Here’s what Stuart Appelby had to say about his upcoming pairing with Tiger Woods on the eve of today’s final round in Augusta: “He won’t even know I’m there. I’m sure I’ll know he’s there.”
I know he meant it as a joke, but it’s just not funny anymore when great players tiptoe around Tiger with deference and self deprecation. From a mindbody perspective, it reveals inner weakness and a need to please others (such as sportswriters, fans, etc.), neither of which are conducive to winning the Masters. Can you imagine Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter or Ray Lewis giving an opponent so much credit on the eve of an epic contest?
What Appelby should have said is some form of: I’m going to kick Tiger’s ass. Not just privately, but publicly as well. Tiger Woods changed the game of golf. The old niceties of the game no longer work, at least at these most competitive moments, and I’m always amazed when professional golfers fail to put a serious game face on before a final round against Woods.
Remember when Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, famously said, “We want the ball, and we’re going to score” after winning the coin toss in overtime against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs? Sure, Hasselbeck proceeded to throw a game-losing interception, but he had the right idea. The egg on his face was temporary, and he found himself in the Super Bowl a few years later.
I’m going to be closely watching Woods and Appelby on the putting greens today, because I think that’s where their respective mentalities are going to most reveal themselves. I’m not saying Woods is going to win, but I’m pretty sure that Appleby won’t be wearing the green jacket tonight.