Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Michelle Makes My Point

It’s always surprising to me how, when I choose to focus, the Universe then sends me experiences that support my focus. This past week I got another good example.

In the essay I posted last week, I suggested that your day-to-day scores can vary about five shots — either way — from your actual skill level. In other words, if your true skill level equates an 85 score on your course, then on any given day you might shoot anywhere from 80 to 90. More over, I took the position that many people accept that they are an 85 shooter, that they always will be an 85, and therefore only compete by lopping their handicap off their random score on that day. My question was, “Why bother? Why not just flip a coin and mail in your result?"

Well, last weekend we saw Michelle Wei do exactly that. In attempting to make the cut in a men’s event, the Sony Open, she shot 79 on Thursday and 68 on Friday and missed the cut by four shots. I think it’s obvious that she was the same person on both days; she didn’t discover some secret on Friday that she didn’t know on Thursday.

Her experience also proves something about both my last Fortune Cookie and Tiger Woods.

The last Fortune Cookie (and, yes, I know I haven’t been good about posting a new fortune each week) said, “Only bad things happen quickly.” The obvious corollary is that good things only happen slowly. In golf, it only takes a few bad mistakes to destroy a round, or an instant for you to lose your composure. Real growth… true improvement in your ingrained skill… that takes dedication and focus over an extended time.

That brings me to Tiger Woods. The entire golfing community doubted Tiger over the year or more in 2003-2004 while he worked on changing his swing. He already was the #1 golfer in the world, we all said. What in heavens name was he doing trying to change his game? Tiger’s answer was that he wasn’t trying to hit it better, but that he was trying to tighten his game so as to take out the variation: not so much to make the good shots better but to eliminate the infrequent bad shots that occasionally took him out of tournaments. Of course, in 2005, we that doubted were proven wrong as he returned to #1.

So, what next for Michelle Wei? Will her excursions on the men’s tour help or hurt? How will she do within her own LPGA tour, given the emergence of great young players like Gulbis, Pressel, and Creamer? Will testing herself against men strengthen her, or is she only learning how to lose? We won’t know for some time, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many people that would bet with her on this particular gamble.

Good things come slowly, Michelle. Stop experiencing bad things quickly… learn how to win first… then try the bigger pond.

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