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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Linsanity and Golf

In case you haven't heard of Linsanity, let me give you a quick lesson.

Lin makes yet another shotThe New York Knicks (basketball team, for those of you who don't follow the NBA) have been struggling. Their two main players, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, are out with injuries... and to be honest, the team wasn't playing too well before they went out. But a week ago an undrafted point guard named Jeremy Lin was picked up to try and help them through this rough period.

Lin initially got some attention simply because he doesn't fit the normal NBA mold. He's the first Asian-American player in the NBA (his parents are from Taiwan, just like Yani Tseng) and he graduated in 2010 from Harvard -- hardly a powerhouse of basketball. He's basically been bouncing around the league because nobody wanted him. The Knicks didn't really expect much from him when they put him on the court last Saturday, but they were playing so bad they needed to do something.

The result is a phenomenon called Linsanity. The NBA is playing a condensed schedule this year and since Lin started last week the Knicks have played 4 games. First they beat the New Jersey Nets, then the Utah Jazz, and then the Washington Wizards. He scored more than 20 points per game, even setting some records for undrafted players. Many analysts have been critical of all this excitement, though. The Nets, Jazz, and Wizards aren't very good teams, they said, and it proved nothing. He hadn't taken any shots more than 5 feet from the basket, so he clearly couldn't shoot. Just wait till he played the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night; he wouldn't look so hot then.

So all he did was lead the Knicks to a 92-85 win over the Lakers and personally outscore Kobe Bryant, 38 to 34. And we discovered that he hadn't taken any shots over 5 feet from the basket because he hadn't needed to. In fact, he hit a 3-pointer to start the game and then hit shots from all over the place. And when ESPN's analysts questioned at halftime whether Lin could keep this up -- wouldn't the other players just "figure him out" -- Magic Johnson simply smiled and said, "He'll be fine. He uses his head. This kid's the real deal."

The Knicks are playing better than they have for a long time, and their coach simply says the team loves to play with Lin. They know he'll get the ball to them so they can shoot, and he gets everybody involved. The Knicks have even begun to play some defense -- a term previously unheard around this team!

Linsanity will probably be all over the news by the time you read this post. So why am I telling you about it?

Because Jeremy Lin said something at halftime that can improve your golf.

I'm sure you know that Tiger Woods is playing with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo at the AT&T Pro-Am this week. You probably also know that Romo is an extremely good player but hasn't been able to qualify for the US Open. It's because he makes mental mistakes. GC talked about Romo hitting a long club into a narrow opening on one of the par-5s and, while he pulled it off, he still needed a third shot to reach the green.

In other words, Romo took a risk that could have hurt his score without giving him an advantage when he was successful. He still hasn't learned some of the basic strategy he needs in order to make the best use of his skill.

Compare this to Lin. I actually heard this exchange on TV, but I'll just quote this USA Today post about Lin's play:
At halftime, the Knicks led 49-41, with Lin scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five assists and one steal.

Yet interviewed at the half, Lin was upset that he wasn't taking enough of an advantage of the Lakers' "big men sagging off me" to get his own big man, Tyson Chandler, the ball. And so, he told ESPN's Lisa Salters, he was going to take a look at the film at halftime.

Salters was about to ask another question — but stopped, eyes raised, and asked, "You're going to look at tape right now."

And, indeed, after halftime, Salters reported that Chandler said they DID look at the film.
Most players study game films the next day, not during the game! But Jeremy Lin got himself an unexpected break with the Knicks -- indeed, he's been sleeping on his brother's couch this week because he didn't know if he'd get to stay on the team -- and he's making the most of it.

If you want to get better at golf, you probably want to spend all your time hitting golf balls. But do you know how to use the skills you already have? If not, learning more skills probably isn't the most productive way to spend your time. I'm not saying you should become obsessed with the game, spending every spare moment thinking about it. But, like Jeremy Lin, you've got to learn to use your head to think your way around the course.

If you do, maybe you start your own brand of Linsanity among your playing partners.

The photo came from this SC Herald post.

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