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What would you do?

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What would you do if you spent your entire life getting ready for the most important performance of your life and then, as you stepped on stage, you tripped and fell?

What would you do next?

What if you spent your entire year preparing for a golf tournament, then stepped to the first tee and couldn’t put your tee in the ground because your hands were shaking?

How would you react?

I should add, this is likely the hardest course you’ll ever play in tournament conditions.

Maybe that’s why you’re shaking?

Or maybe because you’re not prepared.

No, that’s not it – you’ve been preparing for this since you were a kid. You have the posters on the wall to prove it.

But now you can’t think straight and your heart rate is out of control.

Shaken, but not fully stirred, you remind yourself of how well you’ve been playing – of having shot your best score a week earlier on your home course.

Not unexpectedly, your tee shot is a bit squirrelly. Still, you made contact.

Then when you get the green on the first hole, you can barely feel your hands! 

Your hands feel disconnected from your body, not a good feeling to have after all that effort and preparation you put in.

Upon making bogey, you’re a stroke over par; in a tournament like this, it’s not the time to be swirling out of control.

To make matters worse, it’s windy and the course is getting harder and harder. 

Everything seems like it’s working against you, including your swing, your putter and your brain.

Nothing gets better over the next hour or so.

You’re still not comfortable and the weather isn’t getting better.  It’s just so hard. 

And then you make another bogey and now you’re a touch more frustrated.  +2.

What are you thinking now?

Is this course too hard for you?  Are you not cut out for this stage?

Is that what you’re asking yourself?

Do you start questioning your preparation and all the effort you put into this ONE tournament?

If you didn’t question yourself then, you make another bogey on a hole that you told yourself you HAVE to birdie.

And you bogey it, and then you bogey the next hole and now you’ve finished 9 holes 4 over par. 

40.

You just shot an absolutely horrible first 9 score in the opening round of a tournament you’ve been thinking about and preparing for your entire life.

And you still have 3 and a half days of this.

What would you do next?

Well, if you’re Tiger Woods, you play the back 9 in 6 under par, shoot 40-30 in the first round of The 1997 Masters, decimate and overmatch Augusta National over the next 3 days and win The Masters by 12 shots at the age of 21.

With that context in mind, is there any reason for you EVER to doubt that you can’t recover from a horrible start to your day?

The first 9 holes of Tiger’s round in 1997 have been a constant reminder to me over 25+ years.

Never, ever give up, especially when things don’t happen as quickly as I’d like.

40-30, the score Tiger ultimately shot that day, has had a lasting impact on me and countless others who’ve watched Tiger’s career over the years. 

It was impressive enough he won by 12 and was only 21, the youngest to have ever won The Masters.  

And shooting 35-35 in the first round and then going on to win would have been impressive on its own in totality.

Is it really true that the final score is all that matters?

I’ve never bought that line.

Tiger’s performance in 1997 is why.

It’s the journey that makes the story, the memory and the satisfaction.

But what’s always stuck with me is how Tiger had spent his entire life, just as other elite golfers had, preparing for The Masters, only to show up that morning tight, nervous, out of sorts and the weather uncooperative.

And then proceeded to stumble SO poorly and SO uncharacteristically in the first 2 hours of that tournament.

And to have all the reasons, all the excuses to get down, frustrated and allow it to ruin his entire performance.

But we know in hindsight that was never in the cards for Tiger – we know what he did.

He shot 6 under par 30 on the next 9 holes, and then went on to win 80+ times over the course of his career.

40-30.

The next time you prepare for a big moment and stumble out of the gates, what will you do?

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