Tiger learns

In the depths of his despair at the US Masters last weekend, Tiger Woods uttered the words: ‘What’s frustrating is I know what to do and I just don’t do it.’ Thus did he ally himself to millions of hackers, echoing sentiments they express with distressingly regularity.
And if you think we get any pleasure from hearing the greatest repeat the same whinge you’re absolutely right. Not that it’s pleasurable to see anyone in that state but a certain surge of contentment is bound to rise in a hacker’s breast to know that even the immortals occasionally tread the same path of pain as we do.
We’ll never know what it is like to be one of them, to score an albatross on a long par five like Louis Oosthuizen for instance, but it is good to know that they sometimes know what it is like to be one of us.
Basically, we all know what to do — God knows we’ve been told often enough — but how to do it with any consistency remains a mystery.
At least, I managed to chase that elusive target to some fancy places in the past week or so. Our annual pilgrimage to St Andrews was another great success last week. I’ve been leading a party from The Glamorganshire to the home of golf since 1999 when the St Andrews Links first began their inspired winter golf offer.
Between November and April many thousands have taken advantage of staying three nights and playing three games, including one on the Old Course. They’ve not managed to preserve the original bargain prices but it is still good value and what started as a party of six has now grown to 16 with a waiting list.
Our visit this year coincided with the end of the St Andrews Golf Festival which was a brilliant series of exhibitions and events commemorating golf through the centuries in its birthplace.
And I made history by finishing in my highest ever position — 13th. Admittedly, we had lost one of our number at a late stage. Mike’s wife had a knee operation a few days earlier and he nobly decided he couldn’t leave her to fend for herself.
But that still meant I finished last but two. After many years of winning the booby prize of two chocolate golf balls, I am making progress and so close was the scoring I was only four points away from 7th place.
What pleased me most of all was that I scored 28 points on the Old. Had I not completely cocked up the 18th, I would have reached 30. Nevertheless, it was seventh best score of the day and only six points off the winner’s total.
Thanks to Flybe cancelling the plane we were due to catch on the outward journey we didn’t reach St Andrews until mid-afternoon but were accommodated for nine holes or so on the New. Three of us, however, decided instead to explore the town and right lively it was too.
The following day we played the Castle Course, the new addition to the Links collection which won several international awards when it was opened four years ago. Perched on a hill to the east of the town, it has a classic links layout with spectacular views of the town and across the North sea towards Carnoustie.
It was breezy but sunny and clear and there was no excuse for our scores. The greens defeated us. They were in great condition but vast and full of humps, hollows that made reading them very difficult. I did sink a 50 footer from off the green but generally struggled to 18 points. There were two who had only 16, including my regular Royal Porthcawl partner John Dodd who has been playing brilliantly lately and couldn’t believe how difficult he found it.
But we did enjoy the clubhouse, the practice facilities and the friendliest staff you could encounter anywhere in golf.
It was quite a golfing contrast to move from St Andrews’ newest course to its oldest the following day. No matter how many times you play the Old, the feeling you get on the first tee is uncanny. There can’t be many easier tee shots in the world but you can’t escape the feeling of awe and it is a relief to get a decent drive away.
I usually fall foul of the Swilken Burn but, for the first, I was across in two shots. I still took four more to get down but I went on to have a respectable round. After his disaster the previous day, John scored 34 points which was the best score of the day.
The overall prize went to Chris Payne, who plays off two. He is slightly handicapped in the hair zone, too, and has suffered the tour nickname of the Bald Eagle. To spare his feelings we have now changed it to the Beagle and he is now the proud possessor of a beagle head-cover.
My prize was a fancy new pitch-mark repairer with a dropped prong designed to make the job easier. My game is such that I don’t make many pitch marks but I’m looking forward to the next one.
We weren’t playing the following day which was just as well because a vicious storm struck Scotland. I don’t think we would have ventured out but we watched from the Rusacks hotel as a sequence of brave souls resolutely turned up for their tee times and set out in the biting rain and gale. When you’ve travelled all that way to play the Old, it takes a lot to put you off. That’s the magic of the place.

One thought on “Tiger learns

  1. “Basically, we all know what to do — God knows we’ve been told often enough ”
    I one heard Garry Player comment “Golf is the most taught but least learned game on the planet” How true….

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