MASTERS THESIS

As they do every April, the world’s greatest golfers gathered in Augusta, Georgia last month to compete in what many consider to be the sport’s most prestigious tournament — the Masters. Virtually every one of them had a seemingly flawless and effortless swing, and most were able to hit the ball at least 300 yards with their driver. Each was also proficient with the other woods, irons, wedges and putter in their bag.

So what distinguished the legendary Tiger Woods — who, at age 43, came from two strokes back to win his 5th Masters Tournament and his 15th major championship overall, 14 years after his last win at Augusta — from the rest of the field?

The championship trophy and green jacket usually go to the golfer who formulates — and most consistently executes — the best strategy for dealing with the unique challenges presented by Augusta National’s undulating design and difficult pin placements over the course of the entire four-day tournament.

After posting a “tied-for-11th” score of 70 in the opening round, four shots behind the co-leaders, Tiger posted a score of 68 in the second round, moving into a four-way tie for sixth, one stroke behind five golfers then tied for first. In the third round, Tiger posted a score of 67, moving into a two-way tie for second, two strokes behind Francesco Molinari. In the final round, Tiger gained a share of the lead at the 12th hole, when Molinari double-bogeyed after his tee shot came up short and rolled back into Rae’s Creek, while Tiger played it safe — taking aim at the middle of the green and securing his par. Three holes later, with five players then sharing the lead at 12 under, Tiger birdied the par 5, 530-yard 15th hole to take the lead for good — the first time in his illustrious career that he recorded a victory in one of the four majors without having been atop the leader board at the start of the final round.

Displaying greater composure and discipline than perhaps any other time while on the PGA Tour, Tiger employed more brains than brawn, waiting patiently for those he trailed to fall prey to the siren song of Augusta National’s 11th, 12th and 13th holes, otherwise known as “Amen Corner,” where, fittingly, Tiger’s prayers were answered. And the rest, as they say, was, history — literally!

I’ve long espoused the thesis that the best golfers and best negotiators share much in common. They tend to be especially polite. They are skilled at managing risk and approach their task with carefully considered strategies designed to pursue their objective as aggressively as possible, while also limiting — to the fullest extent possible — any unnecessary exposure to the obstacles, traps and hazards they are likely to confront. They know when and when not to take chances, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents.

Golfers arrive at every hole knowing, in advance, exactly where it will end. With that ultimate destination in mind, professional golfers “reverse engineer.” They analyze each hole in reverse to pinpoint the precise location from which they are likely to be most effective hitting their next shot. Working backwards, they determine where they want their approach shot to land on the green, which dictates where they will want to be in the fairway when they hit their approach shot, which, in turn, will govern how far to hit and where to land their tee shot. Ordinarily, a golfer’s first shot covers the greatest distance, with each successive shot progressively shorter. Of course, golfers may find it necessary to make mid-course corrections depending upon how well they and their opponents execute their respective plans.

Those who are masters at negotiating tend to approach negotiations in a strikingly similar way. They first identify the target and then design a strategy to reach that target, calculating how much distance they will have to cover. Working backwards, they, too, plan out a series of separate and increasingly smaller moves. Whenever necessary, they make adjustments to account for changed circumstances and/or the actions of their opponents.

Approach your future negotiations the way Tiger approached Augusta last month. Fix your sights on your target; determine how much distance you will need to cover; design a plan to get there, making successively smaller moves. If you find that you need to make corrections along the way, don’t hesitate to do so. Be patient and take advantage of opportunities to improve your position. By the end of the day, chances are everyone will be shaking hands.

For those who master the art of negotiation, settlement is par for the course.

As always, I would be pleased to assist you and your clients in the dispute resolution process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.

Best regards . . .

Floyd J. Siegal

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