Monday, July 13, 2009

The Reason Why

Tim Petrovic is a reasonably typical PGA Tour golfer. He's made a bunch of money (over $6 million in 7 plus years on the Tour) and very, very few sports fans have ever heard of him.

I have, although only through happenstance. I've covered Petrovic at a few tournaments, and in an interview at the 2001 U.S. Open, we discovered a bond. Petrovic, a Connecticut native, is a serious Red Sox fan and was delighted to discover I was not an admirer of the general managership of Dan Duquette.

Ever since, I've sporadically followed Petrovic's career, which involves much more Google searching than Sunday afternoon television watching. But I got home from a trip yesterday evening, turned on the tube, and lo and behold, there was Petrovic, in the fairway at the 72nd hole of the John Deere Classic (the tee markers are sculpted in the shape of earth-moving equipment).

Petrovic's situation was as follows. He was in second place, trailing leader Steve Stricker by two shots. The 18th hole location was the elemental sucker pin, on the far left of the green hard by a lake. Petrovic had two options-play for the par, put it safely on on the right side, and accept the 99.999 percent possibility of second place, which carried about $350K in prize money and, oh yes, qualified him for the British Open this week. Or play, not for the win, but just for a better chance of a win. Take the risk of firing at the flag in the hope a good shot would a) set up a birdie putt and maybe put enough pressure on Stricker so he'd bogey and force a playoff. Best guess: That scenario upped Petrovic's win likelihood percentage from .0001 to .0006.

Petrovic did not mull the matter long. He set up left, fired at the flag, and pulled the ball in the lake. Hello, double-bogey. Goodbye, Open Championship and about 200 large. Petrovic made a face. Me, I was quietly proud to have made his acquaintance, brief though those occasions were. An unknown guy in a sport many people don't think is one had displayed the whole point-why sports are worth playing, and why they're worth watching.

To cite a famous quote; "Hello? You play to win the game."

Herm Edwards was not a brilliantly successful NFL head coach, and that one statement was almost surely the only insight Edwards ever made in public.

As insights go, however, it's a mighty profound one. And many of us go through life without insights of any kind, public or otherwise.


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