Learning From Adversity

The third round of the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, proved that we’re never in control as much as we think we are. On “moving day,” everyone but one guy got smacked in the mouth by Mother Nature.

The wind was howling into the thirties by some accounts, it was switching directions and there was even some rain. One player said that it was the most wind he’d played in since a day in Ireland when he was 14 years old. The Tour reported that the 3rd round scoring average was a full 2.6 strokes over par making it the second toughest round on tour this year.

On a day when everyone intended to position themselves for Sunday’s home stretch, only Scott Brown managed a very good round. Brown shot 5-under, 67, with no bogeys. That round was so good, the next best was a 3-under, two 2-unders, four 1-unders; a total of just eight guys under par in a sixty-man field. Brutal.

That round managed to move Brown to T2 just one stroke back of leader Jason Kokrak who is at 7-under. But for Brown, the best move came in the projected Top 25 money list: he moved from 21st to a projected 7th. All he needs to do is move with the field on Sunday and he’ll be living large on the PGA Tour with a low seed for the beginning of next year.

As I pointed out yesterday, Daniel Chopra had that same opportunity Saturday after Friday’s 10-under 62, but he wasn’t able to manage it. He shot 5-over 77 and his projected finish fell accordingly from 5th to 21st. He’s still improved on his initial 24th, but you hate to have to work so hard for it when you’ve come all this way.

The same thing happened to Brett Wetterich who shot 9-over and fell from a projected 24th down to 26th. So he’s still alive. Same for Darron Stiles whom I also featured yesterday. He went from 30th to 25th and back to 30th again with his 5-over.

So what do you do when you face that kind of adversity? As to the weather, for PGA Tour veteran Ken Duke it was all about attitude. “This was a really fun day. My caddie and I agreed to stay patient and it paid off. I have to admit, it has been hard for me to be patient, but for the last two to three weeks, it has really been fun. It’s been the way it’s supposed to be.” He was one of the 2-unders.

But as to seeing your whole life flashing before your eyes, it begins by seeing that everything that happens to you has a purpose, a life’s lesson. So if the wind howls when it shouldn’t be, you accept it. If it rains when it hasn’t rained in three weeks, you accept it. Because in that acceptance is the freedom to then relax and do what you have to do. It the end, it’s all about being free enough to allow yourself to succeed.

Second, you have to see yourself as capable. You have to know in your heart that, “I’ve done this before, I can do it again.” Or in the early going, “I haven’t done this before but I know that I can.” Self-belief crowds out fear, that’s why it’s so important. It’s one of the reasons that fledgling Tour players speak of getting to a point where, “I know I belong out here.” This is very subtle work that you have to do with yourself. It’s one thing to be imagining your greatness in the hotel the night before, you also have to practice recovering that sense of yourself when you can actually smell the grass. The great players never let a bad shot or bad hole dislodge them from their sense of themselves.

So an entire season comes down to Sunday. Can you ignore the import of the moment and keep your wits about you? Can you just play golf? Can you just pick a target, imagine a shot to hit to that target and then just hit that shot?

In the end, that’s all the game is about.

All the rest is just the conversations of our minds.

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