Gary Player: Time to play it your way, Tyrrell

Tyrrell Hatton has taken the game by storm in recent months, while at the same time putting a smile on our faces. His performances in the Middle East have catapulted him up to fifth place in the world rankings and promoted him as a leading entertainer through his ‘Angry Golfer’ image.

There are a diminishing number of characters on the Tour these days so he comes as a welcome star on the scene. I’ve met Tyrrell and he’s a hell of a good guy. He’s earned the title of ‘Angry Golfer’ due to his occasional misbehaviour when he misses a shot or finds the water. His emotions can erupt immediately, but he’s made of strong stuff and he’s quick to make amends.

He collected around $1million for winning the Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi but followed that with a disappointing (by his recent standards) performance in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club. Yet Tyrrell has come to terms with his consistency. Golf is big business these days and there are numerous millionaires on the Tour who are outside the top 50.

In our time there were 50 Major champions competing each week. There wasn’t the big money there is today so there was less pressure. Today, it’s more about business. In our time, golf was more about fun and just playing, and less about business. Saying that, I understand today’s circumstances and this is in no way a criticism of today’s players. For the sake of the game, we need a Golf Tour made up of many different people and personalities. It’s not surprising that today’s players take their game so seriously. It’s because they’re playing for serious money. We live in a different world and you just have to accept it. In my time we played to win and prize money wasn’t such a big deal. Today it sometimes feels the other way round.

The media has also changed. You’ve got to understand that the media has to find something sensational to write about – if they don’t, their copy will not be aired.

As we’ve recently seen with a young Major winner, one mistaken outburst, or even a wrong phrase, can cost a player millions in endorsements. So it’s not surprising to see management companies trying to remove the character out of the star players, as mistakes both on and off the course can cost millions. So, my advice to Tyrrell is – keep on playing the game the way that suits you best. It doesn’t matter If he loses his cool now and again, so long as he doesn’t upset anyone in the process. Bad manners are not acceptable. Always remember, ‘Manners Maketh Man’ as Winston Churchill used to say.

In my humble opinion you should always give the impression that you are outwardly relaxed, although you are inwardly totally determined, focussed on succeeding. As long as your mindset is in control of yourself, you should be in control of your game. I used to work on the basis that a one-inch putt can be more important than a breath-taking long drive.

In our time, we had any amount of characters and we took the view that we should always look for the good in people and praise those who deserve it. One of the most entertaining and talented characters I ever knew was Tommy Bolt. On Tommy’s golf bag there was the image of a lightning bolt with the quote: ‘Buy Tommy Bolt’s clubs – they stay in the air longer than anyone else’s.” He earned himself the nickname ‘Thunder’ or ‘Terrible Tommy,’ because he had a fiery disposition, and yet was one of the most popular players on the Tour. Players didn’t get upset when he occasionally broke a club or two or hurled one into the lake. Admittedly, it was pure showmanship but it never did anyone any harm, although it did lead to the introduction of a rule that prohibited such behaviour. I finished runner-up behind Tommy when he won the 1958 US Open and it was a laugh a minute.

When I first met Tommy he called me ‘son,’ and I soon realised that he called everyone ‘son,’ pronouncing it with his long, Southern drawl. Tommy joined the PGA Tour in his thirties and went on to win 15 times including his US Open title. He also played in two Ryder Cups in 1955 and 1957 and was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. I don’t want to be judgemental, but we should encourage characters and personalities and help put the fun back in golf, particularly in these difficult times. Tommy seldom caused anyone any harm.

So remember Tyrrell, continue to go with the flow and don’t change anything in your game. Just keep on smiling, having fun – and winning golf tournaments.

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