Tim Crone: PGA is a test of mental toughness, experience

The Examiner
Tim Crone

The PGA leaderboard was a good combination of players going into the final round last Sunday. 

Phil Mickelson, five-time major champion and all-around great player, was at the top of the heap. He was followed by four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who is currently one of the pro golf big guns. Another British Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen was only two strokes back in third. Also, in the top five starting on Sunday were two young guys trying to make a name for themselves, Kevin Streelman and Christiaan Bezuidenhout. 

Golf is a great sport in that it allows a 50-year-old player to compete with a young man in his 20s for a major championship. The PGA Championship is known for a tough golf course. The rough is usually like a corn field. This year the biggest challenge was the wind. For the entire tournament, the players had to adjust to the many shifts in the wind. 

Most fans were probably cheering for old Lefty. The Kiawah Island course in South Carolina was made for a Hall of Fame golfer like Mickelson because of his experience. The first of aging on the course is the loss of distance, particularly off the tee box. Mickelson used his experienced ability to play in the windy conditions to his advantage. Phil won his first PGA event 30 years ago. 

On the other hand, Phil was battling with one of the greatest present-day players in Koepka, who won back-to-back U.S. Open championships and back-to-back PGA Championships in the last four years. He has been slowed by knee surgery lately and looked like he was trying to hang on physically during the tournament. Oosthuizen has only won the one major tournament, but he always plays well in the major events. He is a calm and cool competitor. 

The other young players have power, athletic bodies and confidence in their play to combine with their competitiveness. Bryson DeChambeau looks like an NFL left tackle and swings like King Kong. 

Golf is a lot of fun to watch on a Sunday afternoon. If I ever coached football again, I would make my quarterbacks play golf in the summer to learn how to compete. Golf is a game of failure. You must forget about the last shot you made whether it was good or bad and concentrate on the next shot. It is a game that makes you compete against your own mind. No one else but you can control your destiny. 

The game of golf does not make an athlete physically tough – it makes athletes mentally tough. Old athletes love golf in their golden years because they can go out on a course alone and still compete. This year’s PGA tournament was once again a great example of experience, mental toughness, and the ability to overcome adversity. 

• The NBA playoffs are in full swing. The Brooklyn Nets have a lot of firepower, but I am going with the Utah Jazz to surprise everyone and win the NBA championship. 

• The quote of the week comes from the greatest golfer of all-time Jack Nicklaus. He won 18 major championships and has a record that will probably never be broken: “I’m a firm believer in the theory that people only do their best at things they truly enjoy. It is difficult to excel at something you don’t enjoy.” 

Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.