A colleague of mine recently posed a question to me about one of the current great golf professionals, Sergio Garcia, and why he had the lead going into the final round but did not win. He actually wound up 5 shots out of the lead when the final round was over. This was an interesting question, and one I had an immediate response to because the more I play competitive golf, the greater my understanding becomes. My answer was simply; “He just needs to put himself in that position more.” My years of experience have taught me that the answer is as basic as this.
To give an example, when I started playing competitive golf again after a 20 year break, the first round I shot in competitive play was a 90. I remember being so nervous on every shot, as I wasn’t used to playing in tournaments. I believe these nerves can have the same effect on all players. Granted, Sergio did not shoot a 90, but I don’t believe he was comfortable on the round either. It was the same scenario as I described in one of my recent posts, on the day I blew a 9 shot lead partly because of unfamiliar territory, but I allowed the pressure to get to me and the results weren’t pretty.
The only way for me, Sergio Garcia, or any other golfer to get beyond the nerves, pressure, or whatever else is going on in the mind, is to keep playing in tournaments, putting ourselves in the same positions and situations that scare us most, and overcoming our fears just by getting through them.
The important thing to realize is, it might take a person 5, 10, 100, or even more attempts to manage their emotions. I have witnessed players on tour that have been out there for years, and have never won. Then all of a sudden, when the time comes that they have played enough and put themselves in the lead enough, the competitive player gathers themselves, their mind and their emotions, and they go out and win. After they win, people ask how they eventually managed to do it. The key was that they drew on their experiences and instinctively knew where they had failed in the past, then they put it all together and taught themselves how to win.
The thing to note about all of this is that it is different for every golfer. Learning how to win in competitive golf and play like the golf professionals is a personal thing. What might work for one golfer does not work for another. To make the point, when I returned to competitive golf, I could not make a short putt to save my life. So, guess what I have worked on for the past 2 years, and I continue to work on daily? I work on my short putting for at least 10-20 minutes a day. For me, it is all about confidence (as I am sure is the case for most golfers).
When I practice my short putting on the practice green and make the putts, it gives me confidence which stays with me at the tournament. The other thing that has helped me with my short putting during competition are the amount of tournaments I have played over the past 18 months. In every one of the tournaments, I have had a short putt to make. When I first started playing competitively again, I missed more than 75% of the short putts (3 feet and in) that I had. Although this was heartbreaking and hard to deal with, I knew I had to overcome this. After some proper instruction and more experience, I now make a lot more short putts. I still miss sometimes, but this happens far less frequently, and I always understand the reason behind it. I have also trained my mind to let go of the mistake immediately so I continue the game completely focused. and with confidence.
The key to playing like a golf professional is to play in plenty of tournaments, and also to enjoy the journey. I can guarantee that if I, Sergio or any golfer frequently put himself in a position to win, then sooner or later with the Black Belt Golf spirit and mindset, they will persevere and win.