Posted April 27, 2015
My yipping match with Tiger Woods last week was a bit of a damp squib. While my first chip at the Old Course in St Andrews plopped pitifully into the Swilcan Burn, Tiger’s yips didn’t show up at all at The Masters.
It seems that his yips were part of a wider malaise his game went through a couple of months ago. Most of the wiseacres gloomily predicted that he would never be the same again.
His top-20 finish at the Masters seems to suggest otherwise. Mind you, the yips have the habit of biting back when you least expect them. The sad thing is that if he did anything specific to fend them off last week, he’s not going to tell us.
All he said was that he worked his arse off which is not much use to those of us looking for a miracle cure. I suppose we could work our arses off, too, but that’s not generally our style. Also it depends on how big your arse is, some will take much longer to work off than others.
Meanwhile, I am stuck with the curse which attacked me on the first hole of the Old Course. This is a hole where humiliation is easy to come by.
For a start, the drive on the first looks one of the world’s easiest. There’s out-of-bounds on the right admittedly but there’s so much room on the left you can pull or hook to your heart’s content. But the moment you step up to the tee in front of the imposing façade of the R & A clubhouse the weight of 600 years of history suddenly lands on your shoulders.
We’ve been going up there for 17 years and the prospect never fails to make the best of us nervous. The feeling that you daren’t cock up a drive at such a hallowed place was heightened this time because the stands for The Open in July were being constructed and the ones on the right of the first were almost complete.
They were occupied only by a few workmen but slicing into those empty seats would have been a colossal embarrassment.
There were only four of us this year while over the last five or years there have been as many as 18. But last year the younger members said they fancied a change and opted to find another Scottish venue.
Organisation not being their strong point, they failed to do so The four more senior members, however, plumped for St Andrews because we revere the place.
Just before we left some of the younger ones said they regretted not being with us. It was too late, of course, because you have to book up for the St Andrews Links winter offer about six or seven months previously.
I almost didn’t make it myself because a week or so before we were due to go I was hit by a heavy chest infection that took me to bed for four days and left me considerably weakened and with no appetite.
I lost six or seven pounds and was feeling very low but I was determined not to miss the trip and felt better when we’d booked into the Rusacks Hotel in brilliant sunshine and I’d had my first malt whisky overlooking the brilliant vista of the first and eighteenth holes.
My first venture onto the courses, however, was not a success. I had hoped to have a buggie but they had all been taken. I started off well enough on the Jubilee course but after three holes I was knackered and trudged back to the hotel where I seated myself by the window in the splendid Rusacks’ lounge and gazed out over the sunlit links fortified by Mr Macallan’s fine product.
Feeling slightly better the following morning, I made my way to the aforementioned first tee of the Old Course. My companions were John Dodd, Bob Edwards and Roger Meacham who I usually play with at Royal Porthcawl and who are all vastly superior to me.
To my great delight I was not at all intimidated by that first drive and my ball soared down the middle of that famous fairway as far as I’ve ever hit it. That shot alone was worth the trip.
Then I had an air shot. I was about 80 yards from the pin and 60 yards from the notorious Swilcan Burn which has foiled me many times. I was tempted to have a go for the green but eventually decided to pitch short of the burn.
That dithering didn’t help and I missed the bloody ball altogether. But my next attempt lofted the ball perfectly to within a yard of the edge of the burn.
It was time to challenge the chipping yips and after several firm and controlled practice swings the yips took over and I scuttled the ball into the water.
I didn’t have any more yips but I didn’t perform too well. At least, I finished the eighteen. No part of me was in good shape but I got around.
Fortunately, I was able to get the assistance of a buggie to play the New Course on the third day and, at last, managed to score some points. I actually got a two on one par three but couldn’t amass more than 25 points.
But this put me only one behind John while Roger scored 30 and Bob won with 32. So I wasn’t too far out of the mix and, thanks to the forbearance of my comrades, I had a great time in St Andrews. The weather was brilliant, better than we‘ve had at this of the year.
I got a bollocking from my doctor for going but until she comes up with a cure for the yips I won’t take much notice.