Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Slow, Slow Return to Golf, and How It Relates to Tiger Woods

On Friday of this year's Memorial Day, I did what I always do during the week. Dragged my ass down the street to my local LA Fitness to workout and then play an hour or so of basketball with the nooner clan that always arrives to run before the afternoon grind at their desk jobs.

I had a weird feeling heading to the gym, but did what I always do. I hustled, I grabbed rebounds and I tried to burn a couple of unnecessary calories gained for the previous night's pizza and beer. But a strange thing happened in the final game before I was set to play nine holes with my friends; I drove to the hoop, went up for a game winning floater, got hit in the air and pushed off my mark, only to find the top of some clueless man's Nike.

Broken foot, out for three months, thanks a lot.

During those three months, all I dreamed about was getting out on the golf course. For all the trash I talk about this stupid sport, it's really like a 30-year-old marriage between a Greek couple; much trash talking, but behind that is a serious love for one another.

But the return has been slow. Slow slow slow. Like a snail trying to run up the wrong side of an escalator slow. At first it was just the basics. Take it back, take it through, try to hit the ball somewhere near the sweet spot and not worry too much about the result. It was Golf 101, but with a sore foot and an even more sore ego. My golf game wasn't what it used to be.

It's been frustrating to the point that I actually canceled an invitation from my two best friends for golf over the holiday weekend, mainly because I am hitting the ball like a 15 handicap (and again, no knock to 15 handicaps, I just haven't been there for a while). My dad used to be a single digit handicap. On Sunday, I flew to Las Vegas to play a few holes with him while he was on a business trip. I quickly landed in the worst slump I've been in since my return, and recited something to him that he once told me when I asked why he doesn't like to play as much anymore. He once told me, "This game sucks when you can't do what you used to be able to do," and as much as that resonates with me, it must resonate with a guy like Tiger Woods more.

The last couple of weeks have made me realize what Tiger must be going through. Am I comparing myself to someone like him? Of course not, that guy has more talent in a single softspike than I will ever have in my entire body, but to a lesser extent, I get it. My swing isn't the same. My results are way different. My misses are worse. The putts aren't dropping. I am sitting over golf shots I used to be able to pull off on a regular basis and I'm hitting them like Roy McAvoy just handed me a golf bag full of baseball bats and shovels.

I don't like it. Not one bit. I don't like having to hit irons off the tees on par-5s because I can't find the fairway with my driver. I don't like standing over a stock 7-iron and pulling it right of Lake Mead. I don't like knowing the three-footer I have for par has no way of finding the hole.

In the coming weeks I'll go see my swing coach and try to figure out what's going on. I'll go out on the golf course and pull off one or two more shots around than I did the week before. And eventually, hopefully, I'll find the game I used to actually brag about. But for now, I'll sit at home understanding why Tiger isn't that excited to be out on the golf course. When you can't pull off the golf shots you used to be able to pull off, it sure isn't the same game, and it sure loses it's luster.

Now if anyone could find that guy that bumped me on the basketball court, I have a few choice words for him.


paul staley said...

Well that sucks big time. I feel for you. I suppose the sooner you can compare your performance to yesterday and not 6 months or a year ago the better you'll feel. I have no doubt your game will come back and it'll be sweet when that happens. And not to sound too parental, but maybe we should cut back on the hoops? Just got back from a re-union with guys I played touch football with well into my forties and I realized how much injuries cut into my life when I persisted in playing games I had no business still playing. Just a thought.

seak said...

Shane, really good post, and I'm sure you'll find your golf game again.

Luke Donald (according to twitter) said that after his wrist injury it took him a year to be able to bring his game out on course again, and that was eve with striping it on the range.

Golf is such a finesse sport, and you really need to be able to trust your body. I think that makes it hard to come back from injuries. Something to keep in mind for your golf game and Tiger's :)