The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship held this past weekend at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, AZ held more than its share of truly unique and surprising moments.
Watching Victor Dubuisson do the impossible twice was a once in a lifetime golf experience. On the first playoff hole, Dubuisson hit his second shot next to a cholla cactus leaving him a virtually impossible shot. He blasted out, landed near the pin, made the putt and tied the hole. He then did the same thing on the next hole—blasting his ball out from amidst a bunch of dead branches to again one putt and tie the hole. The wry smile on Jason Day’s face as he watched Dubuisson’s ball fly out of the brush and hop onto the green said it all—simply amazing.
Day didn’t look dejected, frustrated, or annoyed. Instead, he appreciated the magic he had just witnessed.
Perhaps, in some ways, the strangest moment occurred in the match between Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler. On the sixth hole, Garcia’s ball had landed on what appeared to be a bee’s nest. The effort to drop his ball away from the nest and take his next shot consumed a significant amount of time. All the while, Fowler had to wait for his attempt at what seemed to be a sure-bet birdie putt. He missed. On the next hole Fowler faced an 18-foot putt for par while Garcia had a six-foot par putt. While Fowler lined up his putt, Garcia suddenly asked him, “Good, good?” Fowler was incredulous at first. But when he realized Garcia was serious, he jumped at the chance. Hole halved. Why did Garcia offer such a magnanimous good-good? “I felt like maybe I took too much time (on the sixth hole)," Garcia said. "That might have made a difference on his (missing a birdie) putt."
And then he added: "I like to be as fair as possible. . . . At least I feel good with myself, even though I lost." With the much shorter putt he might well have won the seventh hole and maybe the match. But his sense of sportsmanship took over; he tied the seventh; then he ultimately lost the match one down, and he never looked back. It’s why I love golf, both to play it and to watch it. While I appreciate Day’s smile, I’m really impressed by Sergio’s sportsmanship. Congratulations Sergio. Well done.
Danica Patrick is starting to grow on me. She’s been sort of a curiosity since she stepped onto the NASCAR scene. But truth be told, I’ve probably seen her more in her GoDaddy commercials than I have seen her when I happened to be watching a NASCAR event.
What’s brought her front and center is the recent brouhaha over Richard Petty’s comments about her skills as a driver and the chances she has of ever winning a NASCAR event. NASCAR News & Media reported Petty’s comment in response to a question at the Canadian Motorsports Expo this past weekend this way: “[Patrick] would only win a Sprint Cup Series race, ‘if everybody else stayed home.’” Ouch.
What’s Patrick’s response to this shot across her bow? "People are going to judge what he said and I'm just not going to." She comes on pretty strongly that everyone is entitled to an opinion and, generally speaking, those opinions about her generate a positive return for her. "I really feel that I like people who have opinions. That is fine with me. It creates such great conversation. The last time someone said something that wasn't so positive for me, it spawned so many positive articles. So for me, there is a positive side to it, too.”
So rather than being insulted, rather than attacking Petty, rather than getting upset, she finds the positive. She says she’s not bothered by it and won’t even pursue trying to speak to Petty about his comments or look for a retraction or an apology from him.
And that, in a nutshell, is a lesson Emily Post taught, right from the first day Etiquette was published back in 1922: Have confidence in yourself and find the positive in a situation. And that’s why Danica Patrick is starting to grow on me. She handled what could have ended up as a slanging match perfectly by turning Petty’s comments into a positive for her and not getting stressed out about his opinion. We can all take a lesson.
For the past twenty-one years my wife and I have enjoyed a long weekend playing golf in Florida with three other couples. It’s always been a much-needed brief respite from the winter weather in Vermont. All January it’s something to look forward to, and the shot of warm weather helps us get through the rest of February and March.
Yesterday, one of the men I was playing with simply could not avoid landing in a bunker. Every hole at least once, and sometimes two or more times, he was blasting his way out of the sand. It was painful to watch, and the rest of us could only commiserate as we all have experienced similar golf difficulties at other times. To his credit he didn’t complain, get overly frustrated, swear he’d never pick up a club again, or do anything other than play from the bunker and then rake up after himself. While his bunker play improved with each passing hole, what was really impressive was how positively he handled what was a decidedly frustrating round of golf.
That got me to thinking about other examples of repetitive frustrations and how others or I handle them. For me, it’s traffic lights. There are days when it seems no matter where I am or how many times it has already happened, as I approach a traffic signal, it turns yellow. I’m not sure why, but as the day progresses, it gets more and more annoying. After watching how my friend handled his adversity in the bunkers, I vowed not to let frustrations like yellow lights get to me, not to swear, and grumble and be exasperated.
Those repetitive frustrating events are going to be part of everyone’s journey. They can breed anger and stress, which in turn can lead to discourtesy, incivility, and an unpleasant time for everyone involved. Or, you can navigate them with a positive attitude and an understanding that there are more important things in life than being in a sand trap or waiting at a light that’s just changed yellow. The next time it happens to you, take a deep breath, relax, envision the bigger picture and save yourself and the people around you from unnecessary discourtesy and stress.
My daughter popped her head into my office a few minutes ago. (Yes, she works at The Emily Post Institute, too, along with my other daughter and one of my nephews.) She had been scheduled to fly from Burlington, Vermont to New York City later in the afternoon.
“I just learned my flight has been delayed from 6:30PM until 8:00PM,” she announced. Now, the average person might just think to herself, “Now I can delay going to the airport for an extra hour and a half.” But my daughter said something that demonstrated a keen grasp of having learned how to handle today’s vagaries of flying, especially in the lousy weather we’ve experienced in the past month. “I think I’ll still go to the airport early. You never know when they might end up sending the plane early even though they’ve announced the new time.”
She wasn’t frustrated or annoyed. Instead, she’s learned to take the downs of flying in stride, and not to get stressed. When flying plans do go south, here’s some advice to make the situation as palatable as possible:
- Remain calm. When you speak to the customer service agent, be as friendly and helpful as you can. The old adage really works here: “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
- Anticipate. Even though she may have to wait that extra hour and a half at the airport, my daughter will be there and be ready for any unexpected earlier departure. What a bummer to arrive an hour and a half later and find out the flight had ended up departing earlier after all.
- Keep moving. Do whatever you can to fly out of a troubled area. I was in Washington’s Dulles airport one evening with thunderstorms and horrendous weather screwing up flights all over the place. I was trying to get back to Burlington and my plane kept getting delayed. I noticed there was a flight boarding passengers for Boston. So I ran to that gate and arrived just as they were finishing up. “Can you put me on this flight?” I asked, showing the agent my ticket to Burlington. There were three seats still available, and she asked if I had checked luggage. (I hadn’t). She made a few keystrokes and told me to get on the plane. I called my travel agent from my seat (great use of a smartphone) and asked her to book me a rental car from Boston. I was able to drive home that night. Later, I found out people had been delayed in Washington for as much as two days because of the weather.
- Accept the inevitable. The unfortunate reality is if you’re going to fly, things are going to go wrong a certain amount of the time. Weather is going to cause you to miss a flight. Equipment problems are going to delay you. A pilot is going to be delayed getting to your flight. Getting worked up and stressed out won’t change anything, and if you do take it out on customer service agents, it’s not likely going to help you resolve your situation. Rather, it could just lose you that cooperative edge, so necessary when you need it most.