Answering Dumb Questions
Illustration by Peter Arkle
When I was a rookie, going to the range for an hour took an hour. Now that I've had some success (I've won, and I've made a double-digit number of cuts the past six seasons), I allot 1:45 for an hour of practice. Walking from the locker room to the range, or from the fitness trailer to the equipment trucks—pretty much whenever I show my face, I'm going to be stopped. The main questions are, by whom and for how long. Don't get me wrong: I'm very happy to have this attention from fans, media, volunteers, everyone. If I didn't have it, that'd mean my career was in the crapper. But the thing is, I spend a staggering amount of my life answering (often the same) questions.
The first few trips I made to the media center, back when I hadn't won and a low round had me in position, the question that always annoyed me was, "Are you excited to be here?" No, I'm bummed. I've dedicated everything to being a professional golfer, and tomorrow I have a good chance to win a million dollars. Of course I'm excited. How the heck is anyone supposed to answer that?
Another one is, "Talk about how it went out there." That's not even a question but a command for me to start blathering. That's lazy. It's pretty obvious the person hasn't followed my round at all. After four or five hours competing on a hard golf course, I'm drained. You can't catch me outside the scorer's tent and expect me to deliver something interesting without first engaging me a bit and providing some context for what it is you want me to say.
I realize not every media person at our tournaments has a tremendous golf IQ. We get local sports reporters who cover everything from football to basketball to high school field hockey, so I'm always patient with any questions that miss the mark. But the all-timer was when I once described having a "two-club wind" into a par 3. The writer asked, "Which two clubs?"
Some players are robotic in interviews. They've been trained to give the same safe, contained answers, which is a shame. I feel like it's my duty to let you all in at least a little. I like to think I give the same answer whether I'm talking to Jim Nantz or the kid filling the water cooler. I'm a decent person, and so I figure if I can just be myself, I shouldn't say anything that will get me in trouble.
Sometimes we're ridiculed for talking in clichés, but they're true. When I say the key for an important round will be "staying in the moment and taking it one shot a time," that's because there's no other way to describe what I believe is the correct mental approach.
As far as pro-am groups and other captive situations like sponsor dinners and cocktail parties, what I really get sick of are the golf questions. (You walk into a room and see video cameras, a pitcher of water and two stools set at someone's conception of the ideal conversational angle, well, you know right then you're going to have to fill air for at least 20 minutes.) What's your favorite course? There are lots of really good ones. How far do you hit a 5-iron? Look it up. What was it like playing with (insert golfer more famous than I am)? He was a total gentleman. I recognize the game is the natural angle for almost anyone meeting me, but I'm a person. I can respond warmly to the same questions for only so many years. Of the various high-profile people I've met, almost none enjoyed talking about what they're famous for. You need to get them talking about other passions. For me, it's cars. If you want to talk cars, I'll go get a beer with you.
But ask me about golf, and it's like I put up my shield. Sorry, but that's the way I am. —with Max Adler