From The Ashes Of Failure

May 30, 2016 -

Rise the flames of success.

One of the few commonalities of all successful people is that they have failed a great many more times than they have prevailed.

Golf exemplifies that margin of victory and defeat more than any other sport in the world.

In his 20 year prime from the age of 22 until 42, Jack Nicklaus won 13% of the tournaments that he played in on the PGA Tour which was a phenomenal ratio of success. It also means that he “lost” 87% of the events that he played in.

Tiger Woods has played in 327 PGA Tour events and has won 79 times. He did not win 248 times.

The unfair criticism of then 21-year old Jordan Spieth was that while he was a talented player, he didn’t win. Having only one victory in his short career until April 13, 2015. That day of course was the Sunday at last year’s’ Masters when Spieth won his first of two Majors in 2015 Spieth then won the U.S. Open and narrowly missed out completing a calendar year Grand Slam with close calls at both the Open and PGA Championships. Spieth won 5 times in 2015, becoming the universal Player of the Year. So much for not being able to close. 

At the Masters last month, Spieth took a 4 shot lead into the back 9 before having an epic meltdown highlighted by a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 12th hole. In his next start at the Players Championship, Spieth missed the cut and then last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Spieth started the final day tied in second place before finishing with a 4-over par 74, a free-fall that saw him tie for 20th. The entire golf world was abuzz with words like slump, swing problems, lack of confidence. At this weeks’ Dean and Deluca Invitational, Spieth began the final day with a one shot lead and closed with 3 birdies on his last 3 holes to post a final round 65, and win by 3 shots. Some slump.

In the 2013 LPGA Thailand, the then 17-year old Ariya Jutanugarn, made a triple bogie on the last hole to lose by a stroke. When interviewed afterwards, Jutanugarn would say: “I am sorry not have lived up to my country’s expectations”. In April at the ANA Inspiration, Jutanugarn squandered a two shot advantage with three holes left to drop into 4th place. Earlier this month Jutanugarn became the first player from Thailand to win on the LPGA Tour when she won the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Last week the 20-year old won the Kingsmill Championship Jutanugarn for her second victory in a row. At this week’s Volvik Championship, Jutanugarn dominated and won by 5 strokes with a four day total of 15-under par, winning for the third consecutive time (becoming the first player in professional golf to ever win their first 3 events, back-to-back-to-back). No apologies necessary.   

Jason Day had finished in the Top 3 of 5 Major Championships with his latest “failure” coming at the 2015 Open Championship when he missed a 20 foot putt on the 72nd hole that would have put him in the playoff. Day won the following week at the Canadian Open by making birdies on the last 3 holes of regulation including a 20 foot putt on the last hole to win by a single stroke. Day followed that up with his first Major Championship at the PGA  Currently the World #1, Day has won 7 of the last 17 times he has teed it up on the PGA Tour.   

All of these great players have tasted the bitterness of defeat many more times than they have enjoyed the sweetness of victory. It comes with the turf.

Amateurs experience the same hurdles in the game. Remember when you were about to break 100 for the first time? Or other significant golfing landmarks like breaking 90, or 80, and for a special few to shatter the magical par line and shoot in red numbers. Chances are that the first time you had an opportunity to record one of these milestones that you failed. And perhaps you failed many more times before eventually triumphing.

One of the great fascinations of this grand pursuit is that is mirrors life in so many ways. Failure is an unavoidable step that all of us take on the path to success.      

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