What do you do when all hope is lost? How do you play when you don’t have a chance?
I wondered as I watched the Titanic sinking to the bottom of the leaderboard by fantastic golfers who spit their shot into the wind and watched them blown into the water, over here, over there, way over there. The numbers started to look like the national debt: Webb Simpson (14-over 160), D.A. Points (14-over 160) Brett Rumford (18-over 162).
With the Blue Monster changes, nobody thought we’d see 20 under for the tournament. We saw 20, all right -- Dawie Van Der Walt got to 20 over Friday. That’s where he finished, two shots behind Rumford, who spent the first two days fighting the same overabundance of wind and dearth of luck as Van Der Walt in the same group.
But now what? There’s no cut at a WGC event. Withdrawing without an injury draws disapproval on par with nose-picking. There’s no way to avoid 18 holes Saturday and 18 holes Sunday that nobody – not you, not your caddy, not your agent, not your spouse, maybe your kids – believes will matter as far as getting a happy result out of this weekend.
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“As bad as I’m playing, somehow, they let me play the weekend and still paying me! So, I guess that’s a good thing,” Jim Furyk laughed after his 11-over 155. “What I do now is try to work on my game and get ready for Tampa, next week is one of my favorite events. I think it’s a wonderful golf course. It’s my favorite one to play in Florida. I’ve won there. Right now, my goals and everything change to try to prepare my game, get some confidence under my belt, hit some good shots. It would be nice to shoot a good score, too.”
“Purely practice mode, simple as that,” Rumford said. “Be very constructive with technique and try to find my game. If a score comes, great. Just trying to find my game.”
Some players grumbled and rumbled into the scorer’s room before belching out their frustrations like a car breaking down. It was probably one of the few times in golf, the post round interviews could be summed up with the Diddy lyrics, “Tell ‘em why you mad, son, word up, tell ‘em why you mad.”
They talked about how the course set up, in the wind, made some holes impossible to play. But at least in front of the media, they maintained a sense of humor and personal responsibility -- nobody with fat scores blamed the course and conditions entirely, despite each player being among the best in the world at his craft.
“I know I’m not playing great this week,” Simpson said. “I’m almost last. If I can crack the top 40, it would be good after my start.”
Everybody’s been there. Golf’s unique in the capriciousness of results. Serena Williams won’t win Wimbledon in July and lose 6-1, 6-1 in an August first round. You’ll see bad games from LeBron James and Kevin Durant. You won’t see nights they’re worse than the 10th guy on either team’s roster.
On the other hand, Bubba Watson finished second at Doral in 2012 and won the 2012 Masters. Watson’s next three tournaments after The Masters: tied for 18th, missed cut, missed cut.
No game brings such humility. It’s why golf can claim the lowest percentage of back door media duckers and the highest percentage of players who’ll discuss – with details – a really bad day at work.
“I was so many over par and so far out of reach for the golf course on the second nine,” Furyk said. “There’s a lot of interesting shots out there, where you’re thinking, ‘I wonder if I can pull this off.’ From that perspective it was fun.”
Rumford did the customary handshakes after his round, even shaking hands with a TV crew member who had been following his threesome.
“When you get that many over, it’s just different,” Rumford said. “You’re just out there trying to enjoy yourself. Just trying to take the blows and roll with it. Just be as constructive as possible. There’s no reason to walk off in a huff and blame the world for it. Obviously, a clearler mind can produce the best results sooner rather than later.”
And, of course, Saturday might bring a 4 or 5 under, golf being what it is.
“Yeah. Probably not,” he laughed. “It’s a possibility because I’m a professional.”