Last Saturday we played the final event of the summer season at my club – a Texas Scramble. It’s a funny old format where it’s possible to go mega-low if you have a bit of luck and the putts are dropping. But it’s also possible to return a fairly disappointing score even if you all play reasonably well. It’s a format that emphasises the importance of putting.
My partners in the scramble were – dad (off 9), Raymond (an 8-handicapper) and Chris playing off 10. As we’re all competent golfers capable of good gross scores playing as individuals, we thought that combined we’d be able to shoot the lights out.
On the first hole, dad found the middle of the fairway; I fired a wedge to eight feet and a birdie three looked to be a dead cert. But we all managed to narrowly miss the putt and we walked off with a four. It was a similar story on five of the first six holes. We’d played well but had managed only one birdie from six chances.
A score of close to 18-under usually wins scrambles at Banchory so we had our work cut out. We continued to play solidly – finding fairways and greens, but we persistently failed to get the ball in the hole. One putt would lip out on the right side, then one on the left, one would come up an inch short and the last would be struck a fraction too firmly.
By the time we putted out on the 18th we’d made just seven birdies. A disappointing bogey on the 13th meant we were round in 63. We had a handicap of 2.9 so narrowly failed to break 60. The winners had a 52. We’d found 16 greens in regulation but had not converted chances on more than half of those putting surfaces. Now we know how Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els feel.
In the pro-game this week, Doug Barron became the first player to receive a doping ban. The PGA Tour announced the 40-year-old had been suspended for a year for violating their anti-doping policy. At this stage the Tour is not revealing what Barron had taken so we can only speculate whether he was on performance enhancing steroids or had merely taken something accidentally that’s on the PGA Tour’s list of “performance-enhancing drugs” – Vicks VapoRub is on there! Remember Alain Baxter?
Just how beneficial could steroids be to golfers? A few extra yards on the drive perhaps? As our Texas Scramble proved on Saturday, however, the real key to golf is getting the ball in the hole and steroids will not help you do that.
There are people out there playing golf to a high level who perform better after a couple of pints of beer. There are others who smoke a cigarette a hole to calm their nerves. Those are both drugs and, in golf, they can have a performance-enhancing affect but, as far as I can see, neither is on the banned list.
The Alliance was cancelled again this week owing to the heavy rain that’s been plaguing the country. In a way I was quite happy as I’d been out the night before to celebrate the news a friend is to be a dad for the first time. On Wednesday morning I would have argued a strong case for why alcohol shouldn’t be considered “performance-enhancing.”