Mo Martin Shines at Right Moment in the Open

Mo Martin Hits a Big One on 18

Mo Martin is a woman with a lot to be happy about. She plays a great game, lives in a great time, and is surrounded by great people, such as her 100 year old plus grandfather heading up the support system. Although my role is nonexistent, I should have done better for her as an observer. Last week, I made a huge mistake, which I will try to avoid dubbing my “Moa Culpa” (boo, hiss). My comments after the second round of the Open went something like this – “I was poised to write about Mo Martin, only to find that she is, for all intents and purposes, gone.”

It certainly seemed that way at the time. I was rooting for Mo, even a little bit because we share an alma mater and the lucky number 8, but Royal Birkdale was being so stingy with the scores that I just couldn’t see a path for Martin to return.

mo 1 But return she did, and capped off her comeback with the shot of a lifetime, at the very moment in which it was needed. This is a rare occurrence. Usually, it’s “where was that shot when I could have really used it?” Most of us are also familiar with choker’s disease, and in the game of golf, I’ve experienced it a number of times, coming up to 18 needing a score that I’m far too exhausted and addled to achieve.

It would be an act of stupidity to use the word “choke” for Mo Martin, who seemed neither exhausted nor addled as she addressed her second shot on 18. It was a thing of beauty, arching to the fairway in front of the green, sliding gracefully onto the surface, then looking like Paula Creamer’s recent seventy-footer the rest of the way. That wasn’t the end of Martin’s test, however. The beautiful second shot “bonked” the flag, and threatened to go careening off into parts unknown, but thankfully remained only about eight feet away. Martin calmly stroked in the eagle putt, and avoided a playoff – and who knows how that would have turned out – perhaps just another “aw, shucks, she almost did it” moment.

It was a great day for a person like Martin, who has proven from the beginning that she is a fine golfer who deserves  to be here, but who has never come close to winning anything of this magnitude. If she never swings a golf club again, she’s in the pantheon of major winners, and in particular, British Open winners. Seeing her quit is unlikely to happen, however, because Martin has all the impetus in the world to continue swinging that club, especially after besting some of the world’s scariest competitors.

What is it, I wonder, that causes such a sudden and unexpected explosion on the part of a continual “Oh yeah, I played in that tournament?” Certainly, no flukes or accidents are involved. Four rounds of golf on any course, in any event, are enough to neutralize a fluke, or even a series of them. No one who lacks proficiency at the game can hang around for four days with the world’s best on a wing and a prayer, or through the most outrageous thread of  luck. So, perish the thought that Mo Martin merely had an anomalous week. The quality of her play is not an exception to what she is, but a revealing of it – she has arrived.

Mo Martin “It ain’t over ’til it’s over” is an easy cliche to recall, but most of us don’t really believe it when the outcome seems apparent. With all the comebacks we’ve seen in sports, however, the game of golf is one of the most dangerous to walk away from until the last putt drops. Four or five stroke swings on one hole are forever in the wings of possibility, and the most enormous lead can evaporate, if someone like Mo Martin walks up the 18th fairway, and does what Mo Martin did.

So, she is now welcomed into the company of major winners. With it comes a new level of attention, and a new level of esteem. The word “journeyman” (or “journeywoman”) is gone forever, and it will always be a mistake to assume that she will fold under the pressure after hitting one of  the greatest clutch shots in recent years of major play. She’s been a blessed person in joining the world’s highest quality tour,  having a 100 year old plus grandfather she adores for support, and now owning the Women’s British Open, for a year, and forever.

As for me, I promise to try and wait longer before dismissing Mo Martin, or anyone like her, again.

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