Keeping score on what it’s like when expectations don’t match results

Photo: Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports

News item: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald teams with Kevin Streelman to win the pro-am portion of the AT&T by seven shots:

… After playing virtually every day since the end of the football season.

… After entering the tournament with a 10.6 handicap index that was adjusted to 13.

… And several cries ring out:

“What a performance!”

“What dedication to golf!”

And, this:

“What a sandbagger!”

But here’s another way of looking at it:

“So what’s new?”

I have no doubt that it happened when guys in knickers were knocking rock-like balls around St. Andrews 500 years ago, just as it happens today: What someone says about their golf game and the scores that person actually posts usually are two very different things.

Fitzgerald insisted after the final round that he’s not that good at our great game, that he hasn’t been playing for that long and that his score usually is in the 80s and 90s.

And when Golf Digest examined his 20 most recent rounds, the part about his results was verified. He had only one score under 80, and that was a 79.

But Golf Digest’s equipment editors spent some time with him in 2016 and thought he was closer to a 6 handicap than a 10.6. Anyone who watched him hit the ball at Pebble Beach probably had the same reaction.

Does that make Fitz a sandbagger? Frankly, I don’t know. But I do know this: Over the years, I have met countless golfers whose pre-round talk about their game was remarkably different from their actual ability … and what they were writing on their scorecard.

Most common is the Great Expectations golfer with a swing that should create only one expectation – disaster.

The GE can hit every kind of shot, and by that I mean these kinds: chunk, flub, slice, topped, groundball, whiff, etc. They’ve never met a hole they couldn’t screw up. They’ve got more snowmen on their scorecard than a Colorado ski resort.

But you’d never know it by the GE’s chatter out on the course. The whole round, you listen to things like this:

“I can’t believe this!”

“This never happens!”

“I parred this hole yesterday!”

And you look at that swing, and you look at where the ball keeps going, and you wonder about this person’s relationship with reality. After awhile, you are SO tempted to say, “Get a grip! You stink!”

But there’s another kind of GE. There’s the one who claims that in their younger days they regularly shot 65 and quit playing golf because it was too easy and they got bored.

You look at their out-of-shape body and you can’t imagine them ever being a star athlete. And you stop and think for a second: Either they were playing really easy courses that weren’t par-72, or they have a badly inflated idea of what happened way back when. Even the pros don’t shoot 65 every time out.

I’m not sure which is worse: having to play with someone who can’t play but thinks they can, or having to listen to someone who brags about their game but chooses not to go out and back it up.

But I do know this: You could do yourself a big favor by being realistic about your game. You may not look better out there, but at least you’ll sound better.



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