Golf: Make or Break Choices……..Par 4

The event was the 2006 U.S. Open Championship.  The setting was the famous Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York.  Phil Mickelson had taken several weeks to study the course and made multiple pre-tournament visits to the course spending many hours meticulously identifying the best way to play specific holes.

Come tournament time, Mickelson held his own through the first three days and maintained a one stroke lead going into the 18th and final hole of the tournament.  He needed only to par the 18th hole to capture his fourth major title.

Phil walked to the tee box, quickly surveyed the situation.  Then, ignoring any message of caution his “inner caddy” might have been transmitting, he reached for his driver–a tool that had basically deserted him throughout the day–placed his ball on the tee, took his swing position and pulled the trigger.

His ball, in mid-flight, seemed to get a mind of its own charting a highly undesirable course to the left of the fairway.  It caromed off the “Champions’ Tent” and eventually came to rest well off the fairway among the trampled grass and hardpan with a huge tree obstructing a clear shot to the green.  The question was, what would Phil do? Would he take his lumps and knock the ball out to the fairway giving himself a wedge shot to the green and a possible one put to win or two put to tie…or would he go for the green in two.  The words of caution, “the best way is the safe way” seemed to hold no sway in his thinking at the moment. The tension amongst the spectators was palpable.


He unleashed his 3 iron shot and scored a direct hit on the tree he was trying to miss.  As his fans murmured, he walked the few yards separating him from his ball.  Now with the offending tree close at hand, Phil changed strategies and hit a 9 iron over the top of the villainous timber.  The shot missed its intended mark, landing instead in a green-side bunker, creating a crater in which the ball buried itself.  His fourth and his last chance to save par and win the tournament outright—a bunker shot—went past the pin and stopped in the fringe grass surrounding the green, still a substantial distance from the cup.


He still had a possibility of winning in a playoff the following day if he sank his fifth shot.   Unfortunately for Phil, it took him two more strokes to get the ball in the cup. He walked off the course with a double bogey 6, losing the tournament by one stroke to Geoff Ogilvy.  In one agonizing hole his spirits went from tremendous delight to devastating despair. His heart and spirit were clearly reflected in his post game press conference statement, “…I can’t believe I did that…I am such an idiot.”[1] As a result, the 2006 U.S. Open Championship will always carry the sidebar: “the tournament Phil lost.”  Oh well, maybe next time.

Of course, it’s not true.  Phil was not and is not an idiot.  What he did is common to us all, he just happened to do it on a world stage with millions of people watching.  He proved that he was human and subject to making decisions that in retrospect, he wishes he hadn’t made.  Retrospect is a wonderful teacher, isn’t she?  The reality is that Phil simply did not hear or listen to his “inner caddy” advising, “Caution, this is not the time for heroics.”  As painful as this experience was for Phil, it is a vivid example of cascading consequences when you choose to ignore the counsel of your ” inner caddy.”

So what…?

All of this brings me to one sobering reality.  There will come a time when my chances to get it right (choices to play the hole differently) will run out, both on the golf course and in life.  There is one choice in this life that I absolutely must get right–only one.  I must choose where I will live in eternity.  Do I choose the absolute joy of an eternal loving relationship life with our Maker or do I choose an eternity of solitary darkness apart from him?   It’s s simple choice with absolutely incalculable consequences.


I have chosen absolute joy, how about you?

[1] ArmchairGm, 18 June 2006  <http:/ php?title=%22I_am_such_an_idiot%22>

2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi friend, Very nice work on the blog I like the color scheme you used. I have to use reading glasses and the way you have your website laid out make\\\’s it easy to read.


    • Thank you for you comment. I have taken a slight hiatus to get my thoughts in order but will be back up with new posts, starting in January. I’d love to have you join me, not only for the encouragement but for your thoughts as well.





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