J.B. Holmes: Demonstrating the Attitude of Acceptance

J.B. Holmes managed to get through the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the legendary Blue Monster at Doral with his lead from the first round intact. It just went from four strokes down to two. His chaser from the first round, Ryan Moore, shot 1-under, 71 and went to 7-under and Holmes shot 1-over, 73 and slipped back to 9-under. But a lead by any other name is still a lead.

However, it’s not quite that simple. He shot 10-under, 62 the first round in a display that nobody else could match and nobody thought was possible given the blustery conditions. Moore was the closest. But when you shoot a really low round like that, the first thing that pops into your head is, “How am I going to match that? I may have looked great for a day, but will I be able to keep up appearances?” 

That is, of course, the raging hormones of the ego. Tour players may be a little more sanguine about that because they are confronted with it on such a regular basis. They know how hard it is to back-to-back great rounds. So they have learned to condition the listening of others by revealing that 62s a day apart probably aren’t going to happen. While they allow it as a possibility, they don’t make any promises.

And when they shoot 62, 73 as Holmes did today, they are nonplussed by it. They were afraid that that’s what might happen anyway, so they just accept it and go on. And the other thing that they accept is that in spite of their very best efforts and a similar display of golf skills, sometimes things just don’t go your way the next day when absolutely everything did the first. It is a very fine line between the two:

Describes this golf course.  I really didn’t play that — I hit a lot of great shots today.  I didn’t make as many putts.  I didn’t putt as well, but you know, I missed maybe two or three swings yesterday and they ended up being okay and missed two or three swings today and they went in the water.

So it’s just kind of one of those things.  Overall, played great.  Was right there.  So still in the lead, so couldn’t have been that bad.

Complete acceptance, however, is not all that easy. It was those three water balls that got him. He felt that it was the design of the course and not his play.

Well, you don’t expect them to, but I hit two perfect shots on 1 and it went in the water.  So I guess if you hit two perfect shots and it’s able to go in the water, I guess you should expect a few.

So it’s pretty bad that you can hit two perfect shots and the ball can go in the water because of just a ridiculous green design that’s really just terrible.  The shape of the green is fine, but it’s not that wide anyways.  And why you would put a giant hump in the middle of it to make a ball go in the water is — it’s stupid.  Golf course is hard enough.  You don’t have to do that.

Uh, oh. Possible fine alert. Before the redesign, he felt that Doral was easy. But then he went on:

Well, there’s a difference between easy and hitting two perfect shots and the ball going in the water.  That’s a joke.  I hit one, I hit a 350‑yard drive and hit a 6‑iron straight up in the air, and it landed three feet off the left edge of the green and five feet on it and it goes in the water on the right side of the green.  I mean, that’s not hard.  That’s stupid.  That’s unfair.

Backing up a really low round is an age old set of golf circumstances. People are always asking Tour players how they do it. Is it some sort of mind-set change?

No mind‑set change.  Just the same thing, just go out and do my routines and hit my shots and see what happens at the end.  So I mean, that’s all I can control.  I had a lot of fun today and that was what I was focusing on.  All I can control is that and I can’t control if the ball bounces in the water.

So I did the stuff that I can control, and you know, it was a good day.  I hit a lot of great shots, and you know, just at the end, the score, like I said, not much difference between this round and yesterday in my opinion.  So easily could have been — easily could have shot 6‑under today.  So just shows how difficult this course is and how you can get a couple bad breaks and make some numbers.

And sometimes it’s your own damned fault, like when he hit a bad tee shot into the water on the 12th:

Yeah, you know, that was one of my bad swings for the day.  Like I said, I didn’t have too many.  Just got into the water there.  I was able to get a pretty good drop and hit a 5‑wood.  I was trying to get it past the pin so I could chip down to that but hit it in that bunker.

Luckily it kind of got on the upslope so I could hit a little bit softer and hit a great bunker shot to about eight feet and made a good putt.

There is the subtlest of things that made that improbable par possible, his acceptance of that tee shot, whatever the outcome, in the moment. Turned out that it got wet; so be it. Move on. Deal with the next shot. You can’t do anything about the past anyway.

He finished his round with a double bogey on 18, surely there must be some frustration with that hole. Nope just more acceptance:

I’m not frustrated with the last hole.  It’s a tough hole.  There’s a bunch of great players who made a double on that one today.  It’s just part of it.  I was happy — the stuff I could control today:  I had a lot of fun out there with my buddy and played and made some good swings.

What makes golf such a mysterious joy is that there are those fine lines between great and poor. Logic tells us that if you produce a similar effort, you should have a similar result. Golf isn’t always that way…and the Tour players have learned that acceptance of that simple fact is best chance for it to go the other way the next time:

You know, the score is just, you know, just something — you can’t describe your round if you put everything on the score. Then golf’s not going to be much fun, because it’s difficult.

I was just trying to go out there and have a good time and whatever the score is, it is.

Easier perhaps for him to say because his skill gives him many more chances for the repeat scoring we all hope for. But that doesn’t disqualify him from the sample. And he’s certainly a good example of how you can accept your way to a salvaged round and live to fight another day.

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