Failure par for the course

17 June 2015 - 02:10 By Michael Vlismas

About five years ago, a former Masters champion and a man gifted with a swing Gary Player said was the closest he'd seen to that of Ben Hogan sat down with his wife and said: "Maybe I just need to accept I had a nice run for a few years and that was that." Trevor Immelman was speaking after losing his playing privileges on the PGA Tour. It is one of the most unique aspects of golf that form can disappear overnight.Think of Rory McIlroy, world number one and a winner of two tournaments in three weeks. After his second victory, he misses the cut in the next two events, including a spectacular blowout of 80 in the first round of a tournament he's hosting.In no other sport is form as fickle as in golf. Novak Djokovic does not lie awake at night fearful that he will wake up the next morning not knowing how to hit a tennis ball.But professional golfers do."My first 13 years on tour were based purely on fear, fear of losing and fear of it going away," says Padraig Harrington, winner of three Majors but who at the end of 2014 had dropped to 265th in the world.And then there was Tiger Woods, who kept winning in a game in which the smallest ball in professional sport regularly reduces grown men to weeping wrecks.Woods had a career winning percentage of roughly 25%. Jack Nicklaus's 18 Majors from 1957 to his last in 2005 calculates to roughly a 30% win rate . Not even a university exemption.Why is golf so unique in this sense? Not even the greats can explain it. But they all feel it. In about 1964, the global king of golf felt: "Every time I'd get close to a Major prize, my hands would begin to shake, and for a moment or two, when it counted most, the demons of doubt would whisper in my ear and I honestly wondered if I could ever win again."And with that, after seven Majors, Arnold Palmer knew his run had come to an end.But what if one added a powerful motivator - money. Perhaps that is what gave Woods the eye of the Tiger.In 2008, Jack Nicklaus said: "When I started on Tour, maybe one or two guys might have made enough money to make a living."Now there's a couple hundred guys who make a living playing golf."The kids today play in perfect conditions every week. If they don't like what's going on, they're finishing 10th or 15th and still make a cheque. I don't think it makes them as tough."Day 1 of the US Open airs from 10pm on Supersport1 tomorrow

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.



Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.