Thursday, May 15, 2008

AT&T CLASSIC: The Story of Franklin Langham...

After last week's Players Championship, I thought I'd be done pointing out bad rounds till the U.S. Open arrives next month, but then poor Franklin Langham received a sponsor's exemption into this week's AT&T Classic.

The point isn't to bag on the guy, so let me just say Frank was a 1991 All-American and member of the Walker Cup team. He has three victories on the Nationwide Tour. And last year at this event he finished tied for 30th after a disappointing final-round 74. He's no slouch. But lately, well, it's been rough...

Last month at the Athens Regional Foundation Classic he opened with a 90. The Athens Banner-Herald had the following to say about it:

With the weight of a heavy scorecard on his shoulders, the former Georgia golfer slumped and hung his head on his way out of the scorer's tent behind the ninth hole.

"It was just a bad day, he said. "You don't want to talk to me."

The 90 included four bogeys, three doubles, one triple... and a 12 on the par-5 second when he pulled the ball O.B. left three times off the tree. Remember that last part.

Now fast forward to today to TPC Sugarloaf where Langham started on #10, also a par-5. This time Langham hit FOUR balls out of bounds left before getting one in and according to AP, found himself 340 yards out, lying 9. Four more shots from there led to an opening-hole 13. Langham parred the next hole, improving his bounce-back stats, but then went double-bogey, bogey, bogey and tossed in another double on 18 for a back nine score of 50.


I absolutely guarantee you (as someone who recently shot 94) that standing on #1 tee (his 10th hole of the day) the guy had one thought in his head: "Holy crap, am I going to break 100?"

And did he? Langham parred #1 and #2, giving him some breathing room. But then he went triple-bogey, birdie, triple-bogey, double-bogey before a par on #7. Langham now stood +21 with two holes left. He had to play them in +6 to break 100. And there's no way he wasn't thinking about it.

Langham bogeyed #8. All that was left was the par-4 9th. He could make a 9 on it and break 100. Then something either terrible or heaven sent took place -- it started to rain.

Perhaps this is the best time to insert the following quote from Langham himself on mental game guru Gio Valiante's website:

"I believe fear is the number one mental obstacle we face in the game of golf. Whether you are a 100 shooter, a scratch golfer, or a Touring Professional, fear is something we all deal with. For me, it has been an infinite number of 'What if's' due to the fear of never returning to my previous levels of play on the PGA Tour after elbow surgery. Thankfully though, through my work with Gio, I've gained a better understanding of how the mind works so that I am now equipped to overcome that fear. The results is that three months into the season on the Nationwide Tour, I earned enough money to earn an exemption back the PGA Tour. Gio is the greatest!"

Uh... Valiante might want to pull that quote for the time being. As it currently stands, Langham is +22 WITH ONE MORE HOLE TO PLAY FRIDAY morning. The AP article suggests he might not come back for that last hole. I'd like to think he will because 1) he's on a sponsor's exemption and 2) if he doesn't, how does a guy bounce back from a round where effectively he waived the white flag and said, "That's it, golf. You win"?

I didn't know exactly why I always highlight rounds like this but Langham's situation has made me finally stop and come up with an answer. Here's my analysis -- because this thoroughly scares me. I mean it. If players who are that good can lose it that bad, what chance do you or I have to ever play consistently good golf? Why do we do this to ourselves? I'm pretty good at ping pong. I could make the switch and save a lot of money too. Paddles are super easy to travel with. You almost never lose a ball. The bottom line -- at the end of the day, are all of us just playing golf in vain?

On behalf of all you lost and confused golfers out there, let's hope Langham finishes with a birdie. Not for his own well-being, but for ours.

1 comment:

courtgolf said...

Maybe the answer to your question is this -- there is more to the game of golf than what is written on the scorecard. Sometimes it's how we react to what we have to write on the card that matters. (and to some, if they write down the correct number at all)

Maybe Gio has a new brand of hair gel to help Langham change his fortunes ??