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  • Alistair Tait

The school of hard knocks

If ever we needed a reminder of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, then golf gives us that on a continuous basis. It’s arguably the most cut throat of all sports.

Call it the school of hard knocks. As Thomas Boswell once put it so aptly in his brilliant book Strokes of Genius, golf

“ pure laissez-faire capitalism and Social Darwinism placed behind a thick glass partition of good manners.”

The negative response to Vijay Singh’s decision to play in the Korn Ferry Challenge suggests some just haven’t realised Boswell’s premise.

After labelling Singh “a true piece of trash” and “a complete turd,” Korn Ferry player Brady Schnell apologised for his outburst. However, you can bet there will be Korn Ferry players quietly angry at Singh for playing. There are certainly enough commentators on Twitter and other social media outlets unhappy with the Fijian’s decision.

The thinking seems to be Singh shouldn’t take the place because he’s denying a spot to an up and coming Korn Ferry player. The simple fact is, the spot is Singh’s if he wants it. The system says he’s eligible. He’s not taking someone else’s spot. He’s taking his own spot.

Why Singh should be blamed for this is beyond me. Singh shouldn’t be the butt of anyone’s anger. If people want to be angry then they should direct that anger towards the PGA Tour. It drafted the rules.

The other line of argument that baffles is me that somehow because Singh has banked $71 million in his career, won three majors, recorded countless wins around the world and reached world number one, he’s supposed to step aside and give younger guys a chance to play.

Hmmmmm, a socialist argument applied to a capitalist game. That’s a new take.

If we took the above argument to its logical conclusion then anyone successful should step aside to give new blood a chance. I’ve been attending the Open Championship since 1989. In that time, I’ve watched past champions like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and others turn up to play even though they had no chance of winning. Shame on them for being so selfish and denying a place to a younger player!

Sandy Lyle, if you’re reading this then please don’t play in next year’s Open Championship. That spot should go to a younger player.

Take this argument and apply it to the rest of society. Should a successful journalist working for a national newspaper step aside at age 57 to give a younger journalist his or her spot. Or a banker, a lawyer, a baker or candlestick maker?

Singh is a 57-year-old professional golfer who, like every other tour pro, wants to get back to the job he loves. It just so happens he’s eligible under the rules – as Nicklaus et al were in the Open Championship – to play in the tournament, one that just happens to be taking place in his own backyard.

What Singh is doing is nothing new. Veteran Alex Cjeka won an Outlaw Tour event, the Arrowhead Classic, during this pandemic. Anna Nordqvist won on the Cactus Tour in March. I don’t seem to remember a huge outcry at them playing in these events and taking spots from up and coming players. Why do they get off scot free while Singh takes heat?

Answers on a post card please.

A lot of people seem to have forgotten one important aspect of this infernal game: it’s not meant to be fair. If I’ve learned anything covering this game it’s that most tour pros are complete mercenaries. Many are hard as nails who couldn’t give a you know what about who they’re playing against. They may joke and banter on and off the course but deep down they’re trying to beat the other player's brains out. As Seve Ballesteros once said:

“If you ever feel sorry for somebody on a golf course, you better go home. If you don’t kill them, they’ll kill you.”

Finally, if some Korn Ferry Tour players are worried about going up against a 57-year-old man, then maybe they need to find a proper job.

Welcome to the school of hard knocks.


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