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  • Alistair Tait

The simple route to golf success

A touching vignette took place on the practice ground after the third round of the 1995 Dubai Desert Classic that spoke volumes for golf as a true bastion of sportsmanship.

It’s nice to see that tradition continues to this day.

Seve Ballesteros cut a sad figure on the practice ground late on Saturday evening as he struggled with his golf swing. The five-time major champion was in the midst of a period when he seemed to be taking lessons from anyone and everyone. Fred Couples decided it was time to put Seve right.

Couples spent 45 minutes just talking with Seve. I wasn’t close enough to hear what they were saying, but it was obvious the 1992 Masters winner was trying to help the struggling Spaniard.

Couples and Ballesteros had been on opposite sides in four Ryder Cups. They were from different tours, different walks of life, and had vied for the same major trophies, yet there was the American going out of his way to help a fellow professional. I asked Couples the following day if he could share any of what he’d said to Seve the previous evening. His message was brief: keep it simple:

“I think too much advice can be dangerous, and Seve just needs to get back to doing it his own way and keeping it simple,” Couples said. “You hate to see a guy struggling like that.”

Scroll down to 2021 in the same tournament and again we have an example of why golf is arguably the greatest of sports. Former world number one Martin Kaymer has been through a few trials and tribulations of his own. The German has 11 European Tour wins, including two majors, yet hasn’t won since the 2014 US Open.

Kaymer’s an interesting study; he’s one of the more erudite players in this sport. He’s open and honest about his game, and his approach to it, as he revealed yet again in Dubai this week:

“Finding a balance in your life, the life that we live, can be really complicated. Because of so many options, you need to stick to one decision and really focus on that thing, and sometimes you get side tracked a little bit. You can play here, you can play there, but then the practice suffers a little bit and the little sharp in all departments suffers a little bit.”

As in the Couples/Seve situation, Kaymer isn’t afraid to listen to those he respects. So it was that he sought the counsel of four-time major champion Ernie Els.

“I talked to Ernie about it today and asked him if he would be in my position being 36 years old, what would he recommend to me? And he also said, sharpen all parts of the game; that even if you don't have a great week, you finish in the top 15, Top-20; that sharpness in little parts of the game that is difficult if you keep playing all around the world, and that side tracked me a little bit.
“So I need to work a little bit, but I enjoy the work.”

We all get side tracked in golf, in life. Sometimes that side track can take us down a long, lonely road. So long it’s often difficult to get back on the correct route. Sometimes it pays to listen to those who’ve got lost down those lonely tracks. Sometimes it just pays to keep things simple, stick to the basics rather than make things complicated.

Seve bounced back from his time lost in the desert sand to win the Spanish Open, the 50th and last win of his incredible career. Let’s hope Kaymer can get back to his best and win soon. Hopefully it won’t be his last victory.

#JustSaying: “People are always telling me I should do one thing or another. I should change my grip or shorten my swing. I should practice more and goof around less. I shouldn’t smile on Sunday. I should. I shouldn’t. Frankly, I don’t know why they worry. It’s my life, and I don’t worry.” Fred Couples

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