The Florida Swing has seen more excitement in its four stops this year than ever before. We’ve seen some massive scores too; Brett Rumford’s 12 at Doral; John Daly’s 12 at Copperhead; and Bubba Watson’s 11 at Bay Hill. High scoring serves to remind us that golf isn’t as easy as professionals make it look. It also demonstrates just how important course management and decision making can be.
The latest big score, from Bubba Watson, included three trips to the water on a par 5 he would normally eat up for breakfast. Those three shots, while providing plenty of excitement for the galleries, resulted in a six-over par score for the hole, and could have been avoided if he had played a line 15 yards more conservative. It was the culmination of a mistake-littered round of golf and the eventual withdrawal from the tournament. Perhaps the least we can say is that his sense of pride ensured he finished with three straight pars.
Nobody likes to see pros abandon tournaments due to poor play, the public and media backlash received by Rory McIlroy when he exited the Honda Classic in 2013 due to ‘toothache’ shows how acutely aware we all are of this type of behaviour.
Even John Daly didn’t quit after posting a horrendous score at the Valspar Championship – though this shouldn’t be confused with Daly’s inherent integrity, he’s quit mid-round at least seventeen times.
His latest blunder, embarrassment, circus act or whatever you care to name it, came from one big wet tee shot and then two poorly thought out approaches to the green from 300 yards that also got drenched. “It was a good 12” Daly commented afterwards. But the truth is it was a shot-by-shot demonstration of how not to play a golf hole with water on it.
The player most felt sorry for is Australian Brett Rumford, playing in his first WGC event at the newly fashioned Blue Monster at Trump Doral, he started his tournament at the 10th, a par 5 over water. Duly hitting his first three drives into it. He eventually carded a 12. At 7-over with 71 more holes to play, it was an impressive feat, not just to finish, but to not finish last!
What can we learn from such poor play?
Firstly, the best shot to play is the same regardless of whether we are 13-under par or 13-over par. The 300 yard (John Daly) shot over water is still just as dangerous. Get it right and you just might make birdie, get it wrong and you risk losing two, or more, shots. For most of us the risk-reward is unfairly weighted and realising this before damaging your own score is critical for successful golf.
Taking a leaf out of Rumford’s golf book is valuable. It would have been easy for him to have lost his head and given up right there. But some professionals work through their problems on the course, in the heat of battle. Following his first round 83 he then carded successively better scores of 79, 77 and 74. By not giving up this experience might reward him sometime in the future.
For most of us, going round in three, four or five below our handicap, will always be a better feeling than reaching that 590 yard par 5 in two, then three-putting from 80 feet. We just need to learn to put it all in perspective.
Take a leaf out of Rumford’s book and persevere, what you learn in a poor round can be used to better effect next time out. But once you make that mistake of going into the water off the tee, don’t compound that error by doing exactly the same again! Golf is a learning game, as Bobby Jones said,
”I get as much fun as the next man from whaling the ball as hard as I can and catching it squarely on the button. But from sad experience I learned not to try this in a round that meant anything.”