There are mysteries all around us.
How do you explain UFOs?
What about ghosts?
Does Bigfoot really exist?
But those mysteries are nothing compared to the one that has dogged golfers for centuries:
How do you suddenly lose your swing?
And maybe more to the point:
How do you get it back?
It happens to everyone, even the best players. You’re sailing along, having a fine round on a fine day, and then you hit a dreadfully bad shot.
If you’re not mentally strong, that can lead to another bad one. And another. And another. Just like that, it isn’t such a fine day anymore, and it’s certainly not a fine round. It’s a ruined round, in your mind.
I have spent the last 24 hours analyzing what happened to me yesterday, and I still can’t quite get over it.
Despite some less than fabulous putting, I was 3 over par through 11 holes. I had visions of a tidy little score in the mid-70s – a good day for me.
I had just scrambled for two good pars after six very routine pars on the front nine. Sure, there had been some disappointments – two of the three bogeys on the front were on unforced errors with wedges to the green, and I three-putted for par from 60 feet after reaching the green on the par-5 ninth in two shots. If I had been putting with any authority at all, I would have been even par.
But nothing could prepare me for what was coming.
The 12th hole is a short par-4. I toyed with hitting an iron off the tee but decided that I had confidence in the 3-wood, which had been pretty good all day.
Then I committed a cardinal sin of our great game: I doubted. As I stood over the ball, all I could think about was that I had the wrong club in my hands. That’s the last thing on earth you should be doing.
I was too embarrassed to stop, go back to my bag and grab an iron. “What could go wrong?” was my last swing thought. I found out. Despite my efforts to take a nice, easy swing and just coax the ball into play, I hit a low liner that caught a bush 50 yards in front of the tee and stayed there.
I was so stunned, I hit a provisional – with a 4-iron – and hit another awful shot into the trees on the right. Surprisingly, we found the first ball, and after taking an unplayable lie I put it out in the fairway, belted a wedge to the back of the green and promptly three-putted.
I had made a triple-bogey 7 on a ridiculously easy hole.
I desperately tried to rationalize it. It was only one bad shot and then more bad putting. But I still had it in my head on the next hole, a par-3, and hit an 8-iron fat.
Again, I was shook. How could this be happening? I had to get the chip shot over a bunker, hit it too thin and three-putted AGAIN. I had a double to go with my triple.
I couldn’t believe it. I had gone from 3-over to 8-over in the space of two holes. But I fought back on the next hole, a par-5, to hit a good drive and was within reach of the green.
Then things went completely off the rails.
I completely went to sleep on the 3-wood and barely hit the ball, topping it so badly it went less than 100 yards. I still had a 6-iron left and promptly had another disaster – I caught the club on the ground on the way back, was thrown off rhythm and hooked it way left into the bushes. I never found it.
I rallied, at least a little, to make two pars and two bogeys on the last four holes, but the damage had been done. I walked away wondering what hit me.
When they write my golfing epitaph, it should be in the first paragraph: He was inconsistent. I wonder how many of you out there feel the same way.
No matter what score you normally shoot, you probably have noticed that in your best rounds your shots are steady. One good swing leads to another.
And when you have a bad round, it’s the same idea: One bad swing leads to another.
I don’t know what to think about UFOs or ghosts or Bigfoot, but I do know this for sure: Golfers probably will never learn why a bad swing can come out of nowhere to wreck a round – or why it keeps haunting so many of us long after the initial error.
It is golf’s way of saying, “Boo!”