Thursday, July 26, 2012

What the British Open Taught Me: Some We Win, Some We Lose

It was both exciting and…..what’s the word?  It was dramatic and yet tragic.  Watching the final round of the British Open on Sunday, July 22, 2012, I was left with one question: Did Ernie Els win or did Adam Scott lose?  You might be thinking the answer is simple: “yes.”  But I want to explore the question again…
Scott, the 32-year Australian golfer played his final 18 holes with a 4-shot lead over Brandt Snedekker and Graeme McDowell, his final round playing partner.   Els was 6-strokes back and 5-under par.  It was Scott’s to lose—so to speak—and he did. 

Similar to the 2012 US Open, I was hoping that Sunday’s leader would force a play-off rather than reveal who was the winner and who was not.  As Scott’s 8-foot putt curved around instead of falling into the final hole, I wondered: to what degree does Scott’s loss take away from Els’ win.  Again, did "The Big Easy" really win?

Els was one of the few contenders who shot under par on Sunday.  Looking at his long putt from across the green on the on 18th hole, one couldn’t help but wonder for a brief moment if a victory was in store.  For some reason however, the lingering feeling that sat with loyal fans at Royal Lytham-St Anne’s and me was different.  It was a one-man loss / one-man win.  For Adam Scott’s four bogeys on the final four holes, we had Ernie Els’ four birdies.  Is that enough evidence?

Look to the golfers and you won’t get an answer.  Scott was remarkably calm and poised.  I expected tears like Andy Murray’s after his Wimbledon final loss or a silence like the New England Patriots’ locker room.  But no, Scott communicated his failing, especially on the last four holes with disappointment, but it wasn’t palpable.  He acknowledged his mistakes, but without a wince.  He looked the camera in the eye and kept his chin up.  Did he lose?

Erine Els said again and again how badly he felt for Scott and how sure he was that Scott would have his moments.  He assured him that just about everything that can happen in the game of golf, I've gone through," said Els. "I've done what Adam has done. So to sit here with the Claret Jug is crazy."

I began to wrestle with this question as it applies to life. This idea is much different than winning the battle but losing the war.  No, this is about how we achieve a goal…how we meet the outcome.  In life we win and we lose, but how we do that varies. 
Sometimes we lose because a better opponent trumps us.  We are clearly outmatched, outsized and outranked.  At other times we simply do not win, not because we are not the worthy opponents, not because we are lacking in ability or spirit and not because our strategy failed.  We don’t step it up at “the” critical moment.  We fail to succeed; the end result is a loss.  It is tough to lose, but the irony is that it’s also tough to win at this moment. 

I think that might be why we have a word for a great victory; it is a triumph. It is not something to be taken for granted.  A great victory leaves the athlete and the spectator with a sense that both teams or athletes played their best and fought until the end.  One had to win. The scoreboard will indicate a winner, but to some degree the game was raised to another level because of the path to victory. 
The final round of “The Open Championship” revealed a different facet of life.  Elections are won, and others are lost.  Relationships, jobs, and even wars are subject to this dynamic.    It is a tough perspective on life, but it also reveals quite a bit about one’s character.  Adam Scott and Ernie Els could not have been more grace-filled and respectable.  In that way, both men won.  Both are champions and Sunday was a triumph for golf.

Photo Credits
Scott congratulates Els
Els with the Claret Jug
Scott Loses
Els' Great Putt
King Fed and Andy Murray

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