Courage and the Daisy Chain

I wrote in “The Daisy Chain” last Friday about Lucas Glover’s recent work on his swing changes and how you have to be careful when you tinker with your swing. When you start working on one thing, it is only one part of the integrated whole and usually has effects on other parts of the swing.

In that case, when he concentrated on getting the club pointed at the target at the top of his backswing, it changed where the clubhead was a impact. So to integrate the initial change he had to be mindful of the second one…which probably created a third and a fourth. It’s the daisy chain.

Well, guess what? Glover managed to win the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina in a one-hole playoff with his Clemson college teammate, Jonathan Byrd.

Which is pretty amazing because in his post-round interview, it turned out that he discovered a new swing key on Tuesday…which congealed in the Wednesday pro-am. Seems he got sick of looking at the weak fades he was hitting and suddenly noticed that his blade was open at address.

But it was interesting how he discovered it. He knew the blade had to be open to create those fades, but it looked square to him as he stood over the ball. But as he continued to sort through the issue, he discovered that the reason that it looked square to him was because his head had become cocked behind the ball at address. So once he stood up straight, he could see that the blade was open, he squared it up and, voila! Superstar again; the same guy who won the U.S. Open.

But this is all just technical, mumbo jumbo to get to the point of this post, courage.

As the final round was coming down the stretch it wasn’t clear who was going to win until the final hole. Rory Sabbatini had come roaring up the leaderboard with a 7-under 65 to post 14-under for the tournament. So that became the benchmark for those chasing in the final groups.

Bill Hass had it to 14-under on the 18th tee, but bogied the hole and he was done.

Glover got it to 15-under on 15, but that meant that he had to play the daunting “Green Mile,” 16, 17 and 18, in even par to beat Sabbatini’s clubhouse score. Including, for those who didn’t see it, the all carry over water, 227-yard, par 3 17th. Which he managed to do. But he scared the hell out of himself on 18 by hitting a rope hook that flew across the narrow creek that runs up the entire left side of the hole and high up into the gallery on the hillside.

What ensued was minutes with a rules official to properly place his ball after it rolled down the hill when the amused spectator whose butt it was resting behind was helped up. And then as he was getting ready to hit the shot, the ball rolled down the hill again on its own (he hadn’t grounded his club: no penalty, play it as it lies, the official ruled). But as distracting as all that was, he hit the shot just over the back of the green, hit a pretty little chip shot all the way back down the front left pin and made the putt for his par. He was now the leader in the clubhouse. Sabbatini was free to go to the media center and then the airport.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Byrd, got it to 14-under on the 14th and found himself standing on the 18th tee needing a birdie to get into a playoff. He made a beautiful little downhill putt and was in.

In the playoff, Byrd drew the number one tee shot and flared it into the right fairway bunker.

So there Glover was, standing on 18 with all these daisy chain changes to his swing muddling around in his mind and having to find a way to get the ball in play. Here’s what he had to say in his post-round interview:

Q. As the playoff started, Jonathan hits it in the sand the first shot, did that kind of let the pressure off a little bit?

I don’t think so because it was still a, I mean, the fairway was still [just] 24 yards wide or whatever. I knew if I hit a good shot I would have a leg up. Not to say that I was going to win right then, but I would have somewhat of an advantage. You know, I didn’t thump it, but I hit a nice shot, and luckily had a right to left wind, started just left of the bunker and drew a little bit. But [his shot] didn’t relieve [the pressure] completely because I just hit it 50 yards left 30 minutes before.

And so he summoned just enough courage to overcome the swing thoughts and the bad tee shot in regulation, winning the hole and the tournament.

Courage is often seen as bravery in the face of danger or, in golf, making a mistake that would lead to a loss. And it is.

But what it also is is being so engrossed in the moment that you are able put aside or ignore the dangers and just calmly (enough) pay attention to what you have to do…just like Lucas Glover. And as he demonstrated, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Congratulations, Lucas.

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