Jonas Blixt erased a season’s disappointment by coming from 4 strokes back to win The Greenbrier Classic by 2 strokes. Until this tournament, he missed 8 of 16 cuts, had no top-10 finishes, had only made $351,000 and, at 139th on the FedExCup points list, wasn’t even lurking near the 125th spot necessary to get into the playoffs.
He was so relieved and felt so vindicated when Johnson Wagner and Jimmy Walker playing in the last group failed to make a hole-in-one on the par-3 18th to tie him, he wept. That’s how much it meant to him, a carefree, fun-loving, 29-year-old joy-boy out of Florida State by way of Sweden. He could barely speak through the tears and gasps for his normal speaking voice.
Finally settled down, he soberly summed up his feelings:
This is what I play for. I play to win and I mean it just confirms that you’re doing the right things and that you work hard and dreams can come true if you work hard and keep at it.
There is a drive that runs deep in tournament players. It begins with a fascination with the game and a pressing determination to get better. When they get better on their own terms, ego forces them to compare themselves and their accomplishments with others by playing competitively. Early on, this usually does not end well. There is so much to learn about just what it takes.
And so it’s back to the driving range, the coach and road testing on the course, all while incorporating the lessons of failure.
This is where mettle is determined. How often can you fail and still keep getting up? How long can you endure when all your hard work seems for naught? How strong is your self-concept when each outing’s anticipation and certainty ends in failure again? How long can you continue to hold the vision of your future when it chronically ends in failure?
For the good ones — and pretty much all the ones with true talent– the answer is forever.
Yeah, it’s just been a hard year. I just haven’t played that well and it just feels really weird, missing the cut last week and I felt like the ball was going everywhere, trying to find some stuff going into this week and kept working on it. I never really felt that I got, you know, that slot in my swing where I can just rip at it. It was kind of constant work.
I don’t know what it was, someone must have looked down on me [today] and said the ball’s going to go in the right direction.
“Someone looking down” is a common theme in these redemptive moments, perhaps because the line between playing really bad and playing really good is so stark. And on the way up — except for affirming and fleeting moments of success — the gap seems impenetrable. You just feel that “you’re so close.” Somewhere this week this truism was cited, maybe even twice:
When you’re playing good, you think you’ll never play bad again. And when you’re playing bad, you think you’ll never play good again. Neither one is true.
And one of the things that sustains putting up with these ordeals is this notion of faith in a higher power. For some it’s God, for others it’s “The Universe” and still others it’s just a belief in fate without attributing any particular source to it. Nevertheless, what is true about all of these feelings is that they are so motivating because they run so deep into our very cores.
And so when they are suddenly vindicated out of left field, that’s why grown men cry.