- Jason Sobel, Senior Golf Writer
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"The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley."
I love poetry that looks like the author fell asleep on his keyboard halfway through -- or in this case, maybe the quill pen went askew.
Kidding, of course. Even if your introduction to Scottish doesn't extend past that time you heckled Monty, you can understand the idea of Robert Burns' famous line from the poem, "To A Mouse." Essentially, things don't always go as planned.
Hailing from the land where golf was created, I'm guessing Burns had a little firsthand knowledge of the subject matter. This is a game where plans can go gang aft agley in a hurry.
Like when trying to reach a par-5 in two over a water hazard just slightly smaller than the Pacific. Or attempting to play a big draw when your usual round features more slices than the local pizzeria. Or figuring out a way to blast a 207-yard shot off pine straw, through the trees, over a creek and next to the hole.
Unless your name is Phil Mickelson, that is.
As a writer, Burns undoubtedly realized that whether you're a man or a mouse, the best laid plans in this craft never come without a hitch, either.
Like this column, for instance.
The original idea was to write about how the upcoming World Cup schedule would affect the preparation and alter the attention of the world's most elite golfers, many of whom will be competing in a little tournament called the U.S. Open smack dab in the middle of soccer's greatest festivities.
Sounds like a decent plan, right? Well, it was. Until I started interviewing players and discovered that a lack of individual soccer affinities really wouldn't influence anything at all for many of 'em.
"I'm not a massive football follower," says Ross Fisher of England. "I mean, I might watch a few games. But no, I won't be cutting practice short to watch a footie game, that's for sure. Golf is a priority."
"I know nothing about the World Cup," claims Ryuji Imada of Japan. "If it is on and I happen to see it, I might watch, but soccer is not a big game for me."
"I've got to remain focused on what I do and putting in the time I need to out here," explains Rory Sabbatini of South Africa. "You know, there's always TiVo."
That wasn't exactly the type of rabid enthusiasm I had hoped for. With 77 international players representing 21 countries currently owning full-time PGA Tour membership, there had to be some who share in this other global pastime -- enough that it could affect their regularly scheduled regimens.
Like a mouse trying to sniff out that hidden piece of cheese, I soldiered on in my pursuit of those with a love for the "beautiful game."
"I'm into it," Adam Scott says. "Australia has a pretty good team now. Did well in the last World Cup and the league's grown a lot in the last four years back at home. ... If I can get a chance to watch it, I'll certainly watch. I mean, it's a big deal. It's great to see Australia playing in it for a change."
Hmm, getting closer ...
"If it is a practice day, yes, I will accommodate my schedule depending on the game," intimates Andres Romero of Argentina. "If it is a tournament day, though, I will just be trying to guess how the team is doing."
Closer still ...
"My father-in-law [Ray Clemence] is England's goalkeeper coach, so I've got an extra vested interest in it," Brian Davis says. "I think most of the guys will be watching it. If you watch it and you win, you're probably really happy. If you lose in a penalty shootout and have to go straight to the range, I think that will probably have a negative impact. I'm a keen sportsman and I want us to win."
Even closer ...
Still, though, I didn't have that one over-the-top story about soccer fandom taking precedence over golf, about a player actually letting personal affections impinge on professional responsibilities.
Until I spoke with Geoff Ogilvy.
The Aussie recalled a World Cup group match between his home country and Brazil that was taking place prior to his final-round tee time at Winged Foot, site of the 2006 U.S. Open.
"I was in the stretching trailer, which was right next to the range," he remembers. "My warmup was definitely short, because I was watching the end of Australia-Brazil, for sure."
Ogilvy watched his beloved Socceroos fall at the feet of Ronaldinho and mates by a score of 2-0. But the day wasn't a total failure. Just ask Ogilvy how that shortened practice routine turned out for him.
"It worked out well," he says with a straight face. "I won the tournament."
Hey, you know what they say. The best laid plans of mice and men, right?
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.
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