HSBC Singapore and Honda: Channeling the Inner Competitor
There’s nothing like writing a glowing article about a specific golfer, then having her win the whole thing a day later. We think that it makes us look smart, but it’s really just that we were right in hailing her talent, which is not rocket science. Lots of people could have done that.
But, if Stacy Lewis wants to make me look good, who am I to stand in her way? And, if I want to be more impressed with her with each passing week, who is she to argue? Lots of people agree with me.
Lewis held on this weekend with a one under 71 to win the HSBC in Singapore. She took it by a stroke over South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, who finished second in the event last year as well. I figure that to stay near the top of the leaderboard for two years in a row is the mark of a fine competitor, as is overcoming back nine nerves to win.
In Stacy’s words, “I just played hard and put my head down and tried to make as many putts as I could.” The first part of that sentence brings back memories of my own lost matches, where my body and brain’s resolve went limp, and I couldn’t hit the ball with conviction. Obviously, Lewis aggressively resisted that condition. Also interesting is that she put her head down and concentrated on making as many putts as she could. She instinctively honed in on the putting game as that component more likely to win tournaments and score well. It’s true – I’ve birdied holes after horrendous drives, but I’ve never birdied one with a three-putt.
In another example of a strong competitive streak, Paula Creamer finished third, surprising, considering her difficult week before the tournament, in which she suffered an automobile accident on the way to the airport. Skeletally out of whack, she nevertheless finished strong, and had several chances to win it along the way. A missed eagle putt on 12, a missed birdie putt on 14 and a couple of close ones on the next two holes could have been a 5 stroke swing on the board.
Number 1 in the world, Yani Tseng, finished 28th. No one, absolutely no one doubts the talent of this five-time winner, but sometimes I wonder if the recent “zen” approach she takes toward her game and her life has disconnected the killer instinct. On one level, I admire it – it’s a healthy way to live and view the world. Some people thrive on competition with the self, not the field, and the meditative approach is a good way to sidestep external anxieties. However, when it comes down to the last few holes, you’re still up against people who breathe competitive fire for their profession, and absolutely love the feeling of neck and neck rivalry.Tseng says that she just “wants to care more about myself and I just want to enjoy my golf.” Admirable on a spiritual level, but that’s still what someone
like me says on the first tee, knowing I’m not in a tournament. I’m going to wait and see on this one, with a hope that when it all shakes out, she’ll have been right all along.
All right, now – about Rory. Jack Nicklaus wasn’t too hard on the wunderkind for walking off the course during the Honda. Johnny Miller can never be counted on for that quality. Whether either is right or wrong, this is beginning to look like a case of a tired inner competitor, but one who will undoubtedly return. One article compared the exiting McIlroy to the LPGA’s Holmqvist, who performed self-surgery after a black widow bite, and finished the round. That’s fun press, but I’m not going to call Rory a weakling. He has some stuff to fix, which may mean trimming external distractions. He’ll be back to kissing trophies in no time. Remember that as we criticize these people as if we’re qualified to, they are the top group in the profession, not muni-hacks, all superior inner competitors.