"It ain't over till it's over." - Yogi Berra.
In professional golf, technically, you are not done until you sign the scorecard. We rarely see that on TV. What we always see on TV is a player finishing his round by holing the putt.
Usually, a professional golfer does not make mistakes on the 18th hole, resulting in a big score or outrightly losing a tournament. So when it happens, it becomes a teaching moment not only in golf but in what we do as professionals.
So let's take a look at two examples of collapses on the 18th hole at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. One was at the recent U.S. Open, and the other one was at the last U.S. Open.
In the third round of the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, one player did not finish well on the 18th hole. Danny, from New Zealand, six-putted the last hole to get a nine on a par four 18th hole.
If you watch the video, you will see that Lee completely lost his concentration when he missed the first putt that was only four feet away for a par. Pros usually don't miss a four-foot putt. Lee then proceeded to miss a few more putts. At worse, he should have walked away with a bogey, which is a good score on the difficult 18th hole. With a bogey, he would have finished with an excellent score of 74. That is a very good score at this venue since only a handful will shoot par or below. Instead he ended up with a score of 78. These were not hard putts for a pro of Lee's caliber, but he just lost his concentration and subsequently his cool. He like Roberto Duran probably said as he was leaving the putting green "No Mas, No Mas," and withdrew from the tournament.
You rarely, if ever, see a pro like Lee miss six putts when the first putt is only four feet away. He is a professional golfer and knows how to finish a round well. We can all learn from his experience in the importance of finishing smart and strong. You are close to the finish line, but you have not crossed it so you have to stay in the game with your game face on. And this is no different when we are working on a project or a business deal. You have to close it out well.
Lee realized later that he let himself, his fans and sponsors down with the way he exited the tournament. He apologized saying, "It was very unprofessional and foolish... My frustration took over me and combined with injury I had to fight with it all week. … I shouldn’t have left it like that.” That was the right thing to do, as a start. But he has a lot of work to do before people forget this incident. Yes, we are all humans, but people don't expect that from professionals. You are paid to get the job done as best as you can no matter how you are feeling or how well you are doing.
Not finishing smart can even happen to great golfers like Phil Mickelson. Mickelson had a major disaster on the 18th hole in the final round of the 2006 U.S. Open played at Winged Foot. He double-bogeyed the 18th hole to lose the tournament. All Mickelson had to do was par this hole with a good golf club selection to win the tournament. But he elected to use a driver and sliced it that started his problem on that hole that you can see in the video.
Mickelson was having a hard time keeping his drives on the narrow fairways at Winged Foot, so the smart decision on this final hole was to use a long iron or fairway wood to keep the ball on the fairway. Then hit another long iron to put the ball on the green and two putts for par and win the tournament. But that is not what happened. Mickelson did not finish well and lost. He was cool, but he made a terrible decision off the tee. And he paid dearly for it.
In 2020 Mickelson did not get a chance to redeem himself since he did not make the cut. You must capitalize on your opportunity when it presents itself since you don't know whether you will ever get another chance again.
Both these examples show that whatever you do, you have to keep your focus and finish strong. These two players are professionals, and we can learn that being a professional means having good concentration and keeping your cool since a lot of money is riding on decisions you make, whether it's golf or business.
Jay Oza is an author, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on high stakes stage whether it's for a job interview, a sales presentation or a high-stakes speech. He is the author of a practical book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. You can get this book on Amazon for 99 cents for a limited time. Please download the free speech checklist that you can use to help you create a winning speech for any situation.
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