Pressure Cooker

By Dr. Rick JensenJune 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
The U.S. Open is nearly upon us. Weve all been there. Okay, maybe you havent been there in person, but you have been there.
If youve ever played a once-in-a-lifetime event, a penalizing golf course, a treacherous hole, or a shot that makes you think twice before you pull the trigger, then you've been THERE ' that place that you go when your game is taken to the limit ' physically, strategically, and mentally.
You can look for the game's top players to go THERE on June 18-21 when they compete in the U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park on Long Island. The selection of the demanding 7,426-yard Black Course is the USGA's way of meeting its course setup philosophy which states, We intend that the U.S. Open prove the most rigorous examination of golfers. Said Tiger Woods of the USGA's probable setup of Bethpage Black: If [the course] was set up the way we played the Open every day, I dont think anybody would play golf anymore. Its brutal the way we play it.
Fortunately for Woods, he is accustomed to brutality, as demonstrated by his unforgettable U.S. Open victory last year at Torrey Pines. Playing on only one good leg, he clawed his way into a Monday playoff and defeated the affable and determined Rocco Mediate in 19 holes.
Woods also won the U.S. Open the other time it was played at Bethpage Black, in 2002. He was the only player to finish under par.
Woods has demonstrated time and again that when he goes THERE, he knows how to manage his mind and his game. As you watch Tiger and his fellow Tour players confront the challenges of this years U.S. Open, take note of the following mental strategies that they rely on under adversity.
The next time that U.S. Open-like conditions take you THERE, then . . .
Lower your expectations Champions recognize that under tough conditions, bad things happen ' not necessarily because they did something bad, but because the conditions skew the risk-reward continuum to the side of risk. Instead of striving to shoot your best-ever round or make that highly-desired birdie, lower the bar. Add a few strokes to your expected score. At the U.S. Open, par is a good score. Tour players regularly pitch out from a bad lie in the rough, wedge it onto the green, and try to make a 15-footer for par. When they make bogey, champions remind themselves that the rest of the field is playing the same course under the same conditions. Over time, the tough holes, the bad breaks, and the higher scores will even out. Usually.
Take what the course gives you For many amateurs, playing safe on the golf course is the choice of wimps, and is too often displaced by the more popular mindset of no guts, no glory. Of course, this choice more often results in higher scores. As you watch the Open this year, keep tabs on how often the worlds best players opt for the following wimpy, risk-free alternatives:
  • Lay up on a par 5;
  • Wedge it back into the fairway out of the deep rough;
  • Hit 3-wood or iron instead of driver;
  • Aim their approach shot at the center of the green rather than at the pin;
  • Position themselves for a 10-foot putt below the hole rather than a 4-footer from above the hole

    These are the strategies of the wise ' let them be yours the next time you find yourself THERE!
    Let it go ' no excuses! Following every round of last years U.S. Open, Tiger was asked in some fashion or another, Hows the knee? His response never changed ' As I said earlier, all athletes deal with injuries and that's just part of playing sports.
    In a situation more familiar to the weekend warrior at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Woods made a triple-bogey 7 on the third hole. During the same third round, he made five birdies to post a 71, the second best round for the day. Would you have kept your composure after making such a big number so early in the round? Again, Tiger demonstrated his ability to let go of a poor result and move forward with no excuses. Tigers advice: You know, you keep playing, whatever it is. You just keep going forward. As you might recall, Tiger went on to win that year by a ridiculous 15 shots.

    As you watch the worlds top players struggle to recover from a wide range of difficult conditions in this years U.S. Open, youll realize that you too have been THERE! You will see the decisions champions make when they have lowered their expectations, when they take what the course gives them, and they let go of poor outcomes and play the game with no excuses. Enjoy, learn, and apply these strategies the next time you are THERE.
    Rick Jensen, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized sport psychologist and author of Drive to the Top: 5 Timeless Business Lessons Learned from Golfs Greatest Champions. Dr. Jensens clients include more than 50 touring pros on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours. For additional information, go to
    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.