When the wheels fall off!

September 8, 2016

The one common denominator in the game of golf is frustration. I believe no matter how good or bad you play, you have to deal with your game on a very personal, frustrating level during each round.

Recreational golfers can be a manic/ depressive group; experiencing highs and lows as often as each shot. Case in point: I have a longtime friend who shoots in the mid-eighties on a regular basis, but often complains he is frustrated because he can’t seem to get down to the low eighties with any regularity (he gets no sympathy from me).

We’ve all been there, on in two and three putt or leave a birdie putt a foot short, then complain we made a par, or worse a bogey, but my friend goes a step further. When he makes a birdie, he complains that he didn’t hit the ball crisp enough (sidebar, we all shake our head and ignore him at the next tee box).

Last weekend, for example, I played at a local course after not playing golf since early July due to the extreme heat and sore shoulder. The first two holes, I pared but then ended up with a triple bogey on a short par four, then pared a hard par three surrounded by water and traps.

The next hole was a long par five, with water and a bridge - 135 yards from the green. I was at the bridge in two, put two balls in the water and ended up with a nine. I ended the round with seven pars, a quadruple bogey, two triple bogeys and so on.  My final score was 93 and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (just when you think you have a good round going, the wheels come off).

Now keep that thought in mind when I tell you about two pro golfers who had their wheels come off at the worst time of their weekend. I will start with the most recent frustration of Jordan Spieth at the 2016 Masters Tournament. As we all remember, Spieth led the entire tournament until that infamous (par 3), 12th hole in the final round when the wheels came off and  he scored a quadruple bogey (7), twice hitting his ball into Rae’s Creek.

It was painful to watch Spieth help the winner Danny Willett put on the Masters Green Jacket at the winners ceremony. The shock and disbelief on his face had not diminished at all and this was like pouring salt into a wound. But Spieth will be back and hopefully with something to prove.

Ranking up there with the disaster that befell Spieth is Jean Van de Velde and his collapse in the 1999 British Open. Arriving at the eighteenth tee box with a three-stroke lead, all Van de Velde needed was a double bogey or better at the par four to win the Claret Jug.

Van de Velde was on the verge of becoming the first French golfer to win the British Open since 1907, but as the world watched, the wheels came off! Instead of playing it safe with an iron off the tee, Van de Velde used his driver and hit his first shot into the deep rough. His second shot, which many thought should have been a safe shot back to the fairway, was a long iron over the green that hit the grandstand and bounced into the rough.

His third shot, which should have landed safely on the green, landed in the creek, near the front of the green. He then took a penalty shot and landed in a greenside bunker, where he blasted out and finally putted out with a seven. Tied with Paul Lawrie, Van de Velde lost all confidence and a four hole playoff by three strokes. The wheels fell off and he and Justin Leonard tied for second place. Van de Velde went from first place and 350, 000 pounds to splitting second place money of 185,000 pounds.

19th Hole trivia

• Ian Woosnam was penalized two strokes in the 2001 British Open when his caddie left Woosnam’s practice driver in his bag during the final round. He had fifteen clubs, not fourteen and ended up in a six way tie for third place, costing him 312,216 pounds. This time a caddie was responsible for “the wheels coming off the cart.” He was fired after the round.

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