‘Golf is different from the culture of cycling,’ says Lance Armstrong in a recent interview with Golf Digest. The disgraced cyclist claims that he loves adhering to golf’s code of honour and says that he would be ‘heartbroken’ to be caught moving his ball in the rough.
Last year, Armstrong played 250 rounds of golf and this year he says he’ll manage the same again. “At this stage in my life I'd much rather be teeing it up at Augusta National than riding Mont Ventoux,” he says – which is just as well really.
“Golf is different from the culture of cycling when I was competing, and that's putting it mildly. Cycling, it was the Wild West. Nobody considered doping cheating. It was an arms race where absolutely anything went, and it was every man for himself. You might consider me the last guy to have anything to say about cheating, but golf is different. I love adhering to a code of honour that we in cycling didn't have. If I moved my ball in the rough and got caught, I wouldn't just regret it, I'd be heartbroken forever. When I think about reform in cycling, I think about golf.”
Unsurprisingly, both mainstream media and those on social networks have been quick to leap upon his words. According to The Telegraph, the general reaction can be summed up as ‘irony is dead’.
Armstrong says he doesn’t practise his golf, likening this to riding a stationary bike. “When it's 75 degrees outside, no wind and the sun is shining, I'm going to get out on the road. And I do still ride my bike. Isn't doing the real thing always better?”
But despite all the many hours he puts in on the course, he claims he isn’t well-suited to golf.
“I can cycle, run or swim for as long and far as you want me to go, but those are straight-ahead sports. When you start asking me to rotate, move side to side or incorporate complicated movements, I'm done. I'm less talented at golf than the guy next door.”
Despite this, his handicap is 10. He talks proudly of the one time he broke 80 on a round, when he shot 74 in Hawaii at the start of the year and describes the round as being reminiscent of his ‘effortless’ cycling.
“I was in the zone. I'd felt it before in cycling, many times. That effortless power, the sense you can do nothing wrong. For six or seven years, I got on the bike knowing I was going to win. It was only a matter of going out and implementing the strategy. But then it got hard. When I tried to come back in 2004, it was swimming upstream. I couldn't find the zone again. And just like in golf, when you fall out of the zone, it's impossible to get back in it.”
Armstrong also links golf and cycling when speaking about Chris Froome.
“He’s got a choppy pedal stroke. His arms are sticking out, his head is down, and he's all over the bike. He's the Jim Furyk of cycling, unconventional in every way. Except that it works. And the reason it works is superior cadence. His tempo is amazing. It's paced in a way that gives his unusual mechanics time to fall together. The golf swing can be the same way.”
Armstrong’s comments about Tiger Woods also make for interesting reading, giving some sense of how he perceives the modern nature of sporting celebrity and perhaps betraying some sense of having been harshly treated himself.
“Somewhere between the end of Michael Jordan's career in 2003 and Tiger's scandal in 2009, the media stopped being compliant to athletes and celebrities. They no longer protected them, because they no longer needed them. In the digital world, all that matters is the scoop. The mainstream media is right there with the TMZs and Deadspins, because they can't afford to be beaten. The upshot is that there are no more sacred cows out there, and a lot more harshness.”
Armstrong’s final piece of golfing advice is that the last three holes are what matter. “Take pride in how you get to the finish line,” he says.