Hunter Mahan: Thinking and Feeling

On Thursday, Hunter Mahan shot a sizzling 62 with 8 birdies. In his post-round interview that I quoted extensively, he talked about how smooth the transition had been from the U.S. Open to the Travelers Championship.

He brought the same good play that had him in the last group with Phil at the Open. He was extremely confident, he’d had a little down time and climbing up on the 1st tee, he was ready to play aggressively and go for it! Golf turned out to be easy.

Friday was a different story. It took him until the 7th to make his first birdie…and then he turned right around and gave it back on the 9th. He waited until the 13th hole for something to happen; unfortunately it was a bogey on the par 5. He bounced back with a birdie on 15…and then gave that back with a bogey on 16; one over par, 71. 

The Golf Channel interviewed him right after the round and he was not pleased with himself. I tried to find a video of the interview on both pgatour.com and the Golf Channel, but it was nowhere to be found.

Sometimes that kind of interview will also be transcribed along with the formal media center interview. But he apparently didn’t make it to the media center because he was not among the transcripts. Which was too bad, because that minute and thirty standup interview had a killer punch line…and that is the topic of today’s post.

So this is an approximation of what he said, that if not completely accurate, captures the thrust of that last sentence.

He’d just come off the course and was grappling to explain to the interviewer the difference between his 8-under day and his 1-over day. He didn’t go into much detail other than to say that that was the nature of golf. He seemed impatient and a little annoyed.

And in so many words he said, “I’m not upset about the golf, I’m upset with the way I was thinking and feeling about it.” The interviewer, instead of pressing in for more details about a pretty significant statement took his cue from Mahan’s annoyance, thanked him and it was over.

We have discussed this concept of playing the game objectively rather than subjectively before. If you stray from the black-and-white facts of what happened, “Uh! I got ahead of that one and pushed it into the right fairway bunker,” and instead get embroiled in subjectively evaluating what happened, it’s almost always trouble.

Why? Because dealing with the objective facts keeps your mind clear and at least gives you a chance to remedy the problem. But if you also layer on the emotions of being in a damned fairway bunker for a third time, and that descends into excoriating invectives about your value and standing as a human being, that’s not good and rarely productive.

But the game is very good at hooking us in that way. It’s why good players love the game — it continually gives us opportunities to measure our grace when we need a good hand but all we’re being dealt is lousy cards. Lousy cards are a fact of life and great golf is about weathering the storm while you wait for your luck to turn…and in those greatest of golf’s moments, because you caused it to turn.

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