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Trash Talker?

Between his roles in mostly romantic comedies, the witty, urbane British actor Hugh Grant loves a testy game of golf.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Hugh Grant, November/December 2009

The subject is golf—a topic that obsesses actor Hugh Grant to the point that he occasionally drives even himself crazy talking and thinking about it.

"When you say to a girl, 'I play golf,' her eyes glaze over," Grant says with a shrug. "It makes them think of a man with no penis."

But when he starts talking about just how competitive he is when he plays, Grant digs in enthusiastically.

"I don't like a friendly game—I like a nasty atmosphere," Grant says with a devilish smile, reclining on a couch in an office in Midtown Manhattan. "Within the first half-hour, I want somebody to feel badly. I like to play with friends, particularly if they're gnashing their teeth at the end. I'm extremely competitive. It's just more fun if you want to win."

He positively glows when the idea of trash-talking your opponent is mentioned. "Trash-talk? Is that like sledging?" Grant says, perking up. "Sledging comes from cricket, when the batsman is standing there and the fielder who is closest to him is giving him grief. Oh, yes, I absolutely do! Although if you say something before someone swings, such as 'I do hope you'll be able to carry over that water,' the guilt sometimes outweighs the pleasure when their ball goes in. "I've read the Gamesmanship books by Stephen Potter and it's all about the act of mentally damaging your opponent without appearing to do anything. He's quite instructive about how to play 'the flurry' —where you're deliberately late and you must rush to the tee all in a panic."

He can dish it out, but can Grant take it?

"Oh, no. My game is fragile at the best of times," he says. "Everybody knows that and exploits it."

Still, to hear him tell it, no one is harder on Grant when he's got a golf club in his hands than Grant himself. As brutal as he claims to be on opponents, Grant is a font of embarrassing tales about his own game.

"I took golf up at 39, which means it's almost impossible to be good, particularly with my temperament," says Grant, a youthful 49. "There's a lot of club smashing. I once lost a 3-wood in a tantrum when I threw it into a bush. Four players and caddies couldn't find it.

"My worst golfing moment was at St Andrews. I lost a ball while putting, and on TV. I was putting uphill, and the ball rolled back down and into a stream. The TV fellows kindly didn't show it, but they recorded it."


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