With the pros competing at match play last week—the same format the rest of us play every weekend—I’m reminded of Bobby Jones’s famous observation that there are two kinds of golf: “There is golf and tournament golf, and they are not at all the same.”
Agreed. And for my money, tournament golf is a lot easier. Here are 10 reasons.
1) Pristine Courses
The pros play on nothing but immaculate layouts, week in and week out. Many of their fairways are better than many of our greens. Usually the courses have been closed the week before the event even arrives—that means divot-free fairways and blemish-free greens.
2) Unlimited Free Practice Balls
Unless you belong to a private club—and even at some of those—you can expect to be a few bucks down before teeing it up. And while I’m on the subject of things for free—how about the free clubs and apparel, the courtesy cars, fitness trailers, travel agents, and day-care centers, and locker room buffets? I mean, how do those guys not break 70 every day?
3) Good Pairings
One reason pros play like pros is pros play with pros. And by that I mean they’re paired (for the most part) with guys who not only play at the highest level but respect the etiquette of the game; they know when and when not to talk, where and where not to stand.
4) Enforced Silence
I’d love, just once, to play 18 holes followed by someone whose only job is to raise a “Quiet Please” sign when it’s my turn to play—even if only to shut up the three other people in my foursome.
5) Pushover Setups
Ask yourself how many times a year you find yourself hitting a long iron, hybrid, or fairway wood for your second shot to a par four. Now try to recall the last time you saw a Tour pro hit more than a 4-iron?
6) Trouble-Free Trouble
When a Tour player misses a fairway he often rolls into an area that has been trampled by the gallery, leaving him with a ball that sits as pretty as a cherry on a sundae. And Tour maintenance standards insure that when an errant shot pelts into the face of a bunker, it doesn’t bury, it pops out and trickles back into the flat bottom which has been raked with such fastidiousness you’d think no one had ever been there. Can you imagine a pro having to deal with the footprints the rest of us routinely endure?
7) Gallery Help 1
Those of us who line the fairways at pro tournaments are human guardrails, effectively increasing the players’ margin for error. I can see Bubba Watson standing over a 5-iron (likely his second shot to a par five) and thinking: “I’m gonna zing this baby at the left fringe, right at that fat guy in the yellow shorts. If it draws to the pin, great; if not I should get a good bounce off fatso.”
8) Gallery Help 2
When not serving as guard rails we often become search parties, insuring that our heroes find their balls, no matter how ludicrously errant the shot. In the 1986 U.S. Open when Jack Nicklaus lost a ball on the 10th hole, he announced that it was the first ball he’d lost in a quarter century of tournament play. Well, heck, Jack, if I had a couple thousand idolatrous fans dogging my every move, I’d still be on my first sleeve, too. In fact I’d be surprised every time I got a bad lie.
9) Gallery Help 3
Fan support can be immeasurably helpful, especially when a player is not doing well. I don’t know about you, but the next time I miss a short putt I’d love to hear a collective groan of commiseration or a "That’s okay, George, we still love you.” Preferably from an attractive woman.
10) TV Viewer Help
Tour players don’t need to know the Rules because numerous highly paid officials are always on site to do that work for them. And then there are those viewers who call in to point out infractions—just ask Tiger. You say it doesn’t make things any easier for Tiger when someone rats him out and he gets penalized. No it doesn’t, but it makes things easier for the entire rest of the field.