Making comparisons between the PGA Tour and the European Tour has been a stable diet of conversation over the years as we fly around the world playing this wonderful game.
More often than not, those comparisons are made around prize funds; golf courses; which cities and venues we get to visit and how good the actual events themselves are. But, right now, there is one glaring difference – and that is the talk of the Tour, crowds, galleries, patrons, spectators, fans. Call them what you will, it is safe to say watching PGA Tour golf from our hotel rooms has become an abject lesson in just what being jealous feels like.
We have been so lucky to have had events to compete in since July, and that has been a truly heroic effort to keep the European Tour playing week-to-week, but oh how we have missed the atmosphere that only an enthusiastic gallery can bring. Strangely, the pressures that professional golf brings haven’t left the scene. In fact, in a strange way the emptiness of the place leaves you alone with your thoughts more than normal, and as pressure is only an internal thought process, having no crowd to play to, to talk to, to smile at and to interact with, actually makes things harder mentally in some way.
No cheers nor groans; no one to tell you to keep your chin up; no autographs to sign or selfies to join, it’s been so long now that, sadly, this ‘ghost town’ atmosphere has become the norm. So, yes we are jealous of the PGA Tour right now. I can’t wait for golf fans to be able to return to line our fairways, and when they do, we will know that the world has taken a huge step towards normality. It will certainly be a joyous week, whenever it finally happens.
Bay Hill Buccaneers
What a show Bryson and Lee Westwood put on at one of the best events of the year. The Arnold Palmer Invitational was the first event to have crowds of any real number and both players seemed to relish the occasion. You have to love Bryson for the manner in which he has taken to becoming the main show in town right now. Just the speculation alone that he will have a crack at the par five over the water in one blow got the sports world talking, and that has to be a great thing for the game in general. It’s the sort of thing Arnie would have done in his hey-day, what a shame he isn’t still with us to have witnessed it all. Thankfully, his legacy lives on.
Lee Westwood, or ‘Westy’, as I know him, is having the time of his life, playing golf for fun. He’s been travelling the world with his girlfriend Helen or son, Sam, on the bag, with as carefree an attitude as he has ever had in his career. It’s paying dividends alright – many millions of dollars of them to be exact. Unshackled from expectations, Lee seems to me to be playing week to week, whilst trying his heart out knowing that the days of looking years ahead are long gone. He’s just living life in the moment, soaking up the game he fell in love with as a boy, and enjoying the life that his talent and dedication has afforded him.
Always striving to improve pic.twitter.com/cZpp87DEbJ
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) March 18, 2021
As a casual observer I wonder how the golf world would view Rory, for instance, if he were able to create the same mindset that Lee has been able to bask in of late. I fancy if Rory pitched up and said he is just here this week to have fun and play a little golf, the critics would say he isn’t doing himself and his talent justice. Yet we know that when Rory just plays golf his way his game is as good as anyone’s. It bothered me to hear a quote from Rory saying he has been chasing more speed to compete with Bryson, when the facts are the other way around in my opinion. Bryson chased more speed to compete with Rory and Co.
So I predict a glorious summer of golf for Rory, inspired by Westwood showing just how powerful a smile can be, how contentment can be just as powerful as determination and ambition. When you already have all the tools, as Rory most certainly does, then it’s the mindset that you play under that is perhaps the most important thing.
Looking at how much Rory has played of late I’d say he has just gone through a really ‘trying hard’ stage in his career. I predict he will start to win again when he takes a look around and sees the life he has created for himself and his loved ones, when he looks with pride at all the tournaments and Majors that he has won, rather than focusing on the ones that he hasn’t or should have won.
I know all this by watching half an hour of golf every now and then, and having said ‘Hi’ to Rory briefly in Abu Dhabi two months ago. So take it with a pinch of salt if you read this Rory, kick back, enjoy your brilliance and let the game come back to you, and when you drive down Magnolia Lane take it all in, like it’s your first time at Augusta, and remember how excited you were to see it all for the first time – and think no further ahead than that. n