How To Handle Yourself When Things Go Wrong

There are a lot of things going wrong in the world of golf this week.

The PGA Tour had a three and a half hour weather delay on Friday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, so play was suspended by darkness with 54 players still stranded on the course. Some of them have eight holes to play Saturday morning. The leader in the clubhouse is Canadian, Graham Delaet, at 9-under (64, 67)

The LPGA Tour has the strangest weather situation in the Tour’s history. They are at their brand spanking new tournament in the Bahamas, the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. What could go wrong? I’ll tell you what could wrong; this is almost unbelievable. 

Severe thunderstorms dropped more than a foot of rain on the Ocean Club over an eight hour span on Tuesday. Due to the water remaining on the course, the only way to get any golf in was for all players to tee off on the 10th hole during Friday’s first round and play a redeveloped routing of 12 holes as follows: 10-6-7-4-5-11-12-13-14-2-3-8.

They have numerous pumps going trying to get the lakes off the underwater holes and will try to get more holes playable, but in any event, they will at least play 12 holes a day. That would be a total of 36 holes and make it an official event where golf gets played, everybody gets paid and the sponsor gets their bang for the buck. A very creative decision. As I’ve said before, Commissioner Mike Whan is a genius.

Meanwhile, with many players yet to even start their first round, the two leaders, Heather Bowie Young and Silvia Cavalleri, blithely traipsed through the invented maze and are in the clubhouse at 6-under 39. That will make for quizzical reading 20 years from now.

And the European Tour, playing their BMW PGA Championship at the Wentworth Club outside of London, had their weather problems too. Sergio Garcia who is 1-under after 36 holes and T21, paints a dismal picture:

It’s quite tough.  It’s very, very cold.  It’s quite windy.  Obviously with the rain it doesn’t help.  So the ball is just going nowhere.  You have to be very patient.  Obviously making a lot of pars is always a good thing, and we managed to do that today.

It was too much for a Who’s Who Gallery of great players who not only missed the 2-over par cut, but missed it badly: Rory McIlroy, +5; Graeme McDowell, +5; Luke Donald, +6; and Ian Poulter, +8.

When this sort of thing happens on the PGA Tour, the player is quietly allowed to forgo the post-disaster interviews and we are left to wonder what happened, how they’re taking it and how they are going to handle it? It’s too bad because in the mastery process, there’s as much to learn in defeat as there is in victory and God knows these great players have a lot to contribute to us.

I don’t know whether the European Tour has a different policy or if it was just that these stars were too big not to have a word with the media on their way “down the road.” But our good fortune is that there are transcripts with interesting quotes from all four of them. And the fascinating thing is that aside from the weather, as good as they are, none of them seemed to know what happened to them.

We begin with the ever-affable, ever-quotable Rory McIlroy:

For me, yeah, it just was a grind and I didn’t play particularly well today.  You know, I was missing a lot of greens and couldn’t really give myself many chances to make any shots back and obviously try to get into the weekend.

He had seemed pretty confident coming into the tournament. Was it just the weather then?

A little bit, definitely looking forward to getting back into some golf where I’m not playing in four layers.  It’s the same for everyone out there, and that’s not really an excuse.  I just didn’t play well.  When I sort of play in these conditions, I sort of try and do too much with the ball sometimes and sort of — instead of trying to imagine that I’m playing it like it’s flat calm. And if I try and do too much with it, I start to hit some bad shots and those bad shots obviously cost me.

For 12 holes or 13 holes yesterday, I played really, really well and it’s just when the weather started to turn a little bit, I didn’t hang in there and play so well. But looking forward to the next few weeks, some really big tournaments coming up [next week’s Memorial and in three weeks, the U.S. Open], and I’ll get some good practice in between now and next Thursday.

Graeme McDowell had a similar experience:

This is a difficult golf course.  Played long.  Greens were tough to putt after a harsh winter here.  Not a happy hunting ground as I’ve talked about, and today was extremely difficult conditions.  That’s probably one of the more brutal rounds of golf conditions-wise that I’ve played in a few years, really, and it was tough.  Two birdies in two days, just about kind of sums it up.

I played some okay golf but just struggled to get it going around this golf course historically and this week was no different unfortunately.

Same old story around here unfortunately for me.  It is what it is and we’ll be back.  Just need to try to see if they can get this tournament played in June or July or something.  I need this golf course with a little fire in it, a little heat.  It’s a long old slog for me out there not being able to move it a lot far off the tee when it’s this cold and wet.  We’ll be back, though.

And, given that his fiance had flown in that morning, lasted six holes before the weather drove her back to the hotel, there was some uncertainty about what to do with the two free days he had:

I was supposed to be in Portrush [Northern Ireland] Monday.  I might still nip back home [to Portrush] for a couple of days and then head state side and get my game ready for the U.S. Open.

But then his enthusiasm picked up when he started focusing on the future:

I’m in Merion the Wednesday before the [U.S. Open].  A couple of corporate commitments in New York Monday and Tuesday the week before, and then Merion Wednesday and then back to Orlando to prepare and back up [to Merion] again, week off, then Irish Open, French Open, week off, [British] Open.

So, excited about the next four or five weeks.  It’s been a great three weeks.  You know, I’ll take missed the cut, win [the Volvo World Match Play], missed the cut any day of the week, as far as a run of three events.

Luke Donald talked about how the weather affected his game as the other guys did, but then he focused on the results…and then immediately on attitude…and then remedies:

[The] bottom line is I didn’t play very well, 9‑over through 21 holes is pretty terrible golf really.

I don’t think it’s a million miles away though.  Sometimes these things are a lot closer than you think.  Got some good time coming up with my coach back home and we’ll work on it and get ready for next week [the Memorial] and the U.S. Open.

He was asked what he thought the main problems were?

It was a bit of everything the last two days really.  You know, when I missed fairways, I missed the green, I wasn’t getting up‑and‑down.  It was just problems are kind of compounding.  Not one part of my game is really firing at the moment.  Because of that, you’re going to struggle.

Does it polarize his frustration when he comes into the tournament having won it the two previous years? Some, perhaps, but here too he was looking forward at remedies:

Yes and no.  I do think this is a bit of a different animal the last — today and yesterday, than the last couple years.

But certainly as I say, I don’t think I’m too far away.  You know, made five birdies today.  So it’s not like it’s a million miles away.  It’s doing the things that Luke Donald usually does well; be tidy around the green, make those putts when I need to.  I’ve got to start there and work my way back.

So is it just about patience now?

I think so.  You know, again, sometimes it’s just a little something small from my coach that will get me on track.

So again, I’m not too worried.  Never nice; disappointing to miss a cut, especially here at Wentworth, a place I’ve played well.  But you know, I’ll be back.  I think failure is a much bigger motivator for me than successes.

And then, “A day in the life of a traveling tour pro” moment when the media asked him about his travel plans back to the states.

Well, I’m traveling with my family.  Right now we are planning on going back Monday but if I can go a little bit earlier, I will.  Finding five seats together is sometimes tough but we’ll give it our best shot.

Ian Poulter was actually in a jovial mood, particularly as he looked to the future:

Joking aside, I’m fine.  It’s all good.  Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be just fine.  I’ll be posting some good scores again very shortly.  Got a week off next week, and then I’ll play Memphis, get some nice, warm weather.  I’ll play Memphis, I’ll play Connecticut and week off, French Open, week off, [British] Open, week off, Akron, US PGA.

But is he getting to like playing Wentworth anymore? You can just imagine Poulter’s bug-eyes bulging further out as he said:

You come out with all the wonderful questions, don’t you, when I’ve just had an absolute nightmare.  You’re asking me whether I’m getting to like this place any more, and I’ve just been out in freezing cold, pissing down the rain and had a mare (laughing).

There’s nothing wrong with this golf course.  Never has been.

He too was asked to look at the weaknesses in his game at the moment:

The weaknesses, well, I hit 13 of 14 fairways yesterday.  I missed ten greens in regulation.  So I’m obviously not hitting as many greens as I would like.  Therefore, that’s putting some pressure on my short game, and I’m not getting up-and-down as much as I would like.

But the fact is, I shouldn’t miss — I shouldn’t miss ten greens in regulation yesterday from hitting 13 of 14 fairways.

He had played very well at the Accenture Match Play in February finishing 4th, and was very excited about swing changes he made that he had hoped would go forward. So what happened?

No idea.  No idea.  The fire’s not there right now.  So obviously, you know, I’ve got to re‑engage or throw some wood in the oven and see what happens I guess, see if we can get it to ignite again.

But obviously playing like this is no fun.  There’s nothing to, there’s no panic for me.  All is good.  But, I do need to find the fire and get out there and play.  I need to find out what’s going to kick start that, which it will.

Playing like that really pisses you off, so I need to get a grip — and the funny thing is, I can’t work any harder, which is the funny thing.  You take six weeks off, you work really hard; you put new equipment in your bag and you work even harder, and you work hard on your fitness and that’s what happened.  So do you go, ‘Right, sod it all?’  No, just keep going full steam ahead.  So I’m going to keep doing the same things, play through, I’ll be fine.

The future. All of them looking to the future. Like relief pitchers in major league baseball, the best have no memories.

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