Viet Nam News -
by Robert Bicknell
Before I embark on my usual bloviating diatribe, Hats off to Danny Willett for an incredible final round at the Masters and more importantly, becoming a father!
Never count your chickens before they’re hatched…as Jordan Spieth learned the hard way.
But he isn’t the first player to lose focus as he closed in on a win and, being seven strokes up coming into the homestretch, one can almost forgive him…almost, but not quite.
Phil Mickelson was a champion at blowing the tournament in the closing holes. You’d see him coming up the fairway and he’d get a stupid, goofy grin on his face and you just KNEW he was mentally on the podium accepting the trophy and giving his acceptance speech.
Two bogeys or worse later and he was watching everyone else passing him and mentally couldn’t recover. He finally learned to stay in the moment and take it one shot at a time – as every coach tells their students repeatedly. Get ahead of yourself and you’re inviting disaster.
Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, for example, were masters at “staying in the moment” and not counting chickens before they hatched. Because they weren’t distracted, they could recover quickly from a bad shot and not let a birdie opportunity turn into a bogey or worse.
They say that the most important six-inches in golf is the space between your ears. They also say that golf is 80 per cent mental and only 20 per cent physical, and it’s true. If you keep yourself focused on target, you’ll play so much better.
When I was young, for example, I had a major advantage over 99 per cent of the players in my region due to my length off the tee. Back then, only 1-2 percent of the players could drive the ball 300 yards and 150 yard pitching wedges were almost unheard of. And yes, I could also drop in putts from the upstairs bathroom and get up and down from the ball washer 9 out of 10 times.
I had GAME!
The reason why I never won big tournaments was a lack of focus. I had the tools, but not the head at the time. I’d be cruising along in some local event and, out of nowhere, I would become distracted by a bird, or a cloud, or something ridiculous.
“Hmm, interesting cloud. Is that Cumulus or Stratus? Maybe Stratocumulous? I wonder if it’s gonna rain tonight? Well better forget washing the car after the tournament, which reminds me I need to pick up car wax and…”
What’s funny is that I actually have excellent powers of concentration and a high IQ, so you would think this would work in my favor, but it doesn’t. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and in my case, disastrous.
Funny how many of the great athletes can barely balance a bank account, but they’re good at the one thing that matters. Keep it simple.
My caddie used to think I had ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and he could be right, except for the “hyperactive” part. I do know I have a slight case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), not to the point where I constantly run around cleaning and rearranging things, but picture hung slightly off centre will irritate me.
So, building a swing, learning to putt lights out and hitting the ball a mile isn’t the most important thing in golf. You really need to have your mental game as strong or stronger than your physical one.
Jordan Spieth, one of the best players to come around in a long time, showed what happens when the mind goes out to lunch for a moment or two but his caddie reminded us: “Winning shows your character and losing shows ALL your character. Jordan continues to model grace and humility through wins and especially losses.”
One meltdown doesn’t define a player, especially in the heat of a major championship where the final round is a pressure cooker. Spieth will bounce back and undoubtedly add a few more majors to his collection.
But this time it went to Danny Willett. I wonder if he brought the new baby home from the hospital swaddled in a green jacket?
It would be fitting …