Who enjoyed the Masters this month? I always think the Masters signals the start of spring, a turn in the weather (for the better), and gives a general sense of optimism about what lies ahead. And goodness, we can all do with that this year can’t we?!
For any golf fan, there’s just something different about the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a place of great tradition, always immaculately presented, with a deep history, and conjures up many iconic images of great golfing moments from years gone by. Who can forget the dramatic collapse of Greg Norman in 1996? Not me – Norman was my favourite player growing up, pre-Tiger, and I was a devastated 14 year old that night! And what about Tiger’s amazing win the following year by a record margin (12 shots), which almost overnight shifted golf from the sports pages onto the front pages, and literally changed the sport and earning capacity of professional players forever. His ‘comeback’ win in 2019 wasn’t too bad either!
I think we all enjoyed the tournament this year, back in its usual slot in April, with some exciting golf over the four days, and Hideki Matsuyama a deserving winner on Sunday evening. His performance over the course of the tournament got me thinking about how important it is in sport, business and life in general, to play to your strengths, and be true to yourself. In other words, as somebody once said ‘be you, everyone else is already taken’.
What I mean by this in the context of Matsuyama, is that he is not the longest hitter (which some would say is a pre-requisite to win at Augusta), he wasn’t top of the stats for greens hit in regulation, or putting (which again, many would think is a requirement to win at Augusta), but nonetheless he’s the one heading home to Japan with the green jacket, and a lifetime exemption to play at the Masters. Oh, and he will also make a few quid from it (with the $2,070,000 winners cheque for starters).
Matsuyama didn’t get overawed by others hitting it further, frustrated at those who seemed to hole every putt they looked at, or by those who maybe came across much more confidently in media interviews. He played his game, stuck to it, went about things his way and held off all comers to take home the ultimate prize – a Major championship. If he had tried to change any of that, or be something he’s not, I suspect he wouldn’t have done so well.
Playing to your strengths or playing your own version of the game doesn’t however mean you can’t look to improve or innovate ‘you’. As I say, Matsuyama is clearly not ‘long’ off the tee, but he constantly looks at ways of improving his accuracy and confidence on the course allowing him to get round his way. I’m told by a friend who plays professionally on the European Tour that Matsuyama is the only player he has seen try 5 or 6 different sets of irons and drivers on the practice range before a round, with a dedicated ‘runner’ between him and the equipment manufacturers’ truck to swap and change clubs for him, until he feels comfortable he has the right equipment for the particular circumstances of the round ahead. Interestingly, although not so unusual, I read that Matsuyama changed to a different putter just two weeks ago.
In the context of running a business, I wonder how many people spend too much time trying to be somebody or something they’re not. Or trying to be all things to all people. I’m not for one second saying don’t try new things, but do that in a controlled way, or for a trial period to see if it is something worth sticking with in your individual circumstances, rather than doing so because ‘everyone else is’. One lesson we can learn from Matsuyama’s Masters win is perhaps that sticking to what you know, what works best for you, what you’ve had success with, and improving and innovating on that, may bring about the best results.