In a life of extremes, pros need to find balance

DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - The world’s greatest golfers seek balance in their swings. They also seek balance in their lives.

The general public, including most Sunday afternoon hacks, can’t understand how a pro would ever take a week off. Travel the world? Play one outstanding track after another? For millions of dollars? Why go home?

Elite players know that they are at their best when they can occasionally get away, when they pick and choose where they play and when they have a balance between the sport they play and their family back home.

“They kept yelling at Arnold and Gary and me, `You need to play more golf!’” Jack Nicklaus said Wednesday, a day before the start of his Memorial Tournament. “Well, they’re still doing the same yelling 50 years later.”

Nicklaus, of course, was also referring to Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Those three helped transform the public perception of touring pro from itinerant hustler to family man.

There was a time when pros entered almost every tournament because they had to in order to make a living. Nicklaus, Palmer and Player became so successful they were able to be more selective. After playing in 20 or 22 tournaments a year, they gradually scaled back as their families grew and they grew older.

Today’s players try to find that same balance. Most play in 15 to 25 tournaments a year, across the globe. But it’s still difficult to make a life when there are so many aspects of your profession that demand attention.

Masters champion Bubba Watson and his wife just adopted a child while trying to find a new house in Orlando. The strains of fitting in everything at home and on the course have opened his eyes.

“Not in a mean way (but) everybody wants something from you: Can you help with this? Can you help with that?” he said. “You’ve got to say no. It’s not that you’re being mean. You’ve got to have time for yourself, with your wife, with your child.”

Rory McIlroy had been acclaimed as golf’s next big thing even before he rolled to victory at last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional. Since then, he has had his ups and downs as he learns the proper measure of a life away from the course. Dating one of the world’s top tennis players, Caroline Wozniacki, he is trying to find a way to blend his public and private lives.

“This has been a big learning curve for me because I’m still trying to find a balance between being a top-class golfer and handling media commitments, sponsors’ commitments, trying to have a life outside of all of that,” he said. “It’s hard to do all of them all at the same time. It’s something I’m still figuring out how to do.”

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HONORED: Each year the Memorial Tournament honors players and other notables who have furthered the game of golf. Tom Watson, long a nemesis but also a good friend of Memorial founder Jack Nicklaus, is the 2012 honoree.

A visibly moved Nicklaus broke down and had great difficulty introducing Watson during Wednesday’s ceremony. It was Watson who beat Nicklaus in two of the most famous head-to-head showdowns in golf history.

Watson chipped in from the deep rough behind the 17th green at Pebble Beach to defeat Nicklaus in the 1982 U.S. Open.

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