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Golf has been categorized as a game of inches. Perhaps the same can be said about its mental side. The old adage, “Be careful what you wish for, it just might happen,” has an application, believe it or not, in the game. “I always remember the comment of -- well, Paul Lawrie, we were playing in the Seve Trophy, he had obviously won the Open in '99, and he miss-hit a long iron shot. And he says, ‘That's not the shot of an Open Champion,’” recalled Padraig Harrington. “There is a large burden placed on your shoulders after you win one, and players do feel that. It doesn't get any easier after two or three,” he continued.
Graeme McDowell acknowledged after his win at Pebble Beach this year, he wasn’t ready for the Open Championship. “Yeah, the Open did come too early for me, no doubt about it. I was still on an unbelievable high after Pebble. It was very difficult to come down because everybody was reminding me of it,” he continued. “It was difficult to come down from that high and I didn't really want to come down from it. Obviously I wasn't as focused a golfer, as I needed to be. The first five weeks were very difficult for me to deal with. I wasn't ready to play golf. Didn't really feel like myself, and especially the first round of the Open,” he added.
Confidence is a major component in any sport as it is in business. Fresh off of a victory is never a bad thing and its often when the confidence level is at its highest. “I think it's nice knowing you won a major a month ago,” said Louis Oostuizen. “I think it's a nice confidence boost going out there and it's just a matter of putting everything off the golf course out of your head when you're on the golf course.” The South African backed up his performance in St. Andrews with a tie for the fourth and ninth in his next two starts after The Open Championship, which validates that confidence can often be a double edge sword.
For McDowell and Oostuizen, neither player was expected to win when they did. In turn the honeymoon, if you will, remains in full bloom for both. As time progresses, it may catapult them to a higher level or become a tough standard to live up to.
“In my own personal context, the fact that I had 15 Top-10s in the previous year, and yet I seemed to be getting a considerable bit of grief about how poor my form is,” Harrington said. “So you can understand that if I had not won three majors, everybody would be saying I was playing great, having 15 Top-10s. But having three majors, the expectations are so high; the pressure is much higher, and you know, you've got to perform to a higher level in the public's mind, in the media's mind,” Harrington stated. “You're always going to play, you know, up and down, and so it really just is a question of trying to balance the falseness of confidence versus having self-confidence.”
Business standards can easily draw comparisons to competitive golf. Past performances, especially financially, are often used for future expectations. Winning, let alone, a major championship generate higher expectations not only from within but those who watch from a far. While indeed, golf like many sports is a game of inches, more often than not it resides between the ears. “If you're driven by confidence, it's a terrible, tough burden to carry, having a major win. If you're driven by self-confidence, it shouldn't make any difference,” said Harrington