There were some pretty entertaining moments in Friday’s second round of The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey.
Probably the best was Phil Mickelson playing one of his lob wedges from the hospitality grandstand above and behind the drivable par-4 5th in the middle of his back nine. Having bogeyed the 1st at the turn, at only 291 yards, it was worth the risk to clean up that bogey and press to the finish.
“Just a bad tee shot. It’s a great hole. It’s the only hole you can reach it under regulation here. The par 5s are not reachable. So you get really excited to get to that hole. I hit it great yesterday on the green. Had a great chance for eagle and then today hit a terrible shot.
The terrible shot one-hopped off the cart path and way up into the outdoor dining area. The floor covered in astroturf, he had a perfect lie and a gallery begging him to go for it. It was the best lie he was going to find in the vicinity. It was like one of those old Michael Jordan commercials, ” Off the astroturf, over the railing, over the four rows of bleacher seats, nothing but…the front bunker.”
He just hit it a touch too hard for the shallow green. But the adulation and knuckle bumps he got from the ecstatic fans were worth the price of admission. And he hung on to make a 7-foot birdie putt on his 18th — do or die!! — to make the cut on the number.
The other entertainer was Rory McIlroy who went a long way to clean up is first-round mess, a 3-over 74, but only because he also made a salvaging birdie at the 9th. Without that, we’re talking 4-over before the tournament even has any rhythm to it.
But it wasn’t 4-over, it was 3, and Friday’s bogey-free 6-under 65 was just what the doctor ordered. It is amazing to watch this guy in full flight. He was sailing his driver way out there and into the fairway and he was rewarded with justice for his brave accuracy. He shot up the leaderboard to 3-under and T27. With the leaders at 8-under, he’s just 5 shots back.
“The work that I did yesterday on the range really helped, just sort of got back into the rhythm and into the flow of things, and played the hole — I don’t think I missed a green on the front nine. I knew that my game was there and I just needed to take advantage of the chances I was giving myself.”
“The range session didn’t take long, maybe like 45 minutes or an hour. It wasn’t like a big grinding session. Just to sort of try to get back into the rhythm. It felt good.”
But Rory wasn’t the only guy to shoot 65, so did Adam Scott, a co-leader with Cameron Tringale. It has been a bit of a disappointing year for Scott. After winning the 2013 Masters, he thought the gates had been opened for more majors in 2014.
“Yeah, I think I learned a lot out of the major season this year. I mean, going to defend the Masters was a new experience for me obviously, and I played well for the week bar Saturday. That’s an important day; they are all important.”
“I played with Jordan [Speith] on Saturday. He played a nice round of golf and I played an average one and was too far behind. And that was kind of story of the year for the rest of the three. I was too far behind all the time. I was slow starting and couldn’t and didn’t keep pace.”
“I think we saw guys win on top of their game not looking back, just going forward. Martin [Kaymer] blew the field away [in the U.S. Open] and Rory pretty much blew the field away after the finish on Saturday at The Open to open up — six is a big lead, especially when you’re playing like he was.”
“I think the mindset had to change a little bit, and I tried to do that at the PGA [that Rory also won] but I didn’t play very well. I played some of my worst golf of the year. So the mindset was that you’re going to have to attack a little more and not just plod your way around and avoid the big numbers.”
So now that he has unleashed his talent, he’s feeling very good and he is quite pleased that he finally learned the lesson of what was causing his malaise, and it’s paying dividends big time:
“Yeah, absolutely. It shows me that I’m thinking about things the right way (69, 65).”
“Obviously I’m trying hard all the time, but sometimes you’ve got to get out of your own way, even when you’re trying to be aggressive. I’ve hit a lot of drivers out here today and yesterday and taken some lines across corners that I probably normally wouldn’t.”
“But I’m playing well, so why not. And just like on the last, instead of a 6‑iron, it opens up a 9‑iron into that hole and take advantage of that. It’s been fun; I think letting the attitude relax a little bit is a way of having more fun out there.”
It is some comfort to the rest of us that even a great player like Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world just a blink ago, derives motivation from watching the great play of other players too, in this case, Rory’s year-end run:
“Yeah, absolutely. I think you’ve got to draw motivation from wherever you can. And I’m not afraid to say that I look at the way he played and I want that to be me. And I feel that I can play like that and have runs like that. You’ve got to learn from the best and he’s one of them.”
“So look at what he’s doing and the way he’s going about it is important because it’s relevant to the way we all play out here.”
And then a nicely nuanced question from the media that led Adam straight into a conversation about a subtle principle of playing better golf, possibility:
Q. Do you just need to play better, is it the intangible part of playing better or is there something tangible? Do you want to get No. 1 back or do you want to get to something?
“It’s not that specific. I think it’s more about what’s possible. I mean, you know, to win majors in a month — we’ve seen other guys [besides Rory] do it, but it doesn’t happen very often. But I think you’ve got to believe it can just happen a bit more often.”
When we begin to understand that possibility is more than just hopefullness or an expression of the odds that something can happen, we open the door to the greatest expression of ourselves, to the freedom that posibility provides. “You know, I don’t know what the odds are, but it is possible for things to go my way. So I’m going for it, 100%, full out!”
How often have we heard the expression, “I just want a chance?” When we live our lives in possibility, we ignite that chance ourselves. We become less dependant on others, even though they will ultimately help us along the way. The odds are the odds, but living life in possibity allows us to fearlessly pay no attention to the odds. Obstacles will block the way, but possibiltity helps us to keep striving, striving to find another way. And if you believe in God, some say the way we were supposed to find all along.