We love sports analogies, but many of those analogies really don’t work. In life we really do not have five power lifters to protect us from evil. In golf, as in life, you can get advice from other people but it is mostly up to you to perform. On Sunday we saw one of the best in the world in golf’s biggest tournament under perform when the pressure was the highest. Jordan Spieth fumbled the ball at the goal line.
Now, before anyone jumps on me for talking about Jordan, I really like Jordan for a number of reasons. I love the fact that he really never gives up. He is always out there trying to do better. His game is about precision and not power. For years commentators have marveled at the drives of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. We have been told that they are the wave of the future. Power. Jordan made all of these guys look foolish as he won the Masters and US Open last year.
In life we have those pressure moments. Sure, we don’t have millions of people watching our every move, but the pressure is on, nonetheless. Whether it is an important test that allows us to be certified as a lawyer, a doctor, a contractor or something else, it is pressure. Pressure can make us do stupid things.
On Sunday, Jordan Spieth was leading the Masters. He was struggling. He didn’t have his A game. He wasn’t hitting his targets. His driver was flaring to the right. Every now and then, his irons were also flaring. His scrambling was solid, but his putter was good. It was not red hot. He was leading by 5 strokes with 9 holes to play. Sounds easy. He bogeys 10. He bogeys 11. Now, he comes to short par 3. 150 yards. This hole is known for swirling winds, which make it hard to pick a club. The target area is small. Hit the ball short and you are in the water. Hit the ball long and you are in the bunker, which will make it very difficult to get a par from there. Seven strokes later he was staring at a quadruple bogey.
I have seen several folks who are very smart, but for some reason, they can’t pass the big test. They have taken the big test several times and they fall short. The track star who hits the last hurdle and loses the big race is kind of the same thing. I’m not sure why some people perform well under pressure and others simply don’t.
Here’s what I find interesting. Tiger Woods. There, I have said it. Almost no one mentioned Tiger Woods on Masters Sunday. Tiger Woods would not have lost on Sunday if he had a 5-stroke lead heading into the back 9. Somehow, he would have figured out a way to win. Once he had the lead on Sunday, it was a lock. So, how was Tiger able to handle the pressure and perform?
I think that Jordan Spieth will be fine. Rory Mcilroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have shown that they can win on the big stage, but they have also faltered on that same big stage.
Congratulations to Danny Willett for winning the Masters. He played Jordan’s mistake-free game. He hit his targets. He played steady throughout the tournament.
I guess the take-home lesson is to take a deep breath. Slow down and don’t let the pressure get to you…if you can.