The 2021 US Open came down to two players: Jon Rahm from Spain and Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa.
Jon Rahm played well but needed to make a difficult birdie on the 17th hole and 72nd hole. He did and led by one stroke.
Louis Oosthuizen could beat Rahm if he duplicated that feat or, worse, tied Rahm into a two-hole playoff.
Golf is cruel since good, and bad things happen on the finishing holes of a tournament, which is typically 71st hole and 72nd hole.
Rahm played these two holes flawlessly and put himself in a position to make two birdie putts to lead the tournament.
The only player who could beat Rahm or tie him was Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen made two big mistakes from the tee that cost him the tournament. On the 17th hole, he hit his drive out of bounds. Oosthuizen had to take a penalty and proceeded to bogey the hole. If he had hit the ball on the fairway or even put the ball in the rough on the right side, he would have walked away, at worse, with a par. The one place he could not hit it was on the left, and that's where he hit his tee shot. This one mistake cost him the tournament.
On the 18th hole, he hit a drive into the rough. He could not go for the green in two. He had to lay up and try to make an impossible eagle from about 70 yards out. He did get the ball close and birdied the hole and lost by one stroke.
The final score indicates that it was very close. But it wasn't since the drive on the 17th decided the tournament. Once Oosthuizen hit it out of bounds, he had no chance to win.
So what's the lesson here?
You must get off to a great start that puts you in a position to win. This means in a tournament and even every hole you play. Rahm did that and won. Oosthuizen didn't and lost.
To play well in golf, you must hit the drive in the fairway. Then you must hit the next shot on the green. If you do, then you can walk away with a par. But you are also putting yourself in a position to get a birdie. This sounds simple, but you will pay if you don't do that sooner or later. And this is what happened to Oosthuizen on the 17th hole.
Oosthuizen played well, but it came down to one mistake. If he makes par on that hole, he would have most likely tied Rahm and anything could happen in a playoff.
To win a US Open, you not only have to be a complete player, which all pros are, but you have to execute when it matters. That's what separates the winner from the rest. And that's why John Rahm is the 2021 Men's US Open Champion. He could execute on Sunday when others could not. That is the difference between winning and losing at a highly competitive event.
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