Mastering Golf: If Tiger Can, Why Can’t I?

By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer

I have now been in college for about eight months. After having read some of the most important works in the history of literature, philosophy and theology, I have begun to realize that it is hard to really know anything. Feuerbach has taught me that God may just be my own projection and Nietzsche has been dropping hints that I missed God’s funeral and forgot to even send flowers.

I do not know much about this zany existence we call life and I may be just a wayward traveler on this planet but there is one thing I know to be absolutely true beyond any shadow of a doubt.

I suck at golf.

Last Saturday morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. to go with Hoya Assistant Sports Editor Sean P. Flynn, Web Editor Gregg J. Blais and Photography Editor Tim Llewellyn to hit the links at Rock Creek Park as part of The Hoya’s 80th Anniversary Gala Weekend. To start, I hadn’t seen seven in the morning since I’ve been at college except when I haven’t been to sleep yet, so maybe you can attribute my poor performance to acute sleep deprivation.

Or maybe it’s just that I suck.

The people at Rock Creek are not particularly nice to amateurs either. I had to rent clubs because my set is nestled comfortably at my house in New Jersey. What I ended up with was a bright purple bag with “RENTAL” prominently emblazoned on it, immediately signaling to all onlookers that I was the pity case of the day.

My woods play? It’s not strong. My irons? Not strong. My short game? Short on talent. Putting? As soon as the ball got within eight feet of the cup, I invoked the “gimme rule.”

Let’s just say that I carded a 69 – on the front nine. From that juncture on, I started assigning myself what I like to call “value scores.” If I thought I played marginally well on a given hole, I gave myself a six. Played poorly? Seven, regardless of how many shots I had taken. What if I actually shot a four? It was never really a concern.

The main reason I’m not very good is that I don’t play very often at all. In fact, Saturday was the first time I had ever actually played 18 holes. More than nearly any other sport, there are a ridiculous number of silly little rules associated with golf. From how to dress to how loud you’re allowed to talk to letting people play through, you need to be well versed in golf etiquette if you don’t want to make an idiot out of yourself. There are also only two kinds of golfers: really good and really bad and there ain’t no third direction. There are very few people who are “OK” at golf. They either suck or make everyone else look really bad.

I guess the reason I chose to write about this this week is not just that I had a negative self-image following my foray on the fairway. The Masters kicked off yesterday, a yearly sports event that CBS telecaster Jim Nantz recently termed “a tradition unlike any other.” And really, I guess it is unlike any other tradition in sports.

Augusta National is, bar none, the most serene and picturesque setting for any sporting event. I have never ventured to the idyllic Georgia golf course, never having been further south than North Carolina, but from the intensity of the color that comes through my TV screen, I can’t even imagine what it would be like in person.

The tournament is played at the same place every year without fail. It is regarded by all in the sport as the crown jewel of the Grand Slam. It has been played for as long as anyone can remember. It is without question the classiest sporting event in all the world. The only thing that can even come close, maybe, is Wimbledon.

The World Series? It can be mediocre. (Marlins-Indians?) The NCAA Tournament? Not nearly as classy. The Rose Bowl? Not the defining moment of college football.

To perform on golf’s biggest stage is an accomplishment even the best in golf have difficulty doing. The green jacket has eluded Greg Norman throughout his entire career.

But I guess the other reason I genuinely enjoy the Masters is the level at which these men play golf. After spending the morning out on the course, you cannot help but have the utmost respect for anyone who doesn’t consistently injure himself or others using his three iron. (Sorry about almost decapitating you, Sean.)

The distance in level of play between professional and amateur golfers is arguably the biggest of any widely played sport. Anyone can go out and consistently hit a jump shot. Almost anyone can field a ground ball with marginal consistency or hit an overhead slam. But hardly anyone can hit consistently well with a nine iron.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this year’s tournament at all. On the other hand, I would be remiss if I made inane predictions despite my highly limited knowledge of the game. Oh, well – it’s never stopped me before.

The favorite in this tournament has to be Tiger Woods, the best thing to happen to golf since Big Bertha and her evil cousin, Great Big Bertha. He is playing the best golf of anyone in the field and has been the most consistent athlete in any sport over the last year. Beyond that, there are a handful of people like David Duval, Tom Lehman and Sergio Garcia who could challenge, because, despite the common conception, Tiger is not invincible.

I was going to write about this about a month and a half ago when Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post dubbed Tiger one of the all-time greats coming off his unbelievable consecutive-tournament victory streak. Nope, you can’t do that. It’s easy to assume that after about two years of greatness that Tiger is going to be one of golf’s – and sports’ – epic heroes. But after his amazing win at the Masters three years ago, he was mired in mediocrity until his recent streak. Tiger has shown a propensity to slump and one or two great seasons do not guarantee a great career; it never has.

Just ask Denny McLain.

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