In 1996, playing 19 tournaments, he made one cut. He was silent on the long car rides home from the airport. Jennie finally broke into sobs and said, "How long do we have to go through this?"
That was the cruel part—that exemption. The British Open victory was a 10-year invitation to humiliate himself around the world—Lucy holding the football and goading Charlie Brown to try kicking it one more week. "He has a lot of guts to stay with it this long," says Stewart. "I don't know if I could've."
But Baker-Finches do not quit. Ian tried everything. Hypnosis, self-hypnosis, telephone hypnosis. Didn't help. Old caddies, new caddies, legendary caddies such as Bruce Edwards. Didn't help. Knee surgery. Corrective eye surgery. Didn't help. He asked Butch Harmon, coach to Woods and Norman, to fix the radius of his swing. Didn't help. He fired Leadbetter and his number two teacher, Mitchell Spearman, and tried more of the best coaches in the world: Hank Haney, Jim Flick, Rick Smith, Chuck Cook, Robert Baker, Gary Smith, Ian Triggs and all seven coaches at Baker-Finch's own Pure Golf Academy on Australia's Gold Coast, near Brisbane. Didn't help. Pie left Rotella and tried sports psychologist Dick Coop, then Jim Loehr. Didn't help.
He became the ultimate canvas. Everybody wanted a shot at fixing him. You cure Baker-Finch, you're a miracle worker. He became a national puzzle. An Australian golf magazine ran a story asking all the big golf coaches, "If you had 10 minutes with Ian Baker-Finch, what would you do?" Didn't help. Wherever he went, he would hit balls on the range and turn around to find six or seven coaches behind him, all with their video cameras running, recording his swing. "I was a case study, a lab rat," he says. "I was going to be in everybody's next video, How Not to Do It" Finally, he had his caddie stand between him and many of the video cameras. Didn't help.
Tournaments tend to put majors winners with majors winners. So a player who was already a nervous wreck was made to tee it up with legends. Playing with Palmer at Bay Hill in '95, Baker-Finch put two balls out-of-bounds on the same hole. Playing with Jack Nicklaus at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, Baker-Finch went 83-82. Nicklaus felt so bad for him that he invited Baker-Finch to stay at his house for two weeks so they could work out his problems. Baker-Finch declined. A month later, teeing off with Palmer at St. Andrews, Baker-Finch hit possibly the worst shot of modern times, that two-fairway out-of-bounds. It happened to be Arnie's last British Open, so the galleries were huge. "I dreamed of doing mat," Baker-Finch recalls morosely. "Before it ever happened, I dreamed I hit it out-of-bounds with Arnie watching at St. Andrews on the 1st hole at the British Open. That's when it got scary, when my nightmares started playing out right in front of me."
It was all unfathomable to his father, who would say, "Ian, just get up and say, 'I'm going to play better.' "
"Dad, you just don't understand."
"Ian, just play better."
It was the Baker-Finch way. Ian felt shame. "I felt like I was letting him down," he said. But all that was just a warmup for the humiliation waiting on a windy Thursday at Royal Troon.
What you need to do is simple. Just remove whatever it is that causes you to occasionally hit bad shots.
DEAN, Los Angeles