Honoring The Possibility Of People

A sad state of affairs began to develop on Twitter about midway through Saturday’s third round at the PGA Championship played this year at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia.

As all the veteran name players fired and fell back during the course of events, the golf media guys grew restless. Brendan Steele? Jason Dufner? Keegan Bradley? When is the real tournament going to begin? Where’s Phil? Where’s Luke Donald? Where’s Lee Westwood? Adam Scott? And who the hell are these pretenders? This is so boring.

To be fair, they never used Steele’s, Dufner’s or Bradley’s names, but those were the guys who were leading at the time. One assured a “bored” tweeter that he didn’t need to worry, the top five guys on the leaderboard would be disappearing soon. They began to make fun of Dufner’s appearance and subdued demeanor. Injured Tour player, Arron Oberholser, began to chastise them and to defend “my fellow pros.” They continued to amuse themselves at the expense of their victims. One tweeted, “Worst…Major…Leaderboard…Ever.”

This is a prime example of unconsciousness masquerading as clever repartee. Amusing themselves with their wit and criticism, they lost track of what they were actually doing, discounting the possibility of five human beings who were playing their hearts out, five human beings who had the same hopes and dreams as everyone else in the field, five human beings who worked for it just as hard as everyone else in the field.

Aside from how rudely dismissive this was, it also has a deleterious effect on those who would engage in this kind of behavior. Why? Because if they are willing to traffic in these sorts of merciless attacks on others, then surely they must be on guard against others who would do the same to them.

The consequence of this is that instead of being able to be present to whatever their task might be—whether it’s writing or gourmet cooking or playing golf—their consciousness will constantly be partitioned to be on guard for attacks against them. So instead of paying full attention to the task, they are constantly looking over their shoulders.

To inoculate themselves against these imagined attacks, they invest energy and attention in falsely ingratiating themselves with others: “Gotta be one of the boys,” they tell themselves. All the while, their task receives less of them than it deserves. And they end up the losers: (1) the task cannot be as good as it could have been had they invested all of themselves in it, and, (2) their cynical distrust of others leaves them jaded and robs them of experiencing their true essence.

Meanwhile, Steele, Dufner and Bradley were completely invested in their tasks and were completely oblivious to all of this. How do we know? Because under the intense pressure of having a chance to win a major, they all played exceptionally well. They couldn’t have been thinking of anything else.

Steele is the co-leader with Dufner at 7-under par. He made a double-bogey on the par3 7th and a bogey on 18, but he also had seven birdies to shoot 4-under. He proved the old adage of sage old tour pros, “You can make messes, you just gotta clean them up.” Steele was the winner in San Antonio this year in extremely windy conditions. And this is what he said in that post-round interview:

So I decided on this trip that I was just going to try to hit every shot as good as I could and not care about the outcome and, you know, just move forward if something bad happens, because that’s usually in every round of golf, you’re going to have something not go the way you wanted it to.

Dufner was in a 2-hole playoff that he lost to Mark Wilson in Phoenix. So you would probably think, “Well, obviously not good enough. Who is Wilson again?” But what you would miss is the lesson that Dufner took away from almost pulling it off:

To be honest with you, this is a course that I never really thought I could compete on. History on this golf course is a lot of long-ball hitters. Mark and myself probably aren’t the longest, but we’re probably not the shortest. But to be able to compete and be at the top of the field for the week is good, so it’s definitely a good momentum [builder].

And since the length at Atlanta Athletic has been a hot topic all week, look who’s already had a good experience in dealing with a lengthy course. But you’d never know that just looking at his appearance and subdued demeanor.

And Keegan Bradly, geez. Just one stroke back, he comes out of the box with a double-bogey on the 1st and has it all cleaned up and he’s 1-under by the 6th. He gave it back with a bogey on 7 and then got it back with a birdie on 12. And he played even par the rest of the way in. But that doesn’t really do justice to it. Because of his length, he had to hit 3-wood off the tee on 18. That left him well back on his second shot—I seem to remember something over 220 yards—and he just ripped a 6-iron right at the pin which was sitting hard by the greenside pond. And that ball landed between the water and the pin and rolled just beyond the hole. And the thing I remember the most was the same fierce look I had seen in his face Friday and his complete absorption in what he was doing. But if you had dismissed him because of the skimpiness of his resume, you might never have seen that or his great shot.

Now it is possible that all three of these guys will fold Sunday and one of the stars who is supposed to win will do so. Steve Stricker is 3 back;, David Toms, Charl Schwartzel and Adam Scott, 5; and Nick Watney, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk, 6. All of these guys are very experienced in what it takes to allow themselves to shoot a very low round when they need to.

But because I always champion the possibility of other human beings—“Yes! You can do it!”—I think the winner will come from the top three.

But I would be just as happy with whomever does win…because I believe in and always celebrate the possibility of other human beings.

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