Anyone who was making fun of Tom Brady during Sunday’s wildly entertaining four hours of golf, stand up.
Now duck. You should have a bunch of tomatoes and rotten eggs thrown at you.
Or how about this: Let’s have you try to hit a quality shot with the whole world watching.
Sure, Tom was pathetic for the first few holes in The Match: Champions for Charity. But how many of us could have rallied – in the rain, no less – to spin a wedge into the hole from 100 yards out, make a tough putt from off the green and contribute on several other holes?
Not many, I’d wager.
Two things to consider about his performance:
The first is a question: What’s the most nervous you’ve ever been on the golf course, and why?
The second is a statement: One of the hardest things to be able to do in our great game is getting yourself turned around after a bad start to your round.
It dawned on me as I empathized with Brady that, truth be told, I’m at least a little nervous on EVERY shot.
I know that’s not good. You’re supposed to be relaxed. You’re supposed to think good thoughts and try to put your mind at ease.
It’s painful to admit, but I’m always on edge out there. Maybe I want it too much. Maybe I need a sports psychologist to dramatically alter my mental approach. But I’ve got gremlins between my ears, and if I’m playing poorly, they’re practically screaming.
My most nervous moment?
It might have been the first time I played Cypress Point, the Sistine Chapel of golf. I was in awe.
I recall several tournaments where I had to hit my drive on the first hole with lots and lots of people watching. It was like an out-of-body experience. I don’t think I ever hit a good shot in those circumstances.
There were several rounds where I was closing in on a great score and was so scared I was going to foul it up, I found a way to foul it up. Those are classic cases of a bad mental game.
But too often, I get most nervous when my swing feels creaky and I have no idea where the ball is going.
Which brings me to my statement. Less than 24 hours after watching Brady’s struggles, I had a round that never got going in the right direction. And it made me think – A LOT – about this concept of having a short memory and shaking off your sideways shots.
I threw away the round early with an unconscionable quadruple bogey on the second hole – hit a wedge over the green and then got the chip yips from a tough position.
Still, I tried to dial up my inner Brady. “The goal is to forget that and play the last 16 holes well,” I announced as we walked to the third hole – which I promptly parred routinely.
But a 3-wood hooked into the water hazard off the tee on No. 4 turned into a sloppy triple bogey. I bogeyed five of the next six holes thanks to several unforced errors, then limped home with three double bogeys and a triple amid a couple of decent pars.
Forget the horrible scoring, though. That isn’t the point. What matters is that I counted 15 shots in the round that I would call bozo shots – laughably pathetic.
They are drives that aren’t just a little off line, they’re either a duck hook or a complete blockout to the right.
They are irons that are hit heavy or skulled.
They are chip shots that are chunked or scuffed or even shanked (yep, had one of those, too).
And that total of 15 shots doesn’t even count all the short putts that were missed.
When it was mercifully over, I had my worst round of the year. I was shaking my head as I walked to the car. What just happened? I hit the ball so well at the range yesterday. My chipping practice felt good. I felt so ready. How could I lose my swing and tempo so thoroughly?
That’s why I didn’t take any joy out of Brady repeatedly hitting his drives into the bushes and then struggling to make solid contact off terrible lies as the rain poured down.
Could many of us do any better? I didn’t think so. Now sit down … and be thankful that your most nervous moment probably is in front of three friends. Sure, they might make fun of you, but they’re the only ones who will know just how bad you were.