A Lesson from a Golf Champion: Separate Process and Outcome

Rory Mcllroy won last week’s British Open golf tourney.  The British Open (aka “The Open”) is considered one of the 4 majors; i.e., global golf’s most influential competitions.   Mcllory’s assessment of his triumph was revealing, and included some insights, on letting go, and detaching oneself from the outcome.  Zen-like.

rory mcillory

photo credit: Ross Kinnaird/R&A

Only 25, Mcllroy is golf’s current ‘boy wonder’.

He kept media and fans on edge during the week, until after his victory, with his “secret 2 words”; words he used as a personal mantra, during the week.  What were the two words?

The two words were…

”Process” and “Spot”

Process: “With my long shots, I just wanted to stick to my process and stick to making good decisions, making good swings…The process of making a good swing, if I had any sort of little swing thoughts, just keeping that so I wasn’t thinking about the end result, basically.”

Spot: The “spot” was about Mcllroy’s putting. “I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot…I wasn’t thinking about holing it. I wasn’t thinking about what it would mean or how many further clear (of the competition) it would get me. I just wanted to roll that ball over that spot. If that went in, then great. If it didn’t, then I’d try it the next hole.”

Even if you’re not a golfer, I’m sure you get the essence of process and spot.  It’s about living in-the-moment and letting go of final outcomes.   Zen moments.

Golf as a metaphor

Big tournament golf tends to offer up delicious insights, beyond golf; e.g., Tips for visualizing resolution from the world of golf

Golf is a notoriously difficult game to master, especially on the mental side.  You can spend 4 hours playing a round of golf, and maybe swinging and hitting the golf ball, during that time, for only a handful of minutes.  There is way too much time for analysis paralysis, over thinking, negative psychology, etc.   Sadly, I know those beasts quite well, having walked with them on many golfing journeys.

The golf industry has its problems, yet the game of golf itself, when aligned with its far-from-industry roots in Scotland, is both humble and fascinating.

Golf offers us a metaphor for so many things.  I recently read, for the second time, Seven Days in Utopia: Golf’s Sacred Journey by Dr. David Cook, a renowned sports psychologist, in the U.S., and coach to many sport stars.

The book is a short read; simple, fantastical.  Fictional, it’s based on a real place, in Texas.   It honors golf and bigger things; i.e., community, spirituality.  It’s about a young golf pro, psychologically damaged, who serendipitously discovers new truths.  For the golfer, Cook’s, “See it.  Feel it.  Trust it.”, is worth the read, alone.

Seven Days in Utopia was made into a movie, starring Lucas Black and Robert Duvall, and cameos by golf pros.  Here’s the trailer:

Did you watch The Open?  What lessons did it offer up for you? 

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