INDIAN WELLS — You know what I wish? I wish Craig Stadler, the golfer playing in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic down here this week, enjoyed his work more. I wish he looked like he was having fun out there. I wish he went to work happy every day. Couldn't wait to get to the office.
Instead, look at him. It's depressing. He seems to be having a terrible time. Teeth gritted. Fists clenched. He's not having any fun. He looks as if he'd rather be anyplace else. He looks as if he's on his way to the electric chair.
You'd figure a guy who had to put out oil well fires might go through life like this. Someone who had to defuse homemade bombs for a living. Climb down in a gold mine where the temperatures reach 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
But this guy's working in fresh air, cool breezes. The sun is shining, the birds are singing. The grass is green. He's even got someone to do the heavy lifting for him.
You'd think he was shut up in a musty office somewhere and the boss was mad at him. You'd think he must despise what he has to do for a living.
Lots of people have boring 9-to-5 jobs. As near as I can see, this ain't one of them.
You'd think it would give him a lift, seeing the challenge of a 200-yard carry over water, three trees and two sand traps. That would seem to beat being a crossing guard in Mississippi or a guy who shines shoes in Alamagordo or guards a cannon in the public park.
But Stadler stands there with steam coming out of his ears, as if it's a personal affront. They're picking on him again.
I don't know why he doesn't quit if it's such torture. It isn't as if it's a low-pay, high-risk occupation. He made $235,831 at it last year. He's made $2,296,681 in his lifetime.
What's there to get so mad about? Think he'd rather be driving a truck loaded with liquid nitrogen? Maybe he hankers to fix teeth for a living.
He must wish he were doing something else for a living. Else, why would he act this way?
I can't look when Craig approaches a shot. I know he's not going to like it. No matter what happens.
I know lots of guys who slam their putters when they miss a three-footer. Craig gets outraged when he misses a 53-footer.
I'd throw a party if I hit some of the shots he does. He throws his club. He glares at the ball, he glares at the horizon, he kicks his club. He looks as if he'd like to throw the world into the nearest pond.
If it bugged me that much, I'd get into another line of work. Guys who have to walk high iron in high winds smile more often. Even guys who have to check for sewer leaks don't get as mad at their work. I mean, it isn't as if there were lions out there. Indians on horseback. Pygmies with blowguns.
What could be so bad? Here he's got this $200 cashmere sweater, courtesy of somebody, gold shoes with platinum spikes for all I know, and all he's got to do is put this little round ball in a little round hole. He only works four hours a day, four days a week, and most of that is just standing around. I would think he'd go around whistling, or cracking jokes, like Fuzzy Zoeller.
I don't mean to finger Craig Stadler. Craig is as nice a guy as you'd want to meet when he puts the clubs away. And I would say 80% of the golfers out there feel the way he does.
Now, putting for a living is hard. But it ain't laying pipe in the Sahara, or charging into a house where an armed crazy man is holding kids hostages. It can get on your nerves--but so can selling cars.
Tommy Bolt was this way. Tommy was one of my best friends on tour but Tommy thought golf was a conspiracy, something put on this earth just to harass him. Tommy thought everyone was against him.
I don't think Craig Stadler thinks everyone is against him. Like Tommy, he can be a lovable figure to have a beer with after the game and off the course. I think he just doesn't like the game. Hates it, in fact. It appears to be torture for him. He expects the worst from it.
I believe I'd give some thought to getting in another line of work. Preferably, indoors. One of those factories in Scranton. An office in downtown Cleveland. Some of those places where you don't have to look out and see a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean or the snow-capped mountains of Palm Springs.
I wouldn't go through life hating to have to check in at this office every morning. I wouldn't want to stay mad all the time or have a semi-stroke every time I missed a four-foot putt or left a ball in a sand trap.
It isn't as if Craig hits these terrible shots. He's one of the best strikers of the ball out there. He's won the Masters and the U.S. Amateur, no less.
He hits these glorious 280-yard tee shots or 250-yard 1-irons and then stands there disgustedly, like a guy who just had a flat tire. Golfers look heavenward with this kind of "Me again, huh, God?" look. I would think God would get kind of fed up.
I guess it must be awful not to make 3 on every hole. I wouldn't know.
I guess the guys out there who seem to be enjoying themselves are just pretending. Or missing the point. Guys like Stadler seem to feel they're locked in a dead-end, no-win job. Like a guy locked in the family business. Like Prince Charles or a boss' son.
It can't be that good for you to go through life in a state of near apoplexy. Maybe golf is bad for you. Maybe it should be banned. Or at least have the surgeon general's warning on boxes of balls saying it may be hazardous to your disposition. At least, they should stop calling it a game.