To Er(nie) is Human
By Peter Corrigan
Whenever a superstar suffers a catastrophic problem with his game it is entirely forgivable for us hackers to at least have a sly smirk if not fall about in merriment. After all, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t experience some delight in seeing our blunderings displayed on the biggest stage.
Not that we don’t know our place but there is an occasional consolation for us pitiful plodders. Not by us playing like them – but with one of them playing like us.
And to find no less a giant than Ernie Els in our midst has been a shock. Happily there are signs he is emerging from his putting hell.
He is not the first top player to suffer the ‘yips’ but few would have suffered them so publicly as Ernie. His horrible miss from a foot or so at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships at Carnoustie in October went viral on the internet.
An unkind American golf commentator called it ‘the worst putt of all time’ and the millions who saw it on YouTube would not have disagreed. Even Ernie described it as the most perfect yip stroke ever seen.
‘In the game of golf,’ he added,’you do some silly things.’
He doesn’t know how welcome those words were to someone whose every round is crammed with silly things.
Furthermore, whenever we miss a short putt we can take great comfort in saying: ‘It wasn’t as bad as Ernie’s.’
Obviously, there would be some problems with the outlawing of the long putter. But we didn’t expect to see him go from belly-putter to bloody-awful-putter in rapid time.
It has been a painful experience and especially so at the Hyundai Tournament of Cahmpions in Hawaii when he struggled to hole straightforward putts. He had one big consolation, however, when Jordan Spieth won the tournament with a score of 30-under. The wonderkid was one short of the total Ernie set when he won the same event in 2003.
On the way to missing the cut in the South Africa Open in January he had further miseries. But he showed all the signs of a recovery in the Joburg Open the following week.
And if the improvement continues we duffers can gain a lot by watching him. Seeing a player perform flawlessly week after week gains our admiration but when a hero overcomes an adversity with which we are familiar it gives us something more important – hope that we can do the same.
Tiger Woods had a similar opportunity a year ago when he was attacked by the chipping yips which are perhaps even more pernicious than the putting variety and to which I am particularly vulnerable.
Again, watching him cock up those chips brought a certain satisfaction and we all waited to watch how he found a cure. We desperately want him to slay the devils that slay us but we are still waiting.
We who dwell in the depths of golfing despond welcome famous visitors but we don’t want them staying too long.