When bad things happen to good golfers
May be you don’t know it but the game of golf is intriguing because no matter how badly you play, there are times when your performance matches that of a great golfer.
This doesn’t really mean you eagled the dogleg par five, or knocked in a fifty-foot birdie putt, or holed out from a greenside bunker. It means that every once in a while, the par-birdie-par pro looks exactly like you. Golfing disasters happen to the best of golf professionals.
Tiger Woods suffered two triple bogeys and a quadruple bogey at the 1997 British Open. Scott Hoch missed a thirty-inch putt that would have won the 1989 Masters. Ray Floyd rinsed a sleeve of golf balls on the finishing holes to blow the 1994 PGA Senior Championship. Hale Irwin whiffed a tap-in and lost the 1983 British Open by one stroke.
This is what this new feature will be all about. From time to time, this column shall be chronicling outrageous misadventures endured by the greatest golfers in the world. These accounts are not meant to poke fun at the stars. Rather, they will be presented to ease the selfconsciousness of the amateurs, so they could take heart that the pros feel their pain. Though the game of golf humbles and humiliates us, it humbles and humiliates the biggest names in golf, too. What separates amateurs from the pros is that the pros know how to deal with disasters and they learn from it.
The truth is not all pros are eager to discuss their disasters. When Brad Faxon, winner of four PGA events was asked to recall his worst hole, he threw up his hands and declared: “You want to talk about what? No way. No way. I do a real good job of forgetting that stuff, and I don’t need to be reminding myself of the disasters. I’ve had them, but I won’t talk about them”.
Justin Leonard, 1997 British Open champion, says he puts memories of his bad shots in the bag with his club and urges golfers to do the same thing. “In golf the next shot could always be the best shot you’ve ever hit. Just forget about those bad holes or they’ll eat you alive. Forget them”.
But Arnold Palmer can’t. Not when his worst hole has been commemorated with a bronze plaque for all the world to see. You’ll find such a marker at the 508-yard par five ninth hole at Rancho Park Golf Club in Los Angeles where Palmer once took an atrocious seven-over twelve. “That one I’ll never forget,” says Palmer with a laugh. “That doggone plaque will be there long after I’m gone”.
Days after Ernie Els won the 1997 U.S Open, he told Chris Rodell that failure is the nature of golf. “It seems like this game gives you more downs than ups”, said Els. “I’m in my fourth year as a professional and I have played in probably 60 tournaments, yet I won five times. Just five. That’s not very good, even though I’m considered one of the better players. Golf is a tough game, and it’s going to make losers out of all of us. If you hit a bad shot, you can’t let it rattle you. Don’t second-guess the last shot-the one that hurt you. You are going to hit some bad shots, so accept it and think good things about the next shot. That’s the only way to get over the bad shots we are all going to have”.