There’s an old saying in professional golf, “Every shot makes somebody happy.”
And that pertains to fairytales too. The most seductive thing about watching professional golf is that there’s almost always a fairytale ending. You just never know whose fairytale it will be.
The Women’s British Open
Sunday’s fairytale was supposed to belong to Germany’s, 22-year-old newcomer, Caroline Masson. She began the day with a 2-stroke lead and convincing confidence that she could win. It wasn’t hubris, it was just a knowing about who she was and what she was capable of. But after three holes, the day was headed for a train wreck.
She bogeyed 2 and 3, which were cautionary events. But when she bogeyed 7, her head went down and a pained grimace revealed her worst fears buried beneath her confidence. If you still believe and you are still confident, your facial expression remains passive because it’s just golf and mistakes happen. But when the fear rears up, so does the effort to make it go away and so does the tension. And unless you’ve been there before, realize what’s happening and get back to calm and peace, that’s the end.
She bogeyed 10, 11, double-bogeyed 12 and the cameras went looking for other stories. The bogey at 15 finished her coverage…and her worst fears: they’d already been realized so she might as well just play. In that relaxed state, she birdied 17 and 18 to close her day out and add a little salve to the wounds. In the light of day, she’ll come to see what a great learning experience it was. Final pairing on the final day of a major? Perfect.
The fairytale ended up belonging to World No. 1, Taiwan’s, Yani Tseng. Not only did she win by 4 over Brittany Lang, she affirmed that she is the queen of golf right now. And lest that imagery confuse you, there is nothing prissy about her; she is one tough competitor.
After making bogey on the 1st hole, she settled herself on the 3rd with a birdie and another on the 6th. From there she made four more birdies against just two bogeys for a net 3-under, 69 and 16-under for the tournament.
But the affirmation of her No. 1 ranking, the fact that this was her 5th major at only 22 ½ years old—the youngest to ever do so—and that she’s now won 7 times worldwide this year, was her fairytale ending…even though no one was the least bit surprised by her accomplishment.
The fairytale ending at the Greenbriar was supposed to belong to Anthony Kim. Fully recovered from his left wrist injury and surgery, he shot a brilliant 8-under 62 Saturday to go into Sunday’s final round with a 1-stroke lead. And given that he had done that, pressing deeper with his lead should have been a piece of cake since that lead was over rookie, Scott Stallings.
And Kim didn’t play all that badly. He didn’t make a bogey until 8 and another on 9. But with the field densely bunched, he at least needed to stay even or get just a couple under par to keep his 8-birdie momentum from Saturday percolating. In fact, had he played even he would have been the fourth in the eventual 3-way playoff. But two more bogeys sealed his T14 fate.
The fairytale ending belonged to Stallings even though he started out far worse than Kim. By the 9th hole, he was already 4-over on the day and the cameras weren’t covering either one of them. But then his caddie gave him a taste of the whip, “Finally we’re going to hit a fairway…we’re going to get back to even par and we’re going to have an opportunity to win the tournament.” And that’s exactly what happened. Actually, not exactly, he went one better and got it to 1-under on the day.
He birdied the first three holes on the back and the 5th and the 7th. But after a 30-minute wait on the par-5 17th, he hit his tee shot into the water hazard and made bogey. But he hit it to about 5 feet on the par-3 18th and made birdie to get into the playoff with Bill Haas and Bob Estes. And then he hit the exact same shot to 7 feet in the playoff and made the putt to win his first PGA Tour event.
Now that’s a fairytale ending.
The U.S. Senior Open
But only the third fairytale ending was foretold by Saturday night’s finish. Journeyman Olin Browne was able to extend his 2-shot lead to 3 by doing nothing more than shooting even par. He had a bogey on 8 and cleaned that up with a closing birdie on 18. His closest pursuer, Mark O’Meara, did his best to put pressure on him with birdies on 1, 4, and 6, but he also bogeyed 5 and 7 and then 13 and 16 on the back.
But the point to this championship is that if you start wandering mentally, it’s curtains; it’s over. And the thing that this championship does, whether it’s this one or the U.S. Open or any of the USGA events is it narrows your focus, and you’d better show up for the shot that you’re hitting. And if you start worrying about other stuff, you’re going to have a problem.
In that regard, I did a good job today because I didn’t get ahead of myself and I didn’t get frustrated, and I just knew that everybody was going to struggle today. I mean, it’s just that kind of a venue and that kind of a championship. So I was patient, and I managed to push through it.
And that, dear readers, in the world of mastery, is how you manufacture your own fairytale ending.