Saturday, July 16, 2011

Macho Golf

It is Saturday morning, July 16, and I am enjoying slowly waking up on my day off with a cuppa coffee and, for four days out of the year, the British Open on TV.

Due to the five-hour time difference, it is mid-afternoon there which for a golfer like me makes for delightful early morning viewing of relevant golf. By relevant I mean not Golf Channel pre-game chuckleheads waxing on about whether Sergio can overcome his yips but actually watching Sergio on the fifth green…where he just yipped a putt.

This year they are playing at Royal St. George’s on Britain’s southeast coast where my fellow Kent State alum Ben Curtis stunned the golfing world with his Open win in 2003. Yesterday it was sunny, 80 degrees. Players in short sleeves. Today the heavens have opened up and it is raining sideways with wind gusts up to 40 miles an hour.

Play suspended? Nope. Play on, gentlemen.

There are many differences between golf on this side of the pond and the brand played over where the game was invented. For example, what the Brits consider a beautiful golf course comes across our television screens as something from the far side of the moon. No trees, no discernable target lines…just a flat horizon. The only water hazard is the English Channel. The bunkers are more like bomb craters. Over here, we revere courses that have been primped and preened like a self-absorbed diva, where every blade of grass stands at attention. Over there, the condition of the course refers to whether the wind is coming out of the east or west and how much the flagstick is bending.

Over here, if you’re 140 yards from the hole it’s a stock 8-iron. Every time. Over there, it’s anything from a 3-iron to a putter. Over here, it’s an air game. There, it’s a ground game – a matter of judging which way the ball is going to carom. Apparently perfect shots end up in waist-high gorse. Butt-ugly shoulder-high semi-shanks can end up ten feet from the hole. It’s pinball-machine golf, and many Americans hate it.

I love it.

And the reason is, it taps into the side of the brain rarely used over here. The creative side. Over here it’s give me a yardage & the club that I hit that distance, period. Over there, there is far more sensory input needed to arrive at a decision. It’s thinking-man’s golf. Here, it’s grip ‘n rip. There, it’s aim at the church steeple in the distance that’s 45 degrees left of the fairway.

And the other main difference in the games on either side of the pond is the conditions they play in. As I mentioned, it is presently raining hard there, and I can assure you that play will not be suspended. To be fair, the main reason is they rarely have lightning over there, but I have seen play suspended over the threat of rain over here. In other words, play will be stopped before it even starts raining. No such softness over there.

Play on, gentlemen.

It bears noting that no American golfer has won a Major over the last year and a half. The last two U.S. Open champs have come from Northern Ireland. A South African won The Masters this year. Now, part of this is due to Tiger Woods being on the shelf, but I think there is something else going on. American golfers have turned into wussies. Case in point, I am watching Bubba Watson half-heartedly hitting shots out there with a ‘WTF am I doing here’ look on his face while Rory McIlroy has a determined, champion’s mien to him.

Hey Bubba, it’s raining on everyone out there.

Jack Nicklaus used to say that whenever he played a tournament and he heard someone complain about weather or conditions, he would mentally disqualify that person from winning. He reasoned that those players have already lost because they already made excuses. Winners don’t complain. Winners don’t make excuses. They accept, and then they excel. And the British Open is a textbook example of this mindset, which would explain why Jack’s name is on the Claret Jug...three times.

Play on, gentlemen.

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