AFTER the disruptions to the international golf schedule because of the pandemic and the cancellation of last month’s British Open, this week sees the first Major of the year taking place – the US PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco.
Technically South Africa has six players in the line-up – Louis Oosthuizen, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Erik van Rooyen, Charl Schwartzel, Dylan Frittelli and Shaun Norris. Branden Grace was also in the field until he tested positive for the virus during last week’s Barracuda Championship on the PGA Tour where he was lying second halfway and had to withdraw. And then there’s Rory Sabbatini, now bizarrely playing under the Slovakia flag because of his marriage to a woman from that country. But, let’s face it, Sabbo is still one of us.
There is a certain amount of optimism about the chances of our boys this week, because Oosthuizen showed plenty of form by finishing sixth (and only one shot out of joint second) in last week’s WGC-St Jude Classic won by Justin Thomas. And “Rambo” (Bezuidenhout) and Van Rooyen played well too in a world class field by sharing 20th place.
Schwartzel, for his part, was third in the 3M Open two Sundays back so he’s one to watch too.
If we don’t include Nick Price who was born in Durban but throughout his pro career played out of Zimbabwe, only one South African has won the US PGA Championship – Gary Player. In fact the Black Knight won it twice – in 1962 and 1972. And then on the Champions Tour, this legend of the game captured the Senior PGA Championship no less than three times – in 1986, 1988 and 1990. Gary, of course, won nine Majors on his way to the coveted Grand Slam, and then added another nine Senior Majors on the over-50s circuit which also constituted a Senior Slam.
So, if Mr Player would have some advice for our South Africans teeing up in San Francisco this week (and in fact us Randpark members!) what would this be?
Well, let’s look back at the 1962 US PGA Championship. In his book “Don’t Choke”, Gary writes: “Two choices. That’s pretty much what it comes down to for me. In every situation in life you have two choices:
You can be positive, or you can be negative.” He then explains how in 1962 he finished second in the Masters (he tied at the top with Arnold Palmer and Dow Finsterwald before Arnie stormed home in a blistering 31 blows over the last nine in the play-off to take the title), sixth in the US Open and then uncharacteristically missed the cut by one in the British Open at Troon.
“I wasn’t winning and now I had missed the cut and I left Troon with my tail between my legs. That’s how I described it to a few journalists, and that’s how I was quoted in the newspapers. Now the whole world knew how I felt. But I had two choices and on the plane to America and the PGA at Aronimink I was already down the road toward the one choice (the negative one) that doesn’t win you a club championship, never mind a Major. So I made the switch. I determined to be positive and it’s amazing how soon I got the passion and the hunger back. I analysed what I did wrong at Troon and put it behind me.
“I had never set foot on the Aronimink course but before I even arrived I decided that I was going to love the course and the place.
That’s positive thinking. I prepared myself mentally and decided that it was going to be a positive week for me. I visualised myself winning the PGA Championship, actually seeing my name on top of the leaderboard before even teeing off. That’s a positive thing. I practised harder than anyone else before the first round and with my positive attitude I went on to win my third Major in four years while still early in my career. On the final hole of the tournament I hit an amazing shot from the worst possible position. My drive was right and in the trees but I took a three wood and sliced it around the corner and onto the green about thirty feet from the pin. I then two-putted to beat Bob Goalby by one. I had two choices at Aronimink but I determined to be positive and I rubber-stamped that choice with my game. We all have two choices in everything in life. Don’t make the mistake of being negative and miserable, and, yes, that applies to your golf too. Be positive. Be optimistic. Arm yourself with the most powerful weapon known to man – optimism.”
Thanks Gary! Time to be positive!
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.