October 13, 2015: The pursuit of excellence does not condone the slightest hint of satisfaction. The experiences of Anirban Lahiri and Jason Day in recent weeks is a reminder of this phenomenon. The two young golfers accomplished some of their biggest goals this season, immediately suffering the curse of excellence. In sport, an athlete is only as good as his last strike and the two men are learning the lesson in the hardest manner possible.
Jason Day lived through a dream as he spent August and September realising some of the most important professional goals of his life. He turned into a dominant force as he marched to victory after victory – first at the PGA Championship to claim the first major title of his career, before continuing his march through the FedexCup Playoffs.
When he made yet another birdie at the 72nd hole of the BMW Championship for a six shot victory, Day climbed the summit of his sport. It was a long cherished dream of the Australian to become the highest ranked golfer in the world. But soon as he accomplished the goal, it appears Day lost sting.
“To be honest I had terrible sleep over the last few nights,” admitted a clearly elated Day. “Thinking about getting to number one, thinking about winning this tournament, thinking what I had to do to win this tournament to get to number one.” Those were all consuming thoughts and when he reached his goal, Day dissolved into the soothing embrace of satisfaction.
Lahiri was chasing his own dreams too. Going into the final round of the PGA Championships, he nearly had an idea about what it might take to earn a coveted PGA TOUR card for the next season. Even though an unseemly bogey hurt his quest for the card, finishing T5 at the final major of the year helped heal his temporary wounds.
After a quick assessment of his situation, while spending time with his family in Bengaluru, Anirban decided to throw his hat in the ring for the 25 cards that are on offer through the Web.com Tour Finals. He performed well enough in the first two (of four) events to leave the US for Korea to prepare for an event Lahiri had been hoping to play for quite some time.
The fact that he had earned his PGA TOUR card in 2016 and an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in the business at the Presidents Cup afforded Lahiri the luxury of breathing an air of contentment.
A look at the two players performance at last week’s Presidents Cup tells the tale of tyranny that these sportsmen are subjected through their day to day existence.
Despite the best of intentions and a keen desire to do well for the International team, both Day and Lahiri found to their dismay that their bag of tricks turned bare in the cold climes of Korea.
Lahiri lost all three points that he played for, including that heart breaking loss in the singles against Chris Kirk. The top ranked Indian golfer missed a three footer on the green to surrender the match on a platter.
Incredibly Day lost four of the five points he player for, managing only to halve the other match. And his failure to contribute to the score beyond the half point was an inexplicable result for Nick Price’s gallant team of warriors.
There is no place to hide in sport and no room for lowering your guard, even in the most celebrated moments of your life. Our top athletes lead a charmed life, but it is an existence that does not allow the tiniest of margins.