Ian Wood: Patience takes you up to speed in race for success

NOT knowing exactly what broadband is, I have avoided having anything to do with it, but apparently it has something to do with getting things done more quickly.

This seems a likely explanation, for these are frantic times in which everything is done at the gallop if it is to be done at all. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Edinburgh tram car, but as a general rule, speed is of the essence. This message was rammed home by a TV advertisement the other night which announced the Heineken Cup rugby tournament as "The race to Cardiff." This comes hard on the heels of golf's "Race to Dubai," and now that it seems sportsmen everywhere are destined to become engaged in some race or other, it can only be hoped they don't burn themselves out before they get there.

Patience becomes even more of a virtue in such a heated context and it was interesting the other day to watch the American golfer, Matt Kuchar, attempting to cope with a bogey compiled in the course of his second round in the Chevron World Challenge. Kuchar, who has always come across as an amiable man with a ready smile, was not smiling as he headed for the next tee. He wasn't frowning either and, indeed, seemed to be undecided about what he should do next.

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What he did, in the event, was to throw his golf ball up a couple of times as he walked along the margin of a lake which, under the circumstances, wasn't bad at all. He then threw the ball up a third time, caught it with a snappy action and bunged it into the water. It was almost a relief to see him do so, for he'd begun to show distinct signs of inner strain. There was something about his demeanour which suggested an internal build-up of pressure which might, in time, have done him damage. Something, you felt, had to be done and a ball thrown in a lake seemed a wise and relatively painless measure.

Of course, much depends on the individual and his or her reactions to crises. When the South African, Bobby Locke, the defending champion, was heading for the second of his four Opens at Troon in 1950, he was bowling along in fine style in the second round when he ran up a 6 on the par-3 fifth hole. He'd opened with a first-round 69 and stood one under for the second round when he boarded the fifth tee.

After the disaster, he walked from the green and, like the shaken Kuchar at the weekend, tossed his ball in the air as he strolled to the next tee. However, always a believer in keeping his on-course feelings to himself, Locke didn't throw the ball away. Whether this was due to his policy of self-discipline or because there was no water about - apart from the sea which wasn't really all that handy - only he could know, but I have to go with the discipline angle, for he wasn't given to emotional displays.He certainly didn't go broody, scoring four birdies over the next six holes and finally limiting the damage to a 72 before retaining his title with closing rounds of 70 and 68.

When it comes to patience, Tom Watson takes a bit of beating. On the eve of the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach, I was under orders to try and get an interview with him regarding his memories of Muirfield, where the Open was to be staged later in the year and where he'd won the title in 1980. At first glance, it was an edgy kind of assignment. Here was a great champion, finely honed and ready to go in his own national Open and he was about to be confronted by a glaikit Scotsman and asked to speak about something else entirely.

However, it had to be done and a colleague and I arranged an appointment with Watson's secretary. We were told to attend his final pre-championship conference, wait until the post-conference grilling by media people with special needs was finished and then follow him from the main centre to a small marquee which had been rigged up as the setting for a TV feature with Tom and various other top names. We trailed along in his wake while he was interviewed on the walk by representatives of local radio stations and then, finally, we stood outside the marquee, almost ready.

Almost, because the BBC radio reporter, whose deadline was nigh, had to go first. This he did, all went well and we were there. My colleague went next.

I'd insisted on that because I hadn't the gall to keep him hanging about any longer while I babbled on about Muirfield to a legend who was about to play in a US Open. I needn't have worried. Watson was charm itself, was delighted to recall his experiences at the East Lothian course and, as he moved off to his TV session in the marquee, he thanked us for coming and hoped we'd have a pleasant stay.

I suppose that's the sort of patience - and style - required to win five Opens.