Wells Fargo Championship: Playing in the Future

Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney are tied for the lead at 8-under at the 54-hole mark of the Wells Fargo Championship. But it’s a small wonder that they are.

Perhaps it was too much forward thinking. Forward thinking is normally a pretty good thing, just not in golf. Golf requires present thinking; what’s going on right here, right now.

Mickelson once won in Atlanta when the rain made it impossible to play either Sunday or Monday. Unfortunately his mind was on that rather than on the matter at hand: 

I was grinding it out coming down the stretch because there is a high likelihood that we don’t play tomorrow.  And it reminds me of when we had a rain out at BellSouth in Atlanta years ago, and they just made a par‑3 somewhat playable.  We went out and had a playoff, and I was fortunate enough to win.  I thought there was a good chance we might have that scenario again if the weather comes in like it’s supposed to today and the forecast is as bad on Monday.

And because of that, he ended up pressing on 15 instead of just playing:

After I made that putt on 14, I felt really good.  I thought I could get one on [the par 5] 15.  I got lucky on the tee shot that that didn’t go out of bounds I missed it so bad, but the second shot should not have been a problem.  It was a very easy lie to hit the shot I wanted to.  I probably pulled the wrong club.  I hit it the second time with the driver to get it to cut.  I should have done that the first time.  The lie was fine to do it, and I hit 3‑wood and it shot straight, which I was not expecting and it went out of bounds.  That was a big mistake, and obviously, 16 following it with a bogey and pulling it to the right and I hit that lady, and that just wasn’t good. [And he short sided himself to boot.]

So he went from 11-under to 8-under in the blink of two holes, but at least he managed to stay tied with Watney who had his own problem: a shank on the par 3 17th that led to a double bogey:

I don’t know what happened, to be honest.  I was kind of fighting — I was kind of fighting my swing all day, just trying to keep it in play, keep it in play.  I hit a few shots off the heel with my driver and 3‑wood off the tee, but obviously that [shank] was just terrible, a terrible result.

I haven’t done that for a really long time.  I can’t remember really the last time I did that in a tournament, so it was a bit unsettling.

Was he more angry or embarrassed?

A bit of both, to be honest.  It’s about a tie.  It’s a tough hole, and I’m sure guys hit shots they thought were good and it just hooked a little and went in the water and made double.  It just so happened that I’m playing really well and it was on TV, so that’s where the embarrassment comes from.  But the other thing is you like to put as much distance as you can between you and the other guys, so a bit of anger and definitely some embarrassment.

I know that feeling. I’ve had it on numerous occasions until I discovered that embarrassment comes from the ego subjectively evaluating circumstances rather than a rational, objective mind merely observing what’s so.

In the first instance, “Oh, my God! I shanked that ball in front of all of these people and all those millions of people watching on television. I want to just climb into a hole and curl up in a ball.”

In the second instance, “Oh, a shank. I must have been a little over the top for that hosel to hit the ball. Gotta tidy up that swing path.”

The first, there is no freedom, no remedial outcome. In the second, there is.

Because the forecast is for heavy rains both Sunday and Monday, it is likely that we’ll be reduced to 54 holes and Phil will again go to a par 3 for the playoff, this time with Watney. But it’s not fait accompli just yet.

The Tour has moved the first tee times up to 6:45 AM and they’ll be playing in threesomes. That last pairing will include George McNeill who is one stroke back and they go off at 8:46. With the bad weather and playing in threesomes, they’ll be playing in eleven-minute intervals.

There are six players at 6-under including, John Senden, who had the low round of the day at 5-under, Ryan Moore and Lee Westwood.

At 5-under lurk five players including, D.A. Points and Kevin Streelman, both recent winners, and Rory McIlroy.

So the stage is set. It’s either going to be a dud because they won’t be able to play, or high drama as they play as long as they can until they have to stop it from too much casual water or wind. Or they get it all in and we have a 72-hole winner.

There are a lot of reasons to watch this one.

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