A Sting In The Tale

“He deals the cards, as a meditation.”

There really is nothing like the present. I hope Aaron Rai and his dad are enjoying his success. I’m sure they are. The present moment has an allure to it I find, the past barely relevant, and the future important. Aaron deserves more credit than many will realise, because he never succumbed to the present, he and his dad, as far as I can tell, had a vision for him that extended well beyond the horizon. His unwavering commitment to his own process is rare. 

When I was growing up, once I reached a certain standard I was invited to be part of national squads. Their understanding of “what it takes” was something I never questioned. I had little idea what I was doing, I was just a good golfer, breaking the occasional course record, and golf clubs. The only golfer who I can recall having such an idea of the future and what would be required to be a succesful Tour pro, was Tom Lewis (and his dad). Tom often did his own thing, not taking much notice of the coaches during training camps. He and his dad had a vision. A vision which proved to be fruitful, as Tom won one of his first events as a Pro on the European Tour. For Aaron, it’s fair to say that process has taken a bit longer, but that process was more extreme in his case, and it’s eventually yielded success. More extreme because he turned down the whole England Golf experience entirely.  

I came across Aaron when I was 12 or 13, during our Wee Wonders years! But then I didn’t hear of him again until about two years ago, when he was winning on the Challenge Tour. The two gloves, iron head covers, and every other idiosyncracy Aaron possesses is a highlight of his unusual approach and style. Aaron is quiet, but extremely polite. He and his dad asked to speak to me a couple months ago at the British Masters because he had some concerns regarding a couple of issues. He came to me because of the fact I’m on the Players Committee and I guess, because I’m of similar age. This made me happy as that was a central reason I put myself forward to be on the Committee, so that other younger players (like myself) would hopefully come forward and feel comfortable speaking to someone when they had concerns. I feel proud of Aaron, not because I know him particularly well, but because he represents the kind of success that is highly unusual. He has shown a lot of resolve in becoming a very good golfer, and better still, a level of individuality that poses risks.

There are obviously different kinds of successful people in life, across all industries. There are men and women who tread paths which we would consider “conventional” and when they reach the dizzy heights, nobody is surprised. Also, when a person meets an expectation of them, it can end up feeling like somewhat of an anti-climax. Something that is surely slightly depressing for everyone involved. This is why I love short-sellers (economics). If I was an investor, I would probably end up a short-seller. I’m skeptical of all things good, I admire people who swim against the current, and I think proving people wrong is wonderful. Ann Coulter provided a highlight of 2016 for me, when she predicted Donald Trump would win the US Election. Everyone laughed in her face, yet she was proved correct. Aaron doesn’t remind me necessarily of Ann Coulter, but he is the kind of guy who will raise his head above the parapet (less publicly than Ann Coulter), and not be too concerned with what people think. We should really celebrate these types people. 

Being young and ignorant and absolutely unaware of what is required to be great at something can feel like quite a terrifying thing. But once you get older, and things become clearer, and when success of sorts arrives, it comes with a reality that I sometimes find gut wrenching. A feeling of, “is that it?” “Is this feeling meant to be my reward for all the years of suffering and hard work?” Unfortunately, I think this represents adulthood for many. The journey of discovery is like nothing else. My first Thorntons chocolate was heavenly, now I just feel fat. The more that journey can be “your own”, the more it can be full of failure, shithousery, shame, intuition and decisions that you yourself make, the better the eventual success will feel. That’s why I find the present frustrating, because I find making sense of it difficult, and sometimes sad. Whereas the future is where the mind is liberated. 

“He deals the cards to find the answer.”  

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Further Into The Rabbit Hole

It was the photo. Phil and Tiger wrapping, or at least trying to wrap their arms around the millions of dollars in front of them, led me to post a tweet calling the whole event putrid, futile and pathetic. I regret the pathetic part, it sounded “Trump-esk.” All along I felt that “The Match” was unnecessary. Here’s two guys, two great golfers, who are very wealthy participating in an event which has more in common with boxing than golf. And boxing, in particular the build-ups, became mostly farcical a while back. I’m not against people earning large sums of money, let me get that out there, but when it becomes this egregious, I find it off-putting. I thought that photo was pretty bloody egregious.

“Phil and Tiger are the reason you play for the money you do,” was a response I saw countless times. With some being more polite than others. I don’t mind being called a dickhead, or a cunt. Frankly, I think the “C” word is a great addition to the English language. What bothers me more is the simplicity in people’s thinking. I’m not going to sit here and state that Tiger Woods has had no impact on our prize funds, of course he has. But it would be just as foolish to say he’s the single reason it’s the case. It’s just not true. Is Federer the reason top tennis players are so rich? Are basketball players so rich because of Michael Jordan? I mean, the brick was impressive, is that why we pay so much for houses? All of sport has benefitted financially over the last two decades. David Frost in 1995 earned $357,000. In 2017, Sung Kang earned $1,900,000 for finishing in the same position. That’s an awesome jump, way outpacing inflation over the same period. In The MLB, the average annual salary in 1995 was $1,110,000 and in 2017 it was $3,950,000. The English Premier League is the one. In 1995, the average annual salary was £130,000 yet in 2017 it was £2,600,000. Pretty much every sport has seen enormous jumps in prize money, and no doubt over that time, amazing sportsmen have contributed to that, but there are many more reasons why this is the case, TV being the main one.

Does it mean that because I think there is more to it than just an individual, I don’t appreciate the individual? (I don’t even need to answer that question). But that’s where our polarised, narrow minded society is heading, all the while unable to think critically. Into the realm of nuance and complexity we need to go.

I once posted a chart of the M2 Money Supply on my Twitter. It’s complicated and hard to understand but I felt it was a necessary thing to do because as I understand it, it basically reflects the money supply (I could be wrong, I’m not an economist). This is important because it has an impact on inflation and interest rates, which are both significant when it comes to the economy. I should’ve really posted the M3 chart (though it looks much the same as the M2 chart) as that would have more accurately portrayed the point I was trying to make, and am about to make again. Golf and big corporations have always gone hand in hand. I suspect, one main reason for this is because golf is easy to play as you grow older, as opposed to say, football. Golf has forever been known as an “Old Man’s Game”, something I always begrudged at school, because it meant I couldn’t be a cool kid. One thing about older men though, is that they tend to have money. They also tend to own houses (maybe many), stocks, even companies. So, imagine for a moment that these ageing men who own companies and who are also interested in golf, all of a sudden start experiencing greater returns on their investments, their assets go up in value like never before, they have more cash in the bank and even better, they can pump money into a golf event on the PGA Tour and write some of it off because the PGA Tour is a Non-Profit organisation (should state here the fact that the PGA Tour makes huge charity donations itself). If I’m one of those men who has more money than ever before, thanks largely to the Federal Reserve (as seen in Money Supply charts), and I enjoy golf and want to maybe spread the game because it’s so great, I myself would probably pump money into the PGA Tour. Sky Plc, who show us the PGA Tour in the UK, their share price in 1995 started the year around $16 a share. By the time 2000 came around, it was over $100. CBS, who now own some of the PGA Tour rights, also had a share price of around $16 in 1995. Come 2000, it was peaking at around $140 a share. Tiger Woods came onto the scene around the turn of the century, and he was bloody awesome. But TV companies saw their own stock go through the roof, and nearly all of these companies were owned by men of a certain age, many of whom happened to be interested in golf. Put everything together, and we have enormous prize funds on the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour golfers have the Federal Reserve to thank before anyone else, because you guys (and myself) benefit directly from the companies whose very own stock and asset prices have soared over the last few decades. Without all that new money in the system, it simply wouldn’t be possible to play for so much money. This is why I dislike the argument people have thrown at me about Tiger and Phil, because like most things, there’s just more to it.

About the egregious part. Inequality isn’t new, and contrary to how it might feel, it’s not even the worst it’s ever been. But it is rising, and rising pretty fast. And I think it’s worth having a perspective on inequality, even if you’re the one at the top. Not just because I think it can help you become a better person by way of empathy, but selfishly, if you can get a sense for how bad it actually is, then you can prepare to hold on to what you’ve got when the eventual redistribution happens. History shows us it does happen. And history also shows that it doesn’t happen peacefully. That’s what disappointed me most about the photo of Phil and Tiger with all the money. It painted golf for a moment in a light which I think to many was off-putting. Worse still, this event by way of selling itself, has put golfers in the same basket of people who aren’t revered publicly, but who are often despised, due to their opulent wealth and seeming lack of awareness. This isn’t me trying to be righteous, or admitting I wouldn’t have participated in it because I’m “different”, it’s just me voicing concerns over an image which has already eroded people’s interest in sportspeople.

I don’t think we as sportspeople have an obligation to necessarily give back to the community beyond our taxes, that’s a choice. I do however think we as human beings, should have a better understanding of when and where to flaunt. At times like these, I think flaunting is a bad idea.

(Ps- I am aware I sometimes flaunt. I never said I was perfect)

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Form and Reflection

I’ve spent two weeks doing many things; eating, walking the dog, thinking, drafting blogs etc.. I really haven’t been sure what to write about, not because there aren’t things I want to say and messages I want to convey, but because those thoughts I’ve been having have been conflicting in a way. Dare I say it, my recent success has almost caused a sense of affliction, which in itself, is slightly depressing.

An example of this was the other day when after training, I fancied a coffee and some Thornton’s chocolates, as you do. I drove 10 minutes to the Orchard Centre in Didcot which has recently been renovated and now lies a Starbucks and an M&S food hall. I got my flat white and wandered up the hill towards Thornton’s, my mouth watering at the thought of demolishing a pack of Viennese truffles. Along the way though, I seemingly witnessed every man, woman and child, who while all appeared happy enough, clearly weren’t as privileged as me. Therein lies my first affliction; “but I’ve earned this privilege.” At this point I’m the recent beneficiary of being pretty good at something, though not sensational, but critically, now very wealthy. After all, only a few days ago over £500,000 was transferred into my bank account. Let’s go spend some money on coffee and fine chocolate. “At this point last year, I was probably writing a blog about Ryan Fox earning shit loads of cash and having the potential to buy a yacht, what is this system?” The irony. So I collect the chocolates, three packets for £9.50. Not cheap I know, but these aren’t your average chocolates. “There’s £10, keep the change, thanks.” The least I can do.

When it comes to money, I hope I have enough curiosity to stop it consuming me, and confusing me even more.

I remember back in February, sitting in my hotel room in Oman, talking to Jen on the phone and telling her how unhappy I was. I seriously did not want to be there. I wanted to be at home with her and the dog. I hadn’t played well at the start of the year and I was currently playing a golf tournament addressing the ball by the hosel, under the impression that I’d discovered something revolutionary that would change my form… Yeah, really. Fast forward a few months to the Monday of the French Open, and after another poor nights sleep due to a very un-British summer, the thought of travelling to France all of a sudden felt overwhelming. There wasn’t an ounce of me that felt ready to go and compete. I don’t like terms, but I was concerned I was depressed, or certainly experiencing an episode. So I withdrew right there and then without telling anyone. It took me an hour or so to tell Jen. I didn’t find telling her very easy. I lied to everyone else. I find lying generally despicable and soul destroying.

Here’s what’s crazy about being a golfer, and a human being I presume, is that days after feeling such emotions and having darker than ideal thoughts, you can go and achieve something really great. It’s totally fucking messed up. And that’s what leads me onto Form…

One thing Qatar and Scotland had in common, was that they both came after very recent emotional lows, if you like. But what makes them even more similar, is that in both cases I travelled to the event with something new to look forward to; working on form. (Technique) When I started with Simon Shanks (added his surname to bring some much needed comedy for a second here) in Qatar, we instantly worked on something new. As that week went on and as I obviously started to play better, which was almost entirely a byproduct of a new technical focus, my mental state changed. My alcohol consumption didn’t, but I’ll blame Dave at IMG for that. (… A theme is developing here…)

What I’d experienced in Qatar I then rediscovered in Scotland. I visited Mike Kanski (Phil Kenyon’s taller sidekick) at Formby Hall en route to the Scottish Open and we spent two hours together. It was an extremely productive session and we identified some significant technical flaws in my putting stroke. From there I continued on up to the Scottish Open with something technical to work on with my putting in the hope it would turn the ship around. It worked, and again, I was happier on the course, and in general. One thing I want to add about that journey to see Mike, was that Jen was instrumental in me going. We hit a traffic jam on the M40 and I was two hours late to the lesson. Mike kindly waited for me, but Jen forced me to go after I said a number of times how I should just not bother and get to Scotland at a reasonable time. Sometimes you need a reasonable person in your life, especially if you’re the golfer.

Success is so clearly down to the details you sometimes wouldn’t even consider.

So that privilege I felt at Didcot, was wrong. The money is what it is, but real privilege is having people like Jen, and Simon, and Mike. It affords me those Thornton’s. I suppose I’m still pretty sure It came about through decision making. After all, you need to plant the people in your life who give you oxygen when you’re most in need of it, like I was in Oman and the weeks before Scotland. So to them, the drinks are on me. 🍷

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READ THIS… If You Have The Time

As my Twitter feed would suggest, arguing that slow play isn’t what’s killing the game of golf right now is tantamount to arguing for Tommy Robinson to be treated ‘more fairly’ by the justice system. You’ll get shut down on both counts. One for a superior reason, I would agree. I think being considered a ‘slow golfer’ right now is as bad as being a migrant during an economic downturn*. The famous scene from The Big Short where the narrator sarcastically remarks that bankers were jailed after the Great Recession, but then proceeds to remove the wool from our eyes and remind us that poor people and migrants would take the blame for the ensuing pain ahead, kind of makes me think Bryson DeChambeau is playing the hospital nurse.

In all seriousness, we like difference only when that difference suits are ideals. Take Beef, or Renato Paratore, both great guys, very good golfers, and great for golf in a number of ways. Beef because of his image and popularity with the crowds due to his infectiousness and Renato because he hits a shot faster than it takes to warm up a bowl of Dolmio in the microwave**. At another time in our history, or maybe at a time in our future, Bryson DeChambeau would be popular for his incredible innovation and insight into our conventionally one dimensional game (technically speaking). But right now, poor old Bryson just gets lamented because he takes too long to hit a shot. While I agree, he does take longer than many of us would prefer, to look beyond his skill and success is at best unfair. For what it’s worth, I am willing personally to deal with twenty more seconds of airtime to watch this mad scientist win golf tournaments a completely different way.

Onto my central points about slow play not being the reason the game of golf is currently experiencing some participation issues. I should say here, that I don’t deny slow play is an issue for some. Frankly, I hate slow play. I hate waiting too. The main reason I prefer to fly Business Class***. (Provided I am seated in the correct cabin) Since 2007, golf participation rates have gradually declined, year over year in the UK. As they have in tennis also, it’s probably worth mentioning. I was only 16 years old back in 2007. I don’t remember exactly how long a round of golf took back then, I was too busy losing to Oscar Sharpe every week. I also don’t remember the economy ‘booming’ or my mum and dad spending more money than they should have. What I do know about 2007 now however is that things began to take a turn in the global economy, culminating in a significant recession in 2008 and 2009. The reason this is important in the golf discussion is because all charts will show a direct correlation between the general health of the economy, and participation in golf. Contrary to what some may believe, not even Tiger Woods’ victories had any impact on golf participation rates (in the US). This makes abundant sense to me, due to the costs of golf and the time constraints inherently built into the game. If people are generally poorer, they will spend less money on their recreational hobbies. If people are poorer, but their costs of living remain the same as before, they will work more to bridge that gap in earnings. So people either become poorer with the same amount of time available to them, or ‘time poor’ as they attempt to make up for a loss in earnings. Nothing new here.

Apportioning blame is something we have historically been pretty bad at too, due to a number of factors no doubt. Possibly the main one being the effects that the media, and general sentiment, have on us. As opposed to thinking rationally about things and identifying the many, real causes of something, we just take whatever the popular message is and go with that, hence my reference at the beginning to migrants. I think the golf industry right now, especially in the UK, is apportioning too much blame on slow play as to the reason why golf is struggling. Firstly, and above all, we should recognise how the golf industry took off (somewhat unrealistically) along with the wealth of the Baby Boomer generation, the stock markets, and real estate markets globally. It could be said that the current downtrend we’re seeing in golf is merely a return to the norm. In fact, I would probably argue that, as it’s not just golf as an industry which is experiencing problems right now. I feel like we need a more sophisticated debate around golf, as opposed to the current one we have, whereby someone is either too slow, or hits the ball too far.

If we look at golf on a global scale, there are other, more serious reasons as to why we should be concerned for it’s short to medium term future. We have fewer and fewer juniors playing the game. Again, there are plenty of reasons as to why this is the case, Fortnite being one of them. But this is obviously of worry as they represent the future. There is no doubt in my mind, that one of the main causes of this would be due to the nature of golf not being a rewarding game in the short term. Golf doesn’t provide the instant gratification young people receive these days doing other things. I even feel this myself having been young (relatively speaking) not that long ago. I could turn on Football Manager on Monday, sign up to coach Mansfield, and by Friday be winning the Champions League.**** The unrealistic nature of reality, compared to what kids experience growing up these days, will cripple their mental health for years to come. The other concern should be that the average retirement age in the US is 64, and the average age of the Baby Boomer generation now is also 64. You may think that this will be a good thing for golf. But when you consider the discrepancies in wealth distribution among that cohort of people, as well as the fact that many of their savings are heavily invested in the biggest Bull Market in history, I suspect things won’t be so rosy for this generation too long into the future.

There are of course potential reasons to be optimistic about the future, I just haven’t come across them yet.*****

I lit a fire two hours ago and said to myself I would stop writing when it goes out. It’s right at the end of it’s life cycle is this fire, and so is this entirely pointless piece of writing. That’s the problem with topics, I find them so unfulfilling to write about because they’re divisive and you can never get everyone to agree with you. The main reason I can never be a true writer.

Golf isn’t football and football isn’t rugby. Each sport is different, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why we would want to make it something it isn’t. Difference remember is what we find appealing, and while golf may not currently be the right kind of different, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love it.******    Just like Dear Old Bryson.

*joke 1

**unsure of this

***not a joke

****was actually Tottenham

*****sips more wine

******prepares for ‘head in the sand comments on Twatter’

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In Defence of Golf 

The slow play debate is still marching on at an ironic pace. Nobody seems to be able to universally agree on what the best course of action is, to ensure golf remains one of the World’s major sports. And by the ‘World’ I mean wherever there is plentiful wealth. I’m here to argue something possibly controversial; that in fact, nothing needs to change. 

I’ll start by asking a question; What’s changed more over the last two decades, the game of golf, or society? 

Other than the ball (!!), golf really hasn’t changed very much. We still play 18 holes, we still use 14 clubs and some of us are even now finishing with 14 clubs. Golf, to its credit, has survived World Wars, recessions, depressions and even Mark Roe’s commentary. (I feel bad about that joke) Society on the other hand has changed immeasurably, even in the small time I’ve been able to observe it as an adult. 20 years ago there was no Facebook, no Amazon, interest rates lived closer to 10% than 0%. There was no selfie stick, footballers didn’t dive, although Donald Trump probably was still a narcissist. 

Why do we now need to change golf? We would be changing it in the belief that society is on a conveyer belt that will only move in the same direction it has in the last decade. I only found out recently, that free trade between countries was never really a thing before World War 2. Tariffs were the norm for centuries before this period. However, if you are unaware of this, you’d think free trade is sacrosanct to humanity and must never be challenged. It has become abundantly clear to me over the last few years, having read and learned about more than how to hit a fade, that we humans have poor memories and are way too indulged in the present. 

Countries and individuals are dependent on cycles. Whether that be in the food we eat and when it can be grown or the businesses we can start and grow, depending on business cycles and/or credit cycles. These things become easy to forget as we are so busy consuming, working and living generally. Therefore I think we need to address whether we believe the current cycle we all find ourselves living in, is likely to be sustainable.

Yoga, Mindfulness, Spiritualism and Meditation are all becoming more and more popular, along with Veganism and a general move towards holistic living. These are the signs to me that the balance of our lives are wanting to shift back towards a centre point. Drug abuse, depression, obesity and stress related illnesses have been on the rise over the last two decades. This is another sure sign to me that we have pushed ourselves too far, in too short a period of time. We are finding managing our health, and subsequently our lives, tricky. Now, there is the argument that things will keep moving in the same direction, and that ultimately we will adapt because we have to. But dying, isn’t adapting, and there are too many people dying from chronic illnesses because they are unable to cope with modern day pressures. 

I would therefore suggest golf doesn’t need to change at all. I believe there is as much chance, if not more, that society rebalances and slows down, as there is that it continues to move at its current break neck speed. Golf has major therapeutic qualities, whether that be the fact it’s played outside, and so therefore it is effectively more in tune with nature. Yes, it is slow in its nature, unlike football, tennis and rugby, but this is a good thing as it can therefore be played by anybody. It is incredibly stimulating mentally, once you begin to grasp the movement of the golf swing. The social aspects of golf can be fantastic, and help people remove themselves from screens and technology. All of these things I believe have huge potential in dealing with chronic illnesses, whether that be physical or mental. I would imagine golf as a form of healing from depression could be enormous due to what I’ve outlined above. Plus, why change a sport to simply ‘conform’ to what we believe society ‘wants.’ Conformity is boring, each sport is different in its nature and we should celebrate that, not the opposite. 

When it comes to the changes we can make as professional golfers to ensure the viewing experience is better, I do believe like many others that there are things that can be done. We should be making an example of players taking way too long to hit simple shots. We shouldn’t be advocating pre shot routines where you close your eyes, breathe slowly and pretend to be a Power Ranger. Golf can be played faster at tournament level, as well as club level. But it can never be played in 2 hours. And I don’t want golf to change itself in such a way to make that possible. I think it would ultimately be a bad move for the game and risk dilution, the same way Cricket has done. We may currently have an ‘image problem’ in golf, but we don’t need to add schizophrenia to that. 40 second shot clocks may reduce a round of golf to 4 hours from 4 hours 30 minutes in a 3-Ball, but that’s still 4 hours, and in my opinion that’s not enough of a change to direct attention away from our sport being ‘too slow.’ 

Of course I could be wrong and all I’ve written above may end up being way off the mark. I hope it’s not though, and not because I want golf to be popular, but because I don’t want to live in a world full of over stressed, chronically ill human beings. 

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From Jack Of All Trades to Qatar Master

18th tee- Turn into right hip, rotate left hip as fast as possible in transition and let it go. Necked the life out of it, but it’s down the middle. It’ll do. 

18th fairway- Be precise with target. Same swing thoughts as the tee shot. Reach the top of my swing and the lake on the left enters my mind like Birdman. Fat push it into the rough. Awful shot. Worst of the week. 

18th approach- Lie is awful. Between a Pitching Wedge and a 9 iron. Caddie, Mick Doran Doran, makes a great call and we hit the 9 iron. His words were, “best shot of the week.” I’d be inclined to agree. 

Birdie Putt- It’s slippery and left to right. Feel it down there. ‘Don’t hit it 4 foot past’, I’m so ashamed of feeling that, it makes me feel weak. Lagged it up now over to you Oli.

Watching Oli Putt- I say it’s 50/50, but given the fact I won on the Challenge Tour in a playoff and lost the Irish Open in a playoff, I’m expecting another one. When Oli misses all I can picture is my dad and Mad Brummy Gazza going absolutely bloody mental. 

Winning Putt- ‘Concentrate you bastard.’ Like I did all day on short putts, I just tell myself I’m at home in my putting room. Eyes still. 

Winning feeling- If I could have thrown myself in the lake I would have, but I play with my wallet in my back pocket, and now isn’t the time to destroy my credit card. 

A quiet mind. 

This Monday I’ve woken up with what I suspect you’d call a proper hangover. I’ve never really suffered in the past with alcohol but today is slightly different. And my right bicep is genuinely sore from the strain of keeping aloft the heaviest oyster on earth. Both problems I’m more than happy to deal with. I didn’t think winning a tournament would give me as much satisfaction as it has. It’s made me realise my apathy and lack of interest is mostly a deception I’ve just played on myself. Clearly certain things mean more to me than I realise. Being a golfer all my life I suppose I should’ve known that what matters most is winning and being in a steady, loving relationship. Both are hard to achieve for golfers. One for more obvious reasons than the other. The other initial feeling I have is how much I’m enjoying the feeling that nobody beat me last week, not that I beat everyone else. I have a very small ego, in my opinion, life is over too fast for us all to have a big ego, but winning through strategy, thought and calmness is a feeling I definitely want to rediscover in the future, now I’ve felt it. 

I want to say how much I respect Oli Fisher. His career has been far from normal. I joke with him about how he’s going to end up playing over 800 European Tour events and subsequently become the youngest professional golfer ever to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome. He knows this too. That’s why I really like him. From what I can tell, golf has beaten Oli up at times along with other people’s expectations, but he’s got a lot of character, and two friends on Tour in myself and Rory. 

My caddie, Mick, received a lot of praise on social media for the way he performed yesterday. The fortunate thing for me is that he performs that way every day. He did however prove to me yesterday that a caddie can really make a difference when it matters most. He also has a wonderful energy. At 27 I’m already too cynical for my own good, but Mick’s desire to be a great caddie is having a positive effect on my own career in terms of staying motivated. 

There was a nice irony in winning yesterday in the sense that I didn’t feel I played my best golf. After coming close to winning a number of times and not being able to, I’ve at times thought that I would need to play ‘sensational’ golf to finally get over the line. Yesterday proved to me that in fact isn’t the case. Getting the ‘job done’ yesterday came down to the more intrinsic parts of golf; course management, patience and clutch putts. I felt it was the two pars I made on 12 and 13 that really won me the tournament. Both times I had to hole 5/6 footers. I guess you could say that two big decisions I made last year in getting a putting green in my house and changing caddies, are continuing to manifest into something good. 

The other big change that came about last week was that I worked with someone new from the Monday. In Oman I played all four days without a driver which I knew was entirely unsustainable and felt I had to get another opinion. The swing thought I had going all week I eluded to above at the beginning. It revolved around my hips. I struggle badly with the longer clubs at times mainly due to the amount of lateral shift I get in the golf swing. We worked on making my hips work much more rotationally. This made not only a huge difference to my driving, but also my short game, which went from being so-so to really very good last week. On top of this, under pressure I found it much easier to trust, as opposed to what I’ve always had to feel in the past, which would’ve been to speed my arm swing up, or slow my body speed down. My body naturally moves quite violently from the top so this feeling of rotation was a simple and to be honest, revelatory change. 

There’s lots more I could say I guess, but that can wait. Above all though, I’m just so happy for my family and girlfriend, all of whom deserve the credit for constantly reminding me who I am. Christ, if I ever get above my station, my sister will put me right. She has a knack for four letter curses and pinpoint truth telling. 

Time for a nice dog walk. 

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Happy New Year

I suppose it makes sense to write my first blog of 2018 during my first flight of 2018. It’s been made easier by sitting in business class as opposed to economy, simply because I don’t have to deal with the anxiety that the person next to me can see what I’m writing. The process of exposing your innermost thoughts is way more embarrassing than the publication of them. In truth, I haven’t really got anything in particular to say so I’m just gonna roll with it and see where it goes….

Probably the biggest story of 2018 in golf will come down to one man: Tiger Woods. The fact that he is still the biggest draw in the game says so much about our world. Our obsession with image, personality and the past it seems, as opposed to substance amazes me. I say that with respect, i.e. not meaning Tiger can’t substantively impact the game moving forward (I think he can), but if he had of just won in Hawaii the way Dustin Johnson did, then the golfing world would be hyperventilating. Tiger can probably shoot 68 in his next event and receive more attention than Hideki Matsuyama did for winning at Firestone the way he did last year. It leads me to think that the days of awe-inspiring achievements are behind us. Instead all we are craving is a story, a comeback, controversy or even batshit crazy stuff like Conor McGregor boxing Floyd Mayweather.

The irony I enjoyed most about Tiger’s comeback event in the Bahamas was the way Rickie Fowler won it. I’m a big Rickie fan, as I am a Tiger fan, but for him to do that to the field on Sunday I thought was quite poetic. But the substance issue exists in pretty much every other walk of life, as I see it. Harry Kane scored more goals in 2017 than anyone, but because it wasn’t Lionel Messi, who cares? Donald Trump, for all of his flaws, is refusing to be paid to be the president, which basically means he’s saying he doesn’t want taxpayers money. But who cares, because he tweets stupid stuff now and again and isn’t the “PC”, career politician we all seemingly want…

Somewhere along the line our actions have become totally irrelevant. Unlike those 280 characters.

Before boarding this flight I listened to the No Laying Up podcast, “The Killhouse.” At one point they were talking about their favourite courses of 2017 and they mentioned The Old Course. It reminded me of my own experiences around the Old Lady. When I first played there years ago as a junior, I hated it. I couldn’t see what any of the fuss was about and I didn’t get it. But the more I’ve gone back, the more I’ve grown to love the place. I was also glad to hear one of the guys say how easy it is to hit the Old Course hotel… It is absolutely one of those places you must go and see, and of course play if lucky enough.

I think it was DJ on the podcast who spoke of his experience up the last hole where he fatted a wedge from 70 yards and then proceeded to stiff a putt from 30 yards. Again it reminded me of when I had pretty much given up en route to an 89 in the St Andrew Links Trophy a good few years back. I putted it from 100 yards on the 10th hole.

The field in Abu Dhabi this week is strong and it’s going to be awesome teeing off on the opposite side of the course to the big guns.

All seriousness aside though, it’s worth taking a look to see where the field has gone down to. It’s amazing actually to see how far down the list isn’t going. In 2013 when I was the 12th card from the Challenge Tour I ended up 1st reserve for Abu Dhabi and got into Dubai. Nobody from the Challenge Tour category is likely to play Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Malaysia this year. I don’t know exactly why this is, but it’s a bit of an issue for the Tour in my opinion. I think it’s now logical and totally respectable if you’re a Q School graduate to simply not bother even playing the European Tour this year and instead focus on the Challenge Tour. Having said that, if it’s the case that Challenge Tour guys aren’t getting into say, six of the biggest events, then I don’t know what the best play is. One answer I guess is just to win an event. After all, that’s pretty simple…

I’m not here to provide solutions. But I am attending my first committee meeting next Tuesday.

As a 26 year old man who has never sat in on anything truly important in my life, I’m at a little bit of a loose end as to how best approach my new role as an upholder of fairness and free hotel rooms for those who can most afford it. I’m not cool with being seen as the guy who criticises, and comes up with no solutions. I hate those people too. However, it’s a scary prospect to have to potentially vote on whether or not an individual should be fined for slow play when those extra 15 seconds could’ve given Hugh Heffner a wonderful last dying breath. Joking aside, I am excited to learn more about the Tour and put forward any opinions or ideas where I see fit.

Quickly to finish, I just want to make you aware of the equipment changes that I’ve made, so that you don’t have to ask me over Twitter.

Currently I’ve got the Titleist driver in the bag, but I am doing testing with TaylorMade before Abu Dhabi so will see on that front. Dustin’s performance in Hawaii inspired me to get back in touch with the ‘dark side’ and test. Callaway 3 wood and 5 wood. They’re bloody epic. Mizuno JPX irons. The ‘Tour’ heads, not the ones you’ll find on the shelf in your pro shop, sorry. Also I’ll be using the Mizuno wedges. Not only do they feel like a Mizuno, but they look like a Vokey*. And the Bettinardi blade remains in the bag after some incredibly average performances last year.

You may see, should I make it onto the TV in the near future, that I’ll be wearing a hat that is completely blank. I do not have a hat sponsor. So if you know anyone who would like to sponsor me, then divert them away from Twitter and show them my raw, emotive, and profound blog.

Here’s to a great 2018 for us all.

 

 

*Not 100% true.

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