In what should have been a straight forward interview after a positive first round in Sweden last week, James Morrison revealed that he had come agonisingly close to giving up the game he loves.
As he prepares for the Omega European Masters, the Englishman reveals what pushed him to the brink, and how opening up about his issues helped to get him back on track in golf and in life, in this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
There was never a point where I fell out of love with the game. I love playing golf and that’s why we're here. But when it's your job and it becomes a chore, you've really got to try to strip it all back and figure out why you do it.
I want people to respect me for me. I've got some amazing friends at home that like me for me, not because I'm a golfer. You go home and the most frustrating question you get is: "Hi mate, how are you? How's the game?" That "how's the game?" almost feels like they're saying I only want to be involved with you because you're a golfer. It got to the point where it was taking over my whole life. You want people to respect you as a husband, as a father as a friend
I wasn't there to support my wife when she was ill. You'd think: "It'll be fine, I've got to play golf next week." What does that really mean? Golf is just a fairy-tale lifestyle, when life is life. There's more to life than golf and a lot of people out here don't realise that. They assume golf is life. And out here you couldn't be any further from reality if you tried. I know that I’m privileged to play this game, but I was getting too into the week to week instead of thinking what my wife needs from me. I wasn't there for her at that time.
The four week break after Scotland came at the right time. This is my tenth year on Tour and it goes so fast, yet it feels like it's been an eternity. You try to draw on all the experiences and all the things that you've achieved over your career to try to get back on the straight and narrow, but that can just become burying your head in the sand and masking the real issues.
Justin Buckthorp, my trainer and mentor is everything to me and my game. We were in the gym about to start training and we were talking about it all and suddenly I had a tear falling down my face. That was when I realised it was time to just unload. And I said it without even thinking - "I think I'm done. I think that's me finished." I was sick of the game and I was thinking “I don't need this anymore”. I was trying so hard to define myself as a golfer that I wasn't defining myself as a person. Justin is good at this stuff so he let me just go on. You’ve got to be able to strip it all back to move forwards. That was a real turning point, when I got it off my chest to Justin and really broke it all down. We had hours and hours and hours of chats about it. We spoke everything - about values, why, how, direction, what's next.
In every walk of life, especially with male sport, there can be the whole bravado of not talking about mental health or being emotional. Talking about these things helps massively. Justin spoke to me about being able to feel vulnerable, because that way you can improve. A lot of people don't react to their emotions enough.
I lean on Justin a lot. In the past I used to just work with him on strength and conditioning. But I've got my best friend who also works for the World's best - Justin Rose - why am I not tapping into everything that he is good at? I decided to go all in with everything we do. At the end of the day, the top golfers get there because they do everything in the best way. If I'm attempting to beat top players and I'm doing half of what they're doing, I've got absolutely no chance of succeeding. Justin got married the week of Denmark and I couldn't go because I felt I had to play. And that's when I realised I'd got my priorities wrong.
I always saw a bad week as a really bad week. Justin sees a bad week as a learning week. There's no point only learning when you're playing well. When I played well I did X, Y and Z. The reason people's careers can be a mix is because they don't learn. Hence why the top players are on a much steadier upwards curve. They take stock, they learn, they improve. They're always going forward. There's never a day they aren't learning. I have the upmost respect for Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and the likes, because they do it year in year out. It is unbelievable. I've had runs where I've done well for four weeks but I've gone missing for two months. Not through lack of effort. These guys are at it every week. That's how good they are.
A lot of guys out here don't learn or grow and they become worse at golf and become worse people. They end up finishing their career bitter and regretful and I don't want to be that person. You go on the range and people's demeanours change based on where they are in the rankings, what watch they've bought, what car they're driving. And without knowing, you get into that yourself. And I don't want to be defined by that. People are so defined by golf because it's all they have. It's not all of me. I've got my family, I've got friends and I want to live life and explore other things.
I think the biggest relief for me in Sweden last week was not the result but the fact it was nice to walk off the golf course again thinking "that was easy.” Despite the fact I didn't win, I wasn’t grinding to shoot level par. It's not about results or what anybody thinks of me. I couldn't care less. I'm not driven by what people think of my golf.
I had a massive exhale after my fourth round because I just felt like "I'm back." And not back in terms of dominating world golf but I've dealt with my problems and issues and I was just so proud of myself as opposed to trying to make people proud of me. It takes over your life and that's just the way it can be. That's the biggest thing, I'm so proud of myself for dealing with it.
I love the game and I know that I’m privileged to have this career, but I'm not going to have golf define me as a person or my future. I feel if I get my goals right, then I've got ten more years left. I'm fit, strong and healthy and my mind is getting healthier, my family stuff is all in order. No one has died, everyone is healthy and I've got fantastic friends and family. I'll keep working hard and no matter what I do I feel like I can do well at it. If the time is right, next week or the end of the year to call it a day then I'm at peace with that.