After an 8-iron to inches and a tap-in birdie, Kenny Perry had a 2-shot lead in the Masters with 2 holes to play. Minutes later, he lost a stroke on each hole and fell back to a tie after regulation, went to a sudden-death playoff, and lost on the 2nd playoff hole to Angel Cabrera. Arguably the biggest tournament in golf, Perry lost in a playoff.

Was this a classic choke-job on the golf course, or a triumph? It really depends on what your goals are.

A year ago, Kenny Perry’s main goal, his only goal, was to make the 2008 Ryder Cup team, which was played in his home state of Kentucky. To qualify for the team, he had to concentrate more on his game, put every effort into winning a few tournaments or finishing high in the money. He fulfilled his dream of making the team, played well, and led the US to victory. I found a quote of Perry’s in late 2008 that read:

“[T]he Ryder Cup to me was a dream. It wasn’t really attainable, either, but I achieved it. I just proved to myself that I need to set more goals. I’m not a real goal-oriented person, never have been. When I wrote that goal down to make the Ryder Cup team on Jan. 1 [2008]… it came true.”

At the Masters, he reiterated that the Ryder Cup was his biggest goal, his biggest accomplishment of his career, and any major championship would be icing on the cake.

Two points you as a leader should take away from Kenny Perry:

1) Leaders need to be goal oriented.This is what CCL teaches in our programs, it’s one of the pillars of development. Leaders must set difficult, yet attainable goals. Leaders must write their goals down so they can see them and be reminded of them continuously.

2) Have short, medium, and long-term goals, and even longer-term goals. Kenny Perry definitely had a goal in mind: to make the Ryder Cup team. It was difficult, yet attainable. It was written down. But, when he achieved that goal, what was next? Many times, leaders set goals they think will never be accomplished, but they happen. Then what? A let-down may occur. Instability, confusion, resting on laurels, all of those things can happen. Leaders will become ill-prepared for the next major hurdle or next major opportunity if they don’t have another goal past the one that was a long-shot. Goal-oriented leaders, those best prepared, will have a much more forward- or future-thinking orientation, and have a goal to accomplish even when the most difficult, long-term goal is attained, so they can continue to strive towards excellence. Leaders must have other goals just in case they actually accomplish their life-long dream so they won’t get stale from a developmental standpoint.

In a sense, some would call falling short of winning the Masters a choke, but others would call it a triumph. It really depends on how you view goals. I was pulling for Perry on Sunday, I liked the storyline. He’s 48, would have become the oldest player ever to win a major. Watching him on television Sunday, his age, and nerves, started to show on those last 2 holes. After defeat, I wondered whether he was truly happy just in almost winning a major because in reality, his goal was already achieved last year. Or, if just making the Ryder Cup team and not having that longer-term goal set him up for short-term success but long-term ill-preparedness?

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