Monday, August 17, 2015

The 2015 PGA Championship: 3 Lessons from 3 Champions

The 2015 PGA Championship is bittersweet. The final major golf championship of the year, I know it signifies the end of summer. School will start next week and golf—a sport that can be played year-round in many parts of the world shines best in the spring and summer seasons. Fall is for football. Winter is for indoor games. But come April, the Masters is on my mind....Sorry MLB.

I truly believe the winner, Jason Day and his lead competitor, Jordan Spieth honored the game with the way they played their final round. Phenomenal golf, integrity, sportsmanship, class, open vulnerability and emotion, respect and victory—it doesn't get much sweeter than that. So sweet, that the bitter in bittersweet is nil.
Perhaps you learned that this year's championship, played at Whistling Straits in Koehler, Wisconsin brought much more than a first major title for its out and out winner, Jason Day (who finished 20 under par). It gave rise to a new number one player: Jordan Alexander Speith. 

Every time I watch golf on television, I learn more about the game. Not just how to hit, strategies to consider and but I learn about life too. Here are but a few insights that I gained from this year's tourney. I'm grateful for the memories, in particular, what you will read here.

No one plays defense in golf.
I can't believe I never thought about this before. 
It's man (or woman) versus the hole. Although there is match play and other variations of the game, all professional golfers aim to get the lowest score period.  
My friend Paul brought this to my attention as we watched Jordan Spieth heartily acknowledge a great putt that the leader, Jason Day just hit. And, it cost Spieth absolutely nothing to do that. Not only is it good sportsmanship, Paul considers it good karma. It was just one sign of many that Jordan Spieth is a true champion.
Spieth made sure Day knew he appreciated the Aussie's performance. During a perfect putt on No. 17, Spieth suddenly cut across the screen, flashing a thumbs-up at Day in the process. (see it  here)
At that point in the match, Day was leading by three strokes. When he made that shot, I believe Spieth realized that the championship was truly in his opponent's grasp. Rather than getting uptight or competing with blinders on until the last hole, Spieth played his game and appreciated his opponent's craft. Folks...that's great golf.

I started to wonder what else in life precludes defense. What other competitive endeavors allow you to applaud and/or encourage your opponent at no cost?

Tears will be shed.

I can't think of another sport where the victor so openly and frequently weeps. It's not uncommon in professional sports, but golf seems to bring it out in the athlete and in me. Even before he sank his final putt, Jason Day let the tears flow. When he secured the victory, he contributed to the water line of Lake Michigan. And he's no different than Bubba Watson (Masters 2012, 2014), Zach Johnson (British Open 2015), and Justin Rose (US Open: Merion 2014).
I doubt that Martin Kaymer's win at the US Open: Pinehurst in 2014 got me choked up, but I can't tell you how many times I carry the emotions of joy, relief, delight, and gratitude when I watch a major come to a close. I know it's because beauty always evokes a deep response—it comes from the soul. I find beauty on a golf great excellence in athletics. I can't help but feel this way, more often than not, it's waterworks...

Where do you find beauty—a beauty that elicits a response marked by tears?

True champions are born...and understood in due time
If you don't know much about Jason Day, it's worth learning about his life—what he's been through, where he came from and who he is today. As he told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi, "I didn't think I had a future, with the way I was living my life." But golf fans are happy he did.

Paired on Sunday with the crowd favorite—Jordan Spieth, Day "finally got the monkey off his back" in winning his first major title. And I think it's worth noting that golf is one of the few sports where the victor truly beats everyone in the field. As opposed to tennis—another individual sport—the winner only plays a given number based on his or her seed. The Superbowl and World Series champions do not eliminate every team in the postseason to earn their titles. But a golfer beats all. The numbers do not lie.
A great Aussie. Jason Day lives in Ohio with his wife (an American) and son Dash.
He said there's no way he'll renounce his Australian citizenship.
Golf enthusiasts and sports fans everywhere would have loved to see Spieth capture his third major of the year. Only two men in the history of the game have that accomplishment in their dossier: Ben Hogan in 1953 and Tiger Woods in 2000. Spieth came up short by three strokes but by all of nothing with his insight on the game. "It's the best loss I've ever had." 

When he said that, I thought "Who says that?!!" What a classy, complimentary and fun way to honor his opponent. The man who says that is now the number one golfer in the world. I hope he is Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year 2015. His two major wins, a fourth and second place finish in the others and the fresh face he has brought to the game is another example of beauty.

Who stands out to you as a champion, even in defeat? When have you seen a game you love honored by exemplary play and sportsmanship?

That is a wrap on the 2015 golf season. Yes, the FedEx cup will commence soon, but as far as I'm concerned, the final major of the year afforded us with three champions: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and anyone who loves the game. Until April.... 

Photo Credits
Day and Spieth


  1. Hey Anne,

    Dovetailing on the sentiment in this topic: you may enjoy this story about Day donating the shirt off his back:

    Well maybe not off his back but it makes a nice line, eh?


  2. Marc, Thank you for sending this story. You know what I love most about that Jason Day paid attention. He noticed this journalist and cared to ask. This is a story of humility and generosity--from both men. Happy to have Day as the #3 golfer in the world!