No one beats themselves up quite like golfers. We could all learn something from Matthew Fitzpatrick's experience
Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. A recent interview with Matt Fitzpatrick sent shivers down my spine.
When the news broke of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Fitzpatrick was straight on the phone with his ex-girlfriend, a Ukrainian native whose family still reside in Lviv.
“She was telling me about her gran who had a couple of strokes recently and can hardly walk, so she can’t go anywhere,” he told the Daily Mail’s Derek Lawrenson. “Then she told me about her uncle who had just packed his bags and was off to fight.”
It’s the kind of conversation so many of us would find harrowing – and rightly so. For the Englishman, it left him wondering what really matters to him.
“I was sitting there in Florida ready to practise and it hit me – the contrast between the fact he might never come back, and what I do,” he said.
“I had already decided to be a little easier on myself this year and appreciate all that I have, but that phone call just emphasised I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life worrying about winning golf tournaments.
“Sure, I want to win but there has to be a balance. One hundred per cent I’ve got too worked up about them in the past.”
It reminded me of a time I was at the driving range many years ago and, as is so often the case, I was inwardly beating myself up. This particular time it was over a couple of chunked wedges. (How do you chunk a wedge off a mat, for crying out loud?)
But I wasn’t being nearly as hard on myself as the gentleman in the bay next to me. After every shot came an array of words that would make Quentin Tarantino blush.
I can’t remember how I began our conversation because I was largely too concerned that he might wrap his six-iron round my boat. But I had to console him.
Now this isn’t an uncommon scene at any range. Or, indeed, on the course. As golfers, we constantly lay into ourselves for the smallest things. A missed two-footer, a topped three-wood, a drive out of bounds.
We all have things going on in our lives. We all suffer heartache, and grief. Some of us lose jobs, lose loved ones, lose a sense of worth. I’m not alone in that. In the last two years alone we’ve dealt with a global pandemic, with political unrest, and now the threat of nuclear war.
In the wise words of Ian Poulter, who wore a blue and yellow outfit during the first round of the Arnold Palmer invitational: “We just play a silly game while others are in the world suffering. It brings it into perspective pretty quickly.”
And if you’re the kind of person who beats yourself up on the course, here’s your periodic reminder that golf is hard.
Like, really hard.
And it’s OK to hit bad shots every now and then.
If you’re on Twitter, you should follow Lou Stagner, who heads up the data division for Arccos.
Every now and then he’ll pump out a little nugget with the hashtag #ManageYourExpectations, which will be along the lines of how Tiger Woods – the best player of all time, if you need reminding – only hits 30% of shots inside 10 feet from 100 yards in the fairway. How many times have you slammed your clubhead into the ground for a perfectly acceptable shot into the middle of the green?
Another of Lou’s stats that hit home was how, from 15 yards out, in the rough, tour pros miss the green 10% of the time.
Think about this next time you’re about to unleash on yourself. Unless you’re chunking a wedge off a mat, then you can go to town.
As for my swear jar-filling amigo at the range, we’re now good pals. I even went to his wedding. (The evening do. We’re not that close…)
But, most importantly, please allow golf to be your escape from everything that’s going on. You need it. You deserve it.
So who won this week?
I feel like every time the LPGA stars are in action I’m just writing the same thing…
Jin Young Ko is so far and away the best golfer on the planet right now, it’s not even close.
She’s just won her sixth title in her last 10 starts, and in doing so completed her 15th consecutive round in the 60s and 30th (!) consecutive round under par. Both are LPGA records.
As always, it’s been an entertaining week at Arnie’s Place.
On the opening day alone we witnessed Jon Rahm miss the shortest putt of the PGA Tour season so far, as well as one of the best ball strikers on tour, Corey Conners, duffing it into the water. Makes you feel so good, doesn’t it?
At the other end of the tournament, Billy Horschel, Gary Woodland and Viktor Hovland all looked like they had it under control in a thrilling finish at Bay Hill.
But it was Scottie Scheffler who came out on top for his second PGA Tour title in three weeks. (And, well, ever.)
Meanwhile, Ashun Wu began the final day of the Magical Kenya Open four off the lead. He ended it four clear for his fourth DP World Tour victory.
And just look at this touch…
I’ll even forgive the member of the DPWT social team for the erroneous use of “on route”.
Right, that’s enough from me for another week. Sorry it was a bit serious. Remember, there’s always someone you can talk to. And if there isn’t, talk to me. You know how to get hold of me.