How low can you go?

August 10, 2017

 

This month saw Jim Furyk (pictured below) card a record low 58 on day four of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. The bogey free round was the lowest in PGA tour history. On the 1st tee box that morning Furyk sat 16 shots behind 54-hole leader Daniel Berger, not in contention. Yet when it was all said and done Furyk was tied for 5th with Berger on 269 after shooting this incredible 58.

This round is made even more intriguing by Furyk’s 3rd round, a 2 over par 72. That evening his thoughts were more about ensuring he did not shoot over par than shooting a PGA tour record low, "Rather than mail it in, I went to the range yesterday because I didn't want to shoot another 72” (Yahoo)

What we can take from this is that our record low round is potentially just around the corner, an awareness that most of us have. The knowledge that today might be the day is what drags us back to the course day after day, evening after evening. No matter what last weekend’s scorecard is telling you, there is a sense of healthy optimism on every 1st tee (mixed in with everything else!). It is also not difficult to recognise when we could be on the cusp of a career low score, and it often happens around the turn.

‘If I score the same on the back 9 I will shoot a career low!’

An internal monologue that almost every golfer has had, yet not a thought conducive to going low. It is very difficult not to think like this at the turn, even the world’s best let an outcome (the score) focus creep into their conscious thinking, including Furyk during this remarkable round. Speaking to the Golf Channel after the round, "To turn at 27, you can’t help but think about it (58) on a par-70 course. To turn around and make the putts 10, 11, 12 ... then it became a mental game."

 


What mental game is he referring to?

 

 

This mental game is the battle to control our thoughts in a way that gives us the best chance of going low. The name of the game is to stay in the present moment and not let yourself think about that final shot count. When we think about the outcome, we protect our scorecard and it also allows negative thoughts to enter our psyche. This is true of all golfers, whether you are a single figure handicap golfer or 20+. Your low may be breaking 80 or breaking 100, but you will get there faster if you can win this mental battle. 

Does this sound familiar…hitting iron off the tee when you would normally hit driver? Thoughts like “don’t make bogey” and “I need to make par here” dominate our thinking on the tee box.  How often do you shoot a career low 9-hole score and go onto to card double bogey on the 12th and by the 16th you are binning your scorecard after imploding? This is often the consequence of that shift to outcome orientated thinking.

Let go back to our first thought, the one that we want to hear half way through our round:

‘If I score the same on the back 9 I will shoot a career low!’

Now consider this thought:

‘If I THINK the same on the back 9 I will shoot a career low!’

How were you thinking on that front 9? You were mostly probably playing attacking, confident golf.  You were not thinking about a target score or needing to make par on the next hole. You were most likely taking each shot as it came and embracing the confidence you felt in your game knowing that today, you are playing well.

 


What can I do to help me think the same?

 


Next time you play, commit to three course thoughts.

I play to go low
If you are going to go low you have to think like you did on that front 9, you are on the crest of a wave and you have to ride it for as long as you can.
*Disclaimer* This does not mean you aim to play like Rory Mcllroy, do not go for that 1 ft gap between the trees!
I only think about my next shot
You do not waste cognitive energy on what you need 400yds up the fairway to stay on track for your low round, you think about your drive and then walk to your ball, were you will think about that shot.
I will accept a bad shot and move on.
It will come sooner or later. Park it and move on. Don’t let it frustrate you or make you tense, neither of these feelings will help you shoot a career low. 

If you struggle to keep these thoughts at the forefront of your mind then stop walking on the course. Do not continue towards your ball until those thoughts are up there again. It will take time for you to develop an ability to recognise when you are not having these thoughts or when you are having other, less positive ones. It will also take lots of practice to be able to consistently commit to these 3 thoughts for 18 holes of golf.

These thoughts will keep you in the present moment, focusing on the process of playing golf and ultimately allow you to go as low as you can. Whether you are a single figure handicap golfer or 20+, they will help improve your golf game. Many of you would agree that the psychological side of the game is the most important and having this ability to control your thoughts as part of your golf game will be far more powerful than any swing change you may wish to make. So stick at it and stick with the thoughts.


If you would like to discuss the psychological side of the game further contact stephen.leckey@athletefocused.com for more details.

 

 

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