We have, in the last two weeks, learned a great deal about the common humanity of our men on tour. And in every instance, that knowledge grew from a kind of self-inflicted disaster that would have had the rest of us turning the air blue with rage.
We watch our heroes and learn from them weekly. Usually our education is a technical brand; swing thoughts, putting tips, balance, rhythm.
I spend a great deal of my time at professional tournaments on the driving range, watching, listening, seeking. Though my purpose in being there is work-related, I normally come away with one or two things that I can take to my own range and work on. Let’s try an initial move with the left knee. Why not try splaying the right foot out a bit?
And, of course, I eventually become a human pretzel, turned this way and that with little good result.
But we also learn a bit about what lives inside these men and women. And that comes when they have taken themselves to the very edge of their emotional range.
At the Masters, Rory McIlroy found himself traipsing in the backyards of cabins very few knew existed off the left of the 10th fairway. One hack led to another and another and his wheels came terribly unbalanced.
His final round 80, after leading going to that 10th hole, could have provoked a post-round collapse, as well. Instead, with a pained smile, he was thoughtful and considerate, belying his 21 years on this planet. There was a grace about him that made us admire him for something altogether different than just his golf.
And last week in San Antonio, the young firebrand Kevin Na took the much-publicized 16 on a par-four. To make matters potentially worse, he had agreed to be miced by Golf Channel and so we seemed ready to be an intimate party to a furious meltdown.
Instead, he smiled, wondering how he would ever remember how many strokes he had actually taken. He shook his head in playful derision and then, when it was all over, faced the media like a man. There but for the grace of God go we all, and yet would we indeed have had that grace?
So what did we learn from these two youngsters in their hour of peril?
Perhaps it’s not so important what WE learned, for I assume we’re past that stage. But every father out there should make each instance required viewing for their sons and daughters. Not about how to handle their golf but how to handle themselves.
Speaking of grace, your response to last week’s A Sense of Huber regarding Tiger’s post-round petulance was large and, for the most part, supportive. There were some among you, however, who took me to task for my presumption.
Seak05, via Twitter, wrote: being a sports fan, I have never seen the media insert how they feel/are treated the way the golf media does.
It’s an interesting observation, one to which I have no answer. Those of us given the privilege of a microphone become part of the story, at times, especially those who are the first line of defense, so to speak. It becomes personal, right or wrong.
Ryan Hodges asks via e-mail: No American currently holds a major championship. Is this a sign the U.S. is trailing in golf development?
Ryan, I think it’s simply a sign that the rest of the world is catching up to the U.S. There are cycles to everything in life and we’re aboard one of those at the moment. And don’t forget, many of the highly-ranked international stars were actually trained in America, going to U.S. colleges, etc.
Send me your thoughts and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the PGA.com Facebook page or send them to me via twitter @jamesrhuber and I will pick a few to answer next week here on PGA.com. While we’re dealing with questions, I have just one: Lee Westwood tweeted last week that “the skipper brings out his best squirrel for weddings”. Is that a British thing? I was patiently informed by Lee’s manager, Chubby Chandler, that it is a hair thing.