The Hacker: Forget McIlroy's woes, Roger's 147 leaves him snookered

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The Independent Online

Rory McIlroy's sad collapse at The Masters last Sunday brought forward the usual guff including the statement that on holes 10, 11 and 12, where he dropped six shots, he played "like a hacker".

Hackers the world over will take grave exception to that slur; not on their behalf but on poor Rory's. Such is the gulf between the level of his game and ours that had we suffered similar misfortunes, the loss in shots would have been at least doubled if not trebled.

Indeed, if a hacker had scored a seven on the 10th he would most probably have done a lap of honour. Rated by locals as the hardest hole on the Augusta course, the 10th is a 495-yard par four which bends left downhill over a large, scalloped fairway bunker to a green protected by steep slopes and a bunker.

From the tee, Rory produced a pull hook that struck a tree and rebounded 80 yards sharp left to end up between two cabins. No one can remember a Masters competitor ever landing in such a spot. Perhaps at that moment he resembled a hacker – standing over his ball in an obscure part of the course and looking at a view decent golfers never see.

What followed has been so thoroughly dissected it doesn't need repeating. The fascination of golf is that great players can sometimes play poorly. Poor players, on the other hand, can never play great. We don't expect to. All we yearn for is to tonk it around in a respectable fashion and endure the minimum of frustrations. Although we would tend to be more sympathetic than most, there is a certain amount of satisfaction when we see a pro struggle over a few holes. At least it proves what a tough game it is.

A spectacular disaster befell Kevin Na at the Texas Open on Thursday. He took 16 shots on the 474-yard long ninth hole which was the highest total for a par-four in a PGA Tour event.

Television showed him frantically trying to hack his way out of the woods and the sight and sounds would have been familiar to so many of us.

As it happens, Na returned an 80 for the round, so if he had a par or even a bogey on that hole, he would have been among the leaders. That's the point. Messrs Na and McIlroy know they can play better. We don't, not consistently anyway, and it is difficult to know how we sustain the belief that some day we will.

We were discussing this in the bar last week and Roger reminded us that he holds the club record for the highest score in a medal.

He totted up a staggering 147 shots. Thirty of them came on one hole, the par-five third. His playing partners were aghast and if they admired his courage in carrying on they didn't mention it.

He persevered and his scores these days are around 100 – a vast improvement when you think of it.

As for me, my annual assignment begins this weekend in my first monthly medal of the year. I can't remember the last time I broke 100 but it's at least 10 years ago.

I've been trying, and writing about it in this column, for so long it seems to have become a self-defeating obsession. I have been playing well lately but there is a large mental barrier to overcome. Calamity may have come as a shock for Rory but I'm expecting one with every shot.