There are many draining drawbacks to dealing with mental health issues. Personally speaking, one of the worst is the sense that life almost passes you by sometimes. At some point during the year, the point was made that, wholly unintentionally, this corner had drifted away from watching golf.
If memory serves me correctly, it was around the time Shane Lowry notched a very unlikely looking win. Then the Tiger roared again at the US Masters and something lit a spark within me for the game again. Yet, ironically, it was in the midst of another particularly bad wallop of the ‘black cloud’ that the enthralling side of the enigma that is Rory McIlroy floated gloriously to the surface again.
Reading of his exploits in compiling a last-day 61 and seemingly thus sauntering away from the field at the Canadian Open was to realise that the Co Down man is undoubtedly capable of doing exactly that but, for whatever reason, in most recent seasons, hasn’t been doing so with the regularity his imperious talent should allow.
Mention was afforded above to the manner in which yours truly got out of the habit of watching golf. Regrettably, to some extent, the same can be said of basketball. And, whereas interest in affairs tee-to-green can admittedly be sporadic, being cut adrift from the fare on the hardwood floors has been a real kick in the guts for somebody who is enslaved to insomnia as much as I can be.
Ironically, as the season in the great five-a-side sport meandered gloriously towards its conclusion, interest therein had been rekindled in this seat – albeit by way of watching recordings of the Finals marathon between the Toronto Raptors and my favourites the Golden State Warriors.
Yes it is absolutely a case of jumping on the bandwagon and no apologies will be made for that. As has often been said on these pages previously, an interest in and passion for basketball was one of the few positives that could be gleaned from time in secondary education – owing to my wonderful Geography teacher Seamus O’Reilly appointing me to the coaching ‘staff’ of the school team within a week of the place opening.
An interest in basketball was already there in some ways. Going back to the time when RTE used broadcast the National Cup semi finals and finals over the course of a weekend, usually at the end of January – firstly in Neptune Stadium in Cork before the inception of the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
Really, though, it was having BT Sport/ESPN for a trial period a few winters ago that kicked things off again. So much so that it was taken upon oneself to incur the cost of being able to see the American sporting action. Primarily because the carrot of having basketball as a late night distraction from insomnia was sufficient enough to offset any financial stick.
Furthermore, seeing the ‘Splash Brothers’ aka Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson do their thing would bring a fleck of light to even the darkest day. For those not au fait with the sphere, for Curry and Thompson see Salah and Firminho or Messi and Suarez. Temptation was to say Messi and Ronaldo were it not for the fact that these Galacticos work in tandem,
Anyway, I had got nicely into the elongated drama that was season’s end, only for my brother to unwittingly blurt out “I see Toronto won their fourth game in the NBA Finals, does that mean it’s over now?” My exact response to this unwanted information isn’t printable here!
However, once faux-rage had abated, an interesting aside emerged which prompted production of at least half of what you are now reading. Namely, that Kyle Lowry of the victorious Raptor team had given Mr McIlroy one of his jerseys, signed in the wake of his side’s triumph.
Thing was, the golfer joked that he shouldn’t have brought it to California – home of the Warriors and venue for the US Open in his chosen craft in the guise of Pebble Beach Golf Club. Unfortunately, whatever about Lowry’s jersey, it would appear he left the best of his game behind in Canada too.
Actually that’s not entirely fair as there were flashes of the brilliance of which he is undeniably capable. Interspersed therewith, though, was the kind of play which has this viewer – at least – somewhere between throwing something at the television and crying. In top level golf – or any sport at that level for that matter – that just won’t cut it.
The approach has to be more shaped around scenarios where stamina and adaptability are a must. In that, golf and basketball are justifiably comparable to some degree. Remember, the regular season in the indoor sport is an 82-game marathon while those who make it to the last two gun slinger showdown may have played nearly an extra 20 games for the pleasure.
In one sense it may seem like an absurd comparison given that a golf tournament is – barring something highly untoward occurring – four days in length. Where it does carry credence however is thus: given the volatile, fickle nature of proceedings and how quickly things can change, it can often take gargantuan levels of staying power to see the job over the line.
Even though the mechanics of McIlroy’s Canadian conquest give lie to such a view in that his triumph was founded on a deconstruction of the course with a mesmeric 61 on the final day, a more accurate appraisal of how things sometimes go while players are whacking the dimples out of the little white ball would be to observe how Gary Woodland constructed his maiden annexation of a Major.
Though even that requires clarification because, for all that the Kansas native’s output was exemplary, his passage was aided in no small way by the Gods destroying who they first made mad in Justin Rose and, perhaps more significantly, Brooks Koepka. For one thing, given the latter’s form in recent times in the Majors, he’s the last one anybody would want to see in their rear-view mirror!
However, with Woodland showing the levels of performance and consistency he was, the last thing Koepka, Rose or any other would-be pursuers needed was for either their short game or putting to crumble. In the cases of both in this instance, that’s exactly what happened.
Mind you, sometimes there are signs. Such as the way the eventual victor extricated himself from strife on a couple of occasions in the closing paragraphs of the third round. Not to mention the manner in which he steadied the ship when it at least threatened to hit choppy waters in the final round.
Woodland’s was a memorable maiden Major success. You suspect it won’t be his last.