'So far not so good - I'm still banjaxed!' - Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris

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Ivan Morris

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Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

AS you probably know, I am inclined to take my sporting pursuits (especially my golf nuttiness) a bit too far at times but, sure, this time when long past my best at anything my heart may desire golfing-wise, have I got anything to lose?

A couple of weeks ago, I met a guy from Donegal who told me about 'a wee Ulster cure' for a sore back. In all seriousness, he recommended putting not one, not three, but two nutmegs in my back pocket permanently and, he said, my back would clear up eventually.

He was crafty enough not to put a time limit on his 'cure' but, he did guarantee that it would definitely work, so, stay tuned and I'll keep you informed on my progress back to full golfing health. So far, not so good. I'm still banjaxed!

This unscientific and eccentric solution to a lingering and persistent injury sounded more like giving my sore back a long rest and if rest is the 'real reality' of 'nutmegging' my way back to full golfing fitness - so be it.

We should always live in hope rather than expectation and seeing as there can be no conceivable health dangers in having a couple of nutmegs in one's back pocket permanently, apart from a sore bottom when you are in a sitting position for a long time while writing books and newspaper columns or driving one's car long distances, I'll grit my teeth and offer up a silent prayer or two.

The alternative may be that I'm done and dusted, which doesn't bear thinking about. In recent years, I have been slowly and reluctantly getting used to playing less and less. Not because I don't want to but because it hurts too much.

If I cannot get relief soon the only golf I'll be playing in future will be in my dreams.

Laugh away if you wish but, the nutmeg cure is not as daft as being advised by another 'expert' some years ago (when I complained that my deteriorating eyesight was affecting my putting) to squirt 'a few drops' of lemon juice into my eyes.

Think about the consequences of that remedy for five minutes. Actually, it might not be 'all bad' because it would stop me (instantly) from complaining about my back.

I was fascinated by a recent book review of Stephen Hendry's autobiography: “Me and the Table” in The Guardian newspaper.

Hendry, who has won the World Snooker Championship seven times, wrote about his long slow decline as a one-time 'invincible' champion.

Snooker is a sport that is often compared to golf because it is an individual pursuit that is highly technical and requires exceptional composure and calculating awareness. Attributes for which Hendry was justly revered.

Similar to golf, in snooker you must 'give up control to gain control' by practicing and practicing and practicing until you are 'as good as perfect' and then forget everything you have practiced and 'go pot those balls'. When the end came in the quarter-finals of the 2012 world championships, Hendry admits he was besieged by self-doubt and psychological demons.

Like my nutmeg remedy and somebody else with their lemon juice cure, golfers and snooker players are known to use alcohol before playing to help them to relax and steady their nerves.

In that regard, Hendry wrote: “Jimmy White and several others would drink half a lager while playing but, Bill Werbenuik began drinking four hours before a match.

“He had this condition where he either took beta blockers, which were banned, or alcohol to calm his heart rate. If he had a match at 10 in the morning, he got up at six to start drinking beer. Alex Higgins liked to drink too.

“Sometimes, he drank so much when he practised, he had to use the table to hold himself up. But he still played unbelievable snooker.”

Hendry also wrote about the cruel way in which his manager, Ian Doyle, controlled him. Forcing him to break-up with his girlfriend, Mandy, because the manager believed that to reach the summit, the young Scot should be utterly and exclusively consumed by snooker.

Later, when he had married Mandy, Hendry horrified Doyle by mixing freely with other players. Hendry now believes that losing his aloof, Ice-Man image did, in fact, undermine him in his opponent's eyes.

“I never socialised with other players. When that changed and I wanted to spend more time in the players’ lounge, there’s no doubt that it affected my invincibility. You need that coldness.”

There is no doubt that Tiger Woods is going through similar 'mental and lifestyle adjustments' at the moment. I'm also certain that being 'just another member of a Ryder Cup team' where there is no 'I' and everyone is equally important and on the same footing does not suit Tiger's temperament one bit.

Words of the Wise

Back in the 1960s, golf was a game of skill and control. Distance was important up to a point (280-yards being the max that only a few achieved) Nobody could swing like they do today because the ball would never fly straight. The lack of spin today means 'shaping shots' that my generation played are no more. Golf is far less complicated and easier to learn. It hasn't made it a better game. Lots of things about golf have improved but not the disappearance of shaping shots and playing the game in a controlled manner.