Blog 1-22-2015 Reed, Walker, Kaymer – The Art of Closing

The first two weeks of 2015 golf season has been very interesting and entertaining.  The Hyundai Tournament of Champions featured the winners from the past season, minus a few big names, but it produced a great finish by Patrick Reed, who continues to validate his claim as a rising star.  Next week featured the previous weeks’ weak finisher, Jimmy Walker, running away from the field in the Sony Open in Hawaii.  Lastly, on the European Tour, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, in the United Arab Emirates produced some surprising results with top tier players in position to win.

It is said that golf tournaments cannot be won on the first day, but they definitely can be lost on that day.  The last round and the last few holes are always interesting, because that’s when each shot becomes more important and emotions become more visible. There is an Art of Closing that winners have that the average player only occasionally captures. Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus are the best closers in history.  So it is also not surprising that they are the best players in the modern era.  When in the hunt, they rarely fell back, and their success rate was outstanding.
Many questioned Patrick Reeds bold proclamation that he was one of the top five players in the world when he won the Doral tournament in March. Top five players win major tournaments, but he didn’t contend significantly in the four majors.  However, he was the lone American standout at the Ryder Cup in Scotland.  This win and the way he did it, speaks loudly of his confidence and his game.

Jimmy Walker seemed to have the tournament warped up with a four shot lead with four to play.  However, he didn’t close the deal when he had the opportunity. Last season was a breakout year that was fueled mainly on great play at the beginning of the season.  He was a forgotten man for the rest of the year.  This year he wants to prove it wasn’t a fluke.  Unfortunately his lack of finish in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, lead many to think he doesn’t have the winners drive to excel.  Some would sulk about not closing, but he rebounded the following week and ran away with the next tournament.  I am always impressed with runaway wins.  It shows resolve and playing to your full potential.  Winners win and keep playing their games.  Jimmy Walker has greatly stepped up in my opinion of this game.

This leads me to Martin Kaymer.  This man has talent and a swing that is elite.  He rose to number one in the world in 2010 and won the PGA Championship.  Then mediocrity until 2014 and his Players Championship and US Open wins.  He is “so” talented that he can win on talent alone, but I never thought he was a world beater.  At Abu Dhabi, he had a 10 shot lead with 13 holes to go. Winners keep pushing and look ahead.  Kaymer looked behind and started coasting.  When you let up, it’s very hard to regain focus and turn it back on.  Martin played the last 13 holes in 6 over par.  Over the same stretch of holes, Rory McIlroy, and the ultimate winner, Gary Stal, both shot 6 under par! That’s a twelve shot difference.  The game didn’t go away, the mental game vanished.  I don’t see him coming back as Jimmy Walker did in Hawaii.  Oh, he will win, but I don’t see another major.  Collapses like that are hard to forget.
The Art of Closing is a learned ability.  Staying in the moment, keeping your focus, executing your game plan, and playing to your ability are traits of a Closer.  Closers relish the opportunity of the stretch drive.  They know what to do and they will continue to be mentally prepared and physically ready to hit what is necessary in a given situation.  Mental focus on the task at hand is essential.  This focus is learned.  Distractions are minimized and “big picture” outcomes are not thought about.  Closers are rare and that’s why watching a Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus finish tournaments is a thing of beauty.

The first two weeks were insightful and interesting.  Tiger will play in a couple of weeks.  Question is?  Most people will be interested to find out if the body will hold up.  But my question is?  Will the mind hold up and be as strong as before? It will be fun to find the answer.


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