Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Learning From The Masters

If you watched golf on TV this weekend, you saw 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth essentially melt down on his last 9 holes in this year's Masters. He was leading at the time and his meltdown allowed the steadier British golfer Danny Willett to win.

John Farnam had some comments on what we could learn from this in his Farnam's Quips that were published yesterday. He has graciously given me permission to reprint it here.

“Positive outcomes don’t necessarily demonstrate superior play. Superior play will lead to positive outcomes more often than will poor play, but even poor players sometimes catch lucky.

It is when you confuse catching lucky with playing well, that demons sneak in!”

John Vorhaus

Yesterday, I watched the final round of the four-day 2016 Masters Golf tournament in Augusta, GA.

Not being a golfer myself, I still love watching these consummate professionals play this game at the highest level. Their skill is a wonder to behold!

Jordan Spieth, last year’s winner, was the odds-on favorite, and no wonder! He was ahead of everyone else for the entire tournament. By the last nine holes of the final round, he was so far ahead, I thought, as did many, he was unbeatable!

Then, demons crept in!

And, I felt a kinship with Spieth, as he fell so suddenly, and so ignominiously, from glory, because I, and many of my instructors, have done the same thing- more that once!

The question is:

How much continuous, simultaneous bad news can you handle, and still retain your sanity? At what point do you unwittingly open the window, and let demons sneak in?

At its best, golf, like fighting, is a smooth, coordinated, orchestrated flow of events, a seamless whirlwind of motion. That is, until you:

1) Stray from the present tense

2) Get distracted and allow your concentration to dissipate

3) Start hesitating

4) Start getting in your own way

5) Try to alter an otherwise smooth-flowing technique right in the middle

6) Allow doubt an vacillation to consume you

7) Are swept-up in rapidly-compounding disasters and discover that you aren ’t recovering quickly enough!

During the final day of the tournament, there were three holes-in-one (by other contestants), and the media, of course, swooped-in to cover those. And, there were many other spectacular shots that also garnered the attention fo the media. These events were as melodramatic as they were irrelevant. None of them materially affected the outcome. They never do!

Then we had the humble Englishman, Danny Willett. A great champion to be sure, or he would not have been there, but I never heard of him until yesterday!

Willett’s game was devoid of “great shots.” He played steady, careful, solid golf. However, he had no bogies either! When Spieth blundered, and the door opened, Willett gracefully walked through, and never looked back!!

And, if you're wondering if there is a point lurking in the foregoing, it is this:

"It's not 'great shots' that save you. It's 'little mistakes' that kill you!"

True in fighting, as well as golf.

The Hollywood, overdramatized version of events always draws attention to occasional, glamorous (and irrelevant) "great shots." Like the cavalry arriving in the 'nick of time,' great shots always save the day, and we all live happily ever after!


That manufactured nonsense only happens in movies!

When you're making little mistakes, episodic great shots won't save you, as we see!

So, we concentrate on correcting mistakes. It's not glamorous, nor entertaining, nor even interesting, at least to the shallow and self-centered.

In fighting, as in golf, the wise work to eliminate "little mistakes." The "great shots" will take care of themselves!

“Darling, my legs aren't so beautiful. I just know what to do with them!”

Marlene Dietrich



  1. As a martial artist, shooter, and various other pastimes, I can attest, there is a lot of truth in this.

    "Great shots" are spectacular, but they don't win contests. Not alone. Solid and consistent form, smoothing out small errors, maximizing efficiency, etc. win contests.

    It's not glamorous. It's not always fun. It's sometimes downright boring, and it's nearly always physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. But it's what makes a better fighter/shooter/golfer/anything.

    Any novice can make "great shots" occasionally. The champion is usually best described as "consistent"; IOW, the one whose "poor shots" aren't as far off of his/her normal game, and consistently "less poor" than everyone else's (for you statisticians out there: the one with the smallest standard deviation).

  2. As a golf junky, I watched virtually ever Masters shot televised on every channel.
    One old golf saying is, "Don't follow a bad shot with a dumb shot."
    That's what happened to Jordan. His first shot on 12 that found the water was a bad shot. His second shot that got rinsed was the dumb one.
    I agree with Archer that improvement is more about how good your bad shots are rather than how good your good shots are.
    In shooting over a couple of days in competition, you CAN'T win it on the first day...but you can LOSE it on the first day.
    Speith *didn't* lose it on the first day (or 2nd or 3rd) and put on display an Augusta Clinic on Thursday....it's also why they don't hand out the jacket until after Sunday has finished.

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