Wednesday 28 September 2016

Liam Kelly: These Irish Open golfers care - sometimes too much for their own good

Published 30/05/2015 | 18:30

Shane Lowry after breaking his putter in anger during the second round of the Irish Open
Shane Lowry after breaking his putter in anger during the second round of the Irish Open

A professional boxer plys his trade inside the ropes, as does a professional golfer, and on the surface, there’s a huge difference between the sports.

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The boxer is faced by an opponent  who wants to punch the head off him.

The golfer has only himself to manage but there is a similarity - in each situation, there is plenty of pain and suffering.

For a boxer, it’s all outward and physical. He may have to take punishment but at least he gets to dish it out as well.

The golfer is left to suffer alone. His is all mental anguish, but it’s no less damaging.

Indeed, the more he’s hurting, the worse he’s performing, and that leads to adverse consequences for his pride, his score, and his bank balance.

The toughest aspect is that the pro golfer is obliged by golf etiquette and Tour rules to remain stoic and well-behaved, even though mentally he may want to do a Ricky Hatton and batter someone or something.

It’s tough out there, tougher than it looks.

Behind the pedestrian pace and the calm exterior, the stomach can be churning and the head melted in barely concealed rage - and it’s all directed at the player himself.

Desire and expectation allied to a huge desire to perform for themselves, for the galleries and for their family and friends all too often combine to neutralise even the best golfers, as we have seen at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week.

Shane Lowry damaged his putter by banging it off a metal post holding the ropes separating spectators from players on Friday.

He was just three holes into his second round, but missing a short putt caused him to blow a fuse and bang went the putter.

The 2009 Irish Open winner putted with a wedge from there on and did well to make the cut for the week-end.

He apologised for the incident and hoped to move on from it, literally and metaphorically, by getting a good score today.

Lowry played some lovely golf from tee to green.

The putts, however, didn’t drop as he would have liked, and that was evident in some grimaces, the occasional slump of shoulders and shake of the head, but there were no explosions.

A level par 71 left him on four over par for the tournament, the same as he started the day.

“It’s just frustrating because you guys know more than anyone I really, really want to do well in this tournament, and I want to try and win this, and it’s not happening for me this week.

“Yesterday wasn’t ideal but I felt like I have done well and then today I got off to a flyer.

“I just struggled to reach the greens, struggled to hit decent putts, and just didn’t feel good when I got on the greens,” said Lowry.

Darren Clarke looked as if he was boiling with frustration at times and that view was confirmed when he came off the course after taking 72 for six over par overall.

Again, the putting was the problem.

“I can’t strike the ball any better than I did, and I’m actually quite amazed that my putter is still in one piece.

“I was going to do a ‘Shane Lowry’. I can’t hit it any better. I just couldn’t make any putts on the greens today,” he said.

As if that wasn’t clear enough, Clarke was asked how frustrating a day it was for him.

“I can’t really put it into words because you’d have to put too many bleeps into whatever is going out on air.

“We all get frustrated. We all go through periods of not making any putts. Mine’s just been a bit longer than most. It’s frustrating when I play well and I’m not scoring,” he said.

The moral of the story is that these guys care - sometimes too much for their own good.

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