All golfers protect their egos to varying degrees. Some are rock solid while others are delicate flowers that need constant nurturing. Some egos are inflated beyond reality and some are deflated beyond reality. In our own way, we all try and protect our golfing egos in an attempt to keep our confidence high. How we view ourselves and how we think other people view us can have a huge impact on our performance. However, I believe there should be a limit to how far we go in protecting our golf ego.
This past week Bubba Watson shot an 83 in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and withdrew because of “allergies”. There must have been a huge influx of allergens out there on Thursday that weren’t there during his practice rounds so he couldn’t possibly have foreseen feeling the wrath of allergies. Poor guy.
He tells himself he couldn’t possibly play that bad all on his own, he’s a damn professional! He couldn’t quietly go to the drug store after his round and find an allergy medication to get him through the second round, it would be a hit to his ego if people thought he shot 83 without some evil external force acting against him. No, the allergies were so bad that he couldn’t even sleep on it and see how he felt the next day. Withdrawing was his only option. Or maybe (likely) it was a desperate attempt to salvage his ego. Withdrawing shows everyone he was not fit for golf. Bubba didn’t shoot 83, Bubba taken over by allergies did. Grinding out the second round would ‘admit’ to shooting 83 on Thursday. How embarrassing.
When things aren’t going well golfers tend to go into survival mode to try preserve as much confidence as they can by blaming certain things on external factors. Allergies, weather, bad yardages, annoying playing partners, putts not breaking like they should, the list goes on. We’ve all been there. But where is the line between a healthy level of self preservation and drowning in a pool of denial? I don’t exactly know where the line is, but I know that quitting crosses that line. The exception being if you have an injury that could worsen if you continue, of course.
Adam Scott didn’t blame his putting stroke for his weekend putting woes at Bay Hill, he chalked it up to misreading the greens. He’s Adam freaking Scott, he doesn’t make bad strokes. I don’t know, Adam, misreads don’t tend to die on the low side from 3 feet on Tour. I’m not actually judging Adam for his public assessment, at least he didn’t withdraw and blame his poor putting on sniffles. He was just trying to salvage some confidence in his putting stroke. Misreading greens at Bay Hill can easily be dismissed once he arrives at Augusta, whereas a timid putting stroke can follow him anywhere.
As for Bubba, I am judging him. I’ve never had allergies, so maybe I’m being a bit hard on him. I have, however, played golf when sick or hungover and shot my handicap. I’m not saying I could do that every time, I’m just saying it’s not impossible to play well under less than ideal circumstances. Things are a bit more grueling on Tour than playing with your buddies, I’ll give him that, but he’s not sending a good message that you can just pull out of competition when you shoot a score that might seem humiliating to you. I’m sure he’ll find a way to get those relentless allergies under control, at least until the next time he shoots 80.
Tiger has won a major on a broken leg. He’s finished the job on Sunday with a stomach flu. The old cliche “mind over matter” can actually work in golf sometimes.
When John Daly failed to break 90 the week before, I think it actually repaired his image a bit. He played it out till the bitter end. He had the yips that day, plain and simple. He was the first to admit it. Anyone who has ever played golf understands that there will be those days you just don’t have it, so what is there to be so afraid of? It’s not like you’re alone.
Bubba may be a Masters champ, a multiple winner on Tour, a fellow lefty and an interesting player to watch, but he’s dropped way down my list. He crossed the line of a golfer trying to keep his confidence high with some innocent tidbits of denial like Adam Scott to being a bit of a baby and setting a bad example. A first round 83 should have presented him with a great opportunity. The opportunity to show everyone what he’s made of when he shoots 63 in the second round to make the cut. What a story that would have been!
Golf is a hard game for everyone. It will try and beat you up mentally more than it’s going to try and nurture you. Quitting and making excuses isn’t fooling anyone, it’s only fooling yourself. Anyone can quit like Bubba did, quitting is easy. It takes guts to hang a big number on the board and put yourself right back out there.