A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation of Inbee Park as the first person to win four majors in a row in the same year; Na Yeon Choi rose to the top of the leaderboard and looked for all the world like she would be the winner. Her normal gentle grace and fine golf shots seemed on auto-pilot.
But it didn’t quite work out that way, thanks to Stacy Lewis making back-to-back closing birdies:
It’s just crazy, I was just hanging in there all day, and then, you know, 17 and 18 just happened so fast that I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet. It was so hard, you had to stay focused on the next shot, you couldn’t even really think about the end.
You know, I made par on 16 and thought if I could par 17 and birdie 18 somehow, that you know, that might be good enough for a playoff. Just my patience is what won it for me today, and it’s really cool to have that trophy.
Nobody thinks about making birdie on the famous “Road Hole.” This is the hole where all you’re trying to do is get the ball in the fairway off the tee with its quirky tee shot across the hotel grounds. You need to be in the fairway so that you can control your approach shot; you can’t be in the front bunker and you can’t be over the green and on the road:
You know, I was honestly trying to make par on 17. I was trying to hit it down there to the front of the green and 2‑putt and move on. That was kind of the goal.
And then I hit the perfect golf shot. I mean, that was the shot — I saw the shot in my head, but to actually pull it off, when it counts, it doesn’t — a shot like that doesn’t happen very often.
So I knew after I hit it close, I was like, all right, I have to make this putt; somehow this putt was going to go in, because the shot was so good.
That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re so deep inside it. The visions in your head just seem to easily get translated into the real world. It’s not as if you have to think about all of the things you have to do to make it happen, you just have to see it and the magic computer in your body takes care of the rest.
One of the things that fosters that mind state is feeling like you’re where you’re supposed to be and that you enjoy where you are and what you’re doing;
I don’t know, I love this golf course more than I think any links course I’ve played. You can get rewarded for good shots. There’s not any crazy bunkers right in the dead center of the fairway. You can at least kind of play around things and get rewarded for good shots, and that’s what I like.
But, I don’t know, I love this golf course, and I think I was happy being here all week, and I was comfortable and I think that’s a lot of the reason I’m here right now.
But as her closing holes were slowly ticking by, she was going the wrong way! She bogeyed 11 and 12. But she had been working on maintaining her sense of perspective and patience. She knew the back nine was playing really hard and everyone else was going to have problems with it too:
Being in those final groups, you know to just keep hanging in there, you know it’s playing hard. You know — I mean, the hole locations, there are a couple on the back nine that were really hard, and so I saw my name falling down that leaderboard, but I knew eventually it would go back up, if I could just make some pars and just sneak a birdie on the par 5 [14th, which she did].
But then she turned right around and bogeyed 15. What easier route to take than to become resigned to the fact that you just shot yourself out of the tournament:
But, you know, you look at — look at who ended up at the top. You’ve got Morgan [Pressel] and Na Yeon Choi. They know how to win majors. They know you just keep hanging in there. I made bogey on 15 and walking off that tee, I said to myself, “I can still win this. Just keep your head in it and don’t get frustrated.”
I never allowed myself to think: ‘Oh, I’m out of it, that lost me the golf tournament.’
She nutted her drive to within 40 yards of the green on 18, and that kicked in her experience translator from aerial golf to golf played over the ground. She putted it:
I think just learning how to hit little chip shots around the green, learning how to putt from 40 yards away on 18, learning that the putter is the shot there, not trying to flop it up there or anything like that. It’s a totally different style of golf. You’re going to get weird bounces. It’s understanding how it works, and I think every year I’ve kind of done that.
One of the things she had been working on was her resolve to stay in control of her emotions when things were going sideways:
It was tested a lot today. It was tested all week really. It was between the [wind] delays yesterday and all that, your emotions are tested there. People were pretty upset about not playing [Saturday], some were happy; so all week was kind of pretty emotional.
And she managed to find a release for the emotions that naturally burble to the top when you don’t perform at the level that you know you’re capable of:
But I was certainly tested, that’s for sure. I got mad at myself but I found a way to, if I made bogey, I was off that green, I was on the next tee, and I was thinking about the next shot at hand. So I forgot about what I was doing.
Somehow this week I was just able to move on to the next shot. It’s easier said than done, but this week, I don’t know why I was completely different, but I made bogey on 2 and I said, ‘All right, I hit a drive in the bunker, and I didn’t hit a very good wedge shot in there, so I probably deserved make bogey, so let’s go figure out how I’m not going to hit it in the bunker on the next hole.’ That was my mentality all day; it was, what do I have to do for the next shot.
This is precisely what’s meant by being “in the moment,” being, “in the present.” The catalytic power of being in the present is that there is no fear in the present. Fear only exists as you look back on your mistakes in the past and fear that you will make them again in the future. If you are solidly absorbed in the present, there is only that moment.
And she was tested again on the 15th:
We got to 15 and the wind switched back in and I didn’t hit enough club. So I hit the wrong club there and was short of the green.
Hit a good chip shot to five feet and just hit a terrible putt. That was probably the time when I was probably most frustrated, because I had been hanging in there all day, and it was a pretty straight 5‑footer and I missed it.
That was kind of the moment when I could have gotten frustrated but I held it together and finished really good.
Finished really good, indeed, and won her second major, a British Open to go with her Kraft Nabisco.
Thanks for all these great lessons, Stacy.