the USA will be re­sumed in the se­date, leafy out­skirts of Paris in Septem­ber. Don’t tell me that the Stars and Stripes in­side and out­side the ropes - and some Euro­peans too - will be high-fiv­ing it, egging each other on, echoes of the in­fa­mous ‘War on the Shore,’ at Ki­awah Is­land in 1991.

Pumped-up Poul­ter, big beasts of the golf­ing jun­gle, like Bubba, Lefty and DJ, even Tiger if he plays, deep in the heat of bat­tle are ca­pa­ble of – and prob­a­bly will – act with the same im­punity in­side the ropes as the get-in-the­hole bird­brains will out­side them and golf. And pro­fes­sional golfers must learn to play the game in the ad­ver­sar­ial con­text of 2018 and be­yond.

Pro­fes­sional golf a quar­ter-of-a-cen­tury on from what was nadir of golf bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to what is now sport­sen­ter­tain­ment as op­posed to pure sport. And the quicker Messers Thomas, Fowler, McIl­roy et al., get their heads around that fact, the bet­ter it will be for all, and some of the de­clines in the game’s pop­u­lar­ity may even be re­versed.

So, a mes­sage to ev­ery self-ob­sessed young golf star, to be pinned on ev­ery locker room door and writ large on the dash­board of ev­ery lux­ury, chauf­feur-driven cour­tesy limou­sine, ‘Who pays the piper calls the tune.’ And, ‘if you can’t stand the heat in a very lu­cra­tive kitchen,’ find your­self an­other line of work.

Cur­rent world num­ber-two Justin Thomas bleat­ing on course and later in the me­dia room about DXGLHQFH SDUWLFLSDWLRQ DW WKH *HQHVLV 2SHQ

7KRPDV·V 5\GHU &XS team­mate Rickie Fowler also be­moaned the con­duct of a small but vo­cif­er­ous mi­nor­ity of WKH SD\LQJ SXEOLF DW WKH :DVWH 0DQDJHPHQW 2SHQ

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