When bad things hap­pen to good golfers

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By Tony Akhigbe

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”.

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