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Thursday, 28 May 2015

If I Was Rory, I'd Skip the Gym and Get on the Blower

I got up at three o'clock to watch Rory in the Irish Open. I was just one of a legion of golf fans who was anxious to see Rory paired with Rickie Fowler, hoping for some fireworks. What we saw instead was absolutely bewildering. Rory looked lost. I am a Rory fan, and I'm not jumping off the bandwagon, but I am definitely concerned.

It's probably times like this when Rory understands the meaning of the saying, it's lonely at the top. This 80, directly on the heels of a 78 at Wentworth last week, will definitely have everyone talking. How can someone win in such dominant fashion a couple of weeks ago, and then suddenly lose his game? It comes with the territory. When you're the top dog, people have expectations. You will be subjected to scrutiny and, perhaps, criticism.

Last week, Rory stated he was tired. It happens. This week, however, Rory claimed to be refreshed from his weekend off and was ready to go. Now, barring a round in the low sixties tomorrow, he is on the verge of missing another cut in an event he is hosting and is obviously dear to his heart. It's a mystery. Or is it?

Last week I expressed concerns about the things I was seeing and hearing from Rory. The club throwing, the comments about golfers needing to be more fit, and the comment about retiring by forty. I suggested that the golfing gods, not to mention Rory's colleagues, and fans like me, might be getting the impression that Rory is getting just a bit too big for his britches.

It's been said that you can never own your game, you just rent it. It's one of the mysteries of the game. One day you've got it, the next day it's gone. I find it interesting, however, in his post-round interview Rory said he would hit the gym, rather than take it to the range after today's debacle, and try to regroup mentally. The poor weather might have been a factor in his thinking, and perhaps he isn't likely to find the answer in one session on the range, but my concern is that Rory may have become too enamoured with the gym rather than the range.

The golf world has certainly changed. It's become all about technology. The latest and greatest high tech equipment, the computer-assisted teaching, the golf-specific exercise programs, the sports psychologists, all promising to produce a superior player. People believe it. They really believe that today's champions are better players than the champions of old. However, in this technological era, the artistry of the game seems to be forgotten, or, if not forgotten, overlooked because it isn't subject to being measured, and it isn't subject to being taught by using Trackman.

The old time champions were artistic players. The top players could hit every shot in the book. They worked magic with a 56 degree wedge. They could fade it, draw it, hook it, hit it high, knock it down. They had a whole arsenal of shots to get them to the house. They learned from each other. I am mystified when I hear announcers saying that a certain pin is problematic for a top professional because it calls for a fade when he plays a draw. We seem to have produced a generation of one trick ponies, who bomb it and gouge it, and live and die by the draw. That is perhaps an over generalization, but the artistry of the game seems to be on the wane in favour of power.

Can you imagine Lee Trevino, or Jack Nicklaus, struggling to an 80 at the height of their powers, seemingly without a clue as to how to recover? They would have figured out a way to get it to the house. Rory maybe needs to get back to hitting golf shots; to, as Sam Snead would say, painting pictures with his shots, and forget about the gym. If he needs some golf-specific exercise, Rory might follow Harvey Penick and Ben Hogan's advice and invest in a weighted club. The best golf-specific exercise is swinging a club and hitting golf balls.

I may be old fashioned, but I bet the old champions might just have a few things they could teach Rory, should he be inclined to ask. If I was Rory, I'd skip the gym and get on the blower to Jack. I bet Jack could get him back on track. In the meantime, I hope he goes out tomorrow and shoots a low number. It would be very sad for the fans if Rory missed the cut.