Ever run to the first tee and wish that you had just another ten minutes on the range? Ever get to the first green and wish you’d hit more than just six putts? Ever enter a weekend tournament at the club and wish that you’d managed to get a little short game practice in the weekend before?
Ever fly to the week’s tournament and regret that you didn’t take the time to have your coach take that last look? Ever win a tournament and have the whole front end of the next week taken up by congratulations and media demands?
And did you ever come from obscurity to win the U.S. Open and suddenly get catapulted into the limelight, your days filled with media requests and late night television appearances. And then found your fresh new face suddenly, oh, so, appealing to all the equipment manufacturers, private jet companies, banks and your native country? And then, after taking the money, finding yourself traveling the country to shoot commercials and make appearances for your new partners?
If your name is Graeme McDowell, all of that’s happened to you and more.
What people may not appreciate about professional golf is that in your anonymity, you can pretty much control your life, the pace of your life. But when you become famous and laden with sponsor responsibilities you lose that control.
When you’re anonymous, you can go to meals in restaurants with no risk of being interrupted by autograph seekers and well-wishers, let alone recognized. When you have no sponsor responsibilities, you can hit balls all day Tuesday and maybe play nine holes and leave the course feeling settled about your preparation. On Wednesday, you can show up for the pro-am and play your round as a sort of mock tournament round where you settle in to the pace and flow of your pre-round preparation, see how you feel in a competitive situation even if it’s only an unimportant throwaway round. And after you’ve finished the pro-am, no one will be standing between you and the range or the short game area or the practice putting green. Your time is all your own.
The other thing people don’t appreciate about professional golf is just how delicate your game can be, how robust it can feel and how quickly it can go. So when you are inside of that robust bubble, everything feels unrushed and right. But when the bubble bursts, you feel unready and overwhelmed with trying to figure out what you need to do to put things back in order.
So when you become famous and obligated and in need of time for your game, the time isn’t there. And so you arrive in town, on the range, on the first tee feeling unprepared. And you end up feeling…well, let him tell you in his own words. Here’s McDowell’s tweet yesterday morning pointing to a blog post about the state of his game:
Decent summation as to where my head is
He provides a link to this post by Brian Keogh at the Irish Golf Desk, the same blog, you may recall, that detailed Padraig Harrington’s off-season swing changes.
Let him describe what’s going on at a high level in his own words. Just keep in mind all of this other stuff that’s underneath what he’s saying.
The lesson for us, of course, is that good golf is predicated on feeling prepared and feeling ready. So anything you can do ahead of time to foster and nurture those two things is time well spent.
McDowell understands that now. He shot 68, 69 in the first two rounds at Harbour Town to reach 5-under, five strokes back of the leader, Luke Donald. Now that he appears to be up and running again, it will be interesting to see what the weekend brings.