Sage Advice From Veteran Golf Stars
It seems as if everyone who has really been there has something to say about the condition of those who are striving to get there. At least, if anyone’s going to talk, they are the people most qualified to do so. A recent spate of veteran, even elderly golf stars doling out a constant stream of commentary on the plight of young stars and their problems has produced a mixed reaction in this reader. On one hand, the experience and the insight is there – and on the other, no two lives or personalities are the same. Nobody can be entirely pigeon-holed, despite the common thread of sports competition.
Since the raging fires over Tiger Wood’s personal life are gradually abating, talk has turned to the young Irishman, Rory McIlroy. Why did he stop winning all of a sudden? Did he not keep his eye on the ball, so to speak? Is he having too much fun off the course, dabbling in too many things, signing with the wrong company? Nick Faldo seems to think so, and now Gary Player has chimed in.
Player is the king of self-discipline, and has clung to it maniacally, not only throughout his stellar career, but through his entire life. To argue with him at a distance is difficult, and to argue with him eye to eye is well nigh impossible – perhaps a little rigid for some, but he may be right.
Player is “perturbed” at McIlroy’s condition, citing his talent and potential for “being the man.” He concurs with Faldo’s description of the optimal window for winning in this industry, and seems mystified by the fact that Rory waited a month before entering another tournament after winning the 2010 U.S. Open. Player also suggested that he find the right wife, as he did, a sentiment which sounds a bit antique in the ears of a modern reader, but again, possibly correct. Who knows? I personally agree with Player on one point, however – that McIlroy will be back.
And what about the youth of yesterday who was supposed to obliterate every record in the books? ESPN has sent on the declaration that Tiger has lost his “aggressiveness,” an opinion put forth by his former caddie, and that he just doesn’t own the weekend or specific components of the game as he once did. They go on to suggest that the militaristic self-brutality of his former regimen just doesn’t resonate with Tiger in the same way anymore, especially since the loss of his father.
Great psychoanalysts that we are, it’s a good thing that we’ve solved the problem. I was afraid for a moment there that the human brain was a complex thing, resistant to understanding above all other organs. My point – nobody knows, not really. The pressures on Player’s youth were different than the gazillion distractions available now. Even Nicklaus, with his thoughtfully considered observations on Tiger, can’t really be sure. There are a million ways for youth to take a wrong turn in a high temperature business.
Interesting, though – another one just started out this weekend, when Gabriella Then of Upland, California, soon to be a freshman at USC, won the U.S. Girls Junior 2 and 1 in a 36-hole match. She squeaked it out over Lakareber Abe, who had hoped to join Tiger, Bill Wright and Alton Duhon as former African-American winners. No problem, though. With their respective performances, both have their tickets stamped to the U.S. Women’s Amateur this year, so the new youth seems to be staying on course for the time being.
So, let them talk. We love it, and sometimes they’re even right – but, I wouldn’t swear by it. Golf’s a funny game, made up entirely of ups and downs.