IF RALPH MACCHIO and Jonny Wilkinson ever paired up for an appearance on Dancing with the Stars , Victorian golfer Tim Wood’s pre-shot routine is what you’d get.
Some bizarre things were sighted at the Australian Open over the past week, but Wood’s slow, systematic and slightly silly routine would almost top them.
First, the left foot goes back and he dips his toe to the grass – as if about to curtsey to the ball, or at least begin a waltz with it. The club face is rested on the grass and the grip on his belly. He then assumes the pose Wilkinson has made famous as he lines up a conversion, before waving his arms like a conductor – or the Karate Kid. If that seems difficult to imagine, allow Wood to set the scene of silliness.
"If I pretend I’m going to catch a big, heavy medicine ball, if I’m back on my heels it’s going to knock me straight over, right? So my weight’s forward.
"Then my arms get too close, so my arm’s flying out – that’s another thing. I just put it together myself about five weeks ago [during the WA PGA]. You’ve just got to laugh about it. I’ve just got poor posture. I get into bad habits with my posture. I hate it, but it’s working."
Hates it so much, in fact, he tried to ditch it for the Open.
"In the range this week, I tried to … hit the shots without doing the routine, and in the first round I hit two shanks in the front nine," he said. "I was two over after eight holes, and my caddie goes, ‘You’ve got to go back to the seagull’."
The "seagull" comes from the "wounded seagull", the description used by television commentator Bruce Young during the NSW PGA at Riverside Oaks, which Wood won.
Early yesterday, Wood was equal leader by the eighth before he slumped with four bogeys and a double on the back nine to place 11th. Ironically, it was some bad habits his routine was devised to erase that led to his back-nine crash, which included a shank on the 13th that would have had a weekend hacker cursing. The shot was his "wake-up call".
His one-over round yesterday was as bizarre as his routine – it included just four pars and a near hole-in-one on the 14th to snap a sequence of five bogeys in six holes.
It began wonderfully. He hit the pin on both one and three for a remarkable eagle-birdie-birdie start. Once he got to the top, he appeared to suffer vertigo.
He will still pocket $27,900 for his troubles, wiping out a $20,000 loan he took out to keep playing midway through the year. The 27-year-old had returned from his second year on the Canadian Tour, where he was 55th on the Order of Merit with earnings of $C11,655.83 (just over $14,000) from 14 events, ready to give the game away.
"In 20 years time, a 20-grand debt’s nothing," he said. "It absolutely kills me, but I did it."
But his career appears to have turned. He was first emergency for the Australian Masters and played in the PGA at Coolum. Now he is hoping the door might open to Asia.
"I’m stoked," he said. "I played really well. I was never nervous. I never felt like I was out of my class, out of my league, which I should – look at all these great players."
If they can’t bring T Woods out to Australia, heck, T Wood would still provide some entertainment.