Ricky Barnes finished the third round of this year’s U.S. Open today with a bogey on 18. Hit his tee shot in the fairway, then just missed his second shot and ended up in heavy rough greenside; hit a great out to about five feet below the hole to set up an easy par putt, then misread and pulled it left. Threw away a stroke in a major championship. You could wake up screaming over a hole like that.
Ricky Barnes is ranked 519th in the world. His best finish this year was a tie for 47th. His win in the 2002 U.S. Amateur was his last significant success. If Ricky pays any attention to history he will realize, like everyone else, that he has no business contending in the U.S. Open. He’s got no record of success at this level and an immediate past memory of failure at the 18th.
Despite this inconvenient history, Ricky remains the leader by a stroke and is in the driver’s seat to win the tournament. He has played more good shots and holes than anyone else in the tournament. Like all professional golfers, he is very good at the game; he can excel, and has, on any given shot, hole, and day. If you had told him before the tournament that he’d be one up after three rounds, his reaction would have been ecstatically positive. If he can forget his inconvenient history, there is no other reason he can’t win.
Is Ricky the guy who beat all comers to win the U.S. Amateur? Is he the guy who has hit thousands of great shots, made thousands of birdies, and outclassed the best players in golf for three rounds at the U.S. Open? Or is he the low-grade also-ran he’s been his whole professional career? Can we reduce Ricky to any part of this history, or an elaborate calculus of its components? Translating Harman translating Latour in Prince of Networks, Ricky is ongoingly an event in the moment: he’s always what he is right now, in exactly this situation. He will or will not grasp the moment and ally himself or not with his clubs, the ball, the clump of mud on the ball; the wind, the grass, the contours of the turf; the dewpoint, the crowd, his adrenal glands, the lactic acid in his hamstrings. Not as he always did, and not once and for all, but each time as he finds them and they find him. Paraphrasing the paraphrase:
The world resists our efforts even as it welcomes them. Even a [round of golf] is the lengthy result of negotiations with the world, not a triumphant [Tiger Woods] who tramples the details of the world to dust. The labour of fitting one [golf shot] to another obsesses a [Nicklaus or Palmer] for decades, and even then the polished final product will be riddled with errors detectible [sic] by a novice. The same is true for our prisons, our gas and water infrastructure, the sale of potato chips, international law, nuclear test bans, and enrollment in universities. Systems are assembled at great pains, one actant at a time, and loopholes always remain (PN p. 22).
And through this process right now, today, Ricky Barnes will recruit his ‘true’ history to him, that of failure or that of triumph — until the next time.