'You can't handle the truth'

By Jerry Tarde Photos by Dom Furore
April 20, 2008

CONTEST: Who do you think will break 100? Enter now and you could win a golf trip for two to Torrey Pines!

Eleven semifinalists culled from 56,374 essay writers gathered in Dallas in February for a final audition in the first Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge (see "This Could Get Ugly"). Our keynote speaker at dinner was Hank Haney, the coach of Tiger Woods. Tiger famously inspired it all last year at Oakmont when he said a 10-handicapper couldn't break 100 on a U.S. Open course. The semifinalists had handicaps ranging from 5 to 10. "Will they break 100?" Haney was asked.

"No, not a chance," Hank said flatly, and then he began to explain why in excruciating detail. "Tour players in the Open last year averaged hitting only seven fairways a round. Let's say you're going to hit four. Of those four fairways and the four par 3s, let's say you'll have eight chances at hitting a green in regulation. Of those eight, you'll hit two. Of the 10 fairways you miss and have to pitch out of the rough, you'll hit only four of those greens with your next shot. Of the six greens you miss with your third or fourth shot, I'll give you double bogeys. You'll have at least five three-putts, which added to the six doubles, now puts you at 17 over par. Four more times you'll miss the green on a chip shot -- what I call a double chip: 21 over par. Add three penalty shots: 24 over. Five times during the round you'll take two to get out of the rough getting back to the fairway: That's 29 over. Par for the Open is 71. For you, it's 100."

And, Hank added, "All this doesn't take into account the mental breakdown that leads to really big numbers on individual holes." (Check out the tee shot at No. 13!) Maybe Hank didn't deliver the pep talk the semifinalists were expecting. They walked out of the room a little glassy-eyed.


For more uplifting advice on the Challenge, we consulted the best-selling author of Your 15th Club, Dr. Bob Rotella. His focus is on what's possible:

1. Decide this is going to be the most fun you've ever had playing golf.

2. You're playing with three other guys (Justin Timberlake, Tony Romo and Matt Lauer) who are cool. Enjoy their company.

3. Do everything you can to be yourself and play your game.

4. If at all possible before the round, get a pre-shot routine that's simple and short, and repeat it every time. Care more about the routine than the result.

5. Accept every shot no matter where it goes.

6. There's a tendency under pressure to overreact. Make up your mind you're going to underreact.

7. The worst thing you can do is try to break 100. Play one shot at a time until you run out of holes.

As usual when it comes to the harsh reality of golf, I believe Hank, but I want to believe Bob.