RENSLOW: Pay attention, you might learn something
We’ve said it before. If you pay attention, you will learn something in every round of golf. It doesn’t even have to be a round that we played. It can also be one that we watch.
Usually, this is something about how the game is played or how we can play it better. Yet our game has also been called a “microcosm of life.” So, often these lessons will apply off the course as well.
Today’s opportunity for learning spans two rounds of golf and over a year of time to consider the possibilities. Think back to the spring of 2016. Jordan Spieth, the reigning Master’s champion has the lead heading to the back-nine on Sunday.
On the par-3 12th hole, still holding on to a one shot lead, Jordan hits his tee shot right of the green and into Rae’s Creek. Rather than choosing to hit again from his original location (always an option within the rules), he opts to put a ball into play on a line that begins at the hole, proceeds to the place his tee shot entered the water and extends to the position where he makes his drop.
A flubbed wedge shot would have his ball find water once again. The result was a quadruple-bogey score of seven. His lead would vanish and never reappear.
Fast forward to last Sunday. Jordan entered the day with a three-shot lead at the British Open, golf’s oldest championship and the year’s third major tournament. Four bogeys on the front-nine would allow more players within striking distance.
Standing on the 13th tee, he still has a one-shot lead (sounds familiar, doesn’t it). Yet an errant swing with driver would send his ball sailing into an unplayable position. Knowing he cannot play the ball smothered in long grass, he chooses to take penalty shot and put his ball into play elsewhere.
This is where the lesson begins. Tour players are human. And, we as humans, tend to remember the bad stuff a lot more readily than the good stuff. Especially when the circumstances are so similar.
Let’s see here … one-shot lead … down to the last several holes of a major … swings that require a penalty shot to get you out of trouble. Most of us would not look at this as an opportunity for success.
Some of us would feel the world getting a whole lot smaller. Others would just try to get out of the situation with as little bloodshed as possible. One never really knows what someone else is thinking or grasp the mindset or life experience that goes into another’s reaction to circumstances.
But 23-year-old Spieth took control. He began instructing his caddy, working with the PGA Rules officials, steering the patrons and deciding his best course of action.
Following a shot that would put him back near his own fairway (his drop was in the practice area) the ball came to rest in some long, but more manageable, rough again. An approach shot landed on the green. His putt directed the ball into the hole. Bogey. If a bogey could be called “great,” this was a great bogey.
Spieth would go on to play the next four holes with a score of 5-under par. Birdie. Eagle. Birdie. Birdie. Two pars on the final holes and Spieth is your champion.
What does golf have to teach us? We don’t have to see an event or an error as the beginning of the end. We don’t have to see an event or error that was the beginning of the end repeat itself. We can consider the example of a young man with a champion’s heart.
John Renslow is a PGA Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
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