I'm not clutch. Never have been. Show me a
meaningful three-footer and I'll show you a
blind chimp with a better chance of holing it.
Which made the prospect of playing in the PGA
Grand Slam of Golf pro-am with 2003 Masters
champion Mike Weir Exorcist-scary. Fitting, given
I saw this breezy day at Poipu Bay Golf Course on
Kauai, Hawaii, as a chance to exorcise my duffinducing
When Weir appeared, with a parade of fans trailing him, I froze on the tee like a slumping placekicker moments before a game-winning attempt. Weir is unimposing, but in a black shirt and hat he appeared on his way to a funeral. Mine.
He was up first. "Top it! Skull it! Sing a show tune!" I secretly pleaded. Anything to relax me. Instead, Weir unleashed a booming draw to a chorus of oohs. Next, a sturdy kid from the island pulled driver and smashed one past Weir. More oohs. Then me. My stomach quaked and my arms felt like mashed potatoes. I glanced at Weir. He was still on the back tee, muttering to his cadre of coaches, uninterested. Still, I was convinced that he and the gallery were ogling me as they would a bearded lady. From the start of my jittery takeaway, I was doomed. Off the ball went. Really off. High. Right. Weak. Humiliating. No oohs this time, or a single boo. Something far worse: silence. I peeked back at Weir, expecting a look of disgust, or pity, but his back was turned. He'd missed it.
Weir didn't watch my next shot either, or the next. Truth is, he cared more about the weather in Peru than my swing. For my second shot at the par-5 thirda 3-wood off the deckWeir finally took note, and offered some advice. "Think about creating a specific shot and shaping the ball," he said. "Never just hit and hope."
Made sense, even if I could sooner sculpt a teapot than a golf shot. As I stood over my ball, the Masters champ peering over my right shoulder, I gave it a go. I picked two bunkers about 50 yards shy of the green and envisioned dropping a high, soft fade in-between, into a grassy slot the size of my office cube. Then I swung. My backswing felt long and loose, my contact crisp. High! Soft! Fade! It might be! It could be! Uh-ohtoo much fade! Abort! Abort! My ball disappeared into a bunker, right of my target.
"Good shot," Weir chirped. And it was a good shot. Airborne, straight-ish. I employed Weir's technique for the rest of the round, and it worked. He returned to not caring, and the gallery cared even less. After all, I finally realized, they weren't here to watch me, and neither was Weir.