Horses for courses theory just another challenge to be overcome
Competitive edge is what inspires top golfers even if the course isn’t to their particular liking
Graeme McDowell watches his shot from a bunker on the third green during a practice round for The Players championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: John Rouxa/PA
I saw that look in my fellow traveller’s eye last Monday when I told him my final destination was Jacksonville, Florida. Or more specifically the TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach just south of the main city in north east Florida.
He was going somewhere more mundane in north east England that promised similar grey-covered skies to home and below normal temperatures for May. The opposite of the image that Ponte Vedra Beach conjured up for him, one of soft sands, blue skies and muscle loosening warmth. How exotic he suggested, obviously a golfer.
Of course he was right and it would have been wrong of me to crack his rose-tinted glasses and point out the reality of a long transatlantic trip, connecting to yet another golf tournament.
The bottom line with professional golf is that although your destination may well sound and actually be an alluring location the enjoyment of your stay tends to be based on your performance. I suppose the art of longevity in the globe- trotting world of the golfer is to try to enjoy where you are despite what happens on the golf course.
But the chances are after a couple of decades on tour there are only two places you really want to be; home and away only if playing good golf. With the standard of courses on the PGA Tour today, you are normally guaranteed pristine playing surfaces.
Tees, fairways and greens are manicured and primed for the tour event and unless there has been extreme weather the chances are the course will be in perfect condition. Uncharacteristically this week, the Sawgrass greens are showing the signs of having endured a tough winter. It tends to be the inspiration of competition that gets these golfers going and not specifically the golf course.
Golf is played by memory as much as it is with a honed swing and a flexible golfing brain. The return to a certain course may invoke good, bad or mixed memories of previous experiences. With the seasoned professional there is the dilemma of choosing to play on a course that has in the past not yielded too much success. That can spur the head-strong player to embrace the challenge of attempting to break the bad-record cycle. When discussing the schedule, a frequent topic amongst the golfers’ teams of coaches, managers, caddies, psychologists and physical trainers is often the argument of ‘maybe its time to stop banging your head against the fairways of a course that has not seemed to have fit your eye in the past and take a break’.
But the one thing that motivates sportspeople is a challenge, so the mere suggestion of what may be perceived as giving in instead of an energy-saving sense, is enough to warrant another go at a course that has been historically difficult to deal with. Who can criticise another attempt to erase bad memories and try to play the course with a rare talent uninhibited by bad memories?