This weekend I watched a lot of sports on TV. I mean a lot of sports. There was plenty of baseball to see, including the college world series, and the NHL Stanley Cup, but it was the hours and hours of golf that got me thinking about athletes and stress.
Having played plenty of sports growing up I can speak from experience about the stress levels reached by players. Team sports have very little stress on players. There is always someone else that can pick you up when you are in a slump. Now you do put pressure on yourself to perform to an acceptable level but you don't have that feeling of letting people down.
Golf is different. Each golfer, from Tiger Woods to Muni He, has a team they are responsible for supporting. If they don't make the cut people don't get paid, although there is small amounts of money coming in from sponsors. Obviously the bigger the star the greater the money from sponsors so Tiger Woods is not really sweating out paying his bills.
I've never driven a race car so I can't speak for those people but I'll take a wild guess and say that there is stress each time they get behind the wheel and drive 200 MPH around in a circle. You could make a case for the daily commuter driving to work each day too, but a different kind of stress.
Anyway, golfers don't have anyone else to fall back on and so the stress they are under is monumental each and every day they are playing in a tournament. Lexi Thompson, for example, is a huge star on the LPGA and gets plenty of sponsors money to help her get by, but she has been very public about the help she is getting for the mental side of her game.
She hasn't won since 2019 and if you watch her on a regular basis you can see the look in her eyes of waiting for the next bad thing to happen to her on the golf course, until it eventually does and she disappears off the leaderboard. It has been sad to watch her career erode into a puddle of confusion and despair.
I believe it all started in 2017 when she was called out by a tv viewer and given a four shot penalty which ultimately cost her the championship she was leading at the time. Yes she won a few more tournaments after that but her mental state has never been the same since.
Sunday at the US Open highlighted the stress the men are under as player after player shot themselves out of contention until the winner was the guy who made the least amount of unforced errors, not the guy who played the best.
Pro golfers are also constantly looking for something to blame for what just happened. It is never anything they did. Blame the caddie, the weather, the poorly positioned storm drain, or some other minor thing they can find. We weekend golfers have more things in our way of scoring then the pros will see in a lifetime of tournament golf and yet we persevere.
I would love to see these players play on some of the dog tracks we hacks play. If they think they have issues on a pristine golf palace, come play a round with me at Palm Desert CC, I'll show you obstructions.
The latest made up stress machine for these players is the controversy surrounding players leaving the PGA Tour and playing in the Saudi backed LIV Golf series. Politics aside, if someone wants to go play where they are willing to give them stupid money to just show up and play, which one of us would turn them down?
Basketball legend and golf struggler Charles Barkley said recently about the LIV Series, "Listen, if someone gave me $200 million, I’d kill a relative." I believe he speaks for us all. For the most part the guys leaving the PGA Tour are players that are not finishing in the top ten each week and don't have the giant corporate sponsors other top players have.
If they want to give themselves, and their families, financial support they aren't getting now, then more power to them. Do I think the underlying lifestyle and politics of the Saudi's is something to be concerned about, of course I do and so do they.
Does the PGA Tour, the USGA, and the R & A have their own issues, you bet they do so for them to be holding a mirror up to the LIV is pretty ballsy. If golfers are independent business people, and I know something about being an independent business person myself, then you can't have it both ways by not letting them earn money elsewhere while refusing to offer insurance, retirement, and health care.
I hear people say all the time, "teach your kid golf or tennis so they won't have to rely on anyone else to earn money." Well that is true but they also won't have anyone else to rely on to help them through slumps or tough times. Encourage them to go after a career less stressful, like an air traffic controller or emergency room doctor.