A jinx and a blessing are never far apart. When Graeme McDowell, who is no longer with us (International Sports Management), won the 201 o US Open, I couldn’t help but feel we were jinxed. Our players had never won a major, you see. I felt happy for Graeme, but what about our lads? When Louis Oosthuizen won the Open Championship a month later, I thought, okay, we’re fine now. After Charl Schwartzel won the Masters and then Rory Mcllroy the US Open, I went from feel blessed. After what happened to Darren Clarke at the Open Championship, I wonder if jinxes even exist.
I did not go to I was smart but lazy. But I earned a degree in common sense. When I went into business in 1989, I knew I had no formal acumen and that mistakes were inevitable. We lost Graeme a few years ago because he wasn’t getting the attention he needed or deserved. That was a massive mistake, and the only upside is that Graeme and I are still good mates.
The most common business mistake a pro golfer can make is investing money) in things they know little or nothing about. What I urge our players to do is invest their brand, but not their cash. They are not property experts or equity experts; they are golfers. The rule of thumb is an old one: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
When you are negotiating. As high as you’ll settle for, figuring you can settle for half as much. Nor should you offer a firm price straight out. When I negotiate a three-year deal — three years is typical in many of our business relationships — I’m not overly insistent on getting the better of the deal, because if one person walks out feeling a little screwed, the relationship is going to be poor, and every-one wall suffer in the long run. At all cost, make sure both parties are happy.
Also don’t be too concerned with what other people are getting. You’ll go wrong because most people lie about what they’re getting anyway — the price they tell you is usually more, never less. I do it based on what I feel our client deserves.
I discourage one player in our group discussing with others what they’re getting for a deal. I guarantee Charl Schwartzel does not know what Louis Oosthuizen is getting. Lee and Darren travelled around together for 10 years, and I’m sure one didn’t know what the other was making at all. The only person who knows about both is me. No good can come from comparing notes.
When I took the break from pro golf in 1984, 1 spent the year playing gambling social golf. I hung out at Mere Golf 8c Country Club (Cheshire, England). There were 10 to 12 guys who played there every day, and they played for proper money. The games were fierce and expensive, and I couldn’t afford to lose. So I practiced much more than I had on tour, which had a very positive effect on my game. My competitiveness and confidence improved to where I decided to try the tour again. The year I came back, that’s when I won in Brazil.
If you want to have a go at betting on professional golf, here’s what to do: The 72-hole matchups — Lee Westwood versus Phil Mickelson, say — are the easiest. The most fun bets are the three-balls for the first two rounds. In that one you bet on which player of a three-man group will finish lowest. Bets for a certain player to finish within the top 20 are attractive. Then there is winning score, whether it will be above or below a certain number. At the 2011 US Open I sensed the winning score the shops posted was too high, and I was right. Rory blew that one away.
Most lucrative bet I ever made? Scottish Open, 2008, third round. They offered two-ball bets, and I selected eight of them in an «accumulator,» meaning the payoffs were exponential if you got them all right. I thought the bet was lost when Ernie trailed his «opponent» at the turn, but Ernie came back and won. All of my choices came through. I bet £80 and won £31 000. You can do the conversion to rands (about R400 000). That evening was a very pleasant one indeed.
It’s difficult to describe the period when Darren Clarke’s wife, Heather, went through her illness and then passed away. It was terrible for Darren and his family, and we all felt for them. Everyone stood by Darren, of course, perhaps no one more than Billy Foster, his caddie at the time. As for me, every time the phone rang, I just held my breath wondering what the news was going to be. It was a shattering experience for Darren, which, in addition to the great personal loss, cost him a good four years of his career. He wasn’t the same for two years while Heather was ill, and he wasn’t the same for two years after. Only now have I seen him back to a semblance of normal.
Before Ernie went public with his son, Ben, having autism, it weighed on him enormously. It was a big drain, and he kept it on a personal level. I remember discussing with Ernie a few years ago how he might turn it into something positive. You’ve seen what’s happened since. In 2009 he and his wife, Liezl, established the Els for Autism Foundation in Floric Ernie’s dream is to build a medical facility designed especially to help young people with autism. They need $15 million to get the facility underway and $30 million to finish it. Ernie donated $6 million of his money and has raised more than $12 million overall. Why I’ve learned by seeing this is how doing something constructive can lift the weight from a person’s shoulders.
There are uncomfortable cases where our players are right up against each other. Charl against Rory at last year’s Masters is a good ex-ample. Cases where you have the winner and the loser are always difficult. Fortunately during that Masters we had Stuart Cage looking after Rory each day, while I looked after Charl. Now, supposing I was the only person to look after them both, who do VOL guess I would have attended to most at the end? The answer would have been Rory. It’s the loser that needs the attention, not the winner. I’m not Don King.
The Monday of the 2010 Open, Louis Oosthuizen asked for an invite to a tournament in Sweden the following week. On Sunday morning, as he’s leading by four, he asks, «What are we going to do about Sweden?» I said, «Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered.» After he won, that night he again asked about Sweden, and this time I say, «Unfortunately, as Open champion, you have to go. If you’d lost, I could have got you out of it.» Fast-forward to the 2011 Masters. The week after Augusta, Louis, Charl and Rory were all supposed to play in Malaysia, a 24-hour flight. With Charl winning and the disaster that struck Rory, I was fearful of one or both of them wanting to pull out. But because of what Louis had done the year previous, they climbed onto the plane without a word of pro-test. They knew that was how our company worked.
One of our players, Chris Wood, who nearly won the Open in 2009, had gone to Malaysia the year before and showed up at a Tuesday function in jeans. He hadn’t shaved; Darren admonished him to put on a pair of slacks and shave. You’d better believe, Chris got fixed up. That’s better than me having to get on him about it, and better still is the fact Chris will remember that for the rest of his life and will instruct players coming after him how to prepare for the social part of an obligation.
When I approach young players, I explain early on that unless they were dead set against it, we would try to make them international players. No 1, travelling will enrich their lives. No 2, in five years’ time the money in Asia is going to be even bigger than in America.
Go a step further. In 15 years, 50 percent of the names on leader boards in the biggest events — I’m talking male leader boards — are going to be Asian. Many exceptional male players are going to come out of Korea. Then there’s China. There are well over a billion people there, and golf is growing fast. You do the maths.
In my years as a pro, the most intimidating player I saw or went up against was Sandy Lyle. In his best days, in the 1980s, Sandy could toss a ball on the ground and hit his l-iron further than I could my driver, and I was not a short hitter. Sandy would show? — up in chilly weather with a jacket unzipped and flopping all over the place and proceed to hit shots that amazed everyone, including the best players in the world. It was the ease with which he did it, you see. I don’t think
Sandy knew — or knows – so great he was.
It’s a fact that players rarely performed their best when they were going up against Tiger in the final round of a major. But put yourself in their spot: They knew, and Tiger knew, he was the best player and the strongest mentally. Tiger is going to be very welcoming; you can forget chitchat about what you had for dinner last night. It was a tough time for a lot of players, what with two of every four majors being booked.
The art of hanging out in the club bar is in danger of being lost. The six-hour commitment to play golf use to be broken down into 3,5 hours of golf, 2,5 hours in the bar. Now golf takes 4 ¾ hour! To play, and you can’t proper socialize with what’s left. The qualities of a good hang-out person in the pub — handling your drink, showing a dry sense of humor, not telling golf jokes and so on — is disappearing. It’s a tragedy.