This isn’t a blog about Bryson. Partly because I’m not a journalist, and partly because there isn’t really anything I can write about what I witnessed in him winning the US Open – apart from obviously winning a US Open – that particularly inspires me.
We played the last two weeks on the LET; first in Switzerland and then in France. I’m pretty sure most of us spent 95% of the time we weren’t actually on the golf course in France watching the US Open – we were in bubble life, so there wasn’t much else on offer, but it was also a major championship. As golfers, we’re going to watch.
But like I said, I didn’t find it particularly inspiring. I found it entertaining and engaging, because it was a major: the ebb and flow of players gaining ground and momentum and confidence, and then faltering, and wondering and wandering, and trying with a desperate calm to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together – that’s fascinating, wherever it is and whoever wins it. And to be fair to Bryson, watching somebody succeed in their pursuit of an ultimate goal is inspiring, especially as a professional golfer who dreams similar dreams. But in terms of engaging my mind, stirring something in me to find words for my thoughts on it all – it didn’t do it for me. Neither did the US PGA, to be honest, as compelling as the leaderboard was. Same with the ANA (and the endless need to turn it into the Great Wall of Dinah). I don’t say any of that to criticise golf or those who were successful in each – I enjoyed watching them. It just didn’t make me really think (and I think a lot).
Other people will write about what this all means for the game of golf itself and where it needs to go. What protections need to be given to a sport that is beautiful in its demands of the mental as much as the physical. How to redistribute those demands – not because swinging at great speed and finding somewhere near the middle of the clubface while doing so isn’t a great skill, but because golf is capable of so much more. And it’s the ‘more’ that sucks me in. It’s the ‘more’ that I like thinking about and writing about and getting up in the morning for.
You know what does inspire me? The grind.
Maybe I speak as a professional golfer and a competitor here as opposed to a fan, but this captures me far more than the final round at Winged Foot on Sunday. It’s the reason I will forever have so much time for Jordan Spieth, and perhaps the quality he has that brought him his majors, as much as any technical ability. It’s the reason there was so much goodwill towards Matteo Manessaro winning an Alps Tour event at the weekend.
It’s living for the climb, for that chink of light in the un-answering darkness, for the adrenaline of it quite simply clicking again.
For the shared, unspoken discontent between players getting kicked off the range on a Thursday evening, all looking for answers to different questions in each divot and each video and each tweak of the alignment stick on the ground.
For mutual acknowledgement of mutual demons and the willingness to shatter comfort zones in an effort to deal with them; that last resort of admitting vulnerability.
For quiet top tens after a year of quieter battles that indicate a path, for the first time, back to the start; when once upon a time it was only that; the start.
For frustrating top 20s that highlight a better level of bad golf, along with the realisation that that matters. For making cuts on the number when downhill 4 footers make themselves a staple, and the fairways narrow in tandem with a two way miss.
Sometimes, for being brave enough to let go. To avoid hours on the range, without guilt.
For having the grit to just keep going, to find a way through, after your expectations have been carved open with the sharp blade of reality.
For finding moments in outward average-ness that pave the way to better. That bedrock the dream for another day, another time. And seeing that in everyone around you.
Tournament golf… I missed watching you. But I missed competing in you more.
Funny; I also found myself admiring but not necessarily enjoying The US Open. Other than slow play and worrying about “His Brand” rather than his humanity, what’s not to admire? (about Bryson) Hoganesque dedication, studious approach, extensive planning…any golfer should envy his work ethic. Just following this blog, I think I figured out what bothers me: golf being played with three clubs: driver, wedge and putter. If that is all we need, is it still “golf”? Driving contest plus pitch and putt?
I think it goes back to Tiger. He excelled…and courses were changed rather than equipment. The game, for many, no longer needs fourteen clubs. So, if courses and equipment all change and players change with it, is it still the same game? Whatever the game, others will try to catch up. We wind up with nuclear balance of power rather than peaceful détente. Good or bad? I just seem left uneasy.
Meghan poses serious and thoughtful questions.
Another interesting view from Meghan. For the sunday amateur, the recent trend in professional golf looks both fascinating and, as far as I am concerned, worrying. Golf is not the only sport where the focus is more and more on the backstage : workout, gym, diet, maths, figures, equipment, and what happens on the course a mere demonstration of the “right” way to prepare a tournament. It would be unfair to put the blame on Bryson D. He’s pushing the limit further, but we could also have in mind that the great Gary Player was one of the first to set the trend of “athletic” golf. I did not take much fun in watching this USOpen, mainly because a final round without a true battle between 2 or more players is what it takes to make the show. Those of us who are curious enough (or old enough…) to go back in time know why we still remember the “duel in the sun” between Watson and Nicklaus, or the latter most unlikely comeback in 1986 for his ultimate Green Jacket. In recent years, we had the thrill of the neck-to-neck battle between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose at Augusta. This is the golf I cherish. Uncertainty, anguish, sometimes despair, because it is a wonderful human experience. And that’s why I think there is a fantastic opportunity for the Ladies Tours. They have eveything to keep the game both exciting and inspiring and, hopefully not(yet?) the ultimate obsession of “crushing it” every single shot. Sorry for Bryson, but I would trade any US Open like the one which ended sunday night for the joy of watching golfers at the Evian Championship. Playing the game I love.
Totally agree Meghan. Sinking a 5 footer to make the cut for Journey person pro is more important to them than multimillionaire winning another few hundred grand more in the bank after hammering it 300 yds plus and then selecting which wedge to play. I find it just (if not more) enjoyable watching the final stages of a season and following those pros who need to finish in the top twenty to keep their card for the following year. Real pressure is knowing that you need to play well to pay the mortgage. Too much coverage of the superstars of men’s golf and certainly not enough (if any) of Ladies, particularly LET. Keep up the good work you are doing
My engagement with women’s golf began when I was asked to report the Ford Ladies Classic, at Woburn, back in 1982. I missed the first tournament, but covered the second in 1983, won by a young German, Barbara Helbig. In those days, she was from West Germany. I covered that tournament for many years, and saw the advent of Laura Davies, who did so much for the women’s game. The tournament left Woburn in 1994 and went to Chart Hills, for one year, before folding.
What I learned about work ethic was that the women professionals in those days were moderately hard working, but not unduly so.
A lot changed when Nick Faldo demonstrated that it was possible to go through a complete swing change, work unbelievably hard, and then win majors. People twigged that success, if they didn’t know already, was closely related to practice – a lesson which Gary Player had already offered years earlier, but few followed.
Now, the ‘grind’ is commonplace, and perhaps young pro golfers are starting to recognise the similarity of, say, doing a 9-5 office job which, for much of the time, is dull and uninspiring – but it pays the bills. The difference, needless to say, is that in golf you can put in the effort, have all the talent in the world, great course management skills but, without some luck and unless you can switch on your best game and focus at the most challenging times, you may not even be able to pay the rent.
As a male golfer, I will always cherish the women’s game, if only because it is closer to my own game. Most women pros can outdrive me with ease these days, but it’s not unrealistic to want to emulate their game; however, it is beyond me to get remotely close to the McIlroys and DeChambeaus of this world.
The only issue I have with women’s golf is that it is unbearably slow, worse even than watching Spieth, Reid, or – god forbid – DeChambeau. This will kill interest in the game if it is not addressed.