Isn’t is amazing how European Tour pro’s can play like proverbial donkeys for weeks on end, then get to a course they have previously performed well on and win? It’s the old “horses for courses” theory used religiously by so many of the best punters. But what happens in the psyche of your average tour pro to miraculously effect this change in form on a track they like?
For many players it’s simply the course and how it is set up. Much like racetracks, golf courses are often set out requiring more draws than fades or vice versa. Some players putt well on a greens sown with poa anna while a whole different group might prefer creeping bentgrass. US courses often have tricked up layouts to keep the scoring reasonable, aka flummox the Europeans, such as heavy rough around greens. Rory McIlroy’s early PGA tour efforts will bear that out. Knowing the course and set-up is key to knowing who can win.
For someone interested in stats I find it amazing how often this “horses for courses” theory actually works. Journeyman Swede Mikael Lundberg (pictured) won his first European Tour event in Russia in 2005. Even with the win, he snaked and laddered between the main European and Challenge Tour for the next few years. When he eventually got to tee it up on the main tour in Russia again in 2008, he once again emerged victorious. Sadly for Mikael, this year’s Russian Open was cancelled and the poor guy looks like someone has cut up his banklink card and condemned him to life on the Challenge Tour in 2010. Another interesting case is Simon Dyson. In his six outings before this year’s KLM Open, Simon Dyson had won a total of €30,000. A dejected Dyson arrived at Kennemer without his game and armed only with fading memories of his win there in 2006. On the third anniversary of his win, Dyson juiced up on adrenaline, went out and shot a final round 63, then birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Peter’s Lawrie and Hedblom.
Thus it seems there is credence in the argument that a player’s state of mind and his emotional disposition to an event or course play at least an equal part to all the course set-up factors in these strange multiple success stories on the European Tour. In Crans Sur Sierre two weeks back, the organizers put massive posters of all the previous Omega Masters winners on telephone poles on the street of the village. The empowering impact this marketing gimmick gave to a past champ such as Bradley Dredge must have been immeasurable. Okay Dredge may only have come second in Crans Montana but the theory obviously still applies. Going into that week no-one on the range suspected the out of form Dredge could or would contend. Compare that to the Open de Espana where Peter Lawrie defended this year. Lawrie was amazed at how little his 2008 win was acknowledged in the lead up to the event, yet such is the calibre of the man he still performed admirably, tying for third on a completely different course to that of his victory.
And so the cycle will continue and though the odd aberration will occur, when you have the yellow betting slip in your hand remember, you just can’t beat the horse for the course.