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  • Alistair Tait

Golf was never meant to be fair

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are getting much publicity after recent wins to end long, winless droughts. Good for them, but for every McIlroy there’s a Chris Wood (pictured). For every Spieth a Martin Kaymer. Oh, and a host of players who once touched the heights only to fall back down to earth with a quiet thud.

As fellow golf writer John Huggan reveals in an excellent piece for Golf Digest, Wood is still struggling to get his career back on track after he thought he’d entered never-never land. Victory in the 2016 BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s marquee tournament, propelled Wood into the Ryder Cup. He reached 22nd on the Official World Golf Ranking and looked forward to reaching that so-called “next level.”

Unfortunately, he hit the wrong elevator button and started a freefall that’s still ongoing. Wood is now the world’s 1107th player. He ended last year ranked 1610th.

That’s the definition of “freefall.”

“The mental side of all this is actually the toughest,” Wood told Huggan. “This whole thing has been humiliating. I couldn’t hit the course at one point.

Two years ago, Wood walked off the golf course during a Pro-am playing alongside European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley in Morocco. He once lost eight balls during a round in India.

“Mentally, I had had enough. I couldn’t take any more really.”

It’s a mark of the affable Englishman’s character that he’s still out there digging it out of the dirt, still trying to find the secret.

“I’ve been through hell, to be honest. But you have two choices: either you keep going or you pack it all in.”
“I’m not a quitter. I just can’t walk away. I don’t want to be looking back in 20 years time wishing I had gutted it out.”

Kaymer isn’t a quitter either. It’s hard to believe he hasn’t won since the 2014 U.S. Open, his second major victory after the 2010 PGA Championship. The German also won the 2014 Players Championship. The 11-time European Tour winner held the world number one spot for eight weeks in 2011.

Just 36, Kaymer’s fall down the world order hasn’t been as dramatic as Wood’s. He’s currently ranked 87th. During this week’s British Masters, Kaymer talked about asking Spieth and McIlroy for advice on how they came back from adversity. There was a time when it might have been the other way around.

Oliver Wilson is also playing this week’s British Masters. He’s another example of a player who flirted with golf’s elite only to find himself wondering if he had the game to even qualify as a golf journeyman. As I wrote a few days ago, he’s the only Walker Cupper who turned pro after the 2003 match to win on the European Tour.

He got to 35th on the Official World Golf Ranking and played in the 2008 Ryder Cup. Then everything went pear shaped. Nine times coming up short of earning his first European Tour win got to him.

“The frustration of not winning grew from finishing second so many times, and not winning made me look at other areas to try and improve and win,” Wilson said.
“When you’re not playing well you kind of examine every area, and perhaps look at other areas you don’t really need to look at and before you know it you’re lost.”

The former Augusta State player got to the point where he struggled to hit the golf course with his driver. He was finding only four fairways a round, sometimes losing four balls a round. It got to the point where he was afraid to put a ball on a tee with driver in his hands. He played part of one season hitting driver off the deck, manufacturing a weak cut to try to get the ball on the fairway.

Wilson’s bounce back should give Wood succour. He won the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links when he beat Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Richie Ramsay down the stretch at St Andrews.

Although he’s now the world’s 719th player, Wilson still has his European Tour card. He’s still trying to conquer this frustrating game.

Hats off to him, Wood and Kaymer for refusing to quit.

Who was that said golf was never meant to be fair?

#JustSaying: “The reason it’s called golf is because all the other four-letter swear words were already taken.” Anon

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