The Ten-Round Rule

By Adam BarrNovember 24, 2007, 5:00 pm
Tryptophan, that chemical compound in turkey that is supposed to make you sleepy, just makes me confessional. So. [huff] Here goes.
 
Iumhave a bit of atemper on the golf course. I have been known togrind my teeth. Utter unsavory expressions. I have evenhelicoptered a few. O.K., more than a few, and more than a few feet. You know those big Sikorsky jobs that lift, like, tanks and other mammoth things?
 
Yeah. Like that. Not many people have seen this side of me. Playing golf with people in the industry, or with GOLF CHANNEL friends, or anywhere I could be seen by anyone outside my family and a few very close friends, I cant afford to lose control. Bad for the image: not just mine, but TGCs. So through strength of will, I have not chewed through any golf cart parts after shanking a simple wedge shot in such games.
 
But my wife and those few very close friends have seen me getannoyed. How annoyed? Once we began a game, and my wife filled in the scorecard lines. It took me five holes to see she had written Dr. Jekyll where my name was supposed to be.
 
Well, more accurately, my inner circle used to see this in me. I think I have found a solution. (As a matter of fact, Im pretty sure I have. Im just equivocating to avoid fatal hubris.)
 
I have discovered that you can change just about anything in your golf persona ' if you just give it ten rounds.
 
Huh? I hear you saying, and not without some merit: Barr, tryptophan obviously suppresses your already questionable judgment as well. Do you mean to say you can cure me of three-putting or coming over the top in the space of ten rounds of golf? Ive been fighting those demons since God was in knee pants.
 
No, that kind of thing is a job for your PGA professional. What Im talking about is the kind of behavior, usually mental, that leads you to lose control of your mood, your psyche, your noodle, your headspace (for you West Hollywood types). Heres how it happened for me.
 
I was playing alone late one afternoon, trying to squeeze in a round between work and sunset, and I had come to our clubs sadistic 15th hole. Its a short par 5 with a difficult, no-driver tee shot to a landing area narrower than your Dads mind when you were a teenager. Then there are two massive oaks in the fairway (the %&*$% FAIRWAY!) about 110 yards from an elevated, protected green. Ive seen grown men ungrow pretty rapidly on this hole.
 
Long story short: I yanked my third shot into the cow pasture back left of the green, and went aggrieved-mail-sorter: I launched my wedge way up high over the LZ.
 
Now, I had done this many times before. But as I stood there, feeling ashen inside (notice that the wedge flight had made me feel worse, not better), I spoke to myself. Self, I said, First of all, we have to get you a better name than Self. Second, and more important, Im 46 years old, and I hate this about you. This has got to stop. We have to find a way to make it stop.
 
Yes, and you have a son, Self said, scooping salt into the wound in my psyche. Do you want him to see this kind of behavior? I finished the hole, took the double-digit score (Ill be damned if Ill let anger talk me into the weakness of cheating), and played the final three holes on automatic. I was busy thinking of how to manage this problem. As I putted out on 18, I came up with it.
 
Ten rounds.
 
For ten rounds, I would not allow myself to demonstrate anger in any way. Sure, I could be angry. Its impossible to forestall the mental condition known as anger, which rises from frustration and manifests itself in physical effects such as increased pulse rate, muscle tightness, even blurred vision. Anger is a fact of life and a fact of golf. But whatever the impulse, I would beat it back. If I was pissed off, no one would know it from anything I did or said.
 
And there was one big, fat kicker: If, in those ten rounds, I failed even once to control the physical manifestations of my anger (tossing a club, slamming a club, throwing a ball, cussing, whatever it might be) ' I would have go back to the beginning and start all over again.
 
I went home, made a drink, and sunk into the big chair in my home office. I was scared. Could I do this? But then I figured, if I was to have any kind of future enjoyment of golf, I had to.
 
Think about it ' we all have on-course behaviors that we wish we didnt. They may not be as bad as violent, red-seeing anger. But theyre there. Bad self-talk. Defeatism. Even fear. Speeding up our pace and careening into a gyre of foolish mistakes when things go wrong. Its the rare person who cares so little about his golf performance that he can be completely happy-go-lucky about the difficulty and randomness of the game. People who profess to be this way, or who actually seem to be, make me suspicious. I wonder how they treat their families once they get home.
 
Thats the kernel of the problem, though. If you play golf and play avidly, its because you care about how well you do, at least on some level. To deny this is to deny the obvious attractiveness of golfs challenge. You may never get a lot better on the scorecard, but you want to get better than you were. Even if youre one of those recreational players who just likes to hit solid shots, score notwithstanding, you have set yourself a personal performance benchmark. When you fall short, whatever your golf goal, your innate humanity makes it impossible to carelessly laugh it off every time.
 
So anger and other negative feelings are inevitable. You have to find strategies to fight them off, or you might as well quit the game. And quitting is unacceptable.
 
So I got down to it. It was hard. I remember vividly, somewhere about Round 4, wanting to slam the pin back into its socket in the cup after three-putting. But I didnt. I did not want to fail, did not want to start over. I took a deep breath. I managed. I went on.
 
And you know what? There was a reward. I dont think I got angry any less often. But my efforts at control made my anger dissipate more quickly, and I could go on with my round with more enjoyment. It was like looking in the mirror after six weeks of workouts and seeing a little definition in your biceps. Suddenly, there was success. And success breeds more of the same.
 
About Round 7, I knew I would make it. And I did. Never had to start over. I felt like I was on the way to putting golf in proper perspective ' not caring any less, not trying any less ' just ranking it where it needed to be, behind God, family, friends, and many other blessings. And now, after the ten rounds, I find I have a lot less impulse to fling a club or swear than I did before the experiment. I know how it feels, and I dont want to feel that way.
 
Sound cornier than Iowa? Yeah, maybe so. But its true. And if I can do it, so can just about anyone else. Theres another reward, too. Using the Ten-Round Rule makes you want to try it on other things. For instance, Im trying to have ten rounds without negative self-talk. None of this lining up a downhill, right-breaking 10-footer while saying to myself, Darn. I never make these. No talking myself out of success before even taking back the club.
 
I gotta tell you, this is a lot harder. I have had start over a couple of times now. But I wont quit. Its worth it. And I know one thing. I wont get angry.
 
Not that youll be able to see, anyway.
 

Related Links:
  • Adam's Archive
     
    Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
  • Getty Images

    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

    Getty Images

    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

    Getty Images

    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.