Another major championship in golf, another screed about a business lesson learned from watching that championship transpire. Sergio Garcia, a Spanish golfer with a nearly 20-year history of frustration and failure in major championships, won The Masters yesterday. What’s surprising about the win is that it took him so long. He’s won 21 times around the world and has been a fearsome force on European Ryder Cup teams for a long time.
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His skill was never in doubt, and yet five years ago at this very tournament, he stated that he didn’t have what it takes to win major championships. What happened and what can we learn and apply to our own endeavors?
Major championship golf is often described as “an examination,” testing both one’s game and one’s character. Sergio has always had the game but what he lacked was the character to deal with the adversity one faces along the way in any major. That’s why he gave exactly the right answer when he was asked yesterday what he liked best about how he won: “the demonstration of character.” Like every champion, he hit some awful shots. This time, however, he stayed calm, stayed positive, made a plan, and let life go on.
The lessons for any of us are clear. Skill and competence can take us a long way but to break through to another level we need the right attitude. We need to develop that maturity and character to deal with setbacks, both self-imposed (hitting a bad shot) and external (a competitor hits a great shot). Control what we can, deal with mistakes (we all make them), and remember that someone else doing well doesn’t mean that you’re doing badly. It might just mean that you have to change your plan and do better to get ahead.
Sorry if I’m becoming predictable in writing about golf after a big tournament, but what Sergio’s win said to me about all of us and business thinking was something I felt I had to share. He had already mastered the game years ago; yesterday he mastered himself. You agree?
The things we learn from golf! I know, I’ve written about that before, but yesterday’s conclusion to The Masters provided such a great example as to why the lesson of the golf course apply to the world of business.
I’m talking, of course, about Phil Mickelson‘s decision-making on number 4. For those of you who didn’t see or haven’t heard about it, Phil was at the top of the leader-board when he hit an errant shot on a par 3. His error was compounded by the fact that it hit a grandstand and bounced further away from the hole. In fact, it wound up in some thick brush. This piece provides a good overview. For you non-golfers, when your ball winds up in a place like this, you can do one of four things: Play the ball as it is or take a penalty stroke and use one of three options under the “unplayable lie” rule. In Phil’s case, two of the three options weren’t available to him – it’s too long an explanation for this space – but the third one – replay the last shot from the previous spot certainly was. That would have been back on the tee, hitting your third shot (on a par 3) into the green.
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Phil elected to play the ball as it was and ended up making 6, and given where his ball was that was about as good a score as he could have expected. His decision-making process is a great business example. Phil elected not to cut his losses (take the penalty and start over) and I think it cost him the golf tournament. This is the same guy who lost the U.S. Open a few years ago making exactly the same decision – try to hit an impossible shot instead of cutting your losses. Obviously he won The Masters a couple of year back trying and making a difficult shot onto a par 5 from the trees (no, golf is not played in the woods – some of us just go there a lot). In some ways, that just reinforced what is generally not the best course of action.
None of us like to admit that we need to take the hit and start over. Most of us talk about “throwing good money after bad” as a negative. The hard part is stepping back and assessing the situation without emotional involvement about all you’ve invested so far. You need to build in decision points and discuss where you are with others and adjust the plan. The caddy is out on the course not just to lug the golf bag and whether it’s in-house staff of consultants like me, someone needs to help make the decision to take the unplayable and live to fight another day.
What do you think? How do you know when it’s time to go back to the tee or when trying to stick it out is the best course of action?
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I’m sorry that I’ve not posted until late today although frankly I could have written this immediately after the conclusion of The Masters. If you love sports at all and didn’t watch the final round, shame on you because you really missed one of the best, most compelling afternoons I can remember in any sport. What struck me beyond that, however, was the huge difference between the man who has won 14 major championships and the kid who is still trying to win his first. The former put on a great performance that ultimately proved to be too little too late. The latter blew a lead and his chance to win and yet he taught the older guy a lesson. Continue reading
While I’m sure most of you aren’t as obsessed with golf as I am, I hope you managed to watch some of The Masters yesterday. Even if you don’t like golf, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of Phil, Tiger, Kenny Perry, Angel, and Chad. Watching them it was interesting to notice how different each of their swings is and it brought to mind the golf truism that “you can’t buy a swing.” Of course, there are supermarket-sized golf stores that cater to those who believe otherwise. The reality is that a repeatable, dependable golf swing comes in many variations and is the result of years of practice. Just like business! Continue reading
This is one of my favorite days of the year. Competition begins today in The Masters. It’s not just that it’s the first of golf’s major championships but also that it’s one of the big harbingers of Spring along with the opening of the baseball season and lighting the grill for the first time each year. But there is one other thing about The Masters that make it one of, if not the, most unusual events in sport. Is it that it’s the only major championship played on the same course each year? No. That it’s an invitational? No. Continue reading