Are you kidding me, Tiger?
I love the game of golf. Every golfer knows the joke, “Golf is like sex… You can enjoy it even if you’re bad at it.” The joke was good till I got this comeback, “Yeah, unless you’re the partner.”
Whether it is the most difficult of sports could be a matter of debate. Whether it is the most mentally demanding, fans could disagree. But on Saturday at Torrey Pines, few would argue that there could be anything more dramatic than a US Open involving a player by the name of Tiger Woods.
Limping around the 18-holes with an injured knee, Tiger sprayed his tee-shots to areas of the course that the sprinklers didn’t reach, yet hit one miraculous recovery shot after another, and then made seemingly impossible putts. The NBC broadcasters commented that one player would be lucky to have as many highlights in his life time as Tiger had on Saturday.
There is no doubt he is special golfer, and a special person. His father, Earl, had drilled into Tiger from his youthful days that there will never be a person who will be mentally tougher than Tiger. Two years ago, even the iron-willed Tiger Woods was unable to recover from the shock of his father's death, missing the cut of the US Open for the first time in his career. This year, can his mental toughness overcome his weakened knee?
Golf is such a wonderful sport, not just because of Tiger, the US Open, the drama, or the great shots. The game so closely reflects real life or even real business world. It has great lessons to teach, and I love to use them in my classes or with my clients. To demonstrate the need for risk management, I simply ask my students what club they would choose to hit off the 18th tee of a US Open with a 3-shot lead v. with a 1-shot deficit. To demonstrate that business and golf mirror each other, I ask them to look at what happened to a firm like Bear Sterns which made one bad gamble, erasing 80+ years of consistent performance, and to Phil Mickelson’s 13th hole performance, where he took a 9, erasing himself from contention. One bad mistake can erase all the great things you do.
You can get lucky, like Woods on the 17th hole where a chip shot hit too hard struck the flag-pole and then landed into the hole. You can get lucky, and then be good, like Woods was on the 13th hole, where his wayward tee-ball landed so far right that there was no rough, then hitting a perfect 5-iron, followed by a perfect putt from 75-feet away. Being lucky and good is a tough combination to beat, whether in golf or in business.
Maybe Woods will win tomorrow; maybe he won’t. But he certainly brought drama to the US Open, and taught us all another important lesson in life (and work).
In order to perform miracles, you first have to show up.