The Ten-Round Rule

By Adam BarrNovember 24, 2007, 5:00 pm
Tryptophan, that chemical compound in turkey that is supposed to make you sleepy, just makes me confessional. So. [huff] Here goes.
 
Iumhave a bit of atemper on the golf course. I have been known togrind my teeth. Utter unsavory expressions. I have evenhelicoptered a few. O.K., more than a few, and more than a few feet. You know those big Sikorsky jobs that lift, like, tanks and other mammoth things?
 
Yeah. Like that. Not many people have seen this side of me. Playing golf with people in the industry, or with GOLF CHANNEL friends, or anywhere I could be seen by anyone outside my family and a few very close friends, I cant afford to lose control. Bad for the image: not just mine, but TGCs. So through strength of will, I have not chewed through any golf cart parts after shanking a simple wedge shot in such games.
 
But my wife and those few very close friends have seen me getannoyed. How annoyed? Once we began a game, and my wife filled in the scorecard lines. It took me five holes to see she had written Dr. Jekyll where my name was supposed to be.
 
Well, more accurately, my inner circle used to see this in me. I think I have found a solution. (As a matter of fact, Im pretty sure I have. Im just equivocating to avoid fatal hubris.)
 
I have discovered that you can change just about anything in your golf persona ' if you just give it ten rounds.
 
Huh? I hear you saying, and not without some merit: Barr, tryptophan obviously suppresses your already questionable judgment as well. Do you mean to say you can cure me of three-putting or coming over the top in the space of ten rounds of golf? Ive been fighting those demons since God was in knee pants.
 
No, that kind of thing is a job for your PGA professional. What Im talking about is the kind of behavior, usually mental, that leads you to lose control of your mood, your psyche, your noodle, your headspace (for you West Hollywood types). Heres how it happened for me.
 
I was playing alone late one afternoon, trying to squeeze in a round between work and sunset, and I had come to our clubs sadistic 15th hole. Its a short par 5 with a difficult, no-driver tee shot to a landing area narrower than your Dads mind when you were a teenager. Then there are two massive oaks in the fairway (the %&*$% FAIRWAY!) about 110 yards from an elevated, protected green. Ive seen grown men ungrow pretty rapidly on this hole.
 
Long story short: I yanked my third shot into the cow pasture back left of the green, and went aggrieved-mail-sorter: I launched my wedge way up high over the LZ.
 
Now, I had done this many times before. But as I stood there, feeling ashen inside (notice that the wedge flight had made me feel worse, not better), I spoke to myself. Self, I said, First of all, we have to get you a better name than Self. Second, and more important, Im 46 years old, and I hate this about you. This has got to stop. We have to find a way to make it stop.
 
Yes, and you have a son, Self said, scooping salt into the wound in my psyche. Do you want him to see this kind of behavior? I finished the hole, took the double-digit score (Ill be damned if Ill let anger talk me into the weakness of cheating), and played the final three holes on automatic. I was busy thinking of how to manage this problem. As I putted out on 18, I came up with it.
 
Ten rounds.
 
For ten rounds, I would not allow myself to demonstrate anger in any way. Sure, I could be angry. Its impossible to forestall the mental condition known as anger, which rises from frustration and manifests itself in physical effects such as increased pulse rate, muscle tightness, even blurred vision. Anger is a fact of life and a fact of golf. But whatever the impulse, I would beat it back. If I was pissed off, no one would know it from anything I did or said.
 
And there was one big, fat kicker: If, in those ten rounds, I failed even once to control the physical manifestations of my anger (tossing a club, slamming a club, throwing a ball, cussing, whatever it might be) ' I would have go back to the beginning and start all over again.
 
I went home, made a drink, and sunk into the big chair in my home office. I was scared. Could I do this? But then I figured, if I was to have any kind of future enjoyment of golf, I had to.
 
Think about it ' we all have on-course behaviors that we wish we didnt. They may not be as bad as violent, red-seeing anger. But theyre there. Bad self-talk. Defeatism. Even fear. Speeding up our pace and careening into a gyre of foolish mistakes when things go wrong. Its the rare person who cares so little about his golf performance that he can be completely happy-go-lucky about the difficulty and randomness of the game. People who profess to be this way, or who actually seem to be, make me suspicious. I wonder how they treat their families once they get home.
 
Thats the kernel of the problem, though. If you play golf and play avidly, its because you care about how well you do, at least on some level. To deny this is to deny the obvious attractiveness of golfs challenge. You may never get a lot better on the scorecard, but you want to get better than you were. Even if youre one of those recreational players who just likes to hit solid shots, score notwithstanding, you have set yourself a personal performance benchmark. When you fall short, whatever your golf goal, your innate humanity makes it impossible to carelessly laugh it off every time.
 
So anger and other negative feelings are inevitable. You have to find strategies to fight them off, or you might as well quit the game. And quitting is unacceptable.
 
So I got down to it. It was hard. I remember vividly, somewhere about Round 4, wanting to slam the pin back into its socket in the cup after three-putting. But I didnt. I did not want to fail, did not want to start over. I took a deep breath. I managed. I went on.
 
And you know what? There was a reward. I dont think I got angry any less often. But my efforts at control made my anger dissipate more quickly, and I could go on with my round with more enjoyment. It was like looking in the mirror after six weeks of workouts and seeing a little definition in your biceps. Suddenly, there was success. And success breeds more of the same.
 
About Round 7, I knew I would make it. And I did. Never had to start over. I felt like I was on the way to putting golf in proper perspective ' not caring any less, not trying any less ' just ranking it where it needed to be, behind God, family, friends, and many other blessings. And now, after the ten rounds, I find I have a lot less impulse to fling a club or swear than I did before the experiment. I know how it feels, and I dont want to feel that way.
 
Sound cornier than Iowa? Yeah, maybe so. But its true. And if I can do it, so can just about anyone else. Theres another reward, too. Using the Ten-Round Rule makes you want to try it on other things. For instance, Im trying to have ten rounds without negative self-talk. None of this lining up a downhill, right-breaking 10-footer while saying to myself, Darn. I never make these. No talking myself out of success before even taking back the club.
 
I gotta tell you, this is a lot harder. I have had start over a couple of times now. But I wont quit. Its worth it. And I know one thing. I wont get angry.
 
Not that youll be able to see, anyway.
 

Related Links:
  • Adam's Archive
     
    Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
  • Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.