— GolfCentralDaily (@golfcentraldoc) March 4, 2016
Like every other pro golfer who’s given in to primal rage, Sergio Garcia made headlines at the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Friday. A displeased Garcia gave any tot in his terrible twos a run for his money when he launched his club across the green and kicked over his golf bag, glowering petulantly the entire time. As you would expect, that lapse in self-control was all it took for him to go viral. Adam Scott may have done the adult thing by remaining cool and composed during his own moment of frustration, but Garcia’s the one we’re all paying attention to.
Don't worry Sergio, we've all been that soldier!
Posted by Donal Hughes on Thursday, March 3, 2016
— Lou Brown (@Lou_TireWorld) March 4, 2016
For followers of a game where success is dependent keeping your composure, we golf fans are certainly quick to reward players for doing just the opposite. We upload and share countless videos of the likes of Rory McIlroy and John Daly sending clubs soaring into conveniently placed water hazards and storming off the course, mesmerized by the theater of their spurts of rage. And despite their fits of pique being available to anyone with internet access, they are far from punished for momentarily losing their cool. If anything, their tantrums almost endear them to us more than a calm, infallible veneer ever would have. They’re seen as hilarious isolated episodes, almost quaintly individualistic in how they manifest. Could that entertainment factor be why we can’t get enough of them or is there something more to it?
There always is something more to it.
Tantrums make golfers (and golf) human
We love our game because it’s a gentleman’s game. Everyone’s always so put-together and polite, so in control. When he misses a putt or loses a game, the consummate golfer shakes his head in a slightly chagrined way and then congratulates his opponent on being the better man. It’s all so perfectly civilized and that’s the reason most people who don’t golf find it an utter bore. To the casual observer, it lacks that dramatic, visceral element that makes sports like soccer and rugby so wildly alluring to the general public.
Tantrums fly in the face of the stereotype of the staid, dull golfer. They don’t occur on the scale of the meltdowns we see on the soccer pitch, but they stand out on the manicured greens as brief, concentrated bursts of emotion that show that even the pros are susceptible to human error and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. We’ve all wanted to hurl a golf club at something at one point. When the pros do it, it makes our moments of vulnerability on the course acceptable. Can you blame us for liking them more as people after that?
We tell golfers apart by their rage
Another side effect of golf’s polished veneer is that it can make it difficult to tell its players apart as individuals. But they start to separate from the khaki-and-polo set into individuals when they reveal how they get angry. Sergio Garcia is petulant in his frustration, knocking over his golf equipment like building blocks. Bubba Watson’s go-to is a barely intelligible howl about MUD BALLS, endless tirades at his caddie, a stubborn refusal to engage when you catch him in the wrong mood. And no two club-tossing instances are alike. You’ll never mistake lumbering John Daly lobbing his club away in fluorescent pants for spry Rory McIlroy as he sends his club flying in a graceful arc worthy of any Olympian. From seeing who our favorite golfers become when they are caught up in a rage, we learn a lot about them as people.
They connect us with the rest of the world
Finally, because tantrums bring that much needed human element to golf, they are a way of inviting outsiders to partake in our fun. If you showed a friend a seriously impressive putt, there’s still a good chance that he will remain unmoved, But if you pulled up an Instagram post of Bubba Watson foaming at the mouth, it’s much more likely that he’ll be laughing with you rather than scratching his head in bewilderment.
Not everyone can hit or understand a mean drive, but everyone can relate to getting angry and saying to hell with the world, I’ll just do what I want. When he sees that even uptight, good old boy golfers throw a public fit every once in a while, he may want to share the moment with his own friends and even get to know more about the game of golf itself. After all, he’d want to know what caused a fully grown man to go absolutely nuclear in the cultured, moneyed ambiance of the golf club.