Sunday, June 23, 2013

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The first two posts in the series to help you get out of your own way on the course were about Defining Yourself and Evaluating Yourself.  Today, I'd like to talk about what can go wrong out there on the golf course.  Any of us who have played competitive golf knows that a lot can go wrong and at any time.  Look at Steve Stricker at last week's U.S. Open.  Arguably, one of the best U.S. players hit a ball out of bounds and then shanked another ball out of bounds on #2.  Headlines read, Stricker Falls Apart (Kyle Porter for CBS Sports Online).  What did Stricker have to say?  “Not the start I was looking for, I felt good, felt relaxed. I was excited for the day. Just the nature of the game, I guess. It puts you in place rather quickly at times."  Stricker wasn't happy with his start, but he understands that golf is a tough game and mistakes will happen during a round.

NBC showed the shank on Shot Tracker.  I'm not sure why...

Commentators spoke of the doom of the shank, but Stricker still had 16 holes to play.  He bogeyed the next, which was a 240 yard par 3 into the wind, but then bounced back and played the final 15 holes in +2.  He was only two shots over the average score for the day.  There were 50 double bogeys and 16 "others" meaning triple or higher in the final round at the 2013 Open.  Stricker wasn't the only player who faced the challenge of accepting a big score and going on.

If the best in the world can make these mistakes, then we should all understand the importance of perspective and learning from what we do.  If we want to continually move forward and improve, we need to be able to step back from the heat of the battle and see our game for its strengths and weaknesses. 
Here is a quote from Jack Nicklaus that says it all, "Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20% of the time, you’re the best."  Golf is a tough sport and to perform at your best takes great physical talent, mental focus and hard work.  Perhaps the most important aspect of greatness though, is perspective.  If players took the same things away from a round that the commentators or fans took away, they would not play the game too long or too well.  Here is what Stricker had to say about his week at the Open, ".....But still a good week.  I competed well this week.  I did a lot of good things.  Surely not what I was looking for today, but still things I can build on and work towards when I play next at the John Deere."

That last line is important.  Stricker is 46 years old and he is focused on learning and improving.  That is the attitude that has carried him to Ryder Cup appearances and gotten him through tough times.  That is the attitude you will need to have if you want to become a great player.  A lot can go wrong in a round of golf and in a golf career.  However, you will need to keep your perspective and remember to define yourself in your own terms.  Stricker is a life long learner and a self-proclaimed grinder.  Here is an interview he did on July 1, 2008 at the AT&T:

Q. I know you've struggled recently; tell us what's going on there.
STEVE STRICKER: Got off to a good start this year. Probably through the first nine events or something like that, played pretty well and had a chance to win early on, and just kind of hit a wall I think. Mentally got a little fatigued I think. My swing kind of -- my tempo kind of left me there for a while, starting to get that back, but I think for so long, for a good, solid, year and a half, two years, I was playing at a pretty high level, and it's tough to maintain.  I always have kind of known that there's still going to be bumps in the road. I'm not a Tiger Woods. I'm still going to have some bad tournaments along with some good tournaments, so I realize that more than ever now, and I'm just working hard to get it back again and moving in the right direction. I had a decent U.S. Open. I did some really good things there again, so I feel like I'm turning the corner and heading in the right direction, at least. 

Here is another good interview from the 2006 Western Open on July 5th.
Q. Can you take us through why your game went where it went and how long it took you to bring it back? We talked a little bit at St. Charles; you really had it going that day at sectional qualifier.
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know why it went the way it did. I think it's just the nature of the game. You know, it's filled with ups and downs. You know, it's a determination game where you have to just keep grinding away, keep practicing, keep trying to focus and get better. Even though you try hard sometimes, it just doesn't work.
I think for me personally, I was trying hard there for a while, and then it wasn't working and I had some good years in there and some down years, but the last three weren't very well. But then kind of this last winter, through that Tour school business of going to the finals and working on my game all the way through December, I kind of rededicated myself, kind of started working out again. You know, I practiced hard over the winter. Not that I didn't before, but kind of had a new outlook on things, and my attitude has been good, too. I think that's part of the reason.

Your path to greatness will have its up and downs.  There are many opportunities to shine all around the world and if you want your moment in the sun and the winner's circle, you need to remember to keep your perspective and hold to the things that will make you great.  Steve Stricker is a great example of consistency in his approach to the game.  He has always believed in learning from what he has done, working hard to improve and keeping a level and positive attitude as he moves along his path.  

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