Four Masters Fundamentals
Masters Week marks the high holy holidays of golf. But it’s more than a tournament. The Masters showcases paths to excellence at every level. There’s a lot we can learn, beyond the golf, from The Masters. Here are my four Masters fundamentals:
1. Decorum and attention to appearance details create a high-performance environment. The Masters is an invitational, for patrons, players and media alike. Those who violate Augusta National’s sense of decorum are not invited back. Then-star CBS golf commentator Gary McCord’s snarky jokes about the swiftness of greens got him disinvited from the 1994 Masters, and he hasn’t been allowed back. And layered onto decorum are appearances: Impeccable landscaping, caddies in uniform, and hundreds of other truly curated details. It all creates an environment in which the focus is on performance.
2. Respect the architecture. Veteran players and patrons understand there are certain ways to play certain holes. See, for example, No. 13, “Azalea.” Sergio Garcia (finally) became a champion last year when he accepted this truth. What is the architecture of your industry or profession? In mine – government affairs – it’s the brilliant Constitution and bicameral processes that institutionally create a bias toward compromise. Don’t fight fundamental architecture. Play it to your advantage.
3. Rational risk vs. rewards. Some of Augusta National’s Par 4s dare not be challenged. On those, players sensibly go for pars that are anything but routine. And then there are the Par 5s that dearly tempt players to go for eagles. Phil Mickelson in 2010 memorably hit his second shot on Azalea out the trees and over the water to end up close to the pin. In an interview years later, he insisted it was “the percentage shot.” And it decisively put him on track to victory. On the other hand, this year there’s Sergio Garcia’s tragic, Tin Cup-like rinsing of five consecutive balls on No. 15, another Par 5; Garcia, already over par for the day when he met his Waterloo, evidently never considered laying up. So before you take that risk, what’s the percentage and reward… and can you execute if you go for it? What’s Plan B?
4. Recovery and redemption are possible. Almost every Masters champion won, in part, by extricating himself from some really rotten shots. The great Seve Ballesteros, competitors still exaggerate with affection, seemed often to disappear into the woods after a tee shot and then miraculously reappear on the green… and be on his way to winning. Many of this year’s favorites are comeback stories, most notably Tiger Woods. At Augusta, the impatient are long forgotten. The patient ones, who seize their moments of opportunity and don’t melt down in their most challenging moments? Their names are engraved in the history of The Masters. Be patient with yourself – and with your people. That person seemingly wandering in the woods just might be your Seve.