The Hacker: Take it one shot at a time – the next one could be truly dreadful

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The Independent Online

Padraig Harrington's second consecutive major was a joy to watch, but was a cruel reminder to the game's mortals.

The concept of consistency is an alien one to most of us and the lack of it, of course, is what keeps us where we are, down at the plankton end of the food chain. Winning one competition is a rarity; two in a row just does not happen.

Even playing two good rounds in a row, card in hand or not, is something to dine out on. Or even two competent holes in a row. Hey, make that two decent strikes.

Which makes the whole thing so frustrating. Somewhere in us we all have the shots to take on the best, but unfortunately a lifetime eclectic does not yet count on the Order of Merit.

But a couple of weeks ago I thought I'd cracked it. The occasion was the club championship, a 36-holer run concurrently in scratch and handicap divisions.

I was in the last group out in the morning and the day began entirely normally, with an eight on the par-five first. But then something – I don't know what – kicked in and suddenly it all got rather easy.

Two more blips in the form of sevens on another two par fives became a matter for slight annoyance rather than humble gratitude. At half-time I was halfway leader in the handicap section with a net 67 and – crikey – fourth overall.

Did it last? Don't be daft. Normal service was resumed at pretty well the earliest possible opportunity, a six courtesy of a tree, a bunker and three putts on the par-three second.

The weather was the same, the clubs were the same, the course was the same. So why oh why could I not swing the same? If I knew, though, I'd probably be living in one of those mansions at Wentworth.

With default mode engaged, expectations of victory had disappeared into the rough by the turn, along with a load of balls. Which is pretty much what I played. But then so did everyone else, to a greater or lesser degree.

To my utter astonishment a net 83 in the afternoon was good (I use the word in its loosest possible sense) enough to take the handicap division by a single shot.

Happily I was in blissful ignorance of the fact that my last putt, a 10-footer across the slope, was for the Millennium Plate. It was also the last putt of the competition. What wouldn't TV have given for the rights to such a clash of the titanesses.

My handicap was cut; fortunately, the two rounds being one competition, not until after it was all over. Since then, two more qualifiers have produced two more displays of abject incompetence, notably 24 points in last week's President's Mashie. Never mind the new mark, I can't even play to the old one.

It has been said that if there really was a loving god, he wouldn't have invented cellulite. Nor a game that requires such precise, repetitive, technical accuracy; the ability to do the same thing again and again.

But I suppose that if he did indeed make us in his own image, then necessarily we must, on occasions, move in mysterious ways.