Learning From The 2012 Open Championship

I was shocked watching as Adam Scott bogeyed the last four holes of the Open Championship today, allowing Ernie Els to come from six strokes back to win the tournament.

In response to the finish, I tweeted on my private Twitter account, “Under pressure the great ones focus, others fade.”

I played basketball and golf in high school. In fact, I went on to play basketball in college. I wasn’t as good in golf, not even the best on my high school team.

When I played basketball in high school I always believed I was the best player on the floor. Consequently, when the pressure was on and the game was on the line I wanted the ball. When the pressure was on everything slowed down for me. When others felt nervous and rushed, I was confident and focused. As things slowed down for me under pressure, I saw more clearly what moves to make, how to get open or how to get to the basket. As a result, I performed well in the clutch.

Golf was a different story. At my best I was probably a 2 handicap, but I was never the best on my team, much less the best on the course. When the pressure was on I felt it. I got nervous, gripped the club a little tighter, my swing got a little faster and I didn’t play as well.

In the wake of Adam Scott’s collapse at the Open Championship commentators will draw conclusions about Scott’s alleged lack of a will to win, courage and character…and they will be dead wrong.

I had the same character with a golf club in my hand as I did with a basketball, but under pressure I reacted differently. That suggests to me that character has very little to do with athletic performance. I suspect it’s the same with Adam Scott.

As a culture we love to talk about how athletics builds character. That we do so speaks more to our love of athletics than it does our love of character. You can develop more character in a community of believers where you get offended, have to forgive and show your face after disappointing others. All our moralizing about sports is proof only of our misplaced priorities, not our love of holiness.

I’ve blogged here before on what I learned from athletics. I admit it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it is not far from the truth. I’ve also blogged about what virtue has to do with athletic performance. I suppose this blog is in the same vein.

So, what can you learn from the struggle of two professional golfers battling down the stretch of a major championship that will help you in your Christian walk?

Answer: Not much.

It’s just a game. Entertainment. Enjoy watching it. Help your kids to enjoy their sports with the proper perspective. But when the game is over, forget the moralizing and life-lessons and get back to building the kingdom of God. GS

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