First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 24th July 2008
As he grows older Fergus is learning to face up to a few things about his life. Sporting ineptitude is not one of them.
After watching professional sport I always convince myself I have the ability to match the performance of the participants.
Every year after the London Marathon I make big noises about how, if I put in a little training, I could run it in under three hours. After Jessie (wife) has told me to stop being so stupid/arrogant for a few hours, I decide to prove it to myself so don my running gear, do a couple of stretches and head out. I’ll set off at a strong pace and, for about half a mile, feel like John Ngugi en-route to his fifth World Cross Country Championships title. But pretty soon the lactic acid starts to build and my chest tightens. After another few hundred yards I’m forced to stop for a little walk and I feel more like John Daly en-route to Taco Bells.
I own a couple of ski films that I watch repeatedly before our annual pilgrimage to the Alps. By the time I get to the slopes I’ve no doubt I’ll be able to pop a bio 9 off a 50-foot table and generally “shred some rad.” A couple of days into the holiday I remember I can barely shred a red and the only thing I’ve ever popped was my shoulder slightly out of it’s socket attempting a very small jump a couple of seasons back.
Unsurprisingly, I have the same deluded mindset when it comes to golf.
I spent last week watching the World’s best golfers fighting the wind and rain at Royal Birkdale, displaying some fantastic shot-making and tremendous creativity. At one point, from 125 yards into the teeth of the wind, Greg Norman hit a five-iron that checked on its second bounce. It was impressive stuff.
I came back from Southport in time to play the Medal last Saturday and stood on the first tee imagining I was Greg Norman. If he could shoot level par around an incredibly testing golf course in extremely tough conditions then just imagine what I could do to a relatively easy golf course in relatively benign conditions. I was going to destroy it.
After going out in five over I was forced to shift the goal posts slightly. My new objective was to make the buffer zone. Oh how the mighty had fallen. I played a fairly gritty back nine of two under but, unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough. CSS was 68 so my 72 (nett 70) missed buffer by a single shot. It was the third Medal round in a row I’d suffered that fate. I wasn’t best pleased in the post-round press conference.
Standing on the 18th tee in yesterday’s mid-week Stableford I did some quick maths and realised I needed par for another 72 which would, almost certainly, mean missing buffer by one shot for a fourth consecutive round. Surely not? I simply wasn’t going to take it.
I knuckled down and hit a solid drive up the right side of the fairway. I left myself a short pitch in and, mid-way through its flight, I thought it might end up close. But it fell short and I was left with a 20-foot uphill putt for birdie and 71.
Scraping the very bottom of the Bisset grit reserves, I settled over it. I ignored a couple noisily pulling their trolleys past the back of the green (Padraig doesn’t have to put up with that sort of thing) took the putter back and sent the ball holeward. With it’s dying roll it toppled into the cup triggering a rather inappropriate celebration involving multiple fist-pumps and a couple of loud shouts of “Come On!”
It’s ridiculous isn’t it? I was that excited just because I’d managed to stop my handicap going up. I could have achieved the same result sitting at home in the bath or by taking a trip to B&Q. Golfing success can be enjoyed at many different levels.