Loving The Next Shot

Tiger Woods’ victory at the AT&T National has been sucking all the oxygen from the room of late, but there was another win last weekend that is worth noting. Peter Tomasulo beat David Lingmerth in a 4-hole playoff at the United Leasing Championship, the first event of the newly-named Web.com Tour. How Tomasulo held it together to win is an instructive story.

Tomasulo was leading by one stroke as he stood on the 18th tee on Sunday, with Lingmerth already in the clubhouse. Tomasulo had been driving well all day, but he hit his drive into the water hazard running down the right side and had to re-tee because of where his ball entered the hazard. He managed a birdie 3 on his second ball (a bogey 5 on the hole) to tie Lingmerth. He then endured 3 holes of the playoff, missing a short putt on the 3rd hole that would had given him the win. Then he endured a weather delay, and when they came out to play the 4th playoff hole he stood and watched as Lingmerth, his caddie, and a PGA official went through an extended debate about where Lingmerth could drop after hitting his drive into the same hazard Tomasulo had hit in regulation. Lingmerth got a favorable drop decision and managed to reach the green in 3. He went on to bogey and Tomasulo finally won with a par. All of this happened at the end of a grueling day of 100-plus degree heat in Evansville, Indiana.

Tomasulo had many chances to come apart during all of this, but he held it together to win. Just imagine how many opportunities he had to get down on himself, start cursing this luck or his stupidity, get angry about Lingmerth’s drop position, etc. Somehow he seemed to stay in the moment and let the past be the past, to focus on what he needed to do and not what he had done.

Whether you think of it as forgetting about the last shot, as we’re told to do ad-nauseum, or you think about it as staying in the moment in a more Zen-like fashion, it was an impressive feat. I’d have beat myself to a bloody pulp long before I made it to the 4th hole of that playoff. I can’t imagine what I’d have been muttering to myself during the rain delay, if I made it that far.

In my last round I shanked a wedge from the middle of the fairway, leading to a bogey on the easiest par 4 on the course. I proceeded to 4-putt the next hole and 3-putt the next, so I went 5 over in those 3 holes before I got my mental control back and was able to rescue the round and end up 7 over. My tendency is to beat myself up for going 5 over on those 3 holes, but I could also congratulate myself for the other 15 where I was only 2 over. Of course, beating myself up is probably what caused me to go 5 over.

I bet I know what Tomasulo would suggest I do.

I just finished reading Beautiful Ruins, the new novel by Jess Walter. It has nothing to do with golf, but I highly recommend it. At the beginning of the final chapter Walter includes a quote from Milan Kundera that goes as follows:

“There would be nothing more obvious, more tangible, than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact.”

And much of the sadness of golf, I’d add.

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