Eyes In The Back of Your Head

Normally when you get into your playing mode, the goal is to stay focused on the matter at hand, golfing your ball. Some guys around the cut line—low 70 players and ties—will peek at the leaderboard to see where they are, see how they’re doing. But it’s a little more complicated this week at the Farmers Insurance Open played at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

It’s complicated because it’s not just one course, it’s two. Each player plays the North Course one day and the South Course the other day. After the cut, all the rounds get played on the storied South Course, site of the 2008 US Open that Tiger Woods won on one leg.

You have the same sort of issue in Palm Springs last week at the Bob Hope Classic where they play on four courses, but that cut doesn’t come until after the fourth round, each of the courses demands low scores in those perfect conditions, and the players mindset is that it all evens out over time.

But in La Jolla, the North course has traditionally been easier than the more robust South. So if you didn’t do too well on the North your first day, how do you make up ground on the harder South? Conversely, if you didn’t do well on the South, can you beat up the North like most of the field does? How much do you have to press? How much should you gamble?

So as you play your second round today, if you’re leaderboard watching and you see the field streaking away from you, you have to factor in which course the guys around you are on and whether their course difficulty will work in your favor or in theirs. Now you probably don’t do this during the course of the round, but I promise you that after yesterday’s rounds, everybody saw that the preponderance of the low scores on the leaderboard were shot on the North.

The Tour tried to make the North more difficult by narrowing the fairways to US Open width (22 yards in places) and growing the rough. And that was exacerbated by the fact that many of the fairways slope one way or the other to the rough. So not only do you need to hit a skinny fairway, you have to it the high side of the skinny fairway to ensure that your ball stays in the fairway. In spite of that, first round tournament leader and rookie, Sunghoon Kang, shot an 8-under, 64.

A quick look at the leaderboard at this writing has 30 players two shots outside of the projected cut line of 1-under par. There are 13 of them are on the more difficult South Course. It helps that using two courses allows the entire field to play morning tee times, so the early/late tee time draw isn’t an issue; everybody’s playing together. But some will have eyes in the back of their heads most of the day.

The leaders don’t think like that. They don’t even think about it. They go out and shoot the lowest scores they can regardless of where they stand. They know that they can’t do one thing about what another player is doing, they can only control what they’re doing. Their humanity may cause their minds to drift to it in idle moments, but they let it go and get back to what they’re working on.

There are a whole lot of such situations in life.

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