Choke Jobs

Heimlich manuever

Watching the U.S. Open and the NBA Finals this weekend you where witness to a whole range of choke jobs. From Retief Goosen, who had led going into Sunday at Pinehurst, to Rasheed Wallace doing his best Chris Webber impersonation.

Even Tim Duncan and Tiger Woods got in on the act, making mentals mistakes at key moments.

Goosen, who has played so well in other high pressure U.S. Opens, fell apart on the last day. He had a three shot lead going into Sunday, but then shot a miserable 81 after shooting 68, 70 and 69 the first three days.

Wallace made two key mistakes at the end of Game 5 last night. First, he called a timeout when the Pistons had no timeouts to call. Fortunately, the clock had run out by the time Wallace attempted to pull a Chris Webber. If there had been one more second left everyone would be talking about how Wallace handed the game to the Spurs. Second, Rasheed left "Big Shot" Robert Horry open at the end of overtime to help double Manu Ginobili. Big mistake. Rasheed is destined to go down in basketball history the same way as Chris Webber, both are talented big men who had the athletic ability to be considered among the best power forwards to have ever played the game, but mental mistakes will have prevented them from reaching that level.

Tiger Woods played very well at the U.S. Open, finishing second behind the eventual winner, Mike Campbell. But on the 17th hole when Tiger was just three shots back and putting for a birdie he made two crucial mistakes that sealed his second place finish. Tiger three putted the par 3 hole to move too far back to catch up with Campbell, finishing with a bogey.

Tim Duncan made several mistakes in the last few minutes of the game that could have cost the Spurs a win. He missed an easy tip-in in the closing seconds of regulation that would have won the game the for the Spurs. He also mishandled a pass in overtime that resulted in a turnover. Duncan also went 4-11 for the game from the free throw line, and made only one of six free throw attemts in the fourth quarter. But Duncan's team won the game and Duncan put up big numbers leading his team in points, rebounds and blocks.

Of course, that's what seperates great players like Duncan and Tiger from good players like Rasheed and Goosen. Great players can put up good numbers even when they make crucial mistakes. Great players don't let a missed basket or a three putt hole affect the rest of their game. They are able to mentally block out the mistakes, concentrating on what they need to do next to succeed. I know that Tiger and Duncan will play at an outstanding level at the next opportunity they get, I can't say the same about Goosen or Rasheed.

And I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the clutch perfomances of Campbell and Horry yesterday. Campbell had ice water running through his veins, making big shot after big shot to take the lead and hold onto it at Pinehurst.

Finally, Horry's nickname should be changed. Last night, Horry admitted he did not like the nickname "Big Shot Bob." Apparently the rest of his teammates (including Duncan) tease him about it. So I move that Horry's new nickname should be "Big Cajones Bob", because he certainly had the biggest pair last night.

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