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  • Alistair Tait

Goldilocks Golfers

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Is there another sport like golf, where its adherents resemble Goldielocks?

I think not.

This golf course is too hard, this one too soft and, occasionally, this one is just right.

Goldilocks wouldn’t have lasted too long at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It was far too hard for many pampered professionals let alone a fairy tale character. Scottie Scheffler wasn’t complaining. He loves Bay Hill after pocketing $2,168,000 for his one-shot victory over Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Billy Horschel, who picked up $908,000 each.

Rory McIlroy cashed $228,000 for his T13 finish. Enough to buy him a new wedge to replace the one he snapped in frustration in the final round.

There was probably a time when Rory would have bit your hand off if you’d told him he was going to play in a $12 million tournament. Ditto for Adam Scott who reportedly declined interview requests because he “had nothing good to say.”

Poor Adam only made $87,600.

Gary Woodland blew up over the last two holes to finish T5. The 2019 U.S. Open champion picked up a cheque for $463,5000, and then said:

“I’m glad I’m off that golf course, I’m glad I’m done.”

Most of us would be glad if we came off a golf course having earned a six-figure cheque, more money than many average Americans probably make in 10 years.

Should I type the word “perspective” here?

Rory was scathing about a course set up featuring heavy rough and rock-hard greens, more U.S. Open layout than PGA Tour venue, that firmed up in the wind that swept over the course on the final day – wind, on a golf course, whatever next? – which saw the first round leader post a closing 76 to finish T13. Rory said:

“I feel punch drunk. The weekend, it’s like crazy golf. You just don’t get rewarded for good shots. I’m hitting good shots. I’m swinging the club well. I’m chipping well. I’m putting well. But it can knock your confidence whenever the conditions are like this.
“I don’t mind golf courses being penal when you miss, but it’s not rewarding good shots. I think that’s where it starts to get across the line.”

Wait a minute: Is this the same Rory McIlroy who complained about The Renaissance Club being “too easy” for the 2019 Scottish Open, and not providing ideal preparation for the Open Championship?

It is. One and the same.

Strange that Rory wasn’t complaining about the Bay Hill course after his opening 65.

Hatton fired a closing 69 to prove good shots were rewarded on the final day. Lucas Herbert shot 68. Chris Kirk isn’t in Rory’s league yet matched Scheffler’s level par 72 to earn a spot in the Open Championship along with Talor Gooch. So good scores were possible.

Rory should know by now that golf was never meant to be fair. His final round performance, following his failure to close out the Dubai Desert Classic, will once again have many wondering what’s going on in that head of his. Only the four-time major winner can answer that question.

I’m not a fan of deep rough, especially around the greens. It’s too much of a leveller because those with brilliant short games have no advantage. You don’t need magic hands like Seve Ballesteros when the only option is hack and gouge. It can’t be right that tour pros would often rather find a bunker than rough because they have a better chance of making par.

However, I’d much rather see top players compete for 5-under winning totals, Scheffler’s score, than 25-under scores. Still, you can’t please everyone. There are those who would quite happily play courses that offered up 25-under chances every week.

Here's the rub though: tour pros are no different from ordinary golfers. If there’s one subject that gets many handicap golfers venting like Rory its course setup. Amazing how many golf club members quickly become specialists on course setup after a just a few years of paying subscription dues. Don’t take my word for it, just ask golf course superintendents.

Like Goldilocks, it’s often difficult to please lovers of this royal & ancient game. Even when there’s $12 million dollars up for grabs.

#JustSaying: “Despite its almost mythical reputation, the Old Course is not universally liked by everyone. …Many of the world’s top golfers have left St Andrews wondering what all the fuss is about, while others enthuse about its challenge until their dying day. Of course, there are some who miss the point altogether. They are usually the ones who berate the venerable links for having too many blind shots, no buggy paths and not enough island greens!” A.J. Dalconen, Golf: The History of the Royal & Ancient Game

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