Few games expose the fickleness of sport and humanity the way golf does.
Ask any golf coach what most amateur students state as their number one desire in the game and the answer is almost always to be ‘more consistent’. But what a futile hope that is.
Perhaps it stems from the fact that all players, from the double-digit duffer to the best in history, are intimately familiar with the seemingly random nature of both good and poor play.
It can happen between rounds or sometimes even between nines, the best and worst golf imaginable not really that far apart.
Still, even though we know it innately, it remains surprising when we are confronted with a stark example of the game’s cruelty. Especially at the top level.
The latest poster child for the phenomenon is Martin Kaymer, the two-time major winner suffering the indignity of a 16 shot swing between his first and second rounds at the PGA in San Francisco at the weekend.
One of the game’s most thoughtful and likeable players, it has been a long time since the German was a factor in a big tournament and after he opened with 66 to share second place he was asked to front the press.
Candid as always, Kaymer admitted to lacking motivation in recent years and struggling to keep his game in shape during the pandemic.
"Still, even though we know it innately, it remains surprising when we are confronted with a stark example of the game’s cruelty. Especially at the top level." - Rod Morri.
And despite the great Thursday score, he sounded less than fully confident about the rest of the week, suggesting a hot putter was mostly responsible.
Fast forward to Friday and Kaymer’s 66 had morphed into an 82 and his overnight second placing had become a missed cut. Ugh.
Kaymer wasn’t the only golfer to suffer indignity at Harding Park, however, Rickie Fowler’s now famous stubbed 6-inch putt Friday costing him a chance to play the weekend.
At the other end of the ledger was American Patrick Cantlay. While not as dramatic, Cantlay, too, rode the golf rollercoaster in the opening two rounds.
With five bogies on day one he was in danger of missing the cut but with a 3-over 73 but over the next 36 holes he made six birdies with no dropped shots to enter the final round 3-under for the week and not out of the reckoning.
Stories such as these abound in professional golf. From Rod Pampling leading the 1999 Open at Carnoustie after an opening 71 to missing the cut the next day with an 86 to Greg Norman’s Thursday 63 and Sunday 78 at Augusta in 1996, they’re not the norm but neither are they uncommon.
So next time you’re frustrated by the ups and downs of your own form on the course remember that the next great – or horrendous – score is only ever one round away.
It’s the nature of the game, no matter how good you get.