October Ramble 

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. I’ve been busy actually doing what I’m supposed to do; Play good golf! Gone are the days of waking up Saturday morning, slightly hungover, low and moderately depressed, wondering how I’m going to hit a fairway and break 75. It’s felt at times recently like I couldn’t shoot 75 if I tried. Golf is such a funny game. Or a bastard of a game, as myself and Victor Dubuisson see it. (Don’t know that for sure, but pretty sure) 

My recent run of form is down to a number of things, none of which more important however than the obvious fact my golf swing is in a better spot than where it was 6 months ago. I’ve largely focused only on my set up and takeaway since May, and this simplicity has led to much more consistency. Me and John Daly now have something in common; We both believe the left arm (lead arm for right handed player) is the most important function of the golf swing. 

Probably the most exciting part of my recent form is what it’s actually built on in terms of me playing. And that’s a strong 3 wood I have in the bag. I’m not saying I’m the English version of Henrik Stenson, but I feel like Henrik Stenson out there at times, just with a prettier face… I would say though that I am comfortable hitting my driver now, whereas I wasn’t a few months ago. There are still certain tee shots with specific wind conditions however that make me slightly uneasy and that’s when I turn to the 3 wood. This setup has meant that I am pretty much always in play. And then it’s just a matter of how well I play from there, and that’s down to iron play but also sheer golfing ability. I’ve never doubted my ability to play golf, or my iron play, whereas in the past I’ve certainly doubted my driving. That swamp is gradually being drained thankfully. 

It’s at this point where I’ve run out of things to say about myself. So I’m going to turn to topics I’ve spoken about in the past, but not elaborated on. 

Firstly my pessimism surrounding the European Tour. It is all to do with the economic landscape as I see it moving forward. It’s nothing to do with the product the Tour has to offer, or the way the Tour is being run. Frankly, I just don’t know where the money is going to come from. Pre 2008 financial crisis, there was lots of events in Europe, which was unsurprising due to the economic boom the whole of the world, but especially Europe was experiencing. Since then however, much of the investment, as I understand it, has come from the Middle East and Asia. Southern Europe has practically been in a depression since 2008. In 2007 there were 9 tournaments in either Spain or Portugal. Compared to 3 this year. One of which was co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour. This isn’t something us players can complain about, this lack of investment hasn’t come about because the Tour aren’t doing their job, it’s because Spain and Portugal are economically in a terrible way. As is the rest of the World, we just aren’t seeing it play out… Yet. And this is why I’m pessimistic. Because anyone who follows the economic landscape can see what’s beginning to unfold in the Middle East and China specifically. Luckily, The UAE isn’t overly dependent on a high oil price, due to the fact it’s invested domestically in making sure it can be a productive state moving forward. It is however, like China, massively loaded with private debt. And this is a ticking time bomb. 

I suppose the funding for events can come from government entities, and highly wealthy individuals. Like that of the Sheikh in Dubai, or people like Johann Rupert, both of whom are massively important to the European Tour. China however I do not see this happening. To finish with a particularly sobering note, the whole world is up to its neck in debt. It’s easy to say credit has always existed and liquidity has always been volatile, but the maths of it all just doesn’t add up. There’s simply too much. I think the PGA Tour will also suffer, but that’s for another day. 

I’ve put myself forward to be on the Players Committee of the European Tour. I’ve done this because I want to understand more about the position the Tour finds itself in. I want to discover for myself what I suspect to be true, that finding sponsors in this climate is incredibly difficult. I hope also, for obvious reasons, that my inhibitions are proved to be wrong and that there are strong foundations being laid. 

Just bring that moderate Saturday depression forward to Tuesday. 

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Small Victories 

Some victories are obvious, often the ones where there’s a trophy involved. But some victories are oblivious. Like the one for me on the 12th tee in Denmark last Sunday. It was a tee shot that gave me nightmares last year and this year I learned my memory is very much intact. Desperate to hit 3 wood, due to the fact I’m extremely comfortable and confident hitting that club under any circumstances, on this occasion driver was the only option. There was a bunker in the middle of the fairway at 270 yards to carry and a bunker up the left at 290 to carry. The wind had been down and from the left all week meaning 3 wood was sufficient. Sunday however was different, It was into and from the left. 11 o’clock. And the breeze was fairly stiff at this point. With deep rough up the right, to my mind this was the second toughest tee shot of the day behind the dreaded 18th tee shot. 

I pulled the Owl head cover off my driver pretty quickly once arriving on the tee, in an attempt to show my caddie an air of confidence. Even though inside I’m still very much aware of my miserable history on this hole. Last year I lost balls on this hole. Golf balls that is. I said to my caddie, “3 wood isn’t enough is it?” He said “no, I like driver.” I knew that. I don’t know why I asked. Driver it was. Aiming just left of the middle bunker, I committed to the same feelings I’d had all week, in the hope I didn’t get the dreaded feeling of the club falling behind me. The swing was a blur but when I looked up, after striking the middle of the club face, the ball flew perfectly down the middle. This was no Ryder Cup, and I’m no Nicolas Fasth, but a fist pump was a necessary celebration. Even in 30th position, this was a victory. 

I sometimes wonder whether it’s better to have and fight the demons, than never have them at all. Helps you understand confidence eventually. 

I had a new caddie last week in the very experienced Mick Dorran. Since me and Jamie split back in May, I’ve partnered up with a few different caddies. It’s be great and something I’ve found to be refreshing. I haven’t written much about why I decided to end things with Jamie, even though I’ve had some thoughts. 

It’s hard to describe the relationship between player and caddie. It truly is like a marriage though. And divorce is an inevitability. In my case, the divorce came about due to a feeling of staleness and stagnation. We had been together for 4 years and we’d had some great times. Jamie has been a friend and a coach to me, and I’m still happy to see him around on Tour. But the truth was I knew my behaviour wasn’t on point due to his presence. I know myself, and I know that I behave differently around strangers. I’m more respectful. Familiarity breeds contempt and contempt is such an ugly trait. Something I never want to feel. Yet I could feel it developing with me and Jamie. I was concerned that I would act irrationally and say something I would regret, even though Jamie is smart enough to know whatever would be said would be due to the stress of competition, not my nature. Still, I didn’t want it to come to anything like that. 

While my driving held me back at times earlier this year alongside some poor putting, my attitude was also to blame for some performances. I knew a change of personnel would lead to an improved attitude instantly. 

It’s something I suspect Rory felt with JP. I read that Rory felt the relationship had just gone stale and he wanted to freshen things up. I believe him.  

I’ve always found the best way to be disciplined is to eliminate possibilities. It’s a lazy way, but it’s a sure thing. Hence the reason so many caddies get fired most probably. Why should we work on changing our behaviour when we can improve it just by hiring and firing? 

My cousin once said to me, slightly intoxicated, “give yourself the opportunity to surprise yourself.” I’ve always remembered it. I believe this is where true confidence is born. Moments like the 12th tee in Denmark for me. 

I hit my best drive of the day down the 18th hole. 

Confidence is a funny thing. 

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Find Form In July, Buy A Rolex In August. 

I’ve wrestled with myself over posting this blog. I hope my wording is sufficient enough to make it obvious I am not bitter or twisted about what follows. And it goes without saying that any names mentioned in this blog isn’t me attacking them, it’s simply me using them as examples of what I believe injustice looks like. 

The Rolex Series. 

I’ll start with France. I played the French Open this year. I qualified for it as part of category 0 something. That category was ‘the top 3 players on Race to Dubai, who aren’t exempt.’ I was third on that list, so I got a place. I was intrigued arriving at Golf National to see what would be different in 2017 than every other year I’ve played it. It turned out the players lounge was about it. Not to forget the purse of course. My breakfast options had been upgraded however. I could now go for eggs on top of Marmite on toast, which is a personal favourite, followed by Nutella on toast topped with a banana. A great way to start any day. Apart from these two things however, the rest of the experience was exactly as I remember any past French Open being. The crowds were like before; decent, but more atmosphere at the British Par 3 Championship. The course was fantastic as always. The 18th hole was still a bastard. All that was truly different was that, A) I actually had a decent finish, and B) I earned €64,000 for finishing Tied 23rd. Twice as much as I earned in Sweden for coming Tied 8th. 

I was a TV viewer for the Irish Open. I requested an invite and couldn’t believe I didn’t get one after I mentioned in my letter the fact I’m half Irish with 73 cousins so the gate receipts would be boosted if I was part of the event. But hey ho. I thought Portstewart looked stunning. I love so much about Ireland, both North and South. The story of the week for me was Matt Southgate. Matt is a top lad, with a heart of gold. I was delighted to see him get an Open spot at Cinque Ports and continue that form in Northern Ireland. Tied 2nd was a great result. Something I managed in 2015. And then I saw the prize money breakdown and realised that you could win three €1 Million events, and not earn as much money as Matt did for coming Tied 2nd. Now having finished Tied 2nd myself at an Irish Open not long ago, I know which is tougher, and it isn’t the Tied 2nd part. It’s the winning three €1 Million events. This wouldn’t be a big issue if the rankings weren’t solely down to money, but they are, even though it says points. Because up until the final three events, the points do correlate to money earned. 

The Scottish Open unfortunately I didn’t get to watch much of. Again though, like the Irish Open, the story of the week to many was another British player Callum Shinkwin. I didn’t see what happened on the 72nd hole but whether he won or not, whichever way you look at it, it was a great result for Callum. As I referred to in a tweet, I played with him in France on Day Four. He shot eighty something and was clearly devoid of confidence and any sort of ball control. But it was obvious he had potential as he has a lot of speed. Anyway, after his 2nd place finish, I noticed he vaulted up the Race to Dubai into 19th position. So I went over to the PGA Tour website to check out who was occupying 19th spot on that Tour, and take a look at their results. Sergio Garcia actually occupies that spot currently. He won a major which I thought may distort my point a bit, so I looked at 20th- Wesley Bryan. He’s won once this year, had 3 other top 5’s, and 1 other top 10. Callum’s season consists of one 2nd place finish and 2 top 30’s. At this point, I want to reiterate what I said at the top, this isn’t an attack on Callum. I was delighted for him. I’m trying to prove another point; that this Rolex Series has distorted the Race to Dubai like something you’d see in a Tim Burton film. 

From what I understand, one of Keith Pelley’s tasks was to produce bigger prize funds to attract the better players. He’s clearly done this, although some notable top players haven’t even shown up for one of the Rolex Series events yet so I’m still to be persuaded that this will work. Either way, no doubt playing for bigger prize funds is one way to attract certain players. My concern is not only about what’s just played out, but also, with the PGA Tour planning on turning every ‘regular’ event into a $10 Million prize fund, where does this leave the European Tour? I think it leaves it stifled again in the same way as before, but this time around, distorted as seen above with the disparity between players earnings enormous, and not indicative of true season form. 

I will stand up for Keith Pelley at this point though and say that an alternative to this is hardly forthcoming. It’s clear that the Tour has moved towards a ‘top player’ policy. This isn’t good or bad, I have no preference. But as with every policy enforced in the world, there are unintended consequences. And I think these are embarrassing as we see them now. The Access List is something that simply had to be done. If you are a Qualifying School graduate like myself, and didn’t happen to have a good week at a Major like myself, it would appear the Access List is likely your only chance of retaining ‘full’ playing privileges next year. To those who question this, I’ll point you to Laurie Canter who this year has played for a combined total of roughly €13 Million Euros. Compare that to somebody who has missed every €1 Million event or below in Europe and not travelled once to South Africa, but who has played the rest, and you have roughly €46 Million being played for. This is minus majors and WGC’s also. 

I’m personally quite staggered at these numbers. 

To finish, as I said at the top, nothing against anybody mentioned above, I just felt some facts had to be highlighted. This isn’t me complaining either, those who know me will tell you that I’m not some raging communist who wants unadulterated equality, I want struggle and I want competition, it’s what separates us. But what I see above is taking those things a little too far. I’m personally quite pessimistic as to the outlook for the Tour, not down to anything Keith can or is doing, more to do with where I see the global economy heading, but I’m a golfer and I should stick to what I do best. And that’s walking my dog. 

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Erin Hills 

The road into Erin Hills is dusty, stony and bumpy. I’m in my Lexus though, number 212, so it’s cool. At the first checkpoint is a young lad with a policeman. They wave me through, I’m heading to Lot A. I drive a little further and soon reach checkpoint number 2. Another young lad, this time with no policeman, just his iPod. He’s actually sitting down and fast asleep. I cruise past him. Thought about beeping the horn but remembered I’m in on an ESTA. The road then turns right and takes a sharp left soon after, and it gets particularly bumpy at this point. My flat white is close to spilling. Now I head straight for about 300 yards, I can see the driving range on my left. The ginormous flags are blowing. I’m getting close to Lot A. A man is guarding checkpoint 3, waving a baton around. As I get really close it becomes clear that this guy is happy to be here. He’s not simply waving a baton, he’s doing a jig, smiling, and welcoming me into car park Lot A. This guy is a highlight. So I turn left and drive into Lot A. All I can see are brand new Lexus SUV’s. This is a major. This is the US Open. This is America.  

The first shot of every tournament is usually the most anxious I get. It can be a place that reaffirms things, but it can also be a place that causes panic, should things go awry. Thankfully this time, I hit a nice solid draw down the middle. My US Open started the way I left Austria; by hitting the driver well. This was maybe the most important moment of my week because it confirmed that everything I’ve done up until this point in preparation is correct, and repeatable. The lay up with a 4 iron is dead simple and I nailed it. I was left with under 100 yards into the green with quite a strong wind behind me. This is where Bob Vokey’s brand new 60 degree lob wedge comes out… For the first time to hit a shot of this nature. All of a sudden I’m shitting it a little bit. Because I’m now aware of the extra degree of loft, the thinness of the grip, and the sharper leading edge. Time to trust. Which I did nicely and played quite a brave shot, landing it behind the pin and spinning it back to six feet. I get to the green and they are pure. I’ve got an easy, slightly uphill, but still very fast left to right six footer. Again, time to trust. All I’ve worked on are left to right putts in practice to help me release the putter head. I aim it left lip, stroke it, in she goes. The Pepper Army are screaming already and I’m off to a perfect start. 

The ninth hole at Erin Hills can only be described as disgustingly wonderful. It was never more than a nine iron all week, yet never less than a headache. The pin on Friday is back left. Fairly accessible if you’re good at landing golf balls from 150 yards onto a car roof. The wind is from the right as it has been all week. I’m aiming slightly right of the flag, hoping to hit it straight and let the wind move it onto the pin, and praying it’s good for distance. I aim a little too far right in hindsight and the ball lands a couple of yards short of ideal and trickles down a tier to the edge of the green. I’m now thinking I can three putt this and be ok for the weekend. But I’m not kidding you when I say a four putt is possible. I’ve got a forty footer up the ridge, but downwind, and the hole is cut on a slight downslope as I putt to it. Which means anything too heavy handed could end up close to the bunker the other side. But I’m also very aware that if I’m short with it, it’s back to my feet. I hit a good putt, it hits the left edge of the hole and spits the ball five foot from the hole. I’m left with a right edge, five foot putt, knowing I’ve made the cut if I miss, but desperate to hole it so I can shoot under par because I’ve fought so hard to be in this position. I release the putter and in it goes. The stress, fear and anxiety I saw in my dad’s face all day washes away like a pint of lager. Those hugs on Friday after making the cut were nice. 

Weekends are when I climb the leaderboard, I’m telling myself as I wash my body with my Coco Sandalwood flavoured Molton Brown body wash. I’m ready for the weekend. The stress of Friday has passed and I know I’m playing well enough to go out and shoot a good score. Not 63 though. What the hell was that. Nobody can match Jonny Miller’s record of 63. Nobody is worthy. I left the course four shots back, 15 minutes later I left the BBC Radio 5Live studio seven shots back. My hopes of winning are pretty much dashed. But getting drawn out with Sergio Garcia soon wipes away any despair I’m feeling. 

Sergio Garcia even has his own grips. I made myself laugh on the first tee because I looked at his bag and I saw what it must be like to be your own affectation, minus all the self-serving narcissistic tendencies, because Sergio really is a nice guy. Just has his own grips, that’s all. Mind you, the blue ran off the grips and onto his glove. By the end of the round it looked like he had strangled a Smurf.  

It was the two foot tap in on the 72nd hole that I actually found to be most nerve wracking. At this point I knew things could only get worse. I became very aware of my putter grip pressure and had to remind myself that this two foot putt really isn’t difficult if you focus on the things that preceded this moment. 

Being able to shake hands with Sergio Garcia, edging him by a shot, not because I played great or he played bad, or because of anything even golf related, but because I dug in deep, knowing that this round was potentially the most important of my year, was very satisfying. I knew I wasn’t going to win, or finish in the top ten, so I was slightly disappointed, but I also knew that I left nothing out on that course all week. 

Tied 16th, I hope will one day be nothing to tell my grand-puppies about. But right now it’s as close as I’ve got to telling anyone what it’s like to walk away from a tournament feeling proud. 

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A Lonely Paradise 

I suppose it was inevitable that having only been separated from our new puppy five hours ago, I would be writing about being alone. Alone I am in seat 21F with nobody sat beside me. Good job because I’m always afraid of somebody accidentally peering into my phone for the fear of revealing my unfinished thoughts. Once they’re out however, they’re out. That never embarrasses me. Plus I’m always drawn to the feeling that I have when I see someone writing something that appears personal. The wonder if whether what’s being penned is truly worth it. Surely overstated. Rumination. 

But that’s the nature of my job. It’s the nature of many people’s jobs. The beauty of travelling alone is that it enables me to experience plenty of ‘me time.’ The beauty of company is that it rebalances the sanity in my mind. 

I don’t remember when exactly I started talking to myself aloud, but I remember doing it profusely when I was 19. That was the time of Anthony Robbins, Bounce, The Talent Code and plenty of other eye opening stories. I used to go out on the course at Drayton on my own, in my own world, and talk out loud to myself. I would have to stop what I was listening to on my iPod obviously so I could respectfully hear my thoughts. That would be rude otherwise. I’ve never really talked to many people about this habit. I’ve told Jen that I do it and she simply cannot understand. All she understands is that I’m clearly mad. It’s like I have this other person, this friend who I converse with, open up to, he knows my deepest thoughts and I articulate them to him. If nothing else it’s great speaking practice. But I think it is something else. I think it’s a consequence of being a golfer for 20 years. I think it’s a side effect of being alone. When it comes to golf, I would always rather be alone on the course than with anybody. I am 100% comfortable with who I am, alone on the golf course. It’s a sanctuary for me. I guess you could say I’m not really alone, I’m with the person I’m talking to. I’m just not sure who he is or what purpose he serves. I’m sure someone can tell me. 

This ‘other half’ of me however is part of the reason why I’ve shied away from any psychiatric help over recent months and years. I believe that the best way to change or to receive help is to open up. Open up your mind and reveal your vulnerabilities. I presume most people don’t do this with themselves. I do however. And so there really is nothing I could tell anyone that I haven’t already told myself. Not only is this person I’m talking to my biggest critic, he is my biggest friend. And there’s nothing we don’t talk about. Whether it’s political talk, why God doesn’t exist talk, anti-pull-hook talk, the meaning of life talk, it’s all there. Me and my little gremlin friend. 

The more I digest the consequences and reasons for these actions, the more I intuitively feel that it’s a smart thing to do. To become your own mentor is surely a great achievement no? Especially if that mentor can see things objectively.

 “Your only hopes are all within you- Elysium, Bear’s Den.” 

This is the crux of life, success and improvement. Responsibility and accountability: It’s the only way to a brighter future and one that you will understand. 

Sometimes I turn on LBC, and often it’s when James O’Brien is on unfortunately. Normally I let him speak, give him his opportunity to express his dissatisfactions and then I turn the radio down. It’s my turn to talk. So I do, I explain to him why he’s wrong, how he’s wrong, and I even give myself as many opportunities I want at making sure it’s God damn fucking eloquent. I consider calling in but of course I bottle it. 

I’ll talk to myself when I’m driving, it’s the perfect situation, but if I stop at say a set of traffic lights and there’s a car In front of me or beside me, I’ll stop talking. Afraid that they’ll look in the mirror and be thinking ‘why is that guy talking to himself?’ I completely forget the fact of course that my get out clause could always be that ‘I’m on the hands free love.’ But I stop talking. Im inherently embarrassed by this habit. 

Am I alone in this? There must be other people who do this. 

I’ll never forget the time I discovered that I wasn’t the only person who rocks his head at night when he’s tired. Another golfer owned up to this slightly awkward habit. Once I was away as a junior in Denmark with the team and I went to bed early because I was ill. I was ill but I also wanted time alone to listen to music and rock my head. I was undergoing my rituals and I was deep in the middle of nowhere when all of a sudden the lights were on and Andrew Johnston and Matt Haines were at the end of my bed rolling around on the floor laughing. I don’t know what they thought but boy was I embarrassed. I remember saying it was a ‘side effect of my flu…’ 

Revealing these habits of mine isn’t something that scares me now or embarrasses me. I’ve completely given in to the fact that we are all innately messed up and complex in our own little ways. It’s what I love about life. 

I don’t even know why I wrote this but maybe it can show young people in particular that no fear should be had in showing vulnerability. Vulnerability I’ve always found to be the first building block towards success. It should be embraced. 

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Megan’s Journey

Life is wonderful. Last night me and Jen went out for dinner after she got back from doing her exams in London. We went to our favourite pub- The Greyhound- where we had a free meal ticket to use from all the vouchers we’d accumulated over time. We spoke mostly about furniture as we’re moving house soon and it’s all very exciting for us as you might imagine. We’ve wanted more space for a while and also a dog. We adore dogs. We’re going to get a Hungarian Viszla and we’re gonna call it Gus. At the end of the meal I checked my Twitter which is the only purpose my phone provides it seems and I had received a message from a man called Jason. It read; “A year on from getting a place on the Eddie Pepperell Academy at FHGC (Frilford Heath) Megan has come down 24 shots and played for the county. Thanks Eddie.” Megan is his daughter. I was instantly taken aback and felt slightly emotional, which is saying something because I’m usually far too apathetic for my own good.

It was a real lift to see someone benefitting from my small gesture. It made me reflect on my childhood growing up. I saw how happy she looked in the photo and I remembered those days where coming down 24 shots in a year was something I would’ve been so proud of. I was extremely competitive with my brother and our friends, and I was so immersed in my own world of golf. The message I received was heartwarming and also made me realise how I would’ve benefitted in similar ways when I was a junior from other people’s generosity. So thank you!

Megan is now on the tree. She’s somewhere down towards the base of the tree but she’s climbing. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Paul McGinley refer to a career as a tree and he’s dead right. The trunk is where you want to live. While you climb the tree it’s sometimes easy to wander off and before you know it you’re hanging from a branch. The brilliant, yet frustrating thing about the tree is, when you end up on a branch, you can’t just jump back onto the trunk. You have to carefully walk back the way you came, until you reach the trunk again. You can, like a monkey, take a risk in the hope to find a shortcut, but all you do is jump from the branch you’re on to another branch. Every single person in their respective career is somewhere on this tree. No doubt, I’ve been wandering around on a branch somewhere towards the top. The thing about branches at the top is that they are fragile, and if you hang around for too long up there you become fearful. Afraid of the fall and what comes with that. When you’re young, and inevitably lower down on the tree, the branches are sturdier and the thought of falling doesn’t illuminate fear the way it does at the top.

This analogy, to my mind at least, is beautiful. It makes perfect sense. And sometimes thinking in these terms can help relieve the fear and anxiety that we may be feeling. The good thing about a tree is it’s tangible. We know the structure of a tree so well that comprehending the journey from the end of one branch back to the trunk isn’t too scary. This will provide refuge for an over-fearful mind.

A fearful mind probably isn’t what Megan has right now, but I don’t envy her. Because she has it all in front of her. She has the long, unrelenting, topsy-turvy journey ahead, where every bad round will hit hard and every criticism will feel like a personal attack. She is one of many young golfers trying to succeed and emulate her heroes. My advice to her isn’t to worry about staying on the trunk for the moment, because she won’t understand what the trunk looks like for a while, rather it’s just to recognise that with each disappointment there’s an opportunity to learn, and with every success there’s an opportunity to be humble. There are times to be impatient and there are times where patience is critical. There’s a time to be the best, and it’s not when you’re 14 years old.

I’m delighted that Megan and others like her are benefiting from what’s happening at Frilford. And I’m thankful to Jason for reaching out because it gave me a lift.

Now to turn that lift into something even more positive….

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A Mans Search For Form

One Hundred and Fourteen metres, there is a gentle breeze from the left, the rain has cleared and it’s warm. We’re a few thousand feet above sea level, it’s a perfect gap wedge. It can’t be a sand wedge because that’s stranded up a tree 350 yards behind me. I got angry. So I take the club, aim straight at the pin and swing like I couldn’t give a monkeys. I’m 3 over par through the first 7 holes, over par for the tournament and missing the cut. An all too familiar feeling. I strike the ball well, perfectly in fact for this particular shot coming from the rough. Me and Jamie watch the ball closely as it’s heading towards the pin. Bang. Straight in. I’ve holed out for an eagle on my 27th hole. I throw the club in the air, laugh and smile at Jamie. We gaze at one another and I can tell he’s thinking how much of a twat I am. We walk 5 yards and he tells me because I’m now smiling that his grandmother died last night. I can see he’s holding back tears as he tells me and I curse at him for not telling me ten minutes earlier as the chances are we’d still have a 56 degree sand wedge in the bag. I try my best to console him. We get to the green, I repair the hole, my playing partners weren’t even aware I’d holed out. They can’t believe I didn’t make more of a fuss. We exchange a few high fives as I’m now back in 107th place and they ask what excites me? Not this game I reply.

Not this game at the moment is what I meant.

I stayed about 30 minutes from the course last week in Johannesburg. Each day it seemed we took a different route due to traffic. I love South Africa. I love it’s natural beauty and the red meat. We drove through some pretty tough neighbourhoods last week, one of which was a place called Hillbrow. As a European Tour golfer, I would estimate I experience a dozen courtesy car drives a year that remind me of how lucky I am. Driving through Agadir or Rabat in Morocco usually provides a moment of reflection and perspective, just like Hillbrow did. Wasting shots on a golf course is still better than wasting away on the street. Even though sometimes the pain of this game feels enormous, at least it’s a game. Except it’s not really, it’s my life, it always has been. And when you hole out with a gap wedge and not really care, it grinds away at you. To not care about something you care so deeply for is paradoxical enough to make you question certain realities and doubt yourself.

The life of a struggling golfer.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy. Which doesn’t bother me because all that matters is that you aren’t unhappy. And I’m not unhappy. The truth is I feel like I know how this will play out. I have got my focus back, I understand the role of time, I know every career has its ups and downs. I’m still standing far enough away from my own existence not to get bogged down in it. Hence the reason I’m not bogged down. After all, Hillbrow reminds me it could be far worse.

I know finding form will be easier than meaning.

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