- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
I was rested and ready for 2010, but the year didn't go as scheduled. In golf plans often go awry. I wasn't sharp physically, and I wasn't all in mentally. There were relationship things going on in my private life that had me distracted, and golf wasn't my highest priority. I tried my best at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but the way I was playing—and the way I was thinking—I really didn't have much of chance. I don't love Pebble, and that didn't help either.
One thing that surprised me was how little the USGA requires of the U.S. Open champion. Really, they give you one main assignment: Get the trophy back to them on time. They couldn't make it easier. They send you this steel case, like the ones mobsters use to carry cash on TV shows, to ship the trophy back in. They give you the mailing labels. Still, I blew the deadline. The U.S. Open trophy is a hard thing to hand over.
When you're an American U.S. Open champion, you're representing your country in some way, and when you're on a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team, you do so even more. That's a major goal of mine, to play in the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup each year. I was upset and disappointed that I hadn't made the 2010 Ryder Cup team on points. I didn't think Corey Pavin would pick me because I really wasn't playing well, and he didn't. He called and gave me the speech every high school basketball coach does when he's making final cuts. You know, It was a hard decision and all that. I was upset. Not at Corey, of course. At myself. I had played my way off the team. That hurt.
It didn't get any better in 2011, which to be honest, felt like a continuation of 2010. Sometimes I wonder if golf is even a sport or if we golfers are even athletes. Our game is such a strange blend of the mental and the physical. It's like yoga with a ball and a stick. Practice is so mental. Execution on the course is so physical. Or is it the other way around? I don't know. I've seen guys on Tour outthink their physical problems, and I've seen guys overcome poor thinking with amazing physical abilities. Some days you're Bill Gates out there, and other days you're Rocky Balboa.
When I got to Quail Hollow, in Charlotte, in May, I was neither. I was way up for it—Quail is a U.S. Open--type course and the tournament draws a U.S. Open--like field—but my game was nowhere. My Tuesday practice round at Quail Hollow was a joke it was so bad. I had a late tee time for the Wednesday pro-am, so I decided to head to the practice tee early and try to find something.
My teacher, Mike Taylor, was around. My ball position and alignment were good and my swing felt good, but my customary draw wasn't there, and it hadn't been. Finally, I asked Mike, "Is the club square at address?" I thought it was. But he saw that it wasn't. For the face to be square it actually had to look closed to me. How weird is golf? Very weird. For you, for me, for everybody who plays this insane game.
I took my new "square" position to the course in that pro-am round and started hitting controlled draw shots again. That little adjustment made a world of difference. Of course, it helped that I had the best putting week of my life. Better even than at Bethpage. But without that slight preshot adjustment there's no way I would have won. It was my first win since Bethpage. I needed it.
Charlotte was a week I started to get my head and swing back on track. I stayed with close friends who live on the course and fished the course lakes at night with their kids.
My beard—grown out of sheer laziness—got a lot of amusing commentary and that chatter helped get me out of my shell. There were fans from Clemson (my alma mater) on the course wearing FEAR THE BEARD T-shirts, and they had me laughing. My parents were at Bethpage, and my win there was my Father's Day present to my dad, though it was a day late, with the Monday finish. It was a Father's Day present to Grandpa too. My parents were also at Quail Hollow, and my win there was my Mother's Day gift for Mom, and for her mother, Grandmother Lucille. That one was right on time.
Grandpa—Dick Hendley, if you're looking at his plaque at the Clemson Sports Hall of Fame—is my best friend. He's 84 years old, and he played football and baseball at Clemson and was a blocking back for the Pittsburgh Steelers way back when. My grandfather was the one who took me to see Dick Harmon when I was 12, and he was somebody I could talk to about anything. My grandfather's the same way. Everybody needs people like that in their lives, golfers especially. It can be a lonely game. Dick always told me I had what it took to win majors.