So it begins. We are facing a very serious trimester. A season of bifurcation. Crunch time for USA. 18th hole of the Open, down a shot, facing a monster par 5 that has become reachable because of swirling winds that move predominantly forward -the gusts threaten to knock you down on your face as you size up your drive. Water on the right, waste on the left, bunkers guarding the periphery and any approaches -bunkers to make grown men cry. The whole fairway drains into the water on the right, and green is elevated, a lofty goal. Black hole rough and ashen waste protect you from out of bounds on the left. A single tree sits in front of the tee box requiring the player to go right or left, but the shot has to be cut or drawn back to the center. Whatever happens, like any golf shot, we’ll get the lie that we deserve.
How true is the adage “Golf is a metaphor for life?” The reference to Doral here reminds me it’s true. In fact, golf IS life, no? Whenever I’ve had a chance to play one of the world’s great championship courses, I’ve always been the type who prefers to play from the championship tees rather than from the so-called members’ tees. After all, I don’t feed my family on scoring low on a golf course. What in hell’s in a score? In 1993, the year after the Ryder Cup was played on the Ocean Course at Kiawa Island, South Carolina, I played the course from the championship tees, lost probably a dozen balls, came in with a 112 (I was a 7-handicap at the time) and had the time of my life. Truly mystical. The same year, I played Baltusrol in New Jersey two weeks after the U.S. Open was contested there. I played from the back tees, of course, came home with a 103, and was still mesmerized by the place a week later. A few years later, I went to a business offsite at Doral with my closest work colleagues, and we took an afternoon off to play the championship course, the famed “Blue Monster.” My three playing companions refused to play the back tees and, having forced me into a two-on-two match, I succumbed and played the members’ tees with the rest of them. Except for #18. Although fifty bucks was at stake as walked off the 17 green, I refused to tee off anyplace but the championship tee, despite my partner’s protestations. He was actually pissed. The others teed off safely from the members’ tee, and I—well I was drove into the water left. Long story short: My partner and I lost the match by losing the hole, and my partner—always the gentleman off the course—actually asked me to pay his share of the damages. Come to think of it now, he was always a sort of Chicken Little at work, never much willing to take a good risk. To him, a par is a par and a birdie is a birdie and a bogey is a bogey—in golf as in life—no matter what the challenge. Haven’t talked to him since I moved out of the area in 2003. I don’t know what he’s doing now, except I know it can’t be too thrilling, and certainly not fulfilling.