I love the way Tyrrell Hatton plays golf. He’s fun to watch. He has a lot of talent. But what makes him most enjoyable is his temper.
Like so many Tour players I know, Tyrrell has a short fuse. But the great thing about him is that he doesn’t try to hide that aspect of his character.
It’s a fact that maybe 90 percent of the players you watch on television every week have a tipping point when it comes to temper. There are a few who seem to be immune to frustration – Dustin Johnson is a classic example – but they are the outliers. Most people reach a stage where they have to let it all out. And Tyrrell’s is pretty early on that spectrum. That hardly makes him unique. But what is rare is that he – now a top-10 player – is so willing to show that side of his personality. In other words, just about everyone else at that level is better at hiding their tempers.
Temper is actually a hallmark of guys who play well. Yes, it can be counter-productive. But a lot of great golfers have had filthy tempers. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing, albeit it can often be a negative. Properly harnessed, temper does have the potential to provide the sort of fuel every golfer needs to perform well.
Bottling things up comes with certain danger. Keeping things inside can create a “ticking bomb.”
Take Bjorn Borg, the great tennis player. As a youngster, Borg had a famously foul temper. But as he got older he hid that, to the point where he became the archetypal “iceman” on the court. But here’s my point. Borg was done as a player when he was only 26. I’m no psychologist, but the fact that he failed to release so much negative energy might have been a factor in his early retirement. Just a thought.
“Properly harnessed, temper does have the potential to provide the sort of fuel every golfer needs to perform well.” – Geoff Ogilvy
Anyway, my contention is that, when it comes to temper, you have to let it out. The trouble is that golf, unlike many sports, has always struggled to find an acceptable outlet for a loss of control. The etiquette of the game almost precludes anything that even ventures down the temper path. Displays of temper are inappropriate and unacceptable. Emotions are supposed to be kept inside your sweater, not worn on your sleeve. Quite simply, golf is unsympathetic to the angry golfer.
This is why most guys on Tour bottle things up. Over the years I’ve seen any number of tantrums in locker rooms, away from the public. And by guys who would never show that level of emotion on the course. Then again, guys like that can be prone to an annual “blow-out,” a moment where they take maybe 50 swings at their golf bags. I’ve seen that happen too. Then again (2), there are those who get annoyed after every shot they don’t like. That type never seems to have the huge tantrum; they are just constantly a little bit angry.
Tyrrell looks like he is part of that latter group. His frustration seems like it is always close to the surface. And his post-shot histrionics are just his way of letting it all out.
There is, of course, a humorous aspect to temper on the course. Watching guys briefly “lose it” can be hysterically funny. My favourite example of where a player’s “headspace” can go when he is angry concerns an Australian pro on the European Tour.
Playing alongside two others who happened to play the same clubs – and so had identical bags – our hero reached a point where he could apparently take no more. After missing a putt, my compatriot went over the edge and started bashing his bag with his putter. This went on for maybe 30 seconds until one of his playing partners quietly approached.
“You alright mate?” asked the non-participant.
“What do you care?” answered the Aussie, as he continued to attack the bag. “F*** off.”
“Well, I wouldn’t normally care. But that’s my bag.”
A classic moment. And one that is metaphorical for what golf can do to you. Normally guys can make it to the locker room before they let it all out. But that day, my mate just couldn’t go on. It had to come out.
He’s hardly alone of course. Tiger Woods got incredibly angry at times. But he had ways of getting it out, without creating a bad “look.” I’ve seen and felt steam coming out of him on the course. But 40-yards down the fairway he was nearly always fine. He could regain control without snapping clubs across his knees. He was the master of reining in his emotions. It was like fuel for him, turning a potential negative into a positive.
Signs of temper are there if you want to look for them though. Some pros squeeze the grip on their clubs really hard. Some guys surreptitiously pinch themselves. But most guys are like Tyrrell. They let it out. Golf is so frustrating. We all get excited in the build-up to hitting what we hope will be a good shot. Then, when we mess up, it is so annoying. Every golfer knows that feeling. And when it appears, things can happen.
“I can’t say I’m too proud of some of the things I did as a teenager. I was crazy at times. I was outrageous. I could be just like Tyrrell.” – Geoff Ogilvy
On a personal note, I can’t say I’m too proud of some of the things I did as a teenager. I was crazy at times. I was outrageous. I could be just like Tyrrell. Gradually, I improved to the point where I’ve had periods of clarity. I noticed that my scores improved when I didn’t react negatively to a poor shot or shots. I accepted my bad shots.
Not all the time of course. In the end, I actually went too far down the road to tranquillity. I should have used my anger to make some of Tiger’s fuel. It is, after all, a natural emotion. Which is not to say that I never displayed the sort of signs I just mentioned.
My mood could often be seen by how fast my club re-entered my bag after a shot. The first couple of seconds after a bad shot are critical. When temper is rising, you have to get the club out of your hands as soon as possible. You just have to. It’s not a good thing to hang onto it.
My long-time caddie, Squirrel, learned pretty quickly to get his hands out of the way when it was me “placing” the club back in the bag. Although I must admit to making contact with a stray finger once or twice. Like I said, not something to be proud of.
As far as other players are concerned, there are basically two types: those who get funny angry and those who get scary angry.
Things are amusing when someone goes on a rant about the design of the hole they just played. Or about the lie they had in the middle of the fairway. That’s okay, because they are involving others in their nonsensical diatribe. And guys can get angry and still be in a good mode, chatting away on the next tee. Good-natured outbursts are fine – and part of the game as far as I’m concerned.
On the other hand, guys who drag down the mood of the group by not letting something go for six holes? Not cool. Complaining about every little thing is no fun for those who have to listen. Digging up the course is never good. Neither is breaking equipment. All of that is just tiresome. I know this to be true because at least a couple of times I have been the guilty party.
Cardboard rubbish bins on tees are prime targets for players looking to release some emotion. And they can be really funny, especially when the club gets stuck in the hole it has just made. I’ve seen guys jumping around trying to “swing” the bin off the end of their club. We’ve all done that.
The strange thing is my temper never made a difference to me when I was playing well enough to be in contention. I didn’t get angry in those situations. Not even a little bit. I would get disappointed by things that happened. But there was never any anger involved. My issues arose when I was cruising along nicely after, say, 27 holes. A bad shot or hole at that point would render me “headless.” I’d go from four off the lead to on the cut-line. And it would take me three or four holes to get back to “normal.” Too often, that led to me missing cuts.
Squirrel was always the voice of reason for me in such moments.
“What were you doing?” he would ask. “Why are you so angry? If we had made the cut you would have finished in the top-five the way you were playing.”
There is no answer to those questions of course. Temper is just hard to explain.