Winged Foot Teaches Age-Old Lessons
The 106th United States Open is in the history books and Winged Foot has, as always, provided a stern test for the games greatest players. When one looks at a course like Winged Foot, it is easy to stand in awe of the narrow fairways, punishing greens, and formidable sand traps. For the average golfer, however, its very difficult sometimes to see how the lessons of the U.S. Open can apply to them.
However, I believe that there is a lot for the average golfer to learn from major championships, particularly our Open. This is because every player, regardless of his or her ability, faces their own equivalent of the pressure of a national championship. The player who is on the verge of breaking 100, 90, 80, or 70 for the first time has a taste of that pressure. So, too, does the player who is contending for that first club championship.
Every golfer who faces a milestone event can learn some psychological lessons from a formula that the best players in the game use without having to be humbled by a course like Winged Foot. This formula for success in golf can be summarized in 3 Ps: Planning, Practice, and Patience.
1. PLANNING. In the press conference immediately following his Open victory, Geoff Ogilvy made the comment that Winged Foot absolutely required the golfer to plan his round from the green back to the tee. This is probably one of the most vital pieces of advice that could be given to any player.
Sometime, in the quiet of your home, think about your home course. Picture each hole in your mind and plan a specific strategy for that hole working from the green back to the tee. Write your strategy down, how you would play the hole in ideal conditions. Questions a player could ask are, What is the shape of the green? What challenges does the bunkering present? Is there water on any side of the green? Are there any unusual breaks?
From questions such as these, the player might then want to ask what type of approach shot they would want to hit into the hole. My grandfather, Bobby Jones, used to be quite comfortable with clubs that today would be the equivalent of a 7- or 8-iron and would often play his tee shots to leave him with that type of shot into the green. You may have a different favorite club, but if you play to your strengths you will have a better chance of success in your round of golf.
One other aspect of planning is worth mentioning: From this type of study of your course, you can then make a reasonable guess of what you might expect to shoot for a round. Jack Nicklaus used to be asked what score he would have to post in order to win a tournament. Interestingly, Jack would always respond with a specific number. Well, to win this tournament, Jack might say, Ill have to shoot a 67 tomorrow. He wasnt just pulling a number out of thin air. He was giving a realistic assessment of a score based on his understanding of the course and his own game.
2. PRACTICE. Most people think of practice as going to the driving range and pounding out a bucket of balls. However, the kind of practice that Im talking about is much more focused and is guided by the planning that you have done. Based on the analysis that you have carried out, you should have some idea of the types of shots and situations that will confront you in your round. Those are the shots that should guide your practice. For example, I would imagine that most of the competitors at Winged Foot probably spent a good deal of time practicing shots from the rough and honing their bunker skills.
You might say, Thats all fine and good, Doc, but I work for a living and dont have time to bang out ball after ball. It is true that the average player has to balance work and family obligations with golf, but there are other ways to practice besides hitting balls.
For example, do you have time to swing a club in your yard while visualizing the shot you want to hit? Do you have time to quiet yourself and mentally visualize yourself playing your ideal round? By visualizing, Im talking about using every piece of sensory data that you can while you picture yourself making a shot. People who are adept at visual imagery can hear the birds in the trees, feel the grass under their shoes, and feel the motion of their swing. Theres a lot of psychological evidence that visualization combined with actual practice can improve performance more than either method alone.
But, if you need more concrete proof, just ask Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, or Tiger Woods. All of them used the techniques, and between them have amassed a fairly impressive major championship total.
3. PATIENCE. Patience is a word that does not describe a lot of golfers. They seem to think that they can bull their way through a round, forcing the result that they desire. Most of the time, they are mistaken.
But, the typical player will object, look at Tiger at the Open at Pebble a couple of years ago. He made birdies at will. That type of thinking, however, is an illusion. Tigers performance at Pebble Beach in 2000 was the result of incredibly efficient planning, and a level of practice that reduced his margin of error on his shots to an unbelievably low level. This type of patience was described by my grandfather in this way in Bobby Jones on Golf:
'I think it was J.H. Taylor who made the statement that all the great golfers he had known had been possessed of a quality which his chose to call 'courageous timidity,' a most happy phrase, for it expresses exactly the quality which a golfer, expert or not, must have to get the most from whatever mechanical ability he may have.
''Courageous' to keep trying in the face of ill-luck or disappointment, and 'timidity' to appreciate and appraise the dangers of each stroke and curb the desire to take chances beyond a reasonable hope of success. There can be no doubt that such a combination in itself embraces and makes possible all the other qualities which we acclaim as part of the ideal golfing temperament for the championship contender as well as the average golfer. When we have pronounced Taylors phrase we have said it all.'
In this passage, my grandfather was describing the role that patience plays in golf. Patience is the ability to play within yourself, taking the breaks (both good and bad) in stride, and waiting for the opportunities that will normally present themselves in the course of any round.
For Tiger in 2000, the opportunities were plentiful and he took full advantage This past weekend, the entire golf world was treated to an exhibition of patience by Geoff Ogilvy. No matter what happened, he pressed on, sticking to his plan as best he could. Now he is the 2006 United States Open champion.
You might not battle for an Open title. But in your own golf challenges, you can use the same three Ps of planning, practice, and patience, as elite golfers such as Jones, Nicklaus, Woods, and - now - Ogilvy.
Copyright (c) 2006. Robert T. Jones IV, Psy.D. All rights reserved.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.