The Hacker: Memo to PM: you don't break 100 by crawling to major winners. I know, I've tried
Sunday 11 July 2010
I didn't realise I had anything in common with the Prime Minister, differing as we do in schooling, background, wealth, age, looks, hair and stuff like that, but he confessed last week that he has a desire to break 100 on the golf course.
Admittedly, the secret passions of politicians are usually a bit racier, but hackers throughout the country will be thrilled that the highest in the land is chasing the same holy grail as us.
We are accustomed to US Presidents being keen on golf, and Barack Obama is maintaining that tradition, but British PMs have a very poor record of showing an interest in the Royal & Ancient game, or in most sporting pursuits come to that.
However, David Cameron has sent a handwritten letter to Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, our first winner in the US Open for 40 years, to congratulate him and added: "Here's your next challenge – help me break a hundred."
I don't know what stage the PM has reached in his efforts to score below the magic ton but I must warn him that you don't break 100 by crawling around major winners. I know, because I've tried it.
For 10 years, I've been beating my brains out trying to bring home a medal score that doesn't contain three figures. Along the way I've sought advice from the world's finest but the game always finds a way to thwart my efforts.
When it comes to getting below that magic number, each failure seems to push it further away. You can play fine in friendly matches but the sight of a scorecard and a pencil has a paralysing effect on the central nervous system.
Friends tell me that writing about my failures in this column over the years has helped to increase the pressure. If I had kept quiet about it instead of blabbing I would have probably sneaked below 100 ages ago. Now it has become a psychological barrier I'll never break.
But I am determined to succeed and I sense that I am close to the breakthrough. Since I had the cataract in my right eye seen to a month ago my sight has improved tremendously. Unfortunately, the operation meant I missed the June medal but I have been playing better golf since and seeing the ball does make a difference.
I'm due to have the left eye done on Tuesday which means I won't be able to assist my colleagues at The Open but I hope to be able to play in the July medal on Saturday.
That'll be a stiff test of nerve and character but at least I'll be going into it with my eyes wide open to the perils that lie between a golfer and a respectable score.
Leaving the practice range last week I met a very disconsolate young man in the car park. Franco, who helps his father, Tony, run a very busy restaurant 70 yards from my front door, has been playing for about two years and had just come off the course after shooting 128.
I managed to soothe him with stories of my own short-comings and when I told him that the Prime Minister was among those countless golfers striving for improvement, it cheered him up no end. Then I had an uncomfortable thought. What if the PM and Franco get into the 90s before me? That's what I mean about putting pressure on myself.
Tip of the week
No 57: avoiding the skied tee shot
If you find yourself hitting drives too high, take a look at the top edge of your driver and see if there are any scratch marks. If so, this doesn't necessarily mean you are teeing too high, you may be striking down too steeply on the ball, creating very high launch angles.
To stop this happening set up as normal with the ball positioned inside your left heel. Position a tee in the ground about two feet to the right of your right toe-cap (for right-handed golfers). As you take the club away, try to brush the tee on the ground.
This will encourage a low, inside-sweeping backswing, and help to stop you attacking the ball too steeply. If you keep the swing smooth, you will find you strike the ball much closer to the middle of the club face, resulting in more penetrating drives.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey www.theshortgame.co.uk
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