Expectations – Revisited

In yesterday’s post, “Expectations,” I wrote about the power of expecting to play well. At the end of the post I wrote:

So as with these great players in Dubai today, players can do more to improve their scores with little more than the expectation that they will. That little idea kicked off my nine-year effort to play on the Champions Tour and led to extraordianary results. Thoughts come and go, but with practice, a “way of being” is sustainable. Just because Robert Karlsson went from 65 yesterday to 75 today doesn’t mean that he won’t be expecting to play well tomorrow. Every now and then you just run into the vagaries and vicissitudes of golf. All things being equal, they don’t mean anything.

What I didn’t say was that some of this came to me as the image of the expression on Robert Karlsson’s face at the end of his round lingered on my mind. He had just handed his putter back to his caddie after shooting an inexplicable, 4-bogey, 1 double-bogey, 75. His eyes met his caddie’s with just the slightest tinge of embarrassment—really slight, it could have been something else—and then he raised his eyebrows in an expression that said, “Oh, well. I just ran into the vagaries and vicissitudes of golf.”

Today he shot 67 by living into his expectation that he would. He didn’t know the number, of course, he just knew who he was. That he was a tour pro and tour pros play well.

And so you say, “Oh sure, Bill. Easy enough for a tour player to do. But what about the rest of us?”

Well, the other point that I made was that all of this is relative. Just the expectation that you will play to at least the level of whatever your competency may be—a 4-handicap or a 24—is like flipping a switch. I have had the physical sensation of tension draining right out of my body. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is a huge edge in the battle with the egoic mind when it fears the worst. It also takes the third possibility, uncertainty, out of the equation because, like a switch, it’s binary. When you think about in that way, you’re not thinking about playing badly or its cunning cousin, uncertainty, you’re expecting to play well.

Expecting the best in yourself is a powerful elixir.

Expectations: A Footnote

Back in late January of 2008 at the Dubai Classic, the predecessor to this week’s Dubai World Championship, Ian Poulter attracted the indignation of the professional golf world when he was quoted in Golf World magazine saying: 

I just don’t rate anyone else. I really respect everyone who is a professional golfer. But I know I haven’t played to my full potential yet. And, when that happens, it will just be me and Tiger. 

The derision was not only palpable, it was contemptuous. One golf blogger’s tag on his headline was “Lmao.” At the time, Poulter was “merely” ranked 22 in the World Rankings and, although he’d had some wins, wasn’t particularly well known for his playing prowess. Not only was he not in Tiger’s rearview mirror, he wasn’t even on Tiger’s mind. 

That didn’t matter to Poulter. His expectation was that he would one day be playing at the elite level and he said so. It wasn’t bragging, it was his earnest attempt to speak his aspirations into reality, a more powerful form of expectation. After his win last week in Hong Kong, he’s ranked 11th in the world, and he has a two-shot lead in this week’s Dubai World Championship going into Mastery Sunday. He’s made only four bogeys in his last seven rounds. 

Given that his expectation is that he will win tomorrow, I like his chances.

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