Conventional wisdom, that often-cited anonymous source, says a lot of things people accept as true. It says you can't find a job or sell a house in a faltering economy. It says the candidate or the baseball team than spends the most money will win. It says that golfers ranked 396th, playing in their first major tournament ever, do not win the British Open. They do not beat players like Tiger Woods, Thomas Bjorn, Vijay Singh, and Davis Love III.
On Sunday, however, Ben Curtis, a PGA-tour rookie from Kent, Ohio, proved conventional wisdom wrong. In an upset that had jaws dropping from Sandwich, England, to Sandwich, Mass., Curtis turned in the only under-par performance on the wicked Royal St. George's course to win the 132nd British Open. He defeated Bjorn and Singh by one stroke and Woods and Love by two.
Curtis's victory says a good deal about the importance of confidence, self-control, and persistence. Bjorn lost his temper after a shot on Thursday and got a two-stroke penalty - without which he would still have won, despite his meltdown Sunday on the back nine that handed the tournament to Curtis. Curtis hung tough, making his final, crucial putt on the 18th hole after bogeying his way (a bogey is one stroke over par) through four of the preceding nine holes.
"Right now many people are probably saying, 'Well, he probably doesn't belong here,' but I know I do, so that's what matters," Curtis said after accepting the trophy. Yet with all that confidence, he was humble enough to listen to his British caddie, who advised him to chip with an eight-iron.
That's the problem with conventional wisdom. It never predicts the unpredictable. Now that Curtis has won the British Open, could this be the year of the Red Sox?