Willfulness Versus Consciousness

At the Hyundai Tournament of Champions Thursday, Camilo Villegas, tried to bump a chip shot up a steep bank to a pin close to the edge of the green. Because of the tight pin, he tried to be too careful that his shot didn’t go too far by the hole. The ball got right to the top of the bank, hovered and then began rolling back down the bank to his feet…for a second time.

Suddenly, Camilo saw that he’d made a slight divot on his second shot, so he strode quickly over to the divot and flicked it away one handed with his clubhead. The ball rolled around where the divot had been and stopped a couple of inches away.

You cannot move “loose impediments” while the ball is rolling. A viewer at home somehow managed to reach Tour officials, they reviewed the video and Camilo ended up being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard; he’d neglected to add the two penalty strokes for his transgression. In the immediate aftermath of the DQ, there were inferences that cheating and lying about it should not be tolerated.

In 2005, Michelle Wie took a drop from an unplayable lie in a bush, but dropped it closer to the hole. A reporter for Sports Illustrated, concerned about the efficacy of the drop, alerted Tour officials. They reviewed the tape and then took Wie and her caddie out to the location to confirm what had happened. It was determined that the ball had been dropped a foot closer to the hole. She was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard that didn’t include the two penalty strokes for “playing from a wrong place.”

In 2010, Wie hit her ball into a shallow pond. She determined that she could play the ball out of the water, took her right shoe off and gingerly planted her foot in the water. She swung at the ball, there was a splash and the ball hopped out of the water about a foot and settled in the grass in the hazard. As Wie slowly recoiled from the finish of her swing, she took her right hand off the club and as she gazed down on the ball and her new circumstances, her body relaxed and she absentmindedly lowered her clubhead into the grass in the hazard. You can’t do that while your ball is in the hazard unless you are using the club to maintain your balance, which Wie, even as she watched the contradictory video, claimed that she did.

This morning, Jason Day, the young, up and coming Aussie, really tried to get into a drive, hit the ground six inches behind the ball and the drive went all of 106 yards, the worst drive of his professional career.

As I noted yesterday, Stuart Appleby, “lost” his putter and had to have his caddie rush to the pro shop to purchase a new one. Friday, it was discovered that the putter had been found on the practice putting green Wednesday night and turned in to the Golf Channel compound. But a production assistant didn’t put the two events together until Friday.

Way, way back in my corporate banking days, I was trundled off to a two-day training seminar on sales. As we settled into the routine of it, I became annoyed at the chirpy trainer who gave every indication that she knew nothing about how the real world of branch banking worked. So as we took turns going through mock sales with each other peddling, checking accounts, mortgages, credit card merchant services, etc., my attitude and enthusiasm began to decline…oh, and I began to come down with a bad cold.

The second day, I felt awful. And so as my less than stellar efforts were negatively critiqued by the trainer as being too deadpanned and unenthusiastic, I became even more annoyed. For our final graduation sales presentation, we were paired off again and our pitches were going to be videoed. I determined that I was going to show her. I was going to sell like a mad man; I was going to throw everything into it. Everything! Ha!

Immediately afterward, the critique was the same: deadpanned and unenthusiastic. Plus some goody-goody colleague agreed with her! I was furious…in a passive-aggressive way. I could barely mask my distain. Until we ran the video back to see how reality compared to the comments. And I was shocked! My distain turned into dismay, I could not believe my eyes: completely deadpanned and unenthusiastic.

What do all of these things have in common? They were a function of consciousness, not willfulness. Villegas probably had no idea he’d flicked that piece of divot away, it was just an instinctive reaction. Wie had no idea that she’d taken a drop closer to the hole or grounded her club in the pond, even as she was shown the video. Day said later he had no idea what he was thinking, his mind completely blanked out on his downswing; it was probably the worst swing he ever made as a professional. Applebee or his caddie absentmindedly walked away and left his putter on the putting green (I did this at Q-School one year, but because I always putt first when I warm-up, I didn’t discover it until I got to the first tee! Who would steal my putter at such a critical time?!). And I had no idea I was being completely underwhelming in my brilliant sales efforts.

So in the circumstance where something appears to be willful cheating, we always have to leave open the possibility that it’s a matter of unconsciousness not willfulness.

Take it from a guy with slack-jawed dismay he’s never gotten over.

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