The British Open, Padraig Harrington, Greg Norman and Self Confidence

Did you see the last round of the British Open? 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in watching individual sports like golf and tennis – especially the majors.  I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned about self confidence in these events.  The pressure to perform is great, and the players are out there on their own.

Yesterday, Padriag Harrington won The Open.  He played a very confident final round.  His second shot with a five wood at the 17th hole guaranteed his win.  Did you see that shot?  Wasn’t it amazing?  I loved it; because at that point, Mr. Harrington didn’t need to go for it – yet he did.  It was an amazing show of confidence.

Here’s what the New York Times had to say:

Padraig Harrington of Ireland won the 137th British Open at Royal Birkdale by four strokes on Sunday, defending the Open title he won in a playoff last year at Carnoustie. He faltered but did not fall, stared down defeat without blinking, overcame his own mistakes, ignored an aching right wrist and outlasted his opponents.

The last sentence of this quote goes directly to two of the three keys to self confidence – optimism and facing your fears.  The Optimist Creed encourages us “To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.” 

Mr. Harrington did just that.  He was three over for the tournament, but played the last nine holes at four under.  He put his sore wrist and the tough conditions out of his mind and won golf’s most prestigious tournament for the second year in a row.

One the other hand, if you watched, you saw another player lose his confidence.  Greg Norman was leading the tournament after the third round.  He was a very unlikely leader.  He is 53 years old, and doesn’t play much competitive golf anymore.  He was competing in this tournament mostly because he is a past champion. 

After the end of play on Saturday, Tom Watson, who has won three British Opens and is now a television commentator, said that he thought Mr. Norman would win if he would be able to make a birdie or a tough par on one of the first few holes.  Mr. Watson opined that this would help Mr. Norman settle in and give him the confidence to play the kind of round he needed to win.

Unfortunately for Mr. Norman, the exact opposite happened.  He bogeyed the first three holes.  Afterwards he said, “It’s hard if you haven’t been playing a lot of golf to really regroup with yourself and get yourself back going again. I failed in that regard.  In other words, he lost his confidence.  That’s too bad, as a lot of old guys like me would have loved to see him become the oldest man to win a major golf tournament.

To be fair, it wasn’t just confidence that did in Mr. Norman.  The conditions were terrible, and he is quite old for highly competitive golf.  However, Mr. Norman does have a history of losing tournaments on the last day. 

The Sidney Morning Herald said,

It was the eighth time Norman had entered the final round of a major championship with the lead. Only once, at the 1986 British Open at Turnberry, has he won from that position. In comparison, Tiger Woods is 14-0 when leading a major into the final round.

In my opinion, those seven of eight lost leads had to contribute to Mr. Norman’s terrible start, and subsequent loss of confidence yesterday.  What do you think?

The common sense point here is clear.  In life, like in golf, you are on your own.  You control your destiny and performance.  If you are self confident, you are more likely to succeed.  In this year’s British Open, Padraig Harrington was more confident that Greg Norman in the final round, and he won.  If you want to become self confident, you need to do three things: 1) Be optimistic; 2) Face your fears and deal with them; and 3) Surround yourself with positive people.

That’s my take on this year’s British Open and self confidence.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment – on the tournament, or on your thoughts about self confidence.  I value and appreciate every comment I get.  Thanks for reading.


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