Falling Into Place

There is a phenomenon in life where everything just suddenly falls into place. You’re working very hard, you’re enduring stress, you maybe even have significant financial rewards as your goal.

As you creep closer to your goal, there is a narrowing of your focus and your sensory awareness becomes sharper, crisper. There is a swelling in your consciousness that something’s going to happen. You can watch your life go by in the periphery, but your focus is inside the timeline of your pursuit. But maybe even that isn’t quite right towards the end: as you get right up to it, it’s almost like time stands still.

When all of your senses are jacked up like that, when your vision seems to constantly hang right out there in front of your mind’s eye, setbacks are not so troublesome. Circumstances may look like things are drifting away from you, but by that point you’ve become a believer. You know it’s going to happen and it will recycle back your way. It’s called sustaining the vision.

When you are unable to sustain the vision, it’s never going to happen, because the vision is like a carrot. The vision orders everything, it drives everything, it’s the fuel for the effort required to reach it.

When you watch world class tennis players play a match, you can tell when the “loser” knows he’s going to lose. The heart kind of goes out of him. Both players came to the court with the intention and vision of winning, one guy just isn’t able to sustain the vision in the face of the unfolding evidence of the game. The truly great matches occur when both players sustain the vision right down to the last point in the tie breaker. The “loser” in those matches wasn’t really a loser, there were just two back-to-back points that caused him to run out of opportunities to win more points.

This is what happened to Scottsdale, Arizona’s, Bubba Watson today coming down the home stretch at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Now Bubba may not verbalize it quite that way, but I promise that’s what happened.

Playing in the next to last group with last week’s winner at the Bob Hope Classic, Jhonattan Vegas, it was a classic. The rookie was supposed to fold and it was very unlikely that he would win back-to-back tournaments…especially in just his third tournament since he won his Tour card last fall. But at 6’ 2” tall and 230 pounds, Vegas seemed a relentless force of nature. He averaged 307 accurate yards off the tee, hit 83% of the greens (15) in regulation and made putt after putt after putt. It looked like Bubba was going to have his hands full. And you could tell by his step that the kid was a believer.

And with Bubba sitting on a one-shot lead on the 18th tee, Vegas seemed an even bigger threat. The par-5, 572 yard 18th was reachable in two shots by all of the longer players in the field and he’d been doing it all day long. But Bubba had his own length in his arsenal; he was averaging over 312 yards off the tee (and ended up being number one in that stat for the week).

Driving first, Vegas hit it in the first cut of rough on the right hand side of the fairway. Bubba followed with one of his prodigious cut shots that settled in the fairway out in front of Vegas. But Vegas only had a 5-iron left; everybody’s thinking he’d hit his customary shot close to the pin and make the putt for eagle. He hit it a smidge scruffy, but you could tell by his face he liked it in the air. “Come on ball!” he encouraged it. And then more insistently, “Come on!” And again…all the way until it splashed in the pond fronting the green. The air whooshed out of him…and us.

Bubba turned to the matter of his shot and while he surely must have been relieved that Vegas had no way to make eagle, there was the matter of the group behind him on the tee…with Phil Mickelson just one stroke behind. “Geez! Just how much do I have to deal with?”

And with that, Bubba, the master shot shaper, blew his shot into the left hand bunker. It was a big miss. But Phil couldn’t take advantage and faded his tee shot deep into the left hand rough…blocked by a tree. We still had no idea who was going to win this thing!

Bubba gets into the bunker and has to aim away from the pin hoping the slope of the green would take it down to the pin more slowly than aiming straight at it. It did, but he left himself a little over 12 feet for birdie.

Meanwhile, Phil lays up.

And then, like the ball had eyes, Bubba cozies the ball down those last 12 feet and into the hole. For birdie. Forcing Phil to make his shot from the fairway for eagle to tie.

Phil actually walked all the way up to the green from his layup shot and began to stalk the around the green as if he was lining up a putt. Just where did he want it to land beyond the hole so that it would spin back down the slope and into the hole? He send Bones, his caddie, up to the green to tend the flag…from seventy-three yards out! He said later that he hits about a dozen pins a year with his wedges and he didn’t want it to get in the way if it happened again. His intention was to make it on the fly and if it didn’t, to spin back and into the hole.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
It’s Scottsdale, Arizona, mighty Bubba had won out. *

Congratulations, Bubba. Way to hang in there.

* With a tip of the hat to Ernest Lawrence Thayer and his classic, “Casey at the Bat.”

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