Count Jonathan Byrd among the many tour pros who have won without looking at a leaderboard.
Byrd won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions playing what I like to call “Hide & Sneak,” where players hide their eyes from leaderboards and sneak around them. It’s a surprisingly common game plan on tour. A year ago, Ben Crane didn’t know he won the Farmers Insurance Open until his fellow competitor, Ryuji Imada, congratulated him at the end.
“I didn't look at a leaderboard all day, not once,” Byrd said of winning the PGA Tour’s 2011 season-opening event. “Not even on 18. I just felt like the way I had played this golf course all week, I wasn't trying to force anything. I feel like if you force things, you make mistakes.”
Obviously, Byrd’s good under pressure. His last two titles have come in playoffs. I had a good conversation about leaderboard watching with Peter Kessler this morning on his “Making the Turn” radio show on the PGA Tour Network on Sirius-XM Radio. Kessler’s astounded that so many pros don’t like to look at leaderboards and can’t understand why pros wouldn’t want to know the score and why so many leave it up to their caddies.
Even sports psychologist Bob Rotella preaches ignoring leaderboards. Rotella believes sticking to a routine is vital under pressure and looking at leaderboards is a sure way to destroy the cocoon of routine. Of course, he wants caddies to look so they can intervene when strategy dictates.
I’ve written this before, but it’s worth reviewing because I think it’s a compelling topic. Nick Faldo once told me he’s won looking at leaderboards and ignoring them, that it all depended on how comfortable he was with his game. Paul Azinger gave me this take on it: “If you are real secure, you want to know. If you are a little bit insecure, you want to stay wrapped up in your own little world. That can be effective in helping you plot your way around, but it can be dangerous, too, because at some point you have to know where you stand. I think the whole idea is getting comfortable [in contention]. That's the ultimate challenge. If you're comfortable knowing where you stand, you're going to have an advantage on somebody who isn't comfortable knowing where they stand.”