Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open for the second year in a row on Sunday, only the seventh golfer in the 123-year history of the U.S. Open to do so, and it was anything but easy. The wailing wind played havoc with drives as the hard greens, dried from lack of water, sent anything but the perfect putt soaring into the rough. Shinnecock Hills proved to be a challenge this year and the scores proved it. In a sport where some tournaments are won by players who hit 20 shots fewer than the course was designed to require, not one golfer ended this Open below par overall, with Koepka coming out on top with a +1. It was a rough weekend.
Throughout the 2018 U.S. Open, plenty of golfers took time to complain about the conditions, griped about the USGA’s continued bungling of the U.S. Open, or just simply lost their cool. Phil Mickelson missed a putt on the 13th hole, and instead of letting it roll to a stop, he chased after it and tried to putt in mid-roll. This is obviously against the rules, but it shows the frustration everyone was having that day. No one was doing well.
No one except Brooks Koepka.
Koepka wasn’t having the tournament of his life. He ended -16 while winning the U.S. Open last year, but that was on a different course, an easier setup. But that win meant nothing for 2018. Now, Koepka was playing the same difficult course as everyone else. He had to face the winds and the hard greens just like his competition. While everybody else was frustrated by things they couldn’t control, he let the hardships run off his back. He didn't say a word. He didn’t jump into the melee or pile on against the USGA for messing up (again) – he just played his game.
Ricky Elliot, Koepka’s longtime caddy, commented on this mental toughness, “He's just a real strong mental guy, he's unflappable. When he hits a bad shot, he never gives me any grief. He gets on with it. I mean, to this day, if we hit one over the back [of the green], he'd probably just turn around to me and go, ‘Well, I hit that quite a bit hard.’ Which is unusual for a good athlete or player. He takes a huge responsibility in what he's doing out there.”
It's not like Koepka had some advantage over his competition. They were all playing the same golf course. So, what is gained by complaining? They’re wasting precious time when they whine about their setup or the hand they were dealt. I'd be frustrated too. Yes, it stinks. But, everyone else is competing on the same course. What are you going to do about you? Are you going to whine or win? Descend to a world of blame or transcend to Greatness?
Brooks Koepka of the United States lines up a putt on the 13th green during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 17, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
It’s about how you frame your situation when you’re challenged. Do you let yourself get caught up in the negative dialogue, the negative conversation, or do you say "Hey, you know what? I can't do anything about that, all I can do is go out and play the course in front of me."
Koepka clearly showed the right approach. While others struggled, he succeeded.
That’s a philosophy for Koepka that we can all borrow. Last March he texted Trey Jones, his coach from Florida State, saying, "I am telling you, I will win in the next two months. No one is more excited about playing than I am." This was during his nearly four-month rehabilitation from a wrist injury that kept him from playing in the Masters. In sharing the story of the text, Jones told the Tallahassee Democrat: "In the rules of golf you don't compare your weakness with other people's strengths. It just basically means he doesn't pay attention to anyone else. He focuses on what he needs to do. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever coached."
I love that. Don't compare yourself to others or let a bad break define you. Don’t waste your mental energy on the irrelevant. Just focus on what you can control. Don't pay attention to anybody else, but focus on what you can do.
Leave the whining to everybody else.
There’s no doubt that you will face your own trials and tribulations. Life will send you setbacks and hardships. You will make mistakes and others will make mistakes that affect you. Do you whine about how unfair it is? Do you let frustration consume you? Or do you take the opportunity to step up, focus on your game, and embrace Greatness?
Let’s leave the whining to the losers. Winners focus on what it takes to win.