Last weekend while watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open I was wondering how on earth the players faced teeing it up on 16 without throwing up.
Imagine hitting a shot in front of 20,000 booze-infused fans who’d love nothing better than to humiliate you in front of millions of TV viewers. Talk about feeling naked on the tee!
While I was thinking about that, a Callaway commercial came on with Phil Mickelson hitting some of those miraculous (AKA crazy) shots he’s famous for.
Lefty really put it well when he said, “You can’t be afraid to lose and you can’t be afraid to fail.“
Shortly after that, Bubba Watson hit a “power fade” (i.e. massive slice) off the tee on the 5th hole into the desert. Although the lie wasn’t too bad, the view from the ball to the green looked very scary. But Bubba, a man who seems to play without fear since his win at the Travelers Championship in 2010, just stepped up and ripped it to 10 feet from the cup; he went on to birdie the hole.
After watching that commercial and then Bubba, I was reminded of how often I’ve heard an analyst say about a player, “He’s not afraid to go low.” or “He’s not afraid to win.” I always thought those were ridiculous statements. How can you be afraid to go low or win a tournament?
But then I thought it about it later that evening and it dawned on me that what they were probably trying to say is that players who can’t close the deal on Sunday are handicapped by fear.
I have lost count the number of times I’ve listened to my favorite European commenting duo, Renton and Warren, chuckle and say of the young guns, “He’s too young; he has no fear“.
Certainly Rory, Rickie and Matteo appear fearless. But, we all know that fear is a learned behavior; so I wonder if we’ll start to see some fear creeping into their games over the next few years OR will they be Tiger/Phil-like and learn to embrace fear as a motivator and Fight it, not Flight it.
I started thinking about the other sports I played like floor hockey, soccer, basketball and even baseball, and I don’t ever remember being afraid playing them. But in golf, there have been days when I felt fear from the moment I stepped on the first tee to the last 3-putt I made on 18.
How can that be? In other sports, you can get seriously hurt, but golf can’t hurt you. Okay, I know what you are thinking…but it sure can beat you up. Very true 😉
But really…it all comes down to having too much time on our hands.
Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey fell victim to the “too much time” hazard on Sunday on 17. Watching him sit there waiting to tee off, head down around his knees, drinking tons of water, trying to deal with the nerves that came with being in contention on Sunday, I felt so badly for him.
But you know, Tommy fought through his fears. Sure, he had that unfortunate triple on 17 (Did fear make him make the wrong club selection? Maybe. Or was it just the adrenalin cocktail running through his veins after his birdie on 15?).
17 should have been a birdie hole for Tommy. He knew how to play that hole – he birdied it the first two days. And if he had, he would have been in the playoff and who knows what would have happened.
But when you think about how long he was in contention that weekend, leading the tournament for days with some pretty big guns biting at his Footjoys, he did as much as anyone could ask of him. He gave it his all and he did it with grace under fire.
I am pretty impressed with the lovable Big Breaker with his unorthodox swing and unconventional candor with the media. I just wish I was doing Big Break interviews when he was competing; it would have been great to talk to him.
Tommy Gainey has paid his dues on the mini tours and the Nationwide. And through all the ups and downs, he’s been true to himself. Maybe that’s all Tommy needs to do now to be a champion on the PGA Tour – Trust yourself. Trust eliminates fear.
Whatever it takes, the one thing I hope Tommy never learns – is how to be a conventional Tour player. He’s a breath of fresh air on the PGA – a tour that needs some serious airing out.