For those of you following the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, you know that Englishman, Danny Willet and long-driving Gary Woodland will be facing off in one of the semi-final matches and Jim Furyk will have the winner of the Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey match. That match was called on account of darkness and will resume at 6:45 AM Sunday morning with the Golf Channel swearing they’ll be there.
So one possible topic for tonight might have been the harsh reality of that early call. You don’t just show up at 6:45 and start golfing your ball. When I was playing, my lead time was three hours to get up, clean up, get dressed, drive to the closet 24-hour Denny’s for breakfast, drive to the course, hump the bag to the cart barn to see if you beat your fellow-competitors to one of them, head to the putting green to get the stroke and speed of the greens going, the short game area — if there was one — to get those feels going and finally the range to really wake the body up and see which way the balls were flying.
My goal was to be arriving at the first tee as the group in front of ours was departing and not before. If I was in the first group, I would be there ten minutes ahead of time to get the pin sheet, make any notes and fold it properly and swap scorecards with each other (you don’t keep your own scorecard, your fellow-competitor does; there is a tear-off strip on his for you to note your own score to compare and correct his official recording).
But those two paragraphs would have been it on the consequences and timing of early tee times. Pretty short post.
There was one other that flitted through my mind that escapes me at the moment, but just as well because the one that I couldn’t get off my mind was this unfortunate rules imbroglio between Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez and the official trying to assist Bradley.
I thought Jimenez was ignorantly way out of line, but a video discussion with Director of Officials, Mark Russell, indicated that Jimenez was confused but within his rights to engage in a conversation with the official handling the matter.
We out here in television land came upon the scene after Bradley had been granted relief from a Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO), in this case, a grand stand. It was complicated because they first had to take relief from the TIO which left Bradley on a contiguous cart path.
Russel said that in the initial drop, which we did not see, the ball rolled back into the interference by the TIO and Bradley was given another drop which came to rest on the cart path and clear of the TIO. Russell further said that Jimenez was confused because he thought that the second drop had been granted by the on-site official because the ball had rolled more than two club lengths when it hadn’t. He apparently didn’t realize that it had been granted because the ball still wasn’t clear of the TIO. That’s what Russell said.
What I heard, with Bradley standing next to his ball on the cart path — I assumed pensively deciding if he was going to now play the ball off the cart path — was Jimenez adamantly pointing out that Bradley’s ball was still on the cart path from which he had taken relief. He kept saying, “It’s still on the path! It’s still on the path!” But he hadn’t taken relief from the cart path, he had taken relief from the TIO.
Finally there was a little too much adamance in Jimenez’ protestations and, annoyed, Bradley told him to return to his own ball, he and the official had the situation under control. But Jimenez pressed on which led to the two of them — and Bradley’s caddie — going toe-to-toe and face-to-face over Jimenez’ intrusion into the matter.
Absent the on-site official, and even when one is present, it is absolutely within the rights of Jimenez to call into question the means and results of a fellow-competitor taking relief. It comes under the broad rubric of “protecting the field” as well as his own stake in whether a player is willfully or ignorantly being too liberal with relief under a particular rule; the ignorance of the rules even at the highest levels is no surprise if you’ve been out there for any length of time. But there was no ignorance, there was an on-site official.
It would have been perfectly acceptable for Jimenez to question the official’s ruling or judgement for the purpose of clarification, but the official is the final arbiter of the situation with the option to radio senior officials to ensure the ruling is correct. It happens all the time.
But it is all done politely and without obstreperous insistence, if it’s done at all. And that’s what Bradley finally became angry about; Jimenez’ hovering under the circumstances was an implied assault on Bradley’s integrity, particularly when Bradley knew that Jimenez was wrong on the facts. It is easy to go from annoyed to white hot in that situation, particularly since almost all the players reverently refer to golf as a “gentleman’s game.”
After tempers receded, Bradley did proceed to take relief from the cart path as well and went on to make a par 5. Jimenez went on to make birdie and closed out Bradley 2UP. With a 1UP lead, only one guy knows if Jimenez’ disturbance was just a little insurance policy gamesmanship, but his earnest defense of his intentions persisted after the match and into the locker room where Russell attempted to straighten things out.
The lesson in all of this? We will always have anger-inducing circumstances pop up without warning in our lives. They will come from such unexpected places. Bradley never would have thought that another player would impeach his integrity so persistently. These circumstances will jerk us out of the moment and cause us to spontaneously rationalize and vindicate our angry response. It feels good to be angry.
But the truth is that it jerks us out of the present and distracts us from the task at hand. And it causes a prolonged dislocation from our source which requires some minutes we may not have to get reconnected and settled.
So as in any exercise in mastery, the key is to be able to recognize these angry trip wires as we see them coming, “Oh, here comes another one of those.” And in that moment of awareness to ask ourselves if reacting in anger has any sort of payoff comparable to the peace we enjoy in that higher state of consciousness we are always striving for.
Because with practice, that higher state of consciousness feels much better. And when we feel better…well, you know.