Un­der­cover Tour Pro

Quiet, please! That in­cludes play­ing part­ners

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - Contents 01/18 - WITH MAX ADLER

Quiet, please! That in­cludes play­ing part­ners.

In al­most a decade of hav­ing my tour card, I’ve re­ally had only one skir­mish with an­other pro. A no­to­ri­ously slow player once ac­cused me of tak­ing my clubs out of my bag early and dis­tract­ing him. I think this was just an ex­cuse for him to back off the ball. In the scor­ing trailer, he wouldn’t let it go and in­sin­u­ated that I’d tried to rat­tle him on pur­pose. The third mem­ber of our group, a de­vout Chris­tian, told this guy that if he ever acted like this again, he’d punch him in the face.

The slow­poke and I have since made up, though our next round was a bit chilly. When I con­fronted him about not want­ing to get dinged for slow play, I couldn’t help but ap­pre­ci­ate his re­sponse. He said, “Hey, I can af­ford to pay the fine.” A fair point be­cause he’s peren­ni­ally a higher fin­isher on the money list.

All in all, most play­ers are very re­spect­ful of one an­other. But be­cause the stakes are so high, it doesn’t take much for some­thing small to ig­nite into a full-blown sit­u­a­tion. For this rea­son, I pre­fer rounds where there isn’t much in­ter­ac­tion. I’ve played in groups when the other play­ers and I haven’t spo­ken a word to each other. Not a sin­gle word. As in, we ac­knowl­edge each other with a nod on the first tee, and then on the 18th green there’s a hand­shake with an ut­ter­ance of “good play­ing” or “thank you.” As long as no one gets into any weird rules sce­nar­ios that re­quire dis­cus­sion, we can just put our heads down and play.

When I’m paired with a good buddy, maybe a Ja­son Bohn or Ernie Els, of course we’ll cut up the whole round. I’m al­ways happy when I see I’m with a friend, but the truth is, I tend to play bet­ter when I’m paired with a guy with whom there’s clearly no need for small talk. Young-han Song knows I don’t speak Korean. Some kid out of col­lege knows we prob­a­bly don’t lis­ten to the same music. If I don’t make the first over­ture about the weather or who won the bas­ket­ball game last night, chances are the other guy won’t, ei­ther. He doesn’t want to feel the pres­sure to keep the chitchat go­ing once it starts. Most of us are in the same boat—just grind­ing.

In am­a­teur golf I was a lot looser. In col­lege it would’ve felt weird not to talk to my play­ing part­ners. But I’ve learned that I don’t want to chuckle at some dude’s joke, block one into the trees, and then won­der if I stepped into that shot any­thing less than fully fo­cused.

Of course, there are some guys who are to­tal chat­ter­boxes no mat­ter who’s around. When­ever I see Billy Horschel on the range, I go to the op­po­site end. I like Billy, and I think he’s a re­ally good per­son, but he en­joys be­ing the cen­ter of at­ten­tion. He wears those dumb-ass pants and is usu­ally the first guy to talk to the me­dia. Wher­ever he goes, it’s the Billy cir­cus. I don’t have that per­son­al­ity.

Which isn’t to say I’m an­ti­so­cial. The other week in a com­pet­i­tive round, I had a long talk with a fel­low pro about his new baby. That was a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion. If a player has an in­ter­est­ing and con­sid­ered view on a cur­rent event, I’m all ears. But if you’re go­ing to tell me about the car you just bought or where you went on va­ca­tion, save it. I’ll gladly lis­ten to your sto­ries over a few beers, but not whileI’mwork­ing.

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