My golf game has been in intensive care for the past week or so but I’m not the only one. Somewhere in America, Tiger Woods is also doing some urgent remedial work on his game after his devastating 44 on the front nine at Muirfield Village last Friday.
It was his worse ever nine-hole score and, not surprisingly, he finished way down the field but there were some strange statistics from his performance in the Memorial tournament.
There was nothing wrong with his driving — he hit 46 fairways out of 56 — and he made 15 birdies. But his short game was crap and his putting was abysmal.
If you think it is unbecoming for a hacker to dwell on the misfortunes of the mighty you haven’t grasped golf’s fundamental truth that we’ve all got problems — it’s just their severity that’s different.
The reason Tiger is so hard at work at his chipping and putting is that the US Open takes place next week at Merion, near Philadelphia, and it is not a place to take any weaknesses.
At 6,800 yards it is much shorter than your normal major venue but they compensate for the lack of yardage with rough so penal you can be a yard from the fairway and not see your ball.
For all his miseries at the Memorial, Tiger is still the 5-1 favourite although I might go for someone who hits straight and sure at a higher price like Graeme McDowell or Steve Stricker
.But enough of Tiger and those, my problems are that I’ve got the June medal coming up this weekend and my game has been so inconsistent my prospects of breaking 100 for the first time in more than ten years are not bright.
I really do feel that my golf of late has been showing an improvement and that I am on the edge of a breakthrough. But I’ve been on that edge so often my toes are permanently curled.
My trouble is that I can play well over a batch of holes and then, without warning, find myself entering double, treble, quadruple and quintuple bogey-land.
Concentration is obviously a problem but how can you concentrate when you are playing so badly?
One particular fault was to keep pulling the ball particularly on approach shots which tended to end up in a greenside bunker.
John Hastings, the long-suffering pro I go to for instruction, put this right by getting me to guide the clubhead slightly to the right as it goes through the ball and finish with my hands held high.
He says that high-handicappers tend to concentrate all their attention on the ball whereas they should be thinking more about their follow through. So you proceed from the top of your backswing to the finishing position with your hands held high and your chest towards the target and hittng becomes just part of that movement.
This is not an easy concept for a septuagenarian lunger to grasp but I am working on it. Last week I decided to devote myself to practice for ten days and give the course a rest.
Unfortunately, I don’t care to practice much at the club. The sight of me walking to the range carrying a few clubs and a tube of balls is enough to cause hysteria among other club members and while I can banter with the best of them it is a little off-putting.
Instead, I go to the driving range at a local club, St Andrews Major — no connection with the other St Andrews — where John Hastings conducts his lessons.
Most golf pros don’t like to see me appear if I haven’t made an appointment. They think I’ve come for my money back after the failure of the last lesson to have any affect. (Actually, to my everlasting shame, one pro did give me my money back after a chipping lesson which finished with me chipping worse than when I started.)
But I merely collected my bucket of balls and started hammering the hell out of them. To my horror I seemed to shanking. Each bay has four feet high side-walls made of padded plastic which gives a horrible thwacking sound when the ball flies into them which it did on at least ten occasions.
Golfers in adjoining bays were getting worried but I did manage to get myself back into the groove and I booked a lesson on my way out.
John explained that I wasn’t shanking but bringing the club down so far to the left I was catching the ball with the toe of the club.
He then introduced me to the real culprit — my right arm which was taking control of the club during the downswing. If that occurs, all manner of mischief can happen to your club face on impact.
The left arm should be in control of taking the club back and bringing it through the ball. If the back of your left hand is facing the target as you come through the ball then you are likely to be straight.
Mind you, the right arm doesn’t like playing a minor role in all this. It is forever fighting to take over but with enough practice I hope to subdue its urge for mastery.
There are a couple more days yet before I walk onto the first tee for my latest assault on that magic 100 mark. It is somehow a comfort to know that on the other side of the Atlantic Tiger is facing a challenge of incomparable size. Then again, he’s got more going for him.