Harrison Frazar’s discovery that, “…if I would just relax and quit thinking about things too hard, there’s some pretty good stuff underneath there,” paid big dividends yesterday. He beat Robert Karlsson in a three-hole playoff to finally win his first tournament, the FedEx St. Jude Classic at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
It took him 13 years and 355 tournaments to do it. It was the first time he was finally able to pull together the accumulated wisdom of all his failures and losses. And it had to have been a treasure trove given how right up on the edge the entire day turned out to be. There was never any breathing room from the birdies they both made on the 1st hole until the par Frazar made on that last playoff hole to win it.
Everything seemed to shift for him from swing thoughts, compensations for physical maladies and intense, pressure-packed thinking to just relaxing and playing like he knew how.
I think it just shows you how sometimes when you let your guard down or you let your expectations soften, you can free yourself up. I talked to a bunch of people at home over the last month or so about my life after golf, and the reception was pretty warm. So it made me almost feel better about myself, where it made me realize I’m going to go play golf here the next month, the next two months, on my own terms and do it for me, not because I’m worried about trying to keep a medical exemption or trying to win a golf tournament or trying to make somebody proud, you know, whatever all the reasons are that people do things that are the wrong reasons.
But the two weeks before the Byron Nelson, I realized that I really enjoy playing golf when there’s not that kind of…pressure and heat and overanalyzing and overworking. When all that stuff is not on it, I really like this game and I started to play better. Even at home, I started hitting the ball more crisp, I started making putts. But if you would have asked me three weeks ago if I thought I would be sitting here right now, I would have told you absolutely not.
So, this…could not have happened if I was trying to win a golf tournament. It happened because I relaxed and I started playing golf and seeing the shots and just hitting it and just playing the game.
Q. You obviously seem like a very introspective person, is your predominant approach to things. How do you think this win – and it’s probably way too early for you to even answer the question or think about it, how do you think this win will impact that approach that you previously had to the game and your status on the PGA Tour?
Well, I don’t know the answer to that. I think that hopefully this will free me up to go out and play more for the pure love and the pure enjoyment of competing and playing golf, which is why we all get started in it.
I would be remiss if I were to say that this isn’t going to change my life. I heard [winner] David Toms say that at Colonial. David is a good, close friend. You know, whether or not he wins a golf tournament, yeah, it’s probably not going to change his life. This probably is going to change my life. It’s not going to change me, it’s not going to change my wife or my kids, but it’s probably going to change my life and the fact that I’ll be 40 in July. This will take me to 42 or 43.
But all of this almost didn’t happen. With a one-stroke lead playing the 18th, he hit it in the water. How could he have done that! Watching him playing at the time, he seemed to have his game really together. His swing seemed grooved, fearless and free. How could he have come all that way, been right on the brink of something so important to him and his family and then become so aggresive that he went for a pin that close to the water? What possessed him? Once again, we learn not to judge someone’s intent based on their results.
You know, I’m not really sure how it happened. I was comfortable with the yardage, I was comfortable with the club. I was comfortable with the target. I was trying to hit it inside right edge of the green, turn it to the center, try to get it 20 feet. Make sure I got it back up on top of that slope, kept it on the green, didn’t go over the back edge, get it pin high or past it so that there was – just putt it down the hill.
The ball was a little bit above my feet. I’m not giving excuses and the wind was right to left. I think I just didn’t allow for it enough. It felt like a good swing. The contact was solid, the ball started maybe 10 steps right of the flag and started turning. I was trying to start it 30 to 40 feet right of the flag, not 10, 15.
The shot really wasn’t – it wasn’t horrible, wasn’t like a nervous thing. There was no angst, no hurry up and get this over with. I was completely calm and lucid. Probably more so than I had been all today. I just hit a bad shot.
And I’d have to agree with him. At the time it seemed like an, “Oh, no! Not again!” moment. But he seemed very grounded and unfazed by the shot. There didn’t seem to be any worry or fear in his face up at the green. Perhaps it was because he was able to live what he called a cliché.
You ride waves. You go up and down while you’re out there. You just want the highs not to be too high and of course, cliche, you don’t want the lows to be too low.
One of the other themes working through his interview was not only how he was torn by wanting to be with his family, “You have to be selfish in this game [to have the time to realize your full potential]. I didn’t want to be selfish anymore,” but how down he got on himself when he just wasn’t able to live up to all of his playing promise. It was the reason that he sought out other job possibilities in the industry and was relieved and grateful when they were offered.
When things are struggling, okay, when things aren’t going good, you can get on a downward spiral sometimes. Sometimes it takes somebody outside that realm to say we believe in you, you’re valid, you’re worthwhile. And that makes everything start to rise back up again, and as quickly as you can get going down, you can go back up.
I think that having people that were outside of my immediate peer group and outside of my family saying that they believed in me was the difference.
Ultimately, of course, he will be able to move beyond these debilitating affairs of the ego just as he has moved beyond his winning barriers. He will be able to see his true value and worth in terms of his pure, spiritual essence and not necessarily have to rely on his false ego needs about what he’s done or what other people may think of him.
As Shaquille O’Neill once famously said in describing how he felt about the friction between Kobe Bryant and him, “I’m a nice guy. People like me. If you don’t like me, there’s something wrong with you.”