Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta

The Loop

The dreaded five-shot lead

March 29, 2009

In an earlier gig covering another sport, I chronicled the travails of a team that was notorious for blowing leads, very often in dramatic and spectacular fashion. It had reached such comical proportions that whenever this team would pull ahead in a game, a group of us jaded writers would roll our eyes and say something like, "Beware the dreaded three-goal lead."

I am reminded of this because of what confronts young Sean O'Hair this afternoon at soggy Bay Hill. As our own Thomas Bonk points out, O'Hair's five-shot cushion would appear to be sufficient if not for the fact that the man directly behind him happens to be the greatest athlete to ever don pleated pants.

But disregard Tiger Woods for a moment, if you can. Even if O'Hair's nearest pursuer was someone you had never heard of, there can be very little comfortable about a five-shot lead. Because immediately, all you can think about are ways that it can evaporate. Don't go for that flag. Stay left off the tee. That cart path could be in play. Golf is a difficult enough game as it is. But it becomes outright paralyzing if your predominant swing thought is, "Whatever you do, don't screw this up."

Or at least that's the way I'd be struggling with a five-shot lead in the final round of a PGA Tour event. Of course, this is just one of the countless reasons that I will never find myself in that position in the first place.

-- Sam Weinman