Playing With A Blank Slate

In yesterday’s post, “Crowding Out Reality,” I closed with this:

So the winner this year will be the player who is able to maintain an expansive mindset that allows him to move beyond everything the Masters means to what the Augusta National golf course is. Under intense pressure, can you look at what’s before you, see all its subtlety and nuance and pull off the shot? Again? And again?

Two guys were able to do that in yesterday’s first round, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, and both of them were somewhat surprising.

Fun loving, good guy McIlroy finished 20th in his first trip to Augusta, but missed the cut last year. So with all the tradition and lore of the Masters, it was astonishing to see him waltz around the course with a 7-birdie, 65 and not a bogey on the card.

In monster driving Quiros’ case, he’s also made two previous trips to the Masters, but missed the cut both times and the best round he could manage was 75. Three of them and a 78 to kick it off. So even though he’s had 5 European Tour wins, it was almost shocking that he was able to tame his stratospheric length to also shoot 65. And he did that with 8 birdies. Imagine that: on one of the hardest, most inscrutable courses the Tour plays, he birdied almost half of the holes.

The only way it was possible for these guys to do this from a mastery point of view was to come to the table with a blank slate; no history, no preconceived notions, no fear. It is a mind state that allows you to just be with what is: where do I hit this tee shot and hit it there; what part of the green to I need to hit and hit it there; trust that I can hang this big-breaking putt way out there and then do it. It makes you calmly giddy when you can play like that. The occasional errant shot is not all that annoying because you can’t wait kick the cruise control back in on the next shot. It’s the Zone.

So it will very interesting to see if they start thinking about it today. Or will they be able to bring the blank slate and joy with them again?

They’ll need to do that. Korea’s Y.E. Yang, winner of the 2009 PGA Championship, and K.J. Choi, 7-time winner on the Tour, both shot 67. Yang posted first with an eagle and 6 birdies against 3 bogeys. Choi had 7 birdies against just two bogeys. If these two guys tidy things us a bit—with excellent first round results that could relax them totally—they could really light it up.

Ah, the ridiculously sublime Masters.

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