Golf is one of the few sports that a top caliber runner can play while maintaining a rigorous two-a-day workout schedule. I discovered that years ago in Boston when each Monday Bruce Bickford, the last American ranked #1 in the world in the 10,000 meters, and two-time Olympian John Gregorek would join Pat Lynch, the Boston Marathon elite athlete recruiter, and me for a weekly golf outing down along the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border where John and his wife Chris lived.
Both Bick and John would have finished their morning workouts, and meet Lynch and I at the course around 10:30 a.m. Gregorek was a long, spray ball hitter who actually notched a hole-in-one on a par 4 one time. Bick, on the other hand, was a frustrated short-ball hitter. Point is, as long as they rode in carts, Bick and John could play 18 holes and still be back home in time and with the energy for their afternoon workouts.
As I watched the final round of the 140th British Open today from Sandwich, England, I wondered if there were any parallels to running and golf? On ESPN the American commentators all seemed surprised when Phil Michelson came apart in the back nine after charging out to a five under par 30 on the front side at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. But as the four-time majors champion was ripping through a six-under par run over the first ten holes to tie for the lead with Northern Ireland’s third-round leader Darren Clarke playing threee groups behind, I kept telling myself, ‘no way Phil holds this pace’. It’s like bolting out to a 1:01 and change first half in the marathon. You simply cannot hold onto that form over the distance, the peak is too precarious.
In championship golf, like running, it is better go even-paced, like shooting a straight across one-under par all four days. You rarely see an opening day 64 or 65 followed up by another such score in any of the other three rounds. Case in point, American Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion. Lucas came out firing on Thursday with a 4-under 66. He followed up with 70, 73, 74 to finish tied for 12th place. 42 year-old winner Darren Clarke captured the first major of his career shooting rounds of 68,68, 69, 70 under the wind and rain blown conditions over the seaside links hard along the English Channel.
Sure, miraculous scores can happen, but when they do they become legend, not the rule. In 1977 at Turnberry, Scotland, Jack Nicklaus shot 66-66 over the final 36 holes, yet lost by one stroke to Tom Watson’s 65-66 for one of his five British Open titles. The 61 year-old Watson shot a 72, two-over par, today to finish in the top 25 at Royal St. George’s this week.
In almost any sport or game the incandescent run will be shortly followed by a balancing of the scales. Steady as she goes may not thrill, but’s it is more likely to prove the winning formula.