Ian Poulter was cruising through the Turkish Airlines Open at the Montgomerie Maxx Royale course in Antalya, Turkey. But then he hit a little bad weather, a lack of patience, prudence and couldn’t find an escape route from behind a tree where he just hit his wedge.
“I only had a wedge, miscalculation in my mind, thought I hit a good shot, obviously hit the tree and obviously left me no shot. It was a shame.”
Beyond that, he could feel his 64, 66 start leaking away from him:
“Today was really disappointing to be out of rhythm after playing such great golf. As good as it was for two days, was as poor as it was and disappointing.”
They were playing in the rain and Poulter just couldn’t seem to get in the groove:
“A little disappointing. Rhythm was off right from the get‑go. Disappointing tee shot on the first. Just tried to put it in position, obviously it was raining; it was key to get it on the fairway. I didn’t do that early. I wasn’t aggressive enough”
Not being aggressive enough happens when we find ourselves in threatening situations where there’s a boundary or a hazard or deep rough and a cold, wet day with a little wind thrown in for good measure. The consequential reticence that creeps in, shortens our swings — even if only a little bit — and the rhythm Poulter couldn’t seem to find disappears.
And because of the resultant double bogey on the 15th hole — that he shouldn’t have had! — his mind turns to — what? – dinner.
“It’s brought obviously a lot of players back into the fray. Their dinner is going to taste lovely tonight and mine is going to taste horrible.”
How many times have we heard about these horrible dinners? It’s become a stock reaction on Tour broadcasts to misfortune. And all because the player in question was unable to simply accept that the world doesn’t always work out the way we want it to. That’s not to say that acceptance is capitulation. That’s not to say that acceptance changes our resolve to be excellent in any way. But it is to say that we should be able to enjoy the lovely dinner we envisioned when we made our plans for the evening.
Brooding does not help. It only sucks us deeper into distraction when the thing we most need is pure unadulterated concentration on the matter at hand, not the matter that went awry. We need a heightened sense of awareness, a mental “glomming on” to what’s in front of us right now.
That’s hard to do when our senses are keen, but made much more difficult when part of us is not there.
A logical extension of brooding is anger and Poulter has “letting go” issues here too:
“I’m more angry about the wedge shot which led to a double. That’s inexcusable for me to make that error right there. That’s disappointing. A simple wedge shot puts me to 20 feet with an outside birdie look at worst, and I hit the tree. So I’m going to be angry about that for a little while tonight and then I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
Hanging on to anger may feel good, but it’s self-indulgent and can be physically harmful. Think, ulcers, elevated metabolisms and inadequate sleep leading to who knows what.
What brought all of this to mind was that I played with three strangers today and played very poorly. I couldn’t get my rhythm either and couldn’t finish a swing on either side of the ball. This led to all manner of strange shots and in one instance, two consecutive drowned balls on a par 3, one from the tee and one from the drop area.
I treat all of my golf rounds now as exercises in mastery. I don’t really care what my score is unless it’s good and if it’s not, I’m willing to wait out the process because I find it more fascinating than anger.
So the thing that I was most satisfied with today was that although I had reflexive negative reactions to wayward shots, they were mere flickers and then completely gone. I have patiently trained myself. In other words, I did not get angry at myself getting angry.
And as important, I did not allow this day to become a proxy for all the glorious golf that had come before it. It was just one of those days the golf gods give us so that we can better appreciate the glory.
And neither was I embarrassed. Over what? Where a golf ball ends up?
We are all much bigger than that.