It’s not often you walk off a golf course, beaten and humbled, and acknowledge its beauty. Merion is a rare phenomenon. Another rare phenomenon is missing 21 consecutive cuts. There has been lots of talk about Justin Rose’s early days, rightfully, as it is what has made his victory at the US Open so popular and special. I have nothing but admiration for him.
Unfortunately for you JR fans however this blog is predominantly about me! Although I will try to enlighten, whilst providing a swift portrayal of Merion and an insightful take on my first visit to a major.
Describing Merion is a tough task. When people try to explain, say, Augusta’s contours and nuances to me, I find it impossible to grasp the images they are conjuring, as I have never been there. So with that in mind, I’ll go no further. These places are somewhat indescribable, the only way they can be appreciated is by visiting. Merion, I believe, is such a place.
So what runs through your mind when you’re standing over your first ever tee shot in a major championship? Nerves? Excitement? Well, for me it was rather normal. To me, astatic emotions depend on what can be called a magnitude relation. That is the relation between your expectations and the importance of the event in your mind. When you raise your expectations and actively demand more of yourself, pressure appears faster and closer on the radar. Likewise, if you talk up the scenario, more pressure arrives.
Many people attempt to play down the situation. I’ve heard countless top sportsmen say, “I’m going to treat it like any other day”. In Michael Johnson’s book however, Slaying The Dragon, he identifies the reality of these scenarios with extraordinary brutality. When he steps onto the track in an Olympic Final, he acknowledges that it isn’t normal, It’s a special time and he must step up. This, is his magnitude relation. He ratchets up the importance of the event and demands incredible inner strength. Admittedly, it is easier to do this for 10 seconds than 5 hours. Personally I’ve found that adding pressure can really help, at the correct time. I think I can speak for most golfers when I say that doing it on a Thursday is more often than not detrimental. But on a Sunday afternoon, coming down the stretch, I believe it is important to realise the magnitude of the situation and revel in it. That’s when, as a golfer you feel most competitive.
After Wentworth I had a number of people comment on my apparent unflappability. I want to confirm I was as nervous as I have ever been whilst in contention. But nerves can become something far less terrifying and instead palpable when other things align…
This is where life beliefs and golf cross paths in my experience. Honestly, I was surprised at the lack of nerves I felt at Merion. For my first major championship, I was feeling enormously calm. After reflecting it struck me how it may stem from my beliefs about life, not golf. I believe we only live once. I believe we’re a minute, tiny fraction of humanity and therefore largely unimportant. Some people may find that distressing, others, especially religious folk may disagree entirely. The truth becomes irrelevant, the fact remains my beliefs have an immediate impact on my golf. Situations that would “normally” contaminate the body and mind with a rush of blood and anxiety, like the US Open, don’t anymore due to my outlook on life.
A big part of my life has been honesty. I believe it is so tremendously important, and sharing beliefs and ideas is what much of life is about. Weeks like Merion provide you with a platform to look closely at yourself. Missing 21 cuts does the same. To me then, it is utterly fitting that Rose blossomed at a place like Merion, in a US Open.
From that Wise Old Owl, Cheers.