Is there not something oddly comforting about knowing what your golf ball is going to do?
So I was watching Tiger’s bunker shot at the WGC-Mexico Championship, like millions of other sad people, and thinking, why is everyone so impressed?
If you haven’t watched it:
You’ll notice, first of all, that he spends an inordinate amount of time deciding what to do, changes clubs, alters his stance, talks to his caddie, etc, etc. Having finally committed to the shot, he hits a high curving slice that lands on the green, hits a stop street and then heads abruptly right, like a Muralitharan off-break. Cue wild applause, beating of chests (among male spectators, at least) and a general lack of decorum.
Well, in my far-off youth, when my power(less) fade was a full-blown slice, I had that shot in my bag. And while Tiger needed a wedge, I could hit it with my driver; with every club in my bag, in fact. About the same distance as Tiger’s wedge, too. Indeed, I remember a round at Randpark where Robin Jackman announced I had just hit a 300m drive; ‘100m that way, and 200m that way’.
No doubt you’ll be defending Tiger, pointing out that the difference is he can play that shot and hole the putt, and hit the next drive 350m straight. All of which may be true, but that’s so far away from anything achievable by mere mortals as to be entirely irrelevant.
Is there not something oddly comforting knowing what your golf ball is going to do? If you happen to be a slicer (and I apologise for even mentioning this to the afflicted), all you have to do is aim left and wait for the spin to take effect. If you happen to be a hooker, aim right and do the same. Oh, and remember that Bobby Locke hooked every shot he ever played, including his putts, and he turned out all right.
Take comfort, too, from the number of greats who finished their strokes in odd positions. The commentary on Tiger’s bunker shot invokes Arnold Palmer’s famous helicopter follow-through, for instance, but I once played with a fellow whose swing speed gathered electricity from the atmosphere and shocked him after impact, whereupon he would recoil from the club almost as quickly as it descended.
Sometimes he would let go of it entirely. You had to keep your wits about you.
The opposite sensation ensued watching Gary Player’s let’s-go-for-a-walk follow-through. Player decided, sometime after his 70th birthday, that he had lost a little distance, worked out that he wasn’t getting through the ball properly, and concluded that when he cleared his hips it should be the beginning of a brief constitutional.
My own take on Player’s theory is that if you don’t hit it as far as you used to, you don’t get as tired walking after it.
Indeed, I have reached the point in my career where more energy is spent pulling the club out of the bag than in pursuing the dimpled projectile around the course. One day Tiger will come to his senses, mark my words.
– Capostagno is a monthly columnist for Compleat Golfer, where he represents the hackers. This column first appeared in the April issue of Compleat Golfer