On the second day of the 77th edition of the Masters, one of the best golf players of all history, Tiger Woods, was dealing great with Augusta National’s course until what seemed a great wedge shot in the 15th hole didn’t end well. The ball hit the flag post and ended in the water.
Tiger Woods was forced to drop, with the consecuente penalty, and what was becoming a great golf round that could lead to think that Tiger would have chances to win the Masters on Sunday, turned out to be a nightmare. A viewer at home noticed that Woods didn’t drop the ball correctly, and called the Augusta National to inform the Tournament Director.
Therefore, what was about to be a great shot became a disastrous shot just because it hit something as thin as a flag post. Tiger could have ended that hole with a birdie that would make him candidate for the final win, but he made a bogey that was finally a triple bogey due to a two shots penalty because of that incorrect drop. It could have been even worse, as many viewers and some players in the tournament thought that he should have been disqualified.
But let’s go back to the beginning of this controversy, just when the ball hits the flag post on the 15th hole. For this edition of the Masters, the organization decided to use thicker posts for the flags, just to make sure that they would resist the strong winds that are usual in Augusta. These new posts tend not to absorb the ball’s impact as much as the normal ones, making it easier for the ball to end in the water after a shot like Tiger Woods’ on the 15th hole.
Such a small detail, a minor change you would say, was the spark that led to a big fire that involved Tiger Woods and the Augusta national, not only because that ball fell to the water, but because it was the first of a chain of errors. Something similar can happen in business too, where a small decision in product design, for example, can affect the accomplishment of an important operation, like not signing a contract or not obtaining the benefits expected.
Any decision can be the one that makes the difference in business. Sometimes it will be possible to detect those risks or decisions that could affect the becoming of an operation, but many others won’t. It was not easy to foresee what happened to Tiger Woods, but that ball ended in the water anyway.
The lesson we can learn is that, in business, as in golf, you can never claim victory until you sign a contract, collect a bill, deliver the goods or see the ball get in the hole, there are always risks that could mislead an operation, and they could be as unpredictable as a slightly thicker flag post.