Golf is a word that makes most of you yawn. But the sport itself is anything but yawn-worthy. It’s a chess match. A game of mental toughness and opportunity where the individual has no one to blame but himself. Besides, I bet most of you haven’t given the sport a chance. Am I right? Or am I REALLY right?
Both in career and in sport, most humans embrace challenges. While it’s instinctual for most, going back to our hunter/gatherer days, there are many in our generation that lack motivation. You know them. They usually live in their parents’ basement and play Dungeons and Dragons against themselves. And they don’t understand why their Ancient French Impressionist degree hasn’t gotten them hired. But of course, it can’t be their fault. It’s always the system’s. Aside from these people, most of us measure life by how we overcome obstacles. Like you’ve heard in a million Sportscenter interviews, it’s all about fighting through the adversity. Golf is adversity’s middle name.
This past week was the Accenture Match Play championship from Arizona. What is match play? It’s like the college basketball tournament. There are 64 players, and each one is seeded 1-16. Get it now? First round is 1 v 16, 2 v 15, 3 v 14, and so on. This format is great. It adds an exciting component to the sport that makes every round fascinating, because of the direct competition between a set of players. Normal golf tournaments don’t pit players directly until the final Sunday, and in some cases the leader is so far ahead there is no sense of direct competition. This is why match play is the best. It’s one on one golfing throughout the week. Pure excitement from beginning to end. Upsets galore, as all number 1 seeds had lost by the weekend, making the tournament more unpredictable and exciting.
The Final Day
Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson validated every point I made above (re-read ‘em if you forgot). They played two matches on Sunday. An early morning semifinal match, followed by a 23 hole final against each other to decide the championship. Day had a chance at the 18th to put the match away, but remember the mental toughness component? The situation got to him as he missed a 5ft putt he’s made a million times in practice. Conversely, Dubuisson had a will of steel. He was making all of his short putts, and then in the playoff, made two of the most remarkable shots you’ll ever see. His ball stuck in a cactus, twice, Dubuisson successfully hit the ball onto the green to par the holes. Talk about overcoming obstacles. As he walked to the next hole, bits of cactus fell from his shoe. But he remain composed and kept the match going for 5 extra holes, until Day finally prevailed on the 23rd.
What did I learn from watching these enthralling golf matches? That it’s never over. Never. Just because you feel you aren’t doing your best and you’re low on poker chips, it doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and go home (to your Dungeons and Dragons). Stick it out, because you may surprise yourself. Some may call what Dubuisson accomplished lucky, but we know better. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Oh, and a little mental toughness doesn’t hurt. Hear that, my millennial homeboys and girls?