Last Saturday, the usual bunch of regulars was seated in front of the big screen by the snack bar at Galloway golf course watching the Masters tournament. As golfers who were making the turn came in, they watched for a minute or two, then someone from each group inevitably asked, "How's Tiger doing?"
"Lousy" was the answer. And he was lousy — cussing, kicking-his-clubs lousy. He was being the guy who no one wants to play with — the jerk who makes a round of golf unpleasant for everyone in the foursome. The guy you never ask to join your group again. Lots of people who used to root for Tiger Woods are no longer in his corner.
When Tiger is interviewed after a bad round, he always says improving his game is a "process," a "work in progress," a matter of "getting more repetitions." He speaks of his golf swing as though it is separate from himself, like it's a car he's restoring in his garage. I'm no expert, though I have played (mediocre to decent) golf most of my life, but I think people who are truly gifted at something — whether it's tennis, basketball, golf, or whatever — internalize it, become it. They find a flow — a place where they don't fear failure or worry about success. They're in the moment.
Bubba Watson, a golfer with a mongrel swing and a gunslinger's attitude, won the Masters. He played through his bad shots and won with a miracle, once-in-a-lifetime wedge from deep in the woods on the final hole. He may never win another major, but he found the flow on Sunday.
Most of us who play a sport find the flow once in a while. We have days when everything clicks, when our drives split the fairway, when jumpshots fall, when backhands find the baseline, shot after shot. We also have days when nothing goes right, no matter how much we've practiced or how good we were a week ago. Learning to accept those days with grace takes maturity. I'm still working on it myself.
Tiger lost his flow — his mojo — two and a half years ago, when his wife chased him out of his house, when his multiple extramarital dalliances were exposed, when his superhuman aura was destroyed. He's had physical issues, true, but I believe he won't truly make a comeback on the course until he clears his head of the demons inside, the ones that emerge for all the world to see after he makes a bad shot.
This is all arm-chair psychology, of course, and like I said, I'm no expert — but I did play Galloway last Saturday.
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings