For when they go wrong, they really go wrong. First, it's your swing. Then it's your putting. Finally, someone pickpockets your silly white glove while you're not looking. Before you know it you're finding every bunker on every course and missing the cut at the Mozambique Open. Newspapers publish articles about your decline, illustrated with photos of you crying, or kneeing your caddie in the groin. Then, the last straw. You wake up one morning, you open the cupboard, and you realise you haven't got a thing to wear.
What could be more humiliating or demoralising? A golfer who doesn't know what to wear is like a boxer who's forgotten how to punch. Strangely coloured attire is at the very kernel of his existence. And it's not even as though other sportsmen have to worry about such things. Footballers just have to remember whether they're home or away that day - although, admittedly, many are pretty taxed by that. Cricketers just pull on the nearest white shirt, unless they're appearing on television, in which case they pull on one with the words 'Heinz Tomato Ketchup' emblazoned on the collar.
But the golfer has greater latitude. Should he wear the bright emerald green trousers (sorry, 'slacks'), or the purple ones with yellow socks? Orange shirt, or aquamarine? Like a DIY decorator gazing helplessly at paint charts, the golfer has an almost infinite selection from which to choose. When he's winning the choice is straightforward. When he's plummeting into a spiritual abyss of terror and damnation, it's just that little bit harder.
You can see the young professionals starting out, full of confidence, joie de vivre and youthful vigour. Their clothes may be dangerous to look at with the naked eye, but behind suitably reinforced screens, you can at least recognise the seeds of golfing talent. But then something goes awry. Their confidence falters, their performances suffer, and their colour combinations become even more outlandish. Eventually they are partnered with Payne Stewart, and are never heard of again.
Not that Payne Stewart himself is entirely immune to the vagaries of poor form, something I blame on his deal with America's National Football League. On first glance, this contract, which requires him to wear the colours of all the league's teams in strict rotation, is merely an ingenious way of raking in yet more money, but it does seem to have taken a toll on his golf. Perhaps you can only go around looking like a mobile wedding cake for so long. No wonder he's trying to grow a beard.
Meanwhile, Sandy Lyle turned out on Friday as though he were about to go yomping across the Kalahari. When I switched on, he had apparently been going great guns - back in 32 with four birdies, and seven under for the tournament. Would he make a challenge for the leadership?
One look at him, and it became clear that he wouldn't - he was wearing olive green trousers with an olive green shirt and an olive green sweater. Here was a man who couldn't decide any more which colours went with which, so he'd worn everything the same colour. Needless to say, he then dropped three shots in swift succession, and looked thorougly bemused. 'Change your trousers]' I shouted at the television, but I don't think he heard me.
None the less, some of the leading players have obviously caught on to all this, for none of this week's more successful performers has been seen in anything remotely pastel. Indeed, everyone in humorous trousers or wearing a daft hat has inevitably come a cropper. Could appropriateness of dress yet be a factor in winning the Open? I really couldn't say, but if next year's commentating team includes Eve Pollard, I won't be in the least surprised.Reuse content