I WONDER what odds you would have got 10 years ago if you wanted to place a bet on a relatively small country like Ireland producing a World No 1 and having a combined collection of six Major wins to its name?
It would have been a brave punter to stake much cash on such an incredible achievement.
Looking at this fascinating scenario you need to be careful of what psychologists call ‘fundamental attribution error’ which is an academic way of saying be careful as to what story you come up with as to why something has happened.
However I personally can’t help but wonder and speculate myself as to what are some of the underlying factors that could perhaps explain, or a least shed some light on, what has happened these past 10 years.
I have been fortunate myself to spend a lot of time in Ireland over the last decade and work with a number of these players and had the opportunity to observe certain aspects of Irish golf at first hand.
One of the things which always strikes me is how much the Irish love their sport and how much they tend to admire people who do well.
There does seem to be a genuine desire from the public to see their heroes do well and the support that golfers get from the public is incredible.
There doesn’t seem to be quite the corrosive element of build-your-stars-up-to-knock-them-down-again that some cultures seem to revel in.
The game at grass roots is fascinating also in so much as you see the passion to play in inter-club cups and competitions.
To play for your club means something and the desire to play in a very competitive but friendly environment is obvious. The game is both seriously competitive and social at the same time.
I have often talked in the past about the need to play different courses and put yourself into different contexts to give your brain a new puzzle to solve.
Playing golf on other courses with other people in other situations is brain-compatible to learning and growing as a golfer.
Playing on the same course with the same fourball all the time, round after round, is probably not the best way to develop your game.
As curious as it may seem, in a paradoxical way that many of my friends who live in Ireland may challenge me on, I think that the climate and the conditions in Ireland actually help to develop great players in their early years.
As anyone who has ever been over there would know, you don’t get that many days that are 80 degrees in the shade and flat calm! Most of the time the conditions are challenging. No, most of the time the conditions are very challenging.
Yet you have to learn how to play and to deal with poor weather and tough conditions. You have to learn how to control the flight, you have to learn how to ‘get it round’. Yet you have to learn how to play and to deal with poor weather and tough conditions. You have to learn how to control the flight, you have to learn how to ‘get it round’.
I am not suggesting for one minute that playing in bad weather all the time is good for your game but in your early, formative years when things are made difficult it is amazing how humans respond to the challenge. We find a way. We work out how to do it.
These golfers have found a way to play and score on a variety of tough courses and in tough conditions.
They may not have to do that now as they follow the sun on various tours but in their very earliest years they did.
Do we sometimes try to make things a little bit too easy for some of our players by always wanting them to be in the most perfect of conditions?
I do think that the coaching that the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) has provided over the years has played a big part in these Major victories.
I have enormous respect for the head coach Neil Manchip and the way that he allows players to explore, play and develop without having a ridiculous one-way-fits-all system that I have seen destroy some young players.
When I spoke to Neil recently he told me how he had just had a group of young players go out on the course with only three clubs to figure out with these limited resources how to get the ball into the hole with different shots by being creative and playful.
We have so much wonderful technology available to us nowadays to help our game but we must be careful not to move too far away from the heart and soul of the game where self-discovery is so important.
They haven’t done that in Ireland so maybe we shouldn’t either.