Falling Off The Edge

After a great day Thursday at the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, Georgia, Zack Miller and Martin Piller fell off the edge. The two of them set the house on fire, Miller shot 7-under and was tied for the lead. Piller bogeyed 18 and still shot 6-under and was T3.

This was perfect for them because they were both in a deep hole. Miller is 146 on the money list and Piller is 202. As is true for everyone who doesn’t have some other exemption (e.g., a victory in the last 2 years, a victory in a major in the last 5), both need to get to 125 to keep their Tour cards.

They both fell off their edge on Friday. Miller shot 4-over, 74 and fell to T27. At least he’s still in the game. Piller shot 8-over, 78 and missed the cut by 3. His only shot at his card is to win at Disney next week. If not, back to Q-School where he will have six rounds with no cut to get into the top 25.

Some would argue that they both choked. It certainly looks like a classic collapse. But both of these guys have successfully played high level professional golf. It’s possible that they choked, but I don’t think so.

I think it is the quite common affliction of shooting a very low round and then trying to do what you did the day before to replicate it. I remember the first time I shot par; the next day I shot 82. It happens all the time.

Why that happens is that on the day you shoot a low number, it just sort of comes upon you. You don’t start out expecting something like that, you just hope that you’ll have a “good” round. You frequently hear Tour pros talking about a certain hole triggering the whole thing; it happened to Billy Horschel today. He’s leading the tournament because, after bogeying 13 and falling to 2-under on his round, he got to 15 and went eagle, birdie, par, birdie to wind up 6-under, 12-under total and with a 2-shot lead.

I played well. I tried not to make too many mistakes, tried to put the ball on the green, tried not to short-side yourself. It’s just you take your wind — you try not to fight the wind too much when it’s blowing this hard. You try to use it as much of your friend as possible and let it help you out as much as possible, and I did a pretty good job of that today.

Translation? He was just minding his own business trying to get around the course as efficiently as possible. He wasn’t staring down the pins. He wasn’t grimacing with determined effort. He wasn’t filled with daring do and cavalierly shooting at every pin. In short, he just fell into the calm mindset that descends on you when you become mesmerized by what you’re trying to do.

You don’t even realize that you’re mesmerized, you just kind of know that things are working out a little better than normal, a little easier than normal. You get into the cocoon. You realize this after the round when you begin to come out of it. As the layers of your fascination begin to peel back to reality, you can sometimes see how deep the experience really was.

The problem is that even so, it generally isn’t stark enough to hit you over the head. “Eureka! I’ve finally figured out the secret to the game!” If it was, players who had that kind of experience during the first round would be trying to replicate that level of consciousness rather than trying to reprise the swing thought they thought was the reason for their success. The swing thought might have been a contributing factor, but it was the level of consciousness that was the enabler. It allowed for the genius in each of us to come to the fore.

And so Miller and Piller fell for it. They tried to do what they thought got them their first round scores rather than being experienced enough to find their way back to the way of being that actually did. It isn’t until the dust has settled on the carnage of the effort that you realize that that wasn’t it. Most are quietly dismayed that the swing move didn’t work; surely it would work, it worked yesterday.

It wasn’t the swing move.

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