Golf’s not a golden egg for all

As Tiger Woods returns to Florida and deposits another $1m into his bank account it’s a good time to spare a thought for Steven Bowditch.

As Tiger Woods returned to Florida this week, deposited another £683,778 into his bank account and went diving it is perhaps a good time to spare a thought for Australian golfer Steven Bowditch.
While Woods was striding majestically to yet another title in the American Express World Championship in England, Bowditch made his 20th appearance of the year on the US Tour at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic in Madison, Mississippi.
After the first 19 tournaments Bowditch was 263rd and last on the money list with less than £3,000 – not much more than Woods has been collecting for every shot lately.
He had been disqualified four times, had withdrawn on three other occasions and had missed 11 other cuts. The only time he made it the full 72 holes he finished 76th out of 77.
You can therefore imagine the importance of the weekend when the 23-year-old, a graduate of last season’s “second division” Nationwide Tour, followed an opening 72 with a five-under-par 67 and found himself in joint 10th place at halfway.
First prize was a life-changing £290,000. Even fifth place was £65,000, not enough to secure his future on the circuit, but certainly enough to bring a smile to his face.
It has long been the case in the money-spinning world of professional golf that one week can make a great year. There are countless examples of players emerging from slumps and turning their years around in four days.
After two good days, Bowditch just needed two more – if not actually to win, then certainly to prove to himself that the nightmare was over.
Then came Saturday. He did match Woods in one respect by finishing with an eagle, but whereas the world number one went six shots clear with his, the world number 502 was saved from an 82 with his.
Bowditch was actually one under par after five holes, but then came seven bogeys and two double bogeys. From 10th he dropped outside the top 70 and with a closing 76 – completed like Woods with a birdie – he finished 78th out of 80.
His reward? Just under £3,000 again, and while that did move him up seven places to 256th on the money list it was not exactly what he was hoping for.
Even if Woods has not cast eyes on Bowditch yet, his coach Hank Haney has. Earlier in the season he said: “I saw Steven at the San Diego tournament and just watched him play a practice round.
“I just walked along for nine holes and even at that point of the year you could tell he was young, he was talented, but he was having a bit of a struggle.
“When you get your card at a young age like he has, the chances are pretty great that it’s not going to be the last time you’re going to have to get your card.
“It doesn’t mean he’s not going to be hugely successful over a period of time. If you look at the statistics, I think it’s something like 50% of the tour turns over every five years, so if you look at the top 125 or 150 on the money list 50% of those names wont be out there in five years.
“You look at players that stay there for a long period of time, they have special talents.”
Bowditch has to start from scratch again the next time he tees it up. There were positive signs last week and after all the knocks he has taken this year it was undoubtedly two steps in the right direction – even if he did then take two steps back again.
It was a definite improvement on the 20-over-par round of 90 he had on the opening day of the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis in May.
Fighting the dreaded shanks then, he ran up a quadruple bogey nine, a triple bogey seven, three double bogeys, seven bogeys and then was disqualified.
His score that day was nine worse than anybody else and 26 worse than that of leader Chris Smith.
Four years ago New Zealander Craig Perks provided inspiration for everyone like Bowditch by jumping out of the pack to earn over £600,000 by winning the prestigious Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida.
Today Perks is just two places above Bowditch on the US Tour money list, having earned just £6,000 from 17 events.
The 39-year-old is guaranteed at least one more year on the circuit, though, because with his victory came a five-year exemption.
Bowditch does not have that, and unless something extraordinary happens in the next few weeks his only way back is via the qualifying school.
There is a crumb of comfort for him. He can always tell people he was ahead of Woods in driving distance this season – fourth to seventh with an average of 308.7 yards.
But the greens in regulation category tells a different story. Woods is first, Bowditch 203rd. He knows what he has to work on.
by Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent