Who Will Blink First?

One of the things that the PGA Tour was pretty good about was distributing the stars on the Tour through the pairing sheets for crowd control purposes. I mean, can you imagine the crowd jams if they paired superstar, Phil Mickelson, the flamboyant, Bubba Watson and the elegant swinging, Bill Haas together? Well, imagine no more. They’re doing it now. That was an actual pairing at last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The Tour has decided that the excitement for fans of seeing genteel, mano a mano pairings is worth the possible traffic jams on the course. And it worked out last week.

This week, the European Tour jumps into the fray with the pairing of pairings for the first two rounds at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Are you ready? The numbers one, two and three players in the World Rankings, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods.

Here’s why this will be very interesting: Westwood and Woods have a lot of baggage.

Westwood shot out of 2010 as the number one player in the world. In chronological order, with a 3rd at the Qatar Masters and 2nd at the Dubai Desert Classic, The Masters, the British Open, the WGC in Shanghai and 3rd at the season-ending Dubai World Championship, it was hard to argue against the computer’s math.

But 2011 is a different story. He made €4,600 ($6,300) for his 64th at the season-opening Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship…and that’s it. He missed the cut (77th) at the Qatar Masters and this week will be his third tournament of the year.

Tiger Wood’s baggage is all too well known. Most of the sordid personal stuff has settled in the dust of “old news,” but his attempt to make a third significant swing change has not. His long winter layoff from his early December Chevron World Challenge—where he lost in a dramatic playoff to Graeme McDowell—to his late January debut at the Farmers Insurance in La, Jolla, a favorite course of his to win on, produced a mere T44, $18,000 and images of him incessantly fighting and practicing his swing.

Now truth be told, all this shadow boxing with his swing between shots is a pretty good indication that Tiger has ego needs just like the rest of us, “See it’s not me. It’s the new swing I’m working on. As anyone can see from these practice swings, I know what I’m doing. I just can’t quite get it to repeat yet.”

Martin Kaymer, on the other hand, seems to have no such issues, emerging into the new year with a dominant, 8-shot win over Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi (where Westwood was 64th). He did only manage a more humanlike 28th in Qatar, but that was due primarily to a first round 77 in cold, high winds and on greens everyone complained about.

My money would be on Kaymer in the grouping. Aside from his distinguished record and recent dominant win, here’s a pull-quote from him on the pairing from the European Tour’s website:

“I’ve never played with Tiger Woods before,” he said. “Of course I’ve met him but I don’t know how it is to play with him, so it will be nice.  It will be great for the tournament, having the top three playing on Thursday and Friday.  So I look forward to it.
“I think we shouldn’t really see it as a rivalry.  We are out here to have fun and play good golf and show the people that we do our job with passion and love.  It’s not about winning or losing in the end of the day.  It’s about challenging each other and having fun.”

In my October 5th 2010 post about Hunter Mahan’s loss of the final match at the Ryder Cup, “Looking Into Consciousness,” I wrote about the deepening levels of consciousness that finally culminates in love:

Sliding further up the consciousness scale moves us to the deepest level of our essence, to love. To love because God is love, we are “of” God and therefore we are love too. Love is at the core of who we are. It’s why we cry at weddings, the birth of a child, the national anthem. Imagine further that Hunter was able to transcend bliss and play his shot in a state of love: love for every other spirit in the gallery, love for everyone else he knew to be on the golf course, love for the hundreds of millions watching on television around the world and, yes, love for himself.

When you can operate in the world in love with everyone else because you know that, with all our human foibles, you are them and they are you, you have nothing to fear. In the absence of fear, it is difficult for the egoic mind to disrupt the moment.

So when I see a player like Kaymer with soaring talent, a gentle smile and talking about love, I gotta go with love.

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