Last week I participated in a market research forum where Golf Digest executives hidden behind a two-way mirror observed my dialog with five other hard core golfers. We were conversing about magazine content, photo shoots, and covers for upcoming issues. In the course of our discussion, it became apparent that our game is very unique because there is so much more material published on a weekly and monthly basis compared to other sports. How many periodicals cover the technique of turning a double play or properly executing the read option from the quarterback position or the intricacies of running a match-up zone in basketball? None.
One overwhelming observation was that there was almost too much instruction in golf magazines and that consumers of everything often find tips and recommendations with fully opposite techniques for the same shots, and these are often contained in the same issue. With all this opposing information, it’s no wonder so many golfers are mental basket cases at the amateur level. We all know how difficult the game is when our swing goes bad and we start thinking of mechanical fixes during play.
But, imagine playing the game as a professional and struggling with the same mental foibles. Professional golf on the PGA Tour is special because there are no appearance fees. Either you play well or miss the cut. There are no guaranteed contracts. No payouts of hundreds of millions of dollars where you can ride out a slump or a bad year. Just play well or don’t get paid. Sure, a select few at the top make enough money on sponsor’s endorsements to sustain, but the vast majority need to get by on skill alone. I was saddened to read David Duval’s comments on Twitter this week indicating he may retire if he can’t perform in 2014. Has another guy fallen as fast and as far as Duval? Ian Baker-Finch comes to mind but he didn’t stick around as long as Duval. It’s amazing how bad it can get for some of these professionals when the physical skills remain but the mental circuits are shorted out.
Professional golf is a tremendous sport and a great meritocracy. Despite the struggles of many to remain exempt, it’s refreshing to know we are always watching the cream of the crop every week. Who else do you recall has fallen as far as Duval and couldn’t turn it around?