Steve Eubanks is a former PGA professional, author, columnist and contributing editor at PGA.com. He shares his thoughts here each week.
Every New Year brings resolutions and reflections, looks back and looks ahead. But why not combine the two? Why not take lessons from the year behind us and apply them to the year we face today?
With that in mind, I hereby declare the following New Year’s Resolutions based on reflections from the year just since past.
1. I resolve to finish every task, no matter how miniscule and seemingly trite. Like going ahead and holing that one-foot tap-in, the kind of putt my playing partners would kick back almost every time. Because not to finish, not to hole that putt, not to give small things the respect they deserve; is to take them for granted and assume they somehow don’t count. When that happens, you experience life’s lip-outs. And sometimes, as was the case with I.K. Kim at the Kraft Nabisco last March, they hurt a lot.
You have to remember it: The agonizing stare, chewing her knuckle in disbelief as the tap-in for the win turned into a lip-out for what would prove to be a loss. She had played so flawlessly up until then, no bogeys and four birdies, to put her up by one coming down the final hole, each shot a clinic in routine and focus. But needing just a two-putt par at the last, she looked away when the first putt slid past, paying no attention to how the ball rolled beyond the hole. After all, it was just a one-footer, a gimme, the kind of putt we pick up 99 times out of a hundred.
“I was nervous the whole way,” Kim said bravely afterward. “But I think I executed good shots and made many good putts. Sometimes things happen, and it’s kind of, you know, tough. Hopefully I’ll have better or more chances.”
And certainly next time, she will finish the little things with great care.
2. I resolve to be more creative, to stop thinking of the world in geometric progressions and start looking at possibilities I never knew existed, like hooking a sand wedge 40 yards, or hitting a driver so hard that my feet come off the ground. In short, I resolve to be more Bubba-like, to look at life in less linear terms; to see the impossible and say, “Wow, this is going to be fun.”
The shot is now the stuff of legends: the pine straw, the white pants, the massive rip with a club ill designed to be swung so ferociously. But that is how Bubba Watson plays the game and lives his life. He is the one player on tour who can practice for two hours and never hit the same shot twice. He hits low cuts, high hooks, towering slices that bend upwards of 100 yards, and feather-soft pitches that bounce and check like they landed in glue. Every shot, in practice or in a round is an adventure to be experienced at every level.
He is also the kind of man who weeps openly and without shame, who is just as comfortable in a Santa suit or bib overalls as he is in golf slacks or green jackets, and who is the same person no matter how the scores add up on Sunday.
“If I have a swing, I have a shot,” Bubba said after capturing his first major. “I’m used to the woods. I’m used to the rough. And anything can happen.”
That is the attitude I hope to take have everyday of 2013 and beyond.
3. I resolve to put disappointments aside quickly and to remember the great things afforded me every day. What are our disappointments anyway? Making a bogey or two? If I made four bogeys in a row to lose the Open Championship, hasn’t life been pretty good even so?
It has been for Adam Scott, who showed remarkable poise, grace and stamina after suffering the biggest collapse of the year. Despite his agonizing slow-motion train wreck at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, Scott said he actually felt bad afterward, not for himself, but for Ernie Els who backed into his fourth major title.
“It should have been a time of elation for him, but he had to kind of feel like he had to console me, and I didn’t feel good about that,” Scott said. “Ernie and I are great mates, and if the shoe was on the other foot, it would be hard to see, because we all know how much it means to each other.”
Scott finished the year with a win at the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath, having put the past aside and never allowing his disappointments to define him.
4. I resolve to always believe that no mountain is too high, no obstacle too great, and no deficit too insurmountable. After all, belief is what makes incredible endings possible.
It was what allowed a team of Europeans to overcome the largest Ryder Cup deficit in history on foreign soil, to beat the odds and retain the cup, not by luck or fortune or the tired old saw “they made more putts,” but because it never occurred to any of them that they were going to lose.
“The players believed,” Captain Jose Maria Olazabal said afterward. “And you know what happened.”
The Ryder Cup proved that you don’t believe in miracles because they occur: They occur because you believe.
5. Finally, I resolve to try to live by the words Rory McIlroy uttered after winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah in record fashion.
“I realize that every time my face is on TV or I’m playing in a tournament that I am a role model for a lot of people and a lot of kids look up to me,” he said. “I try to do my best in that regard and put myself across as honestly and as modestly as possible. Some can view it as a big responsibility, but I think if you just go about your life and live it normally and live it the way you always would, I think everything’s okay.”
Indeed it will. Good luck on your New Year’s resolutions. I know I’ll need the same with mine.