Body Language Says It All at PGA Championship

Rickie Fowler (left) gives Phil Mickelson a fist bump, ironically after Mickelson tied Fowler for the lead in the 2014 PGA Championship.

Rickie Fowler (left) gives Phil Mickelson a fist bump, ironically after Mickelson tied Fowler for the lead in the 2014 PGA Championship.

Sometimes what we don’t say says just as much as what we actually do. At this past weekend’s PGA Championship, we saw not only an epic race to the finish – and a race against daylight – but several subtle signals that let us know what was going through some of the top players’ minds as they made the last golf major of the season a memorable one.

Rickie Fowler, who may have the best major season no one will remember (he’s finished 5th, 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd), and his first-class fist-bumps with playing partner Phil Mickelson showed a sign of respect for his competitor. Not only was Mickelson chasing, and then passing Fowler, but the two seemed to be cheering for one another and offering their congrats after great shots. Think of a fist-bump on the fairways as golf’s silent version of “well played.”

Rory McIlroy, winner of his past three tournaments and two straight majors, seemed to keep a cool head this time around, until he hit his final put in near darkness, then let a triumphant fist pump show what he had been so deftly bottling up during the final day of the championship.

Mickelson, while looking charged up after nailing long puts, also had his face show frustrations, especially when the officials allowed McIlroy and his partner play with Mickelson and Fowler on the final hole…a regular occurrence for us average Joes, but certainly not in a major.

So in any situation, whether it is on the course where even the commentators whisper, or in corporate America, remember:

  • Face-Off: Any scowl, smile or smirk are dead giveaways to what you’re truly feeling. You may not notice it, but others certainly will.
  • Fists of Fury: From fist pumps to fist bumps, both indicate a great deal of emotion. Even when simply clenched, it can be a sign of aggression. Relaxing your hands, even just a bit, can help you keep your poker face.
  • Feel Receptors: People may forget what you say, but not how you make them feel. Whether it’s a cold shoulder or a warm embrace, your body language is communication that everyone understands. And whether you intend to or not, your non-verbal signals speak for you loud and clear.

Rory Led the Whole Way…Until the Acceptance Speech

"Wait, let me explain..." (Photo by Getty Images)

“Wait, let me explain…” (Photo by Getty Images)

On July 20, the 25-year-old Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy won the Open Championship, completing the first three legs of golf’s prestigious “grand slam.”

McIlroy led the tournament wire-to-wire, and while bending to a lead of only three strokes on championship Sunday, he didn’t break and finished on top.

McIlroy seemingly did all the right things both on and off the course, which has made him golf’s most popular player not named Tiger. Only on Sunday, he had a minor slip-up…and those that turned off the TV after he had successfully secured the championship never saw it.

During the acceptance speech, ready to take the Claret Jug about after thanking the club, his competitors, family, and friends, he was nearly home when it happened…in attempting to thank the crowd for its support, he uttered the phrase, “…even though I’m a Man United fan sittin’ here…”

He barely finished uttering those words before a chorus of boos reigned down upon him. Why? Because McIlroy was in Liverpool, England, home of the soccer club of the same name and bitter rivals with Manchester United. McIlroy tried to explain the reasoning, with his point being that even Liverpool fans had cheered and supported him, as a ManU fan. But the damage-albeit brief-had already been done.

So what can be learned from McIlroy’s misstep?

  • Don’t Forget Your Setting: When making your point, don’t bring up something that has the chance of riling up your target audience. If you’re in Boston, don’t mention the Yankees. If you’re in Liverpool, don’t mention Manchester United.
  • Don’t Get Risky: McIlroy was home free, but by trying to endear himself to the crowd, he did the exact opposite and isolated himself from them.
  • No “Take-Backs:” For all the goodwill built during the tournament, there will still be some who will leave that day saying “Can you believe he mentioned ManU?” Tread carefully because your words can have a lasting impact, especially if it’s near the last thing you say.

Misstep aside, we still got to see an athlete on rise, who along with Arnie, Jack, and Tiger, is becoming known for one name: Rory.