I've been asked the same questions for four years: Why are you
playing so badly? When did it start? Why did it start? Once and
for all, here are the answers: I don't know, I don't know, and I
don't know. If I did know, I might not be in the situation I'm
in-- returning to Royal Birkdale, where I won the 1991 British
Open, as a television commentator instead of as a player.
To be honest, I'm looking forward to the Open. Maybe after this
week all the questions will finally cease.
A lot has been made of my playing difficulties, but I've got
nothing to be depressed about. I have a new life now with ABC
Sports. Curtis Strange, one of my coworkers, and I play golf
every day. (Curtis is playing as well as he ever has, by the
way.) Along with Mike Tirico and Steve Melnyk, he's been helping
me make the adjustment to TV. I had done a bit of television
back in Australia, but nothing as complicated as a worldwide
broadcast of the Open. I'm still learning how to handle taped
sequences and live feeds, how to avoid stepping on comments from
out on the course by Rossi [Bob Rosburg] or Judy [Rankin], and
how to think and speak cogently while our producer talks in my
Broadcasting for 12 hours a day for ABC and ESPN, I'll be too
busy to reminisce about my '91 victory. I did return to Birkdale
for a few practice rounds last month, though. The grandstands
were in place, empty of spectators. It was like playing the
British Open alone. I stopped by the house I'd rented seven
years ago. I had a cup of tea, took a look around, played all
those holes that I remember so well.
How did I play? I knew you'd ask. The answer is, not bad. I was
in the low 70s each day.
Perhaps I'll play in the next Open at Royal Birkdale.
Ian Baker-Finch has won 16 times in his 19-year career.
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES BAFFLED Baker-Finch is in the dark about the causes of his slump. [Ian Baker-Finch]