My week in golf: I shake their hand but think ‘I’m going to bury you’
I like to think I’m a live and let live kind of guy.
I rescue spiders from the bath.
Admittedly while slightly tipsy, I once walked a mile and a half from the pub to my house picking up every snail that crossed my path.
The journey took two hours.
I won’t even kill a wasp.
What I am trying to say is this: I know the precious value of life.
Put a match play card in my hand, though, and it’s like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
I become a vengeful, quite spiteful creature.
Seve Ballesteros, talking about man-on-man combat in the Ryder Cup, once said: “I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back and wish them luck, but I am thinking ‘I am going to bury you’.”
I’m much worse.
I’ll idly chit chat as we walk down the fairway but, really, I want to cause my opponent unimaginable mental torment.
For those 18 holes, I’d even go as far as to say I hate them.
Now you can’t win every time but, buoyed on by bitterness, I like to think I’m tough to break down.
And fittingly, with the Ryder Cup on the horizon, this week’s golf revolved around the latter stages of the Sports Publications match play tournament.
We’d played more games than a Champions League outfit to reach the knockout stages but here I was, in the quarter-finals, stood on the 15th tee at Sand Moor, in Leeds.
I’m two down with four to play to 24-handicapper Joe Urquhart.
In the post-match analysis that followed in the clubhouse, young Urquhart expressed his unhappiness with his performance.
He’d only had five pars.
I confess I rather ungraciously told him that, off 24, he wasn’t really supposed to have any.
As he meandered without a care in the world through the back 9, hitting the ball 50 yards past me off the tee, and finding greens in regulation, I tried vainly to suppress a boiling temper – and a burning sense of injustice.
After striking a shed with my drive off the 14th tee on my way to losing yet another hole, any semblance of sense had vanished.
I can be my own worst enemy at these match play times. I want to win so much it blinds me to everything else. It’s like someone has shoved a hot needle through my temple.
Where there should be calm considered reflection, I can mope around like a distracted ‘Kevin the teenager’ in golf shoes.
I’m sure if Joe hadn’t missed a short putt for a half on the 15th he would have finished me off on the very next hole.
On such small margins do matches rest.
Suddenly I felt revitalised, my equilibrium restored and, most importantly, full of the venom needed to strike.
The climax came on the 17th. Having fought back to all-square, I hit the most perfect 8-iron – 131 yards exactly to two feet on Sand Moor’s glorious par 3.
I’m not normally ashamed of my behaviour on the course, however brittle my mood can be, but I still wince now that I involuntarily shouted ‘come on, baby’ after the ball as it arced it way towards the green.
The shame may never leave me.
But it was weird. Waiting to hit that shot, I had the absolute certainty I was going to win the game.
Success duly followed at the 18th but my match play aspirations of lifting the company trophy were, unfortunately, short lived.
With a place in the final waiting, I was outfoxed by a cannier, more experienced, exponent in the last four.
Cleverly playing on my desire to tee it up at Moortown, deputy editor Mark Townsend sneaked us off the whites and proceeded to smash his driver all around the former Ryder Cup venue on his way to a 4&3 success.
I’ve never hit so many hybrid approaches in my life. That I took him as far as the 15th was something to celebrate – he was dormie 7.
I’d say congratulations to him. But I don’t mean it. I’m far too petty for that. In fact, I’m already plotting my revenge.
Now where are his tyres?