An Essay on Golf Relativity

For those of you who cringe at the use of the word “essay” in the title — it never ceases to make my eyes glaze over, but then perhaps I’ve never been exposed to really good ones — I apologize for throwing a wet blanket over your expectations for this post. But I had to use it; the original working title was going to be, “The Theory of Relativity,” but I was afraid that I was going to disappoint the physicists among us when they found out it was just about golf.

This essay was an easy choice when faced with the fact that the Honda Classic was called for the day when the 24 players who did manage to begin the third round were chased to the clubhouse by torrential rains, lightning and winds that eventually got to 60 miles per hour. Although Padraig Harrington has done a good job of managing the previous days’ winds, even he would have been no match for these.

But it was of no consequence to him because he managed to finish the second round with a 4-under 66 and a 1-stroke lead at 7-under. Patrick Reed was one stroke back and Ian Poulter managed his patience and was one back of Reed. Too bad they didn’t even manage to get back on the course for the third round; what a great pairing. Oh, well, we’ll have it for Sunday’s third round. 

I have for four and a half years now been writing about the triumphs and travails of the best players in the world, primarily on the PGA Tour, but also the LPGA, occasionally the Champions Tour (my old Monday qualifying stomping grounds) and sometimes the European Tour. Oh, and the Finals to include the Tour Championship and Q-School; it’s now formally the PGA Tour feeder system. Attention must me paid!

But in all cases, my approach has always been empathetic and compassionate; I’ve been in their shoes. I have some sense of how crushing harsh criticism can be because my ego has always been afraid of it. Which is interesting because I never really received any of it. In fact, over my nine year adventure, I only had one guy tell me that I had no chance…and he was unequivocal. It turned out that he was right, but had I listened to him, the charmed life that I had lived until then would not have been crowned by the experience of a lifetime. As I have said many times, I would do it again in a heartbeat. And virtually everybody else I told the story to said that they admired me for even trying.

I always received that sort of kindness gratefully — it truly warmed my heart that others would offer such encouragement — but that wasn’t what I was going for. I was going for trying to prove to people that there was a way to achieve your dreams if you understood the principles of mastery, transformation and commitment; how do you master any skill, how do you transform yourself into whatever you want to become and how do you fuel the fires of your efforts with commitment?

When I write about the Tours’ players, it may read like some sort of adulation of their excellence and to some extent it is. Maybe more like admiration. And it may sometimes read like the X’s and O’s of golf, but it’s not really about that either. I only write about that for context.

What it’s really about is what it takes to deliver those extraordinary performances, reaching into the depths of our very humanity to get the best out of ourselves. Yes, standing in the bright light of all of our fears and insecurities and then leading ourselves to that calm state of mind that is more a reflection of our spiritual essence than it is our ego-dominated humanity. That’s why I have often said that golf is the only game truly worthy of us human beings.

As to their superior golf skills, it’s all scalable and relative, the inspiration for my title. Until we invest the time and effort that the best players in the world have, few will ever be as good as they are.

So when I write about four birdies in a row or a bounce-back birdie after a bogey one of these artisans makes, I am not writing in absolute terms about what might be possible for the rest of us. I am writing in relative terms. If you are an 18 handicap and getting a stroke a hole, if you make four birdies pars without a double bogey, that’s the relative equivalent of the 68 a Tour player shoots. Their golf skill set is just better than ours.

But what it took for you to shoot your 86 is the same humanity skill set tapping into that calm and peace that the best of them manage to achieve.

By learning to appreciate how the Tour players deal with their humanity, that is a skill set that we can match…because it is all about the essence of who we all are. It’s not about whether you can hit your drive 300 yards, it’s about being able to summon up the best in yourself to hit it on that same line, whether it’s 250 or 150 yards.

This is the reason that while I will write about what happened, I will never express disdain for a Tour player’s bad day because it’s not about his or her mechanics — they all have that down — it’s about their ability to tap into their very essence. And that effort is just too personal, spiritual even, to even begin to criticize. I point it out to cheer them on for even knowing that that’s where the gold lies and to press on…and so that we can see that it is something we are perfectly capable of accomplishing too.

Because golf is relative.

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