Why you should never judge a swing by its, ah, cover.
Congratulations to Jim Furyk for adding the RBC Heritage title to a brilliant and distinguished career. He’s something, isn’t he? Absolute walking proof that looks can be deceiving.
Imagine you didn’t know him and he turned up on the tee at your local course with a few swashbuckling practice swings. You’d have a little giggle behind your glove, wouldn’t you? You’d get a nudge in the guts from the over-coached yet under-performing Marty McFabulous, who’d snort at the sight of Jim’s loop-the-loop style.
That’s fine. Pretty normal, really. It’s the sort of reaction we try and tell our kids not to have, yet the crusty amongst find it hard to let the cynical smirk go. I’m guessing it’s because we amateurs spend a lot of time watching golf and reading magazines. Therefore, we know exactly what the golf swing is meant to look like. And while our hearts tell us Jim’s got everything happening perfectly when it’s meant to, our heads are saying, “Wow, that is weird.”
With this in mind, I had a hit somewhere new recently and joined two of the members for a thoroughly enjoyable round. I was with my mate Tony, a former pennant player who evolved into a pennant team manager, then pennant team outsider and now pennant critic. He’s a textbook golfer – very good and constantly working at getting better.
We hooked up with a couple of locals – they’re older than us, and the first bloke bangs one down the middle. The second guy gets up and goes through a pre-shot routine that had me wishing I had a glove to giggle behind. It was surreal – he made Furyk look like Adam Scott. My snobby self wasn’t sure he could last a full round watching the gymnastics this guy put himself through.
It all started normally enough. Like, he grabbed the club with two hands and all that. He started off with his feet together, bent his knees a bit and his arms were straight-ish. That’s fine, I suppose. I’m trying not to be a swing-snob. Trying not to judge. He put his feet shoulder width apart and began to settle into position, slowly though. Think the speed in which Guinness settles in a schooner.
Suddenly, with a jerk, which took all of us by surprise (him included), he violently thrust his right hip backwards and assumed a position that looked more akin to sh#tting than hitting. Really. He was in a standing-seated position, or sitting while standing, and that’s how he hit the ball [left].
His shaft was almost parallel with the ground – it was amazing. His follow-through was equally unique, like he was launching himself from a starting position the way a sprinter would.
I nudged Tony at the same time he nudged me.
How would you let it get so bad? I thought. But then, the ball came out surprisingly well. It wasn’t incredibly long, but it was straight and in the air and he seemed happy enough with it, though not surprised. I thought he should be stoked, given the process he went through to get his ball off the tee. His mate said, “Good one.” But that was it. He was on the first in regulation and managed to steer the ball into the hole for par with a fairly nervous stroke, followed by some vigorous barracking and an apparent loss of control of his left leg.
“Par,” he declared. He said the same thing after the first seven holes, then winced on eight after a bogey.
“He’s a good putter now,” said his mate. “Googled how to do it. Hasn’t looked back.”
I knew what this was about, but thought I’d check. “So you Googled putting, did you?” I asked.
“Yeah, I was terrible,” he said. “I was in a hotel room with nothing to do and watched a few videos and I’ve never looked back. That’s what the internet is for, right? Free golf tips.”
It was pretty obvious what had happened. This bloke knew he had a swing like Jim Furyk, only a thousand times weirder. So instead of going to a pro for lessons, he opted to take his learning online to save himself the embarrassment of someone having to actually watch what he did and work out a way to fix it. Even blind, drunk, drug-addled Freddy could see that.
So I paraphrased the question on my mind. “Did you avoid going to a pro because you were, um, you know, ah, embarrassed about your swing?”
He looked at me like I had rocks in my head. “No. I didn’t go to a pro because it costs money and there’s nothing wrong with my swing; there was only something wrong with my putting.”
Right, I thought. “What do you play off?” I asked. “Same as you, I think.”
Indeed he did. He gave Super Tony and I a flogging that day, and a reminder there is more than one way to get the ball to the hole. And that looks aren’t everything. I should have known that – I constantly have to remind my wife that even though I don’t look like I used to, I’m still the same guy inside…
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