Professional Golf: Ferraris and Others
Every profession in the world that requires physicality, body/mind control and strength used with finesse has one or more of those individuals who are able to show up time and time again in the same general condition. There are two terms used in the opera world, for example – “briefcase interpretation,” the ability to reproduce the qualities of a performance every night with little to distinguish one from the other, and “He or she is a Ferrari type – it either works perfectly, or not at all.”
In terms of professional golf, our minds can immediately run to specific names aptly reflecting both. It doesn’t mean that a person wins every week – the game is just too good for that. But there are people who don’t seem to do the roller coast thing in terms of their personal condition. In my memory, Gary Player was such a golfer. When he wasn’t winning, he was contending, and if something was lacking on a given week, he was out on the range fixing it, not on a psychiatrist’s couch. In that sense, perhaps he might be described as a hybrid Ferrari/Dodge Ram – win maybe, win maybe not, but always somewhere up there on the leader board. I am still astonished at how few cuts he missed in that long career.
For much of Tiger Wood’s career, he was pure Ferrari, but if it was in the shop, he had a spare Lamborghini or Porsche. No lead was safe, and although he came to labor under distractions a few years later, he was trained from the beginning to be disciplined in the game.
In this age, problems lie not so far under the skin as they once did. To imagine Arnold Palmer telling the press that he just wasn’t in a good mental place is far-fetched, and for Jack Nicklaus to ascribe a poor round to a sore tooth, as Rory McIlroy did in the first round of the Honda, just doesn’t fit his nature or his era.
That being said, I would remind the reader that I am a tremendous Rory fan. He’s a major talent, and when he’s on, few can stand up to him. However, he is pure Ferrari – it either works brilliantly, or not at all. We have watched through the weeks of missed cuts, alterations in the love life and equipment sponsor changes. And then, wham – there he is, and he won’t go away. This year, he started by missing the cut at Abu Dabhi, exiting in the first round of Match Play, and this week, started the first round seven over through eight holes (welcome to my world). In short, he went from Ferrari to Yugo, from a Rolls to a ’54 Studebaker, and I know – my father owned one.
I believe that, partly as a product of his age, Rory is prone to being distracted, and has a bent for exhaustion. With the globalization of the game, a great deal more international travel is required, which is, indeed, exhausting.
Golfweek reported that he was near tears when he pulled out of the round, and some criticized his manners. I object to such a suggestion. Being young, a fierce competitor and occasionally brash is not being ill-mannered. I believe he’s a likeable guy and a good colleague. Just watch – we’ll moan and groan through a few more weeks, then something big will come along, and he’ll murder it with some ridiculously low score.
Still, speaking of people who can bring it and bring it, week after week, let’s talk about Stacy Lewis, another Gary Player type who is usually either winning or lurking nearby. In case of a mechanical difficulty, her other car’s a starship, despite medical obstacles that would have knocked most people out of the career path entirely.
It’s all part of the human drama, nothing to get excited about. Let’s be grateful to have all these diverse personalities thrown into the same pressure cooker each week – the Ferraris, Studebakers, and even the occasional mule.